Snob Photography

Sometimes I look through the viewfinder, and I am overwhelmed with pure aesthetics. I follow the light where it takes me.  This mood is relatively rare, and the results in retrospect are not always great. In fact, frequently the results are just trite.

But sometimes they aren’t.

I have never understood the contempt some photographers have for digital. I save almost all the photos I’ve ever taken.  Pre-digital photos sit in boxes, slowly fading, but the digital photos look just the same as when I first took them. It is quite possible they could look the same ten thousand years from now.

But honestly, much of the time I take pictures as memos.  Pictures out bus windows, just to remember what I saw.  Pictures of something on an ad, pictures of the wifi password at a hotel. These pictures are useful, rather than beautiful or interesting.

Here’s a picture of the almost dry Li River in China.  A memory:

Li River

Monochrome

I recently acquired a monochrome astro camera with somewhat higher resolution.  Here are a few attempts:

M42 - Orion Nebula
The tight cluster of 4 stars at dead center is known as the “Trapezium Cluster”. It’s barely resolved in this image.
M33 in Triangulum
M33. Low surface brightness, but if you look closely, there is a lot of detail.
Horsehead-Flame nebulae
Horsehead Nebula — I like this image. The Horsehead is an object I find intrinsically beautiful.
The Heart Nebula
The Heart Nebula. Upside down from the usual view.
Wide view of Orion, processed for low brightness
Fairly dim view of the Orion Nebula. Looks like a landing bird, or maybe a falling angel. The Trapezium is discernible on zooming in.
The Pleiades
The Pleiades. Light reflecting off a dust cloud, usually a beautiful blue.

Veil Nebula wide view

Veil Nebule wide view
Both the Eastern and Western portions of the Veil Nebula

Remains of an exploded star. This is over an hour exposure total, through a 61mm telescope, in not so great suburban skies.

Old Coffee Beans

A couple of days ago I found a 12 oz bag of Peet’s ‘Cafe Domingo’ beans by the coffee grinder.  I assumed that daughter Sara bought them, opened the bag, and dumped them in the hopper.

Later I asked her. She said no, she found them in the kitchen cabinet along with some other beans.  She showed me — there was also a bag of ‘Major Dickason’s Blend’. Both bags were almost a year old.  In the spirit of inquiry, I made a cup for me (espresso) and a cup for CF (Aeropress).

In all honesty, I cannot recommend it, and, despite being averse to waste, I am seriously contemplating dumping the beans.  (CF, on the other hand, said “I like it.” But she is famous for drinking almost anything, coffeewise.)

It is drinkable in the strictly literal sense, but the flavor has one note: harsh.  No coffee aroma.  Sad.

Fire across the Bay

kc-em125865a-
Looking across South San Francisco Bay at an out of control wildfire.

This photo was taken from our balcony.  Our development abuts canyonland that could turn into an inferno like this.

The final frontier?

Orion

If we establish a permanent human presence off the shoulder of Orion we will necessarily take an ecosystem with us.  It won’t be humanity colonizing space, it will be Earth’s biosphere colonizing space. Life, in general, has an intrinsic property of opportunistic expansion, and we are life.

African Violet

Close up of african violet
Taking photos around the house.

Sheltering in place, one must be inventive.  A tiny african violet sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen.

Chicago Typewriter

“Chicago Typewriter” is a Korean drama currently streaming on viki.com.  16 one hour episodes .  [Edit: Now available on Netflix!]

It starts as a slapstick romcom ghost story, transitions to an intense and tragic 1930’s Korean historical drama, and then returns to the present for a sentimental ending.  Love triangle: two best friends love the same girl. All good.  The story, the characters, the writing, the acting, the cinematography, the production values — all great.

What sets it apart from the flood of excellent productions coming from Korea these days, though, is the window it gives into the politics of the 1930’s.  At that time Korea was a vassal state of Imperial Japan. In a way perhaps reminiscent of the US annexation of Hawaii, Japan “annexed” Korea in 1910. Korea didn’t regain its independence until the end of WWII, in 1945.  For 35 years, Korea was ruled by a seriously exploitative foreign power , and through a large part of this time period there was an energetic Korean resistance. “Chicago Typewriter” depicts one of these resistance groups, and its passionate struggles with Imperial overlords.

The story is intensely nationalistic — the Japanese are represented as evil, and the Koreans (with the exception of despicable traitorous turncoats) are good. But while the series may not be precise in detail, there is no question that Imperial Japan acted very badly and made enemies throughout Asia. “Chicago Typewriter” makes it very clear that deep emotional wounds remain.

It is also an uncomfortable truth that many of the actions of the freedom fighters in the story would nowadays would be considered acts of terrorism. There were many in the Korean upper class who profited by the Japanese presence, and, in the story at least, some were murdered.

Large scale atrocities and systematic exploitation are historically common.  Mao caused the death of perhaps 60 million of his own people.  China has effectively “annexed” Tibet, and Xi may soon preside over a bloodbath in Hong Kong.  Pol Pot killed a quarter of the population of his country.  The Middle East.  Rwanda. The Armenian genocide. Endemic racism in the US, and the endless US military actions throughout the world..

Dig back far enough in your own personal history, and you will likely find evil, no matter who you are.

[“Shuttle Love Millennium”, AKA “Love Through the Millennium 2”, is an excellent Chinese TV series that depicts the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in a similar way. ]