Monday, May 21, 2012

Re- Union BHS

It was a real nice party. We had a real good time. Where to start? It was my .... high school reunion. Not important which one. The thing about a party where you get to see people you "used" to know, is that it doesn't matter how anyone looks. Everyone has changed. Of course they have. Everyone has had a life and it shows in their faces, in their health, and in their conversation. But that's not a bad thing. We all have a new appreciation for still being around. (I made it a point to hug everyone who managed to survive all those years.) We even had a spelling bee to see who could correctly spell B-o-o-n-t-o-n ... the cheerleaders mostly got it right, from years of those spelled out cheers... (remember there are two "N"s...)
We had a conversation about whether or not we should wear nametags. We also had a conversation about whether or not we should pass David off as a spouse or a member of our class. As is always the case, everyone thought they knew him, and by the end of the evening they did.
Scozzy and Iris, front & center....
Sally & Andy cuttin' a rug
Unlike past years, this was a weekend affair. Meet and greet on Friday evening. Lunch at the Reservoir Tavern (still the best pizza in the entire world), Reunion party on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. I was sorry we missed Friday and Sunday. Once you reconnect with people who you have known for a million years, you simply want more. There is a reason for this. No matter how old you get, these friends see you as if you were still a teenager. No baggage, They don't care who you are or what you've accomplished. There is some picture sharing, one classmate had her student ID, which Andy Hurwitz (who was at the reunion and had been the President of the student government), had signed to make it official. There were happy stories along with picture narration, sad stories about the loss of friends. Mostly people were just delighted to be together to laugh and eat and of course, to dance. I am happy to report that there was lots of dancing. And people who were not physically capable of doing the jitterbug, stood and moved to the beat of music well remembered. (Who could imagine that anyone would remember the words to 50 year old songs). ` There were highlights. David taking pictures of each class (there were four, 64’ – 67’), the John Hill elementary kids, The School Street School, The Opera Club (kidding), The “Aces”, and the Vietnam Vets, afterwhich they all sang something patriotic and actually included David who was in Vietnam, under the same circumstances but carried a camera instead of a gun. I think it was the first time any group included him as a Vet. Voices raised, flags waving, not a dry eye in the house.
The other highlights. We learned that Roseanne Kelly did not die. She was happily very much there.
Jeff, Kenny, and Howie can still dance. Andy and Gary have not changed - just gotten taller. Ronnie and Joyce are still the funniest couple alive, and we are all still fun. All our teachers (Coach Moore was there and confirmed this), thought ‘64 was an extra special class. We all missed Mr. Mol, and Mr. Hino, and Mr. Kane, (who as Principal allowed us to schedule study hall on either side of lunch, so we could go to my house and watch soap operas (which was close as we got to an actual Opera club.)
Little Fuzzy with Coach Moore (himself class of '42), Gary H., and Mrs. Moore (class of '44) The best part of the evening was reminicing about who we were, or at least who we thought we were. I think this will be my last reunion. I want to remember me as I was, and I don’t think that will be possible in five more years. But you never know. I’ll let the extraordinary photography speak for itself. All persons have remained anonymous – to protect them from reality. And don't forget "the ACES".....
We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, May 13, 2012

R.I.P. Horst Faas

This past Thursday marked the passing of Horst Faas. Probably as much as about anyone since Capa, he was someone whose mere mention of a name -- either first OR last, was enough to conjure up that big personality and , yes, talent, that he was. In an age when blogger-photographers rule the silicon airways, all the tricks of the modern trade --- from blazingly groovy cameras to the concept of “we’ll fix it in post…” have created a new breed of semi-famous person. It’s no longer based simply on a smart, clever, wily, talented concept of what the news is and how to capture it in a single frame – it’s all about the buzz. Some of the biggest names in the current photoblog world, while talented, would, I suspect have some issues if they were limited to shooting Tri-x on a Nikon F (model F, not an F2, F3, or F4) with f/3.5 lenses, and no focus confirmation in the finder beyond whether or not it looked sharp. Horst had a 40+ year career with the A.P. – that giant lifeblood of news – at a time when the A.P. was the biggest carrier of news around the world. If you lived anywhere but London, Tokyo, Paris or New York, it’s pretty sure that anything you saw from some place distant was through their wires. He worked in the Congo, and settled early on in Vietnam at a time when there were but a handful of American advisers and troops. In the first few years of his tenure there, he quickly figured out that to get to where the pictures were meant you had to get somewhere early, and be ready when the shit hit the fan. Of course you never really knew when, or exactly where that would be, but intelligent reading of what was happening meant that experience counted – and he certainly used his own experience to great advantage. His pictures, I was reminded this weekend, were not just your standard “I was there…” wire service kind of work. He was a damn good photographer, and his pictures often reached deeply into a situation and came out with something far more meaningful. He had a eye, and understood that above all, you had to use your feet and your wits to get your camera to the right place, so that when you pushed the button, you were able to capture that telling moment. Perhaps as interesting as his own photography was the way he tended to the A.P. stringer corps. In Saigon during the 60s you could get accreditation if you had letters from two different publications who agreed that over time they would PROBABLY buy some of your work. But for many freelancers, like myself, there was no guarantee you’d be able to pay your apartment rent or buy a meal at Cheap Charlie’s Chinese restaurant if you couldn’t sell a few images. I was lucky to have an intro at TIME (for whom I’d worked considerably in the states) but for a lot of young stringers, the fact that Horst would buy a few pictures that he might not really need, which would permit that person to be able to keep working, meant that over time he had a very loyal group of shooters. When, eventually, they DID get something of value, the first place they brought those pictures was back to Horst at the A.P. He understood the value of building that network of photographers. The ongoing competition with U.P.I. – the other major wire service – created an additional motivation to find the best work, the quickest, and get it out on the wire. There was no time for lollygagging: The old A.P. phrase “a deadline every minute” was certainly true in the sense that someplace, somewhere, a newspaper editor was looking for the best, most up-to-date images, and that was the appetite Horst tried to feed. He seemed to me to be one of those larger than life figures that belied his own physical self. I always imagine him as a towering figure, with a bellowing, resonant voice, though when in fact I would run into him, we nearly stood the same height. It was something about his overall presence which made me feel that I was in the midst of some kind of larger than life character. In the end, though, I think one of the most meaningful things he did was to work on the Requiem project: a collection of photographs from the Vietnam war, done by photographers who were killed during that time, from both the South and the North. There are some very telling stories about what it took to get the Northern authorities to release pictures for the project – they were initially reticent. Yet when you look through this book, one of the most amazing compilations of photographs of war that has ever been printed, you see how important it was to include both sides. Almost as if the brotherhood of photography had eventually managed to trump the politics of war. In what must be seen as a great and tragic irony, he fell ill in 2005 in Hanoi, just after the reunion of foreign correspondents in Saigon on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the end of the war. In a country where he had cheated death many times, a bad reaction to a virus razed havoc with his body, rendering him more or less paralyzed from the chest down. But even though he was confined to a wheelchair for these past 7 years, his undaunted spirit never seemed to waiver. I last saw him at the opening of the memorial to fallen correspondents at the Newseum in 2008. There, on a large glass wall, emblazoned with the names of those killed covering conflict, he offered the last physical remains – a small box with bits and pieces of camera gear, mainly --found in Laos at the crash site of the helicopter which took four well known, great photographers to their death in 1971. The chopper had been heading into Laos to cover the Lam Son campaign (meant to seize control of the Ho Chi Minh trail) and was shot down just over the border. On that bird were A.P.’s Henri Huet, LIFE’s Larry Burrows, UPI photographer Kent Potter, Newsweek stringer Keisaburo Shimamoto, as well as a Vietnamese army photographer. Horst, along with A.P. writer Richard Pyle, had spent the better part of two decades trying to get to the abandoned crash site, and eventually did so, only after years of maneuvering in government channels. (see Richard’s book “Lost Over Laos.”) At the Newseum dedication, we tried taking a group shot of all the correspondents who showed up, a bigger group than any easily accessible area would hold, and even there Horst took charge, trying to arrange the group to sit still long enough for a picture. In the end, I suppose he would have liked to been thought of as a photojournalist. One who tells stories with pictures (whether his own, or at times by the wily ways of his editorship.) But have a look at his work again. (click here for a small selection on the NYTimes site) You see pictures which are, frankly, pretty damn good. My favorite image of him in the ones which have come out this week is the one on the NYTimes Lensblog – there he is with a Zeiss Contarex SLR – a fumblingly slow to operate camera which was NEVER used by professionals (the Nikons were simply better for quick operation) but whose amazing optics would have probably found a soft spot in his heart. Horst pretty much dedicated his life energy to photography, and I’m pleased to have had a chance to know him. We’re just sayin’… David
Yours truly sitting just behind Horst, along with a gaggle of journos....

Friday, May 04, 2012

Tully. Just Tully.

The other day when i was perusing Facebook, which I do to find out what’s happening with my kids and the world, I came across the Paul Tully page. No one ever called him Paul -- he was always Tully. He was a big presence, certainly in my life, but everywhere he went. Didn't matter if it was a room or a person, he didn’t exactly suck the air out of the room, there just wasn’t enough room for him and the air because he filled every space. Tully was too young when he died during the Clinton campaign in1992, in Arkansas. It was hard to imagine Tully working for Clinton, but we all figured, having never had a winning Presidential candidate, he was ready for a victory. Tully was drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes -- his staples, and he was working on a memo. He had a heart attack and died alone in his hotel room. It took a while for anyone in the campaign to realize he was missing, because he was only available when he wanted to be. But when he didn't show for a strategy meeting, everyone knew there must be problem. Tully was my political mentor and friend. He taught me how to organize a state, design a poll, be an expert Advance person, work with the media, identify voters, and basically he made sure I understood everything that needed to be done in a campaign. Best of all, he taught be to appreciate Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. The thing I always found most fascinating about this political wizard was that he was great with a thousand people in the greater scheme of things, but he wasn't very good with one on one affection. The minute anyone got to close he moved on. We all watched as he yelled "next". He had been married and even had a beautiful daughter, but they were not part of his day to day when he was working on a campaign. He had hundreds of affairs-- as men always did in those days, especially on the campaign trail. But until right before he died, he preferred to remain without permanent commitment-- except to whatever candidate and whatever campaign, until it was over. He was like a lovable teddy bear -- big and snuggly with amazing green eyes and dark hair, always messy, and clothes always severely rumpled. Once we went to a movie in Boston and as I led us into the theater, the usher stopped him from flowing because he thought Tully was a derelict. I laughed until I cried, and so did he. When he died, we made buttons that said "92 for Tully". He loved campaign crap. Those of us who knew him and felt the absence of him, dedicated the work we did, to him... Our mentor, teacher, friend, lifeline so many times. But he's gone and finding a Tully page on Facebook, seems to minimize his immortality. At the very least, it gives me the willies. I assume someone close to him has orchestrated this introduction to Tully who was a private person. Maybe it's selfish, but it feels almost intrusive. Kind of like, "I paid my dues to be his friend, you can’t just sign up and expect the rest of us not to be upset.” If he chose you to be his friend you knew it. If you were not of his liking, you knew that too. With Facebook he has no option. He was angry at me when I left Massachusetts to travel with the candidate and his wife, and for years, he never said anything to me but "Look at you. Look at you. Big shot!" He never finished the sentence but I knew the end was "thanks to me." He was right. I was a big shot. And I did owe it all to him... And excellent political genes. We’re just sayin’.... Iris

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Then I Wrote, Than You Read

It is nearly impossible for me not to do political commentary on political issues in the news, especially when they are ridiculous, a waste of time, or a waste of money. Let’s begin with waste of money—which if often ridiculous as well. (Sometimes in politics, as in life, all these things overlap.) Why in the world is John Edwards on trial? I was never an Edwards fan, although my daughter thought he would make quite a cute President. OK he spent campaign money, cheated on his dying wife, and asked his staff to cover for him. (The staff did not refuse to go along with it until they all got caught.) The man has billions of dollars and bad taste in mistresses. Surely he could have paid back that which was illegal, and simply faded away like some other infamous slime balls we have elected to office (or bankers who we forgot to indict.) It’s hard for me to believe that the people who brought him to trial a.) don’t have some kind of a vendetta, b.) are happy to play gotcha with the rich and successful, businessman/Senator. c.) Have never asked a staffer to do something to protect their good name. d.) In this economic depression, don’t have anything better to do with their time and government money. Moving on to a waste of time. Nevermind, let’s move right to the ridiculous – that’s so much more fun. Lindsay Lohan was at the Washington Correspondents dinner (why?), and Santorum asked her to take a picture of him with Greta Van Sustren? Is that almost as ridiculous as invitations to a White House Political dinners being offered to the cast of “Glee?” (And I am crazy about the cast of Glee). When I fell off my dinosaur and attended these dinners, you mingled with the Washington VIP’s, who would be considered important sources for the big deal correspondents,. But such is the state of the media. Since newspapers are irrelevant/dying (unless they are online) and young people believe Jon Stewart is giving them the real news, there is nothing you can’t Google, and that Wikapedia is actually a credible source, what would you expect. There is no news anymore. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. It’s all entertainment. That’s why an interview with the Secretary of State will get two minutes, but a just-out-of-rehab movie star will get five. Which came first? Did serious news go away because it is not as profitable as entertainment? Or is entertainment preferable to what people consider bad news – war, the economy, human rights, etc. It is not a question I can answer but I liked it better when the entertainment at the dinner entertained, rather than sat with the guests. And speaking of ridiculous,, I still get confused about the use of “then” and “than.” Although most won’t admit it, I am not the only one –and I taught English, when we were still diagramming sentences (look it up on Google). So here goes: ‘Than’ is a conjunction used in comparisons.: Tom is smarter than Bill. ‘Then’ has numerous meanings: Often with "if") If you want to go, then you'll have to finish your homework. Simply, than is used only in comparisons, so if you're comparing something use than. If not, then you have to use then. We’re just sayin’ then…. Iris