Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Tried to Call My Mom....

This morning, when I awakened, I tried to call my mother.  Not that I expected her to answer, but for some reason I was curious about who would answer. The number I called was her old number in Boonton, N.J.  The number was 201-334-9338.  That was not the number originally  in her house. That number was 201-334-3328, but she had it changed when there was a break-in, and her two pieces of silver were stolen.  It was unclear why she thought changing her telephone number would prevent future robberies, but it was always ridiculous to try to tell my mother about anything once her decision was made, Needless to say, the numbers were so close that it was hard to remember one from the other.

 Anyway, no surprise,  no one answered.  The funny thing is, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had answered.  She knows there are things I would like to share with her, advice I would never have taken, and arguments that were never finished.  There are losses we just can’t get over.  They stay with us forever and every once in a while we think there might be a miracle—and when it doesn’t happen we move forward with just a touch of disappointment.

What was it I wanted to tell or ask her?  It doesn’t matter.  It happens all the time and once I make the call, it passes.

Today we worked on our holiday cards.  We usually try to have them out before next year – yes every year has a next year—so we figure if we buy the cards at Costco (usually before Thanksgiving),  take the picture of Jordan, (which we have been doing for 25 years), paste the picture in the card, put addresses and greetings in the cards, and mail them before New Years, something magical might happen.  That was just a make up story. We like to send greetings to friends, old and new. We don’t want to e-mail a “hello and have a great new year.”  It doesn’t matter how brief the message. The fact that we took the time to choose a lovely card with a secular sentiment, a picture of Jordan, and wrote a brief hello, makes it different from our everyday conversation.

Jordan Kai, in her 25th year of Xmas Cards, with Tyrone and Ernie
When we go through the names, we share memories and stories, and we spend time thinking about the past and the future.  It’s only one day a year that we take the time to sit and reflect, at the same table, for more than a few hours, doing the jobs we do every year. David addresses the envelopes because he says no one can read my writing. Then we write the messages to his, mine and our friends.  I put the cards in the envelopes and seal them.  I also buy and apply the stamps.  Then we argue about whether or not the cards will get to the right place if there’s no zip code. We speculate about the cost of stamps for overseas, put everything in a box and I mail them.

 It’s kind of like calling your mother although you know she won’t answer. We do it because we hope it will help us stay in touch. We do because we enjoy reaching out and reminding our pals that even though we don’t see them we are thinking about them all the time.

 We have lost so many friends and family over the last few years that anything we can do to remind us about how precious people in our lives can be, is worth doing.  Tomorrow I’m going to call my Dad.  He won’t answer either but it’s the call that matters, not the answer.  Oh and when they don’t answer, you have the right to decide what they would have said, and it always turns out to be exactly what you would have said.  We’re just sayin’…. Iris

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It Makes Me Sad....

This is not going to be a maudlin blob. Thought you needed to know that so you will keep reading.  Of course you will keep reading because you don't want miss any memorable thoughts or good gossip.

Anyway while me and Tyrone were walking home from puppy care we noticed an older woman walking her dog. Tyrone is the Midtown East animal Social Director. He stops and sniffs anything that looks like another dog or a bush.  When we were almost home he saw a dog that had the look of  a young pup with the body of a dog that had been around for at least 20 years.  Both the dog and the owner were walking, more like dragging themselves down the block. Ty knew he had to go easy, so he sat down and waited for Methuselah to get close.  Ty did sniff a bit but did not do his usual “jump and hump” move.  It was painful to see the want on Thusies’ face. He wanted to romp and play but physically,  just couldn't. It made me so sad. 

Then I started thinking about things that made me sad. Not things like the loss of a loved one but things like commercials that show children in poverty, or animals that have been mistreated.  It is equally sad to see those commercials about adult incontinence or kids with incurable diseases.  So, then I started to think about things like, people who are stupid or inflexible, or stingy. People (no age is too young or old), with no moral core or good manners.

This kind of thinking, which should only be done while meditating, can be dangerous because it takes you to places that are hopeless or irritating, like flowers that die but remain in a vase in full view.  Naked trees at the end of fall.  Cell phones that aren’t friendly. Words you can't remember. Drinking coffee that you think is decaf and it’s not.

Things that make me sad now, used to make me rage.  Like when you are on a plane and people are lolly gagging in the aisles. I used to want to shout “sit down and shut up.” Now I still want to shout, it but in my head it's a whisper.  Injustice used to make me rage.  Now a little head shaking is about all I can muster.

But that’s about rage not tears. And speaking of tears another thing that makes me sad (is that an oxymoron), anyway, when you get all dressed up, and you look great. Clothes perfect, makeup carefully applied, and you meet someone you want to impress, then you look in the mirror and your makeup is all over your face. It makes me sad that you can’t call those people and say, “but I'm really adorable and impressive, lets have a redo.”

End of the year television series catch up. Some of the shows are great but it makes me sad that another year has passed and I don't have enough time to do everything and see everything I want to do.  Happy Hannukah. It makes me sad that there's no one to give me one gift every night.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Friday, December 12, 2014

Trying out the Samsung NX1 Camera.. a new way to see

Trying out the new Samsung NX1 "mirrorless" reflex camera

 low light in a ships hold

 and I have always found photographing fishermen with a moustache is the best way to determine how sharp a lens really is

 I love the low light characteristics - especially in mixed "end of day" and artificial light
this is a series of pictures from Oman and Dubai, shot in late November with the NX1
I have been a photographer for a long time (does photographing President Kennedy count?) and throughout these several decades I have tried to match the gear I was using to the project I was working on.  For a long time, early on, I had but a single Pentax H3v, a sweet camera that had one of the best shutter noises of any camera I can remember.  Then I managed to get my first Nikon while in college, and expanded that through a series of Fs and Nikkormats, until my swap to Canon in 1978.  I feel like I have done a good deal of history with those Canon film cameras (AE-1, F1, EF, T90, Elan…. ah, the list goes on…) and eventually settled on the 5D, and 6D digital cameras.  When I was fit as a fiddle (there was about a two week period in 1982) I could carry all the stuff which we THOUGHT we needed to do the job.  Two zooms, short and long, a few primes, and usually three or four bodies.  The main thing about the extra bodies was having 3 or 4 rolls of film to shoot at a time.  Being artsy with  a solo Leica M4 and a 35mm lens was great, but if the fit hit the shan, you needed to have enough film to be able to get whatever the key sequences were.  That usually meant having several camera bodies loaded with what now seem like quaint little bitty rolls of 36 exposures.  It meant you could shoot a lot more before you had to stop and change film.

Gravity remains a force to be reckoned with, and no less so when you have to carry a whole suite of camera gear.  Eventually I was looking for something with great quality, and which wouldn’t turn my beaten up body into a mere shadow of my former self after schlepping them for a long day.  I always preferred the “smaller form” bodies anyway, since the big ‘professional’ cameras (D4, Eos 1Dx) were so heavy, that even though they would be great for shooting a sports sequence, they weren’t really designed to be carried in large numbers for a long day. 

The last few years has seen some amazing changes in camera design, in both standard mirror-ed digital gear, and the revolutionary mirrorless*  camera bodies (*that is aptly the new buzz word of this photographic decade.) I had a chance to get my hands on a pair of Samsung NX1 bodies, their two main pro zoom lenses, and a couple of primes, recently to try out this idea of shooting through the lens without a mirror.  In a word, it’s quite extraordinary: much smaller in size and weight, and yet amazingly crisp in the finder.  You’re no longer looking through the lens via a moving mirror. Now, the mini screen in the finder gives you that same “through the lens” view, but on a high rez screen in the eyepiece.  It takes a bit of getting used to, like all new techniques.  But with the extremely speedy auto focus that the camera employs, you very quickly understand that what you see in the finder is really what the camera is seeing.  The NX1 has a quick release (you know all those annoying delays on Point/Shoot cameras?… not here)  Look, there are a heck of a lot of great cameras out there. Not every camera is for every photographer.  It’s a personal choice, but the main thing is.. find something you like, that works for you, and spend enough time with it in hand that both you and the camera evolve into one.  The NX1 has a lot going for it.  A super crisp 28 megapixel chip which gives you astonishing files.  You can blow them way, way up, and they hold together beautifully.   I was a guy who always shot the slowest films available (Velvia, Kodachrome) and I tend to try and shoot with low ISO’s on my digital cameras, but its nice knowing you have the horsepower to go high.  It’s tough to tell a picture shot at 3200 from one shot at 400.  If you need the speed, it’s there.   One other thing which is, for me, a key feature.  In High-speed mode, the camera will shoot 15 frames per second.

 It was a mix of capoeira and ballet, with a side of gymnastics thrown in - at 15 fps
For a lot of seconds.  As someone who has chased Olympic athletes for thirty years, I can tell you that while you don’t always need a high speed camera (there are definately times when you go for ONE frame!) when you do need it, there is no substitute.  I shot recently with some athletes in Dubai and Oman, and the amazing thing when editing the images is to see how (for once!) little changes between frames, and when you find the one you want, you have a seriously sharp file to work with.

DB with the NX1 and my old Canon FD 135/2 (and yes, I did get a nap after I shot this!)

One last thing I love about the NX1: you can use your old glass, obviously in Manual Focus mode, on this camera.  I have a few old lenses (135/2 and 200/1.8) of Canon FD glass that I still love.  And with a small inexpensive adapter ring, I can use those lenses on the NX1.  With the ‘focus peaking’ feature, you can tell when a Manual lens is sharp, by the way the edges of the subject light up, letting you know it’s “in the zone.”  Going forward I’m looking at running my NX1 through the paces, but it feels rugged, it feels great in my hands, and at the end of the day I probably won’t need a trip to the chiropractor to put my shoulders back into place.  We’re just sayin’…. David

all photographs taken with Samsung NX1 with 18-200 zoom, 16-30 f/2 zoom, and 50-150/2.8 zoom

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Friends of Auld Lang whatever

New Years Eve 1947

New Years Eve 2002
There are not enough hours in the day to keep in touch with all the people you love, past and present. But think about the people who have made a permanent exit from your life. You never forget them and you still love them, no matter how much time passes. So, if you haven't heard from me and you are still alive, just know you are still an important part of every breath I take.

Would someone tell me why we sing “Auld Lang whatever” on New Years? Does anyone have any idea what it means. What it really means?  It’s always been a point of confusion.  In years past we always had a New Years Party with all our friends. For years we had caviar and I made bilini. Then when Jane realized she was allergic to caviar, we switched to lobster—which was (believe it or not) less expensive and equally decadent. Oh, and we made tenderloin for the meat eaters.  We drank gallons of vodka and David took the most divine pictures of everyone in the magic chair. (If you’ve been there it requires no explanation). There was a great deal of kissing and merriment. Then our friends, for absolutely no reason, started to die.  And New Years just wasn’t the same. It was so tacky to die just when we were all in the prime of life. What exactly is the prime of life? Lot’s of questions in the blob.

Back to love, loss and why it’s all important.  One of the reasons me and my beloved (the guy in the cafĂ©) have always stayed connected is because we understand the concept of collecting people we love. David has taken it to a new level because he finds people who have no idea why he would want to be in touch. Like my boyfriend from 3rd grade who lives in Denmark – He’s Danish, Duh!  I’m a little more discriminating. The people with whom I stay connected, might be dead, but they were always important and relevant in my life. Sure I have friends from elementary school – even pre-school, but we have always been in touch as much as possible.  Recently, my cousin asked me why I wasn’t making friends in Newburgh.  Quite simply, I don’t have anymore time to take care of people who become my friends. Taking care does not mean holding their hand but it does mean, when they need you, you are there. Besides, I have family in Newburgh and don’t have a need for new friends.  (Which incidentally, I have made).

Anyway, my commitment to friendship knows no bounds. And that’s the way it should be—at least for me. The only issue is that losing a friend is not easy.  It is quite debilitating. As I said initially, There are not enough hours in the day.  But you know what? It feels right no matter how much time it takes.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Sunday, December 07, 2014

I.... I .... I mean.....

There is something that needs to be shared with the people of the United States of America.  It should probably be a personal announcement, but I cannot start a sentence with “I”, both a special challenge and something that is taught in creative writing. Sure, it can be gotten around by starting with “But”, such as “But I”, however, everyone would know it was cheating. So what to do?  Here we go….

Have you noticed that when you ask for something and you get it, no one says “you are welcome.”  You’re welcome has disappeared.  Remember when saying,  “you’re welcome”, was  simply good manners – which have mostly disappeared along with “you’re welcome”.  It saddens me to announce that “you’re welcome” has been replaced by “no problem”. And it’s not just a kid thing. Adults are substituting “you’re welcome” with, “no problem.” 

What is so attractive about “no problem?”  It implies that there was a problem and now it’s not a problem. Seems like a stretch or a big Duh!  Are there other issues that are a big duh?  Of course there are.  Take for example, (please), the protests over the Ferguson, and Garner protests.  If this sentence were start with “I”, I would tell all those peaceful protestors how terrific I think they are.  There is never any social change unless there are well coordinated movements that encourage people to go out on the street.  For whatever reason, overt action is more effective than just sitting on the computer.

This morning the teachers from Newtown, Ct. talked about their effort to prevent anyone who is not a police officer or some authorized official person to have an assault weapon.
They talked how the need to wear seat belts and  stop smoking cigarettes became public service campaigns. They felt gun control could be part of the public conversation – despite the large and rich NRA lobbying effort,  In the same way, protests about issues that deal with injustice, are important and I hope, effective.  Does that mean there will be a rethink of what happened in either case.

It’s the end of football season.  There have been decisions about college champions, and final games for the NFC and AFC teams.  Football is one of my passions. Admittedly, the college football games are my preference. They are far more fun and exciting.  However,
I also love professional football or at least a few teams. More sharing, the Pat’s, Greenbay, and Seattle are my favorite teams.  Washington, is my least favorite. I always root for the NY teams, although it seems not to be helping, and there is a special place in my heart for Miami.  But all of this sharing appears to be a big , “so what?”

The important things to remember about this blob is that language can change, actions can determine outcomes, and wouldn’t it be nice if there was a spring as well as winter football league (which hopefully will happen sooner than later, in someplace other than Texas High Schools).  Oh, and when someone suggests to you that people kill people, not guns, go ahead with the biggest belly laugh you can muster.

If you can make it to Newburgh on Sunday the 21st of December, come and share in our celebration of David’s 2014 Winter Olympic pictures. From 2-6pm, at the Gallery Schubes - 50 Front Street, second floor. On the waterfront – it’s beautiful. Take a ride!  We're just sayin'...  Iris