October 2, 2017: The Day
Facebook Became Insufferable

I’ve been trying to avoid the news today. But just a moment ago I took a one-minute scroll through Facebook and learned that Tom Petty is dead, or near enough. “Full cardiac arrest, no brain activity, DNR” etc etc.

He was 66.

For a moment, that news provided a diversion from the day’s dominant story: yet another mass shooting event, this time in Las Vegas. 50+ killed and hundreds injured (mostly probably from the ensuing stampede) when somebody opened fire from a 30th floor hotel window onto an open field filled with a crowd for a country music festival, headliner Jason Aldean running from the stage once he figured out what was going on.

And so once again all the typical responses… the meaningless “thoughts and prayers,” the relentless outrage, the exhortations to talk about gun control -v- the exhortations to not talk about gun control “so soon” after so many people have been senselessly slaughtered by the kinds of weapons that nobody should have access to, at least not legal access, but then you know how that works, if guns are outlawed yada yada yada…

So this morning when I started to do my typical mindless scrolling… I just realized, “today is the day that Facebook became insufferable.”

And then I had to resist the temptation to actually put that thought on Facebook. I’m sure it would have offended a lot of people who felt righteously, grievously offended that so many people they never knew had been killed, because that’s what we’re all conditioned to do now when this happens again and again and again and again etc ad infinitum ad nauseam…

Later in the day, I thought of something that I read or heard about Hugh Hefner after he had his last wank last week at age 91. Somebody pointed out that Hefner had made his fortune largely “on masturbation.”

Now, I would say, that Mark Zuckerberg is the contemporary equivalent, though not strictly in the literal sense.

It is almost ironic that Facebook doesn’t permit anything that is even slightly, obliquely pornographic (i.e. “no female nipples” – regardless of their “artistic” merit), because arguably all of the content on Facebook is some form of mental masturbation.

It is a billion people a month (many several or even dozens of times a day) “getting off” on their own expressions of moral outrage, or gentle metaphysical platitudes, or pictures of their babies, or whatever the fuck floats their boat.

With a user base measured in the billions, Facebook creates the illusion of an audience of thousands when in most cases – i.e. those that are not already celebrities and thus have a large “social media following” (George Takei comes to mind, and remember he got his start being a spaceman on TeeVee 50 years ago) our posts only show up on a few dozen other users feeds. It’s somewhere between an echo chamber and a masturbatorium – a word I had never heard before the actor Brian Cox used it in a scene from the movie “Running With Scissors” : “You can’t go in that room, that’s my masturbatorium”.

Facebook is a masturbatorium that we let everybody in to.

Anyway, when I looked at Facebook this morning, it just seemed like a relentless rerun of years of self indignation. With every post I felt like “where have I seen this before?” Oh yeah, right here on Facebook the last time. And the time before that. And the time…

So… fuck it.

One of the things that got me hooked on Facebook years ago was when web browsers started to offer the “pin tab” feature – where you always had a small tab conveniently situated on the edge of your browser window for websites that your return to often.

Once THAT feature was enabled, I basically had Facebook at my disposal all the time. It was just one click away. It was like when I discovered “one hit pot” back in 1969. I’ve been stoned on Facebook ever since.

And that (I think) was before it all went mobile, and Facebook became the thing that I went to almost impulsively on my phone. Wait, who am I kidding? “Almost impulsively?” No, it was definitely impulsive. Like a rat in a cage, pushing the button for another endorphin pellet. Dozens of times a day.  I supply the content, Zuckerberg gets the money.  Who are we kidding.

And don’t even start me on the fucking Russians.

Lately I’ve been saying “I feel about Facebook the way I felt about scotch and vodka just before I quit drinking (almost 30 years ago).

And today, I dunno, something just finally snapped.

I closed all “pin tabs” on my browsers.

And I deleted the Facebook app on my phone. I replaced it (in the dock on the bottom of the home screen) with the podcast app. Maybe I’ll listen to more podcasts.

But I did go back to Facebook for a minute, just to confirm my suspicions. But instead of gun-violence induced righteous indignation, I got the news that Tom Petty had a heart attack and died at age 66.

Well, fuck me, I’m 66, too.

Or, wait… maybe he’s not dead?

Oh, fuck it.  Ya just can’t believe anything any more.

*

Update 171005: Yes, I violated my own quarantine and posted a link to this from my Facebook page.  Save one comment re: Scott Kozicki needing a haircut, I have not posted anything to the Infinite Random Trivia Generator all week.  If you care to comment on what I have written/posted above, please share those sentiments in the comments section here.   The boycott now resumes…,

My Homage to ‘Mr. Turner’

Here, then, is my “digital homage” to JMW Turner…

Joseph Mallord Willam Turner (1775-1851), for those of you who have never heard of him, was one of Britain’s premier landscape artists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

I first learned of Turner several years ago after I started photographing medieval ruins in the United Kingdom. Turner traveled Europe extensively during his career, and painted dozens of canvases depicting the ruins that Britain’s aristocracy were just beginning to preserve during that period, often turning them into parks on their estates. When I started researching the sites that I had visited in the spring of 2013, Turner started showing up in my web searches.

I was of course intrigued by the 2014 feature film “Mr. Turner” that portrayed the artist during the peak years of his career.

When I returned to the UK in the spring of 2017, I sought out some of the locations that Turner had painted 200+ years earlier. My itinerary started in Chepstow, Wales (park car, see castle…), near the ruin of Tintern Abbey that Turner painted in 1794. I carried a file of his painting with me on my iPhone so that I could find and attempt to replicate his vantage point.

I did manage to find what I suspect was the spot where Turner stood when he painted the Abbey, though things look very different when viewed through an ultra-wide angle lens compared to a painter’s ability to render things with whatever perspective he can conjure with his brush. 200+ years can also do a lot to how a place looks; Turner’s paintings show ruins like Tintern in a native state, largely overgrown with vegetation. A lot of that growth has been pruned back and manicured in the centuries since preservation has become more of a priority.

Once I got home with the files, I put them through several layers of processing. First I blended 5 frames into a single HDR file. I loaded that into a “digital painting” program from Topaz Labs called “Impression” which can take photographs and overlay then with digital brush strokes. The program features several “Turner” presets, so I started with those and worked them with details that hopefully do Mr. Turner some kind of contemporary, digital justice.

But I didn’t stop there.

When I was in London at the end of the trip, I made a pilgrimage to the Tate Modern museum which houses much of Turner’s work. I spent several hours touring the Tate’s Turner exhibit. And, thankfully, they have no restrictions on (no flash) photography of Turner’s canvases. I took detailed photos of every one, thinking that I might have a use  for some of the master’s skies…

Once I was back in Photoshop, I masked the (boring, bright, solid blue) sky out of my Tintern Impression, and made a background layer out of one of Turner’s paintings. So this is a composite of my digitally processed photo and an actual JMW Turner painting.

On the left is Turner’s painting from 1794; on the right, my digital homage from 2017, created with Photoshop, Aurora HDR and Topaz Impression – with a ‘digital assist’ from JMW Turner himself.

Nashville – August 21, 2017 1:27PM
“Darkness At The Edge of Noon”

I was rather ambivalent at first about the Big Eclipse.  At least, from the standpoint of a photographer – because I was pretty sure that everybody in the path of the moon’s shadow would have some kind of camera turned toward it, and there would be roughly 357 bajillion trillion photos of the eclipse posted on the Internet within minutes of the totality.  What could I possibly add to that?

But as the date approached, I started to get an idea: rather than aiming a well-filtered camera at the sun itself, I was curious what effect the darkness would have on the Nashville skyline.

So I staked out a location at an overpass just north of town, put one of my cameras (Olympus OMDs) on a tripod to record a time lapse, and left the other to maybe shoot the corona once the totality began.  I mean, OK, why not 357 bajillion trillion plus one?

So much for my "once in a lifetime" experience...

So much for my “once in a lifetime” experience…

Well, that plan got thwarted.  While most of Nashville and the surrounding area was blessed with relatively clear skies, at the spot where I was set up, the eclipse was itself eclipsed, by clouds.  This photo was taken about 2 minutes before the “2nd contact” (beginning of totality), and shortly after, the cloud closed in completely.

But once the darkness descended at 1:27PM, I picked up camera number two and started shooting toward the skyline.

I had noticed that the way I’d set up the time-lapse, with a constant exposure value, once the darkness started settling in, the manually set exposures went pretty much completely black.  So with the second camera, I exposed for the diminished light, and the result is the photo at the top of this post.

And here’s the time-lapse.  It just gets dark…

Chasing The Light – UK 2017
Opening August 5 at The Arcade

Hello, friends…

It’s been a while, I know.  But (among other things) I’ve been traveling…

Last month I returned from spending three weeks in England and Wales “chasing the light in the Celtic latitudes” – during that time of year  just before the summer solstice, when the light that cinematographers call “Golden Time” lasts for nearly three hours.

I have hundreds of new photos to share with you: photos of ruins as well photos of living, medieval cathedrals and churches. And stories. So many stories about the places I visited and the things I saw.

So my main reason for writing today is to invite you to the first showing of this new work during the Downtown Art Crawl on Saturday, August 5 at the Erabellum Gallery 2nd floor of the Arcade. The Crawl runs from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.

To tempt you to come out and see what’s new, I’m attaching two digital files to this missive you can use as “wall paper” on your smartphone or computer:

P6051927_Aurora2017_HDR

The smaller, “vertical” file is from a medieval church in Yorkshire called Beverly Minster. It makes a great lock-screen wallpaper for your smart phone. The larger, “horizontal” file is the fan vaulting in the cloister of Gloucester Cathedral, where several scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed. That one makes a great wallpaper for your desk-or-laptop.

Those are not the actual files, those are just thumbnails I’m putting in this message. To download the actual files, click here. That will take you to a .zip in my Dropbox. Download the file and double-click on it, that will open the actual files. Then move them to wherever you keep your wallpapers.

There will be much more to show-and-tell at the Crawl. Please come by and say hello…

—PS