Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Photo: © S. Banos

The third absolutely shittiest year of my life in three consecutive years! Is there a pattern in there somewhere, anywhere? And what are the chances of breaking out in 2018 when our glorious leader is a narcissistic moron deluxe on a scale that even his Propecia addled cerebrum cannot possibly twitter away???

Well, I ain't throwing in the towel just yet, least not while I can walk and talk, and my extended family continues struggling away on a 30X100mi island with little more than elbow grease and... paper towels. 

So here's to 2018, Leonard Cohen said the one thing he learned from Buddhism is not to whine so much. If we somehow manage to avoid a nuclear exchange between two equally repugnant Man-Babies trying to out manly the other so they can make their dead daddies & imaginary girlfriends swoon- let's make it a good one... for ourselves and one another!
Photo: © S. Banos

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"There's A Whole Fleet Of Them!"

“It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen; I have no idea what I saw.”   -US Navy Fighter Pilot

This year on 60 Minutes, billionaire entrepreneur and head of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert Bigelow said that he was "absolutely convinced" that aliens and UFO's have visited the earth. Last week, something else of note occurred that for the most part... flew in under the radar- the DoD admitted to a program specifically documenting unidentified flying objects, which in and of itself is no big deal, but... they  even allowed a video, or two (of no doubt hundreds, if not thousands) to be publicly aired.

They did not deny, did not excuse, belittle or ridicule. And that alone is quite the... revolutionary! And the first step towards eventual... D-i-s-c-l-o-s-u-r-e!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I, TONYA Rules!!!

You're representing our country, for fuck's sake. They need to see a wholesome American family.  -Skating judge
But I don't have a wholesome American family. -Tonya Harding

I, Tonya is one of the best movies of this, or any other year! I suppose for brevity's sake, one could call it a "black comedy," but it succeeds on so many levels (eg- docudrama, social satire and commentary, etc)- which is exactly what a really good black comedy can do, should do... and this most certainly does!

Several reviews have criticized it for not knowing what it wants to be or trying to do too much- and not anything, very well.  That would pretty much be my wrap of The Shape of Water, a sentimental ball of confusion that indecisively meanders between hardcore Disney and attempted adult situation fantasy. Any retelling of a tale so inherently insane with characters so fundamentally flawed can easily divert into parody or lecture, but Craig Gillespie hits the right tone for this multidimensional dive into American class structure, aspirations and insanity. And Margot Robbie, who looks a helluva lot more like Nancy Kerrigan than Tonya Harding, pulls off an amazing performance as the self professed red neck who would not be denied; but then, that's the other thing about this flick- each and every actor does such a bang up job, you actually anticipate and look forward to their reactions and appearances! Tonya's mother literally steals the first third of the movie with a tour de force portrayal between her nips and drags of booze and cigs.

The intrigue, betrayals, pathos and bathos galore is all quite Shakespearean to say the least. And Gillespie not only manages to make a most compelling commentary on the American class system, he also manages what I thought previously impossible- portray Tonya Harding as a genuinely sympathetic character! This is someone who was abused by her mother, brother, husband, and skating judges alike- and as she rightly points out, by a society (ie- us) that was more than eager to demonize her. And (ironically enough) you get to both marvel and laugh throughout the entire spectacle...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Xmas!

The one SantaCon photo that I really wanted this year came out unfocused (Bad Fuji!). This one is... OK, even if it doesn't truly do justice to the Santa on the left. When I first encountered he she it, I must admit to doing a double take not quite realizing what had just quickly waltzed by- a rather clever mask that upon close inspection reveals two rather well obscured eyes peering out at you behind the mass of hair. But I digress- what I really enjoyed most was when that particular Santa's helper started handing out sweets to small children. Their looks ranged from outright confusion to abject terror- the perfect Holiday Cheer!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wormwood- One Bad Trip

Being very much the Errol Morris fanboy, I was very much looking forward to Wormwood- his latest and longest (240 min. divided into 6 parts on Netflix) docu...drama... mentary... reenacment!? And it's on a subject near and dear to my heart- the mysterious 1953 death (ie- falling out a NYC hotel window) of a prominent US scientist who was unknowingly fed LSD as a part of the CIA mind control program called MK ULTRA

So, yeah, I was real psyched to view Wormwood, particularly with a bit o' time on my hands now during the holidays. What I wasn't particularly prepared for was the endlessly repetitive and  prolonged snooze fest that was to ensue before my (soon to not be) waking eyes. Unfortunately, it's as if the usually innovative Mr. Morris (for inexplicable reasons unknown) studied and adapted every lame, 2nd rate pseudo-documentary technique from every sleazy TV "true crime investigation," complete with the ad infinitum slow-mo sequences that serve as filler for not having anything else of consequence to portray. Take out the endlessly repeated reenactments, and we have a regular 90 minute production which would have played out just fine as your usual quality Morris production! 

We do get a most telling revelation (ie- confirmation) towards the end of the movie- two actually, both of which one could have readily surmised... One, Frank Olson's fall from a hotel window was obviously not a suicide, the other- his extrajudicial execution (straight outta the CIA manual) was not about a crazed, drug addled scientist who had to be shut up... it was about silencing someone who had become vocal in his opposition to the US germ warfare program during The Korean War.

Throughout the movie Mr. Morris interviews Frank Olson's son, and his long history of trying to get to the bottom of his father's death- a life long quest that consumed every aspect of his life, including his career. Unfortunately, in the end we too feel as if we've spent way too much energy pursuing something we should have spent way less time on...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

20th Century REDUX!!!

Photo: © S. Banos
Back in the late sixties/early seventies, members of the ruling elite were concerned (ie- frightened to death) that the radicals protesting and rioting in the streets would take over our wondrous country. And that is exactly what happened, except it wasn't from the... Left, as everyone feared, and it wasn't quite as soon as everyone imagined...

We now find ourselves at the beginning of a century not entirely different from the last- except that this time, the Fascism looms much closer to home. I had thought hoped that even hard core, red neck America had finally, well, if not matured, than at least grown tired of its penchant for electing some down home good ol' boy that both mirrored and implemented the worst practices of ignorance imaginable- particularly since the last left in flames after initiating a totally unnecessary and unending war, and then sending our country down a whirlwind, financial wormhole that impacted them worst of all. We were finally done with... d-u-m-b. Right? Right?

Well, after an eight year respite of relative... sanity- Right Wing America came rip-roaring back to reclaim it's perceived right of White National dominance and sovereignty! And come back with a vengeance they did- this time there would be no niceties, no reason to disguise or sanitize bias, racism or bigotry. The Radicals were in charge, and were openly ecstatic to reign in total defiance of: logic, fact or science. Ethics and rule of law were now improvisational, at best. The road had been paved step by step: from Hollywood hold over, to Evangelical make over,  to outright Fascist take over...

Yeah, after this abomination- the person described on yonder poster sounds heaven sent. And if you think that empowering a crazy person is in and of itself insane... you'd be right!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Black and White... in Color

Photos: © S. Banos

Admittedly, I'm not much of a color photographer, that is, save for one or two exceptions (where color is crucial), I'm shooting what I've always shot- just with color thrown in (as do most people). Sure, there are some additional (or at least different) factors to be considered now (like making sure the colors don't collide or distract), but after 40 somewhat years of shooting exclusively in B&W, this whole dang color thang has been going down a whole lot smoother than imagined! And that's on two counts- I really haven't had to reinvent the wheel in how or what I shoot, and post is now reduced from days to an average of an hour at most. And the latter is why I'll continue to shoot color in the time remaining...

PS- I suppose the B&W photo above is the more aesthetic, but it's the color one below that makes me laugh...

Amazing what a bloody difference color makes!!!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Or Not...

Photo: © S. Banos

Was gonna mount the moral high horse again for yet another round of where we are today; but honestly, it hasn't changed- those who know, take action, and those that don't... ain't listening. 

Republicans have always propagated their racism in codified policy; Trump has further inflamed White fear and rationalization, and... legitimized racist discourse to the point of actual physical backlash (one had only to watch his rallies). He has sold this package of success and development as a twofer- financial progress and forward mobility comes hand in hand with equal measures of White Supremacy (ie- diversity can only lead to every current and future national malady imaginable). And many a White American will simply look the other way if their lot improves at the cost of others- "it's just the way things are..."

Trump will never be another Hitler (ie- he will never kill six million of any one people), but each rose to power by: channeling ignorance, utilizing propaganda, and legitimizing the racist mindset (and the threat of violence). The parallels of any fascist regime are readily recognizable, and their ultimate consequences... equally predictable.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Treat Yourself!!!

Photo: Anders Petersen
Yeah, I know, I know... I just wrote how I was cool with not getting any more photobooks, at least for the foreseeable future. Well, life is like that, and... the holidays are coming up. This book, at this price,* can not (I repeat- cannot) be passed by- this is an absolute bargain for absolute gold! The only problem with this particular book is that it has too many pictures, and let me tell ya- lots and lots of 'em are really, really good!!!

It's a freakin' Bible it is- chock full of many memorable (and well reproduced) images. Do Not attempt to take them all in on one sitting; this homage to photo great Anders Petersen takes days, weeks- and will have you coming back for years... These are not just the kind of photos that you sit down and enjoy- they're also the kind you contemplate and... learn from!

*(the trick is to click on "New & Used-" I'm getting mine new for... $50)
PS- Please note- they are out of the New $45 editions... 

Monday, December 4, 2017


Maaaybe...  Photo: © S. Banos

I love my photography books- I really do! But lately, I've been buying considerably less of them- like not at all. Oh, many still excite me upon first viewing, but then, the thrill dissipates, much quicker than expected- and I start to wonder... why? Are today's photo books pure fluff, just meant to hold interest a few more seconds beyond your average daily Instagram feed? Are the photo themselves without any deeper, lasting meaning- socially, aesthetically or otherwise? Am I just jaded- has it all been said and done?

There was a time at the end of the last century when I couldn't find enough good photo books; even before the digital revolution, they were quite numerous- but the quality ones, of any depth or meaning (along with, or solely due to aesthetic excellence) were rare indeed. I have a 20 image rule- if I like (really like) at least twenty of the photographs found within a book's pages, I usually bite and pull the trigger. 

The past several years have seen more photo books than ever, a plethora emerging on a near daily basis, which means a lot more junk- as well as a lot more finds, if one makes the effort. Trouble is and this is highly personal- I've now experienced most of the flavors.

Starting in the mid seventies, color made a significant change in the medium of photography, we had a whole new newly accepted way of seeing and interpreting reality- a major sea change deluxe! The Digital Revolution has certainly brought about changes in almost every aspect of how we experience the medium of photography itself, but... has it brought about a major change in the actual art of photography- as did color?

We see more work (although we trust it less), and we see it faster and easier, in smoother, cleaner pixels, rather than organic lumps of grain. We have managed to alter every which way we have come to view, understand and proliferate photography, and yet- it it still hasn't translated into an actual sea change of how we actually see and interpret the world around us (not counting technical considerations, eg- increased ease of photographing in available light). And all the little non photographic gimmicks and nuances now included in many a photo book (good and interesting, and pricey, as they may be) are often still not enough to entice me into a lasting relationship. We are certainly testing this new digital technology to see what it can deliver in every which way possible, but when (and I do think it is but a question of when) will we finally incorporate it into a significantly novel photographic vision? Instead, we seem stuck in a metamorphosis, if not a metastasis, of everything and anything at once- from maximum megapixels to back to the future analog. Strange days...