Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twenty Albums

The Music Of A Lifetime

Earl, over at The Verdant Dude, turned me onto this Meme. Usually I dispise Memes, but this one seemed to have some merit.

Think of 20 albums, CDs, LPs (if you’re over 40), that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazoo, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean. Then when you finish, tag 15 others (yeah, not doing that), including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill

1 Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - Beatles
2 Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin
3 Countdown to Exstacy - Steely Dan
4 Chicago II - Chicago
5 Razamenaz - Nazereth
6 Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
7 The Blue Brothers - The Blues Brothers
8 Sandinista - The Clash
9 Aja - Steely Dan
10 Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
11 Avalon - Roxy Music
12 The Tales of Hoffman - Jacques Offenbach (with Beverly Sills - Soprano)
13 Beethoven's 9th Symphony - Ludwig von Beethoven (Performed by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karijan)
14 Houses of the Holy - Led Zeppelin
15 Quadrophenia - The Who
16 The White Album - The Beatles
17 Yellow Submarine - The Beatles (Soundtrack - more George Martin than the Beatles)
18 American Beauty - Thomas Newman (Soundtrack)
19 The Road to Perdition - Thomas Newman (Soundtrack)
20 The Altogether - Orbital

That just about sums it up.....Party On Wayne....Party On Garth

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Hidden Links

You Never Really Notice, Until....

My wife has this thing she does. When she is in a very contemplative mood or has something on her mind that she is trying to think through, she takes a small pair of scissors and starts picking at the split ends in her hair. Looking at each strand and cutting off the ends of the hairs that are split. It is a sort of meditation.

This is not a big deal, if it weren't for the fact that she isn't the only one doing it. Her daughter does the exact same thing. This isn't something that is learned, I believe it is something genetic.

Most of the first half of our lives are taken up by learning things. Our senses have a powerful influence on us and we are constantly tasting, smelling, touching and hearing all sorts of stuff and then trying to process it. This learning process is so overpowering that it overshadows a lot of other things. Things that are easy to miss unless we pay close attention.

I never really thought about this until about 3 years ago. My fiance and I were visiting my parents in Tucson, Arizona. We were sitting on the back porch having lunch and chatting about something. Then, out of nowhere, my future wife starts laughing at me and pointing her finger.

"Like father, like son!" she chuckled.

I looked over at my father and he looked at me. It became apparent that we were both holding hour hands the same way, fingertips touching fingertips.

My mother laughed along with my fiance, "They always do that, it is a Johnson family trait."

In reality, it wasn't a joke, it is true. There are certain things that my father used to do, that I do as well. He never taught me how to do any of them, they are just stuck somewhere in the DNA. Passed on from one generation to the next. This is a sobering thing to learn when you are 48 years old. You start to wonder what else you do, that your father or mother have done all their lives, but you just don't realize it. Furthermore, what little DNA ticks have we passed on to our children.

I work in the foster care system of Arizona and I see many, many children that never know who their father's were, and often times rarely know their mothers either. I wonder if they will ever question what little things they do, a laugh, a raised eyebrow, a way of sneezing, that their parents did as well. They will never know, and often time we question and look for these links too late in life and they get lost in the rush to satisfy our senses, like tears in rain.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Leaving Traces

An Urban Experiment

The public works of Phoenix Arizona are required to have an art element that goes along with it. It is written into law. These have been controversial in the past, since some the art that the tax payers have paid for has been less than 'artistic'.

This art is supposed to be interactive and representative of the community. Since the public works have changed the landscape of the city or the neighborhood, the art is supposed to soften the blow.

Everywhere we go we effect the things around us. We leave traces of where we have been and test any environment we find ourselves in.

Animals in the wild purposefully leave no trace that is discernibly to most humans. They don't carve their initials on trees or leave sign posts to find the way back. They are for the most part, stealthy in their environment.

Humans on the other hand tend to want to make their presence known. They build things, they leave behind all manner of refuge and garbage. They often times leave their mark for no discernible reason.

At the Metro platform at Encanto and Central near downtown Phoenix, where I catch the light-rail every morning, there is a public art installation. It is somewhat odd and without an obvious theme, unless you look closely at it.

Unless it is 'tested', that is to say touched, it does not appear movable. But indeed, the unique blocks mounted on the horizontal bars can be turned, and in fact are meant to be turned to expose each side.

This got me wondering one cold, dark morning about whether this sort of interactive art was ever really noticed by anyone, so I decided to perform a little social experiment. I went down the platform and arranged all the rotating blocks in order so that they all formed a straight line. The next morning I would return and see if anyone had rotated the blocks.

The next day I was surprised to find that most of the blocks had been moved. People waiting for the trains had laid hands on them, either out of curiosity, boredom or accident and moved almost all of them.

Which got me thinking. We are a touchie-feelie sort of society. Everywhere we go, we have to touch, to move, to re-arrange. We can never seem to leave well enough alone. Sometimes I wonder if we aren't all cursed with the mindset that the world is one big "Pandora's Box".

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Essential Cinema - 43

"And Quiet Flows The Don"

Pyotr Glebov ... Grigori Melekhov
Elina Bystritskaya ... Aksiniya
Zinaida Kiriyenko ... Natalya
Daniil Ilchenko ... Panteleimon Prokofyevich Melekhov (as Danilo Ilchenko)
Lyudmila Khityayeva ... Dariya Melekhova
Nikolai Smirnov ... Pyotr Melekhov
Aleksandr Zhukov ... Miron Koshevoy

Sergei Gerasimov

Sergei Gerasimov writer
Mikhail Sholokhov novel "Tikhij Don"

Vladimir Rapoport

The lives and loves of Cossacks living on the eastern steps of Russia during the Russian Revolution.

How events beyond our control and the judgement of others shape our lives in the long term. No matter how hard we try, sometimes fate controls our destiny.

This is a great film, not because of it's acting or screenplay, but because it shows the western world that there were important events in the past that we have little knowledge of. It opens a doorway to us that we never knew existed and lets us glimpse some of the reasons that others think differently than we do.

During the late 1950 the Soviet Union was keen to copy everything that the west did regarding popular culture to show that they could do it just as well as the Americans and the Europeans. They sort of had a chip on their shoulder and wanted to prove that they were good enough to run with the big boys. In response to films such as "Ben Hur" and "Gone With The Wind", they geared up their own state sponsored film industry to produce 'epics'. This is one of them. Five and a half hours of the Russian experience in grand scope and scale.

Some have said that this is the Russian version of "Gone With The Wind", but it is more closely tied to "Dr. Zhivago" in theme and tone. The film deals with a portion of history rarely seen in the west. The internal struggles of a nation in the midst of Civil War in what could best be described as the Wild West of Russia.

This film is long with slow pacing. Russian cinema does not move a story along at a fast pace. Characters are built slowly and relationships between them are complex and wide ranging. The scenery is beautiful but sparse, as befits the Russian hinterlands. This is mostly a rural 'people' film, without much else to distract the audience, such as machinery or large scenes in cities. It is intimacy played out on a very broad canvas.

One of the more peculiar things about this version of the film is the narration. The film is shown in it's original language with no subtitles. The characters are narrated, not voiced over. So when someone speaks, it is in their native tongue, and then an English voice speaks what they are saying, sort of like you are reading their mind in delayed time. It preserves more of the feel of the film, but takes a little getting used to.

The other thing that was noticeable about the film was the Foley work. Sounds such as breaking glass or gun shots were VERY loud and distracted from the film at times. In a fist fight early in the film, the sounds of fists hitting the actors faces sounded like a sack of rice dropped from two stories up and hitting a wooden floor.

Unless you watch this film very closely, without distraction, it is easy to get lost in the complexity of the story. I was often left wondering who were the Reds (Communists) and who were the Whites (Loyalists) and who was fighting whom. This film assumes that the audience has a good understanding of this time in Russian history, much like most American audiences have a good understanding of who Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere were.

What this film left me with was a better understanding of the mind set of the Russian people and how they perceive their world and their place in it. They are pragmatic for a reason and see the journey of life as a hard and difficult thing. There is no "pursuit of happiness" in their character. There is only finding happiness where it lays and enjoying it while you can.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Click the 'Essential Cinema' tile of this blog to go to the International Movie Database entry for this film.

Friday, February 6, 2009

First Friday Flashback

I have reached my 300th blog. Looking back there are some gems that many of you may have never read. Since I am going to be expanding this blog and moving in some new directions, I am going to institute "First Friday Flashbacks". On the first Friday of each month I will be dusting off one of my older blogs that I beleive merits a second look, because, they even surprised me when I went back and read them.

Running Home In The Dark
(first published - 03/28/2006

There Are Monsters In The Woods

Changes in your life come at odd times. Often they are unexpected. Epiphanies that paint everything that comes after in a different light.

I don't recall the first one I had. But I recall one of the earliest.

I was living in Southern California in the late 1960s. We used to call it life in the fishbowl. My brother and I grew up on military bases. There wasn't any crime, political unrest, or domestic violence on a military base. Everything was orderly and neat. So we all got to stare out at the rest of the world as though we were in a fishbowl. The Vietnam War protests, the summer of love, Woodstock, Martin Luther King Jr., none of these things really had an affect on us back then. We were living in the last bastion of the 1950s. It was a place of cookies in the afternoon, sleepovers and playing hide and seek until long after dark.

When I turned 12 my parents decided to send me to a week long summer camp. I realize now that this was just an excuse for getting me and my brother out of the house so my parents could have some quality alone time. But for me it was a big step. I had never been away from family for that length of time. I was scared but at the same time I was also excited.

As it turned out, I really liked the whole camping thing. You got to stay up late and slept in a tent. The camp counselors gave us all sorts of things to do to keep us busy. We were outside in the warm southern California weather, where the smell of the dirt and grass mixed with the coastal breeze and made a subtle perfume that I can still smell in my dreams.

There were about 30 of us. We were all young boys between the ages of 8 and 12. We didn't know each other, but we bonded pretty quickly like most kids do. We were living for the moment with a short attention span and lots of sugar and carbohydrates to keep us going. It was all a dreamy blur.

On the last night of the camping weekend there was a big jamboree. It was held near the center of the camping area and our tribe put on a skit that is so traditional when boys camp out in the wild. We had no television or radio, so we had to make our own entertainment. Lord, I would love to see that skit on video tape (if it had been invented back then). When it was all over, the counselors told us that the first ones back to our campsites got to light the campfires and start cooking the smores. Smores are those chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow confections that every camping trip ends with. So we all scattered like rabbits and ran through the night back toward our tents.

I suppose that this was the height of childhood. Running like a pack of wolves through the cool evening air, heavily breathing in the summer night, flying through the darkness, not wanting to be the last one back to camp. As I ran through the trees and the tall grass I heard something. A faint scream. I slowed and turned my head and I heard it again. Even as a young boy I knew the sound or terror. It was a fearful scream and then sobbing. I stopped and started to walk back toward the jamboree area. My mind wrestled with the thought that I was going to be the last one back to camp, but I had to find something out. I was half curious, half afraid.

None of my other companions had stopped. Perhaps they hadn't heard the scream, maybe they were scared, maybe they didn't care. As I walked back a boy came stumbling out of the darkness, he was crying. When he saw me, he screamed and ran to me like a child lost in the woods. Which is what he was. He wasn't hurt, he was just scared. He had never been away from home. He was just a kid frightened of the dark. When everyone scattered toward their tents, he hadn't known the way and was left behind in his indecision.

To him, there were monsters in the woods. The Grimm's Fairy tales were still real. Some of us had learned to suppress our fear with bravado and logic. He wasn't able to do that yet. I put my arm around him and told him it would by OK. I knew what he felt like. Only a few months before I might have been him.

He tried to put on a brave face and not act scared while I walked with him back to camp, but the tears drying on his cheeks sort of ruined that charade. We were the last ones to arrive and the fire was already raging. The others were getting ready to toast their marshmallows. The frightened kid sat at the campfire and eventually joined in the comradery and laughter. We didn't speak of coming back last. He hadn't grown up as fast as the rest of us but he would catch up soon enough. He just wasn't going to catch up that night.

During that lazy California summer I realized there were more important things than running with the pack. That was a big step for a 12 year old boy. I think I understood compassion for the first time in the darkness under that starry night sky. It was the first time I started to become an individual and think for myself. After that week in the woods, I saw the world a little differently. I still do.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Snow Leopard

Folk Art Treasures From The Garage

I just recently completed a project in our garage. We had a shift of power in our home and I have given up control of one of the rooms for 'total' control of our detached garage and its attached dark-room / laundry room. My wife and I do this sort of power shifting all the time. Control over certain rooms and household chores is a sort of bartering thing we do.

One of the road blocks to getting many of the projects around our house completed has been the state of the garage. It was cluttered and unorganized. So I took control over it and started to remake it into the 'guy-zone'. Cool, neat, lean and functional. No 'girlie' stuff in MY garage. So I emptied out the whole garage and started throwing things away. It was a monumental task.

To see a narrative of the deconstruction of the garage and its rebirth, head over to "My Project Blog" for words and text of the undertaking.

So it was a bit of a shock the following week, when I got a call in the middle of the day at my office from my wife. I could see it was her on the caller ID and picked up the phone.

"Hi Sweetie, what up?", I asked.

"I can't believe you gave my cat picture to Goodwill!", she growled.

"Excuse me? Cat picture?"

"The jigsaw puzzle of the big cat that was framed and stored in the garage. I just saw it on my lunch hour at Goodwill. You donated it to them!!!?"

"That big jigsaw picture of a leopard? I didn't donate that to Goodwill....I know exactly where that is, leaning up against your tool chest on the back porch. I haven't been to Goodwill in ages.", was my cool reply.

"Well then, there are two jigsaw puzzles that look exactly the same and are framed.", she responded.

Needless to say that when she got home from work, I had 'her' jigsaw picture hanging in the living room so she could see it when she walked in the front door.

"You mean THIS jigsaw puzzle picture of a snow leopard?", as I pointed to the picture.

"I swear honey, there was one just like it at Goodwill......really, they were identical.", she laughed.

"You know I am never going to let you forget this, don't you?", I said in a very serious voice.

"Yes, I'm screwed....but I still love you honey."

...and then we kissed each other.....and I haven't let her forget it since....I am going to ride this wave for as long as it lasts.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All Done Tinkering

Bigger, Faster, More Geeky

I am all done with with the "TA-DA" is my new 'web-presence'. Looks the same you say? Well, yes it does. If anything it looks simpler. I have never been one for the big and flashy web page.

As I stated before, I was looking to update the way I 'used' the web and have made some changes to the structure of what I will be doing on the Internet and how I will be doing a lot of computing in general. In the past, most web content was centered around a 'homepage' where links and photographs were arranged in HTML code and stored on a web server. While that is still a pretty common thing to do, especially if you are in a commercial venture, it isn't the wave of the future.

One of the coming trends in the electronic information age is the concept of 'cloud' computing. For those that have not run across this yet, cloud computing is the concept of having major applications available on the web as opposed to be stored on your computer. This means that the computer simply becomes an input output device for things available on the Internet. Hence, smaller computers (net-books / cellphones, etc), with fewer (or no) moving parts that are much cheaper. The other added benefit is that your applications / documents / spreadsheets are available to you anywhere and aren't as easy to loose. With the advent of Wifi and broadband access in most urban areas, this concept of finally becoming a reality.

All of me, all in one place:

So, with this concept in mind, I have made "Hypocrisy" my starting destination / jumping off point for almost everything I do on the Internet. If you want to know what I am doing or see my latest project / adventure, this is where you are going to want to come. In my world, from here, you can go anywhere.

Some of the features / web pages that are linked to on "Hypocrisy" will require some up-to-date web browsers to access. Google documents and calendar, Flickr and MobileMe probably aren't going to work on anything less than Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3.0 or Safari 3.0. So if you aren't there yet, it is time to upgrade!

My ramblings on "Hypocrisy" aren't going to change much, and I have a couple of good blogs in the works. Of special interest to past visitors will be the 'Web Status' document linked to on the right side of the page, under links. This Public / Published Google Document will show the current status of my web presence as well as an explanation of the current links that I use on the Internet.

My expanded web presence is going to focus on a couple of key areas outside of the "Hypocrisy" environment. Primarily my numerous projects, which will be documented in the "My Projects Blog" and my expanded photography blogs (Alternate View / Flickr / Focal Plane) which will deal with low resolution, medium resolution and high resolution imagery respectively. I will also be moving into limited video production and file sharing with my You-Tube Channel (videos under 10 minutes) and my Mobile Me file sharing page (videos over 10 minutes). There are other links as well that are explained in the 'Web Status' document so be sure to check it out.

Lets not forget my Facebook page, which is quickly becoming the coffee table that we are all gathering around these days. If you just can't get enough of me, you can always check in here to see the short hand version of what is going on my life and the lives of those around me. If you want to add me as a friend on FaceBook, just do a search for me at the e-mail address and add me. Please tell me that you are doing so because you follow the "Hypocrisy" blog.

Finally, I am going to recommend that all you folks that don't subscribe to this blog already, do so. It is actually pretty easy and you won't be sent any spam or put on any mailing lists. However, you WILL receive an e-mail notification when I post a new entry on "Hypocrisy". That is just like getting a magazine subscription for FREE! How can you resist? Just click on the link on the right side of the page that says "Follow This Blog" under the 'My Opinionated Readers" section on the side bar. That is pretty much it. And don't worry, you can cancel it if I become too annoying. Besides, it lets me see the love that you are all sending me by subscribing and showing that you care.

So stay tuned for more wholesome "Hypocrisy" goodness in the coming days. I am back people......DEAL WITH IT!.