Goodbye, Long Winter

I’d neglect this blog longer but noticed that I’d posted a BackChannels (“Conflict – Culture – Language – Psychology”) link-sharing piece here (if you’re interested in conflict, international affairs, and political psychology, the post has been presented as a reblog).  Back at this ranch, I’ve just posted the latest artistic acquisition, a Pelikan M200 green (swirl) fountain pen with a fine nib that gushes like a medium point.

Lessons learned:

1. I have spent too much on fountain pens – they don’t bring with them all of the elements of the atmosphere they may convey.  As fetishes go, the experience of the pocket jewelry is a bit like that of the Zippo lighter: it might be brass and have that warm fluid smell, but it’s not bringing in the trench coats and the war; in similar fashion with three of my fountain pens, I am missing the black tie, the casino, marina, and summer house (on the Black Sea – Putin’s got the best mansions anywhere).

2. A fountain pen is like a woman (oh, boy, here we go — open mouth: insert foot): it may be attractive; it may not do what you want it too — wrong weight, wrong nib, out of synch with your mood today even if it was in synch with your mood yesterday; and yet, stick with it, find the right paper for the nib, flex and wear the nib some, see what it can do, and after a while, it’s a familiar, the pen you reach for. perhaps even the pen you love.

3. The fact that I’m writing about fountain pens and not women points, probably, to indescribable issues.

4. When one has settled down with the pocket jewelry, found it rather nice, chosen a main pen, for, you know, intimate journaling, then new issues come up: you start looking around for suitable stationary, a nicer journal or notebook or notepad for scribbling, and then it occurs to you that the pen’s okay, but the black you started out with suddenly looks too black on that bright white paper, and maybe a lighter shade of black might be better, something like “Zhivago Black” — or step out of the box / get a new box with a wildly different bottle in it and go with a nutty brown or an emerald green or a “Baystate Blue“.  Change it up some for you and the new barely tried fountain pen.

Fountain pen inks, it turns out, are something the two of you can explore together.

Oh my.

I had chosen to stay in this past most bitter winter and read Le Carré — I’ve completed the shelf my father started, moving back to the first novels and forward to the latest — work on my politics blog (the aforementioned BackChannels) and a related Facebook presence — and turn some attention to creative writing.  From that, I got away from photography and music, some, and quite immersed in reading and journalism via Google Chrome’s windows on the world, but, alas, failed to forge ahead with, say, a volume of new short stories or make headway on a novel or screenplay.

The world online is worrying.

The war news — and there are so many wars taking place all at once — may keep one engaged, and not only as a voyeur but with a good enough English and psychology background, contributing to ideas toward solutions.  In that regard, I’ve had an effect with +600 Facebook buddies and a conflict blog accessed from more than 112 nations and moving up, crawling, frankly, but up slope, in subscriptions and views per month.

There’s a crunch coming on that endeavor as the majors like the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal ask me for lunch money, but as the news feeders troll for paying subscribers, I may be on to more direct reporting with commentary via e-mail, twitter, and Skype.


I’m still in, but I and thee doubtless tire of snapshots.

Not to knock the Lumix Lx5.  In fact, if one had to or preferred, that camera in a small bag with a notebook and the latest and greatest love in fountain pens (bring the ink bottle!) make for a formidable Out There carry.

To think how I (perhaps we) used to obsess about “what’s in the camera bag” . . .  no more.  Gather the four-cubic-inches of Boy Scout day trip stuff, add two pens (no one’s getting rid of the ballpoints — in gel ink, Parker has achieved perfection), a notebook, your trusty higher-end point-and-shoot camera, or your cell phone — soon, that and spare electric supply, will be all anyone needs for travel apart from a parka and a toothbrush — and go: you’ve always had everything you needed but, perhaps, didn’t know it.

I usually reserve this kind of ramble for J.S. Oppenheim — All Together, but . . . new season: winter’s done.  Spring has arrived, struggling this year but prevailing.

Confession: the pen I lost 35 years ago — fell out of an inside sport coat pocket when I threw the jacket over my shoulder while crossing Nebraska Avenue on my way into work at American University — and recovered recently via an “old new stock” purchase made possible by first matching the memory of loss with current Internet text and image data and one-clicking it through Amazon with a vendor cross-selling on Ebay . . . has become . . . rather dear.

Starting out dry, it — a “Sheaffer Imperial 440 Fountain Pen in Burgundy with a Fine Nib” (if you want this barbie of a pen for yourself — has been thoroughly cleaned, flushed, stressed (with heavy pressure on fine nib) and while found writing light on thin “Markings” journal paper has been found equally sharp and wet (in the parlance of pen geeks) on the fine paper of a Gallery Leather Travel Journal.


What a nice old pen.

She may not look beautiful to you, buddy, but, sigh, she’s beautiful to me.

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Impromptu Photography In A Garden

As with other good things in my life, today’s indulgence involving a Nikon D2x — shoots weddings! — and a date with an hibiscus started with an hour’s playing music with a friend who later tossed me a cold beer best consumed out on the patio at a table beneath an umbrella next to which a single potted plant had chosen to express itself with deep red petals and colorfully extended style and stigma.

This is the next day.

After posting on another subject (comment on a book on Soviet history) on another blog, I grabbed the bag with the camera that I had hoped would have produced by now a financially serious living and, ooh baby, such a lightweight Gitzo that with that bag (“Billy” — those who know, know, and we could have much fun chatting further about “style” and “stigma”), there’s never a problem getting out the door in a hurry (except I left the circular polarizing filters in another bag with another camera).

Still, whether a fuse blows while you’re singing at a mic (that happened to me once with the “America Show” at the Omni Shoreham, Washington, D.C. with a fife and drum band behind me and a sea of faces somewhat obscured by the lights behind them: I just pushed a bit harder and whatever I got I gave), or you reach in a bag for a filter that’s not there, you adjust plans, or style, and keep going.

I love gardens.

I know the one on my balcony has perhaps gotten old for strangers, but it’s where I take coffee in the morning and enjoy a glass of wine late in the afternoon or early evening.

It’s entertaining out there, although these days I may admit I find a 3 p.m. “feeding flock” moving through the trees opposite rather entertaining too.

In any case, with a camera, a garden becomes its own magical theater, a macro-cosmos of shifting breezes, clouds, and light, suddenly as hot and humid as July, just as suddenly spiked by a cool breath of air or the unexpected appearance of The Bug.


We’re all caught somewhere in the middle of our lives when we’re engaged and focused on the thing we like to do and do well.

Is it work or is it not work?

Meredith is welcome to give me The Call (mid-Atlantic USA, loves gardens, shoots and socializes well).

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Outside of the Big Media Cities, How is the market for ambitious photography these days?

I had to shut down “Bertha” (there will be a post soon) for her bad ink shooting habit — next time: Epson, but it’s going to take a $5,000 print order, fifty percent up front, to get me to take that plunge again.  Pulling the plug didn’t feel good, but keeping her warm and hearing her bump and grind started to feel like a daily visit from the protection boys.

No, sir, that business model, that plant that sits in the corner and says, “Feed me!” doesn’t work.

So what to do with this capability?

Except with light tent items or textiles (fashion and catalog), I’ve no urge to be the mass producing object, event, and young person’s photographer: that’s just how I’ve felt when I have felt compelled to watch, say, David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago three or four or more time over the years — it’s so gorgeous!  Also, still, innovative and meticulous in the craft.  As everyone in this game has, I’ve watched my share of film and still enjoy the work of a solid “DP”.

Despite Bresson’s offhand remark about geometry, visual intimacy and surprise may go far beyond workmanlike framing — one wants to work toward the mystery of the object and find in its color, detail, and rhythm its strangeness.

With humans, there’s want of connection “through the lens”, whether chilling or warming, left isolated or engaged . . . I don’t want to mess with nice expression, nice expression, nice expression, smile, one more time, good, nice expression, nice expression.

Unless she’s a babe.

Even then, I want more in the story — more atmosphere and mood, more intimation, more “about to happen” or “just happened” or “might happen”.

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It was good getting out in someone else’s garden today!

That’s one “bottom line” — the other seems to be finding the clients and projects that pay, essentially validating the value of the effort and sustaining it.

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