Saturday, May 14, 2011

Photographic (5-14-11) and Political (re. David Mamet) considerations

I like to date my “photographic considerations” because they tend to “progress: No sooner do I think, “I have all the cameras and lenses I need” than I discover some new “need” something I’m clearly not able to do today that I want to do in the future. Once upon a time I was into “sailing.” Sailors were always “fixing up” their boats. They needed new sails, bottoms scraped, “bright work” restored, new lines and winches and the list went on. Photography isn’t quite as expensive and the list of needs is never infinite – at least not if one sticks to just one camera and lens brand.

I have just a few days ago tiptoed into another brand. I have read the Olympus forums for a long while about their fears, their whining about the future of Olympus dslrs – I sided, or tended to side with the “Olympus fan boys,” but then I came upon a “need” that Olympus couldn’t meet. Well it could if I was willing to pay $1600 for and Olympus E-5 – sort of. Olympus is excellent in “build” and reliability and I have dearly appreciated their first pro camera, the E-1, but they have lagged far behind their competitors in “low light” capability. And with the summer coming on I am going to be in more “low light” situations if I go to the river just after dawn or right before sunset – to avoid the mid-day sun.

Many Olympus fan-boys believe Olympus is going to terminate their dslr line, but even if they don’t their next “semi-pro” or “pro” camera is sure to be priced between $1300 and $1600. I am not willing to spend that much, but even if I were I don’t have confidence that their “low light” capability would meet my “need.”

After a good deal of investigation I decided upon Pentax. I am not willing to spring for their flagship K-5 (pro camera) even though it has arguably the best low-light capability out there. I am easing into Pentax with the purchase of a refurbished semi-pro K-20d. All camera manufacturers take their assembly-line rejects back to the shop, fix them and then save them up to unload to camera stores as having been “refurbished.” They are, I have on good authority, indistinguishable from “new.” My refurbished K-20d cost $379.99 including shipping, and while it doesn’t have the low-light capability of the K-5, it has better capability than anything I have.

A friend wrote and said she liked the clarity of the photos I posted today, (see ). Yes, these were among the best of the lot, but what she didn’t know was I tried to take some photos with this E-500 yesterday evening right before sunset and none of them came out. This morning I waited until about 09:30 – until I could see the fog starting to burn off before going down there. Some of the photos look as though they are in low light, and that is relatively true, but there was a bright sun above casting stark shadows from the trees on the sand below. But I took many more than these and not all of them came out. Will my K-20d do any better?

A problem I’ve mentioned with my Olympus E-500 and E-520 is their small viewfinders. The K-20d, according to the reviews, is described it as having the best viewfinder at that time (2008). 2008 was the year the semi-pro E-3 was manufactured; so moving up to the Olympus E-3 at about $800 wasn’t going to give me either the low-light capability or the best viewfinder.

As one can readily see from my blog posts I moved away from Foreign Affairs into Photography last December. But it wasn’t as though my interests had changed; it was more that political affairs were going roughly as I thought they would so I needed to move into something more challenging – like photography. I lived through the triumphalism of the first Obama election and while some are willing to comment on the ongoing Liberal disillusionment with him; that doesn’t strike me as terribly interesting.

I do however keep one eye on politics. One mildly interesting article appeared in “Power Line” today ( ) entitled “The Turning of David Mamet. I can’t recall having read anything by him. No doubt I should have. The writer of this article writes “David Mamet is the accomplished playwright, screenwriter, novelist, author, essayist, and filmmaker. In 1984 Mamet was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross, his utterly harrowing update of Death of a Salesman. The new issue of the Weekly Standard carries Andrew Ferguson's moving cover story on Mamet's turn to conservatism. It is an intensely interesting and thought-provoking piece.”

“As Ferguson recalls, in 2008 the Village Voice published Mamet's quirky ‘goodbye to all that’ essay "Why I am no longer a brain-dead liberal." Mamet described himself in the essay as a decades-long liberal. He recounted a moment of illumination listening to National Public Radio: "I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the **** up." Mamet explained:

“’I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been -- rather charmingly, I thought -- referring to myself for years as ‘a brain-dead liberal,’ and to NPR as ‘National Palestinian Radio.’

“Mamet didn't situate this moment in time. Anyone who has followed his career, however, might have deduced that Mamet was guilty of heterodox thoughts at least as far back as 1992's Oleanna, in which he confronted the phenomenon of political correctness. Mamet himself traced his heterodox thoughts to the Year Zero of the boomer generation (1968).”

Well, if we concentrate upon “heterodox thoughts” I clearly had them even during my on “brain dead Liberal days,” for I never renounced having been in the Marine Corps or of thinking it appropriate to fight for one’s country. And in those days, all the Liberals I knew (working at McDonnell Douglas) had been in the military as well – although not in the Marine Corps. I recall that Ken Hackney who campaigned for Bobby Kennedy disparagingly nick-named me “the commandant.”

The writer of the Power Line article concludes with, “A lot of us will identify with the feeling, as well as with Mamet's take on his family history:

“His gratitude is comprehensive. In our long afternoon talking about politics, he kept returning to how grateful he was for his general good fortune in life, but especially for being an American.

"’My grandmother came to this country and she and her two boys were abandoned by her husband," he said. "She couldn't speak English. No education. And during the Great Depression she was able to work hard and save and she put them both through law school." His voice had a tone of wonder to it, as though still awed by a fresh discovery. "I mean, what a country. That's a hell of a country."

“Please read it all.”

I expect to.

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