Dave's Journal, March 2014

First the great news. About 8PM last night (Sunday) I made a last-minute phone call to the Worcester District court to plead my way out of Jury duty this morning (Monday). This was a big mix-up between two Worcester Courts and I got caught in the middle. Anyway, they just callled me (8AM) and said I am excused. I am sooooo happy about this.

Well, back to my life . . . we started the month off nicely, with dinner for 8 at our place yesterday. Chris T., Mike, Chris B., Dominique, Joanne, Ferruccio, Deb and I.

Chris B. brought some outstanding local beer that got better as it warmed to almost room temperature. The bottles we drank were "Smoke and Dagger" out of Framingham - my kind of beer - dark, smooth, very flavorful, not bitter.

Ferruccio really liked my home-brewed chianti, and we decided that this picture of the two of us goes on the next batch of Chianti !! Might even name it "Davide & Ferruccio" or something like that . . . . it has a nice ring to it.






The way things are going, I won't have anything exciting to offer this year's art museum show of local talent. Not that I ain't trying. Just nothing is driving me wild so far.

I worked on a concept today. I do like it, but does it deserve to hang in an exhibit??

I titled it "Never Let Me Go" --->

Did you ever wonder why cameras cost so much $$ ?
Click this:


The Boston Institute of Contemporary Art


Thank you Chris for urging me to visit the Institute of Contemporary Art - -
I loved it !

A few short years ago, my brain was not ready for this wild and crazy stuff, but brains change you know.

In fact, I have been thinking of adding a tutorial page to my Cafe Photos website about extreme postprocessing photographs using a computer. Been putting that off for over a year, but after today's visit, I came home and started that web page: Extreme Postprocessing.

I am so torqued up about this funky stuff now !!

I need to see and hear stuff that I haven't ever before. Not the same old same old same old stuff.

Can a melody bring tears to your eyes?

Yeh. "Nessun Dorma" (from Puccini's opera Turandot) is the first that comes to my mind.

There's another one, a new one for me, from another opera by Giacomo Puccini. The aria is called "O Mio Babbino Caro".

There are many versions on Youtube, all are beautiful. You will have to put up with the panel's remarks here (esp the guy on the panel from Holland who keeps talking), but my two favorites are these:

Amira Willighagen

Andrew DeLeon

Well, I've been listening to Itailan arias for hours and I'm now in a very emotional mood. It is warm and sunny and I'm on the porch in a fabulous mood, reading Italian stuff around the internet. So, did you know . . . .

The very first woman to earn a degree from a European university was Elena Lucrezia Corner Piscopia, from the University of Padua (Mike and I were there !!), in 1678. Following her, the next 3 European university graduates were all in Italy !!

Legend says that 30,000 people showed up to hear her graduate dissertation !

Me, the Magnet

I've come to realize that I am a gigantic & powerful stupidity magnet. If there are any stupid people within 50 miles of me, the power of my magneticism just drags the lot of them into my life.

I should stop there . . . yeh . . . I'll stop . . . you'll have to trust me on this.

I was reading that cabin fever makes crazy bored people take pictures of themselves lying in bed surfing the internet on their android tablets. (I also took one of Debbie but she promised to kill me unless I deleted it.)


Catch up on my movie comments here: Dave's (mostly) offbeat movies.

Modeling in clay

jpg I have been working on, mostly just thinking about, my next step in the "Never Let Me Go" set of pictures I want to do. Decided, to stop messing with playdough and moved into modeling clay. The big secret of modeling clay is to warm it up before you try to shape it. I discovered this makes it MUCH nicer to work with.

This stuff is oil based and never dries out (in air at room temperature), though it does get much harder to shape (until reheated). This is really good because it holds the finished shape for years. Playdough actually dries way too fast (while you are working on it) and the surface gets very salty, as it dries, and does not photograph nicely.

Now that I'm getting the knack of it, clay is a much better medium to work with.

I have also learned not to rush into making the photograph. Spend much more time with the modeling, and less time on the computer, fixing the picture. The physical process of modeling is extremely pleasant, relaxing and rewarding (even when you have to roll the model back into a ball and start over).

FWIW, this series is inspired by the movie Never Let Me Go, which has the most chilling, pathetic backdrop storyline of anything else I can think of.

Pain Management

I am fine, the guy who is in a program of pain management is a buddy who just turned 67. He's strong as an ox, and works like one, but hurt his back shoveling snow off a roof, and has struggled for weeks in pain to get out of his recliner and walk. X-ray's & X-scans later, the Dr. says he has this and that damaged in his back, maybe even rheumatoid arthritis in his spine, plus at least one crushed disk.

So he is now retired (he was a groundskeeper / landscaper).

What's the message? If you are 60+, still working and thinking your Golden Years start at 70, when you will start globe trotting, deep sea fishing, etc etc, maybe you need to rethink the plan. (You know who you are.)

Addendum: I understand that retirement (even after 60+ years) is not always possible because of crushed 401k's and that guaranteed / insured retirement plans were killed back in the 1980's. On the one hand it's necessary to keep working to keep up with your lifestyle. But (my point is) on the other hand, the clock is ticking away for you. At some point you will be frail enough not to do what you want to do. That is a fact that we all hate to look in the face, so we ignore and deny that's it's true.

Ears, No Ears

I am making slow progress on my clay head, mostly because I have no idea what I'm doing or what this guy should look like, or how I should photograph him. Yesterday I finally figured out why he looks so strange (aside from having one eye missing) - he has no ears !!. By this afternoon though, he will have ears and maybe something like hair?


.... or a hat ????

I went with the hat, for now . . .



But at this point, he is a long distance from the "Never Let Me Go" theme, so he won't be in that set. He stands on his own, as soon as I decide if I like the hat or not.


Truth be told, whatever problems I have, they are small at the moment, and I am happy about that, until 3AM happens. Don't know why, but I wake up at 3:00 +or- 15 minutes, and I start to worry. What if . . .? What if . . .? This morning's worry item was "What if, the real truth is that you're just too stupid to realize how f#@&$d up your life is."

This probably occured to me because I watched a George Carlin monologue just before going to bed. He was a very intelligent guy (whether or not you agreed with what he said, it was well thought out before he said it), and wicked wicked incisive with his humor. I like him, and he's funny and I don't get easily offended by comics' comments, and still he managed to offend my 3 or 4 times in a hour. I could even hear his live audience (these folks LOVE him !) get very quiet through a few of his rages.

Well, anyway, I went back to sleep, I didn't die before dawn, and here I am with coffee and keyboard, saving the world for a better tomorrow.

If you can imagine, I am getting deeper and deeper into this "artistic" thing. Maybe because I am finally "getting it" or my brain moved up to the next artistic plateau, or possibly because I just make up BS and delude myself into thinking that I actually understand all the BS that floats around inside my head.

I am not ready to show the world, but I signed up with FineArtAmerica, and ordered a metal print of the image I want to submit for the local art show this summer. This was a big gamble, as the metal prints I've seen have sucked, but people have said "It depends on who prints it", so I took the gamble. It is very very nice. Printed on 11"X14" aluminum (1/16" thick) that has a white basecoat under your image. I am really happy with it, and boxed it away for a few weeks to look at it again and see if the "magic" is still there, you know.

Weather was pissy today. I was planned for Boston, but I stayed home because of that. Worked a little on this clay guy, whom I have named "One Eyed Jack". He has clearly taken on a life of his own, so I'm going to come up with some scheme for photographing him and make it dramatic. I have lots of paint so making backgrounds is just waiting for a bolt of inspiration to strike me as to what exactly the background should look like. Here he is in front of some paint scratched over a piece of masonite . . .


jpg Impressionists and Their Stuff at the MFA (Boston)

These are my personal favorite painters. Pissarro, Manet, Monet, Renoir . . . those guys, long dead now, who broke the rules and changed European / American painting forever. Scandalous, in their day (but kind of old-fashioned for most people today). For example, Pissarro got roasted because he painted common people doing common things (like those two ladies on the right working in the fields). At the time, only nobles were to be painted. Anyway, outside of the radical young people in Paris (late 1800's), Boston was the first BIG fan of Impressionist paintings, and (rich) Bostonians bought a lot of them (cheaply !), and the museum has their collection on exhibit now. I went, expecting to also tour the town, but it was too cold and windy, and all I did was see this exhibit.

Here's what an art critic (1881) said of Renoir's painting of the Grand Canal in Venice . . . .


I also wandered into the other galleries and took some notes on the people at the museum today . . .

This nice tour guide is explaining why the expensive Picasso behind her looks like someone ran in through a shredder and misglued the pieces back together ......

I think she is saying, "Yes, your 10 year old grandson can make this same kind of picture, but then it wouldn't be a real Picasso now, would it?"


This lady would walk up very close to the painting (by Paul Gauguin), study the brush strokes, then sit back down in her foldaway seat and make notes. Then get up and repeat this over and over. She was still doing this as I left the museum !! From my calculations, I think she spent more time studying the painting than Gauguin spent painting it !!


Dave vs Verizon

Even if you pay your bill 2 weeks early, they will record it as "outstanding" and bill you again for that amount on your next bill.


They sent me a form letter saying that one of their reps would love to explain the bill to me. My next caustic note will be . . . "I understand the f#@$ing bill, you moron. That's why I said it should be illegal." Of course they will just tack it up at the water cooler, along with the other customer complaints and chuckle over it on their break - what else can you expect from people, huh ? - to actually give a #$@% about doing a better job ?

Debbie says I'm a lot like my mother, but I think she says that just to piss me off. Actually, Mike says that too, but what does he know, huh !

Went to a Mexican party last night at Chris's&Mike's and had a very nice time. Two other guys there are home wine makers and we shared notes (which means they talked and I took notes). I drank a large lot of red wine, and swore a blood oath to start a new batch (a Merlot, I think) this week. Good food and company.

This morning (Sunday) I spent an ungodly amount of time relearning that I simply CANNOT paint a picture. I did everything that the instruction books say to do and it still looks like a 5 year old kid did it with crayons, using his (her?) feet. It's good to learn what you cannot do well, I think, but it does waste a lot of time.

Needing at least a moderate success for the day, I turned back to my clay creation and re-photographed him, and ran him through an hour or so of computer work, and here he is (at 6 image layers stacked on each other) . . . .

He is finished now. His portrait now hangs in Gallery7. Debbie says that he looks like Freddie Kruger ("Nightmare on Elm Street"). Time for me to close the book on this guy.


I have to stop fooling around now and work on a statistics spreadsheet that I promised to write to help Erynn with the math she takes at Fitchburg State University (she's 15!).

An Equation for Intelligence ?? !!

Last night I rediscovered TEDtalks, and one of the topics blew me away. Is there an equation that defines "intelligence" ? I know, I know . . . . there are countless excellent examples of stupidity out on the street, but "stupidity" probably has its own separate equation, huh.

I do not totally agree that his thinking completely captures and defines intelligence, but I love his answer (especially written in equation form). He (and his equation) says that "Intelligence is a Force that tends to maximize all future possibilities." In equation form, he writes it . . .

F = T ∇ST

I can see where he is looking, but he is really limiting the definition to game-winning tactics, and I think "intelligence" is a lot more than winning at games and similar challenges. Some of the very stupidest people I know are obsessed with "winning" every discussion that they enter (think politicians !) ; the very smartest people I know are constantly looking for that equilibrium point (the "balance point") all various facts and viewoints (think scientists !). Someday, I'll write that up.

He definitely stimulated my (slowly shrinking) brain.

Why don't we all get along?

Back in the day, let's think of say 1780 - right after the US Constitution was signed - "we" all pretty much got along. "We" being voting Americans. But, you gotta ask, who were "we" that made us get along so well, as voters?

Well, back then, every voter was white and male. EVERY voter - all 38,818 voters who elected our first president. Native Americans (*) , women and slaves could not vote. The total population of the 13 new United States was around 3.5Million people. The population today is about 315Million (about 90 times the size it was back then). The current population of NYC is 8.3Million - about 2½ times the original USA.

And who were these 38,818 white male voters?

80% were of British lineage, and the other 20% were of German, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish lineage. Compare that to today's US demographics of people of all races and ancestories, white males being the minority (in terms of voter head count, certainly not in terms of electoral power).

So . . . that's why "we" used to get along back in the olden days, and why we don't any more. There are too many diverse points of view among our 315M people for any system to find it's equilibrium point. We are a country doomed to be constantly teetering out of balance. (To be sure, most other diverse countries are in as bad shape as we are, but their problems are their problems and my problems are mine.)

(*) Europe at the time saw the new US "government" as a pack of opportunistic lying power grabbers. Saying on one hand ".... all men are created equal" and on the other hand denying Native Americans and women the right to vote for their government and also granting themselves the right to own slaves ! Of course, European governments were pissed off because they wanted to govern this new land, and they resented that people here wanted to govern themselves. But, however you look at it, the ".... all men are created equal" ideal was a myth for the people actually living here. The Founding Fathers never saw these issues as problems anyone needed to solve. It took another 80 years to make slavery illegal and 140 years before women were granted the right to vote, and of course the cultures of Native Americans have been virtually wiped out.

Newtown Mom

Catching up last night with the New Yorker, I read the piece that included interviews with the father of the serial-killer-kid who killed 26 people (mostly little kids) a few years ago. The article was extremely nuetral and balanced and never got preachy or pompous, so I read the whole thing. Actually, it included lots of input from psychiatrists, etc etc (of this killer and others), the DA reports, and the father's input was I'd say less than 30% of the whole story.

The father & mother were divorced for years, he was remarried. The killer kid had refused to see the father at all for the 2 or 3 years before the shooting. The mother of course was shot dead.

The kid had a long degenerating history of serious mental problems, and was shuffled through many many analysts, therapists and school all his life. He hated to be touched, etc etc, let me skip all the bloody details. In the last year his mother was the only person he would communicate with and most of the time he would only talk to her through his locked bedroom door. His mother had no delusions about any of this, as her emails and letters show that her life had disintegrated to the point of "protecting him" from the traumas of life and dealing with people.

Okay okay, weird but not serial-killer onformation, so far, I agree.

Here's what blew my mind - mom loved guns and when junior was having a particularly stressful time in lfe, she (this is not a joke) would take him to the shooting range, to settle him down.

Insulation, Pipes, Heat, etc.

Monday we had a home energy inspection and they decided that we need $4000 of insulation all through the house and attic. Happily the gov't (or someone ??) pays for $2000 of this, so I signed up for it. The guys showed up this morning ! ! to do the work. The office neglected to tell them that I told the office I was not going to be home, so here they are at 8AM.

I stayed home, Deb went to work, they started removing pieces of siding and drilling holes all around the house. About 15 minutes into the drilling, they hit a copper a water line running hot heating water to the first floor. A pressure line. Had to immediately shut down the furnace and the main water valve into the house.

That was 6 hours ago. He tried 3 times so far to solder up a solution to the problem, but so far (6 hours) it still leaks. I looked at the basement water lines, called him in and showed him how we could at least open and close the right valves so we could have running water but still not pressurize the heating system. He scratched his head a bit then did what I said; it woked like a charm.

But it's getting colder in here by the minute.

Dodging the arrows of my outrageous fortune, I rediscovered a funny video about Italians :
Italy v Europe

"There is No Problem So Bad That You Can't Make It Worse"

A retired astronaut used that phrase in a TED-talk that I watched the other day. Great great phrase, and very fitting for the day that I had today.

Yesterday we had insulation blown into all the walls and attic, and (see my notes right above here) they hit a hot water line with a drill. They tried 3 fixes, convinced themselves they were done, patched up the siding and went home (45 miles away). I turned the oil burner back on and watched water drip down the basement walls and ceiling.

Sent emails, left phone messages, went to bed.

Contractor calls me this morning "Dave, get a plumber. I will pay for the repairs". I call around, get a recommendation, call a plumber. He (the head plumber) shows up 15 minutes later and seriously knows his sh#t. "Get the contractors back here to cut a big hole in the outside wall, then call me."

6 Hours later, the contractors show up, I call the head plumber back, two of his plumbers drive up. Contractor pulls out his reciprocating saw (you know where we're going, don't you ?) to cut a bigger hole for the (real licensed) plumber to work his magic. So, visualize this - the contractor has a reciprocating saw cutting a hole so the plumber can fix the damage they did with a drill yesterday. Now . . . re-read the title of this story.

Yep, they hit the return water line located right next to inlet water line that they hit yesterday, but this is not a little pinhole drillpoint hole. The is a reciprocating saw cut that went half way through the pressure line AND AND AND shredded a nearby electrical line. "There is No Problem So Bad That You Can't Make It Worse"

The real plumbers scrambled to turn valves this way and that, I scrambled in the basement to pull my electronic gear (TV, power strips, etc etc) and books out from under the dripping water, the contractor guys pulled their hoodies over their faces.

Well . . . well . . . the pipes are repaired (permanent fix), the outside wall is temprorarily closed up. I have to get an electrician in here Monday, open the wall back up and fix that line.

So, today, I learned again that, whatever happens, after the storm blows over, you will be fine. At least until the next storm hits. If you have a 'blog like this, there's the added perk of having a good story to 'blog about !!


This is the (real) plumber's repair about 1/2 way through. You can see the frayed electrical line (gray) over on the right. He actually got a small shock (we were out in drizzling rain doing this).


On the left is the plumbing repair that the contractor guys left me with the night before (hidden behind a wall and vinyl siding). On the right is the second line they hit with the reciprocating saw.


I shuffled stuff quickly while the water dripped down in the basement. Thank you heaven for shop vacs !!!


On the other side of the coin, some folks had a much much worse week than I did. What can I say. I'm really sorry about Scotty.


Let's shut my March journal down a few days early.