November 28, 2016

Technicolor Dreamy :: Orange County Family Photography

So many fabulous puzzle pieces had to fall in place for this session to happen.  Firstly, Big Rey had to fly home from the Middle East to surprise his girls.  Then Big Rey had to be surprised by “Little” Rey who was home between fort transfers.  Then they all had to drive out to SoCal for Thanksgiving with family, along with a drive to the Pacific so I could take pictures.  And finally, the morning rainstorm had to pass and leave behind lovely clouds just to add the cherry on top of all the specialness:  this family, all together, safe & sound, full of love.

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The waves were dogging us the whole time at this particular beach.  Not that the girls minded.  Their motto:  these boots were made for splashing…

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… and for dancing. Of course.

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Oh, these lovely rocks?  I had awesome visions of “Riveras on Rocks” in my head before we arrived.  The waves had a different vision.  No rocks for us this time.

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Funny aside, with a little bit of background:  Julie and I met way back in the early days of I Heart Faces.  She’s an amazingly talented photographer who takes the most delightful, intimate pictures of her family’s day-to-day living, the kinds of pictures I wish I’d known how to take when my own dudes were young.  Anywhooo, girl knows her way around a camera.  Which is why it was so funny when Julie asked me my f/stop settings out at the beach, and when I replied f/8 or f/11, she was more than just a little incredulous at what she considered my unorthodox aperture choices.  I matter-of-factly explained to her that there was a big landscape around her that I was trying to keep in the image. (grin)

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The waves were unrelenting enough at Beach 1 that we hightailed it to Beach 2 …

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… where “Little” Rey was not opposed to jumping in the frame with total strangers.

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Oh, and if you didn't already notice, Julie is kinda stunning. And she's largely missing from her own family photos (for obvious reasons, usually behind the lens).  Thus, my only real goal for this session was to put Julie in just about every frame I took.  Goal accomplished.

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Rey & Julie’s darling daughters have perfected what they appropriately call the “Power Pose.”  Take note:  Power Pose 1.

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And Power Pose 2.

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Power Pose 3?

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This is perhaps the best “Power Pose” of all.  In fact, not a pose.  Just sisters.  Best Sisters Forever.  BSF.

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Whoops.  Looks like the waves are going to dog us here, too!

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Riveras, it was truly my honor and pleasure to dodge the waves and share a sunset with you all.

November 22, 2016

1 Second Everyday: Aug, Sep, Oct 2016

The season wherein we released all our varmints back to the "wild" (where "wild" equals our backyard for the lizards - we still see them occasionally, and where "wild" equals the cemented creek in the canyon), pumped iron, crocheted goodies for all the cousins, drew, brewed, gamed, watched oodles of olympics, beached, began a new school year, recycled, read, witnessed the Dimmitts tying the knot, documented the caterpillars, visited in the family "dynasty" in the valley, appreciated the sunsets, shared some scary days in the hospital with Dad, ate lots of Smashburger (employee discount rocks!), celebrated Dad's return home, after a year+ finally put the top back on the jeep, lightning!, The Getty, the rain, and more frisbee-ing.

1SE aug sep oct 2016 720 from Susan Keller on Vimeo.

November 9, 2016

The latest installment of books ...

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut - So, Vonnegut is pretty much the poster child for postmodernism (literature).  And his books can be pretty dang weird.  Mother Night is probably his most "normal", least "weird", book.  And still, it is wholly original, completely quirky, clever, dark, satiric, deeply thoughtful, questioning, and even funny, while being very, very serious. Hi ho.  It begins thusly:  "This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don't think it's a marvelous moral; I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."  And from there, he dances his way through man's inhumanity to man (WWII, Holocaust) and the lies we tell ourselves to make it all ok.  Just a couple tidbits ...

1.  Lead character (Howard W. Campbell, Jr.) is a writer employed by German military to create & broadcast Nazi propaganda. At the same time, the U.S. is employing him to insert non-verbal spy code into his speeches.  Thus, to the world, he is a Nazi, and to a tiny number of higher-ups in the American Intelligence, he is an American patriot and intelligence agent.

2.  "Mother Night" concept comes from  Geothe's Faust's Mephistopheles' speech ...[Vonnegut quoting MacIntyre translating Goethe]  "I am a part of the part that at first was all, part of the darkness that gave birth to light, that supercilious light which now disputes with Mother Night her ancient rank and space, and yet can not succeed; no matter how it struggles, it sticks to matter and can't get free. Light flows from substance, makes it beautiful; solids can check its path, so I hope it won't be long till light and the world's stuff are destroyed together."

3.  Howard Campbell, in editor's note, describes himself as "a man who served evil too openly and good too secretly, the crime of his times."

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And so it goes.  A fascinating little book.
ps.  in my last book post, I quoted John Irving talking about Thomas Hardy and his concept that "a novel had to be a better story than something you might happen upon in a newspaper.  He meant 'better' in every way: bigger, more complex, more connected, and also having a kind of symmetry or closure -- even achieving a kind of justice, or at least an inevitability, in the end."  This Vonnegut novel is all this (which is ironic, because ... postmodern).  And, oh yeah, Vonnegut was Irving's mentor.  

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver - Barbara Kingsolver has written two of my favorite-est books (The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven), but I don't equally enjoy all of her works.  The Lacuna was a "miss", not a "hit", for me.  She layers a fictional narrator & diary "frame" over a factual  WWII & post-WWII historical period (in US & Mexico), including as main characters Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, & Leon/Lev Trotsky.  I enjoyed some of the fictional elements, snoozed/skimmed thru the non-fictional, and appreciated Kingsolver's appraisal of the role that media plays in the molding of people's perceptions of "truth".  I do appreciate The Lacuna for giving me the ability to understand the [sadly] silly socks (pictured below) I saw at this summer's Festival of Arts.  And I also appreciated the serendipity of watching Barton Fink while nearing the end of this book. 

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (bookclub) - I first read and wrote about BR last fall, and reread it this summer for bookclub.  This time through I was more carefully paying attention to the themes of grace, salvation, and the question of whether or not Christianity is truth or nonsense.  This book, its story, the way it unfolds, its characters ... seems to me almost as if it's a marriage of Ernest Hemingway style/content (the bleakness of modernity, how hopeless, meaningless, empty, alcohol-filled) and Flannery O'Connor style/content (the "violence" of the intrusion of grace,  "All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.") C.S. Lewis has said, "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."  This book is essentially that quote fleshed out.

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver - this was my Lacuna rebound book.  I needed to remind myself why I love Barbaraq Kingsolver's writing.  This book did that.  Such lovely turns of phrase, peopled with humorous realistic characters, such humanity, two protagonists - at opposing odds - so deeply & realistically drawn - making you desire equally for both sides to win.  I still love this book to the moon and back.

Building Stories by Chris Ware - (graphic novel book club).  Ugh.  That's all.  Just ugh.  The good: the "gimic" of presenting the story in 14 separate pieces (experimental, tho perhaps indulgent), thus allowing infinitely many unique reader experiences.  The bad: telling the story in 14 separate pieces. The relentlessly depressive overbearing mood. The female "protagonist" who mostly felt like a mishmash of female stereotypes splayed out in a disjointed storyline, as perceived by a male author - to me, rightly or wrongly, this did not feel like a female voice as developed by a female.  The crassness.  The ittybitty teenie-tiny narration/dialog - nearly impossible to decipher without magnifying reading glasses.  The horribly unwieldy size of the bigger pieces of the story (newspaper size?). The utter lack of hope.  The bleakness.  Ugh.  Just ugh.  Rumor has it, I can sell it back to Amazon ...

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys - this book is ... interesting.  My reception of it is mixed. In simplest terms, it is Jean Rhys' extrapolation of the backstory of the mad, attic-imprisoned, Creole [first] wife of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.  Rhys herself was Creole, and the madwoman's marginalization in the great classic had always bothered her.  Wide Sargasso Sea was her response.  Her writing tone and themes are thoroughly modern.  The narrative at times is thoroughly (and I think intentionally) messy, confusing, garbled, unclear. The reader is whisked into the world of the narrators (both Antoinette & Mr. Rochester), where one questions what is real, what is true, what is a lie, what is paranoia, who is to be believed?  Messy, confusing writing.  Which is completely the opposite of the very Victorian, very complex (interwoven phrases & clauses) sentences, very exact, very CLEAR verbiage of Charlotte Bronte.  The landscape (which is practically a character unto itself) is vibrant, warm-hot-steamy, colorful, wild, forested -- very much a "foil" to the dark, gray, foggy, cold moors of England in Jane Eyre.  Jane Eyre & Antoinette Cosway are foils - one reviewer put it this way:  [Antoinette's] "psychological disintegration and descent towards madness is a journey which ultimately becomes the mirror opposite to that of the wholesome goodness of the innocent Jane Eyre, as depicted by Bronte."  Mr. Rochester, the only main character who is largely fleshed out in both works, is largely (in my humble opinion) unrecognizable to be the same man (with the exception of his self-interest/selfishness).  Which all leads to my mixed opinions regarding this book:  I like it as a companion "puzzle piece" to Jane Eyre, but the puzzle piece doesn't fit perfectly;  and I don't believe WSS would have stand alone appeal without the "hook" of the beloved JE wraparound story.

The Iliad by Homer (bookclub plus school with Little Dude) - super glad I finally got around to reading and studying this.  super glad I have a bookclub willing to jump into "the deep" with me.  Two thumbs up for Robert Fagles' translation (I tried Lattimore's first, but couldn't get into it; cut myself some slack and switched to Fagles).  I was greatly amused by this 11-minute youtube summary ...

Blind Sight by Carol O'Connell - C O'C is the only author I pre-purchase, no questions asked.  Her books are my "candy".  I waited three long years for this latest one to be published.  It wasn't her best; it wasn't her worst.  It was somewhat formulaic, but since I love her formula, I don't much care.  I enjoyed every minute reading it.

The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken - the title page says The Giant's House (A Romance), but this book is a romance only in the sense that any truly southern gothic genre story can be: uniquely and quirkily and strangely.  It's a novel full of eccentricity, dry wit, pathos, absurdity, beautiful writing, and brilliant similes, metaphors and analogies.  Elizabeth McCracken can write.  The story may revolve around the life of a giant (McCracken modeled much of her book character after the real-life details of the tallest man on record, Robert Wadlow, pictured/modeled below), but the thrust of the story and the main character revealed to the reader is the librarian-1st-person narrator.  This review from The Guardian unpacks some great quotes from the book and gives one a good foretaste of the book.  If the review piques your interest, the book will not disappoint.

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers - this book and review were linked on the same page with The Giant's House (both were categorized as "overlooked classics").  It's a relatively short little book, and I was reading it concurrently with several other books, so I maybe I didn't give it its proper due attention, but ... I never got into it.  I lacked sympathy for the main character.  I finally returned it to the library after running out of renewals and without finishing the last section.  Needless to say, next time I'm feeling a Southern Gothic twitch, I'll grab more Flannery O'C and skip Carson McC.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Little Dude was reading this for his literature class, so I read it, too.  I remember really liking it the first time I read it.  This time through, I thought Frankenstein was a total blowhard narcissist egomaniac.  Much of the book is narrated through his voice.  I hated those parts this time.  The only parts I found engaging and interesting were the chapters narrated through the voice of Frankenstein's monster.  This time around, I was more intrigued by the parallels of the biblical creation account and this one, and agree heartily with Benedict Cumberbatch's (he acted in the play) indictment: "what really goes wrong in this experiment is that Victor doesn't care for what he's created.  I suppose you could say it's ultimately a novel about bad parenting."  A couple articles that discuss this idea at more length ...
at The Imaginative Conservative
at Interesting Literature

Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell - just wanted to lose myself in something fun.  Loved this.  Again (3rd time thru - I can't remember books' contents to save my life).  And I know Carol O'Connell isn't remotely Southern Gothic (most of her books are placed in New York, and this one is Northern CA coast), but her books *feel* Southern Gothic to me:  cynical, "grotesque" (as in larger-than-life, exaggerated) characters, damaged/broken people, dark humor ... anywhooo, this was a fun way to fritter away a couple of days.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (book club) - what a treat this book is!!!  I think this was my 3rd (?) time reading it.  I see new stuff each time.  My younger self felt much kinship with Elizabeth.  My nearly 50-yr-old self wants to shake sense into her in half her scenes.  Mr. Darcy improves upon each reading.  And my appreciation for Austen's wit is renewed yet again.  This is far and away my favorite of her books.  Close Reads over at Circe Institute has been doing an ongoing podcast discussing P&P that I've much enjoyed.

November 1, 2016

The Getty. By Night.

Goshdarnit if The Getty isn’t something pretty special by evening-night time…

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Munch forgot the Screamer in this next one, so I filled in the gap…

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Hey, the LA sky doesn’t look too different than the Munch sky!

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Sometimes I take portraits of cacti.  And sometimes Big Dude takes pics of me taking pics.

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Inside/Outside Double reflection …

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Big Dude the Model; life imitating art.

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Even the bathroom is artsy-ish.  (glad for my silent shutter!)

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Big Dude, camouflaged, blending in with art.

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Ending, right back where we began.  Btw, just for the record … it was about 100* in this parking garage.

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