The Search for the Perfect Tenderloin

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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I have but two days left here in the heartland of America. Three weeks of acclimation to the Hoosier culture has had little effect on me, except to remind me that I normally dwell in a place that might be taken to be on different planet. After living in Papua New Guinea for thirty years, I inevitably feel out of place in the USA – as if I am a foreigner. Of course, it’s natural that I still experience that same feeling while at home in Madang, since I am  a foreigner there. My conclusion is that I don’t really fit anywhere now. I am, in a sense, a man without a country. I won’t complain about that. I chose the life and it has been a great ride. I will have to live with the feeling of being a Stranger in a Strange Land for the rest of my life, no matter where I am. There are worse things . . .

I got only one decent sunrise shot while here in Hoosierland. The weather has been mostly miserable, causing huge floods south of here. In this shot the prevailing cloud structures are aircraft contrails, something never seen in Madang:

My search for the perfect tenderloin is being rudely interrupted by my departure for Illinois on Tuesday. I’ll be there for a few nights and then off to Wisconsin for the last of my meetings with supporters. Then I’ll be heading for Canada for three weeks of genuine R&R. I am very glad that my son, Hans, is picking me up  in Brownsburg and shepherding me through my last adventures in the Midwest.

I did manage to find an excellent candidate at Green Street Station in Brownsburg. They had a choice of “beer battered” or “crispy”. The waitress suggested that the crispy was less oily. As is the Hoosier tradition, the tenderloin was fairly thick and twice the diameter of the bun. There is plenty of protein there, kiddies. The fries were so-so:

As with most food in this genre, it’s best consumed with a rich, full-bodied brew, chock full of vitamin B. It this case it was a Killian’s Red Ale. The sandwich tasted just as I expected. Despite my shaky sense of smell, I could tell that it fit the tradition. It was a good feed. I could consume only half of it, so I had another good lunch the next day, thanks to a microwave oven.

Another candidate for a good sandwich feed can be found at Squealers with locations in Indianapolis and Mooresville. Though the meat in this sandwich can be found in other parts of the world, I don’t think that there is any place else where it is called pulled pork. That sounds vaguely disgusting to me. There are may different ways of serving it. In this case it was “sauce on the side”, which is my preference:

The pork at Squealers is excellent, very tasty and tender. The baked beans were also very good, but might be too sweet for some. As with the tenderloin I washed it down with a Killian’s. (Hey, I’m on holiday.)

That pretty well covers my culinary adventures in The Crossroads of America. I probably won’t be reporting what I eat until I hit Canada. I’m sure to make an appearance at Rebel’s Rock in Hamilton. Eunie and I have always gone there for a great evening of live music while in Canada. You’ll just have to wait. I’ll have pictures such as these and these. Oh, goody – available light shots.

Speaking of birds . . . uh . . . okay, now  speaking of birds, I had a very nice couple of hours at the Eagle Creek Park Ornithology Center a few days ago with my friend and host, Steve Hassfurder. I have enjoyed a wonderful time here with Steve and his very pleasant wife, Marta. Steve and I have some significant life experience in common. It has been very helpful to me to talk to him about this. Some of it has been stressful for him, I know. I see it as a mark of friendship that he was willing to give me the benefit of his experience and convey to me some of the wisdom he gained along the way.

Hmmm . . . was I talking about birds? It seems so:

That’s a shot of one of the observation stations. Both stations are indoors, so winter viewing should be reasonably comfy. The other one looks out over a special conservation area of Eagle Creek Reservoir. It’s my understanding that Eagle Creek Park is the second largest city operated park in the world.

I got this shot of a Common (or Northern) Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  from the window in the image above. In Indiana it is usually called, simply, a Redbird:

This is a male. The female is rather dingy in comparison. I was told that if I sat in that room for a year I would very likely see over 270 species of bird life, but I would starve in the process. I had no idea that Indiana hosted such a huge number of species. Some of those, of course, would be migratory and not permanent residents. You know – like me! I am very migratory these days.

I can’t leave Hoosierland without showing you this very peculiar image. No, kiddies, this is not an up-and-coming executive treating his precious V-Dub to a little pre-wash tickle. This is the “greeter” (and cashier) at Mike’s Car Wash, a very popular vehicle grooming establishment in central Indiana. I’m serious, folks:

The basic wash is five bucks, a reasonable price these days, I suppose. The nice fellow will, of course, attempt to sell you all of the optional waxes, shiners, protections, glazes and tire glosses that trick out your ride and make you feel as if you have moved up a couple of income brackets. These last until the next rain. Be frugal. Your car is simply dirty. It needs no pampering. Pamper a human. It’s much more rewarding and the results last longer.

As a public service I will now brave the possibility of a take-down notice to expose one of those obnoxious As Seen On TV rip-offs which poison our minds with false dreams of ease and comfort which will enrich our lives and allow us to achieve the true happiness guaranteed by our beloved Constitution.*

UPDATE: My son, a student of political science among other things, pointed out to me in a comment that it is the Declaration of Independence and not the US Constitution which hints that we are free to knock ourselves out in the pursuit of happiness. My embarrassment falls short of acute. Like many other bits of information, I used to know that, but it has long been displaced by data which is more crucial to my survival. Thanks, Hans.

I have been disgusted on numerous occasions by the stupid, frivolous and apparently misleading TV commercial for an utterly ridiculous product called EasyFeet. If you have not already been offended by viewing this you can torture yourself here. (I’d be interested to know if anyone else is shocked by the much-too-old boy and girl in a bathtub together.)

I admit to being suckered by this product for about ten seconds. I spend very little time thinking of my feet or tending to them and I have absolutely no problem reaching them. However, the idea of simply slipping my tootsie into such a cute scrubbing device . . . hey, wait! My feet are insanely ticklish. Want to reduce me to spasms of raw panic? Just tickle my feet. I bet you can’t wait to try it, eh? No, this thing is not for me.

There are two web sites which purport to report about “As Seen on TV” items. One, As Seen On TV On Sale, seems to be legitimate. You can see its page about EasyFeet here. When I looked at it there were 303 reviews. I could find few which were complementary. The other “As Seen On TV” site seems to be purely promotional. There are also many sites that seem bogus to me and may be part of a web campaign to flood the Google result pages with glowing reviews and opportunities to purchase EasyFeet.

Why did I waste so much of your precious time with that? Sorry, I have no amusing excuses. “The dog ate it” is not going to work on this occasion.

I’ll try to do better next time.

* I should add a disclaimer here. The US Constitution does not, by any stretch of the imagination, guarantee happiness. What it does seem to imply is that we have an inalienable right to pursue happiness, which is an altogether different thing. Any fool can see that we are, with supreme effort, pursuing happiness with the vigor of a pack of bloodhounds. We are absolutely relentless in our pursuit of earthly bliss. The glitter of terrestrial Nirvana (not the band) glows like a beacon in the distance. Alas, few of us actually get our fingers through the brass ring.

I’ve stopped praying for happiness. I’ve switched to praying for wisdom. I reckon that some happiness will come packed inside.

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Dumb Things I Saw at WalMart

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on May 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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I am presently sitting in my hosts’ . . . uh, I don’t know that to call it . . . sitting room (?) watching a TV commercial for Farmer’s Mutual Insurance telling me that there are 15,000 clothes dryer fires every year caused mostly by people not cleaning out the lint filter and urging me to check my policy Real Soon Now to assure myself  that I am covered against such a tragedy. The commercial features a dude in a suit torching a gigantic lint ball with a flame thrower. It’s all very amusing, but scary, as it is intended to be. I cannot help thinking of how many people are, as I write this, scurrying out to the garage or laundry room or wherever to inspect that potentially dangerous bit of equipment.

Well, kiddies, I’m here to tell you that I am not of the timid ilk. My bravado is assisted by the fact that it has been decades since I owned and operated any such so-called convenience as a clothes dryer. Oh, yes, I do have a clothes dryer of sorts. It consists of a number of wires hanging from a carousel-like contraption out in my back yard. On sunny days my clothes dry in a snap. On gloomy days it takes a little longer.

Well. Now, that was interesting, wasn’t it?

I have been moaning about the weather. I’m tired of moaning and you’re tired of hearing me moan on and on about it. The sun came out today and do you know what? I’ll tell you what. It got freezing cold,  that’s what. Now I have something else to moan about. Here’s the freezing cold sun:

I forgot that the whole sun thing works backwards in Indiana at this time of year.

Before I get into the subject of today’s post I want to tell you about a very disturbing development in my life. I am becoming tragically absent-minded. A few mornings ago, about 09:00, I was getting my vitamin pills out of the big plastic bag of sundry medications and nutrient supplements which are keeping me upright and more or less mobile. As I was rummaging for C and Multi and B Complex and Magnesium and D3, I noticed that my little blister-pack of sleeping tablets was nearly exhausted. Well, that simply won’t do.  So, as I was thinking about how I might contrive a way to con a doctor into giving me a script for some Temazepam, my fingers took on a life of their own. Before I knew what was happening I found myself asking, “What did I just swallow?” It was at that point that I noticed the count of remaining pills had reduced by one.

I spent the rest of a very drowsy day wondering if I had just been introduced to yet another harbinger of the future.

Okay, on to one of my favourite activities, heaping scorn on Wal*Mart. I know that it is so very unfair of me to do so. It’s not only unfair, but hypocritical. I am, as are the vast majority of the poor and disadvantaged, forced by economic necessity to frequent the sterile and depressing aisles of the Big W when we would prefer to blow our meager disposable income at more trendy emporiums.

Yesterday, while I had an hour to kill as the Wal*Mart pharmacists slaved to produce a package of dream-time tabs for me, I decided to waltz about among the treasures of rampant consumerism to capture images of some of the dumber items I could find. I don’t present this as the definitive collection of The Dumb Stuff at Wal*Mart. I had nowhere near enough time. This is a mere sampler.

I’ll begin modestly enough by poking some fun at another of my favourite targets – those who lavish their pets unto death with every conceivable extravagance. I give you Beggin’ Chips:

Hey, aren’t dogs fat enough already? We need to give them calorie-laden treats to insure that their lives are free of unfulfilled longings? My dog, Sheba, eats no better than I do. I believe in shared suffering. What doesn’t kill me and my dog makes us stronger. And, while I’m at it, what’s with the missing g  on the end of begging?  I had nearly forgotten that Midwestern American English long ago economized the alphabet by making redundant the final g  from all of our precious verb forms employing it. Within days of returning to my indigenous roots I found myself talkin’ to people about workin’ in Madang and tellin’ them about divin’ and fishin’ from my boat and all about the books I’ve been readin’ and when they start askin’ me how I’m doin’ I’ve been sayin’ that I’m still livin’ but not enjoyin’ it very much.

I’m losing thirty years of progress developing my Man of Mystery accent. I’m most often asked if I’m a Canadian. Now I fear I’m suffering a relapse into my original Hoosier Twang. Alas, I’ll have to endure many snide remarks from my Australian friends back home who chastise me for not picking up Strine as my dialect of choice.

I’d best get on with my abuse of Wal*Mart. We have all experienced those distressing occasions in which an ordinary fan simply will not do. I distinctly remember those sultry summer afternoons in the trailer park when up and down the cul-de-sac could be heard the familiar complaint, “Hey, baby, this regular fan here just ain’t cuttin’ it. We oughta hop in the pickup and go git us one o’ them mistin’ fans.” Yeah, Clyde. A misting fan is just what you need and Wal*Mart’s got your number:

I can find plenty of sources of misting fans. It seems that many vendors wish to sell me one. However, I’m still a little puzzled as to exactly what a misting fan does. Presumably it will wet my face while blowing (or blowin’, as the case may be) air on it. Because of my intense frugality, I’m against the idea of tossing away sixty-nine bucks of my rapidly vanishing resources on a device that accomplishes nothing beyond the effect of a fan which I already possess combined with that of a wet towel.

I should probably mention that I’m writing this late in the evening and am slightly punchy from a long day of doing Very Important Stuff which I am now unable to remember. I went several places and did a number of things which were more or less crucial to my survival, but none of it registered in long-term memory. I’ll need to consult my notes. Hmmm . . . it seems I took no notes.

My final jab at our mom-and-pop-store destroying retail giant centers on the matter of absurdly large presentations of choices, namely forty-two flavours of vacuum cleaners:

Why, for pity’s sake, is it necessary or even sane to offer such a ridiculous and surreal number of vacuum cleaners from which to select? Personally, I would be struck dumb when shopping for a mundane household device if I were forced to evaluate so many possibilities. Thinking about it produces the same panicky feeling that I get when I’m purchasing bread at one of today’s colossal food mega-marts. At home I can get white bread, brown bread and bread with lots of unidentifiable seeds in it. The seedy bread also includes, at no extra charge, a range of little sticks and pebble-like objects which I reckon add to the fiber content. I buy the seedy bread. Here in America, The Consumers’ Paradise, I get giddy and nervous when confronted by 267 varieties of bread.

Okay, I am getting very sleepy now, so I’ll let Wal*Mart off the hook. Before I pass out, however, I’ll pass along, as a public service, a link to this partially literate article which I found on which proves, with absolute certainty, that Wal*Mart is deeply involved in Satanic activities.

I had every intention of entertaining you with several hilarious paragraphs about the Royal Coat of Arms and this depiction of same which I photographed on the corner of the old courthouse in Gympie, Queensland, Australia. Alas, I am now too tired and I must leave you to puzzle it out on your own:

The unicorn appears to be very angry.

Before I nod off, I’ll alert any astrology fans out there that an event of major significance is impending. Get up tomorrow morning and look to the east before the sun comes up. You will, if you have the eyes of an eagle, see six planets lined up as pretty as you please. Having consulted the foremost astrological experts today living I can assure you that you must immediately convert all of your assets to cash and arrange an electronic transfer of the funds to my Chase Bank account. Contact me for detailed instructions. Ignore this announcement at your peril.

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Warp Speed in Indy

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 2nd, 2011 by MadDog
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Today the news is dominated by the execution of Osama bin Laden by a team of US Navy Seals. I’m trying to think of a time in history when so many people celebrated a death. I’m sure that some are grieving and many others are angry. I suspect that they are outnumbered by those who rejoice. This seems to be a pretty sad comment on the man’s life. Few will note my passing, but I’d like to think that fewer still will celebrate it.

I am desperate this morning to devise some trickery to make this post interesting. I feel flat and listless. The weather here has been miserable. Sad, grey days with no hint of the warm, cheerful light of the sun. It’s depressing weather and it’s not helping my mood one bit. At least there is no snow. I’ve seen one sunny day since I’ve been here in Indiana.

I’ll toss out a few random bits from my so-called adventures of the last few days and see if anything inspires me to vocalise.

My cousin, Jack Stephenson, hauled me around a few days ago for some sightseeing. While we were at lunch he showed me some images he had stored on his phone. Understand that this is still a new thing to me, a phone which takes pictures and stores them. What will they think of next? Anyway, he had two very nice images of a red fox. He got them at Yellowstone National Park. I asked if I could show them. Here they are:

They are both nicely composed.

Thanks, Jack.

We had lunch at an ancient tavern in Indianapolis, The Workingman’s Friend:

I remember the place from my childhood and high-school years, but I’d never been inside.

Much is made of the quality of the food at TWF. I chose unwisely. I was expecting a huge, hand-breaded Hoosier-style tenderloin sandwich when I ordered, smacking my lips. What I got was this:

A soggy, manufactured bit of unidentifiable meat covered by some kind of crumbly substance. Don’t order the tenderloin.

If you’re looking for a down-home American working class cultural experience, stop by here:

Try the smashed burger. It looks better than the tenderloin.

We also went to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. I’d been there before with Eunie, so I once again got that weird feeling and found myself turning my head to see where she had gone. I took a few snaps of esoterica. This is Harry Jackson’s, The Marshall, a coloured bronze of John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn:

I snapped many interesting items, but the collection of images is too rambling, even for MPBM. Here is one more which I found fascinating – a 2,000 year old duck decoy:

The Eiteljorg is a place which inspires cultural introspection. The history of indigenous Americans is not full of joy. Hopefully, the long sad era of human history which was characterised by conquest is over. There is hardly any place left to invade and dominate, one would hope. There will be, of course, petty thieves who will hop borders to pillage and loot, but these will be mere fly-specks on the pages of history. No, we’ve simply run out of profitable targets.

I have but a week left here in gloomy Indiana. Maybe the weather will clear. My son, Hans, will drive from Canada to retrieve me from Brownsburg, haul me to Illinois for a few days visiting with Eunie’s family and thence to Wisconsin for a meeting with a supporting church. Then it is off to Canada, Hamilton, Ontario, to be exact. I’ll be there for two weeks. I’ll then fly away to Sedona, Arizona for a while. All of my meetings and stressful obligations will be finished when I arrive in Canada. I plan to allow myself to unwind and rediscover some joy.

Some have asked when I’ll return to Madang. I can’t answer that exactly at this time, because my time here is doing me a lot of good and it’s limited only by the number of couches I can crash on. I’ll spend not a dollar on a hotel, so I’m looking for hospitality. I’ve been given leave to take as much time as I need. I know my work is waiting for me when I return and I am more grateful for that than I can express.

Healing comes month-by-month. I’m infinitely grateful.

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Madam C. J. Walker – A Pioneering Black American Woman

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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As the interlocutor on Monty Python used to say, “And now for something completely different.”

As a kid in Indianapolis in the 40’s and 50’s I was all too aware of segregation. Many parts of the city were “black” while others were “white.” Many schools were segregated. Living as I did on the edge of a black district, the schools that I attended were mixed race. I didn’t see that as much of a blessing at the time. Interracial fights were common and race was always the unwelcome elephant in the room. Nevertheless, it did teach me that we must learn to get along with each other. It also taught me that life was much simpler if you learned to be colour blind.

One black area of town that was particularly famous was the area we called, “Indiana Avenue.” As children, we were of course, supposed to stay away from there. And, of course, we didn’t.

One place that fascinated me was the Walker Theatre:

Main entrance of the Walker Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana

It was more than a theatre. The building contained several businesses and was situated at the centre of a thriving black business and residential community. Sadly, today the Walker Theatre is about the only surviving landmark:

The Walker Theatre Building in Indianapolis, Indiana

The genius behind much of this was Sarah Breedlove, born in Delta, Louisiana, the first member of her family to be born free. Her parents had been slaves. At age 14, she married a man named Moses McWilliams and was widowed at age 20. While living in St. Louis, she joined St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, which helped develop her speaking, interpersonal and organizational skills. She was married in 1894 to John Davis and divorced about nine years later.

Sarah Breedlove, a. k. a. Madam C. J. Walker

When she began to lose her hair, she had the idea for a line of hair care products. Sarah moved to Denver, Colorado, where she worked as a sales agent for Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur who manufactured hair care products. Sarah also consulted with a Denver pharmacist, who analysed Malone’s formula and helped Walker formulate her own products. This may have been the first case of industrial espionage in American Black History. In addition, she often told reporters that the ingredients for her “Wonderful Hair Grower” had come to her in a dream:

Madam C. J. Walker's "Wonderful Hair Grower"

She opened a permanent office in Pittsburgh in 1908, which her daughter ran, and in 1910 she formed Madame C. J. Walker Laboratories in Indianapolis, where she developed products and trained her beauticians, known as “Walker Agents.” The agents and the products were recognized in black communities throughout the U.S. and Caribbean for promoting the philosophy that cleanliness and loveliness could advance the plight of African-Americans.

Eventually, her products formed the basis of a thriving national corporation employing at one point over 3,000 people. Her Walker System, which included a broad offering of cosmetics, licensed Walker Agents, and Walker Schools offered meaningful employment and personal growth to thousands of Black women. Madame Walker’s aggressive marketing strategy combined with relentless ambition led her to be labeled as the first known African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire.

Advertisement for Madam C. J. Walker's Products

Madam Walker amassed a fortune in a mere fifteen years. Her prescription for success was perseverance, hard work, faith in herself and in God, “honest business dealings” and of course, quality products. “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success,” she once observed. “And if there is, I have not found it – for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”

Madam C. J. Walker's house at Irvington-on-the-Hudson, New York

Madam Walker was also known for her philanthropy, leaving two-thirds of her estate to educational institutions and charities including the NAACP, the Tuskegee Institute and Bethune-Cookman College. In 1919, her $5,000 pledge to the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign was the largest gift the organization had ever received. She died soon after, on May 25, 1919, at age 51, at her estate, Villa Lewaro, due to kidney failure and other complications resulting from hypertension. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. At her death, the multi-million dollar estate was left to various philanthropic organizations and to her daughter, whose philanthropic endeavours were key to funding the Harlem Renaissance.

I was aware of none of this as a child. I wonder how much better race relations could have been if school children had learned of the contributions of all of the citizens of the land – not just the white ones. How would a school-sponsored class visit to Madam Walker’s laborotories have affected our white-bread ignorance of the accomplishments of black Americans?

I wonder . . .

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Brightening Dim Memories

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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In the old days of labouring for hours in the dark with smelly chemicals a poorly exposed photograph was a trial to be endured. If it had no great importance, it would be tossed on the floor to be swept up later, when the lights were on. If it were a frame that must be printed – the contents of the image being too important to throw away – it meant hours of mostly guesswork fooling around with the only three things we could change: the grade of the paper (its intensity of contrast), the time of the exposure under the enlarger, and the time of development. Those with fancy labs and cash could do other things, but these are the basics.

Today it’s easy. I’ll show you five photos taken several years ago with a point and shoot camera. All five had some problem. None would have looked good in an album. All five could be saved from the darkroom floor, so to speak.

Here’s Buck the Horse. Buck pulls a fancy carriage around town all day and night. He looks tired. I would be too:

Buck looking a little dim

As you can see, the original shot is very poorly exposed. The cause of this is that the subject is at greatly varying distances from the flash. We covered the inverse square rule before. What is twice as far away will be four times as dark.

Composition aside, it would have been better to shoot the horse and carriage from the side so that most everything was more or less the same distance away.

A few minutes with any decent photo management program will allow you to fix such a photo. I use Photoshop, but there are very excellent free programs available. If you’re on a budget, I’d suggest the open-source program called The Gimp. You can download it and install it on your computer for nothing (yes, legally). It does nearly everything that Photoshop does.

Here’s Buck feeling a little brighter:

Buck feeling brighter

The next shot is underexposed. That means it didn’t get enough light. It was probably because the camera wasn’t very good at guessing, by ‘looking’ at the entire scene, how much light to let in. It was fooled by the bright sky into giving the building less light:

Old church on Monument Circle in Indianapolis - underxposed

There is a simple trick that you can try to fix this before it happens.

With most cameras, you can point the camera at the building in such a way that there is no sky visible in the frame. Try pointing the camera farther down so that no sky is showing. Now press your shutter button down to its first position. This causes the camera to set its focus. It also fools the camera into setting an exposure value that is correct for the building only. Then, while holding the button in the first position, move your camera back up and complete your composition of the frame. Finally, push the button hard to make the exposure.

This method also works well when taking photos of people who are backlit. It’s best to avoid having a bright background behind your subject, but sometimes it cannot be helped. Just point your camera at the feet and do the half-way-down thing with the button. Hold it there, point the camera back at the person and finish the shot.

You should also remember that it is almost always better to force the flash on your camera to fire when taking photos of people outdoors. Your camera may not want to fire its flash, but there is a setting that will force it to. This is critical when taking photos of dark-skinned people. Show a little respect and set your camera to forced-flash or “Fill Flash”.

You can see here that I’ve fixed the frame by increasing the exposure values after the shot was taken. It was easy. I had to select the sky and darken it to avoid losing the sky altogether:

Old church on Monument Circle in Indianapolis - fixed

The next shot is much the same thing, except the sky dropped out completely:

The Indiana State Capital building looking forlorn

I fixed the exposure of the buildings and they came up nicely:

The Indiana State Capital building looking horrible with the fake sky in back

Never satisfied, I then proceeded to ruin the shot by adding some fakey clouds. I leave it as an example of what not to do.

It’s too bad that I cut the top off of this frame when I took the shot. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. This is the beautiful Scottish Rite Cathedral (Masonic) in Indianapolis. In this frame, it’s a bit underexposed, taking the lustre off of the wonderful, creamy white oolitic limestone from Oolitic, Indiana, the small town named after the product. The building also seems to be leaning back as if it’s about to fall back into the parking lot:

The Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis

Fixing the exposure was simple – a few clicks and adjustments. Taking some of the lean out is also easy. Most programs have some sort of lens distortion feature that allows you to make hung-over buildings feel better. In the darkroom we used to do this my propping up one end of the frame that holds the paper under the enlarger. We’d adjust the angle until the vertical lines were more parallel:

The Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis - no longer leaning back

It would have been a fine shot if I hadn’t been inattentive to the composition in the first place.

I remember going to dances in the magnificent ballroom in this building when I was in high school. My grandad was a 47th Degree Mason (I think that’s what it was called). He insisted that I join the Order of DeMolay. I gave it a go, but Freemasonry didn’t stick on me – nothing against it. I suppose I simply didn’t ‘get it’.

Anyway, on to the last shot.

I’m not much of a flag waver. I do display the flag of Papua New Guinea at the top of my blog, but that is not a political statement. It’s only a small token of my gratitude to a country that has become my home – and will remain so until I die.

Here’s a shot taken inside the magnificent war memorial building in Indianapolis. It’s too bad that we have to have wars. There seems to me to be some horrible flaw in the way we’re made. I also find it sad that we build heart-breaking beauty into our monuments to war. They should look like a pile of stinking, smoking rubble with body parts sticking out and babies screaming.

We remember all the wrong things about our wars.

Anyway, I digress. This is a horribly underexposed shot of the interior Bellum Sanctorum (or whatever they call it – my high-school Latin was fifty years ago). There is, appropriately I guess, a humungous “Old Glory” hanging there.

Unfortunately, the bright star light fixture fooled the camera into not giving enough light to show the incredible interior of the vault:

The inner vault of the War Memorial in Indianapolis - underexposed

Again, a few clicks and it’s fixed:

The inner vault of the War Memorial in Indianapolis - corrected

If you click to enlarge, you can see the beautiful details. There is a little motion-blur (camera shake) caused by the long exposure, but we can’t do much about that after the fact.

When you’re going through your photos to separate the trash from the treasure, don’t throw away a sick frame that contains a memory that you want to keep.

Give it a little medicine.

Ihre Kamera lässt Ihre Augen schöne Gedächtnisse gefangennehmen.

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Book Report #3 – Casino Royal – Comparing Ian Fleming’s Spy to The Spy of Hollywood

Posted in Book Reports, Humor on April 18th, 2008 by MadDog
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My ever thoughtful son sent to me for Christmas a very retro-covered copy of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel (1953), Casino Royal.

The “Bond gun”? - Walther PPK

My first reading of the Bond series was in 1965, when I was in Advanced Infantry Training at some sleepy Army Fort in North Carolina. Vietnam was bleeding. I was safe from the draft because I had wisely joined the National Guard. (Yes, as if you care, I freely admit that I was a draft dodger. I could probably never be President. Or could I . . . ?)

I worked in an office with two other enlisted men and a lethally bored Second Lieutenant. One of the other guys was an extremely perturbed Austrian citizen who had, by stupendous effort and patience, obtained residency in the USA and was thus – to his everlasting bewilderment – eligible for the draft. He was probably the least lucky person I’ve ever met.

Our single task was to determine the devastation to Army equipment and personnel in case the Ruskies lobbed one in on us that particular day. The calculations took about a half-hour. That left ample time for reading and snoozing. I also learned to touch-type – just about the only useful skill I acquired in the Army.

There I go – getting off-point again. Anyway, I was amused to re-read Casino Royal after 43 years. I had firmly in mind, from watching countless Bond movies, a certain persona that, while unquestionally capable of cold-blooded murder of bad guys, was nevertheless admirable from a certain twisted and depraved viewpoint. (i. e. blind patriotism)

Forget all that. Fleming’s Bond is about the most despicable character you can imagine. Only the bad guys are worse. There is nothing admirable about him. He is a misogynist of the first order. He experiences women as annoying nuisances fit only for his temporary amusement. Even as he seduces, he is icily planning the kiss-off. He is also, contrary to the movie portrayals, often inept and falls far short of the manly fortress of strength, integrity, and courage of the movie mockery.

I could go on and on, but one has only so much time at work to read this drivel.

I’ll bring the book back to Madang. If you want to borrow it, let me know. If you’re a Bond movie fan, you’re in for a surprise.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The pistol is a Walther PPK – I won’t get into the details. Most people who care think of this as “The James Bond Gun.” Surprisingly (to me, at least), it makes no appearance in Casino Royal. My son tells me that it appeared in a later volume (five years later in Dr. No). When I get to Canada, my son and I are going to do a little research and collaborate on a few posts revealing “The Guns of James Bond.” It will be fun for us, if not for you.

I should mention that the PPK has a sentimental appeal to me aside from the Bond thing. For years, when I was doing business in an unsavory atmosphere (not saying where or why), I carried a PPK very similar to the one in the photo tucked into a ‘snuggie’ holster between my belt and my bum. Happily, I never shot anybody, including myself.

Thanks to the very nice, but otherwise scary folks at Don’s Guns in Indianapolis for allowing me to take the photo in a WARNING – NO CAMERAS area. You may speculate for a moment concerning the reason cameras might not be welcome in a place where the motto has been for years, “I don’t want to make any money. I just love to sell guns.”

TO THE OWNERS AND EMPLOYEES OF DON’S GUNS: I mean absolutely no disrespect by any comment in this post. I am a writer of humor and a professional fool. Practically everything is funny to me. If it weren’t, I’d probably blow my own brains out. You treated me with a bemused kindness that went far beyond your duty to the public to supply the necessary tools to allow them to exercise their rights under the Constitution of the United States of America. God bless the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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On the Road – Indianapolis, Indiana – Hooters

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 17th, 2008 by MadDog
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As part of my continuing effort to bring you important dining information should you ever find yourself stranded in the vast prairie wilderness of America, I’ll take you to a (to me) delightful establishment called Hooters. Yes, the name is an anatomical allusion, as you may have expected. Many consider Hooters a less than ideal concept. It does feature lovely, vivacious young ladies frolicking around in hot pants and tight tops. I’m sure that the occasional dirty old man lurks about (not ME, of course!). But he’s going to be wasting his time. Neither the company nor the young ladies tolerate any misdemeanors. Certainly they are cute and playful, but they are most definitely NOT flirtatious nor, in any way, accessible.

Here’s our waitress-of-the-day, Amy, with Eunie in the Hooters Boutique picking out t-shirts for a few of our friends in Madang:

Hooters Boutique - Indianapolis

Illustrating my point above concerning improper behaviour, when I asked Amy to turn around so I could get a ‘cute’ shot of her, she did so, but stuck out her tongue – a message to me that I was treading on thin ice. There are some husky looking guys with bulging biceps on the crew. I’m not sure what the full extent of their duties includes, but I’m not going to investigate the matter by misbehaving.

Hooters - Amy

Oh, I nearly forgot the fare. Well, first off, there’s cold beer in abundance. Imports are a little thin, but there’s always Heineken. Of the variety of goodies on the menu Eunie and I always get the Gourmet Hot Dog with cheese, relish, and chili sauce. It comes with curly fries, smokey baked beans, and a nice big Kosher dill pickle. To me, it’s the Prince of Hot Dogs. It tastes just as it should. There are many other selections on the menu. I’ve tried several and none disappointed.

Eunie and I dine at Hooters at least once a week. They are all over America except next to churches. You can’t sell booze within a certain distance of a church in America. Now just why is that so? Is it a matter of sensibility or temptation? One wonders . . .

I’ll leave you with a hula-hooping young lady:

 Hooters - Hula Hoop

Hopefully you can decipher the back of her shirt. In case you can’t, I’ll help. It reads, “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” – an appropriate redundancy for a very amusing establishment.

It wouldn’t be proper to let this go without mentioning that the objections to the atmosphere and working conditions bear scrutiny. Yes, it’s a fun place, but one has to ask if what is happening here is an implicit objectification of women. Many have made that argument. Please check the link above to a Wikipedia article about Hooters. It explains these arguments and counter-arguments.

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