Tuesday, May 31, 2016


I like to think of planes flying low through populated areas. It sounds dangerous and it would be noisy beyond belief, but I can't help thinking that it would be fun for both the pilot and the people on the ground. There must be a way to make this work. 

My guess is that the way will be found, probably in the lifetime of half the people reading this. After all, we live in the age of noise canceling headphones and accident avoidance software. All of that will continue to improve, won't it?

On another subject, I'm guessing that under Earth mines will be dug artistically with a view toward what can be done with the tunnels when the ore's run out. Even empty mines will be valuable assets.

If you're a present day private pilot you no doubt avoid the inside of clouds. Pilots die all the time in clouds...you can't see what's ahead when you're in them. Accident avoidance technology will make all that a thing of the past.

People will be able to safely explore the wispy caverns floating over their heads.

Some plants will be made to grow more quickly. Expect to see beautiful trees where there were parking lots only a few years before.

 Some trees will be genetically modified to assume fun shapes like the bridge above.

Sci-fi writers long ago predicted that cars will run underwater as well as on land. Surely we'll see that soon.

 But maybe we won't want a lot of cars churning up the sea bottom.
Maybe only public transport will be allowed to do it.

 Until recently I thought artsy designs (above) were the future of bridges...

...but it seems that engineers might have the last word. Lighter, stronger bridges are on the drawing boards right now. Engineers are competing to see who can lift the most weight with the lightest and simplest structure.

The ramp would go through the center.

Twisted structures are being discussed. 

Hmmmm....is THAT (above) how we'll cross rivers in the future? Haw! Nobody'll believe it can work...it just looks too improbable.

Maybe we need to see another demonstration like the one (above) that sold the famous bridge to the city of Edinburgh.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


On Memorial Day: thanks to the brave soldiers of the past who bought the freedom that allows me to have a blog like this one.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


 The story of Sherlock Holmes and Reichenbach Falls is known the world over, even by people who never read the books. Here's (above) the Swiss hotel, The Englischer Hof, where Sherlock and Watson were summoned for a meeting at the Falls by Moriarty.

"Surely you're not going to do it," said Watson, "It's a trap!" But Sherlock did indeed intend to do it. It was the only way to confront Moriarty face to face.

 Early the next day: was this train operational in Sherlock's time? If so he and Watson surely would have taken it to the top.

It was early in the morning and only one tourist boarded the trolley with them.

Up and up and up.

After reaching the station near the top a hike was still required to get to the falls. Mist filled the air and sunlight was only beginning to penetrate the dark forest.

 A lady cycled past them and disappeared around the bend. 

After a bit a messenger boy from the hotel caught up with them. The note was for Watson. It seems that a woman collapsed at the hotel and was near death. Watson was the nearest doctor. Would he kindly return to the hotel and see what he could do for her?

"But the note is a pretext," said Watson. "I won't leave you Holmes, to plunge to your death!"

"A laudible sentiment, Watson, but you will assist me best if you do exactly as I say.  Simply head back to the point where we passed the woman on a bicycle, wait an additional quarter of an hour, and return back to here. Please, do as I ask." Watson reluctantly did.

 After the time elapsed Watson ran to the falls...only there was no one there; not Holmes, not Moriarty, not even the woman they'd seen earlier.

The ledge was the only way in or out, and it was empty. 

Watson looked up. The icy green water, fed by melting snow, flowed with murderous rapidity...

...and plunged into a great, bottomless chasm of black rock. Spray shot up and the shriek made by the plunging water was like a human cry. No one could survive a fall into that.

A letter wedged conspicuously between two rocks told the story: Moriarty had indeed been waiting for Sherlock with the intention of killing him. Both put aside their pistols for fear of alerting hikers and Moriarty allowed Sherlock to write a quick farewell to Watson before the two squared off for final combat. Both men believed they could overwhelm the other.

Sherlock's final sentense said it all: "Watson, putting an end to the very Napoleon of crime would easily be worth the price of my own life."

And so it happened.

That is, until three years later when...But I won't spoil it for those who haven't read the story.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I've been sorting old papers and...Haw!...I discovered more John caricatures of me. Here they are, in all their glory!

Wow! This first one (above), the one where my hair is like a flaccid condom, is great! Let's see if John's trademark Eddie touches are there: shovel nose, giant wart, Ubangi earlobe, buck teeth, non-existent chin....check! They're all there!

Yep! That's me...drummer for a band called "The Handicapped!" I've got sagging pecs, a gut, and a crewcut.

Naturally my chest hairs grow straight up. Two of my fingers are growing out of the side of my hand.

Here's my kid when he was a toddler. John liked to draw his head elongated like the head of the creature in "Alien." On some drawings he would the have the head held up by Dali-type crutches.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Library books I've looked at recently have prompted me to have an opinion on a subject that most people don't give any thought to these days; namely, the treatment of primitive people.

Even today primitive tribes are occasionally discovered in some remote corner of the world and, prompted by the books, I'm in favor of leaving them completely alone. My reasons for believing that are mainly humane and scientific but also because they're almost as much of a threat to us as we are to them. I hate to say it, but...primitive people are often not nice guys.

Maybe that's because the idea of universal human rights is alien to so many of them. Their loyalty is to their family, clan or tribe. Outsiders may have no rights at all. Killing outsiders, even when a state of war doesn't exist, isn't even considered murder. Deceiving them and stealing from them is admired. Enslaving them is okay, so was cannibalism in some places.

Early accounts of encounters with primitives are downright scary. You could get along well with a primitive you're trying to trade with then in a flash he turns on you and tries to kill you. Why? Because you stepped on a jaguar footprint which is taboo. Yikes!

This idea of taboo is especially scary because a stranger can't possibly know what all the local taboos are. You could innocently ask someone their name and deeply offend them because knowing a name gives you magical power to do harm to them and earmarks you as an enemy.  And, for Pete's Sake, don't draw their image.

Primitives also have gods who are easily offended. Heaven forbid that you should escape from drowning because that cheats the Water Spirit of his prey. After you hobble on to land you'll find that locals won't talk to you or let you into their house. If the Koosa Kafirs see a person drowning,  they either run away or pelt the victim with stones as he dies.

One African tribe expels from their community anyone bitten by a zebra or an crocodile, or even splashed by the creature's tail.

In recent centuries Europeans brought a lot of this grief on themselves by wandering into primitive areas, sometimes with evil intent, but you have to wander, how many normal traders were caught up in all this weirdness? We'll never know.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


By far the most exciting front page newspaper format I know of was that of a weekly British tabloid: "The Illustrated Police News" which ran from the 1840s to 1938.  

The paper was lurid to be sure, but it was immensely popular and it spun off a host of imitators. Of course you could argue that the Police News itself was an imitator.

It was a much more exciting and densely illustrated version of The London Illustrated News (above). It also benefited from traditions laid down by the Penny Dreadfuls and the broadsheet tradition of The Newgate Calendar. Even so, the IPN had a flair that its rivals couldn't match. 

Illustrated news naturally favors the type of news that lends itself most readily to illustration, namely violent crime and sex.

Wow! Now THAT's (above) a front page!

The paper must have had a reputation for being low class. It also must have occurred to lots of people that a more upscale version, covering more traditional news, was needed. It occurred to the chief engraver for the IPN, who started his own illustrated paper called "The Graphic."

The Graphic sold well but it lacked the pizazz of the Police News. It relied on realistic etchings and on photography when that became available. In my opinion that was a fatal decision. 

Photography is too literal, too limited to what the camera can actually see. 

Not only that, but it doesn't reproduce on pulp paper very well. Photography is a fine supplement to illustration but it doesn't do much to help the newspaper that it dominates. In my opinion photography never worked in pulp newspapers and only came into its own in glossy-paper magazines like LIFE.

Friday, May 13, 2016


I hope you're looking at this on a desktop because these photos won't look right if they're reproduced small. Most are by Alex Prager, one of the best contemporary photographers. That's my opinion, anyway. See if you agree.

The beach picture at the very top used models and was taken on a soundstage. Prager spares no expense to get the photos she wants. I read that she used 150 models for one of her shoots. 

Maybe she can afford to do that because her pictures are reproduced large and are sold alongside paintings in fine art galleries. 

Lots of people regard these pictures as paintings.

You can see that Prager was influenced by mid-century Hollywood films. This looks like a scene from "Marnie."

Finding the right model can make a big difference.

A car sinks in Prager's water and the event seems to have great significance. Seeing this makes me aware that my own life will be snuffed out and forgotten just like the car. It's hard to reconcile how important my own life is to me and how little it seems to matter to a vast and indifferent universe.

Veeeeery nice!

You can see a Hopper inluence. Or maybe someone like George Tooker, the guy who paints bleak pictures of subway crowds.

I'm not normally a fan of Bleak Minimalism (my term for it) but I'll make an exception for Prager.

Prager is said to have been influenced by photographer William Eggleston. That's his "Red Ceiling" photo above. Eggleston achieved highly saturated color by printing with a die transfer process.

Above, another Eggleston. His Kodachrome pictures had a great look but the ones I've seen were all taken outdoors. He should have moved inside. You need to be able to control the light to do this kind of thing right.