Apocalypse Then


Living in southern California in the late ’80s was weird.

It was during that time when we experienced a sudden infestation of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly or Medfly as it was lovingly referred to by the local media. (This pen name obviously paved the way for celebrity couple names like Bennifer and Brangelina.)

Eventually, the infestation was tracked down to a person/organization calling themselves The Breeders.

But that wasn’t the weird part of all this.

Because we were apparently overrun with Medflies, they had to be eradicated by whichever way the Department of Agriculture saw fit. In this case, they enlisted the service of some cropdusters whose tanks were loaded up with a mixture corn syrup and Malathion, an insecticide that is considered to be relatively harmless.

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The helicopters would fly over at night on a regular schedule, the exact period escaping me at the moment, although I think it was every two weeks. On spraying nights, there would be about three of them lined up and making the rounds, dropping their chemical mix upon the city.

It was recommended that you not go outside during spraying. You also had to cover your car or garage it so that it would not sustain any damage from the mixture, which was sticky and thick as you might expect it to be.

I remember watching them spray. I would stand at my bedroom window and wait for the distant rumble of the helicopters turn into a thunderous drone as they passed over the house. It reminded me of Apocalypse Now.

Now I don’t want to get my tin-foil hat out of the closet but it kind of makes you think.

These days you can’t even buy certain medications over the counter. Back in the ’80s, we were being exposed to insecticide and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.

Weird.

 

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His Name Was Prince


And he was funky.

And rest assured that my Facebook friends are probably…well, most definitely tired of my posts about the man and his music which is why I’m here to expand my thoughts just a little bit more.

First off, I find it hard to believe that he’s gone. I was at work doing my thing when I got this text from Ann:

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No. Seriously. What was the punchline here? There had to be one because this had to be some kind of horrible, horrible joke.

The old joke when we were kids was, “Hey, did you hear Alan Hamel died?”

“Really?”

Yeah. Tell a friend.”

“And u think u got it bad?”

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This was Prince. Ain’t no way this was supposed to happen so soon, especially with so many other great musicians passing away in 2016 and late 2015.

But Ann’s not very good at telling jokes and I couldn’t really think of a punchline for this one, so I had to start my own investigating.

I immediately searched for more information on Twitter, my usual news source. Everyone was all reporting the same ongoing “death investigation” with no definite word on what had happened.

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But then the confirmations started. This was the very tweet that crushed my soul.

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Note that I got it via Roku. I don’t give TMZ any more attention than I wish to as they mostly report trash I’m not remotely interested in.

I’m a fan of all kinds of music and I know what I like, and I like Prince. That’s why it was so incredibly shocking to hear he had died. Music is a very important part of my life probably because I can’t play an instrument and appreciate those who can, and admire those who are masters.

Well, I try.

Upon reading this tweet, I sat at my desk and out a huge, disappointing sigh that sounded like more of an annoyed grunt. It could have been. My coworker laughed and asked if I was okay.

Then I showed her the tweet.

“No way,” she exclaimed. As the news spread across almost every person/business I follow on Twitter, it was apparent that there would be no punchline as it was no joke. We were both shocked.

At age 57, Prince Rogers Nelson was gone.

“We could all die any day”

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Granted, I’m not his biggest fan in that I don’t have many of his albums nor did I ever witness him live, something I most definitely regret now. But I do enjoy music — all kinds. And you don’t have to be a big Prince fan in order to appreciate his contribution to the music world – at least if you grew up in the time he was at the top of his game.

That year was 1984 when his quasi-biographical Purple Rain hit the theaters. While people were still singing his hits from 1999, the movie propelled him to a level of success and attention that was incredible to witness.

I can recall seeing Purple Rain shirts by the handful in high school with their proud owners bragging about his incredible concert at The Forum. Back then, you couldn’t turn on the radio or MTV without hearing/seeing Prince, most likely “When Doves Cry,” even though all of his singles from 1999 were still popular.

Prince had arrived only a few years after being booed off the stage while opening for the Rolling Stones, and he was still about pushing boundaries.

“Whenever my hopes and dreams
Are aimed in the wrong direction
She’s always there
Tellin’ me how much she cares”

She’s Always in My Hair

Distributing his album Planet Earth via Sunday newspaper in the UK. The Lord’s Prayer in “Controversy.” His name change to an unpronounceable symbol. The buttless chaps he wore on the MTV Music Awards. And, of course, his reluctance to be a part of the Internet by not having an official website, his videos on YouTube (and his threats to sue anyone who posted them), or his albums on streaming services.

Of course in 1999, the eponymous song became the anthem of the year. If you went to a New Year’s Eve party you know it was played allllll night.

But as fans continue to mourn, videos are starting to show up. Here’s one I remember seeing a ton of times on MTV and it’s one of the rate videos where you’ll see Prince sit behind the drums and madly pound out a solo.

While this entire performance is worthy of watching, the solo begins at 7:45.

And let’s not forget that his song “Darling Nikki” and not a rap song was responsible for this sticker:

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I can think of songs on the radio today that are even more explicit than that one but hey, it gives Tipper Gore something to be proud of I guess.

There was never a doubt that he was an incredible musician, songwriter, and performer and like the man himself, his music knew no boundaries. This is perhaps why so many musicians paid tribute to him on the day he passed away, most of them playing his somber “Purple Rain.”

Corey Taylor of metal band Slipknot:

A student choir at the Disney Concert Hall:

Adam Levine of Maroon 5:

The cast of The Color Purple:

Bruce Springsteen:

Jimmy Buffett:

As musicians paid homage to Prince, cities around the world did the same.

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The Eiffel Tower.

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Downtown Los Angeles, who may just win the prize for tributes.

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The Minnesota Twins. Ironically, it was raining the day he passed.

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New Yorker Magazine.

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The Forum in Inglewood, where Prince played 21 nights in 2011.

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Long Beach Transit.

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The local news during the Entertainment Report.

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A church in Tulsa, OK.

When applicable, people will flock to Hollywood leave flowers and mementos at the Walk of Fame star of a recently deceased star. Prince, of course, was not your average star and does not have a star on the Walk of Fame. As a result, a someone decided he needed one where fans could mourn.

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“Baby I’m a star”

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And of course, my own that I posted on Instagram.

The only thing I’ve seen that came close to this was when John Lennon was assassinated. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the life of a man who wore the most feminine outfits while shredding a guitar like no other – and prancing around on stage in his trademark high-heeled boots.

So guys, if you ever think you’re a badass, just forget it. Prince owns you even now.

He was taken away from us much too fast but we were lucky to walk this planet at the same time to experience his incredible gift.

“No one in the whole universe will ever compare”

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So thank you and goodnight, sweet Prince. Rest in Power.

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Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz


5bbc952a01a7760eb04b8b4bc31da025There are some things in life for which you have no real explanation.

Like getting your leg caught in a ceiling fan, for instance. And on Saturday, I had an odd thing happen to me. Perhaps not as odd as the ceiling fan thing but odd enough.

I dropped my Xbox One controller – yes, an expensive wireless one – in a bowl of water.

I know it sounds silly but it almost makes sense once I explain. Besides, it’s not like I have a houseful of water-filled bowls just sitting around. I only have two: one for the cats and one for the dog.

In this case, it involves the one belonging to Arliss which is in the den or, as Anthony calls it, the man-cave.

I despise that term, by the way.

Anyway, the water bowl in question sits beside to Arliss’ bowl of dry food in the man-ca…den. Both bowls are situated next to a small table that has my nightly essentials strewn upon it: audio/video remotes, a notebook filled with notes pertaining to my ongoing Japanese studies and, of course, my Xbox controllers.

On Saturday morning, I went into the den to grab something off of the table. I don’t remember what it was but at any rate, while I was reaching for it, my Xbox One controller scrambled off the edge of the table and directly into the bowl of water.

*plop*

Oh shit. Really, oh shit. It was submerged for maybe one whole second at the most which is certainly enough time for water to make its presence known on the innards of any electronic device.

I figured it was goner but retrieved it from the bottom of the bowl anyway. I shook it vigorously, hoping to get all of the water out of it. And in my attempt to shake it dry, I slung water all over the den floor and patio doors. I continued to do so until I thought I had it all out.

Then I ran into the bathroom and turned on the hairdryer – trust me, it’s Ann’s not mine – to finish the job at Max Power. If there was anything that would dry it out, this would be it.

This was about all I could do for the time being. I inspected it and it seemed fairly dry on the inside (at least as far as I could see once removing the battery cover). I then tried it out – and there were problems.

When pressing the Xbox button, the system would power-on but the controller wouldn’t stay on. The light on the Xbox button would flash a few times and turn off. Nothing after that.

Then I put some of my reliable rechargeable batteries in the controller since they seem to be much more powerful that the standard alkaline batteries I use. No dice – the controller was doing the same thing.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not like I use the system very much. I seem to use it more for streaming baseball games online since I can’t watch them otherwise due to the greed of my home team and a certain cable provider watching YouTube videos via Chromecast from either my phone, tablet, or PC in the living room. So if I had to buy a new controller, I could go cheap and just get another wired one.

And that’s what it was looking like at this point.

Hours later, I tried it again. The controller literally looked like it was breathing its last breath with the light slowly fading like it hadn’t done before, almost as if it were saying goodbye.

I could almost hear a little voice crying, “Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee…”

Well, crap.

I had already planned on putting it back in the bowl of water and taking a picture of it to share on social media if it had died. If there was nothing else to be done then I might as well have some fun with it, right?

Then Sunday comes along. After a morning of mishaps (that’s another blog post), I thought I’d give it one more try. So I held the Xbox button down and the system powered up. The good thing was that the controller stayed on.

Resurrected. A true Sunday miracle. Or was it?

I thought I’d give it a try by playing Forza Motorsport 6 and everything seemed to be functioning just fine. Then Anthony wanted to play so I handed it over to him.

He discovered that Change View button wasn’t working. He came across this because he wanted to change the POV in FM6 since he doesn’t like my POV: either the hood or bumper views. I would have never found it myself unless I played another game.

I was now going to have to shell out x-dollars because one stinking button wasn’t working. Isn’t that a pip?

So tonight about an hour ago I gave it one more shot and, using some critical thinking (yes, I’m capable of such things), I found the cause of the problem.

In FM6, you can apply Mods to your car with varying degrees of difficulty to earn more points, XP, etc. Some are one-time use and others will remain until you decide to deactivate them.

So I started my Career, got to the track, and reviewed my Mods. One of the active ones was Hood View, a mod which gives you extra points for only using the hood POV; you cannot changed it once the game starts. I went into the Settings and removed the mod, then started the race.

As soon as it started I hit the Change View button and, lo and behold, it worked.

Resurrection, again.

So even after being submerged in dog-water for about a second, I managed to bring the controller back to life with only a hairdryer and the brute gorilla force used when shaking it dry.

Then again, we managed to wash and dry Anthony’s old iPod twice and while the screen had some water damage, it still worked.

I guess we have that kind of strange luck.

Friday 5: Into the Lens


Look, I know this is a day late but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about it after seeing a fellow blogger do it. The topic is relevant to me so it’ll be a good fit. Now just keep in mind that I’ve also worked in photo labs and have been shooting for years so the answers could be much longer than you bargained for.

The topic is Into the Lens, in which we answer photography-related questions. Let’s get to it!

What was your first camera like?
I didn’t own a camera of my own until high school when I took my first photography class. Until then, I had only used my brother’s Canon Snappy a few times. In 1985 I believe, I got my first SLR for Christmas: a Minolta X370 which I still have (even if it isn’t working at the moment). I shot with it for many, many years and captured some cool stuff, including George Brett’s 3,000th hit. Yes, I was a part of baseball history!

What kinds of accessories have you purchased for a camera?
What didn’t I buy for this camera? While the set I got for Christmas came with two lenses, a flash, cleaning accessories and one of those ugly camera bags that nobody but a hipster might be seen with in public today, I bought my share of goodies for my camera and mostly on the cheap. I had different colored lens filters for black-and-white photography, back when you had to imagine the image before you shot it.

“Hmm. The sky is a nice blue and I want to bring out those clouds. I need my red filter for that. Wait, this is the 52 mm diameter filter. Where’s my 55 mm one? NOOOO!”

I also had a cable release and tripod for long-exposure shots. Ann and I actually drove to the middle of nowhere in 1997 to capture the Hale-Bopp comet on film. True story.

I once picked up a zoom lens at the local thrift shop for around $10 and years later found a motor drive for the same price. What’s a motor drive, you might ask? See, old camera didn’t advance the film on their own and if you wanted to take a sequence of shots (known as Burst Mode today), you needed an autowinder. A motor drive took the idea of an autowinder to the next level by giving you the luxury of a shutter button on the side so when you were shooting portrait-style images, the button would be on the top — no twisting your wrist to release the shutter. And, even better, this mode allowed me to shoot up to 3.5 FPS (frames per second, not first-person shooter). Can you imagine how much film I went through when I used that feature?

When did you last shoot photos on film, and how many rolls of unshot film do you have in your house?
Strangely, I shot a roll of film just a few weeks ago because I was feeling retro. I haven’t developed it yet because I don’t even know if any local stores still do it. As far as unused rolls, I have two blank ones for the next time I’m in the mood.

Digital photography has all kinds of advantages over film photography, but what’s better about shooting on film and having to get it developed and printed?
The beauty of using film was that it was pure alchemy. You shot your film based on what your vision was at the time and you most likely only got one chance at getting things right due to the restrictions of available frames (24 or 36, since nobody used 12-exposure rolls). You had no idea what the results would be until you got them back in an hour or week or whatever time-frame you chose. As the filter example above clearly indicates, getting a good shot on film required a lot of work and quick thinking. It’s nothing like it is today, where you can just take another shot if the first one wasn’t any good.

How do you manage your digital photos?
I have a few backup methods for my digital photos. For ones I shoot with my DSLR, I back them up to my external drive and burn them to DVD so that I have at least two copies. I name the folder with the date I transferred them plus the event/location: “2015-04-02 Knott’s Berry Farm” or whatever. This method, of course, does no good if the house should burn down and both copies went with it. (I really should hand over the DVDs to the in-laws to be safe.)

As for those taken with my phone, since they seem to be more personal and require more attention, I wait until I reach a certain threshold then back them up the same way but also put them on my private Google Photos account so that I can access them whenever I need to. For DSLR shots that I want to share online, I drag a copy into Dropbox then download it to my phone. Dropbox is great for sharing data but horrible for managing photos. Google Photos is pretty amazing and does an excellent job organizing them, plus unlimited storage. Can’t beat it.

Okay. That should do it. While shooting digital is fun, most people today don’t even know what they are missing with film cameras. Use one for a day to understand and appreciate what us old[er] folk lived through — and how much we liked it.