Monday, July 23, 2007

Above the Arctic Circle

Joe Decker is a nature photographer of extraordinary gifts. The range of his work is astonishing -- from precise yet delicate flower studies to almost abstract images of moving light on moving water, from dramatic high-contrast pictures to tone-on-tone images that could almost be silkscreen prints.

I love the grand, painterly vistas, but then I'm a sucker for mountainsides. Also for the light on the leaves.

His most recent work was shot in Greenland and Iceland, whose stark landscapes lend themselves well to his vision of abstract shapes in the natural world. An almost Mondrian panorama speckled with migrating birds. The rippled clouds and rippled hillside of a fjord. A glacier's ice ridges like pastel corduroy and the netted reflections of ocean on iceberg.

If you're in the area, come out and see these pictures. Wherever you live, buy some. I own a Joe Decker photograph, and the image is more beautiful every time I look at it.

Opening Reception for "Above the Arctic Circle", Friday, July 27, 6-8 pm

Opening reception. Pacific Art League, 668 Ramona, Palo Alto, California.

This is the reception for the first large-scale, major show I've done in well over a year, and will feature approximately 30 previously undisplayed works from my travels through Svalbard and East Greenland. If you can attend only one show of mine this year, make it this one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

All the Way Home

I left work tonight after sunset and drove westward toward the Santa Cruz Mountains instead of east toward my apartment. It had been a long, rough day, but there was something I wanted even more than to get home and fall into bed.

As I crossed the San Andreas fault, I came into the country of lion-colored hills crowned with oaks. As twilight deepened, I drove north along 280, sometimes called the most beautiful freeway in the world. The mountains to the west were dark as slate, and the frothy dark clouds of the marine layer were surging over them. Above, in the clear sapphire sky, hung the crescent moon and the evening star.

I kept my windows open to the night air, fragrant with grass and leaves and earth, and I watched the long ridges, almost lightless, running between the highway and the sea.

If I drove up one of the steep, tortuous roads and into the mountains, I would find rolling meadows with clefts concealed by scrub. Then, as I went higher, higher, the Trappist dignity of the redwood groves. The towering sequoias always seem both aware of visitors and heedless of them. Their size and age give them a natural authority. Their presence is restful -- a day in the redwoods is a spiritual retreat.

But tonight I needed to get home, I couldn't drive the labyrinthine roads into the woods, or walk silently through the darkness. Just passing by, though, was enough, almost enough.

Sometimes my family back east asks how I can stand to live in the urban sprawl of the Silicon Valley megalopolis. But there's scarcely a spot here where you can't look up and see the wild hills.

Six years ago, I got on a plane with a suitcase, a laptop, and a yowling cat and flew 3000 miles to San Jose. Moving to the Bay Area made enormous changes to my life. Here I've found more new friends and love and natural beauty than I thought my heart could hold. And I found home.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

BASEBALL: Phillies Set a New Record

My boys have reached a landmark achievement in sports: A myriad lost games. Ten thousand failures.

A toast to the most futile professional sports franchise ever. Not just the most futile baseball team. No football team (US or European rules), no basketball team, no hockey team has set a record of such consistent failure. For more than a hundred years the Phillies have been losers.

Now, as the motivational speakers say, it doesn't matter how often you fail. What matters is how often you succeed!

Well, yeah, but baseball is a zero-sum game.

I'd like to point out that the boys are a game over .500, and although they lost the game today to the Cardinals, they creamed the Cardinals in the previous two games.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Disgruntled Thought of the Day

Occam's Razor: Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.

Sometimes summarized as "the simplest explanation is the best."

Occam's Other Razor: Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity.

Note: "Stupidity" here has nothing to do with IQ, everything to do with haste, distraction, innocent mistakes, cluelessness, poor planning, incompetence, and the many other ways people and organizations screw up.

This is a wise guide to life most of the time. Very few people go through life deciding to wreak havoc for the thrill of it. Mostly they just want to get through the day undamaged.

Occam's Razor Strop: When stupidity stops being an occasional accident and becomes corporate policy, cover your ass.

Stupidity, when indulged, can be even more destructive than willed evil. Evil is at least usually organized. Who the hell needs malice when you have poor planning, bad management, and ridiculous decisions? When these have become the trademark of an individual, company, or presidency, stupidity has reached critical mass. Try not to be there when it blows up.