A junk-drawer of various thoughts and updates on some non-photographic topics:
Coffee: My earlier grumpy moaning about my deficient sense of smell turns out to have been...well, wrong. As I've done more and more coffee roasting, I've gradually gotten better at it. The tipping point came when I realized I was roasting everything too dark. That's the legacy of $tarbucks, whose One Big Trick is to roast all its coffees too dark. The byword among home roasters is, the lighter the roast, the more you taste the bean, and the darker the roast, the more you taste the roast. Getting the balance of the two that you prefer is the trick. Starbucks roasts everything dark. With its whole bean coffees, you often see an oily sheen over the whole bean, which results in a lot of roast taste and less of the distinctive flavor of any particular bean. This is what home roasters would consider a French to espresso roast, and accounts for the "burnt" overtones many people complain about with Starbucks coffees. Over-roasting also tends to mask the inherent quality of the bean—which I'm sure has nothing at all to do with why Starbucks does it.
As I'm sure you've noticed (it's a frequent lesson you learn from everything from Photography to Angry Birds), the more you do something, the better you get at it. And sometimes your expertise just evolves, slowly but surely, like the minute hand of an analog clock moves. I haven't changed any of the big things I'm doing or the basic ways I'm doing them, but the coffee I'm making now is just...sorry, overused American word...awesome. It's so good I can hardly believe it sometimes. I look forward to getting up in the morning.
Incidentally, not that I'm down on Starbucks (I'm really not, it's just that I have no further use or need for them), but here's a fun factoid you might not know: the vast majority of the drinks consumed from Starbucks have more sugar in them than the equivalent amount of ice cream. America's Starbucks fetish is really just an extension of our collective sugar craving.
Music: This is fun, and will interest anyone who likes jazz or who likes guitar: There's a brand new Wes Montgomery album out. It's called Echoes of Indiana Avenue, and it consists of long-lost, recently rediscovered tapes made in his native Indianapolis in 1957 and 1958. Here's an info page about it—"how these long lost tapes from the early stage of Montgomery's solo career finally emerged after being on the shelf for more than 50 years is a tale of intrigue that will enthrall collectors and aficionados."
Fun stuff, but the deathless Full House is still the record to have if you have only one Wes Montgomery album.
Golf: I don't play much golf, and I think now that my brief fling with it was largely useful because it has made watching golf so much more fun and satisfying (because, let's face it, most of us best like those sports that we've participated in ourselves and can identify with firsthand). The final round of the Masters is today, and it promises to be dramatic: the leaderboard is crowded, and Mickelson is on a mission. He's playing like—well, a master. It will be deeply disappointing if he can't find his mojo this afternoon.
The Masters is a ceremonially dignified event, but, as John Camp noted, it's also recalcitrantly racist and sexist. Clifford Roberts, who ran the tournament with an iron hand for decades, once said something to the effect that as long as he has anything to say about it all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black. As an article in the Times points out, the incursion of whites into the caddying ranks is not entirely a sign of progress for all black people: it has come about as caddying has become more prestigious and lucrative. The article's author talked to some actual black caddies who wouldn't mind having those gigs now.
As for the golfers all being white, still mostly true. The major exception hasn't got it going this week, and isn't a factor. Too bad for the television ratings. But even Tiger is in the post-Tiger era now, it seems.
Nostalgia ain't what it used to be: I do sometimes get nostalgic for the world of the 1950s—I like the photography and the cameras and the jazz—but that world (the world the Masters has been trying to hang on to) really was sexist and racist, and every now and then it's good to take a reality check on that. I asked my mother a number of years ago if she misses those days, and she said, "Oh no. Things are much better now. Women weren't allowed to do anything then."
Take a look at this random find:
Holy crap! I find this shocking, and I don't shock very easily. This was business as usual? Things really have changed. An ad like that would probably trigger boycotts now.
(I found that on Retronaut, after looking at a feature about vintage celebrities using vintage cameras.)
Politics: The election passed through Wisconsin with merciful speed, so I've tentatively decided it's safe to turn my phone back on. (I'll probably have to turn it off again as June draws near, though.) Regarding the outcome, this clip is pretty funny. Nothing like a barnyard metaphor as an occasional relief for all the politigeek/wonk terminology we have to wade through. (The clip violates our no-politics rule, but only for 19 seconds.)
Anniversaries: I've always been ambivalent about anniversaries. They do make sense as occasions to look back, I know, but at the same time they're just arbitrary. Poor Zander didn't even get to celebrate some of his birthdays, because I have a hard time thinking birthdays are special at all. (When you have just one parent, you get that person's quirks and peccadiloes inflicted on you unmoderated.)
But recently I've been reading a little bit about 1912, an even hundred years ago. It was the year the Titanic sank, the year the Qing Dynasty ended and the Republic of China began, the year Japan gave Washington its cherry trees. Explorer Robert Falcon Scott died near the South Pole, and vitamins were discovered. It was also, curiously, the year that all three of the greatest trio in the history of American golf were born: Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Byron Nelson.
I'm reading a good book about the three of them right now, or at least I was before the sale week commenced. I hope to get back to it soon. It's called American Triumvirate, and it's a quick-moving, easy read so far.
Unrelated to that, another cluster of anniversaries that I shouldn't care about but kinda do: 1962 was the year that the MGB, Lotus Elan, and Shelby Cobra all came on to the scene, fifty years ago. (Also the Ferrari GTO, but who cares about Ferraris?)
The MGB, fifty? Although the last ones didn't roll off the line until 1980, which might be why it seems a bit more recent. It had a long run.
(P.S. Anybody have a better picture of a bonafide '62 MGB?)
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by cfw: "A biggie in my book—April 20th,2012, the 100 year anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park!"
Featured Comment by B Grace: "The 'B' shown is actually rather recent in terms of MGB history. It has three windshield wipers, safety octagon knock-offs, and the revised post-British Leyland corporate grill surround. If it's in original spec condition it's a 1972 to 1973 model. The early 1974 pre-crash bumper 'B' was practically the same albeit with rubber strips on the Sabrina bumper guards."
Featured Comment by Diane Fields: "Yes, that wasn't '62 MGB. I had one of the first in Pittsburgh area, a white with black interior. And I added blue racing stripes. I traded in my fairly new black with red interior A—mostly to get wind up windows (lol) to counter Pittsburgh winters. And being a quite young professional woman in '62 sucked. Thanks for that ad which made me realize how much better (though not geat) it is now."
Featured Comment by Mike Plews: "1962? That was the year my father had a heart attack and died. He was 61 and I was 12. I inherited his old Argus C3 and I decided to learn how to use it as nobody else in the family had a clue. Pop was a career Army Warrant Officer but loved to take pictures. I remember family slide show nights looking at his Kodachromes from Korea in the living room. Not long after he passed I got into the darkroom and when my first print came up in the tray it completely blew me away. The experience left me so blissed out I got dizzy and fifty years later it still does from time to time."