Lovely Winter has finally (finally) arrived in Western New York. It's a crispy –9°F (–23°C) this morning, cold enough to make short-coated Lulu want to stay indoors. I'm wearing a base layer (formerly known as long underwear) and flannel-lined jeans, and I've got my HeatHolders TM on!
Took long enough. I enjoy a good crispy cold—it's bracing. It's that wet, chilly, hovering-around-thirty-degrees cold that feels unpleasant to me. Went outside five times yesterday. Just not for too long each time!
Bad news about the hat, though. (I asked about a warm winter hat a few weeks ago.) Based on readers' recommendations I bought six hats and have now zero-degree tested them all, and the hands-down winner is the Golightly cashmere watch cap recommended by my brother Scott, whose advice is commonly right on target. (Good thing, because he gives advice for a living—he's a Ph.D. psychologist in Rhode Island.) Sorry to recommend such a flagrantly expensive product, but it's both the most comfortable and the warmest of the hats I tried. Should last a long time at least—multiple reports (including from Scott) say they still look brand new after ten years of use. Just don't lose it.
Panasonic messes up
So you remember that looks-too-good-to-be-true deal on the Panasonic 25mm ƒ/1.7 Micro 4/3 lens last Black Friday? Ninety-nine dollars, marked down from $249?
Turns out it might indeed not be true.
Panasonic apparently let retailers fill the orders from existing stocks and said it would honor rebates on backorders, but has kept shuffling its feet about filling those backorders, delaying the ship dates multiple times. B&H Photo for one finally gave up when Panasonic delayed the shipments yet again, this time till April. B&H's Henry Posner (an old friend from CompuServe) stated the company has "no confidence" either that Panasonic will ship the lenses in April or that it would ship enough of them. So they finally pulled the plug and cancelled the backorders.
This appears to be industry-wide, not specific to B&H or any other retailer.
Panasonic has historically been intermittently plagued by problems when it comes to keeping its photographic products in stock. To name two examples, I recall a loooong wait for the Panasonic LX3 when it was a hot item eight years ago, and I watched the Panasonic 12–35mm premium zoom (a great Micro 4/3 lens) go into extended periods of limbo more than once.
Happy Birthday DDD
The redoubtable David Douglas Duncan, one of the 20th century's greatest war photographers, turned 100 last January 23rd. Duncan (a.k.a. DDD)—who, when just a college student, inadvertently photographed an incognito John Dillinger entering a hotel—is revered at Nikon for his crucial early support of the then-fledgling company, and he had a long tenure as one of the top mentors and role models for photo enthusiasts. Late in life he had a falling out with his longtime friend Henri Cartier-Bresson for publishing a book of pictures he and Henri took of each other at a café—Cartier-Bresson was notoriously averse to being photographed.
David Douglas Duncan, photo courtesy LIFE.com
One of the treasures of my photo library is a copy of David's War Without Heroes, his superb book about Viet Nam (thanks to my book dealer friend Andy Moursund for helping with that acquisition). DDD is due for a new career retrospective book, too. Happy Birthday, David.
How to buy a pool table
When we were talking about the lottery several weeks ago, a couple of people asked me what kind of pool table I'd buy if I won the lottery. As you know I never write about pool, but I'd probably pick a 9-foot Blatt New Yorker, which is a modern reproduction of the old "streamline" style Brunswick Centennial. (Streamline is a later offshoot of art deco.) Costs around $30,000, I think—I haven't actually priced it, for the obvious reason that I haven't won the lottery.
But for most people furnishing a game room, for kids, teens, parties, and weekender "ball-bashing," what you want is something like a 7-foot Brunswick Glenwood. Not cheap, but the table is pretty, it can be customized to your taste, and the pockets, as on all Brunswicks save the tournament models, are buckets—they'll suck down any ball that comes near 'em. This is not good for practice or for getting better, but it's better for having occasional fun without getting frustrated.
Long the dominant brand, Brunswick tables are no longer the best—all made offshore* now—but the famous name still holds sway, and every dollar you save buying a cheaper table you'll lose twice over when you go to sell.
The Brunswick Glenwood
Now comes the hard part: for heaven's sake, get the kids a lesson or two. In golf, the tradition of instruction is very strong—only an idiot would set kids on a golf course, hand them a few clubs, and turn them loose and let them have at it on their own. Everybody takes a few lessons. In any kind of billiards, it's the opposite. Not only is there no tradition of instruction, there is a tradition against it—hustlers were always trying to hide their "speed" (how good they were) and nobody wanted to teach anybody else what they knew for fear of giving away a competitive advantage. The result is that everybody flails away on a pool table any old which way, and nobody learns the proper stance or the proper way to stroke. (Even many pros have grooved a bad stroke, including the player widely agreed to be the most talented of the last era, the Filipino Efren Reyes. He copied his stroke from an old man who happened to be the best player in the small out-of-the-way town in the Philippines where Efren grew up. It's a poor one, loosey-goosey and too quick. Efren himself has said he has no idea how good he could have been if only he'd learned a better stroke. Sadly, there was a talented kid at my pool hall in Milwaukee who had copied his stroke from Efren's! That nameless Filipino player's untutored stroke has infected pool players across generations and across continents.) Widespread ignorance of how to play properly has adversely affected the popularity of the game.
Free online photo course from MoMA
Last news item for this Sunday—the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has launched a free online course called "Seeing Through Photographs." Curator Sarah Meister "encourages participants to look critically at photographs through the diverse ideas, approaches, and technologies that inform their making." Haven't seen any of it yet, so this isn't necessarily an endorsement—I'm just passing the news along.
Come back tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET for a nice book offer, exclusively here on TOP! Hope you have a nice rest of your Sunday.
(Thanks to Scott Johnston, Richard Newman, Ctein, and Ken Tanaka)
"Open Mike" is the Editorial Page of TOP. It often strays off-topic and usually comes along on Sundays.
*American-made tables include Connelly in Texas; A.E. Schmidt in St. Louis, Missouri, a company I like; Golden West in Oregon; and, in Indiana, Diamond, the prevailing manufacturer of tables used at professional tournaments. (And Olhausen, but stay away from Olhausens. In my opinion they play horribly.) There's a brand of table called American Heritage. Now where do you suppose those are made? Asia, of course. With a name like that, how could they be made anywhere else?
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
R. Edelman: "In lieu of a new David Douglas Duncan career retrospective, I would suggest Photo Nomad, published in 2003. As DDD wrote, the book was 'my birthday gift to myself.' Happy birthday, Mr. Duncan!"
Mike replies: Whoops, forgot about that one. I've skimmed but not perused it.
Moose: "Yup, got my cancellation notice for the Panny 25mm ƒ/1.7 a couple of days ago, and a nice, if frustrated, reply when I asked what was going on:
We accepted your order with every intention of filling it. We could not have anticipated that Panasonic would become unable (or otherwise decline) to fill the orders we had placed with them for this lens. We share your disappointment and surprise at their decision.
"But as I live where I don't have to buy a $155 hat, I now feel better about popping for an Oly refurb. I think that the lens I wanted anyway, and was blinded by the deal. I looked at the reviews again, and at Robin Wong's practical examples that the Oly, in spite of similar specs, can get much closer/magnify more, which is a big deal to me."
Ken James: "Another good post, you are on a winning streak (usually are). I was apparently one of the lucky ones to get the Panasonic lens, I have kept it on my OM-D E-M10 since it arrived. I was surprised at how much more I like the camera with this lens on the front. I love it."
sara j: "In 1968, I skipped out of school with a friend and we went to the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. I came upon an exhibit of David Douglas Duncan photos and stayed there for several hours, mesmerized. The next day, I walked into the journalism room and said that I needed to learn photography."