Hi, my name is Mike, and I'm back. Big thanks to friend Gordon for keeping the lights burning here at TOP while I was away.
I went to Cambridge, where my mother and stepfather live.
It is neither fitting nor fair that my dear Mom should suffer the depredations of dementia. For most of her life she was a woman who loved to be organized, in touch, and in control—the master, or should I say mistress, of events, households, schedules, and the warp and woof of full and active lives—her own and others. If you wanted to know some detail of family history or the latest news about any family member or friend, she's who you would ask; she had the orbits and activities of a large cast of characters catalogued in her mind. Now she struggles sometimes to place the names of her own grandchildren. Last Summer at this time, she would repeat, "this damned dementia! I hate it!" This visit, she would look at me curiously and say, "Now wait—tell me, what is 'dementia'?" She is heartbreakingly still herself, and tragically not.
I was supposed to stay with her while my stepfather, her main caregiver, went to Italy to visit his daughter in Rome. But my stepfather collapsed just prior to his departure with a heart irregularity, and spent the week in the hospital instead. Not at all what he had planned or wanted. I traveled to Cambridge anyway, to lend support. It's a challenging time for all concerned, with too many things up in the air.
A new Fuji you've never seen
While there, however, I got to have lunch with sagacious and wise Oren Grad, who lives in nearby Wellesley, which, for your information, is between Natick and Needham. You might recall that Not-So-Stately Oren Manor in Wellesley is the location of the Large-Format Camera Museum and Graveyard. Oren is the holder of thirteen scholarly degrees and an M.D. (I exaggerate, but only ever so slightly). He speaks or reads Hebrew, English, French, and Japanese, and has lately embarked on acquiring Finnish (all true—here, I do not exaggerate). My father once admiringly described a scientist colleague at NASA by saying "he thinks thoughts all the time you and I never think"—which I could say of Oren.
To give you a brief idea of Oren's mental horsepower, on Saturday I gifted him an e-book—a full-length book about nutrition written by a doctor and researcher that spans 354 pages in the print version. Amazon reported that the gift had been accepted a little after one in the afternoon. Early the next morning, at six-something, I had in my inbox Oren's long, detailed analysis of the book, complete with citations. He had read it between loads of laundry the previous afternoon, and composed and written his astute and articulate response before the poor Earth had struggled to complete one full revolution. Imagine the intensity of the man's intellectual focus when he actually tries.
Oren in action with the RodenFuji InstaxStock (?)
...But he's a photo-dawg, just like the rest of us. At lunch, he promised to show me a brand new Fujifilm camera I had never seen before—and he delivered! He pulled from his bag a Fuji Instax Wide 300 ($87.75 new) modified by having its lens removed and replaced with a 100mm Rodenstock Sironar-N view camera lens. Although the film is inherently low-resolution, he says the better lens makes a quite noticeable difference when the exposure is just right.
Yr. Hmbl. Ed. slowly emerging from blankness, which is a good way to summarize today, too
Which might be beside the main point, which is that the hybrid is quirky, fun, and unique.
Next stop, Rochester, to pick up the doggies—and then I'll have one more post to put up this afternoon tomorrow [sorry], a lovely piece from Carl Weese, who happens to be one of Oren's oldest friends. (We all met on the old CompuServe Photo Forum, which dates us in Internet eras.)
Check back for more later!
It's good to be back.
(Thanks to Gordon and Oren)
Original contents copyright 2017 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
hugh crawford: "Ohh! want one! The Lomo Instax Wide backs seem to be permanently out of stock. They seemed like the best way to build a Frankinstax but they are apparently just too dead."
Richard Szmyd: "Hi Mike, Can you let us know what the nutrition book was? It's a subject I am very interested in. Thanks."
Mike replies: Hi Rich, it was Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson. Oren was critical to the point of scorn (I dutifully report) but I find a lot of value in some of the ideas and I find it courageous that Campbell attempts to articulate his thinking while knowing it's neither conventional nor easy to defend. My own feeling is that nutrition science is currently in a primitive state, similar to, say, anatomy before William Harvey or epidemiology before John Snow. Despite that, we must eat!
Illkka: "I wonder if you really need to say 'iPhone portrait of Pearl...'. I know this is a photography website, but still. Would you say 'Hasselblad portrait'? Maybe you would. But is it really necessary? Nice portrait, by the way."
Mike replies: Thanks, and the iPhone question probably worth a whole post. But I think that, as you guessed, I would indeed say "Hasselblad portrait" if I thought the information was pertinent. I guess it depends on my seat-o'-the-pants sense of what the typical reader is likely to be interested to know, nothing more rigorous than that.
Dave Levingston (partial comment): "Oh...and welcome back. Missed you, but Gordon did well while you were away."
Mike replies: Indeed.
Dave Karp: "I have never met Oren, but he is a darn nice guy. He has been very generous in his assistance and advice to me (just another photographer who sometimes uses a sort-of resurrected large format film size). Always very appreciated."
Mike replies: He has been invaluable to TOP over the years, too, mostly behind the scenes. He is indeed an extremely helpful person by nature and you're right, very appreciated.
It's worth mentioning that Oren is a big part of the reason that TOP exists at all. In 2005 I was putting together a website to collate my various photo-related activities, and I had an extra tab in the template I was using. Oren suggested, "Why not start a blog?" and I answered, "What's a blog?" Blogs were hot at the time and Oren was reading something like 150 of them every day (as my story above suggests, he's a natural speed reader) and was getting most of his news, collectively, from them. So he educated me about blogs, I decided to shift The 37th Frame from paper-by-subscription (itself modeled on David Vestal's GRUMP) to online-and-free, and the rest is history. (The website I was building back then was never made public, by the way.)