Hey, if Seinfeld can do a whole series about nothing...
It's funny, but I don't plan posts out beforehand. I just sit down and write. Often, I'll just grab something out of the air or the email stack and go.
Ctein was different, back when he was writing columns. He kept a list of ideas and planned columns ahead of time, and would write several in a row in advance if he planned to be traveling. I'm not that organized.
Sometimes my method works, sometimes it doesn't. It makes my periods of "writer's block" rather harrowing, for one thing. But it allows me a lot of freedom, too.
It's why I've never written a book about photography. I'd have to plan it.
Writers have to get used to the fact that their talent often has a particular range. I was recently mulling over the fact that John Szarkowski's history of photography, called Photography Until Now, was so eagerly anticipated in the early '90s, but is out of print and all but forgotten now. He was a superb writer, but a history, it must be admitted, did not fit his strengths—he didn't do the grand sweep well; he was better at miniature pieces, forwards and short essays and the like. He wrote many fine things (we sorely need a "collected works," especially since so many of his things were scattered about and far-flung) but his masterpiece remains Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. Which is still in print.
Another fine photography writer who "wrote small" was the late Bill Jay, who died in 2009. (I prefer to think he's still alive, and staged his own death so people would leave him alone in his Costa Rican retirement. It has the disadvantage of not being true, but it's a nicer thought and I'm going to go on thinking it.) A fairly good list of his books can be found at his Wikipedia page; my favorite remains Occam's Razor: An Outside-In View of Contemporary Photography. It's out of print and unfortunately hard to find for anything like a reasonable price (it's a small paperback, so paying >$40 seems a stretch. It might be available as a download). An entertaining and fun book.
I always thought that book was hurt by Bill's puzzling decision to illustrate it with old etchings with odd elements added on, pastiche-style. A daring choice, but one that didn't work. Most people didn't accept them as whimsical; they just thought they were missing some elusive point.
Of course Bill's book with his mentor and friend, Welsh Magnum photographer David Hurn, On Being a Photographer: A Practical Guide, remains must reading for any photo hobbyist, enthusiast, or amateur who cares anything about pictures. That one is available as a download, I believe, from LensWork.
We need a "collected works" (or selected works) of Bill Jay, too. LensWork #83 (The Bill Jay's Best of EndNotes issue) is a good introduction to him if you don't know him. That's a $3.95 Kindle download, so we can't complain about the price there.
Since this is a post about nothing, an update on the field in back of my house:
Geese flying in the right direction, late yesterday afternoon. This picture, of course, was taken with the Fuji. No, the iPhone. No, the Fuji. Hmm. Which was it? If I were doing my OC/OL/OY, this wouldn't come up.
So I wanted to pass along a few tips on good bargains, but before I leave the topic I wasn't even writing about, books, I should mention that Michael Kenna's much-anticipated and long-awaited book on France, called, um, France, is out, and going fast. In case you are among Michael's legions of fans.
A spread from Michael Kenna's new book France
If I buy it I'll shelve it right next to Ralph Gibson's L'Histoire de France, which is one of my favorite Ralph Gibson books even though it's perhaps (?) his only book in color.
So I wanted to tip you off to two nice products, in case you're interested. Keep in mind this is "off-topic" day.
The first is causing me a fair bit of angst and agony. Wharfedale, the august old British speaker manufacturer, issued a beautiful little mini-monitor several years back to commemorate its 80th anniversary, called the "Denton" after one of the company's heritage products. The Denton 80th Anniversary is a premium mini-monitor to the manor born, very well made in a classic "retro" style.
The modern Denton was designed by one of my favorite speaker designers, Peter Comeau. Peter was a designer for the British brand Mission in the timeframe of the '70s or '80s (I'm not really sure) and then designed several beautiful modern variants of the old Dynaco aperiodic speakers (such as the A-25) for a British kit company. I tried to buy one of those but the kit people weren't set up to send things to America and wanted more than $500 just for shipping costs. Now Peter's the chief of design for Wharfedale, which is currently owned by the Chinese; he lives in China and has, I hear, a largely free hand with design and manufacturing—current Wharfedale Jade speakers are made almost 100% in-house, whereas even many insanely priced "high-end" speakers still use off the shelf parts and drivers.
The thing you really need, in order to design speakers at the top level, is ears. Peter's are among the best. He really hits the many trade-off points just right, by my lights.
Anyway, the Denton mini-monitor was a good deal when it came out at $1,000—many carriage-trade manufacturers charge $1,500 to $3,000 even for fairly basic two-ways.
But now the Denton 80th Anniversary is on closeout for a mere $500. This is what is known as a "steal"—if, of course, you like mini-monitors, which I do.
This is driving me crazy. I would dearly love to buy a pair of these and keep them till I die. But I do not have $500 to throw around (that's a plane ticket to see S.!); I have three pairs of speakers already (okay, one for the TV); and I have no real need for a pair of mini-monitors. They work best in small rooms (but away from the wall), and my current office is most of the whole basement.
It's killin' me. It really is.
If you buy a pair, keep in mind that they need to be paired with an amp of good quality and good power; no little wimpy amps need apply. My 35wpc EL34 tube amp would not do the trick. Little speakers, big amp—doesn't seem to "go," but that's the way it is.
And please, if you buy a pair, tell me, so I can enjoy the purchase vicariously.
The second nice thing I've discovered recently is a line of nice...well, pots.
I'm outfitting my kitchen, see. I'm using this book, by Mark Bittman, which was a gift from S. Naturally, being a male non-cook, I have alighted with gusto on the gear part, and am putting off the part where you actually have to start to cook things.
But never mind. My only saucepan prior to a few weeks ago was a very cheap, very old, very beat-up old non-stick thing with most of the non-sticky stuff worn away. To replace it I was going to buy an All-Clad, until I realized that All-Clad is like the Leica of cookware, and beyond me 'umble means.
Then I remembered an occasion when we teased my younger brother relentlessly. He had just bought a condo in D.C.—this was the '80s—and was outfitting his little kitchenette, and he shopped obsessively for cookware. And spent, on pots and pans, what I thought at the time was a ridiculous amount of money. Naturally, being brotherly, I began taunting and tormenting him about his odd obsession with "the perfect pans."
A few months ago, stuck, I called Scott, and asked him what the perfect pans actually were way back when. Cuisinart, he said—and he mentioned (with the serenity of knowing he was right back then) that they are still in great shape and he and his wife still use them every day. So how many saucepans have I gone through in 30 years? I didn't know—maybe a dozen?
So anyway, I ended up buying this, and it's a surprisingly beautiful thing. It's Cuisinart, like Scott's. The key word to look for when shopping is "MultiClad," which signifies the good 'uns in the brand's line. Yes, it's probably made in China, whereas All-Clad is made in America, but it costs $39 vs. the All-Clad's $139. Not every German can afford a Leica, either.
Am I allowed to recommend a pot? I don't know. I can't even cook. But it's very well made, extremely pleasing, and didn't break the bank. Thought you should know.
[UPDATE: Whoops, this is actually the one I have. My mistake. Sorry.]
So this post was only half off-topic, which isn't bad for a Sunday. Enjoy the rest of your day. I'm almost done with the Crowdsourced lens review, which I'll post in the morning.
(Thanks to Scott)
Sunday is when Yr. Hmbl. Ed. gets put on work-release and goes wandering off on his own.
Original contents copyright 2015 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:
No featured comments yet—please check back soon!