Thursday, September 29, 2016

Shirt Pocket Digital

Lumix Dimensions: 3.74 x 2.1 x 0.89″
I paid ten bucks for this nice little Pansonic Lumix a couple weeks ago at a yard sale.  The camera came in a box with all the documentation and a couple of cables.  It was missing a memory card and the battery charger.  The card was no problem as I had several around the house.  I found a Hong Kong seller on ebay offering the charger for $4.59, shipping included.
    The camera yields 10 megapixel images and has a pretty nice lens which is nearly as sharp as the one on my Canon Powershot and without the pincushion aberration of that one.  A full set of control features is crammed into the tiny frame.  The view screen is good sized, but something of a challenge to use in full sun.  I also found that it is very difficult to keep the camera from jiggling off the target while the zoom is extended and the camera is being held at arm's length.

Since we are planning a brief road trip to Chaco Canyon soon I decided to take the camera for a walk along the West Mesa escarpment to see how it would handle petroglyphs and their environment.

The star figures are a common motif in the rock art of the Rio Grande north of Albuquerque.  They are said to represent Venus.  Some have bodies and are carrying bows and clubs.

This is a nice time of year to visit the Petroglyph National Monument.  The temps are comfortable and there are still quite a few wildflowers like this Datura.

The petroglyphs are located at the leading edge of an ancient volcanic flow from some small volcanoes to the west of Albuquerque.  This time of year, the sharp, ragged borders of the basalt boulders are softened by cushions of blooming rabbitbrush.

Monday, September 26, 2016

So, here we are...

The day of the first Presidential debate.  Going out a bit on a limb, I'm predicting that Trump will be widely seen as the debate winner.  The debate format works against a reasonable discussion about issues; it is all about one-liners and character attacks.  Hence, an environment favorable to a circus performer like Trump.  Of course, Hillary is a tough campaigner, and she will have around ninety minutes to rattle Trump's cage.  Judging by her past performances, however, it seems unlikely she will set the place on fire.

It was fun during the primaries to watch the Republican establishment try to come to grips with the Trump phenomenon.  I suggested then that the best strategy for Trump's Republican opponents was to back Hillary.  It seemed an obvious alternative.  If elected, Clinton is unlikely to rock the boat significantly.  And, with what would amount to an Obama third term and small Democratic congressional gains, the Republicans would be able to go on playing their same obstructionist game at the Federal level while further tightening their grip on State Houses.

Quite a few main-line Republicans adopted my suggested strategy to back Clinton.  However, as Trump's candidacy became increasingly viable, a strategic change got under way among the Republican leadership.  The big shots may not be singing praises to Trump, but the party machine is backing him.  The Republicans in office are seeing the possibility that Trump could take office, and speaking out against him at this point raises a clear risk of being out of the loop following a Trump victory.

Of course, nobody in their right mind thinks Trump would be a competent President.  He is wholly inexperienced in techniques of governance and ignorant about any of the important issues.  Being a bully with money got him the nomination, but that is not going to work for the daily challenge of running the country.  So, what is the Republican establishment thinking will happen with Trump in the oval office?

My guess is that they are preparing for two scenarios.  The first would be something along the lines of the Bush presidency.  People who have some experience and competence in governance will be moved into key positions, much as Cheney took over foreign affairs and energy policy.  Trump would then be free to occupy a largely ceremonial role as chief cheer leader -- provided, that is, that he could actually exercise some self control and not completely go off the rails.  Even without those not unlikely missteps Trump's mere presence as chief of state will create a world of uncertainty.  Other world leaders, reacting to Trump's unpredictability will take actions based on fears or perceived advantage which will create some truly terrifying international crises.  It is not hard to imagine, for instance, that Putin will see Trump's ascendancy as an opportunity to undertake an immediate invasion of Ukraine.

The other scenario likely envisioned by the Republican leadership is impeachment.  Even without the likely foreign policy or economic disasters to be expected from a Trump presidency, it will likely not be hard to find some pretext for kicking the clown out of office, and it certainly would not be hard to put together a bipartisan effort to do the deed.  The outcome of a successful impeachment would be a President Pence.  So, now the Republicans have someone in office who has the skills and experience to enact the Republican agenda -- moving the Supreme Court back to the right, stalling climate change action, supporting big energy, big pharma and big banks, and solidifying the blockade of women's rights.  Etc.


The next day:

Trump turned in a poor performance.  I don't know that will lose him any votes among his current supporters.  My sense is that they see Trump as what they might be if only they could win the lottery -- still ignorant and inarticulate, but insanely rich.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Picasso: Creator and Destroyer

The Weeping Woman - Picasso - 1937
I am about two-thirds of the way through the biography of Picasso written by Arianna Huffington which first appeared in 1988.  The author does a thorough job of documenting the artist's manipulative, sadistic personality.  His talent and fame enabled consistent and prolonged duplicitous behavior toward every friend as well as the severe mental and physical abuse of every woman with whom he had any prolonged relationship.  His long-time housekeeper, Inès Sassier, seemed one of very few able to withstand Picasso's cruelty, perhaps because of an unusual talent for isolating her relationship to him from the rest of her life.

Huffington presents a compelling, damning picture of the artist that seems unassailable in regard to the facts.  She does not, however, really explain the artist's outrageous personality and behavior.  Picasso is presented, instead, as a totally unique and essentially unexplainable phenomenon, cast in a mythological light.  It seems likely to me that Picasso's behavior toward others was not so unique as the author implies.

I think it more likely that much of Picasso's personality, attitudes and behavior represented expressions of learned behavior endemic in the French, Spanish and Catalan cultures from which he came.  Many in those societies clearly supported traditional gender roles which gave permission to men to abuse women and required the women to accept such treatment. Picasso may have been more extreme in his abusive behavior than the average, but the patterns and character of the abuse were part of a continuum, as were the submissive responses of the people he abused.

It is a little hard now to understand how someone with Huffington's education and European background could gloss over the societal context of Picasso's story.  It is likely relevant that in the 1970s she wrote a book expressing opposition to the growing Women's Lib movement.  In the 1980s she was married to a Republican who ran for the Senate, and she remained aligned with the Republicans through the 1990s.  Since then, Huffington has clearly drifted leftward, though how deeply that has really affected her world view is hard to judge.  It would be interesting to ask her now, nearly three decades later, if she would like to add anything to her portrait of the artist.

I picked up this paperback about Picasso for fifty cents at my local thrift shop.  That price and venue may be some reflection on the book's relevance and importance at this point, but I think that the issues raised in it are still very much with us.  The rightward swing of French society has been clearly expressed in the popular effort to dictate how Muslim women should dress in public, only thinly disguised as liberal secularism.  That current of misogyny and xenophobia, of course, is not confined to France.