2009/06/30

The Flyin' Hawiian

Maui's Shane Victorino was a Hawaii State track and field champion during his high school years, and earned the nicknames "the Flyin' Hawaiian" and "Pineapple Express" for his speed. He was drafted after high school to play baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers and now is an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Both of my daughters went to junior/senior high school with Shane, especially my youngest, Laura, who was just a year behind him.

Laura, Shane, and Chris

May 4th and 5th, the Phillies played the St. Louis Cardinals so Laura and another Notre Dame alum, Chris, who is from Philadelphia, got front row seats and cheered Shane as he played center field. Laura says they “harassed" Shane so much that in the last inning, he threw them a ball. As they say in Hawaii, "good fun".

~~~
Oh by the way, on Cinco de Mayo, the Phillies won 10 to 7. Shane batted 4 for 5 with one home run and three runs batted in.

2009/06/28

Shakedown Cruise

No, "Shakedown Cruise" does not refer to a plan to extort money from Tom Cruise.


It is about Bluesette, and the full story is at the blog "Sweet Bluesette".



2009/06/25

Sayonara, Princess Kaguya

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) project Selene (also called "Kaguya") ended on June 11th. The moon exploration satellite, named for the extra-terrestrial heroin HEROINE of Japan's very first novel (yes! Japan's first literary work, written in the late 9th or early 10th century, was about an E.T.!), had finished it's mission of mapping the moon with radar and high definition television, and was deliberately crashed into the moon's surface.

Princess Kaguya weeping over having to leave her Earthly love and return to the Moon

You can read about Kaguya on my earlier posts here:
A Moon Maiden Takes Flight - Princess Kaguya
Top Of The Moon
The Earth Also Rises
Lunar Eclipse As Seen From The Moon

At the end, Kaguya filmed the trip all the way down with HD (high definition) TV, skimming the surface until at last she plunged into the Moon just beyond the lighted area.


Now, the USA has it's own satellite orbiting the moon - the LRO, or Lunar Reconnaissance Obiter - with a similar mission of mapping with photo images and radar. The purpose is to find future landing sites for manned visits to the moon and possibly extended stays. Like Kaguya, the LRO will eventually be sent into the surface. When it goes, a second probe will follow it through the plume of dust it sends up in order to study the materials ejected. The hope is to find frozen water which might be used by future missions to make water and also hydrogen fuel for rockets and oxygen for breathing.

Sayonara, Kaguya. You are truly home at last. Mission well done.

2009/06/23

Sorry Paul, They're Taking It Away

Kodak is taking Kodachrome film off the market. If you still have any you'd better get snapping as you'll only be able to get it processed through 2010.

Before Paul Simon's popular song, the film was already well known as the premier color slide film (they offered Kodachrome movie film as well). It was invented by two musicians, one of whom was both a violinist and a chemist, and marketed by Kodak beginning in 1935. The famous 1985 National Geographic portrait "Afghan Girl" by Steve McCurry was taken using Kodachrome. "Nice bright colors".


Other transparency films, like AGFA (I used AGFA for a time myself) and Velvia (a Fuji product), replaced it in popularity, but not because they were necessarily "better". Rather, the newer films were preferred by publishers for producing pictures that were more eye catching to customers. As one person described it, the difference was seeing a pretty picture with Velvia vs a feeling of actually being there when viewing the same subject taken with Kodachrome.


The reason for Kodachrome's color quality has to do with its emulsion - the thin layer of chemicals which capture the light while the shutter is open. Other films have three layers of emulsion, one each for red, blue, and green and also use chemicals called "couplers" which attach the colors across the layers when exposed to light to create the right mix of RBG. Kodachrome does not have those couplers so has a thinner emulsion. It uses three layers of silver halides - like regular black and white film - with each layer suspended in a different light filtering medium. The medium makes each layer sensitive to a different color. Instead of couplers, it uses a three stage developing process done after exposing the film to add the colors, which requires a separate stage for each of the three layers, resulting in sharper pictures and brighter colors. The lack of couplers in the film also means that the film lasts longer both before and after exposure. Kodachrome slides hold their colors for a long time. I have some Kodachrome slides which my father took in the 1950s which look just as good today as they did back then. But the developing process is time consuming and tricky. It is also requires a lot of care with all the very environmentally un-friendly chemicals it uses.

When I first got into photography in the early 1960s, I used Kodachrome because color print films in those days faded fairly rapidly with age. I also used AGFA and Kodak's Ektachrome, which is still around. The latter is much easier to develop that Kodachrome - even a hobbyist can do it at home. In the 1980s I switched to print films which had much improved by then and were more convenient to share than slides, and found that Kodak films worked well for pictures in which blues and reds dominated - most California scenes for example - but Fuji films were better with greens and blues - such as Hawaii and Fiji (that's just my subjective opinion). In the last few years, I've switched over entirely to digital picture taking.

Of course, nowadays, digital photography dominates the stage. Kodak gets 70 percent of its business from digital products and Kodachrome is down to less than 1 percent of sales. Due to the complex processing it requires there is only one Kodak certified lab left in the world which handles the film (Dwayne's Photo in Kansas).

The last rolls of the film which Kodak has in stock will be given to the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, N.Y., with one roll first being shot by Steve McCurray. I wonder what his subjects will be?

2009/06/08

Louvre At First Sight

We had been wanting to visit the Louvre, but K couldn't take time off from work. (Not to mention wanting to keep our carbon footprint down and savings intact). So instead, we had the French send a selection of their paintings to the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo and save us a long trip. Nice of them, eh?


The exhibit, Master Paintings of 17th Century Europe, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the museum in Ueno Park, which, as you will discover shortly, has a French Connection. It features 71, count 'em, 71 works of European art from the 17th Century, including a Vermeer, and works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, Claude Lorraine, La Tour, Domenichino, Guercino, Velasquez, Murillo and others. They were grouped in an unusual way. Rather than showing them by country, they were divided into three groups: The Golden Age and Its Shadow, Great Oceangoing Voyages and Scientific Revolution, and Relics of Classical Civilization in a Century of Saints.

The edifice of the National Museum of Western Art is interesting in and of itself, having been designed by Le Corbusier (1887 – 1965), a French architect. It was completed in 1959 and was said to be a symbol of the resumption of diplomatic ties between Japan and France after World War II. Not sure how good those ties were as the building is a typical drab concrete cube of the post modern school (with a spiral inside for "interest"), which seemed to be based on construction technology rather than around the people who would use it and for what purpose. [There has been an attitude in Japan - an inferiority complex really - since the Meiji Era and which persists to this day, that if an idea is from some other "developed" Western country, it must be better than what Japan would can come up with on its own. Thus, for example, BMW and Mercedes have snob appeal here, even though Lexus and Infinity are by every objective measure, of equal or better luxury, quality, and reliability and at lower cost. The Moody Minstrel has an interesting post (linked to his name) about a facet of this as it relates to the loss of traditions in Japan. Check it out.]

The Art Mausoleum Museum. Note the lovely "nature feature" common to this genre. Out of view to the right stands, appropriately enough, one of the three original casts of Auguste Rodin's bronze sculpture, "Gates of Hell".

Le Corbusier (a pseudonym) was an urban designer as well and in 1925 developed the "Plan Voisin for Paris" in which he proposed (I am not making this up) that the whole Le Marais district on the Right Bank be leveled to make way for rows of identical towers with freeways running between them. Thankfully, it was rejected. But I digress...


Before getting in line for the exhibit, we enjoyed a nice early lunch at the restaurant Forestier in the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (cultural center with an awesome music hall) across the way. We got there at opening time and only waited 5 minutes for a table. By the time we finished lunch, the line had grown to over 30 minutes and overflowed the lobby and down the spiral staircase to the first floor.

The line for the museum was estimated to take 80 minutes. I got in queue while K went for tickets. It turned out to be more like 90 minutes or 100. (After we got home, K discovered that if we had purchased tickets at a "Lawson" convenience store and paid an additional ¥200 -the tickets were ¥1500 each - we could have bypassed the line entirely.) Next time, that is what we will do. That, and go soon after an exhibit opens rather than a couple of weeks before it closes.


The section called "The Golden Age and its shadow" had some exceptionally well painted pictures (duh - they're from the Louvre), such as Vermeer's "the Lacemaker", Rembrant's self portrait with hat and gold chain, and Pierre Dupuis' Basket of Grapes (of all things). However, I was most captivated by several of the paintings in the last group - Relics of Classical Civilization in a Century of Saints - which had paintings depicting scenes from classical mythological stories and Christianity. Who'd o' thunk it?


In the middle group, "Great Oceangoing Voyages and Scientific Revolution", Barbary Pirate with a Bow by Pier Francesco Mola was impressive, as was Wtewael's "Persius Rescuing Andromeda". In the last group, "Tears of Saint Peter" by Guercino was very moving and his tears seemed to come right out of the canvas. The lighting in St.Joseph the Carpenter by Georges le Tour was beautifully done.


We wish there had been more detailed information about the exhibit available online so that we could have prepared better. We like to read up on what we are going to see ahead of time, and were overwhelmed by the number of paintings and pace of the flow of people going through the exhibit. I also would have liked to spend more time with the paintings and less time in line.


Of course, any pictures that I post here can't possibly do justice to the real paintings, and are perhaps not the best selection, but I hope they give a hint of what we were treated to. Not included here are pictures of royals, and of ordinary folk enjoying themselves with drink and song - there were examples of each. I wish I could share a slide show of them all.


Peasant family - la Nain brothers.

It's an excellent exhibit and it was so nice of those folks at the Louvre to share a slice of 17th Century European art with us. If you'd like to see it, better hurry. June 14th is the last day. Of course, you could always visit the Louvre...

Seriously, the exhibit will next appear June 30th (Tuesday) — September 27th (Sunday) at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.

2009/06/07

Bluesette's Blog


Our Lido 14 sailboat, Bluesette, now has a blog of its own. It's called "Sweet Bluesette" and can be found at sweet-bluesette.blogspot.com

There is new a post up there about the yacht club we have joined and where we will be sailing from next week on.

I hope you'll check it out.