Friday, September 21, 2018

Lonely Figure on the Subway

If there's one place to feel a sense of esixtential alienation in New York City, it's on a deserted subway platform late at night.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lucid: Prologue

The dream images were twisted memories come back to haunt him.
Connor was in the apartment he had once shared with his wife Jocelyn on West 21st Street near Eighth Avenue.  The building was located around the corner from an art school; most of the other tenants were students.  The sounds of their raucous laughter and of the hip hop music they played so loudly came drifting up the shaftway outside his bedroom window.  In his dream, Connor lay listening without paying attention, his thoughts on the problem that had been worrying him for weeks and that he still had not been able to resolve.  He had asked the I Ching what was to happen.  The book lay open on the bed beside him.
Jocelyn entered the room.  She was wearing her best black dress, the one he had bought as a present for her thirtieth birthday.  It had cost him almost a week’s pay.  Seeing he was awake, Jocelyn bent over him and kissed him lightly on the cheek.  “Why are you just lying here when it’s such a beautiful day outside?” she asked.  “Aren’t you feeling well?”
Connor regarded her warily.  “No, I’m fine.  I was just lying here thinking.”
“Thinking about what?”  Her voice was unconcerned.  “Anything in particular?”
He watched her out of the corner of his eye.  “About that job you keep bothering me about, the one you’re after me to pull.  It’s too dangerous.”
“Then don’t do it,” said Jocelyn coldly.  “If you want to stay poor all your life, that’s your business.  But if you had any feeling at all you’d see how hard it is on me getting up at six every morning and then having to ride the C train to a shit job.  I can’t take much more.”
“You’re not the only one in this city who has to work for a living,” Connor reminded her.  “A lot of people are unemployed and would be happy as hell to have something steady.”
“They’re welcome to it.”  Jocelyn sighed.  “I want the good life.”  She picked up the I Ching from the bed and glanced at it scornfully.  “I suppose your Chinese fortune cookie told you to stick to the straight and narrow.”  She began to read aloud at the page the book lay open to.  “‘One should not marry such a woman.’”  She tossed it down in disgust.
“That’s the judgment on the 44th hexagram,” Connor told her.  He knew how pretentious he must sound.  “That was what came up when I asked the oracle what I should do.”
“A little late for that advice, don’t you think?  You should have looked at it a few years ago before you proposed to me.”
“I did as a matter of fact.  And the exact same hexagram came up then too.  I was just too much in love to believe it could be true.  I should have had more sense.”
“Oh, please.  How much of this shit do I have to listen to?”
Connor tried to pull his wife down onto the bed beside him.  “Why don’t we ever make love anymore?  Whenever we’re alone, you always find an excuse not to.”
“No, no way.”  Jocelyn extricated herself from Connor’s grasp and moved deliberately to the door.  “There are too many things to get done before your friend Gallagher gets here for dinner.  You invited him.  Remember?  I’ve got to get the roast in the oven or there won’t be any food to put on the table.”
“Yes, Gallagher.”  Jocelyn’s voice trailed off behind her as she left the room.  “You’ve known him all your life.”
The scene changed abruptly and Connor was back in his cell on Rikers.  The flat glare from the searchlights raked the wall opposite him.  He could hear shouting and the sounds of gunfire in the yard outside.
“There’s been a break,” said his cellmate, a pimply faced youth whose name Connor had never been able to remember.  “They’ll be locking us down soon,” the kid continued.  “You just wait and see.”  He sat nervously on the edge of his cot while smoking a cigarette.   Though the night air was hot and humid, he was shivering. 
“That’s pretty funny,” said Connor.  He pointed to the barred door of the cell.  “Locked down?  How the hell are we going to be any more locked down than we already are?”  He began to laugh shrilly at his own joke and then realized he couldn’t stop.  As the sound grew louder and more terrifying, the young guy jumped up and began to nervously pace the length of the tiny cage they were trapped in.  The sight only made Connor laugh more wildly.  The sound of it grew deafening and reverberated off the walls.
“Shut the fuck up, man,” the kid shouted as he tried to cover his ears.  “What’s wrong with you anyway?  You nuts, or what?”
Connor shook his head to show he wasn’t able to stop.  The hysteria welled up from too deep within him.
The cellmate raced to his bunk and pulled from beneath the mattress a long shard of glass wrapped in a filthy piece of cloth.  He turned toward Connor while still gripping the makeshift weapon in his hand.  “Stop it, man, or I’ll slit your throat.  So help me I will.”
Connor looked up at the frightened figure standing over him.  He wanted to explain, to tell the other that it wasn’t possible to control himself.  No words came from his mouth, though, only the laughter that had by now become a scream.  He was paralyzed by terror, waiting powerlessly for what must occur next.
The young man had begun to cry.  “Stop it, stop it,” he moaned over and over.  He brandished the piece of glass whose edge, Connor could see, was razor sharp.  It glittered as the light from outside fell upon it.
Connor frantically tried to raise himself from the bed.
The other bent lower.  His eyes gleamed crazily.
The scene changed again and Connor found himself back in the library in the small Ohio town where he had spent his childhood.   Wood paneled and with flowers set in glass vases on the tabletops, it was a slice of Americana from a Norman Rockwell painting.
Bright sunlight shone through the white-curtained windows and onto the oak bookcases where freshly dusted volumes were lined up in even rows.  Newspapers and periodicals lay neatly arranged on the topmost shelves.
Connor was a thirteen year old again, dressed in a white shirt and plaid shorts.  He had come to the library to finish his homework and prepare for his final exams. 
“Are you excited to be graduating from eighth grade?” asked the librarian as she passed close to Connor’s table.  She was a plain woman in her mid-thirties who favored tortoiseshell glasses and shapeless cotton dresses.  Her limp brown hair was held back by pink plastic clips.
“Oh, yes, Mrs. Jackson,” Connor replied.  “I can’t wait.  Once I’m in high school I’ll be able to borrow the same books as adults take out.  I’ve already read just about everything you have for children.”
The librarian ruffled his hair fondly.  “It’s wonderful to meet a youngster with such a love of reading.  It will take you far in life.”  She smiled mischievously.  “There really isn’t any reason you should have to wait another month to start reading the classics, is there?  Not when there’s so much in them for you to learn.  If you want to begin browsing through them now, that’s fine.  No one’s going to stop you.”
Connor was thrilled.  “Do you mean it?  Is it really all right if I start looking at those books?”
“Help yourself,” said Mrs. Jackson as she walked away.  She gave him a glance over her shoulder.  “I certainly hope you find something in them you like.”
Connor couldn’t believe his luck.  He stood up from the table where he’d been seated and ran to the nearest bookcase.  All the volumes in it were the same size and, he thought, probably formed a set of some sort.  He tried to read the titles but the words that had been printed on the spines had faded with time and were now indecipherable.  Connor moved hurriedly to the next case but encountered the same problem there.  Everywhere he looked were books, but all their titles and the names of their authors were obscured.  Try as he might, there was no way he could read what was written on their covers.  He picked one up at random and opened it.  Inside, on the title page, were only strange hieroglyphic symbols where characters of the alphabet should have appeared.  Connor slammed the book down.  It gave a sharp crack as its leather cover hit the table.
With that, Connor awoke. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Serializing My Novel Lucid

Now that summer's almost over it's time to start posting here again.  One of my first projects will be to serialize my novel Lucid.  This was my second (self) published novel and my favorite among them because it turned out to be exactly the type of story I'd wanted to write when I was majoring in English lit in college so many years ago.  Lucid may not be a masterpiece, but writing it was a learning experience for me, one that gave me a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction.

As for the plot, here's the blurb I put up on Amazon.  The wording may be a little over the top, but it does provide a fairly concise summary.
An amazing account of one man's journey into the depths of his unconscious mind. Connor, an unemployed ex-con, eagerly agrees to take part in a university experiment that employs advanced technology to investigate the phenomenon of "lucid dreaming" - the ability to control one's dreams and give them direction. At first, all proceeds as planned in a carefully monitored academic environment. Soon, however, strange events occur that suggest the project may have crossed beyond the bounds of the purely scientific into that of the paranormal. The first hint that all is not as it seems comes when Connor finds himself reading in his dream a play that in the physical world has long been considered a lost work. Then a mysterious young woman appears and inexplicably offers to become Connor's guide in mapping the shadowy terrain of his dream life. As he gains ever greater mastery of his new found talents, Connor discovers that he possesses psychic powers that enable him to revisit past lives. Together with his beautiful guide Deirdre, he travels through time to scenes as diverse as New York's East Village rock scene in 1970 and a serene temple in ancient Japan in the year 1004. Meanwhile, in real time, a bitter enemy plots to put Connor back in prison. Who'll be able to stop him?
I'll be posting one chapter each Wednesday for the next several months.  I hope you'll read the installments and enjoy the book.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Nikon Announces New Mirrorless Cameras

After having released teases all through the month of August, Nikon recently announced its entry into the mirrorless camera market with two full frame models, available in stores September 27th, that are aimed at both professional and advanced amateur photographers - the top-end Z7 and the more reasonably priced Z6.

Both cameras feature a new lens mount, and Nikon has accordingly released three new lenses to be used with them - a 24-70mm f4, a 35mm f1.8, and a 50mm f1.8 (the last not available until late October).  Those, like myself, who already own a large selection of Nikon glass, however, need not worry since the manufacturer has also made available a converter that will enable the new cameras to accept F mount lenses.

DPreview has already published a "first impressions" review of the Z7 that is generally favorable.  The review also contains a helpful chart that compares the Z7 specs not only to those of the Nikon D850 but also, and perhaps more usefully, to those of the Sony a7R III.  Not surprisingly, the specs of all three are fairly similar, most noticeably in price and pixel count.  The Z7, though, does boast a newly designed sensor that features 493 focus points.  It is also the first Nikon camera to move image stabilization from the lens to the body.

It was only a matter of time until Nikon entered the mirrorless camera market after the spectacular success of Sony's line, and now it has to play catch up with a competitor whose highly regarded mirrorless cameras have already lured away a good number of former DSLR users.  In doing so, it will rely heavily on the prestige of the Nikon name but that might actually prove a liability since that same name is in many shooters' minds irretrievably linked with bulkier DSLR's such as the D850.

I plan on attending the Photo Expo here in New York City in late October and should then have an opprortunity for a close up look at the two cameras.

In the meantime, Nikon has announced that it has been so flooded with pre-orders for the Z7 that not some who have pre-ordered will have to wait past September 27 to receive their cameras.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fujifilm Reconsiders Discontinuance of Neopan Acros 100

Back in April, I posted on Fujifilm's decision to discontinue one of the few remaining medium speed black & white films.  Though I've never used Neopan Acros 100 myself, it's well liked among portrait photographers for its fine grain.  Now, according to a report in Japan's ITmedia, Fujifilm is apparently reconsidering that decision after having received feedback from disappointed photographers.  Whether it will continue in production has not yet been decided and one can only hope for the best.  As of today's date, it's still marked "discontinued" on B&H's website.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Reflections in Moving Water

One can get beautiful effects photographing scenes in the slow moving water of the Central Park lake if one takes the time to look carefully.

Abstract Reflections

Using a fast shutter speed when photographing the rapidly moving water in a Central Park stream can create interesting abstract patterns.