WRLD: Film history, MotoGP, a hat, a genius, portolios in space, an aeroplane, and digitizing LPs

School bus reflection under the moon and stars at Eagle Field -- by Joe Reifer

School bus reflection under the moon and stars at Eagle Field — by Joe Reifer

Planes, helicopters, old WWII housing, star trails, and a big full moon — a new gallery of night photography from Eagle Field is on my portfolio website.

Watching
The Story of FilmFilm historian Mark Cousins narrates the epic The Story of Film: An Odyssey with a mellow Northern Irish lilt. Available streaming on Netflix, this documentary tells the history of cinema in fifteen 1-hour episodes. The mix of film clips and interviews is really well balanced. Big thanks to David Dasinger for turning me on to this series.

Fastest is a documentary about MotoGP racing that briefly covers the history of the sport, and dives into the career of Valentino Rossi. Narrated by Ewan McGregor, this one is a must-see for any motorsports fan. Available streaming on Netflix or Amazon.

Reading
I want my hat backI want my hat back is a deadpan children’s book about a bear who’s looking for his lost hat. Or maybe it’s a koan. This book is about determination, desire, repetition, being polite, and how words communicate beneath the surface. Minutes to read, days to ponder and chuckle about.

Tenth of December: Stories is the latest collection of stories from George Saunders. Propelled into the mainstream by an over-the-top New York Times review, Saunders is reaching a whole new audience. I’d read some of these pieces in the New Yorker, and others are new for me. If you’ve never read Saunders before, this is a good place to start.

Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures picks up where Carl Sagan left off with the photos sent into space on Voyager. Paglen updates mankind’s portfolio with a new selection of 100 images. And then he goes to MIT to figure out how to make this transmission last a long time. The portfolio gets attached to a satellite and launched into orbit. This is some big “what if” thinking that is backed up by some serious doing. Highly recommended.

Listening
I recently revisited Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I wasn’t paying much attention to indie rock when this came  out. This album has been in heavy rotation over the last 2 months and it gives me the chills. Jeff Mangum pushes his voice and emotions to the limit.

LPs don’t fit in your pocket. I still have about 250 records that I rarely listen to. The ART USB Phono Plus lets you hook a turntable up to your computer, and get those records onto your iPhone. A cool little device that pays for itself quickly if you have a lot of albums to digitize.

WRLD: Oil fields, comics, curmudgeons, Kaurismaki, Pynchon, tanks, and ALTO!

San Ardo oil fields on Highway 101 -- by Joe Reifer

San Ardo oil fields on Highway 101 — by Joe Reifer

Watching, Reading, Listening, Doing (WRLD) is an experiment in paring down artistic input/output into quick summaries to refer back to. Disparate inputs help create interesting output. Let’s see what’s been in the blender lately.

San Ardo oil field gigapan: The image above is composed of 2 rows of 7 images, with 2 bracketed shots at each camera position. The iPhone app PanoCalc was useful in figuring out the number of photos to shoot. The images were stitched in PTGui Pro using a Mercator projection. The final image is 10,000 x 8,000 (80 megapixels). Below is a zoomable version created using Pano2VR.

Reading

Charles Burns - The HiveCharles Burns continues to amaze me with his unique vision in the 2nd installment of his darkly original, narrative-shifting trilogy – The Hive. Highly recommended.
ASMP Guide to New Markets in PhotographyThe ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography was worth reading for the 50 concise photographer biographies. Judy Herrmann’s values analysis exercises are also quite good. The remaining material is a high level overview of changes in the photography industry, but the advice is rather general. Worth checking out from the library for photographers of all levels. May be of particular interest to photography students who don’t already understand the industry.
Occam's RazorIf you enjoyed David Hurn and Bill Jay’s On Being a Photographer, you might try tracking down Occam’s Razor. What was true about the art world 20 years ago is even more true today. The photography world needs an articulate curmudgeon like Bill Jay to stay honest. I wish the photo blog world had half of his wit and insight.

Watching

Le HavreAki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre blew me away. A bohemian shoe shine man protects an African refugee from being deported. Those of you familiar with Kaurismaki’s long history of dour films will be surprised how uplifting Le Havre is. And the cinematography is fantastic. Highly recommended.

Thomas Pynchon documentaryI really enjoyed this Thomas Pynchon documentary with music by The Residents. The film is a goofy speculation about Pynchon’s choice to remain out of the public eye. Word on the street is that a new Pynchon novel called Bleeding Edge may be released this year.

Cul De SacAnother excellent holiday gift (thanks ss!) was Cul De Sac. In 1995, a 35 year-old plumber and ex-soldier from suburban San Diego dug an 18 foot hole in his back yard looking for gold. Apparently meth was involved. He ended up stealing a tank from the National Guard and went on a rampage crushing cars before the police opened the tank and shot him. A really interesting meditation on the decline of the post WWII 50′s suburban dream.

Listening

Alto! ALTO! is a three piece band from Portland, Oregon with Derek Monypeny on guitar, and Steven T. Stone / Kyle Reid Emory on drums /electronics. Somewhere between krautrock, outrock, progrock, and experimental. Listen to side one of the album on ALTO!’s Bandcamp page, download a track for free, or name your price to buy the whole album.