Every time every year, the travelers come and go; you see them landing with their pale wings and flying back to the snow.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for February, 2003

Thursday, 27 February 2003

Tele notes

Well, on the heels of my high praise for last week’s episode of The West Wing, last night’s show ("Red Haven’s on Fire") seemed to define the word anti-climactic.

Sure, there were a few memorable moments, but overall the story felt forced and the whole hour tried too hard to be good, if that makes sense. The best part: probably Amy "saving" the First Lady. That and C.J. singing to Toby. Amy and the wayward candle was cute initially, but really, are the writers trying to turn her into a female Josh? I truly hope not. IMO the candle/fire bit would have worked much better had it happened to Toby in a similar situation.

The continuing saga of Will and the interns-as-emergency-staff-writers has staled considerably and needs a new direction or needs to be dropped…please give Joshua Malina something better. I realize that the show is not all about clever retorts and other witty banter, but the presentation of some ideas are getting long-winded and heavy-handed.

All that said, the episode still brilliantly outshone Ed‘s most unbelievably predictable and unimaginative episode, which aired the previous hour. Please, Aaron Sorkin, rescue Sabrina Lloyd from that series.

* * *

On the subject of last Sunday’s programming…I missed some parts of Alias but from what I did see, the episode was just average. I did tape Foyle’s War and although it perhaps wasn’t the best or most original story of the four episodes thus far, it wasn’t bad. I definitely look forward to future episodes, but I suppose we’ll all have to wait at least a year or so until the next batch.

Before I go…farewell Mr. Rogers.

Posted at 7:33 pm | Filed under Television |  

Tuesday, 25 February 2003

FED fun

A few weeks ago a friend let me borrow his FED 5 camera when he heard I was into photography. Apparently he’d had it around but never used it. I’d read about old Soviet/Russian rangefinders but hadn’t actually held one. So here was my chance to see one up close.

Before I get into details, let me first say that the Internet is awesome. I learned so much about this camera from various sites. My favorite one about FEDs turned out to be the rangefinders section of Matt’s Cameras. Wonderful site, especially for classic rangefinder enthusiasts like myself. I also loved the section on folders (don’t have a folder yet but maybe someday a Kodak Retina I…). I also got some very helpful tips and suggestions from a RF list, especially from one guy in particular (I’ll call him RFguy), who helped me solve most of the problems I encountered with the camera.

The camera itself was/is pretty clean, with the case in good condition as well. This is a FED 5, not a 5b or 5c. First thing I noticed about this one: the rangefinder wasn’t working. Turns out that the arm had gotten stuck and turning the focusing ring on the lens didn’t do anything. So thanks to a tip from the RF list, I simply removed the lens, wiggled the arm and it popped out. This seems to be a common problem (i.e. the arm getting stuck) because I’ve had to pull it out every so often.

Other noticeable problems: the rangefinger wasn’t aligned correctly — both vertically and horizontally; the pressure plate was scratched; there were no foam or felt light seals. Otherwise everything seemed fine: shutter fired at all speeds, film winder worked smoothly, self-timer was functional, even the selenium meter was operational. The Industar-61 L/D lens looked very clean.

Adjusting the rangefinger was the toughest part. I had a lot of trouble opening the front panel, but apparently all I needed was to pry the thing open with a fingernail. I had been too careful in not wanting to scratch or somehow move the viewfinder glass…but it’s more secure than it looks. The collar around the rangefinger window was just as secure, because after removing the plate, I couldn’t turn it to correct azimuth. It just wouldn’t budge, no matter what tool I tried. So thanks to RFguy’s suggestion I dug out a pair of small scissors from a portable first aid kit. The ends of the scissor points weren’t even — one was a bit too large to fit into the ring, but after a few misses, I was able to successfully turn the ring loose of the paint and adjust azimuth! Let me say, this was my first time working on camera repairs and it’s kind of scary poking around a rangfinder window with scissors! Certainly, being careful is key. The horizontal correction was a piece of cake, since the screw for that is easily accessible.

I worked on the light seals earlier today. I wasn’t sure there would be light leaks but with the whole removeable back coming off the way it does, it wouldn’t surprise me if the camera leaked. I could have put some film in it, left the camera in bright light and then checked for light contamination, but I figured I’d just be cautious and install some foam anyway. All it took was a couple of thin strips of 2mm-thick black foam (available in 9″ x 12″ sheets from any crafts store and some drug stores). I just used a metal straight-edge, scissors, a metal-tipped mechanical pencil (with the lead recessed) and a stick of acid-free glue. The only strip of foam I had to glue was for the bottom of the camera back — everything else (both side-edges of the camera and the alley running above the shutter curtain on the camera body) I just nudged into place using the pencil tip. Reattaching the back is a much tighter squeeze now, but it’s still fairly easy to lock into place.

As for the scratched pressure plate: it was a long jagged scratch running down the plate. On a whim, I rolled up a piece of leftover foam strip and tried cleaning the entire plate. It took a little while, but I was able to buff out the scratch! Now the plate is much smoother with only faint signs of the scratch.

So, a roll of Superia is now in the camera and I hope to get the test roll finished soon. The flash sync/hotshoe works fine. Still need to test all apertures and shutter speeds. Hoping for: no light leaks, accurate rangefinder and proof of what’s supposed to be a great lens. Even if there are still problems, at least I’ve learned a bit about simple camera mods.

– Some history on FED cameras: check out Jim Blazik’s site (includes Zorki cameras and other Soviet RF info).

Posted at 9:46 pm | Filed under Favorite posts, Photography |  

Thursday, 20 February 2003

The magic 47

Just a quick note to comment on last night’s episode of The West Wing, "California 47th"…

It was the best and most wholly well-written episode of the show I’ve seen all season…maybe even the best and most wholly well-written episode in the past two seasons. Props to the story writers, Lauren Schmidt and Paula Yoo, director Vincent Misiano and of course Aaron Sorkin, whose teleplay was the most effective one I’ve seen in a while. A truly ensemble effort, with some really great lines given to a number of characters, top-notch talent, especially in the return guest roles, and even some tongue-in-cheek silliness to provide comic relief. Not flawless, perhaps, but still quite effective nonetheless. Reminded me of the series’ classic debut year (1999-2000), because the show kept picking up momentum and when the final fade happened, I found myself wanting to see more. I haven’t enjoyed a WW episode this much in a long time. I can’t remember the last really good ensemble episode…maybe "The Stackhouse Filibuster" from the second season.

Most memorable scene: I’ll go with serious this time, and say the one with the extremely unpleasant and deluded couple in the hotel bar. I can see how some people might consider the scene a bit overdramatic, but I thought it was very well played and shot. It certainly made me really uncomfortable, as it should have done. Another powerful serious scene was Leo realizing, from Fitz’s update, what the sudden acceleration of genocide meant.

Favorite line: So hard to choose…there really were many. If I had to select one now, I’d go with the one that made me laugh for at least ten seconds. It was Andie referring to Toby: "Sorry girls, I saw him first." Yeah, it’s the punch line to an entire scene, so the humor is tough to translate here. But it’s a good thing I actually taped the episode (I haven’t done that in a while), because otherwise I would have missed what Donna and Josh were talking about while I was laughing.

P.S. And of course it was nice to see the number 47 in the title. 🙂

P.P.S. For the third (fourth?) week in a row, seeing Joshua Malina on The West Wing right after Sabrina Lloyd on Ed made me smile.

Posted at 12:48 am | Filed under Television | 4 replies »

Monday, 17 February 2003

If only Nielsen viewers cared about subtlety

Alias wasn’t on over the weekend, so I got to save some videotape and watched the third episode of Foyle’s War. The sort-of miniseries stars the wonderful Michael Kitchen (heading a great cast) and was created and written by Anthony Horowitz, who should be very familiar to PBS devotees (Poirot). It’s based on a mystery/detective story premise, but the plots’ meatier content revolves more around social and cultural observations of a side of WW2-era Britain not dramatized often — all presented in an interesting package. I’m not sure of the stories’ historical accuracy, but the shows are enough to get my attention. Coincidentally, I had just seen the film The Remains of the Day again (the seventh time? eighth?) and re-read parts of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel (see the "Literature" section) a few weeks ago, so the theme of pre- and post-WW2 politics in England had already propelled its way forward in my consciousness.

There’s one episode left, airing this Sunday as the feature of Masterpiece Theatre. I recommend catching it, on tape at least. I hadn’t really liked what I’d seen of the recent features, but two weeks ago I ended up taping Alias and watching Foyle instead. Foyle is perhaps the opposite of Alias. It isn’t exactly ratings bonanza fare: it’s not attention-grabbing in an obvious way, nor eye- or mind-bending. Instead, the show is quiet and can be subtle, yet surprisingly effective, much like its title character. I hope there’ll be more episodes in the future.

[Your Ad Here] Masterpiece Theatre: If you haven’t heard already, ExxonMobil announced in December 2002 that it will withdraw its funding from Masterpiece Theatre after the 2003-04 season. The corporation stopped sponsoring Mystery! in 1996 (back then it was still Mobil). (If you didn’t watch the show before then…you know the mostly black-and-white Edward Gorey-based opening and ending title sequences of Mystery! now? And the very prominent red umbrella? That umbrella was not there until Mobil left and Travelers Insurance began sponsoring the show…Travelers used the red umbrella in its logo. But although Travelers is no longer a sponsor — Looksmart is the latest underwriter — its red umbrella is still in the titles!)

Anyway, back to Masterpiece Theatre. What a shame to end over 30 years of a staple media sponsorship on public television. I do hope that there will be a “next” sponsor…not the stuttered sponsorships of Mystery since Mobil left. But in the age of corporate labeling (I really hope Comiskey Park will not be renamed U.S. Cellular Field), PBS is so desperate for underwriting that it is actually giving 30-second adverts to its show sponsors. Did you notice the proliferation of car spots before and after the shows recently? Sigh.

Posted at 9:55 pm | Filed under Television |  

Music to keep me sane and healthy II

On Sunday (I missed it Saturday), Anne Litt had a great show on Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Here’s an example of the artists she played…this is from an actual set, in order:

  • Miles Davis
  • Nat "King" Cole
  • Richard Buckner (she called him "the incomparable Richard Buckner")
  • Lizzie West

I mean well, yeah, what else can I say? I’ve said so much in past entries already…if I give any more praise it may sound exaggerated.

Speaking of KCRW, if you’re a listener and haven’t subscribed/renewed yet, don’t forget…

Two musical artists I haven’t mentioned yet: Joseph Arthur and Paula Morelenbaum & Ryuichi Sakamoto. Their latest albums sound like keepers.

Thursday, 13 February 2003

‘Cashman’ is also his nickname

In case you missed this article from 5 Feb:
‘Yankees Ensure 2003 Pennant By Signing Every Player In Baseball.’

Anyway, so yes, Spring Training has arrived. Although, this year it does seem like a long time has passed since last season. The Angels winning the World Series…it seems like a distant memory.

So many trades and signings in the offseason. I didn’t even mention any of them before. For the most part, 2003 looks like it’ll be a very different year and look of baseball. Especially since the Dodgers, along with many other teams, have shuffled their rosters drastically. Most of the players I grew up watching are now retired or are grizzled veterans…it certainly can be disconcerting to realize that many of the players now are younger than I am. The game also has acquired a not-so-pleasant taste since I was a big fan 15 years ago, what with the multi-million dollar contracts (as is the case for most pro sports) and — not naming names — prima donna-like behavior from some of those contract holders.

All of that aside, though, will I still watch baseball? Probably. Will I be disappointed if the Dodgers get really close (again) and don’t win the pennant (again)? Of course. But as long as the sport stays exciting and there is great baseball, I confess I’ll watch anyway, and enjoy it.* That’s the draw of the game. Welcome to The Show.

*As long as the Yankees don’t win the Series. 😉

Posted at 7:24 pm | Filed under Baseball, sports |