Month: October 2016

GoPro surfing fetishism, with loving affection

(Click on each photo to open a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

I own a GoPro Hero3, and I love it. It was inevitable I had to buy the GoPro surfboard mount once I owned a surfboard. Last weekend I tried it out when I went to “shark attack” beach, otherwise know as Indian Beach, in Ecola State Park. I went with my surfing Sensei, Sean, who has slowly introduced me to this wonderful sport. Aside from likely cracking one or more ribs, it was a fabulous day (that injury really blew a hole in vacation I just cancelled).

The videos I took have that hilarious GoPro quality of chaos. The board is being tossed around as waves hit, I’m going under foam, the camera goes underwater and blacks out. Most of the time I filmed myself holding on the the board trying to avoid junk waves, because it was a lousy day. I did capture some fun short foam wave rides. I also laughed at how my face scrunched up as a I paddled to get the wave. So I have a lot of B-roll junk video that is very awful. I won’t share that. However, I was able to extract some fun images that only a GoPro can capture with a fisheye lens view, showing the beauty of the moment when waves and water engulf you. It is one reason why I love GoPros. They tell stories beautifully, and I love to tell stories with them.

I played with some settings in post-production and produced these photos. They have a painterly quality I like. This is so much better than another GoPro surf video.

I also was inspired by some hilarious mockumentary videos of GoPro surfing fetishism in southern California. I laughed a lot watching these, because I had captured all of these scenes, minus extreme surfing localism that permeates surf culture globally. This one shows localism gone awry to the Game of Thrones soundtrack (LOL) and this one how many surfers tell their stories to the world, when they really are not that great. Both are published by The Inertia. GoPros used right can also create lovely works of beauty, which also show just how wild dropping-in can be when surfing etiquette gets tossed, often leading to confrontations at the beach. It is all part of the sport, and you have to live with it and accept it.

 

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Churches made St. Louis great

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

St. Louis is one of the greatest cities in the United States for exploring the magnificent architecture of American churches from all Christian denominations. The city’s strong Catholic roots, still powerfully expressed through the Archdiocese of St. Louis, are expressed in the great St. Louis Basilica, but also in other churches, cathedrals, basilicas, and worship halls around the city. Most are still functioning, but some have closed because of the city’s precipitous population loss from nearly 900,000 in 1950 to nearly 300,000 in the 2010 census.

Churches from the Catholic and Protestant strains of Christianity provide testimonials to the city’s confidence in itself, its industry, its people, its future, and its identity that the city may have been favored by their lord and protector. I challenge anyone to give me a greater constellation of churches in an urban area than St. Louis. I’m sure Detroit, Chicago, and maybe New York might offer a good fight.

Here is a sample of four churches I took during my last visit. One, St. Agnes Church, owned by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, closed in 1993. It fell victim to the city’s slow and painful decay.

Reading the leaves … it must be fall

I took this shot this past weekend. It must be fall. I love it, but I will now need to start taking vitamin D supplements again, with SAD season kicking in. That is for sure. Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

The former ‘King of Beers’

My photographic safaris in my former home town of St. Louis inevitably lead to beer. You cannot tell the story or show the story of St. Louis without focusing on the suds that made the city a world-famous beer epicenter.

As I have published on this blog before, St. Louis became the leading center of American brewing. German-American families became the barons of the new American industry that brought beer to the masses. The Anheuser-Busch dynasty conquered the local market and then the country, producing brands like Budweiser and Busch that were both bland and iconic at the same time.

The Anheuser-Busch complex occupies several city blocks, in the southeast corner of the city, overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. Globalization finally brought the King of Beers to its knees.

Anheuser-Busch became a lowly American subsidiary in 2008 to the Belgium brewing conglomerate InBev, which turned to massive debt financing to acquire the American industrial icon for $52 billion. The sale generated allegations from locals of “traitor” toward billionaire investor Warren Buffet.

The plot thickened in September 2016, when shareholders approved the $104 billion merger of Anheuser-Busch Inbev and SABMiller, another global beer conglomerate, based in London. The announcement was followed by reports of job cuts. The earlier merger had led to nearly 2,000 job cuts in the St. Louis facility between 2011 and 2016, according to local news reports.

Looking at this beautiful industrial facility, sculpted in classic St. Louis brick by great craftsmen, I see a great American business that helped create this city. Now I feel both nostalgia and sadness knowing that this uniquely American corporation has turned into a satellite facility of a company that knows nothing about the city or people who made the brand famous.

Yup, there is a tear in my beer, and I’m crying for you dear.

‘The Hill’ neighborhood of St. Louis

The Hill is one of St. Louis’ most sturdy working-class neighborhoods. It has maintained its Italian roots over many decades, even when ties to the mother country are now fading with time. The Hill‘s two most famous sons are baseball legends Joe Garagiola and the inimitable Yogi Berra. The two grew up on the same street and are celebrated as heroes, like so many other great St. Louis natives who went away.

Bisected by Interstate 44, which barreled through and destroyed many of St. Louis’ historic neighborhoods, the plucky Hill persevered, thanks primarily to its famous eateries. It is located just south of Forest Park and west of the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Compared to other historic St. Louis neighborhoods, it is a much lower-income area, without the elegant brick architecture and stately homes and churches that define classic late 1800s and early 1900s St. Louis. Instead it offers shotgun housing and walkable blocks that are carefully branded with the The Hill moniker and Italy’s national colors. It truly is a model in effective branding and identity building. The Hill also is typical of the racial divide in the city–this neighborhood is white in a city that has long promoted segregated neighborhoods.

I remember first coming here in the early 1970s for Italian celebrations with my family as a kid. I recall a lot of drunk St. Louisans eating food on a typically hot St. Louis summer day. It did not feel that special to me. In high school, my mother bought me a hero sandwich from one of the delis as a special birthday treat. It was delicious. I would occasionally visit the local stores with my mom over the years to buy Italian spices. I have even celebrated a wedding dinner at one of the classic family eateries. I am glad it keeps up its plucky ways.

In a city with so many historic and amazing sights, I probably would not put it in my top five places to visit, mainly because the competition is fierce in that city. But I would swing through if I had a weekend. The Hill is conveniently located, and you might enjoy a nice meal here as well. Buon appetito, amico.

The Art of Surfing

I truly believe that new ideas and inspiration happen for a reason. The trick is to recognize when your thinking and interests turn a new direction. Great creative minds have often worked that way. Robert Greene’s book Mastery beautifully documents this. It’s a study of the creative process and the mastery of skills. He shows how these changes emerge and how accomplished persons, past and present, responded to those vicissitudes.

I recently had breakfast with an old friend of mine, whose father is one of the premiere avant-garde artists from Taiwan known as the Blue Moon Group. My friend said his father was constantly changing and exploring new ideas. I think this is true of successful people in any field–and unsuccessful people who aren’t recognized by their peers.

I am feeling a lot of changes lately, relating to the ocean, my response to circumstances in life, and my lifelong passion for combining physical activity with seeking contemplative spaces to find that quintessential balance in life. Surfing lately has been a space that makes sense right now. I am not questioning it. I am listening to the muse. I am seeking out its siren call. So far I have been richly rewarded, including new friendships and perspectives.

This shot was taken two years ago in Leucadia, in San Diego County. It was an epic trip that combined major breakthroughs with my first serious foray into surfing as a way of life. I do not think that was an accident. Hoping you all catch your wave and take it for a ride.

Wind and rain at the Oregon Coast

A week ago I made the mistake of trying to surf in very poor conditions. So now I honor and respect the forecast. Today the forecast was for wind like you see in the Cannon Beach shot But even on a terrible day at the Pacific, it is still very fun to try and get in a ride. I had it all to myself at Indian Beach, and I managed to get some good practice rides in really nasty cross winds. On a bad day, a novice can practice and learn. But I prefer optimal days when the sets are predictable.