Archive for June, 2013

See The Moon, It Hates Us

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 23, 2013 by johnbuckley100

With apologies to the late Donald Barthelme, who sure knew how to title stories, didn’t he?  Leica M, Vario-Elmar-R @200mm.  First picture we’ve ever tried actually to capture the face of the moon, which we now can do, given the Leica M takes R lenses.  Sort of getting the hang of things…

See The Moon

At Comet Ping Pong, Mikal Cronin Replenishes The Tree Of Real Rock’n’Roll

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on June 22, 2013 by johnbuckley100


iPhone 5

Seeing Mikal Cronin play at nearby Comet Ping Pong was as disorienting as it would be to see Ty Segall play at your child’s elementary school cafeteria: at once familiar, intimate, but almost dream-like in its jumbled combination of figures you never expected to see in that particular locale.  His set relied, it seemed, far more on songs from his eponymous first album than on the brilliant MC II, which loyal Tulip Frenzy readers know we have grokked so thoroughly that it haunts us.  He kicked off the set with “Is It Alright” and played “Apathy” before getting to the amazing “Am I Wrong” from the new album.  Playing an electric 12-string while fellow vets from the Ty Segall Band thrashed out his unique mash-up of Beatles’n’Beach Boys-meet-punk-rock’n’Lemonheads, a cool ocean breeze from California beaches swept through a room ordinarily given up to vicious ping pong matches between fathers and their six-year old daughters.  It was a fun evening, and he was great.

We wonder if, had we stumbled across Cronin outside of the context of Ty Segall — like everyone else this side of Laguna Beach, we first became aware of him via his collaboration with his pal on Reverse Shark Attack — how would we rank him? Where would we sort him on our taxonomical scale? Which aquarium would we try to place him in lest he eat the comparative guppies or get eaten by the bigger fish? The temptation is to view Mikal as an Earth-sized planet revolving around Ty’s Sun-sized talent, but MC II reveals him to be far more than that.  Yes, we are anxiously awaiting Ty’s August release of Sleeper, but it’s going to have to be darn tasty to exceed the savory pie Cronin released in May, not to mention the live show we saw last night at our favorite children’s pizza place cum ping pong stadium.

Still, it’s sufficiently impossible to separate Cronin from Segall that there’s no point in trying.  Segall plays on Cronin’s album and vice versa, Cronin’s songwriting has surely benefited from close collaboration with the freshest American rock’n’roll songwriting talent since maybe John Fogerty, and they share, among other things — a locale, an approach, a drummer — a gloriously catholic take on modern rock’n’roll — Segall a tad more influenced by Kurt Cobain, Cronin by Brian Wilson.

Word has it that Mikal stuck it through to get a college degree from music school, and recently.  We don’t know if that’s true, but if so, it reveals something about his earnestness and responsibility.  And ambition.  Based on how excellent he and his band were last night, even in the face of the expected bad sound in a small back room in a pizza parlor, given the genius-level pop chops revealed on MC II, this is a kid who completely has it together, and is going far.  The tree of rock’n’roll is replenished by the fresh blood of talents like Mikal Cronin.  This morning we are groggy from the experience, but grateful, and at peace with the future.

And On The Longest Day Of The Year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 21, 2013 by johnbuckley100

The most beautiful day in… less than a week.  Leica M, Noctilux f/0.95, ND filter.

Longest Day

The Decisive Interview: The Two-Part Post On Cartier-Bresson That Sums It All Up

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2013 by johnbuckley100

The New York Times’ Lens Blog is one of the great daily reads, a public service to those who care about photojournalism and photography.  Yesterday, the Lens Blog published the first installment of a previously unpublished interview with Henri Cartier-Bresson.  This morning, they published the second installment.  If you only ever read one thing about the great master’s views on photography — in fact, if you only ever read one essay on photography — this interview would be a good candidate for the essential distillation.  It’s the Decisive Interview, as it were.

The back story is lovely.  In 1971, Cartier-Bresson sat for the interview with Sheila Turner-Seed, who died in 1979, though not before giving birth, a year before her passing, to a daughter.  Many years later, the daughter found the interviews her mother conducted, and heard, for the first time, her mother’s voice.  The interviews will be included in a documentary film Rachel Seed is producing about her mother.

The interviews are marvelous — a distillation of what we know about Cartier-Bresson, from his lack of interest in gear to his aversion to color photography.  (“Color is bullshit,” he famously told William Eggleston — but here, just a few years before he said this to Eggleston, we learn more about why he felt this way. It seems he found color distasteful, among other reasons, because the process of getting true color prints involves too many other factors, and too many other people.)

His reason for using a 50mm lens is fascinating, to us at least, and puts him implicitly at odds, we’d say, with Alex Webb, who is perhaps the only modern photographer who has an HCB-quality of Surrealist juxtaposition in his very complicated images: “It corresponds to a certain vision and at the same time has enough depth of focus, a thing you don’t have in longer lenses. I worked with a 90. It cuts much of the foreground if you take a landscape, but if people are running at you, there is no depth of focus. The 35 is splendid when needed, but extremely difficult to use if you want precision in composition. There are too many elements, and something is always in the wrong place. It is a beautiful lens at times when needed by what you see. But very often it is used by people who want to shout. Because you have a distortion, you have somebody in the foreground and it gives an effect. But I don’t like effects. There is something aggressive, and I don’t like that. Because when you shout, it is usually because you are short of arguments.”

Perhaps of greatest interest to photographers is a little more detail he offers indirectly on his concept of the “the decisive moment.”  He spelled some of this out in the essay introducing the book published in the U.S. with that name.  But at a moment when Gary Winogrand — who took tens of thousands of pictures, and famously died with thousands of images in unprocessed film cassettes — is being celebrated with a traveling exhibition at major museums, there is this admonition from Cartier-Bresson about waiting for that right moment to snap the single, essential picture:

“It’s a question of concentration. Concentrate, think, watch, look and, ah, like this, you are ready. But you never know the culminative point of something. So you’re shooting. You say, “Yes. Yes. Maybe. Yes.” But you shouldn’t overshoot. It’s like overeating, overdrinking. You have to eat, you have to drink. But over is too much. Because by the time you press, you arm the shutter once more, and maybe the picture was in between.

“Very often, you don’t have to see a photographer’s work. Just by watching him in the street, you can see what kind of photographer he is. Discreet, tiptoes, fast or machine gun. Well, you don’t shoot partridges with a machine gun. You choose one partridge, then the other partridge. Maybe the others are gone by then. But I see people wrrrr, like this with a motor. It’s incredible, because they always shoot in the wrong moment.”

Winogrand certainly didn’t always shoot in the wrong moment, but so many of us do, especially given how easy it is to load an SD card with photos.  We know from other stories how HCB would sit at night, rolling his own film into cartridges for use the following day.  Each single image had value.

There is so much more there, distilled in a single pair of  posts — Cartier-Bresson’s affinity for the Surrealists, and the advice he got from Robert Capa not to talk of this, but to instead, for career reasons, describe himself as a photojournalist; his troubling conclusion that when it comes to being a good photographer, you either have the gift or you don’t; the radical simplicity of his approach wherein he never really even felt the need for a light meter.

This interview is of value to anyone who cares about photography, and the work of one of the 20th Century’s greatest artists.

Caption Competition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 17, 2013 by johnbuckley100

So what’s going on here?  No recollection of what we captured as we walked by.  Georgetown waterfront.  Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.

Ice Cream Cone

Beautiful Evening For Crashing A Family Photo Shoot

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 16, 2013 by johnbuckley100

The family was on the bridge over the C&O Canal in Georgetown, posing while the pro with the long lens shot up from the tow path.  The light was gorgeous.  By luck or opportunism, they’d chosen a good evening for the family portrait.  We didn’t have a long lens, but there was that gorgeous light…

Over There 2

And because the M-240 offers big, 24mp files, and because the 50 APO-Summicron-Asph is so precise a lens, we did have a file we could crop, and still capture what a lovely evening it was, and what a nice family they were.

Over There 3


On The Loveliest Day In Washington’s History

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 16, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Humid and hot it was not.  Sunny and bright and no humidity.  On a Saturday.  In June.  Some kids learned to escape what heat there was by running through water.

Escape The Heat

Other kids want to control the water.  It is, after all, Washington.  Leica M 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.


The Offering

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 14, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Dupont Circle.  Leica M, 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph, f/8, 1/60th, ISO 200.

The Offering

Dance To The Music

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 7, 2013 by johnbuckley100

A reveler at last week’s Glover Park Day.  Okay, maybe this guy was the reveler at last week’s Glover Park Day.  (To be fair, the band was playing a Doobie Bros. song…) Leica M, 35mm Summilux FLE.

Dance To The Music

“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Tulip Frenzy limits itself to commentary on rockn’n’roll and, occasionally, photography, though these clearly aren’t our only interests.  We refrain from bleating about politics, and only at critical junctures do references to sports slip into our posts, and none of this is accidental.  Given that we write novels, and have reviewed books for the Wall Street Journal and other publications, one might think we’d write about the books we devour, but we don’t, and the reason is simple: it is not our intention to use Tulip Frenzy as a multi-topic venue; we like the limitations we long ago placed upon it.  Today, though, we’re going to make an exception, because events have forced our hand.  Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is the strongest first novel — and one of the best novels, period — that we have read in many years, and we are compelled to urge our readers to buy it.  In fact, you know how wild-eyed and foam-mouthed we get when trying to get you — to get everyone — to buy that new album by the Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall?  Well, yeah, that’s what we’re up to here.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena takes on a horrific topic — the disintegration of a small town amidst the Russian brutality in both post-Soviet wars against Chechen independence — and delivers a deeply funny, deeply moving, perfectly wrought puzzle box of a story. The action nominally takes place over five days after Akhmed delivers his neighbor’s daughter to a hospital in a nearby city, after the Russian authorities have carted off her father, who’d already had all ten fingers amputated in a previous episode of being “disappeared.”  Akhmed is an incompetent small town doctor, but he uses the delivery of his young charge to the haughty doctor Sonja — who practically alone has been running the hospital for the better part of two wars spanning a decade — to weasel his way into a position as her assistant.  The story of these five days is set against a far longer time sequence in which Sonja left Chechnya to finish medical school in the U.K. only to return in search of her sister Natasha.  By the end of the five days, all of the stories have been resolved in a manner that is mathematically, efficiently, breathtakingly perfect, and also stunningly beautiful, though naturally sad.

A few years ago, our friend Tony Marra, with whom we worked for a decade, asked us if we might spend a moment or two talking to his son who was just then finishing college and planning on applying to post-graduate writing programs.  Tony was, as we recall, hoping we could offer practical advice to a young writer, and we assume he thought it might be useful because he knew we published novels, but had also supported our family, not by working in Starbucks or a book store, but in a sort of Wallace Stevens-like dual existence that meant donning a tie to work in, first, politics, and then in corporate jobs, while never giving up on our calling, which is to write fiction.  We said yes, of course, but the cup of coffee never came about.  And now Anthony, Tony’s son, hasn’t simply written the best first novel since, I don’t know, V, The Rachel Papers, or Americana, he’s also graduated from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, won a Whiting Prize, and is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford.  (Previous Stegner fellows?  Oh, such little-known writers as Ken Kesey, Thomas McGuane, and Robert Stone.)  It is not an exaggeration to proclaim young Marra the Bryce Harper of novelists, and unless he gets repetitive stress disorder, his future may even be brighter.  (See, this is how we usually work sports into Tulip Frenzy posts — through pop cultural allusion.)  The awards he has ahead of him may someday include the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Yeah, one novel in, we can say that; the kid’s that good.

We do not often command our vast readership to put down what they are doing and immediately order up a novel.  (To be fair, we didn’t even do this upon the recent publication of our new novelThe Geography Lesson.)  We don’t expect to be writing book reviews, or about novels, in this space in the future.  (We like Tulip Frenzy just as it is: an exceptionally juvenile outpost of punk rock fanaticism.  Plus an outlet for the occasional snapshot.) But we are pleased to break our own rules to do so here, and will conclude with this thought: if you do not immediately go and buy A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, you may still be a dear reader of this site, but you are a very foolish one.

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