Notes from Ben Lomond: 7 March 2023

Digital Photography

What are your favorite techniques in digital photography? I enjoy focus stacking and compositing. Both are ways to use the computer to enhance the ability of your camera.

Focus stacking involves taking the same photograph five or six times with different focus. This allows you to create a very deep depth of field. The purpose of focus stacking is to create an image that is everywhere in focus, like the goals of the f/64 group of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others. Those photographers were using larger format cameras with smaller apertures. Most digital cameras today only stop down to f/22 or in some cases f/32. Focus stacking is a way of achieving a similar goal of brutal unadulterated focus with digital cameras.

Photo compositing is when you take four or five photos but move the camera and overlap the images so when you stitch them together, they blend into a much bigger image than your frame alone could offer. This is also a way to use a “full frame” digital camera to create an image that is more like a medium format film camera. I’m going to do a few examples of both focus stacking and photo compositing today and will post them as blog entries in the coming week.


One of the reasons I want to write plays and not screenplays is because theater is a medium that gives an entire team a chance to work, but it is also very conservative in terms of waste. You simply write the script and print it out a dozen times and it can be turned into a production. Set design and costumes might require more expense but can often be reused and will be used for the duration of the show. When we watch a theatrical performance, it contributes to the artistic economy without taking from the environment. You don’t have to blow up an entire city to make art. Two people on stage talking can be much more meaningful and profound.


All stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They don’t have to proceed in chronological order, but the logic of the story must exist. Usually, a story involves a protagonist who is trying to achieve some goal who then encounters and antagonistic force that complicates the process. This process of striving and being held back escalates and intensifies until the action of the story reaches a point of climax where something is done that cannot be taken back. The characters reach a point of no return. The rest of the story tells the resolution of that action. Either the protagonist prevails and manages to reach their goal, they survive and change their goal, or they do not live, and the forces of antagonism are successful. This is the basic structure of a plot as found in Aristotle’s Poetics.


We live in an anti-intellectual culture. Our politicians are constantly lying to us and trying to convince us to remain powerless. Our future is uncertain to say the least. In this context, writing itself is a revolutionary act. For those who are willfully illiterate, the act of someone writing can even be terrifying. This does not make it terrorism, however. It is simply writing. Thinkers have been considering the power of writing at least since the time of Longinus.


Recently I discovered that I was overdoing it on my workouts and not giving my body enough fuel. The solution, I learned was to eat more carbs before working out, and even to eat some during working out. We live in such an anti-carb culture, but I think that is because we live in a culture that does not get enough exercise. Click this link, if you want to learn how I figured out I was not eating enough carbs.


When I make photographs or any form of visual art, beauty is the main goal. The mystery of the beautiful moment has compelled me for my entire adult life. I find women to be beautiful, and the challenge of capturing that beauty motivates me to study the art of photography. Anything can be beautiful, though. With the right light, the right composition, the right mood the peculiar quality of beauty can emerge. If you are paying close enough attention, you can capture that with a camera.


When we talk about fashion, we usually are referring to luxury brands and bizarre outfits paraded on a catwalk in a metropolitan city in front of a small group of elites. Fashion is also an everyday thing. This is where the concept of streetwear came from and evolved into hypebeasts. I want to learn more about fashion, but my personal fashion only gets wild when it comes to boardshorts. I’m open to trying some new styles in my daily outfits, though, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with my longtime friend Jacob at Shalom Clothing. That is the label that most closely fits my aesthetic currently, and I want to try on some of his new inventions.


I have been hiking the absolute heck out of Fall Creek, Henry Cowell, and Quail Hollow ranch. It’s been cold and wet, but beautiful. When I am outdoors, I feel more connected to the world. It makes me more aware of the little changes in the season and grounds me.

Environmental Conservation

I aim to drive as infrequently as possible, but I still can’t get out of it as a member of this society. Driving is too ingrained in our lifestyle to just stop. Still, it’s hard to believe that we are just going to keep on poisoning our air and waters. What will it take for us to become responsible stewards of our environment? Why is this not the number one thing that all politicians are discussing?

We all share the same environment, and it is quickly filling up with microplastics and brake dust. I don’t have a solution, but I do care about the future of our planet and if that comes across as virtue signaling that’s fine with me. I’d rather risk looking like a person who is trying to promote good ideas for clicks than someone who is trying to appear like they don’t care at all for clicks.  

If you really want to become a person of value, you will start to talk more about environmental conservation. I know it’s hypocritical to be using modern technology and complaining about it ruining our environment, but that’s the paradoxical nature of our times. I don’t care about that critique. What I do care about is changing our cultural conversation to increase the demand for viable alternatives and putting pressure on our elected officials to implement innovative policy. Ok?

Media Literacy

The rush to be the first to report on some current event is a disease that is making our culture sick. If we want to do better collectively, we need to start valuing veracity over velocity. Getting it right should matter much more than getting it out first. We should reward responsible reporting and penalize people who rush but get their facts wrong. This is one of the first principles of media literacy: wait to form a judgment until you are certain of the facts. If the facts are uncertain, then a degree of uncertainty is appropriate in your reporting. We don’t always have to have hyperbolic takes on every issue. It is ok for there to be some nuance.

Online Marketing

In a world that is oversaturated with online marketing, it is important to make it easy for people to opt in or opt out of your messaging. This is one reason why e-mail marketing is effective. It shows up in people’s inbox, but they must click and open it to see what you are saying. Ironically, that pause is critical to being invitational. When you show up in someone’s timeline on social media it is in the stream of a lot of other content, and you have zero control over how that experience goes. When you email someone, there is a good chance that they will read it when they are working or in a more serious frame of mind.


I’m making plans to create content with one of my favorite foodies, Teddy Danielson. She is just back from a trip to Spain, so I’m expecting her to be fired up and enthusiastic about making some new culinary creations. If you want to see an example of her work, check out this blog The Joy of Ribs.


I recently made some Easter Cookie Cups with Lindor truffles melted inside. I made a dough with browned butter and half brown sugar and half regular sugar. The more brown sugar in the ratio, the chewier the cookies, but since these were going to be a cup that has to hold the truffle, I opted for an even 50/50. I chilled the dough overnight to allow the flour to fully hydrate and then formed them into cups inside a muffin tin. I added one Lindor truffle to each cup and when they were finished it was one of the most delicious inventions I have ever baked.


As I have been upping my fitness game, I have been paying more attention to nutrition. After all, health is wealth, and you build your body in the kitchen. I still have a long way to go in understanding how the body works and what foods are best to eat when, but I’m understanding the importance of carbs when it comes to endurance activities. Strength conditioning requires a lot of protein to build muscle, but when you do high exertion activities for more than a couple of hours, you must supply your body with plenty of carbs.


I recently had the opportunity to photograph behind the scenes at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero, CA. This place is a foodie institution and it was a pleasure to watch the two chefs get busy on the line. You can check out the first blogs I published on my experience there, HERE: Duarte’s Food Art, 1st Part and Olallieberry Soft Serve


I have been listening to an Audible audio book from their Great Courses series on World War II. I think that it is such a dark and disturbing conflict that it is hard to study, but it helps to put the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine in context. When Hitler started to invade other countries, the world did not mobilize fast enough. When people talk about the conflict in Ukraine being a battle for the free world, this is what they mean. If Putin is allowed to take Ukraine, what is going to stop Russia from doing the same thing in other countries? International belligerence cannot be ignored, even if there are other pressing problems domestically and elsewhere.


I have started the process of making prints for my next online auction. I have about 33 images chosen and I am printing them in black and white on paper. The next step is to narrow this down to 9 images that I will then coat with acrylic medium, allow to dry, and remove the paper by submerging in water and rubbing the paper off. This is called an Acrylic Gel Transfer, and it creates a plastic skin with the image on it that you can then transfer onto a canvas. I still have two left from my last sale if you are interested in starting your collection. The next auction will be on March 15th. Trestle Reflection and River Rocks are still available for $120


One of my favorite podcasts is the H3 Podcast because the hosts went to UCSC and because they have a great sense of humor and politics when it comes to the Internet. If you are curious about how Internet culture works, this is the podcast to show you.

Photo of the Day

Today, I am featuring three photos that I’m making available as prints.

Proof of Concept: Why Evidence Matters

In a world full of deception and lying, it’s only natural that many people would develop a strong sense of skepticism. It’s a defense against the scams and cons that prevail. This creates a cultural ecosystem of disbelief. The question is, how do you communicate an honest message and promote a cause or brand you believe in without being drowned out by naysayers and a tendency to doubt? 

One answer is to prove your concept repeatedly until it is undeniable. If you believe something to be true, then show it. Show how it works. Show what doesn’t work. Explain why. Doing the work of proving a concept is the best way to build credibility. You must earn people’s trust.

Accountability is the key to credibility. If you believe something to be good for you, then showing how it works only makes sense. This is one of the reasons why we value live performances. Without the ability to edit, the live performance creates the appearance of credibility, it is proof of the performer’s abilities.

The most effective way to prove your concept is with consistency. If you can repeatedly come up with the same results, then you have an art. If you achieve your desired goal, but can’t repeat it, then you might have just been lucky. It is through consistent repetition that we gradually grow to believe that someone is honest and that something they are promoting is true. The proof is in the evidence.

Why It’s Funny When Comedy Fails

Lots of comics enjoy watching comics bomb. The funniest part of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the audience’s response to the awful play performed at the duke’s wedding. This scene is funny because of the irony. We have watched these passionate but unexperienced actors preparing for this night throughout the play and it is exactly how wrong they were that makes it so funny. 

When we first meet these aspiring thespians, they are gathered in the woods to rehearse and from the very first moment they get it wrong. It is a failure of leadership, due to a lack of experience that summons the fearful critic among them to point the ship in the opposite direction. They start out concerned that the subject matter is too disturbing for the women in the audience, showing a double misunderstanding: they don’t get theater and they have a false idea of women.

This concern over the violence leads them to horrible stylistic decisions that then shape the rest of the play. To avoid offending the ladies, they invent a prologue to explain that the violence is only symbolic and that nobody is going to be hurt during the play and that the lion is not a lion, etc. To work, a play must create the tension needed to get people’s full attention so that it can then reverse their expectations and surprise, delight, or otherwise entertain. Afraid that the ladies in the audience would not understand how to suspend their disbelief, these actors choose to violate the 4th wall and bring the audience into the show.

This device makes it impossible for the audience to take it seriously, though, and so they are left to critique the choices and to laugh at their unintended buffoonery. The players lack of understanding how they are perceived causes them to botch their shot, and this flat-footed clumsiness makes it even funnier when Bottom is turned into an ass by Puck at the service of Oberon to trick Titania, queen of the fairies. They turn bottom into an ass and give Titania a potion so that she falls in love with him.

To take the stage, in order to win the affection of a fairy goddess you have to have some belief in self, and it is Bottom wrestling with his insecurities and his delusions of grandeur that is so similar to what the path of an aspiring comic likely entails. Bottom is a phase, a stage that must be overcome grown through.

The process of finding out just how funny you are, of seeing an audience respond to you in real time makes for some vicious therapy and it is no wonder that actors and comics have a hard time sometimes making sense of where their act begins and ends. You must love anyone who attempts the feat and give thanks to those who succeed, because it makes our world a much more pleasant place to live. Long live the failure of comedy.

Team Helena

In our asinine social media Internet troll phase of US American culture, 2016-20, the character Parolles would have been the hero of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. Bertram would’ve been an influencer, hype beast, even though he’s almost as smart as a bag of muddy rocks. It was a bleak but necessary phase of growth, our terrible twos of a digitally connected world. We celebrated snitches, nerds, and creeps.

Not anymore. Not since Joe Rogan got his Spotify deal. 

Ultimately, Trump will have been less influential than Rogan, and that is just something you are going to have to consider if you want to be taken seriously as a thinker. Influence is influence. 

Shakespeare is the strongest brand in English Literature. He’s the Disney of the stage. Nobody even comes close. That’s one reason why studying Shakespeare makes so much sense right now. We are slowly globalizing as a culture and that means a cultural transformation that will change things in a way that feels threatening to some and promising to others. Superhero movies have dominated this period for this reason. We need a common language to speak, a mythical language.

We have evolved from a culture best defined by Disney, to one described in spirit by comic book characters. Can you see how young we are as a culture? The next logical step, as happens with any 9th grader in this country I believe, is to start reading Shakespeare. That’s the next level above comic books for us, for some reason. It’s not so much a hierarchy, however, as much as a process of maturation that entails the development of certain strengths or capabilities. 

When we are young, we require the entertaining quality of cartoons. When we get a little older, we can read books with pictures. Eventually, we can read sophisticated plays and derive value and meaning from the text. Does that mean that reading Shakespeare is better than watching Looney Tunes? Not exactly. It just indicates a more mature and sophisticated ability to consume culture. It’s still just consuming culture.

The most important part of consuming culture is the dialogue that it provokes. Reading Shakespeare can lead to more relevant and interesting conversations about things that matter to today’s context without directly discussing topical news. 

Bertram is a bro. He’s too young to be noble. He’s suffering from testosterone poisoning and that is no excuse for his rapist mentality, his narcissistic abandoning of family and country. It’s just an explanation for why he is such a kook. He probably would never become someone cool, but surely, he could not remain this stupid forever. Once he realizes that his own sexual appetite is less important than being good to the people in his life, then he might simmer down a little bit. Not in the play, though. He’s cool as a grease fire. He’s suffering from mental illness, a combination of grief for his father’s death, of a repulsion of being controlled, and of a manic desire to kill enemies in battle and to have sex with virgins as a reward. Bertram is a head case.

He’s also a loser. Despite all the actions he takes, he still ends up a victim of fate, made to do what other people tell him to do. Bertram is a submissive male. Bertram is beta. His aggression on the battlefield and in the bedroom derive from his knowledge that he has no control over his own life. Thankfully, Bertram is so stupid that he never really hurts anyone. The virgin he is trying to sleep with tricks him into having sex with his own wife. His best friend betrays him. Slowly, Bertram realizes how stupid he has been, what poor judgment he has shown.

This is a painful awakening during a comedy. 

Reading Shakespeare, listening to the characters, and thinking about how their plots relate to our lives today is a good way to engage in debate without devolving into fighting. At least, I hope it could. Who knows, though. It might end up as a shouting match between Team Helena and Team Bertram.