Sunday, August 22, 2010

Aaaaaand... A Few More Before I Go To Bed

OK, so here's that first picture from the last batch again, but hopefully I've cut most of the noise out this time.

And here's Paul. He's the drummer for the Pink Parts, in case you aren't familiar. I might have oversharpened this to some extent, but I think it's still fine. Gotta show off that shallow depth of field.

Due to constraints of venue layout and fixed focal length of 50mm on a cropped sensor, I don't think I was ever able to get an entire band in one shot. This one has both Paul and Meredith in it, though. I think I've got a shot or two of just Paul that'll be in a future post.

Finally getting around to a Brendan shot. A bunch of the shots I've got from this night were at a 45 degree angle or something, and look totally amateurish in the cold, hard light of day. I'm sure there's more that's salvageable, though.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pictures From All Asia, 8/5/10 (First Batch)

By my standards, this is really quick to get around to post processing. It hasn't even been three weeks yet. Maybe I'll get these done before the next Pink Parts show.

Anyways, let's start off with Maniac and Meredith. They look great in this picture. I tried to do what I could about the noise, but this was all at ISO 3200, which is the upper limit of what my camera can do. If I were a rich man, I'd get fancy noise reduction software, and a computer fast enough to run it on, and a million other things, like a decent meal now and then. But I digress. I do that sometimes.

Next up is an extreme close-up of Ben. The noise is less obvious in this one. Maybe I should try resizing these down to this size before uploading, rather than letting Picasa's uploader handle that part. Perhaps I'll have better luck uploading to Flickr. So many things to worry about.

Now we've got Ben and Steve sharing a scorpion bowl. Aren't they such an adorable couple? It was at this point in post-processing that I first discovered that the GIMP has the ability to imitate various black and white films. I'm a fan of Kodak Tri-X, though not really for any particularly good reason, so I chose that. Much better at hiding all that ISO noise.

Oh, and there were also bands playing. This is the lovely Meredith, of the Pink Parts. Having photographed these guys before, I've found that the best strategy is to take lots of pictures of Meredith, as she's hard to capture. Maybe one shot in ten I can get to work out well. I think one's a keeper. One nice thing about shooting with no flash is that you can get that cool motion blur on her right hand, really showing off the action. The disadvantage, of course is being pretty much stuck at f/1.4 and ISO 3200, so there's that noise I keep bitching about.

And another one of Meredith. Also another one in simulated Tri-X. Probably not the most flattering facial expression (sorry Meredith), but I think it was the only one with that sweet fist pump.

And lastly (for tonight), here's Tara blowing me a kiss. I think at this point, it was totally too dim for autofocus to work, so I was stuck focusing manually, which is a pain up close at f/1.4. This took a few attempts to get in focus, then I decided I liked this one better than the one that was in focus. It's got a certain feel to it, ya know? Used the Tri-X simulation again, then added a bit of the color back in. I think that was the right call for this image.

OK. That's it for now. My computer's old and slow, making the post-processing more of an annoying time-consuming pain in the arse than it should be. I promise to fight my way through more pictures soon. Still got two thirds of the Pink Parts that haven't even made an appearance. And whichever of Brian's bands it was that played after them. And some other stuff.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You're Friends With the Enemy of My Friends, or Something

I'm always confused at the way that life refuses to follow rules of logic. If someone is the enemy of my friend, they ought to be my enemy, I would think. And two people who are friends of mine ought to get along, just by logical necessity.

Alas, the commutative and associative properties that are so basic to mathematics are completely foreign to the workings of actual relationships between actual human beings. I think I'm the sort of person whose intuition gives him a good understanding of these sorts of mathematical principles, and much less understanding of human behavior.

Really, though, as much as it's simply beyond comprehension to me, I do love the illogical nature of pretty much all interpersonal interaction. On the other hand, I've never really felt at home with it at all. And by "it", I mean pretty much everything about the way normal people (or even the not-quite-so-normal people who make up most of my acquaintances) interact with each other.

I've often thought to myself that the way I deal with meeting new people is most similar to Jane Goodall meeting new chimps (or was it gorillas; for once I'm not going to look it up, just mentally substitute the correct non-human primate if it bothers you). First, I hang out in the periphery, quietly observing and hoping people get used to me being around. Then I slowly start picking up on the way socializing works, and slowly try to work my way into things.

Well, this actually turned out to be more personal than I intended. But it kind of felt good, so maybe I'll do more. Goodnight for now, though.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Notice the Fancy New Fonts?

After a bit of research into the matter last night (really, early this morning), I found that offers many free fonts available for web use. And one of them is a version of my personal favorite for text, Goudy Old Style. It's not as nice as some versions out there, noticeably lacking the graceful curve along the base of the capital E and L, and the well-defined diamond shape of the dot on the i and j, as well as the separate Goudy Old Style Bold.

But it's quite nice for free, and does include Goudy Old Style Italic, not just an oblique version of the regular. I'm thinking of finding something different to use for the headlines, but that'll be a bit later. Anyways, I've put a colophon over at the right as a permanent note on such matters, for those who might also be typography geeks like me.

Must Read Article on the US Torture Program at Guantanamo

Scott Horton over at Harper's Magazine, which I highly recommend in general, has been following the story of our country's torture of terror suspects (perhaps, given the flimsy evidence often required, I should render that with scare quotes: “suspects”) for quite some time. You can look through his blog at Harper's online for several previous stories on the matter, as well as various other interesting stuff. As far as I can tell, he's pretty much the only journalist seriously investigating just what the hell our country is doing when it comes to torture.

Forthcoming in the March issue of Harper's is a new article on one of the most deeply troubling incidents, even by the hideous standards of the US torture program. This is the article I'll be quoting from, unless otherwise noted. The story starts back in 2006, when Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani (these names are also rendered in other ways, due to differences between Arabic naming customs and our own; I'll try to be consistent) were “discovered” dead in their cells, shortly after midnight on June 10th. The official story goes something like this:
According to the NCIS, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.
(The NCIS is the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who have primary jurisdiction over investigating crimes at Guantanamo. Cynics may recognize a familiarity between their handiwork above and their “investigation” into the USS Iowa turret explosion in 1989.)

Even that much is only known because Seton Hall University Law School students and staff managed to piece together an account from “1,700 pages of documents so heavily redacted as to be nearly incomprehensible,” and that the NCIS refused to disclose initially. The Seton Hall report, in its own words, “examines the investigation, not to determine what happened that night, but rather to assess why an investigation into three deaths could have failed to address significant issues.” The report itself is one in a series of reports, “analyzing government data to illuminate the interrogations and intelligence practices of the United States” by Seton Hall, including a previous one on the three “suicides” in question.

The Seton Hall report sums up the obvious discrepancies in the NCIS account thus:
The original military press releases did not report that the detainees had been dead for more than two hours when they were discovered, nor that rigor mortis had set in by the time of discovery.

There is no explanation of how three bodies could have hung in cells for at least two hours while the cells were under constant supervision, both by video camera and by guards continually walking the corridors guarding only 28 detainees.

There is no explanation of how each of the detainees, much less all three, could have done the following: braided a noose by tearing up his sheets and/or clothing, made a mannequin of himself so it would appear to the guards he was asleep in his cell, hung sheets to block vision into the cell—a violation of Standard Operating Procedures, tied his feet together, tied his hands together, hung the noose from the metal mesh of ii the cell wall and/or ceiling, climbed up on to the sink, put the noose around his neck and released his weight to result in death by strangulation, hanged until dead and hung for at least two hours completely unnoticed by guards.

There is no indication that the medics observed anything unusual on the cell block at the time that the detainees were hanging dead in their cells.

The initial military press releases did not report that, when the detainees‘ bodies arrived at the clinic, it was determined that each had a rag obstructing his throat.

There is no explanation of how the supposed acts of “asymmetrical warfare” could have been coordinated by the three detainees, who had been on the same cell block fewer than 72 hours with occupied and unoccupied cells between them and under constant supervision.

There is no explanation of why the Alpha Block guards were advised that they were suspected of making false statements or failing to obey direct orders.

There is no explanation of why the guards were ordered not to provide sworn statements about what happened that night.

There is no explanation of why the government seemed to be unable to determine which guards were on duty that night in Alpha Block.

There is no explanation of why the guards who brought the bodies to the medics did not tell the medics what had happened to cause the deaths and why the medics never asked how the deaths had occurred.

There is no explanation of why no one was disciplined for acts or failures to act that night.

There is no explanation of why the guards on duty in the cell block were not systematically interviewed about the events of the night; why the medics who visited the cell block before the hangings were not interviewed; or why the tower guards, who had the responsibility and ability to observe all activity in the camp, were not interviewed.

And they pretty much leave things there, their stated purpose only being to examine the government's own reports, and not to investigate what might have actually happened. To get to that part of the story, let's turn our attention back to Scott Horton and the Harper's article. He reports that “four members of the Military Intelligence unit assigned to guard Camp Delta, including a decorated non-commissioned Army officer who was on duty as sergeant of the guard the night of June 9–10, have furnished an account dramatically at odds with the NCIS report—a report for which they were neither interviewed nor approached.”

The account that emerges seems to fit better in stories from behind the Iron Curtain back in the time of the Cold War. The Guantanamo prisoners are held in a collection of smaller camps collectively referred to as Camp Delta. (This is a more detailed map than the one in the Harper's article, and the terminology seems to vary as to what's meant by Camp Delta. So some of this is inconsistent with the article, but not in the important details.) Camps I, II, and III are open-air cells, Camp IV is mostly like a POW camp, for compliant prisoners, Camps V and VI are permanent facilities modeled on Federal Prisons, and Camp Echo holds prisoners in solitary confinement and has cells for prisoners meeting with their lawyers. Outside Camp Delta is Camp Iguana, where prisoners now believed to be innocent are held, and Camp Platinum (a.k.a. Camp VII), whose existence was kept secret for two years, and whose location is still, as far as I can tell, secret, was for 15 “high-value” detainees.

The soldiers interviewed in the article (who were stationed at the base in 2006) talk of a secret detention area they referred to as “Camp No,” in reference to the fact that its existence was denied by everyone present. This may be what was later revealed to be Camp Platinum, I really can't tell. They also tell of a windowless van, that they called the “paddy wagon” that transported prisoners from Camp Delta to other locations, including trips in the direction of “Camp No,” and whose comings and goings were not logged like all other vehicles.

The four soldiers are Sergeant Joe Hickman, Specialist Tony Davila, Specialist Christopher Penvose, and Specialist David Carroll. Hickman was on duty as the sergeant of the guard for Camp America (the Navy guarded the cell blocks themselves, the Army guarded the general area), the sector of Guantanamo that housed Camp Delta, but not “Camp No.” His account of the night states that he saw the “Paddy Wagon” retrieve a prisoner from Camp I, leave Camp Delta, heading towards the exit from Camp America (Camp I is within Camp Delta which is within Camp America, just to clarify here). Twenty minutes later it returned to Camp I to repeat the procedure, and then twenty minutes after that it was back. Hickman was curious, and drove out to the exit from Camp America to see which way it was heading on the third trip. Sure enough, it was in the direction of “Camp No.”

All three prisoners were removed from Camp Delta by 8:00PM. The “Paddy Wagon” returned at about 11:30PM, according to Hickman. Instead of returning to Camp I, however, this time it backed up to the medical facility. At approximately 11:45, Penvose says that he was asked by an unidentified Navy NCO to relay a coded message to a senior petty officer in the Camp Delta chow hall. Thirty minutes later, according to both Hickman and Penvose, the whole area was awash with stadium lighting and much commotion was taking place. Hickman and Davilla both recall being told that three prisoners had been brought to the medical clinic after having died from having rags stuffed down their throats.

Neither Penvose, manning a guard tower near the medical clinic, nor Carroll, manning a guard tower near Camp I, recall seeing any prisoners brought from Camp I to the clinic. The official reports state that the dead bodies were not discovered in their cells until shortly after midnight, rigor mortis having already set in. The implausible tale the NCIS tells, according to the Seton Hall report, continues:
Al Zahrani was reportedly discovered hanging in his cell after midnight on June 10. Upon discovery, the Alpha guards did not call the medics to assist, nor did they advise the medical clinic or call for escort guards or any kind of assistance, as required by SOPs. Instead, all five Alpha guards transported Al Zahrani to the medical clinic approximately 100 yards away. According to the autopsy reports, it took about 28 minutes to do so, leaving the cell block completely unguarded while two other detainees hung in their cells. The Alpha guards did not notice two other detainees hanging dead in their cells.

Despite the rigor mortis, and the fact that the bodies were cold and blue, the medics attempted to resuscitate the three prisoners as they arrived at the clinic. This was when they discovered that each had a rag stuffed deep in his throat. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi was declared dead at 1:15AM, Salah Ahmed Al-Salami was declared dead at 1:16AM, both at the clinic. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani was transported to the hospital and declared dead at 1:50AM. Rear Admiral Harry Harris came to the clinic shortly afterwards to praise the medical staff and guards, and to reassure them that there was nothing they could have done.

The following day, Admiral Harris told the press “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but rather an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

I'll leave off here for now. We can call this Part I, covering the events up through the deaths of the three prisoners. Part II, whenever I might get around to it, can deal with the cover-up. I was thinking of throwing a more provocative title up top, but I figure that when pretty much accusing the US military of torture and murder, it's best to build the case carefully, rather than sound like a conspiracy theorist. Hopefully, with the case now laid out by Scott Horton and published online, with four US Army soldiers having come forward, the mainstream press will start to actually dig for some answers.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More of the Fisheye Pictures

The week after Christmas is usually not that busy at work, so I grabbed the Fisheye camera to finish off the roll of film. That last self-portrait was one of them, here's some others now that I've scanned them in. All with the Fisheye2 Lomo camera, Fuji Sensia 400, cross-processed, and scanned in with my crappy scanner:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's Been a While

self_portrait_12-30-09, originally uploaded by waterj2.

OK, I'm going to try to get this back up and running for 2010. To start, here's my latest self-portrait. This was my first attempt at getting slide film cross-processed, and with the Fisheye2 Lomo camera, there's no way to control exposure, so it was an interesting experience. There's definitely something great about having no clue how anything's going to look until after you've paid good money to get it processed. Some of the shots were just way too dark, but a bunch were pretty cool. My scanner's pretty shitty, but I'll try to get the rest of the cool ones up soon. Maybe I can stretch it into a couple weeks of blog posts.