I’m full. Sated. Happy.
Fish tacos, my friends. That’s what has brought me to this wonderful place. Batter-fried fish on corn tortillas with salsa, finely cut cabbage, and some secret ingredient that Rubio’s puts in their “Pesky” tacos. With tortilla chips and refried beans on the side. Mmm. . .
It would be wrong to say that I came to California for fish tacos, but I was certainly looking forward to it for several months.
No, I’m in San Jose attending the 20th annual joint SPIE/IS&T Electronic Imaging symposium. Sunday I attended nine hours of short courses: “Color Processing and its Characterization for Digital Photography” and “Perceptual Metrics for Image Quality Evaluation.” Today — before the fish tacos — I sat in on a full day of paper presentations spread over the “Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XIII”, “Image Quality and System Performance V”, and “Digital Photography IV” conferences. (Tomorrow: “Color Imaging XIII: Processing, Hardcopy, and Applications” and “Rocky IV”.) I had hoped to see “Inferring illumination direction estimated from disparate sources in paintings: an investigation into Jan Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’”, but I was glad that I heard Daniel Tamburrino‘s paper “Digital camera workflow for high-dynamic-range images using a model of retinal processing” instead.
(Supposing that I feel
bored motivated, I will try to post some of my notes here in the coming days.)
I’ve only been here two and a half days, but I already feel like I’ve done so much. As I advocate in my book How to Get Rich through Petty Cash, I’m taking the opportunity to enjoy myself while on a business trip. If you travel around the country and only see the inside of your hotel room, you’re wasting your time on this earth. You’ve got to get out of the hotel, out of the high-priced bubble that surrounds any place where convention-goers congregate, and out of town if possible.
The trip from Boston on Saturday was one of the nicest cross-country flights I’ve ever had. It was my first time flying Jet Blue — I like the seats but don’t think I made the most of the seat-back amenities — and I was the only person in my row. Looking out my window I saw the white, snow-covered fields, ice-covered ponds and the sluggish rivers of New England give way to a deep shag of clouds over Minnesota and the corrugated origami of South Dakota and Wyoming. Rapid City, which I’ve never liked at ground-level, was a fine, delicate etched glass trophy on the edge of the blue Black Hills, the gateway to my old flame. Were those spiral holes in the ground and the furrows of overburden south of Gillette there last time? Surely those oil wells near Midwest still make the same unearthly bullfrog croaking I remember when we stopped the car to look at the bright smear of the milky way on a cold winter’s night more than a dozen years ago. And there’s the interstate leading to my city, my river, my mountain, my mother, my long-gone adolescent angst. I press my hand to the window. Clouds and snow fill in the depths of the Wind River Range, the last of the Rockies before the great folds in the earth when we enter Utah and then Terra Incognita and Terra Nullius in Nevada. Lake Tahoe, defiant, is not frozen but a deep black, unlike the muddy water covering fields in the Central Valley. And there’s glorious Point Reyes, unbelievably beautiful in the light of a western sun shining through broken clouds. Finally, the Golden Gate and its fabulous bridge.
After getting my rental car, I immediately headed to the SFMoMA, to see the Jeff Wall exhibit, which closed Sunday while I was in my classes. I like many of Jeff Wall’s photographs, but I’m deeply ambivalent about his work in general. First he has a reputation as the most cerebral living photographer, but I often I feel that the nonstop art historical references — less that a quarter of which I doubt I caught — get in the way of making a photograph that’s pleasing to look at. Should we really let folks like Wolfgang Tillmans, Jürgen Teller (NSFW), and Wall — or me for that matter — revel in elevating every ordinary scene and still claim a fig leaf of art historical pretension? Perhaps if I were more of an insider, I would be less ambivalent; but such is the way with me and all modern art. An-My Lê’s photographs from her Small Wars and 29 Palms series were perfect. And the black-and-white and color work of the Silicon Valley from Gabriele Basilico had me amazed and envious. Finally, I have to admit that despite liking monographs better than surveys, and themed exhibitions better than a hodge-podge of recent acquisitions, I liked Picturing Modernity, a hodge-podge survey of photographs from the museums collection, very loosely grouped around a two word title and including several pictures that (too conveniently) would have fit in recent exhibits at the National Gallery of Art (like this one and that one). Surely it was the luscious, large deadpan photos at the exhibit entrance that enticed me to give it a free pass.
Well that’s all that’s new from the other coast. I wish Lisa were here, and I miss having the cat lie upon my lap while I scratch under his chin. But these small prices must be paid by an international playboy with
an expense account a conference to attend.