Violet, You’re Turning Violet

In my last post, I mentioned that we are now getting produce from a CSA farm. It’s Redfire Farm in Granby, Mass. One of the distribution points for the CSA shares is close to the house, so it’s actually fairly convenient. Costwise it’s more expensive than the produce from my usual source, Russo’s in Watertown, but the shares are generally a fairly good quantity of food, and the quality is very good. And of course, it’s all organic, and the money supports workers in our regional economy. Personally, I like being able to buy my food direct from the producer as much as possible. In the summer, there’s also a good farmer’s market near here in Somerville, but we’re getting enough from Redfire that I haven’t had to go over there yet this season.

One of the benefits of having a share in the CSA is the privilege, I guess, of being able to go to the farm and pretend to be a field-hand for a morning and pick your own produce as part of your share; no additional cost except for actually getting to the farm. Which for us, is more than an hour’s drive. But we did go out there a few weeks ago at the peak of the strawberry harvest and came away with eight quarts of strawberries, and also some nice field peas and snow peas. Here’s a photo of the wife pretending to be a field hand:

It turns out, eight quarts of strawberries is a lot of strawberries. And strawberries, as you may know, do not keep for very long at all. The next morning, we had strawberries with waffles (I use a beastly, chrome-plated early 1950s-vintage Sunbeam W-2 waffle iron that still has its original cloth-wrapped cord. Works better than anything you can get new.). Then I made some strawberry ice cream. Then I made some strawberry jam, which actually used up most of the remaining berries. I’d actually gone out and bought some canning supplies just for this.

Another benefit is that they offer some of the produce for additional bulk purchase, and also sell some produce from other nearby farms. After we used up the strawberries, I was able to get a flat of 12 pints of blueberries.

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes. Then blueberry syrup, 5 jars. Blueberry jam, 7 jars. Blueberry buttermilk ice cream. That, I have to admit, did not come out so well. I started with the recipe I’d used for the strawberries, and substituted the buttermilk for the milk. But the blueberry pulp started to clump before going into the custard, necessitating the use of the blender. The result was less than satisfactory flavor and texture. I realized too late that I’d made an error; I should have made a syrup out the pulp and used that. And since I still have so much syrup, I suppose I could give it a try to find out. Or the syrup could go almost directly to a sorbet; that would be nice, too.

Blueberry muffins. The last pint has been going into my granola. When they’re gone, I’ll have had enough blueberries for a while.

Holding up one-seven-billionth of the sky

I mentioned in a previous post, some months ago, that I do some freelance work. Recently, my temp job became a permanent job, which is a good thing, but I’m still taking some freelance work. The freelance work is how I pay for my toys. The freelance work often involves reading some pretty wretched books. So often, when I think I want some bit of consumer goods fluff, I think to myself, is this worth reading some vampire romance novel for? Frequently, the answer is no. This can get tested to the limit when a) the assignments are dreadful conservative pundit books and b) the object of desire is a new bicycle.

Now, you’ve seen these guys on TV, or at least, seen Jon Stewart making fun of them on TV. So, you have some idea of what they go on about and how stupid they are. Now imagine 300 pages or so of this concentrated and uninterrupted stupid. Even when they on occasion hit upon some notion that makes half a bean of sense, they treat it so halfassedly that you want to disagree with them just for the sake of form. If you have a passing familiarity with facts, logic, and reason, or even just a sense of human decency, these books are extremely irritating.

I’ve given up trying to point out errors of fact or consistency. Why bother? Most of the time, it’s deliberate. They don’t care, and they’re not going to change anything because of some snotty proofreader. Well, okay, it’s not entirely true—when I pointed out to one author that there were no Mormons in Colonial New England, that was fixed. (Why these things are not caught by the editors or copyeditors is another rant entirely.)

I should pause here to point out that in my experience, liberal pundit books are not much better, but somebody else must be getting those to work on. I mainly get the conservative ones. But pundits are generally worthless as a class, regardless of ideology. A pundit is like a used car salesman; their job is to sell you a product that might look shiny and clean on the outside, but is badly damaged in the guts of it. They know this, so they need to get your money and hustle you off the lot as quickly as possible, and they’ll say anything to get the job done.

The point is, I could pass on these books. I don’t really have to take them. I won’t starve or be homeless. Heck, I could pay for the new bike without them, it just makes it a lot easier. I even told the production editor who gives me the work, I’m going to spend the proceeds on organic vegetables and a new bicycle, just for karmic balance. She was amused. It helps that I like the client I do the work for. They pay a decent rate and they’re easy to deal with. The projects are sometimes actually fun.

The organic vegetables come from a CSA-organized farm in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, it’s more expensive than buying the industrial produce at the supermarket, but not really more than at say, the local farmer’s market. The quality of the produce is good, and the shares are more than enough for the two of us. In fact, it’s a challenge to use it all. There will have to be zucchini bread this week. A couple of weeks ago, I made strawberry jam. Now I have a fridge full of blueberries.

The bicycle is a shiny red Jamis Aurora Elite. I wanted a bike that could take daily commuting through New England weather and carry loads of groceries, but still be fun to ride on the weekends. So far, I’m pretty happy with my choice, though there’s still a few things I want to change—like the cheesy flat fenders. This is a fairly well-equipped bike, and the stock rear rack is actually quite nice and sturdy, so what’s with the crap fenders? Replacements have already been ordered.

But more about that stuff later.

Meanwhile I know that the bookstores of our country are being flooded with this pure, unadulterated bullshit. I mean, I’ve been in the publishing business long enough to know that it mainly floats on bullshit of one kind or another—whole categories of bullshit—and that this has been true to some extent for as long as the industry has existed. And meanwhile the entire global economy is crumbling and the Gulf of Mexico is as oily as . . . the gulf of Mexico. I can’t even come up with a metaphor for that one. Largely due, in both cases, to a long history of corporate and regulatory incompetence malfeasance.

Okay, well, of course, we all know about this. We’re all mad about it. I just get irritated and cranky because my work sometimes makes me come face to face with the fact that there’s one group of people trying to sell the idea that the solution to our problems is to basically ignore them, pretend they aren’t real, because any actual substantial change threatens the whole system they leech off of. It’s to their advantage that shit like this keeps happening. And on the other side is a group of people that think that the way to deal is to shuffle the deck chairs of the regulatory Titanic, because any actual substantial change, etc.

You know, we try to do our bit. Live within our means, ride and walk to work, recycle, compost, and so on and so forth, and all of these assholes are doing their best to make sure that nothing you do matters one little bit. They want the message to be: you don’t matter. The answer comes from the free market or from government, but not from us. We need to get back to work and and the mall and buy more stuff. From China. Just shut the fuck up and buy more stuff from China. The last thing anybody wants is for large numbers of people to actually start considering the consequences of how they live.

So I get to be trapped in a room with these bozos* for hours on end, listening to them droning on and on. Kind of like this post, except much, much longer. Imagine this post, going on and on for hundreds of pages. That would suck. You would probably say, I’d rather be out riding my new bicycle. And you’d be right.

Okay, enough venting. I’ve vented. It’s the heat. The heat is making me cranky, too. And the ants. The ants are getting in the house. It doesn’t take much to make me cranky. What I want to know is, why aren’t all the stupid fuckwads who said there was no global warming because we had a lot of snow last winter now coming back and saying they see the light, or at least feel the heat?

Sorry, that was more venting. Once started, it’s hard to stop that train.

And when the venting is done, I just have to remember: there’s a new bike. And blueberries.

*This is unkind to bozos. I recently worked on a book about Bozo the Clown. Who, it turns out, was a decent likable guy who just wanted to make people laugh. Maybe if more of these cretins were actually a little more like Bozo, things wouldn’t be so bad.

pic of the day

It’s raining today, and will be raining tomorrow. So I’m just putting up a picture.


Normally, I don’t like to complain too much about work. At least, not too much in public. In private, sure, don’t we all? Especially with other people who do the same sort of work. Because, of course, they understand. They’ve been there. Actually, that’s a lie. I complain in public, or at least pseudo-public. If the Internet counts. Though that’s often not so much complaining about my work specifically but the industry I work in, which is publishing. Which, as we all know, is a dying, soon to be obsolete business. The book business has been slowly decaying for decades, but the process has been speeding up lately. Thanks to the Internet. And no one having any money to spend on food, let alone books.

For the past seven or eight years, I’ve worked mainly in the “editorial production” functions—copyediting, proofreading, working as production editor—the stuff that happens between the time an editor hands over the manuscript and page proofs get sent off to the printer. I freelance, taking proofreading jobs, even when I’ve got full-time work, but the full-time work never seems to pay quite enough.

But lately, or actually really the past two or three years, there have been, for me at least, a steady stream of political pundit-type books. Mostly by folks at the more conservative end of the political spectrum, because, as we know, the media is controlled by liberals. Now, I have a bit of science geek background, spent a little time in an engineering school—RPI, which, unlike MIT, encourages you to flunk out–so I am slightly predisposed to favor things like facts and logic and reality. These attributes are frequently absent from political pundit books, which probably comes as no surprise to any of you. And it does no good to point out even straightforward factual errors; these corrections will generally be ignored.

Anyway, I just finished another one, by a Fox News Blowhard, which I can’t really say too much about, since it was embargoed. That means the contents are supposed to be secret until it gets published. I didn’t explicitly promise to honor the embargo, but I like the client I got the job from, and want to work with them again, so I will. I’m not entirely sure the reason for the embargo—the book was largely a rehash of conservative talking points that have been covered elsewhere.

Clearly, these folks are really, really unhappy that Barack Obama is president. For conservatives, this is the unhappiest thing to happen to them since the Clinton years. So some of it is just the transfer of the infrastructure of Clinton Hate that had been built up over the previous 16 years to Obama. I mean, there was an extensive cottage industry devoted to Clinton Hate, and the Clinton Hate had to be nurtured and maintained throughout the Bush years because Hillary would just not go away. Then Obama came along and kept Hillary out of the White House, but you can’t just flush 16 years of Hate down the crapper. The Hate had to go somewhere. Add to that the fact that Obama is Not One of Us, and you have a recipe for much of the teabaggy goodness we’ve been seeing on the news lately.

My wife and I have a small collection of cookbooks of the sort that were promotional giveaways and supermarket checkout items in the decades past. Many of these are notable for the execrable photography and printing that frequently makes the prepared food appear to be have been something left behind at the scene of crime, or perhaps an auto accident. Some of these feature amusing ancillary illustrations that I suppose were intended to be comforting to the reader.

When you see a teabagger on the news saying they want to take the country back, and they seem a little vague about who they think took it from them, and what they did with it, it seems a good guess that the country they want back looks in their mind something like this:

How quaint and wholesome! An old-fashioned country fair. Everyone was happy and getting along fine, and then this guy shows up:

Jeez, thanks for the wine, but we’ll have to count the silverware after he leaves. And probably disinfect everything, too.

Not surprisingly, the publishers of these books pretty much assumed that the readers were middle-class WASP women. Anything beyond the realm of the middle-class WASP woman was “exotic.” The illustrations make this pretty explicit. “Exotic” is probably the most charitable way to view it. In fact, I can’t quite wrap my head around the inspiration to include these guys:

Anybody want to hazard a guess what was being suggested here? Is it too far-fetched to think that the average WASP housewife of 1956 is going to find this maybe a little threatening, with an implication of cannibalism, yet at the same time she is supposed to see a welcoming invitation to soups?

So now we live in a world where it is possible for an African American man to be elected president, after graduating from Harvard Law School and teaching at the University of Chicago, and still, in the back of some people’s mind, or even not so far back, they’re still afraid of these guys and their soup pot.

Great Minds Think Alike

Okay—I’ve been predictably lame about posting to my supposed blog. Anyone surprised by that? Not really. But I’ve started getting back some of the Kodachrome I have to use up, and have a few good shots to scan.

Sometimes—for me, often—you’re just walking along and you see something sort of ordinary, the sort of thing most people would not think of as a photo subject, and you wonder, can I make something of that? Often you can’t, or at least I can’t. Two times out of three I put the camera up, look through it, try to frame a shot, and nothing comes of it. I put the camera down. The one time out of three that I take the photo, two times out of three the resulting photo doesn’t look that great to me when I see it.

Some of the remaining photos I post to the APUG galleries, with varied responses. Some people like them, some say WTF? Well, what can you do?

Sometimes you find that someone else has been looking at things kinda the same way. Here’s one of my new shots:


Then, a few days ago, a web site came to my attention, a web site dedicated to the photography of Vivian Maier. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of Vivian Maier, either. Ms. Maier apparently lived in Chicago for many years, wandered the streets with her Rolleiflex, documented what was going on around her, and never showed anyone the photos. The guy with the web site got the negatives out of some boxes in a storage room whose contents were being auctioned off. One of the shots was this:

[Link here–Technical Difficulties!]

So Ms. Maier, some decades ago in Chicago, saw some french fries lying by the curb and had the same thought I had when I saw Fritos on the ground.

I recommend checking out the rest of the site; her street photography is top-notch.

Lawn Idols

I am probably not the most disorganized person on the Earth, but I am probably not that far off. One of things I need to get organized is a batch of photos of an accidental project, the lawn idols of Somerville (and nearby). Somerville is a small and fairly densely built-up city, with much of the housing stock in the form of two- or three-family houses set on fairly small lots. The houses are close together, but most of them are set back a little from the street, so that there is usually a tiny bit of front yard. The interesting thing is that even though the yards are small, hardly enough even to be called a yard, many residents expend a fair bit of effort in landscaping.

One of the more popular types of decoration is lawn statuary. And much of that statuary is religious in nature. The classic Mary-in-a-half-bathtub is probably the most popular, followed by Jesus (with and without ripped-out heart), and various saints (I’m not sure how one is supposed to know which is which). Sometimes Mary has a little flock of worshippers. Interestingly, Jesus usually does not. I presume the little worshipper figures can be purchased on their own, but they usually seem to end up around a Mary. Maybe Mary is feeling a little insecure needs a little more reinforcement? I don’t know.

Because Somerville is a small city, it’s easy to cover on foot. A lot of these decorated yards end up as subjects for photos. Though it’s necessary to keep an eye out for interesting or unusual examples—a lawn that had just a lone Mary would not normally be a very good subject. Some of the better ones involve a multitude of themes—such as Mary and a flock of fairies and bunnies surrounded by random plants:


I’m not sure what the backdrop behind Mary is supposed to be protecting the house from: holy radiation?

Some people apparently feel that just having a Mary or a Jesus is not quite enough protection. So they’d better throw in a saint or two, plus some animals. Having just a Mary or a Jesus, or even both, leaves a little room for doubt. But nothing is getting past this guard unit:


Pity the poor wise men who must wait in the shadows for the holiday, though.

Sometimes good examples can be found in neighboring towns. Somerville hardly has a lock on the statuary market, though few places have quite the same concentration. Even upscale neighborhoods in Cambridge are not immune. But of course, in Cambridge, the idols must be suitably respectable, literate, and informed about current events. Apparently also unable to share their newspapers.


There’s more along these lines, and I’ve got to sort through them, decide which ones I like, and there’s probably a few places I’ll maybe even want to revisit and shoot again. In fact, I know there are.

Stretching limits

Tonight I made a pizza. It was, at least as far as I can recall, the first time I made my own pizza from scratch. Which is a little odd, in a way, since I like to cook and have in fact cooked successfully a fairly wide range of dishes. I’d just never gotten around to pizza. I guess it was always just too easy to do take-away. But in our new house we have a monster oven begging to be put to use, and mostly very mediocre at best choices in the neighborhood for take-out pizza. So it was time to learn.

I decided to start with a relatively simple recipe from the Silver Spoon cookbook for Neapolitan pizza. Basically, dough, tomatoes, cheese. Maybe this was my first mistake. In the morning, I went down to one of our local Italian specialty shops, Capone Foods in Somerville, to get a bag of pizza flour. I knew they had this, because it was on the shelf next to the bags of pasta flour, and I had seen them there when I bought a bag of pasta flour not too long ago.

Now, you might be wondering, is there much of difference between pasta flour and pizza flour? Well, I was, anyway. I’d assumed that the pizza flour would be more like bread flour, a high-gluten flour, but was told that, in fact, the pasta flour is higher gluten than the pizza flour.

Actually mixing the dough was easy enough—it’s just flour, water, yeast, and a little salt. It was supposed to rise for three hours, so while we were waiting, we walked down to the What the Fluff festival in Union Square. The What the Fluff festival is a celebration of the invention of marshmallow fluff. The guy who invented Fluff lived in Somerville. Durkee-Mower, the company that makes Fluff, is now in Lynn, but that doesn’t really stop anybody. The WTF fest is a very popular even in Somerville. There are games for kids, like Fluff Bowling and Fishing for Fluff. Local merchants have booths set up, and there is baking competition. The only real problem is that the actual event isn’t quite up to the number of people it draws, so mainly it becomes an exercise in getting shoved about in a crowd and not getting to actually see very much. Aside from the spectacle of seeing who could lick Fluff off of a plate the fastest, I’d have to say the potential of the Fluff festival is not quite fulfilled. Also, I waited in line for a while to get a T-shirt, and they didn’t have the one I wanted in my size. Poo.

By the time we got back, the dough had risen. Time to make the sauce. The sauce was simple: crushed and strained tomatoes, a little salt, a pinch of oregano. Goes on raw, cooks in the oven.

My real difficulty came when I tried to make the crust. The dough was very, very sticky. I really had a hard time getting control of it. I ended up having to try two or three times, and ended up with a crust that was smaller than I wanted and had too much dough at the edges.

As I said, I like to cook, but when things start to go badly in the kitchen, I get upset, and start cursing at everything, and banging things around. I lose patience, and get sloppy, and rush, which just makes things worse. The dough stuck to the board I was stretching it on, it stuck to the peel (and yes, I had tried to use a little cornmeal to keep it from sticking), and the the cheese tried to slide off onto the baking stone. Which was really, really hot, and doesn’t like to have high-fat foods placed directly on it (the stone is hot enough for fat to burn instantly). I just slammed the door shut and fumed for a few minutes, already thinking about where dinner was going to have to come from, since I was pretty sure the pizza was ruined. This is why there’s no photo for this post. I was too angry to think about it, and when it was done, I was too hungry.

Remarkably, though, what came out of the oven was actually edible. Was, in fact, not awful. Not great, not quite what I had planned, but I’d had worse. In my struggles with the dough, I’d knocked much of the air out of it, and it was a tad overworked. The sauce and cheese were good. Even with the difficulties I’d had, it was still better than most of the local pizza shops. Whether this says more about my cooking skills or the lack thereof among the neighborhood pizza crews, I don’t know. But I’ll have to try again—I’ve got the stone and the peel, and three and a half pounds of flour to get through.

Baking and whining

I started this blog, as I said, to goad me into actually doing a little work, and it has worked somewhat. I haven’t been posting as much as I’d planned, but I have been getting through some of the photo scanning I’d been meaning to do. I’ve also been baking. In the last week or two I’ve baked a tart, a torte, and a batch of cupcakes.

The baking started with a party. My wife decided to make an angel food cake for this party. I also wanted to bake something for the party, so I figured the best plan would be to make something that would use up the egg yolks that would be left over from the angel food cake. I decided to make a lemon tart. When I started to make the tart, however, I realized that I had misread the recipe I had intended to use. The recipe called for whole eggs, not yolks. At that point, however, I was more or less committed to the tart. So I went ahead and made it anyway. And it was good. The angel food cake was also good. Our desserts were a hit at the party.


But I was still left with all the yolks. I found a recipe for a chocolate torte that used only yolks. And buttercream frosting: more yolks. Not quite all 12 yolks, but enough to not feel like I was letting too much go to waste. However, the torte did not need all of the buttercream, which I had made with a coffee flavor. So after we ate up all of the torte, I made a batch of cupcakes. Chocolate, of course. Cupcakes seemed like a good idea, because I could bring some of them to work and get my coworkers to eat them. One of the advantages of a day job is having coworkers who will consume your excess production.

I guess if you always bake stuff from mixes, you never have this sort of problem. No leftover ingredients. But I hate to waste food, or throw stuff away unused. Even when it’s gone way bad. There’s a couple of eggs in the fridge and some cream that’s gone off that I really need to toss, and I’ll feel bad doing it. I failed to find a use for it all.

I feel bad about food waste at restaurants. Every Saturday morning we go to a local diner for breakfast. Some of the breakfast specials they make are quite a lot of food, and pretty much every time we go, there are lot of people leaving a lot of food on their plates (remember, we often sit at the counter, where you can easily watch everything that goes on in the diner). To be fair, many people take the leftovers, and it’s impossible on a practical basis for a restaurant to design a standardized portion that’s going to be good for everyone. I gather that this is part of the appeal of places like the Cheesecake Factory: customers more or less plan on taking home leftovers.

And yet, there it is: food that’s grown, harvested, packaged, shipped, cooked, and thrown away. I don’t quite understand why. Do people feel comforted by the enormous portions that they aren’t going to eat? Would they feel cheated if the portions were smaller? I know a little bit about how the restaurant business works: portion planning and control are essential to keeping a restaurant profitable. So these places wouldn’t routinely produce a wasteful amount of food unless they believed that the large portions were actually part of what brought in customers.

I guess it could be worse: people could actually eat all that food, and be even fatter than they already are. Clearly, the market system is not producing a very efficient distribution of food: enormously excessive quantities of food are being pushed out toward some segments of the market, while others get not enough. Admittedly, it has always been this way, to some degree, throughout human history, but at what other time has obesity been such a widespread problem? At what other time have we seen significant numbers of children being diagnosed with Type II (“adult-onset”) diabetes?

I wouldn’t expect much help from the government here. Congress and the regulatory agencies are too friendly to the food producers. A very large portion of the grain produced in this country goes to cattle feed and the commercial food processors to make HFCS and hydrogenated fats, the “food plasma” that ends up in various shapes in brightly colored boxes on the supermarket shelves. It gets federal farm subsidies so that the resulting meat and plasma will be cheap for the consumer. Eliminating these subsidies would help balance the food mix better, but the farm-state representatives and lobbyists will never let it happen. So the government mandate to produce cheap food contributes directly to weight-related health problems.

Okay, hardly an original observation. Nor do I have a particular solution to offer for it. But if I can’t have a pointless rambling rant on a blog, where can I?

Gahh. I think I need a cupcake.

A Drive in the Country

Today we went on a little road trip, just because it was a nice day. A coworker with a common interest in old diners recommended the Agawam Diner in Rowley, MA. It was reported to be worth a trip, both as a well-preserved dining-car diner and for decent diner food. It also happened to be not far down the road from the Clam Box of Ipswich, which I’d also been wanting to try.

We drove up Route 1, past such local landmarks as the Hilltop, Kowloon, The leaning tower of pizza, and the orange mini-golf dinosaur. We stopped at the site of the defunct Bel-Aire diner, sadly closed and abandoned (for at least four years now, according to Google searching). Vines were visible growing inside the vestibule. Perhaps some venturesome and wealthy patron will someday find the funds to relocate this classic 1950s-vintage diner to a location where it would do enough business to stay open. Nearby we counted two or three boarded-up motels, including one directly across the street. Two local strip clubs had full parking lots, though.

The Agawam Diner has had the good fortune to escape this end, though it is the last of what was once a chain of four. In fact, when we got there, the place was packed, so we decided to keep driving and go by the Clam Box. The Clam Box had a line out the door and down the block a ways. As much as I like fried clams, I’m not up for long lines.

So what is there to do in Ipswich besides eat? Antique shops. And flea markets. And more antique shops, really, as far as the eye can see. So we se a sign for a flea market, and go in.

Find #1: An Argus AF 35mm camera in decent condition. Five bucks, with an intact leather case. Not a steal really: five bucks is about what the camera is worth. This camera dates from around 1937, but the Argus was the first relatively inexpensive (a list price of $15, compared to, say, a Kodak Retina I at $57) 35 mm camera made in the US, and it was pretty popular in its day. Used Arguses (Argi?) are still abundant and commonly found gathering dust in antique stores and flea markets. So I hardly need to buy this camera. But as I say, it does seem to be well-preserved example. The shutter and focusing mechanism seem to be working okay, and the glass is clear. And it is kind of a funky 1930s art-deco bakelite artifact. So what the hell, another toy to play with. I’ve got some FP4 in a bulk loader–I can make up a short roll to test.

As I go to the table to pay, the guy says, “Do you know anything about cameras?” I’m wearing my “Got Film?” T-shirt and carrying my Nikon F2, so I say, “yeah, a little.” He’s just happy to get rid of the thing.

Find #2: We go down the road a ways to check out more antique stores. At one, I find two boxes of #25 flashbulbs, each with a dozen bulbs. Twelve white and Twelve blue. The blue bulbs have a better balance for color film. Judging by the packaging, I’d guess these are late-60s vintage bulbs. The box gives times for two versions of Kodachrome discontinued in 1974, so before then, anyway. Original sticker price: $2.59. My price: $5 per box. Press 25 bulbs fit the flash tube for my Speed Graphic, so I can use them as soon as I finish rigging up the shield. I have found a clip-on diffuser that fit, so all I need is something to keep the glass shards contained. One of the dangers of using 40+ year-old flash bulbs is the occasional burst bulb. The bulbs are actually plastic-coated to prevent shattering, but the coating can fail.
I discovered this by direct experience.

We did get back to the Agawam diner for dinner. And indeed, the Agawam is very well maintained. Nice chrome exterior, nonworking jukebox selectors at the booths, Formica counters. It was busy, but we snagged seats at the counter with no waiting. I actually like being at the counter at a diner, especially a curved counter. You can watch what’s going on behind from there. We’re sitting next to the dessert station, mainly various types of meringue and cream pies, fairly usual diner offerings, along with some fruit pies. At one point I watch a waitress do a fairly sloppy job of slicing a blueberry pie, mashing it so the filling runs out all over the pie tin.

After spending the day driving around and seeing signs for clams every hundred yards or so, I give in to suggestion and order the clam roll. Not the strips; whole clams. And these were definitely whole, with necks. Some places cut the siphons because they can be kinda chewy, but some places leave them on. I’m okay with that. Strips are usually made from sea clams, not shore clams. They’re cheaper, but I don’t think you get a good clam flavor unless you have whole clams. The batter was decent–not quite as crisp and light as you’d get at a good clam shack, but okay–not too thick or crunchy, a frequent failing. The roll is industrial-grade hot dog roll, but toasted in butter. Fries and cole slaw. I don’t eat the cole slaw.

I decide on what seems a safe choice for dessert–chocolate cake. And it’s actually okay, better than I was expecting, though there was a white-frosting filling that was less than good. On the whole, a satisfactory diner experience.

Gift from the Great Wall

Today we have something a little different. My latest camera acquisition is a Tru-View, a cheap plastic camera made by Great Wall Mfg. of Taiwan, probably in the 1970s. It’s a clone of the more well-known Diana. Great Wall made (I hesitate to say “built”–extruded? Pooped out?) the Diana in a few variations with many different trade names, for different markets, but all essentially the same camera. Simple plastic lens, three apertures, one speed. Takes 120 roll film, makes 16 small exposures. The contemporary Holga is a descendant of the Diana.

These are among the crappiest cameras ever made. I got this one for $10 on eBay. These cameras now have a certain cachet in a small niche of the photo world, and you can buy new Holgas at Urban Outfitters, for three times the price they’d be anywhere else. In fact, if my Tru-View had the Diana label, it would likely have sold for more.

In my first post, I commended the Kowa for its sharp optics. Compare a similar detail from the Tru-View scan. You will note that the Tru-View is, well, less sharp. You may also note the chromatic aberration. It doesn’t help that the Tru-View has only crude distance-scale focusing. And there’s vignetting–it can’t quite cover even the reduced 4-centimeter frame.

So what’s the appeal? For starters, they’re about as far as you can get from the clean, bright, linear world of digital cameras. You can shoot with these cameras and really, you don’t know what you’re going to get until you process the film. This particular one seems to be reasonably light tight (many are not), though it appears that the red window is letting in enough light to cause an artifact. Everything becomes instantly impressionistic and surreal. The Diana-type toy camera intrudes itself into the result, and becomes part of the process.

The only drag about having one of these is that toy cameras are kinda trendy among the artsy-hipster set, or at least the artsy-hipster wannabe set. I mean, they’re for sale at Urban Outfitters, fer cthulhu’s sake. But anything that gets a few more film cameras out the door is good, right? Maybe the thing that annoys me most is that they’re paying too much–they could get the cameras and film from Freestyle or B&H for less. At least I only paid what my camera is really worth–almost nothing.