About Me

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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Looking Down from On High

"I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I melt into the wing and then into the air, till I'm just soul on a sunbeam."  ~Richard Bach

The View from Up There...

I am not a poet, and so it may be more difficult for me to effectively describe one of the most astounding methods of travel, and that is the gift of flight. To be above the world, looking down, is one of the greatest adventures ever accomplished by humanity, but in this modern world of the bus-like passenger liner we tend to forget to look out the window and see the world from a perspective only granted us only in the last hundred years.

Missing the Bigger Picture
All too often we regard flying as, at best, an inconvenience. And, to be sure, it has become such an everyday maze of ticket counters, TSA, gate checks, boarding, small seats, rude passengers and baggage claim, that it's easy to get drawn down into the miasma of inconvenience and forget the rest. As a passenger I need to deal with these little difficulties, without losing sight of the true marvel of modern air travel.

Whenever I'm given the option of whether to sit on the aisle on next to the window, I usually opt for the window. For me it's the truest sense of traveling adventure you can get on a modern airliner. Sitting in the aisle seat certainly makes for more convenience when making a bid for the head (restroom), but the view is pretty much the same as you get on the aisle in a pre-stadium seating small, crowded theater, without the big screen or filmed entertainment. More claustrophic, in fact, given the much lower ceiling,

Phoenix Int'l Airport
(I try like the dickens to avoid being caught in that airliner Purgatory known as the "center seat", usually only suffering that ignominy when I am traveling with my lovely bride. I'll take the seat so she can have aisle or window -- she likes the window as well, most times.)

Regardless of the time of day -- daylight hours being preferable, the view out the window is usually pretty fascinating. An overcast day or long voyage over an ocean being exceptions to the rule, most of the time the view offers something far more interesting to look at beyond the seat back in front of you.

Leaving Honolulu
One of my more recent travel-related hobbies is photographing things from above. I've begun collecting airports, shorelines, mountains...or other geological features which we can't see from the ground, and are easily missed in a center or aisle seat.

Looking out the window was something I learned to love at an early age. It might also be the source of my acrophobia, but that's a supposition for another time. I recall one flight in particular, in which we were on a flight from Boston's Logan Airport to Los Angeles International. This would place it in the very late sixties, or 1970. I would have been nine, which closely matches my recollection. Assuming then, a transcontinental flight, I'd tend to think we were in a Boeing 707, the importance of which I will arrive at momentarily.

( http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20141020-the-plane-that-changed-air-travel )

Crop circles over Nebraska
As noted, I like the window seat. I love looking down at the world as it passes by, seemingly just below my feet. On this one particular voyage, we were crossing over the northernmost portion of Arizona. I know this because of what happened next. The pilot came on the overhead -- remember, this was the heyday of the JetSet experience we all remember so vividly and probably incorrectly -- and let everyone know we were rapidly approaching one of the greatest views on Earth: The Grand Canyon.

Above Yosemite
This, of course, got me very excited. Right up until the point the Captain decided BOTH side of the aircraft deserved a view. Slowly the plane turned first one way, and then the other, giving the window seats on both sides of the aisle a special downward view of a vast hole in use ground. Not good if you've got a span scent fear of heights. What had been a relatively uneventful flight was seared into my memory for at this point, four plus decades.

But it never left me, that feeling of looking down. Yes, that adventure over the Grand Canyon scared the day lights out of me -- echoed decades later in a much smaller plane above the Inside Passage in Alaska -- but it also excited me at the things you could see if you simply looked down. And so, all these years later, despite the tug of nervousness that sometimes nudges its way into my consciousness, I love the window. 

My hometown of Long Beach
Looking down, looking out, you understand what it is to be moving, going somewhere, doing something exciting. 

As much as we complain that the airlines are rapidly becoming/have become little more than Trailways in the sky, from a window seat you can always sit back, lean your head against the window frame...

...and fly.

My soul is in the sky.  ~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Buddy Harlan

“I know that pain is the most important thing in the universes. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned.  Adult. You have become adult.” 

                                  Harlan Ellison

This will strike almost everyone as "off-topic", and it is. But it's a personal post, and so here it is.

Last Thursday one of my best friends, author Harlan Ellison, had a stroke. It hit all of us hard, and immediately we worried about the state of his mind. Harlan, for those of you unfortunate enough to be unfamiliar with his work, is an absolutely brilliant writer and raconteur, who boasts a mind as quick as an IBM supercomputer.

Fortunately for the world, Harlan's intellect seems untouched. He's lost the use of his right leg and right arm. I've talked to him a few times and compared notes with others in his sphere, and we're all sanguine that -- at least for the moment -- he remains undaunted and unbowed by this turn of events.

Harlan is a genuine and good person. There are any number of websites dedicated to saying otherwise, but virtually all of them are put together by people who a) have a grievance, and b) don't know the guy personally but "Frank Blablah says he's a jerk". Being a jerk and not suffering fools are often two sides of the same coin, and the interpretation of which side is largely the point of view one has of the coin toss in question.

I expect to see him later this afternoon. Through Harlan I have managed to strike up friendships with some truly wonderful people around the world. He is also the truest, most steadfast and strongest of friends to have. He'd have my back in a knife fight any day, and vice versa.

Harlan, here's hoping you get better quickly and give the world yet another decade of your existence. 


Harlan and Susan

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

COPYRIGHT versus COPYWRONG (©Paws Here Productions)

©2014 PawsHere Productions, just in case

"Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet."
                                Mark Twain

You may remember the news story of a couple months ago in which photographer David Slater was seeking copyright protection for an image — a so-called “Monkey Selfie” — which had been taken by the macaque in question. A selfie. 

The Captain of the boat owns this family's shot
The photographer, on a shoot in Indonesia, had befriended the macaque troop and deliberately set out to get them to take pictures of themselves. He set up the camera, and essentially put the trigger button into the hands of his subjects, and let them shoot away. Kind of an interesting project.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, greedy humans got involved. Through a series of events, some of the photographs ended up on Wikipedia and elsewhere. When advised of the ownership, those sites refused to take the pictures down, citing the belief that the macaques, not the photographer, owned the copyright.

Absurd, right?

But not so much for the U.S. Copyright Office, who found that Slater did not, indeed, own the shots, despite the fact they had been set up by him and created using his equipment — at his own instigation. And the macaque, by virtue of not being a human being, could not own them either. Ipso facto: public domain.

Doubly absurd.
Do they know this guy? He owns their picture

Think about the ramifications of the judge’s decision for a moment. Let’s leave aside the question of credit and/or compensation. Photographs — and other art forms — are routinely stolen on the internet, by people who just don’t give a damn about who they might hurt, as long as they’re getting free stuff or the use of works they have no right to use. The fact it eats into someone else’s lunch is irrelevant to them.

But let’s put those people to the side.

What about your own photographs? Family pictures. Vacation shots.

Have you ever handed your camera to someone else and asked them to take a photo of you and your family? Your children included?

Who owns those photographs? Not you, according to the U.S. Copyright office. Either nobody does, or the person who took the image does. But not you.

From the ruling: 
Who owns what, here? Not the happy couple.

"The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.
• A photograph taken by a monkey.
• A mural painted by an elephant.
• A claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin.
• A claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by
the ocean.
• A claim based on cut marks, defects, and other qualities found in
natural stone."

Oh, and those paintings done by cats? Public domain.

Slater was ripped off, aided and abetted by the very people who are supposed to protect him. Protect me. And you, and you and you. But the internet chooses to differ, and loopholes such as these will continue to be exploited until the entitled among us get their paws on everything without paying for it.

So hide the pictures of you and your family you asked someone else to take, and don't post them online. They just might come back and bite you in the end.

Just saying’.

The photos on this page? Other than the macaque, they’re all copyrighted by me. I made them. Unlike the poor subjects who think they own these vacation photos…it’s the guy with the camera, apparently. But I own the pictures of the people taking the pictures. 


©2014 PawsHere Productions.

I can use this picture. The macaque can't own the photo, and neither does the photographer according to Wikipedia

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Fall Collection

"Each kid has a special box with different mementos. It's easy to prioritize when you're packing your life."
                      - Brent Engelland

Mementos are an important thing to many if not most people. Few of us can simply walk away from everything, and by the time we reach middle age -- not that I admit such a thing -- our homes can become a literal pile of bygone memories. The stub of a concert ticket from a favored group in college. A baseball from your title-winning Little League team. A plastic Mickey Mouse from that first trip to Walt Disney World with your kids (who are now collecting things like their lapel flowers from their own High School prom).

For the most part, we all collect.


My wife collects watches. A friend of ours collects things with seahorses. My buddy Harlan has a well-known agglomeration of books as well as shelf-straining collectibles related to fantastic fiction and cartoons and comic books and old-times radio programs.

I collect glass art and, in an inter-related way, shot glasses based upon my travels in this world. At current count I am somewhere around 160 of the things. The shot glasses, not the art glass.

In my twenties, when I started this particular collection, my first subjects were coffee mugs. New York, Washington DC, San Diego, etc. I had twenty by the time I realized that -- strictly from a logistics standpoint -- maybe collecting coffee mugs wasn't the way to go.

Which brings us to the second point: when you start a collection -- (and let's be honest, few collections "start". Most of them simply happen. You pick up an item or two. Then three. By the time you realize it's a collection it's already too late.) -- few of us consider the long term. How do you display it? DO you display it. 

Do you even admit to having the bloody thing in polite company?

But whatever it is, and however you choose to share it, the collection isn't for other people, it's for us. Ourselves. Our memories.

Collecting things is human nature. And it's the nature of the things we collect that tells us just a bit about ourselves.

The mementos of a lifetime.