Am I? Is it? Could It Really Be? Oh. Nope.


As I learn more and more about the art of photography, I’ve become enamored by the retro look photography made popular by the people at Lomography, Hipstamatic and Instagram.

I own several plastic cameras and I actively use the Hipstamatic app on my phone. I’m not as in love with Instagram, but I see a lot of fun photos posted on Flickr and Twitter, so why not?

While perusing the Photojojo online store (I’m a little bitch for Photojojo), I stumbled across the Diana+ lens and adaptor for a DSLR camera.

I was stoked! I don’t own a Diana, though I do own a Holga, and the thought of having the look of a Diana lens on my digital camera made me happy. So I ordered it.

Today I went out in the yard to take the new lens for a spin. I’m not going to lie to you, this is a tough lens to work with. It has zero electronics inside so shooting is all manual. This fact is actually good for me as I need to keep practicing my exposure triangle (ISO, aperture and shutter speed).

When I came inside and took at look at my photos, I felt only sort of “meh” about all of them.

Here’s the best of the lot.

Copyright 2011 by Karen Fayeth

After fiddling with these photos and playing with contrast, I went online to take a look at what others were saying about the lens and maybe pick up a few tricks.

I stumbled across this review from a user named Blunty3000 titled “Stupid Hipster Lens Review – the ‘Dreamy Diana'”.

Blunty’s main gripe seems to be that he had to pay “Sixty sodding dollars” for his lens. From what I can discern, Blunty is from Australia. I only paid thirty sodding US dollars for my kit of lens plus adapter.

Blunty seems to use this product review as a platform to eviscerate hipsters everywhere. Ok, fine. I get that. As for me, I like the retro look photos. I own and enjoy quite a bit of the hipster gear.

But wait. Does that make me a hipster?

Nooo. I mean…I’m over 40. I refuse to wear skinny jeans. I think retro photography is awfully mainstream to be hipster anymore.

Then Blunty makes a point that these hipster photographers are “…pining to feel nostalgia for days they are too young to feel actual nostalgia for…”

Ah. Yes. And there’s the difference. I was actually alive in the 1970’s.

I feel nostalgia for years I actually remember. I’m not a hipster, I’m old.

Back then my sister and I shared a suitably uncomplicated (and now very hip) Kodak FlipFlash camera. Ok, it was really hers but when she tired of it, I got it as a hand-me-down.

It looked like this.

Kodak FlipFlash Camera, photo attribution unknown.

Here’s some of the dreamy, out of focus, widely vignetted photos that made me one of the mainstream back then and an almost hipster today.

This is our family’s cat as a kitten. And yes, that is a poster of The Muppets in the background. Note the “soft glow” the vignetting, the all around retro feel. This photo is circa 1981. Very hip in 2011.

This is me posed at the chicken coop behind our place at Ute Lake. I think my mom took this photo. Maybe my sister. I don’t remember. It has that certain je ne sais quoi with the dry grass, the cloudy sky and the rundown gray stucco chicken coop. How very Grapes of Wrath. I place the year to be around 1977.

So after this dark journey of the soul to determine if I’d become a hipster and should then begin my self-loathing, I’ve come out the other side. I shall go back to shooting my retro cameras with reckless abandon knowing I can make all the old timey photos I want. I lived it baby!

Today when I Googled a photo of an old Kodak FlipFlash camera, I found the *perfect* photo. And where did I find this photo? On my own blog. I’d already posted it a couple years ago. I’m becoming self-referential!

Unless otherwise noted, photos are from my personal family albums and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right column of this and every page of this blog.

A Party For A Glass


There are a lot of adjectives that can be used to describe the City of San Francisco. Some flattering, some less so.

One word that always leaps to my mind is nostalgic. For a big bustling city, on the forefront of technology and food and lifestyle, the town can get really bundled up about the past.

From toppled clocks to fiberglass dog heads to the preservation of graffiti, the town will vehemently unite around a little quirky slice of the past. After the lamenting and handwringing, people will unite to lobby government, business owners and each other to put things back to right.

The latest example? Glasses. Plain ol’ glasses manufactured by the Libby Glass Co. of Toledo, Ohio.

But a special glass that oh so perfectly fits the town’s specialty of Irish Coffee. I, myself, have held onto many a glass of the type and shape that makes a perfect warm beverage. The same glass that the manufacturer decided to stop producing.

The City’s biggest purveyor of Irish coffee, the iconic Buena Vista at Fisherman’s Wharf, had stopped buying from the Toledo company and moved over to a Chinese manufacturer. With such a huge drop in business, the Libby Co. didn’t see why they should keep cranking them out. It just made good business sense.

Enter the tenacity of a nostalgic people. There was an outcry! There was vocal frustations. Pleading, begging and enough of a ruckus was made that the story hit the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle.

When the company read about the good people of San Francisco mourning the loss of the right glass, they made the decision to swallow some not-insignificant costs to resuscitate the glass mold and do a new run. If this stack of inventory sells well, they’ll consider doing another run.

And Irish Coffee drinkers rejoiced!

From the article in the SFGate:

“The queenly, petite glass…allows for just enough whiskey and not too much coffee, with barely room for three C&H sugar cubes at the bottom and aged whipping cream that floats like a halo on the top.”

Indeed. It’s another cool foggy summer evening in the City. Tourists and locals alike seem to get along pretty darn well over a perfectly poured Irish Coffee in the beautifully shaped, heat retaining glass.

For reference, in the photo below, the one on the left is all wrong. The glass on the right is our little beauty.

Photo credit: Susana Bates / Special to The Chronicle

Side note: A few years ago, the Buena Vista also changed their whiskey brand in favor of a private label. It was a shocking transition and the purists were not pleased, including me. The new whiskey isn’t as smooth as the other variety. Doesn’t keep me from drinking it, but it gives me something to complain about.

Bending Nature to Our Will


So if you were to, say, go to Google Images and put in the word “square” you’ll end up with a screen full of images of this:

Square watermelons.

Why, you might ask? Well. The story goes that in Japan (you knew this had to be from Japan, right?) they don’t have much retail space in grocery stores. It’s hard to stock round or oblong watermelons because they are tough to stack and take up a lot of room.

Use a little ingenuity and bring on the square watermelon! Easy to stack, easy to store.

Making the melons square is fairly easy, just put the fruit in a box as it grows, the same way they get a pear in a bottle of brandy.

And for this special hand boxed hand-picked fruit, grocers charge 10,000 yen, or using today’s exchange rate, about $126. Yikes.

Why am I nattering on about square watermelons? Because today’s Theme Thursday just happens to be “square”, of course!

Details from BBC News.

Photos from all over the web, but these both come from Financial Hack.

$13 Buys a lot of Love


I have a fish. His name is Benito.

He’s a Half Moon Betta and I paid the princely sum of $13 for him. (most regular Betta fish go for about $5).

This is what he looked like when I first got him at the fish store:

He was little. He was scrappy. He liked his food to be delivered with alacrity.

Way back in May 2010, Benito almost died. The Good Man saved his life and now Benito has been a happy, scrappy, crazy fish in our home for the past year.

This is what Benito looks like now. He’s not only handsome, he’s a work of art. Right at this moment, this photo hangs in a Bay Area photography show where all may come and worship the handsome fish.

Last night, it was time to change out Benito’s water. We are very responsible fish owners and work very hard to make sure our fish are happy and swim around in good clear and conditioned water.

Doing a full tank change is tough because it requires us to dip the fish out of the tank (which can be stressful for the fish) and hold them in a small container while we replace the water in the tank.

Last night, I had completed this water change and I had returned Benito to his home. He’s always a little bewildered after the water change and has to reassert that his tank is truly his home. I decided to give him some food because if he can get a couple pellets down, he’ll go calm and all will be well.

For some reason last night when I reached over the tank to drop a tasty Hikari pellet his way, he got spooked and started darting around the tank.

This is not unusual behavior for a frightened Betta. What is unusual, however, is that he dove straight down and slammed his tiny fish noggin on the rocks.

He was visibly stunned and floated there for a moment with blank eyes and hardly any movement.

“Honey?” I said worriedly to The Good Man, “I think we have a problem.”

Benito did not look good. At one point, he stopped moving his fins at all and began to list to one side. Betta owners will know that laying on the bottom and listing to one side is NOT a good sign.

The Good Man and I crowded worriedly around the tank and watched him. His gills were still working and occasionally a side fin would flap. But it didn’t look good. It didn’t look good at all.

I became inconsolably depressed. My fish. My little fish! How could this happen?

The Good Man thought Benito was just stunned and would be all right. I wasn’t so sure. I fully expected to find him floating at the top of the tank in the morning.

I’m happy to say I was completely wrong. About a half hour later, Benito seemed revived and back to his usual self. This morning he was swimming about and hungry as usual.


When did I start to love a little $13 fish so gosh darn much? A silly, scrappy, easily startled, concussed fish?

I don’t know. I just do. He may only be a pet store fish but he’s a part of our family.

Just Like Evil Large Corporation Used To Make


While in the course of every adult’s life, whether male or female, there inevitably comes a time when you simply think to yourself, “I want my mommy.”

As we’ve become a mobile society, moving around to where opportunity is best, we often find ourselves in a geographical location far removed from mommy. Or for some unfortunate few, mommy has passed along and so there is no mommy to be had.

So in the absence of mommy, we must turn to the food that mommy used to make to help us feel comfort. By eating something familiar, there is a molecular “there, there” and a pet on the fevered head to make it all seem not so bad.

For many of us raised through the seventies, “food like mom used to make” may not have been the fabulous made from scratch homemade stuff of the Pleasantville moms of the fifties.

No, our moms had jobs and so they put on a blouse with the floppy bow at the neck and went to work to earn not only a paycheck but self respect.

And so our moms served us food no less comforting but bit more pre-processed.

As adults we find ourselves craving “mom’s” food that comes from a conglomeration like, say, KRAFT.

Which is not to say that KRAFT equals mom, but sometimes something that KRAFT makes does equal comfort.

I fell into such a KRAFT hole recently when I found myself lost and confused. I became overworked and overtired, low on a variety of essential nutrients and, most concerning, rather dehydrated. I found, in that moment, that all I wanted, needed, craved like the dickens was cheese slices. Good old-fashioned KRAFT cheese food that is neither cheese nor food, and wrapped in thin pieces of plastic.

This is frankenfood, to be sure. But damn it…KRAFT cheese slices make a darn nice grilled cheese sammich. Those fake orange plastic slices melt so nice under the heat of my toaster oven. Pair this with tomato soup and I feel, for a moment, mom’s hug and everything is just simply going to be all right.

Like Pavlov’s dog, I salivate at the sound of the crinkling wrapper, ready to take the first one out of the covering and shove the perfect square whole and intact into my waiting maw. While the toaster oven warms up, another slice goes down the hatch and my comfort-o-meter begins to register that something good is happening.

I feel a moment’s regret. A slight remorse. What IS this crap I’m eating? Then the plastic wrapper rustles again and I’m loading slices up on bread in gleeful anticipation.

My dearest mom would likely shake her head to think that I could possibly equate this crap food with her comfort. It’s a complicated association, and one I’m not proud of. But there is no denying the simple addictive magic of the sugar/fat/salt combination of ingredients that KRAFT loves to peddle to us unsuspecting rubes.

Look, the only KRAFT item I love more than American cheese slices is a nice big brick of Velveeta. Oh yes. Oh so very yes.

There’s a sucker born every minute and I’m standing in that line.

Even Gourmet Magazine understands.

Photo from user name Lazarus-long, used under a Creative Commons license, and found on Wikipedia.

Today’s Theme Thursday is: brick. See how I slipped that one in there? I’m a sly dog.