MY RANTS AND RECOLLECTIONS

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I BELIEVE IN DIVINE GUIDANCE  -  I GOT THE MESSAGE

Like Moses and the burning bush, Photography really started for me on a unique note, I call it throughout this website  “Divine Guidance”.  Someone left a plain  paper bag sitting on a park bench in the Zoo area in NYC’s Central Park.  I had mischievously become the owner of an AIRES IIIL 35 mm Rangefinder Camera, the first of the excellent Japanese clones of the Leica Rangefinder of that era. That was almost 61 years ago.

The bag even contained a roll of film, a little flashbulb fan and the manual.  I was fourteen, a junior, and was naturally, playing hooky from school.  I considered this a reward for my playing hooky. I was a good hooky guy because I was learning what I needed to know by doing.

Initiative, I had avoided the boring teachers I had in High School and went on my own learning quest visiting the great New York City Museums, of Art and History, the incredible Zoos, Libraries, the united Nations, the Statue of Liberty’e  and even a few college science labs I managed to sit in on.

I escaped the park stealthily taking every trail in the park not frequently used by the public,  to the subway, tripping over a few sleeping drunks and made my escape.  I was home and started reading knowing my 127 Kodak fold out camera was doomed.

A week later (my next hooky day) and I’m off to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.  I took nice pictures of the timelines of the Dinosaurs and Cavemen exhibits at the Museum of Natural History in NYC using flashbulbs.  A tap on the shoulder told me I got busted and reported as a truant.  I was smart enough not to use my forged school passes, I was good at that, being a writer of sorts but too risky, besides I was there on a mission.

The Dean of the School and I had a chat, sort of, he chatted loudly, I listened.  My defense was “I was doing something to help my education, not just playing hooky because my science teachers theory that the cavemen killed the dinosaur’s, no way, scientifically distorted and inaccurate”.  And I wanted the truth.  There, I said it... he smiled...

Thankfully he had read DARWIN and was also a cool guy.  The Dean made me a deal, I had to give a presentation to the Science classes in my HS about Dinosaurs, their disappearance and evolution.  Maybe he thought he could break me.  Two days later I proudly did a thirty-five minute plus stand-up, the 50’s version of a PowerPoint on Oaktag paper, and showed off my 2-1/4 x 3-1/4 inch prints. I was a success!  I felt I could do the Late show like Johnny Carson after that.  And  managed to get the school a field trip to the Museam.  I was a hero amongst my peers, and even my mother smiled since she was in the back of the room.  If I failed I would be dead on two counts.

The Dean thought I did an excellent job and we worked a deal out to show my work to other classes for my salvation.  Since I was on Honor roll and Rapid Advance, I graduated high school at fifteen and three months.  I never went to the second and eighth grades since I was a reader and self-taught.  My favorite person was a librarian who was better than any teacher I had.

I wanted to further my interest in photography. I was also interested in the shops the school had to offer,  and it extended my working knowledge in mechanics and electronics.     

I LEARNED FROM THE BEST  -  HIGH SCHOOL
I owe my ability to use tools and build things to my grandfather who taught me a lot from five on.  He was an immigrant and spoke little English but what a smart man.  By seven I was helping him rebuild bread toasters and soldering using a blow torch to heat it and a really small hot handle.

And then I expanded my development with the first tools I made at the brand-new state of the art George W. Wingate High School in the metal shop.  We had Zip before the post office could spell ZIP and the NRA  ( Not Really Allowed)  You figure that one out.  It was incriminating. 

I got an “A” in metal shop for the projects we had to make to qualify and could have gotten five years for the stuff I didn’t tell them about some of the other kids were building.  I saw it as a dangerous opportunity and smartly kept my distance.

My favorite achievement was the development of the Jacobs Hubcap Remover which was  big success in Brooklyn.


THE GADGET MEISTER

MARTY FORSCHER  -  1921 - 2009

Martin Hubert Forscher was born in Manhattan on Nov. 25, 1921.  He died on Sept. 30, 2009 in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 87 and lived in Pittsfield. He is the Dean Emeritus of the Camera Repair and Innovation business. No doubt about that. 

His contributions to the industry are too much to mention in this humble venue.  I met him many decades ago in NY and usually saw him once a year at the PMA. (see picture) 

Watching him work was a distinct honor and maybe with the addition of some input from my uncle’s Morris and Eddie caused me to become interested in taking things apart. The difference is he could put them back together.  Hopefully in my next life I will tackle that. 

For more than 40 years, Mr. Forscher ran Professional Camera Repair Service in Midtown Manhattan. Founded in 1946, the shop was a Mecca for generations of camera owners, from the world’s most celebrated fashion, advertising and news photographers to wedding portraitists, threadbare students, bejeweled celebrities and anxious tourists.

Many fine Pentax and Minolta lenses worked on Nikons and Canons. If you had a Nikon and wanted a hot Minolta 250 mm ƒ5.6 mirror lens to work on your Nikon he could do it. Albeit things were possible in the old days and he was the master machinist and problem solver. I borrowed one of those Minolta 250's and what a street shooter combo that made.   Little bigger than an 85 mm and a 250.  With today's propriety branding built in, nothing fits nothing!

In World War II, Mr. Forscher worked in Washington as a repairman for the Navy photographic unit run by the eminent photographer Edward Steichen. After the war, he opened Professional Camera Repair Service. Originally at 480 Lexington Avenue in Midtown, the shop was located for many years afterward at 37 West 47th Street.  Mr. Forscher had sold it to colleagues when he retired in 1987. In 2001 the shop went out of business.  The photographic community heaved a collective shudder of panic, he was the master of repair.

The Polaroid's he adapted for 35mm and medium format opened the eyes and the doors for professional photographers.  Just making it work with the NPC line of backs is more than you might think. It took fiber optics when few even knew what they were.  In this copy cat world, his approaches and ideas were out of the box and they worked.  

The shape of a 35mm SLRS film track and viewfinder eyepiece mean that the focal plane for Polaroid material lies at least 12mm behind the focal plane for conventional film. With the emulsion lying so far away you can never achieve proper focus. Various solutions were attempted. Few worked. In the early '80s, Marty Forschner had the brilliantly simple idea of bridging the gap with a spring-mounted block of fused fiber optic bundles.

It could be said he was a man before his time and after it too… Marty's first job was with the National Geographic. The Big Cheese (Gilbert Groxxxx) could never remember to extend the lens on his Leica before making a picture, and gave the camera to Marty to make something which would always remind him to extend it.

Instead, Marty fitted a collar around the lens barrel so it couldn't be collapsed at all. They fired him on the spot.  So he opened his own shop. I needed a job.  I picked up a few nicknames, like “The Gadgetmeister” starting my working career in a renowned camera repair facility, the best in the camera district of New York City as a delivery boy.   

I gained a lot of knowledge in those early days as a kid meeting with some of the great building blocks of the analog era of photography like Master Machinist Marty Forschner and the father of Nikon,  Mr. Joseph Ehrenreich. 

I ran into him every year at the PMAi trade show years later and that was the last time I saw him...  I was always building something and battery packs fascinated me.  It was also where I found out what happens if you forget to short a capacitor from a Honeywell 770 Strobe, and an Everyday 510-volt battery, it almost sent me to the ER.    

Older, I worked weekends for a Wedding mill in NYC on weekends as a run and gunner for several years to learn the business. I shot every kind of Wedding and ethnicity in New York.   Lots of experience and stress learning that a wedding shooter must be a master of people as well as a technician.  He must at times, my Latino friends and shooters would tell me tener cajones.

I also learned about the draft board.  It was a numbers game and my number was about to be up.   I always had a passion, Aviation... and that led to another twist.   Choice:  The Air Force or carry a gun In Viet Nam.  I got a chance at both.  Maybe Aviation was a better way stay alive, maybe not,  than getting shot at in the jungle.  

I can thank the United States Air Force and when my tours were completed and could afford it, later in life, I swapped rides in C-123 Providers, KC-135’s, B-52’s for Cessna’s and Piper’s and an occasional dumb pilot right side seat in a LEAR 23 Jet.  I owned seven airplanes, one at a time, and flew for thirty plus years.


THE PLAYBOY CLUB FRANCHISE  -  HOUSE SHOOTER

St.  PETERSBURG, FL  1981-1983 - MY BEST FUN JOB
After a brief two year stint as the house photographer at the Playboy Club, in St. Petersburg,
I leaned more into 
Journalism, covering Politics and the Military, and my roots which were in Weddings, over 450.  That’s David Chan, he was one of the first on payroll shooters as the man for the Playboy magazine and later at one time Playboy had franchised clubs around the country, in various locations.

The girls were great, totally portrayed wrong at that time and would be considered saints in todays world.

I worked for the one in St. Petersburg Florida which was in a Hilton Hotel that folded. The funny part, almost hilarious, was when we were harassed by the City Commissioners and clergy who were some of our best secretive customers… I had to be very discreet.

I met with the owner referred by a friend...  again Divine intervention... he invited me back and I got the job. That was tough times locally downtown, when financially and unfortunately the club closed.   

Too bad it was a nice clean operation. Totally portrayed wrong to the public, nothing like the bible thumpers were saying. In fact one of the heavy attackers of the club got arrested and did ten years for the money he stole from his churches. Head of the Southern Baptist Convention,  I saw that as a sign, something about casting the first stone, that schmuck tried it, and the Lord dropped the boulder on his foot.  He recently graduated prison and ooops got caught again.  On my consumer site, I go into more detail...         www.aljacobsladder.com


STATE OF THE ONION  -  IT BRINGS TEARS 
My purest interests are photographic products today that could be termed reclamation. So many good products were built before the great Wall-Mart of China took over the Photo Industry which I predicted in my blogs twelve plus years ago.  

Today cameras are not the creative tools we cherished them as in the past, but they are treated as electronic devices simply upgraded as needed or the manufacturer promising newer is better is taken advantage of, which in most cases is a big fallacy.

We denied thinking it could happen, the sobering loss of the camera retail store industry.  The largest organizations of the industry like the PMAi with 35,000 members are gone.  Two other bastions of the retail end of the business are on thin ice losing members and not showing any growth.  It’s only time before all of the retail stand alone camera stores will be gone unless you have a huge store, internet marketing, and international sales.  

The big box stores selling the entry level cameras, and getting new models faster than we could.  The rise of the cell phone as the dominant picture taker and image transfer today.  The internet tax free sales by B&H, Amazon and Adorama simply killed retail store purchases and any kind of inventory management.  

What Amazon is to Shopping Centers, B&H and Adorama is to the retail Camera Store.  More important are the links made on the internet.   If you want a Nikon 3200 and see it on Amazon, B&H might be the vendor.  Connections, connections, connections... replaced Location, Location, Location.

Best Buy did step out of the hole of competition,  beautifully re-marketed its stores, less brands but the good ones, and just commenting on the one closest to me, I agree, Forbes rates it well. 

In my county in Florida which is Pinellas, Florida, we had 11 camera stores at one time including mine. Today in all of Tampa Bay and surrounding areas clear to Orlando, some 50,000 square miles, there is one store about 600 square feet, no lab to speak of.  My condo is much larger, about 1400 more feet.  They are the only survivor, maybe because they are small with low overhead and a family business.  Our stores were full line, with all formats and a full service pro lab.  The box stores, the internet and the cell phone cameras killed us.

They were replaced by gun dealers and the NRA paranoia.


GEN. HENRY H. SHELTON (USA RET.) - CHAIRMAN of the JOINT CHIEFS

Is one of those special people you cross paths with in life that makes an impression. Called a Soldier's Soldier by his troops, I never met a Commander in any level of the military whose staff felt truly privileged to work with. They liked him and he was their leader.  I Had met with him several times while doing work for the troops.  While on vacation in Colorado, in a retail store I saw his appointment on a TV  as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs by then President Bill Clinton.  I was shopping with my wife, whose sister worked there, in a shop full of artwork and statuary . 

I noticed a unique piece of artwork on the shelf directly under the TV that was on in the showroom.  Occasionally I amazed at this thing called divine guidance. I was in the store, caught breaking news of General Shelton’s Appointment, the statue incredibly appropriate was inches from the TV.  She knew of my work with the military and put me in touch with the artist of this piece.  It’s a story by itself.

The artist was Scott Stearman.  It said everything it had to say about the sense of honor and duty he has shown for his country and his men.  Again that divine guidance thing prompted me to get out the credit card and act.

I had the pleasure of being one of the presenters of this artwork to the General in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Leandri, a true friend of the the Military and especially the "Quiet Professionals",  our Special Forces. 

I requested that it be displayed in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and any politician who would send our men into harm's way would  see it… who would know that before September 11th, 2001?   In 2004, a duplicate statue rests in my home.  I ordered the piece from Scott Stearman, the artist who will be doing the life size statues for the United States Central Command Memorial Foundation.  I am a Board Member of the Foundation  and the coincidence or divine guidance has placed that piece of artwork twice in my life.    If you wish to learn more about the Memorial Foundation, the actual monument to be built at MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida, and the Military Service Memorial in Inverness Florida, please feel free to contact me through my email.    


DAVID H. PETRAEUS (USA Ret.) - DIRECTOR CIA, COMMANDER CENTCOM
David Howell Petraeus is a retired American military officer, scholar and public official. He served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2011- 2012. Prior to his assuming the directorship of the CIA, Petraeus was a highly decorated four-star general, serving over 37 years in the United States Army. He was commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A)  His other four-star assignments include serving as the 10th Commander, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) from October 13, 2008, to June 30, 2010, and as Commanding General, Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) from 2007, to 2008.  As commander of MNF-I, Petraeus oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq.  He is best associated with the term “surge” a plan of rapid engagement with superior forces in the battle zone as used in IRAQ and Afghanistan.

Petraeus has a B.S. degree from the United States Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1974 as a distinguished cadet (top 5% of his class). In his class were three other future four-star generals, Martin Dempsey, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs,  Walter L. Sharp and Keith B. Alexander. He was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College class of 1983.

He subsequently earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. degree in international relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He later served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy and also completed a fellowship at Georgetown University.[9]

On June 23, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Petraeus to succeed General Stanley McChrystal as commanding general of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, technically a step down from his position as Commander of United States Central Command, which oversees the military efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Egypt, but it needed his expertise.

On June 30, 2011, Petraeus was unanimously confirmed as the next Director of the CIA by the U.S. Senate 94–0. Petraeus relinquished command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan on July 18, 2011, and retired from the U.S. Army on August 31, 2011.  On November 9, 2012, General Petraeus resigned from his position as Director of the CIA, citing an extramarital affair.

We were having dinner at a reception and during the course of conversation I believe his adjutant tapped him on the shoulder and gave him the news he was deploying…


EDDIE ADAMS...1933-2004
THE FINAL SHOT,  NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19,2004 - 

Eddie Adams, a photojournalist and a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer is best remembered by a photo of a communist guerrilla being executed in a Saigon Street during the Vietnam War.  He died Sunday, the 19th of September. He was 71. Mr. Adams died at his Manhattan home from complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. 

AT A NIKON RECEPTION
So you sit next to this guy at a Nikon Bash in Vegas and your wife says to you “who is that gentleman with the hat on you are talking to”.   "Oh, thats Eddie Adams, he's probably one of the most honored photographers of our time.  I want you to meet him”.  

So my wife leans over and I introduce him, as one of the most influential photojournalists of all time and whose work I deeply admired.  He just smiled, took it in stride and she commented later how quiet and reserved he was.  I took this shot, maybe one of the last.  I explained even though he has photographed most of the influential people on the planet, in the industry many just ask, whose that guy standing next to Eddie…

TOP DRAWER
He received a Pulitzer Prize for his work.  He's well known in journalism, corporate, editorial, fashion, entertainment and advertising". He's been featured in Time, Newsweek, Life, Paris Match, Parade, Penthouse, Vogue, The London Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times, Stern and Vanity Fair, in addition to his photographs of 13 wars. Then she says "Does he always wear a hat indoors".  I said, "He can wear a hat anywhere he wants".

He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his startling photograph of the execution of a Viet Cong from a single photo taken Feb. 1, 1968, the second day of the communists' Tet Offensive, in the embattled streets of Cholon, Saigon's Chinese quarter.

I found this tidbit on PNN's page. and I quote, "Eddie Adams is a man to whom Clint Eastwood said, "Good shot",  Fidel Castro said, "Let's go duck hunting",  The Pope said, "You've got three minutes". His portraits of Presidents ranged from Richard Nixon to President Bush, and those of world figures included  Deng Xiao Ping, Anwar Sadat, and Mikhail Gorbachev. Mr. Adams won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for the Saigon execution picture, among the more than 500 honors he received in his career, including a 1978 Robert Capa Award and three George Polk Memorial Awards for war coverage.

The picture I took of him is him.  A very natural, quiet, reserved individual… We were at the Harley Davidson Club in Las Vegas. He was resplendent in black, with the fedora always worn squared to the head and what appeared to be a Mojito or a Vesper (Bond) in a tall glass.   I sat next to him at a many of the Nikon bashes and had the chance to chat with him. He was not as short with people as many have said, he was just great at what he did and when working very focused.  The 2005 Nikon Calendar has many of Eddies imagery magic.


PAUL CONRAD BUFF  1934 - 2015 

Alien Bees and Lightning and the next words were a name,  Paul Buff.   An innovator in the studio flash business and known for his great service and accommodating the customer, few other companies came close to their level of service. I modeled my aftermarket business after him.   Paul and his wife Deborah resided in Nashville Tn. 

They also had a farm house in Theodore, AL where they were visiting for a while at the time of his passing. Paul was a man of many talents.  Paul was a self taught, multi talented man. He mentored many people thru out his life and always did for others without wanting anything in return. 

Few knew this.  Paul started his own music recording business call PAL in Cucamonga, CA in the 60's. He recorded many people.  Also later during Paul’s time recording others he and now deceased Frank Zappa were very good friends whom was an iconic legend in the music industry as well. 

Paul later on decided to sell his recording studio to Frank Zappa and move to TN. 

He decided to get into Photography. He read all about it...and wanted to create Professional Mono lights unlike what was out there already. So he started that up in his home and Paul later became an icon and number one in that industry up until the time he departed. His   photographic company is still working and going on. There will never be another inventor or creator of products or an engineer that could fill his shoes. There was only one Paul Buff, he was ahead of his time, and till today his products are universally accepted and utilized.


SOCIAL MEDIA  -  KISS MY ASS GOODBY

PART ONE -  Myspace, Farce-book, Instagram, Nit-Twitter, and DeLinked in, currently all share one thing in common,  I’m not there.  I have removed every vestige of that circle of time wasting refuse collecting nonsense I participated in and my garbage mail and junk ads have slowed to a crawl. 

In my quest to expand relationships and at the pressure of many customers and friends to join their teams of associates and acquaintances, I succumbed to those who suggested my entire world would change after I joined FACEBOOK, TWITTER and “professionally” LINKED IN.

My world did change!  Yes, It did, unfortunately I got more junk mail than a normal person can handle in one day:  I tried filtering, and blocking and a lot of garbage still got through.   And doing a bit of research, with other IT guys,  I found many like myself with years of detective work in IT, who get nervous about being that open to the public arena that much.   Who knew how dangerous that would become.

Years of corporate work filtering illegal emails and installing monitoring equipment told me this will go viral one day and not in a good way, hacking became the blood sport.  And I was frickin right.  Just ask Mark Zuckerberg...

It was a distraction, for nothing, it was not good for business, it opened doors to a lot of dead ends. I was not inclined to spend my days in the Mad Hatters Maze and make them rename it to “Alan in Wonderland” ! 

Luckily I saw this pattern quickly, and imagine the good I could have done with that time. I value real friends and customers who pick up a phone, see how you are doing and wish you well.  It’s so nice to hear a friendly voice.  

I took a digital laxative with help from the legal pages posted under “How to escape from Facebook”,  et. al., I happily hit the SUBMIT button for permanent removal.   It took a month to detox but well worth it, I took up fly fishing for Baby Tarpon, great sport, bad part was mainly got redfish, legal size and they went in the pot.

I wrote in 2011 about hacking and vulnerability,  so far I have had four places I do business with tell me they were hacked.  Target, Linked-in, Adobe and one other.  I have cleared, removed or re-registered and re-named all of them.

I now will not sign on to any of these places, they just will not see my business.  In 2017 Facebook was a contributor to a British Firm who took the data of 300,000 people had their profiles stolen from Facebook and Facebook had its eyes wide open and they were able to extrapolate by a method called “scrapping” and collect profiles from 87 million Facebook users.  

Now the FEDS are involved, thats the Fox guarding the “hem-house”.  In reference to all those fine politicians fooling with the help....

MY SOCIAL MEDIA - PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
 make my own, I have been socially networking for a long time before it became popular and Steve Gibson a friend of 35 plus years found this old film shot that drowned,  yet survived Hurricane KATRINA.  Hours in my lab rewashing the slides and  an hour in photoshop and a lot of alcohol saved the wet slide.  That is me!  Thirty-seven years ago socializing my way while attending the Arthur Murray Dance Studios in Hawaii.  Lord, Hawaii is beautiful and the people are fabulous.

Thank you and it's nothing personal, I work seven days a week now on projects. Time is important.  If you need advice, comment, critique or help, suggestion or other, I am and always have been available, and will continue to do so via the regular e-mail system and we’ll keep information between the two of us.