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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Love is the answer.

There has been a conceptual battle among vandals in my neighborhood, with each volley writ large on the canvas of our neighborhood. Literally written large: the war of words involves three dimensional, ten foot wooden letters.

The Don Chee Loop bus transfer point on Ocean Avenue, near City College, is backed by the grassy slope of one of the two old reservoirs that now serve as City's main parking lot. As part of the plaza improvements made several years back, a sign was erected in what look like old, whitewashed railroad ties. For many years, the sign peacefully kept its original message: 'LOVE IS THE ANSWER.' It is a pleasant message. There were a few rare instances of vandalism - during the 2004 elections, some joker changed it to "Bush is the answer" for a day or two, making many of us wonder what the (undoubtedly unpleasant) question was - but the sign was quickly restored.

Lately, the volunteers or other community members who watch over the sign have been off duty. A free-for-all has ensued in recent weeks. The pieces of wood are limited, but they are also not fastened to anything. The sign has taken on Christian slogans, announcements about local kids, and a wide range of very brief declarations of presence (X was here) and of love.

While I prefer the original sign, I did like last week's short-lived "squid loves you," mostly because of its charming, near non-sequiter character. (The next morning, I was disappointed that squid had been replaced by Jesus. I mean, I already know that Jesus loves me. But Squid's love was a revelation.)

The constant revisions, done stealthily at odd hours, suggest a pent up demand for a public space to shout in within our neighborhood.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:09 PM


Naked Eye by Luscious Jackson??

Is there any reason I've had this song playing in my head over the last few mornings?

Okay, is there any GOOD reason??


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:05 PM

Monday, April 28, 2008


Mayonnaise is the root of all evil.

Well, not really. Though I'm horrified to see that Steven purchased some and brought it into our home.

It is slimy! It has eggs in it! What more proof of its... incompatibility with civilization do you need?


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, April 24, 2008


My latest article is up at!

cyanotype print of architectural abstract by A.E. GravesVinegar-developed cyanotypes: Non-Toxic Midtone Contrast Control is my latest article at the fabulous site, It provides examples of how ordinary white kitchen vinegar can give you a wider range of cyanotype mid-tones and shorten your exposure times.

I was curious about the effects that vinegar might have after (1) using it in some of my early cyanotype printing experiments when I ran out of sulphuric acid, to good effect and (2) after reading horror stories on one of the alternative process web discussion groups about the terrible things that acidic water can do to your images. The experiments went so well that I'm printing a wider range of images now with vinegar.

I can hear your eyes rolling back into your head and your leg starting to twitch in that nervous way, so I'll just end this entry here, okay? Are you still conscious? Hello?

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:19 PM

Plearn on University Avenue in Berkeley is closed. Don't go there all worked up about the green veggie curry only to find a gutted storefront, like I did.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:17 PM


Small updates.

I have now updated Creative Expression to reflect Jay's Flickr page and Bloggity blog blog blog blog blog from Michael Andrews (blogspot). Because I can.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:11 PM


Mmmmmmm. Coffee.

Coffee: it has knocked my father unconscious; it gives my maternal grandmother heart palpitations; and it is a ritualistic luxury to me. Here in the Bay Area, there are serious coffee drinkers who are dedicated to one shop or brand over others, and who get fire in their eyes when discussing their favorite roast.

Addictive substances are remarkable, aren't they?

I am not a daily coffee drinker. (Tea holds too great a hold on me, and I drink quite a few herbal infusions to keep my overall caffeine intake low.) I would like to insist here that, even though the people at the Peet's Coffee ( or in the Russ Building knew my name, I did not actually have the levels of consumption that my daily-habit colleagues had. (I do not have a problem! I could stop any time that I... I think they remembered my name because I did a noticeable amount of my Christmas shopping there, and because I looked at them with love in my eyes each time they pushed a perfect, tall soy latte across the counter to me.)

(Mmmmmm. Soy latte.)

I have had good coffee in many places, but become especially giddy over GREAT coffee. Peet's, a beloved, locally based chain, consistently delivers stellar soy lattes unto me, and inspires a passionate following among its customers. (Yes, we look down on Starbucks drinkers. It cannot be helped.) There are other worthy coffee purveyors in the area, and a great many in the City, including two that inspire fear of making coffee a very serious habit.

Ritual Coffee Roasters ( is one such caffeine temple. There is something about their potent brews that reminds you that the coffee bean really is a fruit. There is something... Fresh? Fruity? It is hard for me to describe coffee in terms that don't make it sound like wine. But there was a clarity in the flavor of my most recent soy latte there that made a small thought bubble appear over my head that said, 'I will take some beans home, buy a French press, and drink this incessantly.' That bubble does not want to pop.

I don't recall which particular bean inspired this indelible dream, but I need to
return to do some long-term, comparative research. (I also like their coffee debit cards that say thinks like, "You're a bitch without coffee" and "sleep with me!" (Gifts that keep on giving.))

Meanwhile, the devotees of Blue Bottle Coffee ( keep turning up, feverishly whispering the company's name with a far off look in their rapidly-darting eyes. Frank ( has even made a documentary pilgrimage to Blue Bottle's gorgeous new shop to share the wonder of BB's magical ways: his photos from the cafe's opening day are posted here.
(Do I even need to point out that we don't have such places in Emeryville? Or is that too obvious?)

On my foodie agenda: pilgrimages to both Ritual and Blue Bottle to compare, contrast, and bathe in the glories of steamy caffeine stimulation.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:39 PM

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Scary non-dairy.

There comes a time in each near-vegan's life when she asks herself, "should I choose non-organic, kind of freaky 'half and half' to go into my coffee, or should I go for the non-dairy mystery-pile-o-chemicals instead?" Last weekend, I was faced with this question, while visiting relatives who shop and normal grocery stores and buy "normal" American grocery products. Out of morbid curiosity, I opted for the chemicals.

The chemicals in question purported to be a vanilla and caramel flavored "non-dairy creamer." Which I suspected means "corn" in a wide range of unrecognizable forms that are much harder to spell. It tasted odd, but I had some anyway, and wrote down the ingredients to look up later. Here's what they were:

-water. I'm okay with this.

-sugar. 'Same. I like this, actually.

-partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil. This is a little weird, but at least I recognize it. 'Honey, can I have some hydrogenated cottonseed oil for this coffee? It's too... non-oily. Thanks, hon.'

Less than 2 percent of:

-sodium caseinate. This is casein, a milk protein. So, it's a non-dairy product with dairy proteins. Is that legal?

-natural and artificial flavors. This could be anything. And probably is.

-dipotassium phosphate. This is a salt. It is sometimes used in fertilizer. I can't tell what it does in this drink.

-color added. This makes me wonder what they make "shoe white" shoe polish out of. I used to use that stuff on my ballet slippers when I was a kid. It never made the shoes look very white. I think the product was a scam to make kinds go out and buy more white ballet slippers. It would probably be able to make coffee lighter, though. Also, in an ingredient list, I would be inclined to call this "added color" rather than "color added." The former is a noun, the latter is a noun-verb combo.

-sodium stearoyl lactylate. An emulsifier. Because your non-dairy mystery whiting substance requires a texture that will not do scary things when poured into coffee. Like make clouds that look like Richard Nixon's face.

-mono and diglycerides. Let me quote Wikipedia:
Mono- and diacylglycerols are common food additives used to blend together certain ingredients, such as oil and water, which would not otherwise blend well.

The commercial source may be either animal (cow- or hog-derived) or vegetable, derived primarily from soy bean and canola oil.
@#$%^. This reminds me of why I never buy chemical concoctions like this.

-polysorbate 60. This is an emulsifier. Actually, this is only a few numbers off from a chemical we use in photography when we're having a hard time getting an emulsion to spread evenly on paper.

-carrageenan. This is a seaweed derived thickener.

-beta carotene color. Somewhere, there is a field of white carrots being grown just for this product.

Conclusion: not all corn. Corn would have been preferable, actually. I will stick with soymilk to make my coffee less dark when left to my own devices. By which I mean, I will PACK soymilk in my weekend bag henceforth.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, April 21, 2008

Signs of life. I'm here: I am alive, and will try to provide some evidence of this in the near future. Life is always complicated and full of compromises, but there are times when it takes much more of my energy to manage my expectations than I expect. This is one of those times.

Recent highlights:
-learning that my mother has finally worked through the red tape with her doctors and insurers, and will actually be seen by a doctor about her tumor and plans to remove it within the next month
-successfully managing my anxiety about using incorrect metadata templates for my recent portolio updates (I'll get to them eventually: it's really NOT the end of the world)
-iPhone photo fanatacism
-getting some images for review out to a gallery owner, rather than endlessly fretting over what to show
-a lovely weekend outdoors with Steven, which included shooting images specifically for my next cyanotype printing session (last weekend)
-a lovely dinner with a best friend from first grade(!), who has grown up to be a gorgeous, awesome person
-a full weekend trip up to Hidden Valley Lake in Lake County, where Steven was sincerely surprised that his brother secretly visited to celebrate his 40th birthday (meaning that my role in the conspiracy was successful)(this weekend)
-persuading some of my brothers-in-law that my plan to have socialized medicine in the US in ten years really rocks in the best possible way
-napping on a couch with Steven, with a soft, long-haired, purring cat with her back against me, pressing her little face under my chin and exhaling contagious contentment onto both of us
-resting in my own bed again
-being frivolous in Facebook (even though my real mission is to use it to share useful content, despite itself)
-feeling my allergies getting under control again upon my return to my beloved City.

I am writing all sorts of notes to post here, but haven't had the time to edit them. I'm trying to just hold onto them and post them as they are ready instead of saving them as drafts and then 'backposting' them later (with the usual, 10:00 p.m. time stamp, which signifies catch-up posting, to those of you in the know). We'll see how far I get...

I should go get some sleep, now that it is morning. You should, too. Good night!


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:24 AM

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Jay signs on to the web.

Jay, who is a talented photographer who has resisted my half-hearted coercion to get a website, has returned from Thailand, and is posting images on the web for the first time. Visit Flickr: Photos & Video from Jay Kullman to see his images.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:12 PM

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Another tasty sake

"Hitorimusume" Nigori Sake (Junmai Nigori) is another one of those snowy, unfiltered sakes that I'm developing such a taste for. It is from Ibaraki prefecture in Japan. This particular one, despite my vigorous shaking, appeared to contain more clumps of rice than other types that I've tried: little tiny cloudlets floated around in my glass... I feared that the clumps would affect the taste or texture of the drink.

This sake tastes VERY pleasant, clean, and light. Despite its appearance, the texture is completely smooth.

Disregard the label, which describes this drink as having a "round aroma of dairy products." This beverage does NOT smell like milk. (Milk is icky.) It smells like sake. Sake without an accent over the e, because this brand doesn't use any such accents.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:40 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Photography portfolio updates!

ferrotype of Japanese-style iron teapotI've been a busy girl this evening... And for the past several months, actually.

New galleries up at include:

Extraordinary Light: Lake Merced (Infrared)

Palace of Fine Arts (Cyanotypes)

Pumpkins (Ambrotypes: Wet Collodion on Black Glass)


Tea Set (Ferrotypes: Wet Collodion on Trophy Aluminum).

I had promised a big April update, and I do have additional recent work to post, but these galleries provide enough updates for one evening.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:28 PM


Things that can wake me up from a pleasant sleep during the night.

The moon shining into the bedroom.

The moon ceasing to shine into the bedroom.


The cessation of rain.

The heater dispensing heat into the house.

Birdsong. (In spring, there is often distressed birdsong at odd hours of the night. Specifically, between the hours of 1:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. I suspect that laying eggs is truly uncomfortable.)

My lips becoming dry.

Excessive foot heat, most often caused by socks worn to bed.


Earthquakes of greater than 2.0 magnitude on the Richter scale.


Strong artificial fragrances.

My spouse's absence from bed, even if known in advance of drifting off to sleep.

Especially reflective fog banks.

Recollections of unfinished deadline projects at work.

My own breathing (during allergy season).

Dreams about noisy things.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:20 PM

Monday, April 07, 2008


Things my partner/spouse of eight years, who is turning 40 this month, did NOT say during Saturday's night's Autechre Concert

[The show started at 9, with DJ Rob Hall (who was very good); there was an electronic solo act, the DJ again. Autechre, as promised by the schedule posted above the door, started their set at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday.]
"Let's dance!"

"This is fun!"

"This [solo act] is quite interesting."

"People here really know how to dance."

"What a cool way to spend an evening."

"I am enjoying myself."

"Let's do this again very soon."


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:37 PM

Thursday, April 03, 2008



Those of you who knew me before the days of the WWW know that I wasn't much for sleeping. It's not that I don't LOVE sleep with a remarkable intensity; it's not that I don't fantasize about sleep during some of my working hours... I'm just not very good at it. I was not good at sleeping as a child (when I had the flavor of insomnia in which I failed to fall asleep at appropriate times) and as an adult (when I fail to remain asleep through some convenient period of time, such as "night").

I discovered a cure for this: bicycle riding, and especially bicycle riding to and from work. Bicycle riding has become a great passion of mine for many, many reasons: one of those reasons is that it allows me to experience blissful, deep, profound states of sleep.

[*shiver of delight at the thought of deep states of sleep*]


Alas and alack, since... what are we calling it. The Incident? My unfortunate encounter with the earth? My passionate, uncontrolled bonding with streetcar tracks? A day that will live in cycling infamy? Anyway, since I "shattered" my arm last year and went through my subsequent surgery and multi-month recovery period, cycling has had a different flavor for me. (No, not blood. Not vicodin, either.) It is still something I love, but now it is tinged with fear, and I weigh the risks of making a trip differently than I used to.

As a big-city urban person, just about all encounters with the outside world are fraught with peril and risk: the risk of standing near someone who smells bad, the risk of seeing a really good foreign film that you'll be boring your entire peer group with for ages, the risk of being killed while crossing the street on a green light by a person in an SUV having a conversation so inane that they will be ashamed to describe it to the police ("It involved a sale at Lowe's, a bag of cat litter, and jug wine..."), the eternal threat of discovering a completely addictive coffee place, or seeing a good art show, or hearing a really stupid argument... Death is on that list, of course, as it is anywhere, indoors or out. Having my bike stolen due to improper locking or foolishly leaving it anywhere in the greater Civic Center region was always on that list. But doing something that might cause me months of pain is a new item that has me re-evaluate all sorts of things, and not just biking.

Under my new risk evaluation scenario, I find myself unwilling to bike places that are not inherently fun. So, for example, my bike ride to work at my company's offices to Emeryville are fun-deprived. No matter which of the three main routes I choose (and I usually choose the longest to get in the most biking), I'm never really wallowing in the sort of pleasure I get from biking in the City.

I don't really enjoy the one mile bike ride to BART here in SF: although the street is now buttery smooth on the BART-bound side due to some water main work, it's just a mile. I don't even warm up. And I have to bike past (and cross) the spot where I crashed each time.

I don't really enjoy the ride from West Oakland BART to Emeryville. I like MLK drive, with its landscaping and odd mix of Victorian buildings and what appear to be steel mills, and I like hearing the geese flying overhead and honking... But I nearly always bike there alone. Or with big rigs that want to make right turns through me. I have to cross all those tracks, and the sewage treatment plant imbues several long blocks with an aroma that defies pleasant characterization.

Yes, I love the morning light. But it's just three miles! By the time I pass Semifreddi's and smell the garlic bread, I'm just warmed up, and the ride is nearly over.

Biking in the City is so gorgeous. Yes, I bike down Third Street now and then, and the industrial areas along the port, but... It's still SF!! I still get views of the rest of the City! My City! I get to see the bay, the lights, the vistas! And there are always, always, always other cyclists... (Not that I'm scared when there aren't, like when I bike through the Presidio's residential sections at night, or any of Terry A. Francois. But I know there will be cyclists thereafter, at any hour.)

Biking in the City is such a reward in and of itself, and I love being here so much... My Oakland commute just isn't the same. It's about 8 miles round trip, but in such awkward little increments (1 mile, 3, 3, and 1)... It's just not satisfying. And it's something of a relief to figure this out, because I thought that I was unmotivated because of a fear about biking, when really it's that biking where I happen to bike in Oakland isn't much fun, and especially isn't much fun alone.


It turns out that my BART & Emeryville bike commute isn't rigorous enough to prevent insomnia, either. :-(


Recent bike-related dream 1: cruising down Market Street from the top of Portola, I am doing an easy 40 mph (with moderate break riding) as I approach Castro Street.

There are streetcar tracks at Castro, where the F turns around.

I see them, I consider my speed, and I cannot figure out how to avoid having a crash. I begin to turn to hit the turn in the tracks completely perpendicular, but that will launch me into a curb and then a planter. I begin to panic. I wake up.

That was a nightmare.

Recent bike-related dream 2: Jack Black, acting like many of his characters, has a shop on 29th Street near Mission where he tricks out bikes. His custom jobs are wild, funny looking, and often completely impractical, involving a tall bike with high handlebars with its wheels resting in a contraption that puts the power into small, toy-truck skates at the bottom, for example.

I bike (on a road bike) south on San Jose Avenue from his shop, where the hill tops out at Randall (!). There is an odd, triangular intersection where Dolores blends in, and on the intersection is an odd building, made of wood, with a second story veranda and a grass or bamboo roof, which is a bike bar. There are bike races going on upstairs on the veranda: one of the riders lays down her bike in a turn, and pieces of the bamboo railing fly down onto the street, while she skids to a stop without making the drop. [And then... other stuff that I forget, though I continued south on San Jose.]

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:37 PM

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


2008 U.S. Alternative Process Traveling Portfolio: Now... Traveling.

Yes, it is on the move. I am again participating in the Traveling Portfolio project, in which those of us who work in antiquarian, antique, or alternative photographic processes ship a small collection of our work to each other in one large box or book, so that we can see and touch actual prints that we might otherwise only see in low resolution, two dimensional reproduction.

So what am I sharing with you? Low resolution, two dimensional web reproductions. :-) Yes yes, I know. If you live near me and want to see the prints live (especially the shiny ones, so you can see them without the reflections of the studio where these samples were photographed), let me know, and I'll invite you over when the portfolio arrives. Otherwise, you're out of luck unless you join the exchange next year.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM


UnScene San Francisco: first round of photos up!

Photos from the UnScene San Francisco show, taken by sponsor 944 Magazine (, are up on their website here. It was quite an event!

I was so tired immediately after the show (and so busy trying not to worry about my mother's tumor news) that I didn't write much about it here at the time. Now that I have visual aids, I'll make a few comments.

The W Hotel was the venue sponsor, and they provided a lovely room with high ceilings, deep colors, and a view of Yerba Buena's buildings across the street. It was on the third floor, which was easily accessed from the main entrance atrium. There were two bars in the room: a no host bar for cocktails and a hosted bar for wine. Music drifted in from the DJ on the balcony below, and there was a view from the foyer of the lounge on the first floor, which was full of people posing, drinking, and watching other people posing.

Our presentation approach was very simple: we mounted our work to foam boards, and hung the prints without mats or frames on larger white boards with a single construction light shining down on the art. The boards looked dramatic in the relatively low ambient light. (This was great planning on the part of the UnScene Tour organizer, who know how to keep things simple and light for the best effect.)

It was glam. It was posh. It was much classier than my employer's holiday party!

The other artists had lovely prints up, all of which were mounted beautifully, giving me my first real case of 'mounting envy.' The work on display showed real variety between the artists. There were dreamy fogscapes, sharp-edged architectural abstracts, dusk photos of gritty urban scenes, serene night photos of neighborhoods, and my images of staid historic ships and the glowing foliage of the Japanese Tea Garden in infrared. It was fun to see such a range of work from a bunch of locals!

Pretty much anything I could say about winning the grand prize would sound like bragging, and I am a modest person when it comes to talking about my work, so I am struggling. But I can say that winning was completely and totally unexpected. There was a glossiness to the other pieces which was so seductive, and my work was exclusively matte-finish prints; there were deep, rich colors in the other work, while I was the only artist to only show monochrome prints exclusively... I had thought I was at a disadvantage. That made hearing my name called all the more surprising.


It was all the more special having 30 friends, relatives, and colleagues come out to the event to support me. I don't throw big fancy parties, and so being able to invite them to an event that I was sort of responsible for was a nice thing: it made me feel like I was giving back some of the social kindnesses that have been shown to me. And the enthusiastic support I received made me feel great.


Looking at the photos of myself at the event is a bit awkward. As the photographer teased at the time, I am not comfortable on the lens side of the camera. (To think I ever modeled, ever so briefly, at a hair salon in my college days...)

I dislike the way flash photography makes me look: it washes out the contours of my face and neck in a way that I'll someday be grateful for (it will hide certain sorts of wrinkles!), but which I don't enjoy now: natural light seems kinder, and allows me to reflect more color. Flash photos of me don't match my conception of how I look.

I don't exhibit a high level of bilateral symmetry, and am accustomed only to seeing myself in a mirror (where I've grown accustomed to the imbalance): photos show me right-way round, and everything seems to slope off in the wrong direction... Also, the gradual changes in my face don't match photos of myself that I like and think of as "recent," but (as I am learning) are really 5 or more years old.

O, vanity.


There will be more photos up on the UnScene Tour page in a week or so: I will post a link when the images are available.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:57 PM


Fire damages closes favorite sushi restaurant: film at 11.

No Name Sushi on Church near 15th, whose actual name is Yokoso Nippon, is closed indefinitely due to a serious fire in one of the apartments upstairs. (The building isn't habitable.)

We are so bummed.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:52 PM

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