Browsed by
Month: June 2013

African Air

African Air

Looked through the African Air photography book by George Steinmetz.  One of the best parts was the introduction. It had one of the most powerful quotes I saw.

In Steinmetz’s intros, he describes how he exited college and hitchhiked across Africa for over two years.  Most of the time completely alone, no knowledge of the language or customs, battling illnesses and unrest, and often found himself sleeping on police station porches or living off the generosity of locals who he couldn’t even talk with.  It was there, with almost no knowledge of how to even use a camera, he started shooting photos.  Those early pictures are an fascinating catalog of visceral encounters.

On returning to the states, he managed to get a meeting with Bob Gilka of National Geographic’s photo department and get some kind of job with National Geographic.  Gilka is apparently famous for his harsh, critical style and a sign outside his office door that said “Wipe knees before entering”

So Steinmetz, after hard years in Africa, he put his photos on the slide carousel. Gilka held the advance button without stopping. This then happened:

He stopped once when he saw a photo he didn’t like.  “Doesn’t work” he said curtly.  I tried to explain some of the difficulties of the situation but he cut me off.

“Is that an excuse?” he asked.
“Uh, I guess so,” I said.
“Well, we publish photographs here, not excuses.”


Wow.  What an introduction to the professional world; however, it really helped Steinmetz in the end.  Gilka admired Steinmetz’s tenacity and determination; but told him to come back when he’d learned more photographic techniques, how to use artificial lighting, and could handle a wider variety of situations.

I guess it’s always a good reminder to me that to be good in your business/field – you should look at it that way.  Don’t make excuses, make improvements.

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

Often considered one of Agatha Christie’s best mystery/murder books – this is the story of 10 strangers lured to Indian Island by a mysterious host. Once his guests have arrived, an unknown host accuses each one of a murder from their past. Unable to leave the island, the guests begin to die one by one and they struggle to figure out who is killing them before it’s too late.

This is a great classic of murder-mystery storytelling.   So classic in fact that it has been converted to several movies and a wildly popular play.  Currently it’s the world’s best-selling mystery novel and one of the top 10 best-selling books of all time.  Its various plot devices have been copied so often that many say that it actually create a genre of its own.

The story (no big spoilers):
Ten people are invited via letter to a mysterious island.  Upon arriving, they find a beautiful mansion fully stocked with all modern conveniences and comforts – but no host.  As the settle in after dinner, a mysterious recorded voice accuses each one of a murder from their past.  As they argue over the accusations and struggle to figure out what is going on; the guests start dying.  Trapped on the island by a storm, they die one by one as they try frantically to figure out who is the murderer and why.  To add to the terror, they die in the order and method specified by a child’s nursery rhyme tacked in each of their rooms.  As the guest numbers dwindle, the levels of suspicion and hysteria rise dramatically until a crashing finale.

Review (no spoilers):
It’s a very different kind of murder mystery.  There is no master sleuth – no Hercule Poirot or Ms Marple.  There is simply you the reader and 10 ‘ordinary’ guests trapped on an island – as an unknown murderer slowly removes them one by one.  You feel as if you struggle right along with the characters trying to sort it all out.  Christie’s handling and revealing of their internal emotional states is dated but very well done.  With a few exceptions, the characters all tend to act in accordance to their very different natures – which really adds spice to the story considering you have such different folks as a war hero, a judge, a governess, two servants, a private gun, and a prim spinster.

I would suggest this is a must-read for anyone who loves the genre and for those that love house mysteries or isolated party type of spooky affairs.  As a lover of all these genres, this is the standard by which almost everything since is compared to as it rises above all the rest.  I give it a solid A for it’s enjoyable read (I listened to it via audiobook and found myself several times sitting in the driveway just to get to the next chapter), relatively quick story, and for the fact it is the canon for this type of genre.  Highly recommend