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May 31, 2010

Zac Brown Band: "Highway 20 Ride"

The Zac Brown Band has had a series of hits over the last year -- "Chicken Fried" their biggest -- but this song is the keeper on the album, a divorced dad's heartfelt lament to his son. The video's terrific, too; you have to have a heart of stone not to tear up by the time it's done.

Posted by Mike Lief at 10:00 PM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2010

Get Lost. Seriously.

Sunday night's series finale of Lost is like that breakfast burrito you bought from a street vendor, a purchase flying in the face of common sense and sound food-handling practices. Oh, sure, it tasted pretty good (at first), but with every passing hour the rumblings and gurglings remind you that something isn't sitting right.

This video is a reminder of what a con job producers Cruse and Lindeloff pulled on viewers, gulling them into believing that there was some internal logic at work here, some grand story arc, a master plan.

How bad was this ending? It makes me pine for the Seinfeld finale, heretofore the worst ending since Hitler and Eva Braun's honeymoon.

Posted by Mike Lief at 09:24 PM

May 11, 2010

Flying Fortress

(Click on image for full-size version)

The late afternoon sun cast its glare over the old warbird's aluminum skin, highlighting one of the numerous .50 caliber machine guns responsible for it's too-optimistic nickname: Flying Fortress. The casualty rate for aircrews was staggering; a GI had a better chance of surviving the war carrying a rifle and fighting his way on foot across Europe.

Nikon D-40, 18mm, 1/800, f14, EV -1.00

(Click on image for full-size version)

The corona of light around the bomber's nose reveals the perspex that provided the bombardier an unobstructed view of the Third Reich's Festung Europa far below -- but scant protection from German fighters making head-on attacks, cannons blazing.

Nikon D-40, 18mm, 1/1250, f18, EV -3.00

(Click on image for full-size version)

The sun peeks through the cloud cover, blue skies revealed as the gale-force winds shred the overcast, opening a hole through which the Fortress seems ready to soar.

Nikon D-40, 18mm, 1/500, f11, EV -1.00

(Click on image for full-size version)

The supercharger beneath one of the B-17's radial engines seems to glow, it's casing pitted and discolored by the tremendous heat generated from boosting the output of the gigantic powerplants.

Nikon D-40, 18mm, 1/50, f3.5, EV -3.0

(Click on image for full-size version)

The Flying Fortress was cutting-edge technology in it's day, but there are constant reminders scattered throughout of low-tech solutions to the emergencies awaiting the airmen in the hostile European skies.

Nikon D-40, 112mm, 1/30, f5.6, EV -2.0

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The Aluminum Overcast sits beneath appropriately gloomy Oxnard skies, the same ashen skies that anxious pilots must have peered into as they waited at English airfields, awaiting the word on their next mission.

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The Flying Fortress was designed for fighting a new kind of aerial war, but its lethal purpose notwithstanding, the plane had art-deco touches adding a stylish -- and incongruous -- flavor to the bomber, like the detail on the center of the yoke: Moderne fonts evoking speed, "Boeing" forming the shape of a plane.

The B-17's nose art -- and the late afternoon sun -- is reflected in the polished chrome of the spinner covering the port inboard prop.

Nikon D-40, 200mm, 1/80, f5.6, EV -1.67

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A self-portrait of the photographer alongside the Aluminum Overcast, Oxnard, California, 2010.

Posted by Mike Lief at 07:07 AM | Comments (4)

May 04, 2010

De Gustibus: Alexis Baking Company & Cafe

Thanks to Yelp! and it's opinionated users, where to eat in Napa was no longer a mystery to us Southlanders: the Alexis Baking Company and Cafe was the place to be for brunch. They open their doors at 8 o'clock, so we hit the bricks and walked the three blocks from the hotel, arriving shortly thereafter -- to find the place packed.

After a moderate wait, we were seated, coffee was poured, and the menus were pored over.

Take a gander at that first item: "Bananas Foster French Toast with Rum Soaked Raisins."

Lo-Carb? What is this "Lo-Carb" of which you speak?

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The bananas are fostered, the raisins are rum soaked, the sugar is sprinkled, the maple syrup was poured -- and I was done for.


The only question was: Would I make it back to the hotel before the carb coma kicked in?

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The Quiche Florentine with Spinach and Onions was also delicious -- but it had too many vegetables and wasn't nearly as guilt inducing as the divinely decadent melding of breakfast and dessert into the mindbogglingly healthy-lifestyle-inappropriate concoction that landed on my plate.

Alexis Baking Company and Cafe, 1517 Third Street, Napa, Calif., (707) 258-1827.

Posted by Mike Lief at 01:00 PM