Tuesday, July 04, 2006

duck tail and cover

The sounds that surround us make me want to take cover. Holy cow! Get under your desk and cover your head! I'm hoping it's not a nuclear war that's making all that noise. My dormant midcentury angst is awakened by all the booms and blats and bangs.

Shit! That sounded way too close to be all the way down on the Embarcadero. Is that machine gun fire? I'm easily spooked by explosions.

The fireworks are beautiful from our balcony. You can see the official ones over Pier 39 and any number of smaller (and probably less legal) displays all over the city. There are even some just at the top of Hill Street, not two blocks away. But it's cold out. Cold enough that your eyes water and you wonder whether it's worth it to be shivering outside while chrysanthemums and smiley-faces burst over San Francisco.

They've really got the fireworks technology down: cubes, spheres-within-spheres, sparkly sprays that seem to hang in the sky for minutes, and mini-mushroom clouds.

Mini-mushroom clouds? Did I say mini-mushroom clouds? I'm going in. I seem to remember from the filmstrip on Civil Defense Procedures that getting under your desk is safer than standing out on your balcony, exposed to the decaying radioactive elements. Sure, you can wave like you're the Pope if you stand out on the balcony, but I think I'll bid farewell to civilization as we know it from under my desk. Besides, it's warm and cozy under my desk.

I was outside watching the fireworks for awhile, trying to force my digital camera to capture the moment. Turn off the flash, focus at infinity, click the button. And... no click. Nothing happens. There's a delay while the elves inside shake their Etch-A-Sketches clean and start again. Shit! I missed another one. And the last one: I was unsteady enough by the time the camera clicked that the sharp points flashing in the sky turned into a small army of neon worms. So I started pressing the button when I heard the thud of the launch. I clicked photo after photo. Both batteries died quickly with that approach, so I was spared the annoyance of trying to take fireworks photos.

Don't you hate it when the flash goes off when you're taking a night photo a mile-and-a-half away?

The good thing about photographic subjects that are hard to get right: someone else has taken a zillion pictures of the same thing and posted them all to the Web, to Flickr or to their blog or to their web site. If you search for fireworks "San Francisco", you'll see what I mean. No point in taking any pictures at all. If it's credibility that I'm looking for, I can even find photos that are just as blurry as my own.

In fact, it's not just those anonymous pictures of skylines, meadows dotted with wildflowers, and happy puppies that I don't need to shoot anymore: those peoples' relatives could pass for my relatives. And -- what's more -- my doppelgangers are all substantially more photogenic than I am. Might as well sell my digital camera. Somebody else has already taken a photo just like the one I'm about to take.

The fading of the final official firework gives way to random pops and blats and sirens. Once we get past the Fourth of July weekend, I feel like the best part of summer's already on the wane. The High Sierra Beard and Moustache Championships (members of ZZ Top, eat your hearts out!) are over; the s'mores have been made (although we used sticks again this year -- I'm waiting until next year to go fully high-tech. I spotted an electric marshmallow roaster in a catalog of useless items that we got in the mail); and I've had my Fourth of July meat hangover, induced by eating a full side of beef.

By myself. Half a cow. I should be ashamed, but I'm merely bilious.

Because it's a short work week, and I'm overwhelmed by lassitude (the weather's warmed up considerably from the start of this post 'til the end), I'm going to share a short list of topics I'm too lazy to blog about. But I'd give each one their due if I were more energetic. Honest I would.

First there was Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's surreal visit to the White House (and to Graceland). Our own brainy national leader welcomed Mr. Koizumi to the White House with a bizarre comparison to Elvis, saying “Like you, he had great hair. Like you, he was known to sing in public. And, like you, he won admirers in countries far from home.” I'm not one to talk; I've been to Graceland. I've admired Lisa Marie's swingset in the backyard and the Fat Elvis's white jumpsuit in the showcase. Marcia and I even went to Graceland on the 25th anniversary of Elvis's death -- but that'll be a whole other post.

Then there was the unexpected demise of Rocketboom, thus removing another secret time-wasting vice of mine from my bookmarks. Yeah, the clips are only 3 minutes long, but you can waste an awful lot of time cruising through the archives. Amanda Congdon has good hair, clear skin, and is awfully perky; she's always seemed destined for bigger media. Even though I liked to pretend Amanda's report was a real vlog, I knew it was a long tentacle of the media business, and that it couldn't last. That ol' Amanda'd have to bust out of that little Quicktime window and onto a full-size plasma display. Bye, Rocketboom. I bet Amanda'll show up again soon though.

Finally, my friend Jonathan Small tells me if I don't mention him in my blog, he'll stop reading it. He's in medical school, so I feel obliged to acknowledge the intense pressures on his time. After all, I'm competing with cadavers and bodily fluids for his attention. But I do need to warn him that he's already got a doppelganger in Cincinnati. In any event, I doubt he'd like it if I wrote an entire post about him; I'd just start making things up.

But I really don't need to make things up. All I have to do is leave the house once in awhile. And sometimes, not even that.


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