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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for February, 2010
by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we continue our examination of the process of choosing a set of lenses for your SLR (or dSLR) camera. More specifically, we examine how the choice of a zoom lenses relates to different types of photographic situations. While these lenses allow us to minimize the number of lenses that we carry in our camera bags, we need to be aware of when a Prime lens may still be better. More specifically, we will consider Macro, Wide-Angle, Portrait, and Landscape photographyGLB


“No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.”
— Edward Steichen

“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.”
— Alfred Eisenstaedt

“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.”
— Yousuf Karsh

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.”
— Lewis Hine

“I used to hate doing color. I hated transparency film. The way I did color was by not wanting to know what kind of film was in my camera.”
— Helmut Newton

“If I am at a party, I want to be at the party. Too many photographers use the camera to avoid participating in things. They become professional observers.”
— Robert Mapplethorpe

“I almost never set out to photograph a landscape, nor do I think of my camera as a means of recording a mountain or an animal unless I absolutely need a ‘record shot’. My first thought is always of light.”
— Galen Rowell

“But the moment you use an ordinary camera, you are not seeing the picture, remember, meaning, you had to remember what you’ve taken. Now you could see it of course, with a digital thing, but remember in 1982 you couldn’t.”
— David Hockney


Focal Technology: Using a Zoom Lens

Nikkor_28-200_zoom A zoom lens is a mechanical assembly of lens elements with the ability to vary its focal length (and thus angle of view), as opposed to a fixed focal length (FFL) lens (see prime lens). They are commonly used with still, video, motion picture cameras, projectors, some binoculars, microscopes, telescopes, telescopic sights, and other optical instruments.

A true zoom lens, also called a parfocal lens, is one that maintains focus when its focal length changes. A lens that loses focus during zooming is more properly called a varifocal lens.

Some General Advantages of Using a Zoom Lens

ScrapJazz has posted a good article on how to use zoom lenses to capture your subject better. We present, with our comments included, a modified version of that article here. Please check out the full site via the reference below.

Would you like to emphasize the subject of your photograph? Here’s one solution: use a telephoto lens and get a close-up view.

A close-up photograph of an object, person, or animal gives us perspective and details that we can’t appreciate from far away. A telephoto lens allows you to get optically close to the subject when you can’t get physically close. A telephoto lens brings distant objects closer. Like a telescope or binoculars, the image is closer and larger.

There are two types of telephoto lenses – fixed and zoom. A fixed lens covers one distance. Some common examples are the 135mm lens, 200mm lens, and 400mm lens. Zoom lens will have a variable focal length and will cover a range of distances. Some common examples are 70-200mm and 80-400mm.

There are several advantages to a telephoto lens:

  • 656_1Getting closer…
    Sometimes a barrier or distance from the subject prevents you from physically moving closer to your subject. In those cases, a telephoto lens works perfectly because it brings the subject closer. While at the pond, I found I couldn’t get any closer to my subject, a dragonfly. My telephoto lens was able to do the trick.
  • Highlight details…
    A telephoto lens can focus on a specific detail of your subject. In addition, it can isolate the subject from a distracting background, making the details even more pronounced.
  • Great portraits…
    Telephoto lenses work well for head and shoulder portraits, taking sharp photographs without a distracting background.
  • 656_2Natural photographs…
    A telephoto lens allows you to photograph people in natural surrounding and poses. Being farther from your subject, you can take photographs without your subject noticing. At the beach, I was able to capture this close-up photograph of my daughter from a distance.

When purchasing and using a telephoto lens keep the following in mind:

  • Use high shutter and film (ISO) speeds…
    A telephoto lens magnifies the image. As a consequence, the effects of camera movement are magnified as well. High shutter speeds are necessary to get sharp pictures with a telephoto lens. What is a good shutter speed? A good rule of thumb is that the minimum shutter speed should correlate to the camera’s focal length. If you’re shooting with the camera’s lens zoomed to 300mm, set the shutter speed to 1/300 second or faster. Another option is to increase the camera’s film (ISO) speed.
  • Minimize camera shake…
    Since camera movement is magnified with a telephoto lens, you need to use fast shutter speeds to avoid camera shake. If you must use a slow shutter speed, use a tripod. Another alternative is using a telephoto lens with image stabilization (IS) or vibration reducing (VR). These mechanical devices inside your lens can detect camera shake and compensate for it.
  • Maintain precise focus…
    IMG_3058_6x9-aRGB In most telephoto lenses, the depth of field is limited so focus needs to be precise. To aid in focusing, purchase a camera with automatic focus. A camera’s automatic focus is faster and better than manual focusing.

    [Regular telephoto lenses “compress” the scene. To preserve the depth of field you might try a Macro zoom lens, since it does not “compress” the scene. I have a been attempting to capture a scene for about two years. My telephoto zoom kept compressing the scene, but once I got my Macro zoom lens, I was able to obtain the image that I was seeking.]

  • Take advantage of a wide aperture…
    When taking photographs with a telephoto lens, you have the option of using a wide aperture (such as f/4) to create an uncluttered background. When you want to really focus in on your subject use those wide apertures to blur the background.
  • Use a teleconverter…
    Another popular tool in close-up photography is the teleconverter, often found in 1.4X and 2X lengths. These lenses mount to your camera to make your telephoto lens even longer. For example, a 2X teleconverter would make a 200mm lens, a 400mm lens. Although they give you more versatility with your telephoto lens, they require even higher shutter speeds and extreme care for camera shake.

    [One needs to be careful in using these teleconverters. Each of these requires a specific telephoto lens range and causes a loss of light. They are active devices with their own lenses, unlike extension tubes that allow you to take close up/macro photos with a telephoto lenses.]

Next time you want a close-up photograph or you experience a barrier, remember to use a telephoto lens. Take care to use high shutter speeds, minimize camera shake and use precise focusing. Then, you’ll have that photograph that really emphasizes your subject!

Uses of Telephoto Lenses, By Category

Telephoto lenses are available from the mid-wide angle range (15-20 mm) through the nominal 50 mm point to the portrait range (80 to 150 mm). While most “kit” lenses run somewhere from 28-80 mm, their “glass” (lens manufacturing) is generally only mediocre. In most cases, either the 35-135 mm zoom (used for portraits) or the 70-250/300 mm (for long-range nature shots) are probably the most common lenses for most users.

Stanley Leary, in his article “Telling Stories with a Telephoto Lens”, on the Black Star Rising web site presents a good take on these issues. I have included some of his article here for your reference, but you can check out the full article as cited in the Reference Section below.

But pros use the telephoto lens for more than getting closer. We also use it to better tell a story.

Depth of Field

One of the most creative tools a photographer has is the ability to control depth of field (DOF). DOF is the portion of the photograph that appears in sharp focus. Telephoto lenses have a shallow DOF as compared to wide-angle lenses. With either lens, the smaller the f-stop (f16 vs. f8) the deeper the DOF. The reverse is also true. With either type of lens, the DOF is shallower the more open the f-number (f4 vs. f5.6).

By controlling (limiting) the depth of field, you can force the viewer’s attention to only what you want them to see. Take a picture of a football receiver catching the ball, for example. If the DOF is deep and almost everything is in equal focus, the player and the ball will be lost in the color and detail of the crowd. By taking the same picture using a telephoto lens with a shallow DOF, you can isolate the player and the ball from the rest of the picture, thus calling attention to what you want the viewer to see.

Similarly, portrait photographers use medium telephoto lenses to call attention to the face and not the background in both indoor and outdoor portraits.

When you increase the DOF with a telephoto lens, the background will appear closer to the subject than it will with a wide-angle lens. The longer (more powerful) the lens, the closer objects in the photo will appear to each other, and to you. This is a powerful tool that enables you to make all kinds of statements.

Telephoto Storytelling

A sports photographer, for example, might use this technique to show a baseball pitcher in his windup. The scoreboard in the background shows a full count in the bottom of the ninth. By bringing that scoreboard up close behind the pitcher using a telephoto lens, you can see that it’s a no-hitter. That’s storytelling made possible by the creative use of a telephoto lens and selective focus.

By contrast, if the photographer instead uses a shallow depth-of-field, you won’t be able to read the scoreboard. If they use a wide-angle lens, the scoreboard will appear too far away to read.

In portrait photography, a medium telephoto lens shows faces in a normal perspective as compared to the distortion of a wide-angle lens. A moderate telephoto lens of say 80mm to 100mm on a 35mm camera will put you about five to seven feet from the subject for a head-and-shoulders photograph.

When photographing wildlife, the rule of thumb is to use a minimum of a 300 mm lens to fill the frame. You usually don’t want to be five to seven feet from wildlife. That’s why wildlife photographers use 400mm, 500mm, 600mm or even as long as 800mm lenses.

When you begin to shop for a telephoto lens, you’ll find many choices for the same focal length lens. Nikon makes lenses that cost a few hundred dollars on to up to $25,000. The f-stop is a big factor in the cost. The lower the number (faster the lens), the more expensive and heavier the lens. Faster lenses allow for making photos in less light, as well as for shallower DOF.

We all use telephoto lenses simply to “get closer” sometimes. But before mounting any lens on your camera, it’s important to ask yourself, “What story do I want to tell with this picture?” Your lens is a tool that can be used to make your point.

Using your Telephoto Lens for Long-Range, Nature Photography

The following article is available on the eHow web site. The reference to the “How to Use a Telephoto Lens” by G. Wallace-Taylor is found below in the Reference section.

With the prices of telephoto lenses dropping and the availability of SLR (single lens reflex) cameras in the consumer market, the options are endless for capturing those long-range shots. Whether you want to photograph birds and wildlife or landscape compositions, arm yourself with a few guidelines and you’ll soon be taking quality images.

use-telephoto-lens A telephoto lens gets you
up close and personal.

You can improve your photographs taken with your telephoto lens. These hints apply primarily to long-range shots, not wide angle or midrange shots.

  1. Step 1…
    Stabilize your camera. Telephoto lenses add weight and throw your camera off-balance. Acquire a sturdy ball-head tripod if you can. Alternately, use a regular tripod and brace it with sandbags.

  2. Step 2…
    Use pressure from your hand, either up or down on the lens, when shooting to reduce camera shake. Focus through the viewfinder at the same time to make sure your composition is accurate. Pressure, especially during windy conditions, may save the shot.

  3. Step 3…
    Stop down your aperture one or two stops to bring more of your subject into focus. If you’re shooting distant wildlife, a wide-open aperture will allow you to focus on one part of the animal’s body, but may blur out the rest or any additional animals that are nearby.

  4. Step 4…
    Sight directly above your lens to find your subject. With long telephoto lenses, it can be difficult to locate your subject when searching through the viewfinder. Learn to sight directly above your lens while turning it to face your subject. When you’re in line, look through the viewfinder to compose and focus the shot.

  5. Step 5…
    Capture moving subjects by focusing on the very edge of the subject and panning when the subject moves. This is a good technique for capturing birds in flight. Focus before they take off–and pan, releasing the shutter when they are in position.

  6. Step 6…
    Shoot through a vehicle window to shade your lens from direct light. With a telephoto lens, you can set up on one side of your vehicle, allow the lens to extend into the automobile and focus on a subject outside the opposite window. The vehicle acts as a telephoto lens shade, allowing you to get the shot while avoiding light streaks.



Barbara London, Jim Stone, & John Upton. (2008) Photography. Pearson, Prentice-Hall

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: The Camera…

Wikipedia: Zoom Lens…

Web Sites and Blogs:

Brainy Quote: Camera Quotes…

ScrapJazz: Tips for Telephoto Lens Photographs…

eHow: How to Use a Telephoto Lens…

Black Star Rising: Telling Stories with a Telephoto Lens…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Black women have made their marks upon the arts, theater, literature, and the visual arts. They have won awards and become advocates for the rights of women and people of color. But unique among this group is our recent Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice under president George W. Bush. She has held academic appointments, been National Security Advisor, but she did her gender and race proud when she assumed the Secretary’s post. Let’s take a closer look at this outstanding woman leaderGLB


“Punish France, ignore Germany, and forgive Russia.”
— Condoleezza Rice

“If you have any doubt about the degree with which this is self-defense, just look at those pictures from September 11th.”
— Condoleezza Rice

“In light of 50 years of bondage of Eastern Europe, [invading the Soviet Union in 1948 to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons] was probably a reasonable thing to do.”
— Condoleezza Rice

“But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let’s remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”
— Condoleezza Rice

“I don’t think that anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.”
— Condoleezza Rice

“Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11. It’s not that Saddam Hussein was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9/11, but, if you think about what caused 9/11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York.”
— Condoleezza Rice

“The growth of entrepreneurial classes throughout the world is an asset in the promotion of human rights and individual liberty, and it should be understood and used as such. Yet peace is the first and most important condition for continued prosperity and freedom. America’s military power must be secure because the United States is the only guarantor of global peace and stability. The current neglect of America’s armed forces threatens its ability to maintain peace.”
— Condoleezza Rice

“The United States doesn’t and can’t condone torture. And I want to make very clear that that’s the view and the policy of the administration, the policy of the president, and that he’s made very clear to American personnel that we will not condone torture….Senator, under no circumstances should we or have we condoned torture. And the president has been very clear that he expects everyone to live up to our international obligations and to American law.”
— Condoleezza Rice


Black Women in History: Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza_Rice_cropped Condoleezza Rice (Born: 1954) is a professor, diplomat and author. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and the second to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was the first African-American woman secretary of state, as well as the second African American (after Colin Powell), and the second woman (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term. Before joining the Bush administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost from 1993 to 1999. Rice served as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification.

When beginning as Secretary of State, Rice pioneered a policy of Transformational Diplomacy, with a focus on democracy in the greater Middle East. Her emphasis on supporting democratically elected governments faced challenges as Hamas captured a popular majority in Palestinian elections yet supported Islamist militants, and influential countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt maintained authoritarian systems with U.S. support. While Secretary of State, she chaired the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s board of directors.

In March 2009, Rice returned to Stanford University as a political science professor and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

Early Education

Condi_as_a_College_Student Condoleezza Rice as an undergraduate
student at the University of Denver

Rice started learning French, music, figure skating and ballet at age three. At age 15, she began classes with the goal of becoming a concert pianist. Her plans changed when she realized that she did not play well enough to support herself through music alone. While Rice is not a professional pianist, she still practices often and plays with a chamber music group. Rice made use of her pianist training to accompany cellist Yo-Yo Ma for Brahms’s Violin Sonata in D Minor at Constitution Hall in April 2002 for the National Medal of Arts Awards.

High School and University Education

In 1967, the family moved to Denver, Colorado. She attended St. Mary’s Academy, a private all-girls Catholic high school in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. After studying piano at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Rice enrolled at the University of Denver, where her father both served as an assistant dean and taught a class called "The Black Experience in America." Dean John Rice opposed institutional racism, government oppression, and the Vietnam War.

Rice attended a course on international politics taught by Josef Korbel, the father of future Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This experience sparked her interest in the Soviet Union and international relations and made her call Korbel "one of the most central figures in my life."

Rice graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in 1970. In 1974, at age 19, Rice earned her BA degree in political science, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver. In 1975, she obtained her Master’s Degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame. She first worked in the State Department in 1977, during the Carter administration, as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 1981, at the age of 26, she received her PhD degree in Political Science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Her dissertation along with some of her earliest publications, centered on military policy and politics in Czechoslovakia.

Early political views

Rice was a Democrat until 1982 when she changed her political affiliation to Republican after growing averse to former President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy. She cites influence from her father, John Wesley, in this decision, who himself switched from Democrat to Republican after being denied voting registration by the Democratic registrar. In her words to the 2000 Republican National Convention, "My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did."

Academic Career

Condi_rice Condoleezza Rice during a 2005
interview on ITV in London

Rice was hired by Stanford University as an Assistant Professor of Political Science (1981–1987). She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1987, a post she held until 1993. She was a specialist on the Soviet Union and gave lectures on the subject for the Berkeley-Stanford joint program led by UC Berkeley Professor George Breslauer in the mid-1980s.

At a 1985 meeting of arms control experts at Stanford, Rice’s performance drew the attention of Brent Scowcroft, who had served as National Security Advisor under Gerald Ford. With the election of George H. W. Bush, Scowcroft returned to the White House as National Security Adviser in 1989, and he asked Rice to become his Soviet expert on the United States National Security Council. According to R. Nicholas Burns, President Bush was "captivated" by Rice, and relied heavily on her advice in his dealings with Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.

Because she would have been ineligible for tenure at Stanford if she had been absent for more than two years, in 1991, she returned to Stanford. She was now taken under the wing of George P. Shultz (Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State from 1982–1989), who was a fellow at the Hoover Institution. Shultz included Rice in a "luncheon club" of intellectuals who met every few weeks to discuss foreign affairs. In 1992, Shultz, who was a board member of Chevron Corporation, recommended Rice for a spot on the Chevron board. Chevron was pursuing a $10 billion development project in Kazakhstan and, as a Soviet specialist, Rice knew the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. She traveled to Kazakhstan on Chevron’s behalf and, in honor of her work, in 1993, Chevron named a 129,000-ton supertanker SS Condoleezza Rice. During this period, Rice was also appointed to the boards of Transamerica Corporation (1991) and Hewlett-Packard (1992).

At Stanford, in 1992, Rice volunteered to serve on the search committee to replace outgoing president Donald Kennedy. The committee ultimately recommended Gerhard Casper, the Provost of the University of Chicago. Casper met Rice during this search, and was so impressed that in 1993, he appointed her as Stanford’s Provost, the chief budget and academic officer of the university in 1993 and she also was granted tenure and became full Professor Rice was the first female, first minority, and youngest Provost at Stanford. She was also named a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Senior Fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution.

Provost Promotion

Former Stanford President Gerhard Casper said the university was "most fortunate in persuading someone of Professor Rice’s exceptional talents and proven ability in critical situations to take on this task. Everything she has done, she has done well; I have every confidence that she will continue that record as provost." Acknowledging Rice’s unique character, Casper told the New Yorker in 2002 that it "would be disingenuous for me to say that the fact that she was a woman, the fact that she was black and the fact that she was young weren’t in my mind."

Balancing School Budget

As Stanford’s Provost, Rice was responsible for managing the university’s multi-billion dollar budget. The school at that time was running a deficit of $20 million. When Rice took office, she promised that the budget deficit would be balanced within "two years." Coit Blacker, Stanford’s deputy director of the Institute for International Studies, said there "was a sort of conventional wisdom that said it couldn’t be done… that [the deficit] was structural, that we just had to live with it." Two years later, Rice announced that the deficit had been eliminated and the university was holding a record surplus of over $14.5 million.

Special Interest Issues

Rice drew protests when, as provost, she departed from the practice of applying affirmative action to tenure decisions and unsuccessfully sought to consolidate the university’s ethnic community centers.

Return to Stanford

During a farewell interview in early December 2008, Rice indicated she would return to Stanford and the Hoover Institution, "back west of the Mississippi where I belong", but beyond writing and teaching did not specify what her role would be. Rice’s plans for a return to campus were elaborated in an interview with the Stanford Report in January 2009. She returned to Stanford as a political science professor and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on March 1, 2009.

Early political career

In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rice served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

From 1989 through March 1991 (the period of the fall of Berlin Wall and the final days of the Soviet Union), she served in President George H.W. Bush’s administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In this position, Rice helped develop Bush’s and Secretary of State James Baker’s policies in favor of German reunification. She impressed Bush, who later introduced her to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as the one who "tells me everything I know about the Soviet Union."

In 1991, Rice returned to her teaching position at Stanford, although she continued to serve as a consultant on the former Soviet Bloc for numerous clients in both the public and private sectors. Late that year, California Governor Pete Wilson appointed her to a bipartisan committee that had been formed to draw new state legislative and congressional districts in the state.

In 1997, she sat on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training in the Military.

During George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential election campaign, Rice took a one-year leave of absence from Stanford University to help work as his foreign policy advisor. The group of advisors she led called itself The Vulcans in honor of the monumental Vulcan statue, which sits on a hill overlooking her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Rice would later go on to give a noteworthy speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention. The speech asserted that "…America’s armed forces are not a global police force. They are not the world’s 911."

National Security Advisor (2001–2005)

RicePowellBushRumsfeld Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell,
and Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld listen to President George W.
Bush speak about the Middle East
on June 24, 2002

On December 17, 2000, Rice was named as National Security Advisor and stepped down from her position at Stanford. She was the first woman to occupy the post. Rice earned the nickname of "Warrior Princess," reflecting strong nerve and delicate manners.

On January 18, 2003, the Washington Post reported that Rice was involved in crafting Bush’s position on race-based preferences. Rice has stated that "while race-neutral means are preferable," race can be taken into account as "one factor among others" in university admissions policies.


During the summer of 2001, Rice met with CIA Director George Tenet to discuss the possibilities and prevention of terrorist attacks on American targets. Notably, on July 10, 2001, Rice met with Tenet in what he referred to as an "emergency meeting" held at the White House at Tenet’s request to brief Rice and the NSC staff about the potential threat of an impending al Qaeda attack. Rice responded by asking Tenet to give a presentation on the matter to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

When asked about the meeting in 2006, Rice asserted she did not recall the specific meeting, commenting that she had met repeatedly with Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. Moreover, she stated that it was "incomprehensible” to her that she had ignored terrorist threats two months before the September 11 attacks.


In March 2004, Rice declined to testify before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission). The White House claimed executive privilege under constitutional separation of powers and cited past tradition. Under pressure, Bush agreed to allow her to testify so long as it did not create a precedent of presidential staff being required to appear before United States Congress when so requested. Her appearance before the commission on April 8, 2004, was accepted by the Bush administration in part because she was not appearing directly before Congress. She thus became the first sitting National Security Advisor to testify on matters of policy.

In April 2007, Rice rejected, on grounds of executive privilege, a House subpoena regarding the prewar claim that Iraq sought yellowcake uranium from Niger.


Rice was a proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After Iraq delivered its declaration of weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations on December 8, 2002, Rice wrote an editorial for The New York Times entitled "Why We Know Iraq Is Lying".

Leading up to the 2004 presidential election, Rice became the first National Security Advisor to campaign for an incumbent president. She stated that while: "Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the actual attacks on America, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a part of the Middle East that was festering and unstable, [and] was part of the circumstances that created the problem on September 11."

Weapons of mass destruction

In a January 10, 2003 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Rice made headlines by stating regarding Iraqi WMD: "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

After the invasion, when it became clear that Iraq did not have nuclear WMD capability, critics called Rice’s claims a "hoax," "deception" and "demagogic scare tactic." "Either she missed or overlooked numerous warnings from intelligence agencies seeking to put caveats on claims about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, or she made public claims that she knew to be false," wrote Dana Milbank and Mike Allen in the Washington Post.

Rice characterized the August 6, 2001 President’s Daily Brief Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US as historical information. Rice indicated "It was information based on old reporting." Sean Wilentz of Salon magazine suggested that the PDB contained current information based on continuing investigations, including that Bin Laden wanted to "bring the fighting to America."

Role in Authorizing Use of Torture Techniques

A Senate Intelligence Committee reported that on July 17, 2002, Rice met with CIA director George Tenet to personally convey the Bush administration’s approval of the proposed waterboarding of alleged Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. "Days after Dr Rice gave Mr Tenet her approval, the Justice Department approved the use of waterboarding in a top secret August 1 memo." Waterboarding is considered to be torture by a wide range of authorities, including legal experts, war veterans, intelligence officials, military judges, human rights organizations, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and many senior politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

In 2003 Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft met with the CIA again and were briefed on the use of waterboarding and other methods including week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and the use of stress positions. The Senate report says that the Bush administration officials "reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy".

The Senate report also "suggests Miss Rice played a more significant role than she acknowledged in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee submitted in the autumn." At that time, she had acknowledged attending meetings to discuss the CIA interrogations, but she claimed that she could not recall the details, and she "omitted her direct role in approving the programme in her written statement to the committee."

In a conversation with a student at Stanford University in April 2009, Rice stated that she did not authorize the CIA to use the enhanced interrogation techniques. Said Rice, "I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did." She added, “We were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so, by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.”

Secretary of State (2005–2009)

RICEBUSHSIGN Rice signs official papers after receiving the oath of office during her ceremonial swearing in at the Department of State. Watching on are, from left, Laura Bush, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President George W. Bush.


On November 16, 2004, Bush nominated Rice to be Secretary of State. On January 26, 2005, the Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 85-13. The negative votes, the most cast against any nomination for Secretary of State since 1825, came from Senators who, according to Senator Barbara Boxer, wanted "to hold Dr. Rice and the Bush administration accountable for their failures in Iraq and in the war on terrorism." Their reasoning was that Rice had acted irresponsibly in equating Hussein’s regime with Islamist terrorism and some could not accept her previous record. Senator Robert Byrd voted against Rice’s appointment, indicating that she "has asserted that the President holds far more of the war power than the Constitution grants him."

Condoleezza_Rice_and_Michaelle_Jean Condoleezza Rice visits Governor
General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean
in Ottawa, Ontario.

As Secretary of State, Rice has championed the expansion of democratic governments. Rice stated that the September 11 attacks in 2001 were rooted in "oppression and despair" and so, the US must advance democratic reform and support basic rights throughout the greater Middle East. Rice has also reformed and restructured the department, as well as US diplomacy as a whole. "Transformational Diplomacy" is the goal that Rice describes as "work[ing] with our many partners around the world… [and] build[ing] and sustain[ing] democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."

As Secretary of State, Rice traveled widely and initiated many diplomatic efforts on behalf of the Bush administration. Her diplomacy relied on strong presidential support and is considered to be the continuation of style defined by former Republican secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and James Baker.



Paula J. Giddings. (1996) When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. Harper

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Condoleezza Rice…

Wikiquote: Condoleezza Rice…

Wikipedia: Condoleezza Rice’s Tenure as Secretary of State…

Web Sites and Blogs:

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 The Congressional Medal of Honor is the top award for bravery above and beyond the call to duty awarded within our military. It is awarded to those who have put themselves in peril to protect and/or save their fellow soldiers. More often as not, these medals are awarded posthumously to soldiers who have died in their valiant efforts. Today, we look at the story of one such man who put himself in danger to protect his fellow soldiers. Fortunately, for Airman John Levitow, he lived to recover from his wounds and live a long life. John, we honor you and your fellow recipients of this award. Thank You.  GLB


“I had no idea what the Medal of Honor was; I had never heard of it. I came from this little town in northern California. I was pretty naive.”
— Joan Jacobson

“The Hawaii Medal of Honor is a symbol of our remembering those who stood tall for our values so that we may live in a land perpetuated in righteousness.”
— Senator Norman Sakamoto

“That was Valor Day, when the New York Police Department hands out medals. She’s wearing the medal they awarded Moira, the department’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor.”
— James Smith

“As an American it’s such a wonderful occurrence that this great nation, after 65 years, would honor the memory of a great naval war hero and spend the time and effort to dignify his medal and his family.”
— Robert Rosen

“I would simply ask Al Gore to take responsibility for his campaign and their actions, as well as his own words, … When his campaign demeans a medal of honor winner like Bob Kerrey, there should be an apology from Al Gore.”
— Bill Bradley

“It just seemed so odd that someone in a city that had both Union and Confederate soldiers — including a recipient of the Union Medal of Honor — would claim to be involved in the Lincoln assassination. What would be the motive for claiming that? To get yourself killed?”
— Diane Kamp

“The things you have to do to win (a Medal of Honor) are so rare, so unusual. Millions of people have served in the armed forces, and only a couple thousand have received one. What they would have to do would be so phenomenal, so over the top, that it just doesn’t happen very often.”
— David Burrelli

“The mayor’s sending out letters to many of the business leaders in the area, asking for their financial help in this project. Personally, I’d like to see the project completed by Medal of Honor Day on March 25. That means getting it funded, the monument constructed and installed by then.”
— Jim Rhodes

Airman Levitow: Vietnam War Hero

John_Levitow John L. Levitow (1945 – 2000), was an AC-47 gunship loadmaster for the 3d Special Operations Squadron who became the lowest-ranking Airman ever to receive the Medal of Honor for exceptional heroism during wartime.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, He originally intended to join the United States Navy, but changed his mind and joined the US Air Force. His first job was civil engineering, then he cross-trained into the loadmaster career field.

On February 24, 1969, Levitow was asked to fill in for the regular loadmaster on an armed AC-47 named “Spooky 71”. They were flying night missions near the Tan Son Nhut Air base area when Long Binh came under attack. It was Airman Levitow’s job to set the ejection and ignition controls on Mark 24 magnesium flares and pass to the gunner. These flares were three-foot-long, 27 pound metal tubes that would burn at 4000 degrees, illuminate with intensity of two million candlepower and burn for more than a minute.

As they were patrolling the area the pilot, Kenneth Carpenter of “Spooky 71” had seen muzzle flashes outside Long Binh Army Base. The pilot threw the AC-47 and its eight-man crew into a turn to engage the Viet Cong in the Tan Son Nhut Air Base area.

On the pilot’s command, the gunner pulled the safety pin and tossed the flare through the open cargo door. Suddenly, Spooky 71 was jarred by a tremendous explosion. A North Vietnamese Army’s 82-millimeter mortar shell hit the right wing and exploded inside the wing frame. The blast raked the fuselage with flying shrapnel. Everyone in the back of Spooky 71 was wounded, including Levitow who was hit by shrapnel that he was quoted as saying “felt like being hit by a two-by-four.”

[Airforce Magazine: 20 Seconds Over Long Binh.]

A1C John Levitow, badly wounded, threw himself on the burning flare and dragged it to the cargo door—saving the entire crew of Spooky 71.

Night was approaching as Spooky 71, an AC-47 gunship, took off from Bien Hoa Air Base, a few miles northwest of Saigon. It was Feb. 24, 1969, and the second day of the Tet counteroffensive.

The Tet lunar new year of 1968—the one history remembers—had seen large-scale coordinated attacks on cities, provincial capitals, and bases all over South Vietnam. Militarily, it was a failure for the North Vietnamese, but it undercut the confidence of the American public and it was a turning point in the war.

The Tet 1969 offensive was carried out mostly by Viet Cong irregulars. It concentrated on US military installations, especially in the III Corps area around Saigon.

The rocket and mortar attacks on the bases picked up when darkness fell. Nothing was more effective than a gunship in breaking up such attacks.

For the next six hours, Spooky 71 would fly a combat air patrol circuit over the Saigon/Tan Son Nhut area, ready to respond wherever its fire support was needed. It would be relieved by another gunship for the midnight-to-dawn shift.

The loadmaster on Spooky 71 was A1C John L. Levitow, 23, from Glastonbury, Conn. It was his 180th combat mission, but he had never flown with this crew before. He was filling in for a loadmaster who had taken his place when he was sick.

Before the night was over, Levitow would perform an act of astounding bravery for which he would ultimately be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Levitow had joined the Air Force in June 1966, some 20 days ahead of being drafted into the Army. At first, he was a power line specialist with the civil engineering squadron at McGuire AFB, N.J.

He decided to try a different specialty after an experience in which “the power was not turned off when I thought it was turned off,” so he cross trained as a loadmaster. He flew as a crewman on C-130s for a short tour, then went to Vietnam to fly on AC-47s.

He reported to the 3rd Special Operations Squadron at Nha Trang in July 1968 and was assigned to the squadron’s forward operating location at Bien Hoa.

Despite his wounds, Levitow saw a loose, burning Mark 24 flare had been knocked free in the fuselage and was rolling amid ammunition cans that contained 19,000 rounds of live ammunition.

Through a haze of pain and shock, Levitow, with 40 shrapnel wounds in his legs, side and back, and fighting a 30-degree bank; crawled to the flare and threw himself upon it. Hugging it to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled it through the open cargo door saving the plane and aircraft. When the aircraft finally returned to the base, the extent of the damage became apparent. The AC-47 had more than 3,500 holes in the wings and fuselage, one measuring more than three feet long.

Levitow received the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon on, May 14, 1970, on Armed Forces Day. Levitow died of cancer on November 8, 2000. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. His grave can be found in section 66, site 7107, map grid DD/17.

Medal of Honor Citation

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, 3d Special Operations Squadron. place and date: Long Binh Army post, Republic of Vietnam, 24 February 1969. Entered service at: New Haven, Conn. Born: 1 November 1945, Hartford, Conn.


Airforce_moh For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Levitow (then A1c.), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism while assigned as a loadmaster aboard an AC-47 aircraft flying a night mission in support of Long Binh Army post. Sgt. Levitow’s aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole 2 feet in diameter through the wing and fragments made over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were wounded and helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sgt. Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over 40 fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the opened cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sgt. Levitow started toward the burning flare. The aircraft was partially out of control and the flare was rolling wildly from side to side. Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss of blood from his many wounds and the partial loss of feeling in his right leg. Unable to grasp the rolling flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly device to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sgt. Levitow, by his selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sgt. Levitow’s gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.


It may be refreshing to know that some Medal of Honor winners are still human. They live life like the rest of us. Even though they might be offered position, riches, authority, the following attitude is probably more representative of their true character:

“Yeah, that’s right, … They gave him the Medal of Honor. President Truman did. And then he came home to our little town, Grace Junction. They had a parade for him, and the town fathers came to my parents’ house and said to him, ‘Charlie, what you got in mind for yourself now?’ Charlie said he didn’t know. Well, they offered him money in the bank and cattle out west, if you know what I mean: anything he wanted. The mayor said Charlie could have a full scholarship to the state university. The banker said he could understand if Charlie didn’t want to go back to school after all he’d been through, so he was offering him a management job, big future, at the bank. The sawmill owner–we’re from piney-woods country–says, ‘Charlie, you may not want to be cooped up in a bank, come manage my crew.’ And you know what? Damned if Charlie didn’t turn them all down.”
— Jack Stanton


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1827…
    The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the first commercial railroad in the United States to carry passengers and freight, is incorporated.
  • In 1849…
    The steamship California, carrying gold-seekers, arrives in San Francisco from New York, marking the beginning of regular steamboat travel between the East and West Coasts.
  • In 1854…
    Opponents of slavery meet in Ripon, Wisconsin, and agree to form a new political group, which later becomes the Republican Party.
  • In 1932…
    The last Ford Model A (the successor to the Model T) rolls off the factory line.
  • In 1969…
    Airman First Class John Levitow was recovery from shrapnel wounds suffered when he protected his eight companions from a magnesium flare in the Helicopter

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: John Levitow…

The Air Force Magazine: 20 Seconds Over Long Binh…

ThinkExist: Quotation Results — Medal of Honor…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Today we continue our examination of the process of choosing a set of lenses for your SLR (or dSLR) camera. More specifically, we examine several factors related to zoom lenses, lenses that allow us to vary the focal length of the lens. These lenses allow us to minimize the number of lenses that we carry in our camera bags. [In days past, we would carry a large number of fixed focal length lenses, called Prime Lenses, to meet the needs of our shooting requirements.] We will deal with some of these factors in application tomorrow.GLB


“The camera is no more an instrument of preservation, the image is.”
— Berenice Abbott

“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.”
— Orson Welles

“I still need the camera because it is the only reason anyone is talking to me.”
— Annie Leibovitz

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”
— Dorothea Lange

“My own eyes are no more than scouts on a preliminary search, for the camera’s eye may entirely change my idea.”
— Edward Weston

“I tried to keep both arts alive, but the camera won. I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can!”
— Ansel Adams

“The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.”
— Henri Cartier-Bresson

“As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.”
— Sam Abell


Focal Concept/Technology: Why Use a Zoom Lens

Nikkor_28-200_zoom A zoom lens is a mechanical assembly of lens elements with the ability to vary its focal length (and thus angle of view), as opposed to a fixed focal length (FFL) lens (see prime lens). They are commonly used with still, video, motion picture cameras, projectors, some binoculars, microscopes, telescopes, telescopic sights, and other optical instruments.

A true zoom lens, also called a parfocal lens, is one that maintains focus when its focal length changes. A lens that loses focus during zooming is more properly called a varifocal lens.

Zoom_prinzip Simplified zoom lens in operation

Zoom Lenses on Digital Cameras provides good overview information on many photographic  subjects. The following information is derived from the article referenced in the Reference Section below.

With most digital cameras, the zoom lens moves outward when in use, extending from the camera body. Some digital cameras, however, create the zoom while adjusting the lens only within the camera body.

Optical Zoom…
Optical zoom measures the actual increase in the focal length of the lens. Focal length is the distance between the center of the lens and the image sensor. By moving the lens farther from the image sensor inside the camera body, the zoom increases because a smaller portion of the scene strikes the image sensor, resulting in magnification.

When using optical zoom, some digital cameras will have a smooth zoom, meaning you can stop at any point along the entire length of the zoom for a partial zoom. Some digital cameras will use distinctive stops along the length of the zoom, usually limiting you to between four and seven partial zoom positions.

Digital Zoom…
The digital zoom measurement on a digital camera, to put it bluntly, is worthless under most shooting circumstances. Digital zoom is a technology where the camera shoots the photo and then crops and magnifies it to create an artificial close-up photo. This process requires magnifying or removing individual pixels, which can cause image quality degradation.

Most of the time you can perform functions equal to a digital zoom with photo-editing software on your computer after you shoot the photo. If you don’t have time for or access to editing software, you can use digital zoom to shoot at a high resolution and then create an artificial close-up by removing pixels and cropping the photo down to a lower resolution that still meets your printing needs. Obviously, the usefulness of digital zoom is limited to certain circumstances.

Understanding Zoom Measurement

When looking at specifications for a digital camera, both the optical and digital zoom measurements are listed as a number and an "X," such as 3X or 10X. A larger number signifies a stronger magnification capability.

Keep in mind that not every camera’s "10X" optical zoom measurement is the same. Manufacturers measure the optical zoom from one extreme of the lens’ capabilities to the other. In other words, the "multiplier" is the difference between the smallest and largest magnification measurements of the lens. For example, if a 10X optical zoom lens on a digital camera has a minimum magnification equivalent to 35mm, the camera would have a 350mm maximum zoom. However, if the digital camera offers some additional wide-angle capabilities and has a minimum 28mm equivalency, then the 10X optical zoom would only have a maximum zoom of 280mm.

The zoom range should be listed in the camera’s specifications, usually in a format similar to "35mm film equivalent: 28mm-280mm.” In most cases, a 50mm lens measurement is considered as "normal," with no magnification and no wide-angle capability.

Interchangeable Lenses on SLR Cameras

Digital cameras aimed at beginners and intermediate users typically only offer a built-in lens. Most digital SLR cameras, however, can make use of interchangeable lenses. With a digital SLR, if your first lens doesn’t have the wide-angle or zoom capabilities that you want, you can purchase additional lenses that provide more zoom or better wide-angle options.

Digital SLR cameras are more expensive than the point-and-shoot models, and they’re usually aimed at intermediate or advanced photographers.

Some Zoom Lens Drawbacks

Although choosing a point-and-shoot camera with a large optical zoom lens is desirable for many photographers, it sometimes presents a few minor drawbacks.

  • Noise…
    Some beginner-level, inexpensive cameras suffer from lower image quality because of noise when the lens is extended to the maximum zoom capability. Digital camera noise is a set of stray pixels that don’t record correctly, usually appearing as purple edges in a photo.
  • Pincushioning…
    Maximum zoom also sometimes causes pincushioning, which is a distortion where the left and right edges of the photo appear stretched. Horizontal lines appear slightly curved toward the middle of the frame. Again, this problem usually is limited to beginner-level, inexpensive cameras with large zoom lenses.
  • Slower shutter response time…
    When using the maximum zoom magnification, the shutter response time sometimes slows, which may cause blurry photos. You also could miss a spontaneous photo because of the slower shutter response. It simply takes the digital camera longer to focus on the image at the maximum zoom setting, which explains the slower shutter response time. Such problems are magnified when shooting at maximum zoom in low light.
  • Requires a tripod…
    Using a long zoom lens can cause increased camera shake. Some digital cameras can correct this problem through
    image stabilization. You also can use a tripod to prevent blurry photos from camera shake.


Reviewing the Selection Procedure

TheTechLounge presents some useful tips in selecting and using a SLR Lens. (See reference below for specific reference.)

1 What’s My Lens Mount? Different cameras use different lens mounts. Before you start looking for the perfect lens, you need to find out what lenses your camera is compatible with. This information can be easily found on the camera manufacturer’s website, usually listed under "Specifications." For example, I can see from Canon’s website that my EOS 5D DSLR uses the Canon EF lens mount and accepts EF (except EF-S) lenses. Likewise, the EOS 30D uses the EF mount and accepts EF (including EF-S) lenses. I should mention that there are lens mount adapters out there if you want to use a Canon lens on a Nikon camera, for example, but that’s not really within the scope of this article… 

To make things a little more complicated, there is such a thing as a "Digital-Only" lens. In the case of Canon, these lenses are given the EF-S moniker. In the examples above, note that the 30D supports EF-S lenses while the 5D does not. Meanwhile, EF lenses are fully supported by both cameras. So pay attention when looking at a lens’ technical specs. This leads me to my next point.

2 What’s My Camera’s Crop Factor? Without going into too much detail, the crop factor (Canon refers to it as the Lens Focal Length Conversion Factor) will act as a multiplier to a given lens’ focal length as a result of having a digital sensor that is smaller than a 35mm negative. It’s common to hear the terms "cropped body" and "full-frame" thrown around amongst photographers; this is what they’re talking about. The 5D is a full-frame camera and so it follows that the crop factor is 1.0x, meaning your focal length is as stated on the lens. The 30D is a cropped body with a crop factor of 1.6x, meaning you will need to multiply a lens’ focal length by 1.6 to get the equivalent focal length.

Let’s say I have a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens; the important part of the name for our purposes here is the focal length range, 16-35mm. On the 5D, the lens will act as just that, a 16-35mm lens. However, if you mount it on the 30D, what you’ll get is a 25.6mm-56mm lens. This multiplying effect has a greater impact with more telephoto lenses. For instance, take Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/4.0L USM lens. Again, the important part here is 70-200mm. We already know that the lens mounted on a 5D will give an actual focal length of 70-200mm. But on the 30D the lens give you an equivalent focal length of 112-320mm. It is for this reason that some people prefer to have a cropped body (long telephoto lenses are very expensive).

3 What’s My Subject? Photographically speaking, what is your typical subject? There is no wrong answer here, and you may not even have a single subject that you typically photograph. Below I’ve laid out some typical scenarios to give you a general idea of what lenses may be a good fit for you.

  • Family/Friends, Vacation, Journalism: You don’t want to be loaded down with cumbersome equipment; you need something lightweight and versatile. It’s more important to capture that special moment than to have the best possible image quality, though ideally you want both of course.
  • Landscape, Interior, City: You’re going to want a wide lens the majority of the time when shooting a beautiful landscape, the interior of a home, or if you want to capture NYC in all its glory. There are exceptions, of course, but a wide lens is a must-have for this type of shooting.
  • Sports, Wildlife/Birds/Safari, Portraiture: Telephoto baby… When shooting sports you may be on one side of a field shooting to the other side, and nobody wants to see a photo of the entire field. To get in close to your subject you need a long telephoto lens. The same holds true for wildlife/birds/safari shooting scenarios, as you usually can’t (or wouldn’t want to in the case of safari) get physically closer to the subject, so the glass on front of your camera has to compensate. Portraiture may not seem like it fits here, and to some extent it doesn’t! While you may use a 400mm lens to shoot football or birds, you’ll want something a little shorter for really great looking portraits. 200mm can be great for portraits for a really nice looking out of focus region (bokeh), but even 50mm or 85mm are sufficient for great portraits.

4 Do I Want Zoom or Fixed Focal Length (Prime)? You might have noticed that I didn’t use the word zoom once in the above section, and this was for a reason! As pertaining to focal length, there are two types of lenses: zooms and primes. The difference is basically that zoom lenses zoom while prime lenses, well! they don’t zoom. So if you wanted to have similar focal lengths to what you’d get with a 24-70mm and 70-200mm zoom lens combo, you might get a 20mm, 50mm, 135mm, and/or 200mm prime lens.

Whether or not prime lenses are for you is really a matter of preference. Those who prefer primes usually do so because they have a slight edge in image quality, they’re often faster (that is, they have a wider maximum aperture), they’re lighter, and they can be less expensive than a zoom which covers a similar range. What they gain in image quality, they sacrifice in convenience, however. If you want to get a different perspective you have to either get some exercise (move those legs) or switch lenses. Furthermore, some of the really high-end primes aren’t much less expensive (if at all) than a comparative zoom lens. With that said, if you aren’t under any pressure while shooting, and you’ve got plenty of time to move around and switch lenses when necessary (i.e. landscape, interior, city) then you might want to seriously consider the benefits prime lenses have to offer.

5 Do I Want Constant or Variable Aperture? Variable aperture may be a non-issue for some, but for others it can be the cause of great annoyance. But before I go off on a tangent, let’s talk about what it means! I would say that probably the majority of mainstream lenses (that is, affordable for the casual photographer) have a variable aperture. For example, a lens I once owned (and loved) was Canon’s EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM. Notice how it says f/3.5-4.5 instead of just f/3.5? What that means is that when the lens is at its widest (28mm) the maximum aperture is f/3.5, and as you zoom in it gradually increases until you’re at full telephoto (105mm) and your maximum aperture becomes f/4.5. So what, right? Well, for some of you at least, that may not matter.


In the previous six posts in this series “Choosing your Lens”, we’ve dealt with most of these factors. Some additional comments are appropriate here:

  1. Optical zoom is the Solution…
    This is the only solution for SLR cameras with interchangeable lenses; it is the only good solution for compact and prosumer digital camera. Digital zoom is a “BAD” solution since it “creates” the extra pixels used to create the zoom.
  2. Newer Zoom Lens Technology is often Better than older Prime Lens Technology…  
    We have seen a refinement in the processing of the lenses that go into the modern batch of zoom cameras. In most cases, this provides us with better lenses than a whole set of “Prime” lenses. Building your lens kit with zoom lenses will save you both money and space.
  3. Buy the Best “Glass” that you can Afford…
    Most camera manufacturers provide a premium series of lenses. In the case of Canon, these are called the “L” series and they generally are only available with the “EF” mounts. That means that these lenses can be used on both full-frame and smaller sensors.
  4. Select Constant Aperture whenever possible…
    Since photography is “drawing with light,” it makes sense that to carry lenses that admit the most light possible, if that feature is appropriate to your photographic subjects. The same applies to the rotation of the lens when the zoom factor is adjusted; this is important especially when using polarizing and variable Neutral-Density filters.



Barbara London, Jim Stone, & John Upton. (2008) Photography. Pearson, Prentice-Hall

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: The Camera…

Wikipedia: Zoom Lens…

Web Sites and Blogs:

Bainy Quote: Camera Quotes…

The Tech Lounge: 5 Things You Need to Know About SRL Lenses… Understand Camera Zoom Lenses…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Billy Holiday, Lady Day, was a standout singer and entertainer during most of the mid-20th century. She had a voice that dazzled audiences and sang songs that many of us still hum today. She led a hard life, dealt with drugs and other side effects of being an entertainer, but she is a “one of a kind” artist. Today, we celebrate her life, her work and her voice. Billy, thank you for providing us with endless hours of joy at hearing your voice. And thank you for being an inspiration to your community and black women in generalGLB


“The difficult I can do today. The impossible will take a little longer.”
— Billy Holiday

“No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music.”
— Billy Holiday

“She could express more emotion in one chorus than most actresses can in three acts.”
— Jeanne Moreau

“You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation.”
— Billy Holiday

“I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.”
— Billy Holiday

“In this country, don’t forget, a habit is no damn private hell. There’s no solitary confinement outside of jail. A habit is hell for those you love. And in this country it’s the worst kind of hell for those who love you.”
— Billy Holiday

“Behind me, Billie was on her last song. I picked up the refrain, humming a few bars. Her voice sounded different to me now. Beneath the layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure- and make music that wasn’t there before.”
— Barack Obama

“If you think dope is for kicks and for thrills, you’re out of your mind. There are more kicks the fuck to be had in a good case of paralytic polio or by living in an iron lung. If you think you need stuff to play music or sing, you’re crazy. It can fix you so you can’t play nothing or sing nothing.”
— Billy Holiday


Black Women in History: Billy Holiday

Billie_Holiday_1949_b Billie Holiday (born Elinore Harris; 1915 – 1959) was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed Lady Day by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday was a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Above all, she was admired for her deeply personal and intimate approach to singing. Critic John Bush wrote that she "changed the art of American pop vocals forever." She co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz standards, notably "God Bless the Child", "Don’t Explain", "Fine and Mellow, "and "Lady Sings the Blues". She also became famous for singing jazz standards written by others, including "Easy Living" and "Strange Fruit".

Raised Roman Catholic, Billie Holiday had a difficult childhood, which greatly affected her life and career. Not much is known for certain about her early life, and her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, first published in 1956, was later revealed to contain many inaccuracies.

Billie_Holiday_1917 Billie Holiday at two years old,
in 1917

Her professional pseudonym was taken from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, her probable father. At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name Halliday, which was the birth-surname of her father, but eventually changed it to Holiday, his performing name.

There is some controversy regarding Holiday’s paternity, stemming from a copy of her birth certificate in the Baltimore archives that lists the father as a "Frank DeViese". Some historians consider this an anomaly, probably inserted by a hospital or government worker.

Thrown out of her parents’ home in Sandtown Baltimore after becoming pregnant at thirteen, Billie’s mother, Sadie Fagan, moved to Philadelphia, where Billie was born. Mother and child eventually settled in a poor section of Baltimore. Her parents married when she was three, but they soon divorced, leaving her to be raised largely by her mother and other relatives. At the age of 10, she reported that she had been raped. That claim, combined with her frequent truancy, resulted in her being sent to The House of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic reform school, in 1925. It was only through the assistance of a family friend that she was released two years later. Scarred by these experiences, Holiday moved to New York City with her mother in 1928. In 1929, Holiday’s mother discovered a neighbor, Wilbert Rich, in the act of raping her daughter; Rich was sentenced to three months in jail.

Early Singing Career

According to Billie Holiday’s own account, she was recruited by a brothel, worked as a prostitute in 1930, and was eventually imprisoned for a short time for solicitation. It was in Harlem in the early 1930s that she started singing for tips in various nightclubs. According to legend, penniless and facing eviction, she sang "Travelin’ All Alone" in a local club and reduced the audience to tears. She later worked at various clubs for tips, ultimately landing at Pod’s and Jerry’s, a well-known Harlem jazz club. Her early work history is hard to verify, though accounts say she was working at a club named Monette’s in 1933 when she was discovered by talent scout John Hammond.

Hammond arranged for Holiday to make her recording debut in November 1933 with Benny Goodman, singing two songs: "Your Mother’s Son-In-Law" and "Riffin’ the Scotch". Goodman was also on hand in 1935, when she continued her recording career with a group led by pianist Teddy Wilson. Their first collaboration included "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "Miss Brown To You", which helped to establish Holiday as a major vocalist. She began recording under her own name a year later, producing a series of extraordinary performances with groups comprising the swing era’s finest musicians.

Wilson was signed to Brunswick Records by John Hammond for the purpose of recording current pop tunes in the new swing style for the growing jukebox trade. They were given free rein to improvise the material. Holiday’s amazing method of improvising the melody line to fit the emotion was revolutionary. (Wilson and Holiday took pedestrian pop tunes, such as "Twenty-Four Hours A Day" or "Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town", and turned them into jazz classics with their arrangements.) With few exceptions, the recordings she made with Wilson or under her own name during the 1930s and early 1940s are regarded as important parts of the jazz vocal library. Catching the attention of musicians nationwide, singers began to imitate Holiday’s light, rhythmic manner.

Among the musicians who accompanied her frequently was tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who had been a boarder at her mother’s house in 1934 and with whom she had a special rapport. "Well, I think you can hear that on some of the old records, you know. Some time I’d sit down and listen to ’em myself, and it sound like two of the same voices, if you don’t be careful, you know, or the same mind, or something like that." Young nicknamed her "Lady Day", and she, in turn, dubbed him "Prez". She did a three-month residency at Clark Monroe’s Uptown House in New York in 1937. In the late 1930s, she also had brief stints as a big band vocalist with Count Basie (1937) and Artie Shaw (1938). The latter association placed her among the first black women to work with a white orchestra, an arrangement that went against the tenor of the times.

The Commodore Years and "Strange Fruit"

Holiday was recording for Columbia in the late 1930s when she was introduced to "Strange Fruit", a song based on a poem about lynching written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx. Meeropol used the pseudonym "Lewis Allan" for the poem, which was set to music and performed at teachers’ union meetings. It was eventually heard by Barney Josephson, proprietor of Café Society, an integrated nightclub in Greenwich Village, who introduced it to Holiday. She performed it at the club in 1939, with some trepidation, fearing possible retaliation. Holiday later said that the imagery in "Strange Fruit" reminded her of her father’s death and that this played a role in her resistance to performing it. In a 1958 interview, she also bemoaned the fact that many people did not grasp the song’s message: "They’ll ask me to ‘sing that sexy song about the people swinging’", she said.

When Holiday’s producers at Columbia found the subject matter too sensitive, Milt Gabler agreed to record it for his Commodore Records. That was done in April, 1939, and "Strange Fruit" remained in her repertoire for twenty years. She later recorded it again for Verve. While the Commodore release did not get airplay, the controversial song sold well, though Gabler attributed that mostly to the record’s other side, "Fine and Mellow", which was a jukebox hit.

Decca Years and "Lover Man" (1944-1950)

Milt Gabler eventually became an A&R man for Decca Records, in addition to owning Commodore Records, and he signed Holiday to the label on August 7, 1944, when Holiday was 29. Her first recording for Decca was "Lover Man" (#5 R&B) and "No More". "Lover Man" was a song written especially for her by Jimmy Davis, Roger "Ram" Ramirez, and Jimmy Sherman. Although its lyrics describe a woman who has never known love ("I long to try something I never had"), its theme—a woman longing for a missing lover—and its refrain, "Lover man, oh, where can you be?", struck a chord in wartime America, and the record became one of her biggest hits. Holiday’s slow, melodic songs of unrequited love aided her career, becoming a popular star in the 1940’s.

A month later, in November, Billie Holiday returned to the Decca studio to record three songs, "That Ole Devil Called Love", "Big Stuff", and "Dont Explain". Holiday wrote "Don’t Explain" after she caught her husband, Jimmy Monroe, with lipstick on his collar.

After the recording session, Holiday did not return to the studio until August 1945. She recorded "Don’t Explain", "Big Stuff", "You Better Go Now", and "What is This Thing Called Love?". "Big Stuff" and "Don’t Explain" were recorded again but with additional strings and a viola.

This was Holiday’s only recording session in 1945, for she returned again to the studio in January 1946, recording her biggest hits: "No Good Man" and "Good Morning Heartache". "Big Stuff" was also recorded for the third time. She came back on March 13, 1946, to record "Big Stuff" with a smaller group.

In December 1946, Billie recorded "The Blues Are Brewin", a song that she performed in her first and last feature film, New Orleans. She also recorded "Guilty".

In February 1947, Holiday recorded two hits, "There Is No Greater Love" and the haunting "Deep Song". She also recorded "Solitude" and "Easy Living", songs that she had recorded with Teddy Wilson in the late 1930s.

holiday Billie’s next recording was after her release from prison in 1948; this time, she had a vocal group behind her (The Stardusters). She recorded "Weep No More" and "Girls Were Made to Take Care of Boys". Worried that people would not like the recordings, they recorded two more songs without the group. These singles became some of her biggest hits on Decca. She recorded "My Man" and Gershwin’s "I Loves You Porgy".

The next year, Billie had a streak of hits, from her brassy rendition of Bessie Smith’s "T’Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do", "Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Bottle of Beer)", "Do Your Duty", and "Keeps on Rainin’", to her lush "You’re My Thrill" and "Crazy He Calls Me". She also recorded a song that she wrote, called "Sombody’s On My Mind".

In her last recording in 1950, she recorded two songs. Both of them were backed by strings, horns, and a choir. She recorded her own "God Bless the Child" and "This is Heaven to Me".

“Billie’s voice was shot, though the gardenia in her hair was as fresh as usual. Ben Webster, for so long big man on tenor, was backing her. He was having it rough, too. Yet they transcended. There were perhaps fifteen, twenty patrons in the house. At most. Awful sad. Still, when Lady sang "Fine and Mellow," you felt that way. And when she went into "Willow, Weep for Me," you wept. You looked about and saw that the few other customers were also crying in their beer and shot glasses. Nor were they that drunk. Something was still there, that something that distinguishes an artist from a performer: the revealing of the self. Here I be. Not for long, but here I be. In sensing her mortality, we sensed our own.”
— Studs Terkel


In 1933, Billie Holiday appeared as an extra in Paul Robeson’s The Emperor Jones.

Then, in 1935, she had a small role as a woman being abused by her lover in Duke Ellington’s short "Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life". She also sang a tune called "Saddest Tale".

‎Holiday made one major film appearance, opposite Louis Armstrong in New Orleans (1947). The musical drama featured Holiday singing with Armstrong and his band and was directed by Arthur Lubin. Holiday was not pleased that her role was that of a maid, as she recalled in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues:

"I thought I was going to play myself in it. I thought I was going to be Billie Holiday doing a couple of songs in a nightclub setting and that would be that. I should have known better. When I saw the script, I did. You just tell one Negro girl who’s made movies who didn’t play a maid or a whore. I don’t know any. I found out I was going to do a little singing, but I was still playing the part of a maid."

Holiday also appeared in the 1950 Universal-International short film "’Sugar Chile’ Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and His Sextet", where she sang "God Bless the Child" and "Now, Baby or Never".

1947 arrest and Carnegie Hall Comeback Concert

jazz-01 On May 16, 1947, Holiday was arrested for the possession of narcotics and drugs in her New York apartment. On May 27, 1947, she was in court. "It was called ‘The United States of America versus Billie Holiday’. And that’s just the way it felt," Holiday recalled in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. Holiday pleaded guilty and was sentenced to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. Holiday said she never "sang a note" at Alderson, even though people wanted her to.

Luckily for Holiday, she was released early (March 16, 1948) because of good behavior. When she arrived at Newark, everybody was there to welcome her back, including her pianist. Bobby Tucker. "I might just as well have wheeled into Penn Station and had a quiet little get-together with the Associated Press, United Press, and International News Service."

Ed Fishman (who fought with Joe Glaser to be Holiday’s manager) thought of the idea to throw a comeback concert at Carnegie Hall. Holiday hesitated, unsure whether audiences were ready to accept her after the arrest. She eventually gave in, and agreed to the concert.

On March 27, 1948, Holiday played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd. It is not certain how many sets Holiday did, as the concert was not recorded, but the sets included Cole Porter’s "Night and Day" and "Strange Fruit".

Less than a year later, Holiday was arrested again on January 22, 1949, inside her room at San Francisco’s Hotel Mark Twain.

Early and Mid-1950s

Billie_Holiday_LAT Billie Holiday in court in late 1949.
She was charged with the possession
of opium, even though it was
her boyfriend’s.

Holiday stated that she began using hard drugs in the early 1940s. She married trombonist Jimmy Monroe on August 25, 1941. While still married to Monroe, she became romantically involved with trumpeter Joe Guy, who was also her drug dealer, and eventually became his common law wife. She finally divorced Monroe in 1947 and also split with Guy. Because of her 1947 conviction, her New York City Cabaret Card was revoked, which kept her from working in clubs there for the remaining 12 years of her life, except when she played at the Ebony Club in 1948, where she opened under the permission of John Levy.

By the 1950s, Holiday’s drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with abusive men caused her health to deteriorate. Her later recordings showed the effects on her voice, as it grew coarse and no longer projected the vibrancy it once had. In spite of this, however, she retained—and perhaps strengthened—the emotional impact of her delivery.

On March 28, 1952, Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer. McKay, like most of the men in her life, was abusive, but he did try to get her off drugs. They were separated at the time of her death, but McKay had plans to start a chain of Billie Holiday vocal studios, à la Arthur Murray dance schools.

Her late recordings on Verve constitute about a third of her commercial recorded legacy and are as popular as her earlier work for the Columbia, Commodore and Decca labels. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it so distinctive. On November 10, 1956, she performed two concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall, a major accomplishment for any artist, especially a black artist of the segregated period of American history. Live recordings of the second Carnegie Hall concert were released on a Verve/HMV album in the UK in late 1961 called The Essential Billie Holiday. The thirteen tracks included on this album featured her own songs "Love My Man", "Don’t Explain" and "Fine And Mellow", together with other songs closely associated with her, including "Body and Soul", "My Man", and "Lady Sings the Blues" (her lyrics accompanied a tune by pianist Herbie Nichols).

The liner notes on this album were penned partly by Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who, according to these notes, served as narrator in the Carnegie Hall concerts, taking position at a lectern to the left of the stage. Interspersed among Holiday’s songs, Millstein read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography Lady Sings The Blues. He later wrote: "The narration began with the ironic account of her birth in Baltimore – ‘Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three’ – and ended, very nearly shyly, with her hope for love and a long life with ‘my man’ at her side." Millstein continued, "It was evident, even then, that Miss Holiday was ill. I had known her casually over the years and I was shocked at her physical weakness. Her rehearsal had been desultory; her voice sounded tinny and trailed off; her body sagged tiredly. But I will not forget the metamorphosis that night. The lights went down, the musicians began to play and the narration began. Miss Holiday stepped from between the curtains, into the white spotlight awaiting her, wearing a white evening gown and white gardenias in her black hair. She was erect and beautiful; poised and smiling. And when the first section of narration was ended, she sang – with strength undiminished – with all of the art that was hers. I was very much moved. In the darkness, my face burned and my eyes. I recall only one thing. I smiled."

Billie_Holiday_-_Lady_In_Satin Nat Hentoff of Down Beat magazine, who attended this same Carnegie Hall concert, penned the remainder of the sleeve notes on the 1961 album. He wrote of her performance: "Throughout the night, Billie was in superior form to what had sometimes been the case in the last years of her life. Not only was there assurance of phrasing and intonation; but there was also an outgoing warmth, a palpable eagerness to reach and touch the audience. And there was mocking wit. A smile was often lightly evident on her lips and her eyes as if, for once, she could accept the fact that there were people who did dig her." Hentoff continued, "The beat flowed in her uniquely sinuous, supple way of moving the story along; the words became her own experiences; and coursing through it all was Lady’s sound – a texture simultaneously steel-edged and yet soft inside; a voice that was almost unbearably wise in disillusion and yet still childlike, again at the centre. The audience was hers from before she sang, greeting her and saying good-bye with heavy, loving applause. And at one time, the musicians too applauded. It was a night when Billie was on top, undeniably the best and most honest jazz singer alive."

Her performance of "Fine And Mellow" on CBS’s The Sound of Jazz program is memorable for her interplay with her long-time friend Lester Young; both were less than two years from death.

Holiday first toured Europe in 1954 as part of a Leonard Feather package that also included Buddy DeFranco and Red Norvo. When she returned almost five years later, she made one of her last television appearances for Granada’s Chelsea at Nine in London. Her final studio recordings were made for MGM in 1959, with lush backing from Ray Ellis and his Orchestra, who had also accompanied her on Columbia’s Lady in Satin album the previous year—see below. The MGM sessions were released posthumously on a self-titled album, later re-titled and re-released as Last Recordings.

Holiday’s autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, was ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in 1956. Dufty, a New York Post writer and editor then married to Holiday’s close friend Maely Dufty, wrote the book quickly from a series of conversations with the singer in the Duftys’ 93rd Street apartment, drawing on the work of earlier interviewers as well. His aim was to let Holiday tell her story in her own way.

Although childless, Billie Holiday had two godchildren: singer Billie Lorraine Feather, daughter of Leonard Feather, and Bevan Dufty, son of William Dufty.



Paula J. Giddings. (1996) When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. Harper

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Billy Holiday…

Wikiquote: Billy Holiday…

Web Sites and Blogs:

YouTube: A Tribute to Billy Holiday…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Flags are symbols that stand for a group or country. During our Revolutionary War period, we needed to “evolve” a banner to stand for our new nation. The stars and stripes became that standard. But, ships of the new U.S. Naval Fleet flew a different flag, one that was meant to produce fear in those that saw it in battle as well as to represent the Navy. This flag was the rattlesnake flag that bore the inscription: “Don’t tread on me”. This is the banner under which our Navy fought the British along with our allies, the French Navy. We can look upon this banner with pride and remember the words of Franklin (see below).  GLB


“…without a Respectable Navy, Alas America!”
— Captain John Paul Jones

“I have not yet begun to fight!”
— Captain John Paul Jones

“Don’t give up the ship!”
— Captain James Lawrence

“We have met the enemy and they are ours…”
— Oliver Hazard Perry

“Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!”
— Admiral David Glasgow Farragut

“You may fire when you are ready Gridley.”
— Commodore George Dewey

“It follows than as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.”
— President George Washington

“A powerful Navy we have always regarded as our proper and natural means of defense; and it has always been of defense that we have thought, never of aggression or of conquest. But who shall tell us now what sort of Navy to build? We shall take leave to be strong upon the seas, in the future as in the past; and there will be no thought of offense or provocation in that. Our ships are our natural bulwarks.”
— President Woodrow Wilson

Don’t Tread on Me: The Navy Jack Flag

Gadsden_flag.svg The First Navy Jack is the current U.S. jack authorized by the United States Navy. The design is traditionally regarded as that of first U.S. naval jack flown in the earliest years of the republic, though little if any historical documentation supports this lore.


In late 1775, as the first ships of the Continental Navy readied in the Delaware River, Commodore Esek Hopkins issued, in a set of fleet signals, an instruction directing his vessels to fly a “striped” jack and ensign. The exact design of these flags is unknown. The ensign was likely to have been the Grand Union Flag, and the jack a simplified version of the ensign: a field of 13 horizontal red and white stripes. However, the jack has traditionally been depicted as consisting of thirteen red and white stripes charged with an uncoiled rattlesnake and the motto “Dont [sic] Tread on Me”; this tradition dates at least back to 1880, when this design appeared in a color plate in Admiral George Henry Preble’s influential History of the Flag of the United States. Recent scholarship, however, has demonstrated that this inferred design never actually existed but “was a 19th-century mistake based on an erroneous 1776 engraving”.

Naval_Jack_of_the_United_States.svg  Historically probable first naval jack.

In 1778, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to the Ambassador of Naples, thanking him for allowing entry of American ships into Sicilian ports. The letter describes the American flag according to the 1777 Flag Resolution, but also describes a flag of “South Carolina, a rattlesnake, in the middle of the thirteen stripes.”

The rattlesnake had long been a symbol of resistance to the British in Colonial America. The phrase “Don’t tread on me” was coined during the American Revolutionary War, a variant perhaps of the snake severed in segments labelled with the names of the colonies and the legend “Join, or Die” which had appeared first in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754, as a political cartoon reflecting on the Albany Congress.

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me,’ “ Franklin wrote. He noted that the rattlesnake’s “eye excelled in brightness that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders. She is therefore an emplem of magnanimity and true courage.”

The rattlesnake (specifically, the Timber Rattlesnake) is especially significant and symbolic to the American Revolution. The rattle has thirteen layers, signifying the original Thirteen Colonies. And, the snake does not strike until provoked, a quality echoed by the phrase “Don’t tread on me.” For more on the origin of the rattlesnake emblem, see the Gadsden flag.

Modern Use

The First Navy Jack was first used in recent history during the Bicentennial year, 1976, when all commissioned naval vessels were directed to fly it for the entire year, in lieu of the standard fifty-star jack.

Rasing_the_First_Naval_Jack Raising of the “Navy Jack” for the
first time at morning colors, on
September 11, 2002, aboard the
guided missile cruiser Thomas S.
Gates in honor of those killed
in the September 11, 2001

In 1980, Edward Hidalgo, the Secretary of the Navy, directed that the ship with the longest active status shall display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive service. Then the flag will be passed to the next ship in line. This honor was conferred on the following U.S. Navy vessels:

  • 1981–1982: Destroyer tender USS Dixie (AD-14), commissioned 1940
  • 1982–1993: Destroyer tender USS Prairie (AD-15), commissioned 1940
  • 1993–1993: Submarine tender USS Orion (AS-18), commissioned 1943
  • 1993–1995: Repair Ship USS Jason (AR-8), commissioned 1944
  • 1995–1995: Ammunition ship USS Mauna Kea (AE-22), commissioned 1957
  • 1995–1998: Aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV-62), commissioned 1959
  • 1998–2009: Aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), commissioned in 1961
  • 2009-present: Aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), commissioned 1961

Following a post-9/11 suggestion from retired Captain Brayton Harris (who in 1975-76 had been Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy for the Bicentennial), the Secretary of the Navy issued Instruction 10520.6, dated 31 May 2002, directing all Navy ships to fly the First Naval Jack as a “temporary substitution” for the Jack of the United States “during the Global War on Terrorism”. Most vessels made the switch on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

This flag, along with the Serapis flag, is also featured on the crest of the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53).

The U.S. Navy’s First Jack

A jack is a flag corresponding in appearance to the union or canton of the national ensign. In the United States Navy, it is a blue flag containing a star for each state. For countries whose colors have no canton, the jack is simply a small national ensign. On a sailing vessel, the jack is hoisted at the jack-staff shipped at the bowsprit cap when at anchor or in port.

The United States Navy originated as the Continental Navy, established early in the American Revolution by the Continental Congress by a resolution of 13 October 1775. There is a widespread belief that ships of the Continental Navy flew a jack consisting of alternating red and white stripes, having the image of a rattlesnake stretched out across it, with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” That belief, however, rests on no firm base of historical evidence.

It is well documented that the rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” were used together on several flags during the War of Independence. The only question in doubt is whether the Continental Navy actually used a red and white striped flag with a rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” as its jack. The evidence is inconclusive. There is reason to believe that the Continental Navy jack was simply a red and white striped flag with no other adornment.

The rattlesnake emerged as a symbol of the English colonies of North America about the time of the Seven Years War, when it appeared in newspaper prints with the motto “Join or Die.” By the time of the War of Independence, the rattlesnake, frequently used in conjunction with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me,” was a common symbol for the United States, its independent spirit, and its resistance to tyranny.

Two American military units of the Revolution are known to have used the rattlesnake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto: Proctor’s Independent Battalion, of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and Sullivan’s Life Guard during the Rhode Island campaign of 1777. The rattlesnake and the motto also appeared on military accoutrements, such as drums, and on state paper currency, during the Revolution.

The image of the rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” certainly had associations with the Continental Navy.

On 27 February 1777, a group of Continental Navy officers proposed that the full dress uniform of Continental Navy captains include a gold epaulet on the right shoulder with “the figure of a Rattle Snake Embroider’d on the Strap . . . with the Motto don’t tread on me.”

In early 1776 Commodore Esek Hopkins, the first and only commander in chief of the Continental Navy fleet, used a personal standard designed by Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. This flag consisted of a yellow field with a coiled snake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” There is no doubt as to the authenticity of Hopkins’s personal standard, usually referred to as “the Gadsden flag.”

The only written description of the Continental Navy jack contemporary with the American Revolution appears in Commodore Hopkins’s “Signals for the American Fleet,” January 1776, where it is described as “the strip’d jack.” No document says that the jack had a rattlesnake or motto on it. Elsewhere, Hopkins mentions using a “striped flag” as a signal. Since American merchant ships often displayed a simple red and white striped flag, there is a good chance that the striped jack to which Hopkins refers was the plain, striped flag used by American merchant ships.


hopkinsfig1tFigure 1
(courtesy United States Naval Academy) 

This is the first of two images representing two versions of a print contemporary with the Revolution that shows a striped flag with a rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” The print purports to be a portrait of Esek Hopkins, but is obviously fanciful since it shows a man in the vigor of youth, when in 1776 Hopkins was fifty-eight. The first print, in English, was produced by Thomas Hart, in London, England, in August 1776. The other print is in English and French and was apparently based on the first. The French caption on the second print states that it is sold at Thomas Hart’s shop in London. In the prints, behind the commodore, several warships are displayed. One, to the viewer’s right, flies a white flag, with a tree, and the mottos “Liberty Tree,” and “An appeal to God.” Another warship, to the viewer’s left, flies a striped flag, with a rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread Upon Me.”

Some writers have thought that the rattlesnake flag in these prints represents the “strip’d jack” Hopkins refers to in his “Signals for the American Fleet.” The appearance of a rattlesnake flag in the print by Hart, however, is not conclusive proof that the Continental Navy jack had a rattlesnake on it. First, the flags in these prints are not at the bow, where a jack would go, but at the stern, the proper place for the national ensign. Second, no one suggests that the pine tree flag was the Continental Navy jack, even though that flag appears in the same print. One could logically conclude that the engraver was illustrating various American naval flags, including one from New England and one from the South, for the pine tree flag with the motto “An Appeal to God,” or, more usually, “An Appeal to Heaven,” was used by Massachusetts’ state navy vessels and Massachusetts privateers, as well as by the schooners sailing out of Massachusetts ports under George Washington’s authority as commander in chief of the Continental Army; and the flag of the navy of the State of South Carolina consisted of horizontal stripes with a rattlesnake across them. Most secondary accounts state that the stripes of South Carolina naval flag were red and blue.


hopkinsfig2t Figure 2
(courtesy Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection,
Brown University Library)

Several prints based on Hart’s were produced in continental Europe during the American Revolution. One, Figure 3 (courtesy Naval Historical Center), a French print, includes the pine tree flag and the rattlesnake flag, the latter without stripes, draped over military accoutrements. Two others, a French print, Figure 4 (courtesy Naval Historical Center), and a 1778 Nürnberg engraving, Figure 5 (courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Library), include a plain striped flag, without snake or motto.

The historical evidence makes it impossible to say for certain whether the Continental Navy used the striped rattlesnake flag as its jack. At the same time, the evidence does suggest strong connections between the symbol of the rattlesnake with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” and the United States’ earliest naval traditions.


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1776…
    The newly established Continental Navy was at sea on its first operation; the flagship flew a new ensign… a yellow banner emblazoned with a coiled rattlesnake and the legend ‘Don’t Tread on Me’.

    In 1827…
    Revelers dance through the streets of New Orleans, marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations (Mobile, Alabama, claims the first Mardi Gras celebration in 1703).

  • In 1860…
    In New York City, Abraham Lincoln gives his Cooper Union speech, which helps him gain national recognition as an opponent of the spread of slavery.
  • In 1951…
    The Twenty-second Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms, is ratified.
  • In 1991…
    President George H. W. Bush announces the end of the Persian Gulf War, an overwhelming U.S. and allied victory against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: First Navy Jack Flag…

Naval History & Heritage Command: Famous Navy Quotes…

Naval History & Heritage Command: The U.S. Navy’s First Jack FAQ…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 One of the most notable writer among current Black writers is Alice Walker. She has won the Pulitzer Prize for her book The Color Purple, which was made into a well-received movie of the same name. She has reflected the perspective of Black women and their quest for recognition and equality. She painted with words what artists do with pigments and what photographers do with light on their film or digital sensors. She reflects the generation of women of Color who emerged from invisibility of the 1940s and 1950s to be heard from in the universities and the streets of the south during the quest for civil rightsGLB


“Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.”
— Alice Walker

“Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.”
— Alice Walker

“All History is current; all injustice continues on some level, somewhere in the world.”
— Alice Walker

“Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.”
— Alice Walker

“All partisan movements add to the fullness of our understanding of society as a whole. They never detract; or, in any case, one must not allow them to do so. Experience adds to experience.”
— Alice Walker

“Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book, If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for.”
— Alice Walker

“For in the end, freedom is a personal and lonely battle; and one faces down fears of today so that those of tomorrow might be engaged.”
— Alice Walker

“And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see – or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.”
— Alice Walker


Black Women Icons in History: Alice Walker

Alice_Walker Alice Malsenior Walker (Born: 1944) is an American author. She has written at length on issues of race and gender, and is most famous for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She was born and raised in Georgia.

Alice Malsenior Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest of eight children, to Willie Lee and Minnie Lou [Tallulah] (Grant) Walker. Her father, who was, in her words, "wonderful at math but a terrible farmer," earned only $300 a year from sharecropping and dairy farming, while her mother, who helped him in the fields, supplemented the family income by working as a maid.

Living under Jim Crow Laws, Walker’s mother had struggles with landlords who expected the children of black sharecroppers to work the fields as soon as possible. A white plantation owner once asserted to her that blacks had “no need for education.” Mrs. Walker’s response to him was ‘You might have some black children somewhere, but they don’t live in this house. Don’t you ever come around here again talking about how my children don’t need to learn how to read and write.” At the age of 4, Mrs. Walker enrolled Alice into the first grade, a year ahead of schedule.

Growing up with an oral tradition, listening to stories from her grandfather (the model for the character for Mr. in "The Color Purple"), [Walker] was writing—very privately—since she was 8. "With my family, I had to hide things," she said. "And I had to keep a lot in my mind."

In 1952 Walker was accidentally wounded in the eye by a shot from a BB gun fired by one of her brothers. Because they had no access to a car, the Walkers were unable to take their daughter to a hospital for immediate treatment, and when they finally brought her to a doctor a week later, she was permanently blind in that eye. A disfiguring layer of scar tissue formed over it, rendering the previously outgoing child self-conscious and painfully shy. Stared at and sometimes taunted, she felt like an outcast and turned for solace to reading and to poetry writing. Although when she was 14 the scar tissue was removed—and she subsequently became valedictorian and was voted most-popular girl, as well as queen of her senior class—she came to realize that her traumatic injury had some value: it allowed her to begin "really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out," as she has said.


34-alicewalker-image Alice Walker met Martin Luther King Jr. when she was a student at Spelman College in Atlanta in the early 1960s. Walker credits King for her decision to return to the South as an activist for the Civil Rights Movement. She attended the famous 1963 March on Washington. As a young adult she volunteered her time registering voters in Georgia and Mississippi.

On March 8, 2003, International Women’s Day, on the eve of the Iraq War, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, author of "The Woman Warrior", and Terry Tempest Williams, author of "An Unspoken Hunger" were arrested along with 24 others for crossing a police line during an anti-war protest rally outside the White House. Walker and 5,000 other activists associated with the organizations Code Pink and Women for Peace, marched from Malcolm X Park in Washington D.C. to the White House. The activists encircled the White House, holding hands and singing. In an interview with Democracy Now, Walker said of the incident, "I was with other women who believe that the women and children of Iraq are just as dear as the women and children in our families, and that, in fact, we are one family. And so it would have felt to me that we were going over to actually bomb ourselves." Walker wrote about the experience in her essay "We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For."

In November 2008, Alice Walker wrote "An Open Letter to Barack Obama" that was published on Walker addresses the newly elected President as "Brother Obama" and writes "Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina, and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about".

In March 2009, Alice Walker traveled to Gaza along with a group of 60 other female activists from the anti-war group Code Pink, in response to the devastation in the wake of the controversial Israeli offensive of December 2008-January 2009. The purpose of the trip was to deliver aid, to meet with NGOs and residents, and to persuade Israel and Egypt to open their borders into Gaza. She plans to visit Gaza again in December 2009 to participate in the Gaza Freedom March.

Personal Life

After high school, Walker went to Spelman College in Atlanta on a full scholarship in 1961 and later transferred to Sarah Lawrence College near New York City, graduating in 1965. Walker became interested in the U.S. civil rights movement in part due to the influence of activist Howard Zinn, who was one of her professors at Spelman College. Continuing the activism that she participated in during her college years, Walker returned to the South where she became involved with voter registration drives, campaigns for welfare rights, and children’s programs in Mississippi.

In 1965, Walker met and later married Mel Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer. They were married on March 17, 1967 in New York City. Later that year the couple relocated to Jackson, Mississippi, becoming "the first legally married inter-racial couple in Mississippi". This brought them a steady stream of harassment and even murderous threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The couple had a daughter, Rebecca, in 1969 and she described in 2008 as being "a living, breathing, mixed-race embodiment of the new America that they were trying to forge". Walker and her husband divorced amicably in 1976. Walker would later become estranged from her daughter, who felt that she was more of "a political symbol… than a cherished daughter". Rebecca would later publish a memoir entitled Black White and Jewish, chronicling the effects of her parents’ relationship on her childhood.

This is the best time to be alive, says Alice Walker, because there is so much work to do—so many poor to house and feed, so much opportunity for self-realization, the earth itself to be saved. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, poet, and essayist talks about her spiritual practice, the importance of resolve, and the charming perfection of her imperfect cat.

Writing Career and Success

Alice_Walker,_1989 Alice Walker at the Miami
Book Fair International
of 1989

Walker’s first book of poetry was written while she was still a senior at Sarah Lawrence, and she took a brief sabbatical from writing when she was in Mississippi working in the civil rights movement. Walker resumed her writing career when she joined Ms. magazine as an editor before moving to northern California in the late 1970s. An article she published in 1975 was largely responsible for the renewal of interest in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, who was a large source of inspiration for Walker’s writing and subject matter. In 1973, Walker and fellow Hurston scholar Charlotte D. Hunt discovered Hurston’s unmarked grave in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Both women paid for a modest headstone for the gravesite.

In addition to her collected short stories and poetry, Walker’s first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, was published in 1970. In 1976, Walker’s second novel, Meridian, was published. The novel dealt with activist workers in the South during the civil rights movement, and closely paralleled some of Walker’s own experiences.

In 1982, Walker would publish what has become her best-known work, the novel The Color Purple. The story of a young black woman fighting her way through not only racist white culture but patriarchal black culture was a resounding commercial success. The book became a bestseller and was subsequently adapted into a critically acclaimed 1985 movie as well as a 2005 Broadway musical play.

Walker has written several other novels, including The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing the Secret of Joy (which featured several characters and descendants of characters from The Color Purple) and has published a number of collections of short stories, poetry, and other published work.

Her works typically focus on the struggles of blacks, particularly women, and their struggle against a racist, sexist, and violent society. Her writings also focus on the role of women of color in culture and history. Walker is a respected figure in the liberal political community for her support of unconventional and unpopular views as a matter of principle.

We Live in the Best of All Times:
A Conversation with Alice Walker

Alice Walker is a writer and activist, meditator, and mother. The youngest of eight children born to a farm family in rural Georgia, Walker grew up to become one of the best-loved writers in America. Now 63, she continues to see life as a holy adventure packed with exploration and learning.

The major themes of her writing remain unchanged. Walker is fascinated by community: its integral place in our lives, how it can be destroyed and achieved. She continues to contemplate suffering, especially among black women facing both sexism and racism. She calls her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple “my Buddha novel without Buddhism.”

Now Walker has written what may be her most revealing book, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For. Subtitled Inner Light in a Time of Darkness and Meditations, it offers heartfelt considerations of the worst troubles of our time—environmental crisis, sexual abuse, poverty, injustice, war, despair, racism.

While her writing often deals with horrifying subjects, Walker manages to accentuate the positive. Casual, precise, and fiercely honest, her contemplations read like letters to a friend. The word “love” comes up repeatedly. So do the compassionate Buddhist practices of metta and tonglen. Meditation is especially praised, and called a “loyal friend.”

We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For is rife with grave concerns, yet when I spoke with Alice Walker, it was clear that she remains full of hope. She believes that with greater awareness than our ancestors possessed, and thanks to our tremendous capacity for insight, knowledge, and empathy, we can create positive change—in ourselves and the world.

    —David Swick

Additionally, Walker has published several short stories, including the 1973 Everyday Use, in which she discusses feminism, racism against blacks, and the issues raised by young black people who leave home and lose respect for their parents’ culture.

In 2007, Walker gave 122 boxes of manuscripts and archive material to Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. In addition to drafts of writings such as The Color Purple, unpublished poems and writings, and correspondence with editors, the collection includes extensive correspondence with family members, friends and colleagues, an early treatment of the film script for The Color Purple that was never used, syllabi from courses she taught, and fan mail. The collection also contains a scrapbook of poetry compiled when Walker was 15 entitled "Poems of a Childhood Poetess".

In 2009, she was one of the signers of a letter protesting the inclusion of films about Israel at the Toronto Film Festival.

Selected Awards and Honors
  • Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Color Purple (1983) (first black woman).
  • National Book Award (First black woman)
  • O. Henry Award for "Kindred Spirits" 1985.
  • Honorary Degree from the California Institute of the Arts (1995)
  • American Humanist Association named her as "Humanist of the Year" (1997)
  • The Lillian Smith Award from the National Endowment for the Arts
  • The Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts & Letters
  • The Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, the Merrill Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship
  • The Front Page Award for Best Magazine Criticism from the Newswoman’s Club of New York
  • Induction to the California Hall of Fame in The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts (2006)



Paula J. Giddings. (1996) When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. Harper

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Alice Walker…

Web Sites and Blogs:

Alice Walker’s Web Site: Alice Walker’s Garden…

Shambhala Sun: We Live in the Best of All Times: A Conversation with Alice Walker…

Brainy Quote: Alice Walker Quotes…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Bill Gates, a name that evokes a variety of reactions from people around the world. To some, he is the hero of the little guy that made good. To others, he represents the 500 pound gorilla that wrecks havoc all around him. Still to others, he is the big, bad wolf that needs to stand aside and let the people, especially the “Open Source” community, flourish.

Whatever our position on Gates and Microsoft, he did change the landscape of computing with both his BASIC implementation on the microcomputer and his MS-DOS operating system that powered the IBM-PC. Without Microsoft, Apple would have not had an operating system, the TRS-80 would have been a big paper weight. And we would still be controlled by the big computer companies running command-line operating systems.

Microsoft, under the leadership of Bill Gates, created a new way of working with computers. And it was an approach that worked across hardware platforms. Let us be grateful for this enabling technology, and not get “hung up” on the irritants of this set of technologies. Microsoft arrived late to the Internet, but has now totally embraced the Net, albeit, in its own wayGLB


“It’s not manufacturers trying to rip anybody off or anything like that. There’s nobody getting rich writing software that I know of.”
— Bill Gates

“The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC.”
— Bill Gates

“Instead of buying airplanes and playing around like some of our competitors, we’ve rolled almost everything back into the company.”
— Bill Gates

“If something’s expensive to develop, and somebody’s not going to get paid, it won’t get developed. So you decide: Do you want software to be written, or not?”
— Bill Gates

“To create a new standard, it takes something that’s not just a little bit different; it takes something that’s really new and really captures people’s imagination — and the Macintosh, of all the machines I’ve ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard.”
— Bill Gates

“I have to say that in 1981, making those decisions, I felt like I was providing enough freedom for 10 years. That is, a move from 64k to 640k felt like something that would last a great deal of time. Well, it didn’t – it took about only 6 years before people started to see that as a real problem.”
— Bill Gates

“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.… The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can.”
— Bill Gates

“I laid out memory so the bottom 640K was general purpose RAM and the upper 384 I reserved for video and ROM, and things like that. That is why they talk about the 640K limit. It is actually a limit, not of the software, in any way, shape, or form, it is the limit of the microprocessor. That thing generates addresses, 20-bits addresses, that only can address a megabyte of memory. And, therefore, all the applications are tied to that limit. It was ten times what we had before. But to my surprise, we ran out of that address base for applications within—oh five or six years people were complaining.”
— Bill Gates


Wizards of the Internet: Bill Gates

Bill_Gates_World_Economic_Forum_2007 William Henry "Bill" Gates III (Born: 1955) is an American business magnate, philanthropist, and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. He is consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and the wealthiest overall as of 2009. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder with more than 8 percent of the common stock. He has also authored or co-authored several books.

Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Although he is admired by many, a number of industry insiders criticize his business tactics, which they consider anti-competitive, an opinion which has in some cases been upheld by the courts (see Criticism of Microsoft). In the later stages of his career, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.

Bill Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect. In June, 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie, chief software architect and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer. Gates’ last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains at Microsoft as non-executive chairman.

Early Life

Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, to William H. Gates, Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates, of English, German, and Scotch-Irish descent. His family was upper middle class; his father was a prominent lawyer, his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way, and her father, J. W. Maxwell, was a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had dropped his own "III" suffix. Early on in his life, Gates’ parents had a law career in mind for him.

At 13 he enrolled in the Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School’s rummage sale to buy an ASR-33 teletype terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school’s students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly.

When he reflected back on that moment, he commented on it and said, "There was just something neat about the machine." After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students—Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans—for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.

At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC’s software in exchange for computer time. Rather than use the system via teletype, Gates went to CCC’s offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in FORTRAN, LISP, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when the company went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in COBOL, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school’s computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with mostly female students. He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success." At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. In early 1973, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bill_Gates_mugshot Bill Gates’ mugshot from a
traffic violation in 1977

Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and subsequently enrolled at Harvard College in the autumn of 1973. Prior to the mid-1990s, an SAT score of 1590 corresponded roughly to an IQ of 170, a figure that has been cited frequently by the press. While at Harvard, he met his future business partner, Steve Ballmer, whom he later appointed as CEO of Microsoft. He also met computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou at Harvard, with whom he collaborated on a paper about pancake sorting. He did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard and spent a lot of time using the school’s computers. He remained in contact with Paul Allen, joining him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974. The following year saw the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company. He had talked this decision over with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much Gates wanted to start a company.



Altair_8800_Computer MITS Altair 8800 Computer
with 8-inch (200 mm) floppy
disk system

After reading the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics that demonstrated the Altair 8800, Gates contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In reality, Gates and Allen did not have an Altair and had not written code for it; they merely wanted to gauge MITS’s interest. MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet them for a demo, and over the course of a few weeks they developed an Altair emulator that ran on a minicomputer, and then the BASIC interpreter.

The demonstration, held at MITS’s offices in Albuquerque, was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to distribute the interpreter as Altair BASIC. Paul Allen was hired into MITS, and Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with Allen at MITS in Albuquerque in November 1975. They named their partnership "Micro-Soft" and had their first office located in Albuquerque. Within a year, the hyphen was dropped, and on November 26, 1976, the trade name "Microsoft" was registered with the Office of the Secretary of the State of New Mexico. Gates never returned to Harvard to complete his studies.

Microsoft’s BASIC was popular with computer hobbyists, but Gates discovered that a pre-market copy had leaked into the community and was being widely copied and distributed. In February 1976, Gates wrote an Open Letter to Hobbyists in the MITS newsletter saying that MITS could not continue to produce, distribute, and maintain high-quality software without payment. This letter was unpopular with many computer hobbyists, but Gates persisted in his belief that software developers should be able to demand payment. Microsoft became independent of MITS in late 1976, and it continued to develop programming language software for various systems. The company moved from Albuquerque to its new home in Bellevue, Washington on January 1, 1979.

During Microsoft’s early years, all employees had broad responsibility for the company’s business. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, he personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.

IBM Partnership

In 1980, IBM approached Microsoft to write the BASIC interpreter for its upcoming personal computer, the IBM PC. When IBM’s representatives mentioned that they needed an operating system, Gates referred them to Digital Research (DRI), makers of the widely used CP/M operating system. IBM’s discussions with Digital Research went poorly, and they did not reach a licensing agreement. IBM representative Jack Sams mentioned the licensing difficulties during a subsequent meeting with Gates and told him to get an acceptable operating system. A few weeks later Gates proposed using 86-DOS (QDOS), an operating system similar to CP/M that Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products (SCP) had made for hardware similar to the PC.

Microsoft made a deal with SCP to become the exclusive licensing agent, and later the full owner, of 86-DOS. After adapting the operating system for the PC, Microsoft delivered it to IBM as PC-DOS in exchange for a one-time fee of $50,000. Gates did not offer to transfer the copyright on the operating system, because he believed that other hardware vendors would clone IBM’s system. They did, and the sales of MS-DOS made Microsoft a major player in the industry.


Gates oversaw Microsoft’s company restructuring on June 25, 1981, which re-incorporated the company in Washington and made Gates President of Microsoft and the Chairman of the Board. Microsoft launched its first retail version of Microsoft Windows on November 20, 1985, and in August, the company struck a deal with IBM to develop a separate operating system called OS/2. Although the two companies successfully developed the first version of the new system, mounting creative differences undermined the partnership. Gates distributed an internal memo on May 16, 1991, announcing that the OS/2 partnership was over and Microsoft would shift its efforts to the Windows NT kernel development.

Management Style

From Microsoft’s founding in 1975 until 2006, Gates had primary responsibility for the company’s product strategy. He aggressively broadened the company’s range of products, and wherever Microsoft achieved a dominant position he vigorously defended it.

As an executive, Gates met regularly with Microsoft’s senior managers and program managers. Firsthand accounts of these meetings describe him as verbally combative, berating managers for perceived holes in their business strategies or proposals that placed the company’s long-term interests at risk. He often interrupted presentations with such comments as, "That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!" and, "Why don’t you just give up your options and join the Peace Corps?" The target of his outburst then had to defend the proposal in detail until, hopefully, Gates was fully convinced. When subordinates appeared to be procrastinating, he was known to remark sarcastically, "I’ll do it over the weekend."

Gates’s role at Microsoft for most of its history was primarily a management and executive role. However, he was an active software developer in the early years, particularly on the company’s programming language products. He has not officially been on a development team since working on the TRS-80 Model 100 line, but wrote code as late as 1989 that shipped in the company’s products. On June 15, 2006, Gates announced that he would transition out of his day-to-day role over the next two years to dedicate more time to philanthropy. He divided his responsibilities between two successors, placing Ray Ozzie in charge of day-to-day management and Craig Mundie in charge of long-term product strategy.

Antitrust Litigation

Billgates Bill Gates giving his deposition at Microsoft on August 27, 1998

Many decisions that led to antitrust litigation over Microsoft’s business practices have had Gates’ approval. In the 1998 United States v. Microsoft case, Gates gave deposition testimony that several journalists characterized as evasive. He argued with examiner David Boies over the contextual meaning of words like "compete", "concerned" and "we".

BusinessWeek reported:

Early rounds of his deposition show him offering obfuscatory answers and saying ‘I don’t recall,’ so many times that even the presiding judge had to chuckle. Worse, many of the technology chief’s denials and pleas of ignorance were directly refuted by prosecutors with snippets of e-mail Gates both sent and received.

Gates later said that he had simply resisted attempts by Boies to mischaracterize his words and actions. As to his demeanor during the deposition, he said, "Did I fence with Boies? … I plead guilty. Whatever that penalty is should be levied against me: rudeness to Boies in the first degree." Despite Gates’s denials, the judge ruled that Microsoft had committed monopolization and tying, blocking competition, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.


Gates began to realize the expectations others had of him when public opinion mounted that he could give more of his wealth to charity. Gates studied the work of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller and in 1994 sold some of his Microsoft stock to create the William H. Gates Foundation. In 2000, Gates and his wife combined three family foundations into one to create the charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world. The foundation is set up to allow benefactors access to how its money is being spent, unlike other major charitable organizations such as the Wellcome Trust. The generosity and extensive philanthropy of David Rockefeller has been credited as a major influence. Gates and his father have met with Rockefeller several times and have modeled their giving in part on the Rockefeller family’s philanthropic focus, namely those global problems that are ignored by governments and other organizations. As of 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates were the second most generous philanthropists in America, having given over $28 billion to charity.

The foundation has also received criticism because it invests the assets that it has not yet distributed with the exclusive goal of maximizing the return on investment. As a result, its investments include companies that have been criticized for worsening poverty in the same developing countries where the Foundation is attempting to relieve poverty. These include companies that pollute heavily and pharmaceutical companies that do not sell into the developing world. In response to press criticism, the foundation announced in 2007 a review of its investments to assess social responsibility. It subsequently cancelled the review and stood by its policy of investing for maximum return, while using voting rights to influence company practices.


Time magazine named Gates one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century, as well as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Time also collectively named Gates, his wife Melinda and rock band U2’s lead singer Bono as the 2005 Persons of the Year for their humanitarian efforts. In 2006, he was voted eighth in the list of "Heroes of our time". Gates was listed in the Sunday Times power list in 1999, named CEO of the year by Chief Executive Officers magazine in 1994, ranked number one in the "Top 50 Cyber Elite" by Time in 1998, ranked number two in the Upside Elite 100 in 1999 and was included in The Guardian as one of the "Top 100 influential people in media" in 2001.

Gates has received honorary doctorates from:

  • Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands, in 2000;
  • Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, in 2002;
  • Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, in 2005;
  • Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in April 2007;
  • Harvard University in June 2007;
  • Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, in January 2008,
  • Cambridge University in June 2009.

He was also made an honorary trustee of Peking University in 2007. Gates was also made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005, in addition to having entomologists name the Bill Gates flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor.

In November 2006, he and his wife were awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program "Un país de lectores". In October 2009, it was announced that Gates will be awarded the 2010 Bower Award for Business Leadership of The Franklin Institute for his achievements in business and for his philanthropic work.



Katie Hafner & Matthew Lyon. (1998) Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. Simon & Schuster

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: ARPANet…

Wikipedia: The Internet…

Wikipedia: Bill Gates…

Web Sites and Blogs:

WikiQuote: Bill Gates…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 William Frederick Cody, that enigma of a man, was all that young boys (and girls, perhaps) dream about being. He was a frontiersman, an Indian fighter, a Cavalry scout, and a great showman. He lived when the West was young and wild. He personified adventure and freedom. We need to take a look at his contributions periodically to really appreciate all that he really contributed to the expansion of this country.  GLB


“But the love of adventure was in father’s blood.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“After crossing the Smoky Hill River, I felt comparatively safe as this was the last stream I had to cross.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“As a good horse is not very apt to jump over a bank, if left to guide himself, I let mine pick his own way.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“Excitement was plentiful during my two years’ service as a Pony Express rider.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“But the West of the old times, with its strong characters, its stern battles and its tremendous stretches of loneliness, can never be blotted from my mind.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“Having secured my Indian actors, I started for Baltimore, where I organized my combination, and which was the largest troupe I had yet had on the road.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“Frontiersmen good and bad, gunmen as well as inspired prophets of the future, have been my camp companions. Thus, I know the country of which I am about to write as few men now living have known it.”
— Buffalo Bill Cody

“Buffalo Bill” Cody

Cody-Buffalo-Bill-LOC William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846 – 1917) was an American soldier, bison hunter and showman. He was born in the Iowa Territory (now the American state of Iowa), near Le Claire. He was one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, and mostly famous for the shows he organized with cowboy themes. Buffalo Bill received the Medal of Honor in 1872.

William Frederick Cody (“Buffalo Bill”) got his nickname after he undertook a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. The nickname originally referred to Bill Comstock. Cody earned the nickname by killing 4,860 American Bison (commonly known as buffalo) in eight months (1867–68). He and Comstock eventually competed in a shooting match over the exclusive right to use the name, which Cody won.

In addition to his documented service as a soldier during the Civil War and as Chief of Scouts for the Third Cavalry during the Plains Wars, Cody claimed to have worked many jobs, including as a trapper, bullwhacker, “Fifty-Niner” in Colorado, a Pony Express rider in 1860, wagonmaster, stagecoach driver, and even a hotel manager, but it’s unclear which claims were factual and which were fabricated for purposes of publicity. He became world famous for his Wild West Shows.

Early Years


William Cody at age 19

While giving an anti-slavery speech at the local trading post, his father so inflamed the supporters of slavery in the audience that they formed a mob and one of them stabbed him. Cody helped to drag his father to safety, although he never fully recovered from his injuries. The family was constantly persecuted by the supporters of slavery, forcing Isaac Cody to spend much of his time away from home. His enemies learned of a planned visit to his family and plotted to kill him on the way. Cody, despite his youth and the fact that he was ill, rode 30 miles (48 km) to warn his father. Cody’s father died in 1857 from complications from his stabbing.

After his father’s death, the Cody family suffered financial difficulties, and Cody, aged 11, took a job with a freight carrier as a “boy extra,” riding up and down the length of a wagon train, delivering messages. From here, he joined Johnston’s Army as an unofficial member of the scouts assigned to guide the Army to Utah to put down a falsely-reported rebellion by the Mormon population of Salt Lake City. According to Cody’s account in Buffalo Bill’s Own Story, the Utah War was where he first began his career as an “Indian fighter”.

Presently the moon rose, dead ahead of me; and painted boldly across its face was the figure of an Indian. He wore this war-bonnet of the Sioux, at his shoulder was a rifle pointed at someone in the river-bottom 30 feet (9 m) below; in another second he would drop one of my friends. I raised my old muzzle-loader and fired. The figure collapsed, tumbled down the bank and landed with a splash in the water. ‘What is it?’ called McCarthy, as he hurried back. ‘It’s over there in the water,’. ‘Hi!’ he cried. ‘Little Billy’s killed an Indian all by himself!’ So began my career as an Indian fighter.

At the age of 14, Cody was struck by gold fever, but on his way to the gold fields, he met an agent for the Pony Express. He signed with them and after building several way stations and corrals was given a job as a rider, which he kept until he was called home to his sick mother’s bedside.

Military Service

Buffalo_Bill_Cody_ca1875 circa 1875

After his mother recovered Cody wished to enlist as a soldier, but was refused for his age. He began working with a United States freight caravan which delivered supplies to Fort Laramie. In 1863 he enlisted as a teamster with the rank of Private in Company H, 7th Kansas Cavalry and served until discharged in 1865.

From 1868 until 1872 Cody was employed as a scout by the United States Army. Part of this time he spent scouting for Indians, and the remainder was spent gathering and killing bison for them and the Kansas Pacific Railroad. In January 1872 Cody was a scout for Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia’s highly publicized royal hunt.

Medal of Honor

Cody received a Medal of Honor in 1872 for “gallantry in action” while serving as a civilian scout for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. In 1917, the U.S.Congress—after revising the standards for award of the medal—revoked 911 medals previously awarded either to civilians, or for actions that would not warrant a Medal of Honor under the new higher standards. After Dr. Mary Edwards Walker’s medal was restored in 1977, other reviews began that led to Cody’s medal—along with those given to four other civilian scouts—being re-instated on June 12, 1989.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West


The Wild West Show, 1890

In December 1872 Cody traveled to Chicago to make his stage debut with friend Texas Jack Omohundro in The Scouts of the Prairie, one of the original Wild West shows produced by Ned Buntline. During the 1873-74 season, Cody and Omohundro invited their friend James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok to join them in a new play called Scouts of the Plains.

The troupe toured for ten years and his part typically included an 1876 incident at the Warbonnet Creek where he claimed to have scalped a Cheyenne warrior, purportedly in revenge for the death of George Armstrong Custer.

It was the age of great showmen and traveling entertainers. Cody put together a new traveling show based on both of those forms of entertainment. In 1883 in the area of North Platte, Nebraska he founded “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” (despite popular misconception, the word “show” was not a part of the title) a circus-like attraction that toured annually.

In 1893 the title was changed to “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World”. The show began with a parade on horseback, with participants from horse-culture groups that included US and other military, American Indians, and performers from all over the world in their best attire. There were Turks, Gauchos, Arabs, Mongols and Georgians, among others, each showing their own distinctive horses and colorful costumes. Visitors to this spectacle could see main events, feats of skill, staged races, and sideshows. Many authentic western personalities were part of the show. For example Sitting Bull and a band of twenty braves appeared. Cody’s headline performers were well known in their own right. People like Annie Oakley and her husband Frank Butler put on shooting exhibitions along with the likes of Gabriel Dumont. Buffalo Bill and his performers would re-enact the riding of the Pony Express, Indian attacks on wagon trains, and stagecoach robberies. The show typically ended with a melodramatic re-enactment of Custer’s Last Stand in which Cody himself portrayed General Custer.

Sitting_bull_and_buffalo_bill_c1885 Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill,
Montreal, QC, 1885

The profits from his show enabled him to purchase a 4,000-acre (16 km2) ranch near North Platte, Nebraska in 1886. Scout’s Rest Ranch included an eighteen-room mansion and a large barn for winter storage of the show’s livestock.

In 1887 he took the show to Britain in celebration of the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria. The show was staged in London before going on to Birmingham and then Salford near Manchester, where it stayed for five months. In 1889 the show toured Europe. In 1890 he met Pope Leo XIII. He set up an exhibition near the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, which greatly contributed to his popularity, and also vexed the promoters of the fair. As noted in The Devil in the White City, he had been rebuffed in his request to be part of the fair, so he set up shop just to the west of the fairgrounds, drawing many of their patrons away. Since his show was not part of the fair, he was not obligated to pay the promoters any royalties, which they could have used to temper their financial problems.


Larry McMurtry, along with some historians such as RL Wilson, asserts that at the turn of the 20th century Buffalo Bill Cody was the most recognizable celebrity on earth. And yet, despite all of the recognition and appreciation Cody’s show brought for the Western and American Indian cultures, Buffalo Bill saw the American West change dramatically during his tumultuous life. Bison herds, which had once numbered in the millions, were now threatened with extinction. Railroads crossed the plains, barbed wire, and other types of fences divided the land for farmers and ranchers, and the once-threatening Indian tribes were now almost completely confined to reservations. Wyoming’s resources of coal, oil and natural gas were beginning to be exploited towards the end of his life.

Even the Shoshone River was dammed for hydroelectric power as well as for irrigation. In 1897 and 1899 Cody and his associates acquired from the State of Wyoming the right to take water from the Shoshone River to irrigate about 169,000 acres (680 km2) of land in the Big Horn Basin. They began developing a canal to carry water diverted from the river, but their plans did not include a water storage reservoir. Cody and his associates were unable to raise sufficient capital to complete their plan. Early in 1903 they joined with the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners in urging the federal government to step in and help with irrigation development in the valley.

The Shoshone Project became one of the first federal water development projects undertaken by the newly formed Reclamation Service, later to become known as the Bureau of Reclamation. After Reclamation took over the project in 1903, investigating engineers recommended constructing a dam on the Shoshone River in the canyon west of Cody.

Construction of the Shoshone Dam started in 1905, a year after the Shoshone Project was authorized. Almost three decades after its construction, the name of the dam and reservoir was changed to Buffalo Bill Dam by an act of Congress to honor Cody.

Other Events on this Day
  • In 1846…
    Frontiersman and showman William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody is born near LeClaire, Iowa
  • In 1917…
    President Wilson learns of the Zimmermann Telegram, a coded German message suggesting an alliance between Germany and Mexico, a communication that hastens the U.S. entry into World War I.
  • In 1919…
    The Grand Canyon becomes a national park.
  • In 1993…
    Islamic terrorists explode a bomb in the garage of New York’s World Trade Center, killing six people.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Buffalo Bill…

Brainy Quote: Buffalo Bill Quotes…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 If there is an area associated with African American culture in this country, it would be in New Orleans. More specifically, it would be on Bourbon Street and especially in the Lower 9th Ward of that city. These people may be poor, but they are proud of their people and culture. Having visited this area back in 2000, the houses were apparently run-down on the outside, but filled with pride and family on the inside.

All this was changed when hurricane Katrina hit. It devastated the city, YES, but it especially was brutal on the Lower 9th Ward. Along with the outward destruction of the flood waters, a treasure trove of photography was partially lost as well. Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick had documented the Black community in New Orleans for years and many of their images were “whipped out” by the flooding. Today, we recognize their dedication to their communityGLB


“If you want the soul of the city, we have images that depict not the tourist part but what you call the black belt of the South.”
— Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

“We knew we had to get a space. Our work is part of the community. It needed a place to live…”
— Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

“Me and Chandra knew it would bring a light to the community. We made the whole art world to come to the Ninth ward.”
— Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

“Fats Domino’s piano in debris and Keith and Chandra’s photographs floating away.”
— Douglas Brinkley

“The message is (from) a very poor neighbourhood that has pollution.”
— Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

“Many people want to help after a disaster. What I discovered is a situation that existed before the storm, a problem that could even be found in the blood of children…”
— Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

“It’s a different way of understanding art. Some art now is being made (that) allows the person visiting to be part of it. (Visitors) will find something worthy of protecting. They can enter it and find something that is really valuable.”
— Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick

“The Lower Ninth Ward is kind of the heart and soul of the African-American experience in New Orleans, and what’s New Orleans without the African-American experience? It would be a big statement if we could save the Lower Ninth Ward, and I think some of their cultural photography could be helpful toward that end.”
— Douglas Brinkley


Black Photographers: Keith Calhoun & Chandra McCormick 

KeithCalhoun_ChandraMcCormick_opt Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick both grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and have documented the city and surrounding areas for the past three decades. Keith and creative partner and wife Chandra have focused their cameras intensively on musicians, dockworkers, churchgoers, and agricultural laborers, as well as inmates at the Angola State Penitentiary. Keith and Chandra’s work has been featured in Aperture Magazine and in Deborah Willis’ landmark compilation Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present. Their photographs have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Philadelphia African American Museum, the Civil Rights Museum, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

McCormick and Calhoun lost two-thirds of their photographic archives when their home and studio were ravaged by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, Keith and Chandra received a Katrina Media Fellowship from the Open Society Institute to produce 40 post-flood portraits of fellow displaced residents now living in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Tennessee. More recently, the two have completed extensive renovations on a shotgun double near the site of their former home and have turned this building into a gallery and community center. Named the L9 Center for the Arts, the facility includes dedicated space for artists-in-residence and will be one of the official venues for "Project.1 New Orleans," the largest biennial of contemporary art ever held in the United States.

It was 1978. A few years later, they were married, and they’ve been documenting life in New Orleans as close collaborators ever since, especially in the Lower Ninth Ward and the Treme, the neighborhood just north of the French Quarter and one of the first free black neighborhoods in the country.

Calhoun and McCormick fled to the Houston area the day before Hurricane Katrina hit. “We left everything,” McCormick said. “We took a box, but it wasn’t that large, and once we got to Texas, it really wasn’t the important stuff.” When they left, the house was full of two lives’ work: thousands of prints, countless negatives. When they returned, ten weeks later, much of it was gone, and that which remained was waterlogged and caked with mud.

Distraught, they threw away a lot of the damaged prints and negatives. Then their son suggested they stop. The water had left swirling patterns of color on some of the transparencies, and the spots of mold on some of the prints looked quite beautiful if you looked past what had been lost. “What do you do?,” Keith said, holding up a mold-marbled image of a young Wynton Marsalis playing trumpet on a streetcorner. “Do you throw this away, or does it become a piece of art?”
The New Yorker

Chandra McCormick

Chandra McCormick is a documentary photographer who chronicles the sociocultural aspects of human life. Born in New Orleans in 1957, her career background includes photography, activism, and history, which has given her a unique capability to focus on a range of subjects not commonly covered by other documentary photographers.

McCormick is renowned for capturing many different aspects of New Orleans culture, as well as the lifestyles of her fellow New Orleanians. In addition to documenting the city’s social and cultural history, McCormick has studied and documented religious ceremonies of the Spiritual Churches, which have rarely been captured. She has also focused on African American laborers, such as sugarcane scrappers and sweet potato workers of rural Louisiana. She has produced an extensive body of work on Angola Prison, focusing on its incarcerated men and the impact of the prison system on their families; the work was featured in Aperture in February 2006.

Her work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Aperture, The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, and Albuquerque Tribune. Her photographs have been included in exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum, Philadelphia African American Museum, Civil Rights Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, the Peace Museum, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York University, and Aperture Gallery.

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Keith Calhoun

Born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward, Keith Calhoun is a New Orleans photographer committed to documenting the local culture, spirit, and people of his hometown.

Keith began his photographic career running a portrait studio in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Since then, he has documented the African American community in New Orleans and its surrounding areas, creating a unique body of work that chronicles the daily lives and cultural richness of this community over the past thirty years. Past work includes stories on laborers on the loading docks of the Mississippi River, sugarcane plantations on River Road, and day laborers working in sweet potato and cotton fields. In addition, he has produced an extensive body of work on Angola Prison, focusing on its incarcerated men and the impact of the prison system on their families; the work was featured in Aperture in February 2006.

Calhoun’s work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, and Albuquerque Tribune. His photographs have been included in exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Philadelphia African American Museum, Civil Rights Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, The Peace Museum, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York University, and Aperture Gallery. He has received several awards from the New Orleans Press Club.

Their Work

The New York Times featured these two photographers and their work in documenting the life of the Black, Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. They observed:

NEW ORLEANS — On a hazy summer afternoon several years before Hurricane Katrina, Chandra McCormick spied a juke joint with an open door in the Lower Ninth Ward. She nudged her husband, Keith Calhoun, and they stopped their car.

For a Slide Show, Click on the image below:

Keepers of the Culture

Before the hurricane forced his family into exile in Texas, Mr. Calhoun used to love nothing more than to slip inside some neighborhood dive with a camera on his shoulder. Casual and loose-limbed, he would buy a beer, banter with the men, flirt with the ladies and wait for the moment when the light or the vibe was just right.

Juke Joint

A photograph of Junior’s Bar,
in the Lower Ninth Ward of
New Orleans.
— Keith Calhoun.

Documenting, he called it, or chronicling. Mr. Calhoun and Ms. McCormick, both photographers who grew up in the mostly African-American Lower Ninth Ward, dedicated their existence to it. They considered themselves "keepers of the culture," guardians of a small-town way of life in black Louisiana that was fading even before Katrina destroyed so much so quickly.

On that afternoon at Junior’s juke joint, Mr. Calhoun did not wait long for his moment. Light was streaming into the storefront bar beside the Industrial Canal. A man paused in the doorway, pouring a beer into a tilted cup, the shadow of his legs tracing stripes across the floor. Perched on carpeted benches beneath a mirror that toyed with their reflections, the other patrons chatted and laughed, their bodies slack in the heat.



Deborah Willis. (2002) Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present. W.W. Norton & Co.

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Chandra McCormick… 
[None Available]

Wikipedia: Keith Calhoun…
[None Available]

Web Sites and Blogs: 

Calhoun McCormick Photography: Bio…

The New York Times: When the Lower Ninth Posed Proudly…

The New Yorker: Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick’s New Orleans…

The Star: New Orleans’ Hidden Treasures…