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Part of an ongoing effort to dredge my grandfathers’ photos out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unappreciated, and bring them out for contemplation.

Another installment, then:

Top 10 Things My Brother Might Have Seen In December 1973
That Would Have Had Him Spellbound
But Were Apparently Invisible To The Rest Of The Family

xmas731. Santa Claus removing his suit to reveal … Ronald McDonald.

2. Secretariat cantering across the front lawn.

3. The Tardis.

4. The inexplicable but fast-approaching popularity of “Seasons In The Sun.”

5. The endless psychedelic wonderland of lights caused by the silver-foil Christmas tree reflecting in the big front window.

6. Danny Glick, asking to be let in.

7. Up With People.

8. A time traveler with an iPhone, blithely looking up the address of the nearest Thai takeaway.

9. The Black Winterqueen.

10. The sum of all human toil.


A half-baked idea.

Posted on

The biscuit camera is an unreliable, untrustworthy, underperforming piece of trash-plastic … and I am suddenly gripped with an urge to get to know it better.

Cute, innit?

Cute, innit?

Photography is an interest of mine that I’ve never much talked about here. That’s because I have no formal training, and thus do not think of myself as a serious shooter whose pix are worthy of consideration.

I have a varied arsenal of mostly secondhand cameras, everything from digital point-and-shoots to film SLRs to plastic Fisher-Price kids’ models. I like getting out there and seeing what I can do with them, welcoming quirky stuff like grain, lens flare and oversaturated color.

(Yes, I know these things are not “quirky.” They are the crutches of countless amateur photographers who think they have a Vision but don’t have any skills. I don’t care; I like them.)

I don’t remember why I bought my biscuit camera four years ago. Thought it was cute, I guess. It was digital, of course, so there were no film developing costs. And it was small, so I figured I could take it anywhere and have fun with it.

Or maybe I was gripped with momentary delusions of being a Japanese schoolgirl. Happens to the best of us.

Fuuvi, the camera’s manufacturer, is Japanese, and I’m led to believe Japanese teens make up the camera’s principal target market. (It wonders me they don’t have access to better cameras.)

My first love affair with the biscuit ended after maybe a year or so. It was fun sometimes, but its quirks drove me nuts:

– You can set it to take 25 pix at “higher quality” — an extremely slippery term, in biscuit-land — or 99 pix at absurdly low quality.

The absurdly low-quality pix aren’t good enough to be weird or fun; they’re just absurdly low-quality.

The higher-quality pix can be fun. But if you only get 25 of them, that robs you of the shoot-everything-and-sort-it-out-later mindset that lends a lot of the pleasure to digital shooting.

– If the battery runs out in mid-shoot, the biscuit loses all your shots.

– The controls and settings are not all easily grasped, and the manual is in Japanese.

– Computers don’t recognize the biscuit as an external storage device, which means you need software to get the pictures off the camera.

A few years ago, I cleared the software off my PC to make room for something else. In my messy basement, I didn’t think I’d ever find it again.

But I did … and, now that I’m able to download the pictures again, I thought it was time to resuscitate the biscuit. It didn’t quite feel like I did everything I could do with it last time.

Expect a couple more blog-posts with muddy, pixelated photos, then, before I give up again and fling the sucker across the room.

I like this one; it looks almost painted to me.

I like this one; it looks almost painted to me.

Anyone want some hot sauce?

Anyone want some hot sauce?

Someone left the park out in the rain, and now it's melting.

Someone left the park out in the rain, and now it’s melting.

The shadowy, impressionistic figures in black are ballplayers warming up.

The shadowy, impressionistic figures in black are ballplayers warming up.


Mundane Moments: Hockey night in Canada.

Part of an ongoing effort to dredge my grandfathers’ photos out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unappreciated, and bring them out for contemplation.

Another installment, then:

ROCHAMBEAU, Quebec (AP) – When the streets ice over and the snow falls thick, the natives here still tell dazzling stories about Lyle and Jean-Claude Montraineau, the schoolboy wonders immortalized in Canadian history as “the Rochambeau Rockets.”

“I never saw anything like them, me,” local farmer Brien Saint-Denis said, nursing a beer at the bar and restaurant that sits beneath the town’s only stoplight. “They had une tete — one brain.”

“Remember when they scored in their sleep?” chimed in Jean Renard, the town shopkeeper. “No joke. They were asleep on their feet. You could hear them snore from the stands. And they each scored. They were tired from milking the cows, they said later.”

“You weren’t safe going to their games,” Saint-Denis went on, “because they used to put pucks through the glass. All the time. No one was safe. It’s a wonder someone isn’t avec les anges.”

The snow keeps falling, and the stories go on:

– The goal Lyle once scored in mid-fight.
– Jean-Claude’s astonishing ability to go from full speed to dead stop, and vice versa, in the blink of an eye.
– The brothers, arriving late at a game, splitting a pair of skates between them — one apiece — and still dominating the course of play.
– The “Montraineau Rule” briefly put in place by provincial youth-hockey authorities, limiting the brothers’ teams to permanent shorthanded status whenever they were on the ice.
– The number of opposing goalies who quit the sport and became preachers, convinced they had seen le diable lui-meme in the Montraineau brothers’ eyes.

“Gretzky?” summarizes the town’s librarian, Michel Arneault. “Gretzky avait rien. I saw the Montraineaus.”

It’s been 35 years since the “Magic Montraineaus” became the talk of their nation. And the mists of time have only added to the inevitable question:

How much of this actually happened, and how much of the legend is simply a self-serving folktale invented by bored farmers trying to put their town into the spotlight?

The Montraineaus’ most famous moments took place out of the camera eye, in countless identical youth-hockey rinks scattered across the farmlands of Quebec. There is no tangible proof of their achievements — and, to add to the mystery, many of the coaches and players they opposed refuse to discuss them.

“No. Rien,” shudders Claude Benoit, a longtime youth hockey coach in the area. “Some things, one does not talk about.”

The Montraineaus’ absence from the discussion only strengthens the doubters’ arguments. The boys who rumor said could have started for the Montreal Canadiens as middle-schoolers never pursued professional hockey careers.

Lyle developed a life-threatening allergy to Zamboni fumes, while Jean-Claude fell in love with the pedal steel guitar. Today, the older Montraineau is a computer programmer in Vancouver, while the younger plays in country-and-western bands in the Toronto area. Neither has visited Rochambeau in years, and neither speaks publicly about their hockey exploits.

“There is nothing to say, vraiment,” Jean-Claude says in a brief phone interview. “There is nothing to prove.”

No matter. The legend of the Montraineaus is deeply enough ingrained to withstand the futile search for details.

Especially in the farm towns of Quebec, where the brothers live forever in memory as tousled, heart-stoppingly gifted youths — like the pre-teen Paganinis of the national game.

“You should have seen them,” Arneault, the librarian, sums up. “Tabarnac. You should have seen them.”


In real life: Rochester, New York, circa 1980.
Mike Eruzione had nothing to fear.

Mundane Moments: It never gets old.

Introducing another of this blog’s intended recurring features.

My maternal grandpa was a well-meaning but mediocre photographer, skilled at bringing the shutter down a moment too early or late, or in taking pictures of things that were not as quirky or offbeat (or well-lit) as he thought.

I’m going to dredge some of his classic efforts out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unseen and unappreciated, and bring them out in the open for analysis, contemplation and occasional double-barreled comedic riffage.

So, here we go.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

1973. Click to view larger.

This man is a wedding photographer. He is on the clock, dressed like a pro and toting the balky tools of his chosen trade.

And he is having his picture taken by an invited guest.

It never fails to happen, this, at least not since cameras became pocket-sized and portable.

Some predictably prankish guest with time on his hands — it is almost always a he — spots the wedding photographer en route from church to limo and decides it would be kicky, recursive fun to take a picture of the fella who takes all the pictures.

Most of these shots are lined up poorly. The fella who takes all the pictures can tell this just by looking at his amateur counterpart. (Rare is the guest who captures his feet, for instance.)

And he knows that the picture of the photographer — an idea that seems so delightful at the time, like a fifth drink — never seems like so much fun when the pictures come back from the drugstore. He knows there are forgotten, boxed-up photo envelopes with his picture in them in closets from New Canaan to New Haven.

Yet, like a clown bound for his two millionth descent into the dunk tank, the wedding photographer takes it all in stride. He has a delighted smile he brings out for just such occasions.

This has never happened to me before!, the smile says. I am about as thrilled as I can possibly be to be in front of the lens for a change. This is a wonderful wedding. I wish the couple decades of wedded bliss. And I wish you, the amateur photographer, a lifetime of soothing karmic reward for thinking to point your Instamatic in my direction.

The wedding photographer is not nearly as cynical as that makes him sound.

He believes, just as those who take his portrait believe, in the magic of photography. He subscribes to the notion that good times can be preserved and revisited, and to the glow of eternal memory that keeps people snapping away year after year.

(Sometimes he thinks it would be fun to magically gather every picture that’s ever been taken of him at a wedding — all those shots in the forgotten boxed-up envelopes — into one giant scrapbook. He pages through it in his mind. The seasons change. His hair thins above his forehead, and thickens above his lip. The glasses become compulsory. But there he is in harness, year after year, always striding forward, always smiling, the gatherer of memories.)

He’s never been sure why or how he triggers the memory-preservation impulse in one guest at every wedding, given all the more important people and events that are there for the shooting.

But he’s come to view it as just another service he offers.

And when he’s making his way from one Big Event to another — from reception line to limo, or from first dance to cake-cutting — he always smiles.

Because he never knows when he’ll look up to see a camera pointing at him, held by someone who’s been waiting for just that moment.