John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: April, 2017

Junk Photography

One of these days I will accept that I’m old, out of touch and a victim of this brave new world. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to rant. Today, I have chosen to tackle what has happened to the art and science of photography in the age of selfies, snapchat, etc. But I’ll be damned if we, the last of the breed of amateur photographers, who spent a lifetime dedicated to developing the best photographic skills we could master shall quietly go into the night beaten, devoured and overwhelmed by the tidal wave of cellular, smart phone and tablet produced junk photography without having our say.



They give us those nice bright colors

They give us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away


Paul Simon


December of 2013, in the early days of this blog site, I wrote a piece about a photograph taken at a football game in 1962 between the Giants and the Lions. I noted: “The colors are so vivid that the photographer must have used Kodachrome film. A marvelous photograph, the colors…shock the senses, and yet, only a photograph of an ordinary play taken on a sunny afternoon at the big ballpark in The Bronx. Brilliant!”


An observer recently noted: “In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.”


Kodachrome was introduced in 1935. It required complex processing and was sold process-paid until 1954 when a legal ruling prohibited this. Subsequent additions like Fujichrome and Kodak’s own, Ektachrome reduced market share but it was the advent of quality digital photography that ended its run. Kodak announced its demise in July of 2010 when only one certified processing facility remained: Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas. Ektachrome followed, exiting in 2012 leaving Fujichrome to soldier on alone.


Most semi-serious amateur photographers converted to digital, coming to terms with a loss of quality in favor of the conveniences digital brings. We mothballed our film single lens reflex (SLR) cameras in favor of new Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc. digital SLRs and continued our quest to imitate great photographers like Ansel Adams, Robert Riger, Arthur Hammond and John Thompson. A friend of mine, Fred Fort, fits this description and noted to me, “Much as I love photography I have come to realize, sadly, that the pleasure I get is from looking at other people’s work and from gear since I’ve hardly ever seen a gadget I didn’t want. I currently own three old 35mm film SLRs that haven’t been used in years, two dust covered 35mm slide projectors, a gadget that prints photos from slides plus an 8mm movie projector. All this in addition to three digital SLR cameras and two digital movie cameras. Pretty ridiculous.”


My own experience is similar to Fred’s although Fred has outdistanced me in the number of SLRs he possesses. But if I include Nikon SLRs that I have purchased for both my daughter and daughter-in-law, the gap narrows.


Digital changed the game but quality remained. The biggest difference; digital allowed for instant review of the selected image offering the photographer the opportunity to re-shoot to his / her content or to fire away a dozen or more shots and sort out the best of the batch at one’s leisure. Photography remained fun and rewarding.


Since I retired in 2000, I have traveled with my wife and friends, here and abroad, enjoyed annual baseball trips and separate football trips following my Football Giants across America. Last fall, I finally made it with my son and his boys to Lambeau Field in Green Bay.


I was a driven photographer, camera ready-anticipating lens changes. Digital let me crop shots, expand them and change the subjects by shifting the vision. Digital gave me abilities once limited to a photo lab – life was good.


Enter the cellular phone and the narcissistic selfie. How do you compete with a sea of junk photography? You don’t. In 2008, we sailed through the Panama Canal allowing me a brilliant opportunity to enjoy photographing that experience. Today, I’d leave my camera at home. Selfie-sticks and a mob holding up smart phones and tablets overwhelm photo opportunities.


A photo album, excuse me, just what is a photo album? Exactly, and so it goes. It’s in the cloud or on the internet. The idea of amateur photography being an art is dead and buried. So, if you are like most of us, you gave up, removed the batteries from your SLRs and stored them in closets.


All seems lost but I did read that Kodak Alaris, a U.K. based company that acquired Kodak’s film division plans to resurrect Ektachrome. (Alas, Kodachrome appears lost to the ages. The complex processing technique precludes its resurrection.)


I’m not holding my breath but…but… I have my Nikon N8008S sitting in a box and I’d sure like to fire it up one more time.






Thanks for the Use of the Hall

This is about Queens, the fourth borough in terms of prestige. Finishing next to last stinks but being the laughing stock is reserved for last place and, at least, Queens’s residents don’t have to endure the abuse and ridicule directed at the residents of Staten Island.


Staten Island will always be the least respected, least understood or cared about borough in New York City. The sophisticated, pretty, moneyed, self-absorbed young elites who populate and socialize the Manhattan night-scene scorn all the outer boroughs and Jersey traffickers. They divisively dismiss them as rabble: “The Bridge &Tunnel (B&T) crowd.” Staten Islanders don’t even qualify to be so distained even though they’ve had their bridge since 1965; pity!


Queens is next to last in prestige on the NYC social food-chain and will also always remain so. It has none of the grit, character, drama or clout of Brooklyn or The Bronx. In fact if not for its two airports, (JFK and LGA,) or the fact that you must drive through Queens or ride the LIRR to reach the promised land of super-wealthy East-End Long Island, few would care if Queens slipped back into the sea.


(The thought occurs: If technology had advanced  just a bit further along in 1925 when Fitzgerald published, “The Great Gatsby,” poor Jay would have avoided his downfall by helicoptering over the hellacious Flushing Meadows ash dumpsite; pity!)


We have the Mets, two world’s fairs – although the 1964-65 Fair was cheapened by the line in, “Men in Black:” Why else did you think we put a world’s fair in Queens?


Mary Ann and I met at the fair on June 6, 1964 and we returned there on out first date. I actually took her to the top of the towers where the alien space ship was cleverly hidden in the movie…who knew?


We also had Jimmy Breslin. His recent demise has awakened the joy we natives treasure for the fourth borough. One that stood out for me came from a letter to the editor about the late, Ed Lowe, a beloved columnist at Newsday. Early in Ed’s career, he received a congratulartory phone call from Breslin.


Bill Mason described the event in his letter: “Ed got up from his desk and walked very slowly over to mine. His eyes were wide open and his mouth was pretty much the same way. He seemed to be in a trance.


‘That was Jimmy Breslin,’ Lowe said. ‘Jimmy Breslin telephoned me.’


“Apparently, Breslin had read an article by Lowe and called him out of the blue. Lowe said Breslin told him, ‘Kid, you just remember to stay out of Queens. That’s my territory.”


Breslin got Queens and his pen gave life to minor characters, small-time hustlers, grifters and wannabees who populated the perpetually darkened streets under the elevated lines along Jamaica Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue, 31st Street and Liberty Avenue. He understood Glendale, Sunnyside, Cypress Hills, Corona, Maspeth, Flushing and South Ozone Park.


Breslin gave us Fat Thomas, Klein the lawyer, Shelly, the bail bondsman, Marvin, the torch and Un Occhio, the mob boss.


He got The Pastrami King and the Queens Boulevard Courthouse scene. He got ex-borough president, Donald Manes, who ran unopposed across party lines multiple times before committing suicide following a municipal scandal that Breslin first broke. He christened Queens’ D/A, Brown, “Duck-down Brown,” for hiding behind his desk when then a judge during a shoot-out in his court room. Breslin said this about the blood feud between union boss, Mike Quill and mayor John Lindsay: “John Lindsay looks at Quill and sees the past and Mike Quill looks at Lindsay and sees the Church of England.”


Breslin understood the mentality of holding functions in halls. Church halls, VFW halls, Knights of Columbus, Masons and American Legion halls. If it were a social event, we called it a racket. Local married couples dressed in their best, took tables for ten or twelve, brought their own bottle of Seagram’s or Canadian Club for their tables and bought set-ups from the sponsor to cover the nut.


He covered endless events held in halls, political and social, triumphs and tragedy, weddings, funerals celebrations and protests. If you knew Queens, you knew halls; folding chairs and portable tables that the organizing committee set-up and dismantled.


Jimmy Breslin got it. He ended his run at Newsday with this sign off in his final column:


“Thanks for the use of the hall.”




The Jets That Connected America

Three jets revolutionized air travel and unlocked the wonders of flight for the average person.  They introduced casual travel and brought down the curtain on the formal, expensive and restrictive practices the piston era and early jet commercial aviation. Prior to these jets entering service in the mid-1960s, regular, reliable and affordable flights were only available in medium and large-size cities. Flight was such a rarity to ordinary people that it was considered an event. Friends and family members accompanied the traveler(s) to witness this odd, mysterious and dangerous event.

Even growing up in New York City, I remember that time. When I was about six or seven, I joined my mother and her friends for a trip to LaGuardia Airport to see off one of her best friend’s sister on a flight to Los Angeles. An old black and white photo shows our group standing in front of the old main terminal. Her father and mother stand there proudly. So too do her sisters’ husbands and their offspring. All of the men wear sport jackets, ties and hats and the women; Sunday church dresses. I have on what must have been an Easter outfit, sports jacket and even a fedora.

I first flew in 1957 on an Eastern Air Lines DC-6 to Miami courtesy of my father who arranged a visit to see his second family. John, Sr. was then a major in the USAF, assigned to Homestead Air Force base home of B-47 bombers as part of the Strategic Air Command, (SAC) as a navigator / bombardier; the person who actually would drop the bomb.

An entourage drove me to, Idewild, more formally, New York International Airport, (today, John F. Kennedy) to see me off.

Back then, Idewild was half-cooked. Permanent terminals didn’t exist and the airlines were forced to use a collection of Quonset Huts, Butler Shacks and a maze of plywood structures that the Port Authority had thrown together. It was bad. My one disconcerting memory of that send-off was observing my mother going over to a kiosk to buy flight life insurance on me!

Think about it: Your own mother goes to the airport casino and puts her money down that, if you lose, she wins. Yeah, that’s the bottom line: If you lose, she wins; brilliant and then I boarded the airplane…

Sure, sure, I know; in 1957, that was the done thing. Flight was mysterious and potentially dangerous. People were uncomfortable at best so it was the accepted and almost universal thing to do. Few had real life insurance back then so the accepted wisdom was to make that bet just in case. Believe me though, at 13, it didn’t sit well with me at all.

The domestic age of the jet began when American Airlines introduced the Boeing 707 for domestic service between New York City and Los Angeles in January of 1959. But those first four-engine beasts, the 707, Douglas’ DC-8 and the Convair-440 required long runways for take-offs and landings limiting service to routes between major cities.

That all changed on February 1, 1964 when Eastern Airlines inaugurated “Whisper jet” service between  Miami and Philadelphia with the first commercial flight of Boeing’s 727.  This radical looking tri-engine jet and Douglas’ twin-engine DC-9 that Delta introduced on December 8, 1965 began to open the skies to new domestic travelers. Both jets were designed for frequent and short flights to airports with shorter runways. The final entry, Boeing’s 737, joined these two in February of 1968.

When de-regulation followed, a revolution began that continues to this day as airlines try to cope and get it right. Along the way, well-known giants of aviation failed: Pan Am, TWA and Eastern being the biggest losers. Regional carriers disappeared or were gobbled up: Braniff, Southern, Western, National and Piedmont to name a few. Finally, surviving majors merged to stay alive: American and US Air, United and Continental and Northwest and Delta. The new kids on the block, particularly Southwest and JetBlue also soldier on.

The 727 had the shortest production lifespan of the trio, 1962 to 1984. During that time frame, 1,832 were produced. Today, only UPS still operates a domestic fleet of 727s in cargo service. Nine hundred seventy six DC-9s were produced from 1965 to 1982. Kick in its near-siblings, (MD-80) adds another 1,463; a grand total of 2,439 produced over 41 years ending in 2006. American, Delta and several other carriers continue to fly these slender birds. The winner became the 737. To date 9,365 of these jets have been placed into service and Boeing now produces the 737-800 and 737-900ER.

In my time, I flew extensively across the United States mostly on these three jets. That era favored the business passenger like never before with a wide choice of alternative flights, frequent upgrades, mileage credits and flexibility to change flights or airlines at any time. In return, we paid a premium but, from a service perspective, this was a golden age for business travel.

That age came to a sudden, dreadful and permanent end in the aftermath of the disaster of September 11, 2001. Commercial aviation was almost shattered and barely survived. Airlines re-invented themselves to reflect a new world-order. They commoditized operations, forgot why they fly and lost their soul.


Things That Go Bump in the Night

Part 1: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn


Most often when we bolt upright in the middle of the night a horrible thought has invaded an otherwise restful sleep cycle. The cause is part mental, part emotional, a psychological imperative that usually includes a physical element. It is the night-cycle manifestation of a festering emotional, personal, economic, health, work, or family problem. An erupting volcano. Something we thought we were managing and believed we had under control when we drifted off to sleep. Yet it intensified and finally metastasized into a fully-formed crisis of immense and unsolvable proportions. Sleep is ended, welcome to panic city, like it or not.


The so-called “shit” just hit the fan! First; we take inventory. Is the bed wet? Did I have night sweats? Did anything worse happen? All the while, try not to disturb your mate. Breathe, breathe, deep, deep; calm the heart. Sit up: “Where’s the dog, don’t trip over the dog.” Okay, quietly, safely walk to the bathroom. Close the door, put on the light, sit down, breathe…breathe…deep breaths, calm down, relax, calm down…


All the time, an internal alarm keeps repeating; “Oh my God, Oh my God; what have I done? How did this happen? What can I do, and on and on and on…


Slowly, catch our breath, calm down…grasp the actual problem, begin to understand; the early stages of panic control.


The thing about these episodes is that they really do happen in the night and recur time after time. Nobody is immune but I do believe as we work our way through the actual damage assessment and gain control, we realize it’s not as bad as our panic imagined and we can take comfort that it is always darkest before the dawn.



Part 2: Hooray for Hollywood


I wonder what erupting volcano causes the “big brains” to panic in the night. Those world leaders who hold the fate of civilization in their hands; what brings on their “oh shit” moments?


I know if it were me, North Korea and their Looney Tune leader, Kim Jong-On, would be my recurrent nightmare and my principal source of panic attacks. If I were unlucky enough to be president, I would be physically ill trying to figure out how I could make a deal with China to take him out, rub him out, make him go bye bye, cease to exist, make him disappear, not come around anymore or swim with the fishes. Jong-On is the most dangerous man on the planet and only the Chinese can remove him without the threat of Armageddon.


Trump has a big brain working for him who should be devoted to making this deal come about. Rex Tillerson, now our secretary of state, ran the biggest non-government mother f***** on the planet; Exxon-Mobil. He has both the big brain, horse trading experience and the chutzpah needed to pull it off.


But, at what price? The Chinese will not go easy into the night and sign off to do this on the cheap.


They want a serious payback in return. Tillerson must make the Chinese an offer they cannot refuse. It won’t be easy. Rex shouldn’t be surprised if they ask for us to relinquish Boeing or Lockheed in return; something that we simply cannot afford to do. Negotiations will be tricky, very tricky. Tillerson will need to have hidden cards waiting to play, but not playable until darkness sets in and the impasse becomes overpowering. He will need an overnight time-out. An aide to the Secretary makes the motion: “Ladies and gentleman, it is late and this has been a difficult day. We’re all tired, exasperated; please, let’s call it a day. I propose we re-convene tomorrow to see this through.”


The majority so moves.


The next day, negotiators return exhausted, still exasperated and frustrated; tired of the same old arguments and positions. They just want it to end. Timing will be perfect for the Secretary of State to play his hand. This is how I expect the inde documentary later filmed at low-budget studio in Astoria, Queens will capture this break-through agreement:


(Scene: A modern, wood-paneled conference room overlooking Beijing. An American contingent sits on one side of the table facing off against a Chinese contingent. The room is quiet. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson speaks to those assembled:)


This has been a long and difficult road for all of us. I too am running on empty so I realize just how frustrated you are. I keep saying to myself, “Ole Rex, there’s got to be something special we can do for our Chinese friends to repay them for this difficult task.”


Goodness knows I’ve thought and thought about this and you know what? Maybe, just maybe we have something to give you that you’d love to have, something that will put you on the map as a world player and, at the same time, light up the lives and bring joy to all of your people.


Please understand this will not be easy for us. Mercy no, many Americans will be saddened and depressed over our loss but, if it didn’t hurt, it wouldn’t be a fair trade.


I asked myself, what is the one thing you desperately need? What are the Chinese people desperate to call their own? And the answer is, of course, a first-rate motion picture industry. China is the world’s biggest box office and you deserve a top-notch film industry of your own.


And so, my friends, we are prepared to offer you Hollywood! That’s right, Hollywood! All of it, I’m talking about the studios, theme parks, actors, directors, producers, movie makers, key grips, best boys, their homes, their friends and families; the whole lock, stock and barrel. You have shipped entire steel plants from America to China, whole automobile assembly lines; this will be simple. You can create a  new Hollywood. If you build it, they will come. Bel Aires, Beverly Hills, Malibu, why even the Hollywood sign in your own image and likeness.


I know this will work. Let’s face facts, I am not loved by the people of Hollywood and neither is the president. They hate us and will be thrilled to move to New Hollywood. They will feel empowered and emboldened to escape our clumsy regime.


By golly, why it’s a win-win.


(Sounds of approval fill the screen as heroic music intensifies. The screen fades to black and five seconds later, the following statement appears on the black screen:)



Dateline: DEN NORSKE NOBELKOMITE. Oslo, Norway: September 30, 2017 –The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao for his monumental effort that successfully returned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into the family of nations.


(The music stops. Ten seconds later we hear the sound of a telephone ring and Tillerson’s voice:)


Good morning Mr. President.


Good morning Rex. You know that prize rightfully belongs to you.


Mr. President, It’s good it went to ole Hu. Heck, I’m just a lit’le old Texas boy who doesn’t need some kind of a prize.


Well, thank you Rex.


Mr. President, just doing my job but you’re welcome.