Word and Image

San Francisco

Shock jock

They were called radio DJ’s shock jocks. We had Howard Stern. Whatever was gross and inappropriate was fair game. It was a very rapidly tiresome schtick. I guess SF had their own version. There’s a fine line between taste and tasteless. If you are Republican stop reading here. Otherwise, I don’t get in many pictures. Don, the guy by the car, took the pic. He’s not very good (photographer). But who cares? There, that’s me in a rare true to life photo in front of a monument to man’s constructive ability. “Look, ma. Wish you were here.”

2722 01 Victor San Francisco bay bridge


IMG_4337I love it when something endures. This building has stood the test of time since I first remember coming to San Francisco. It’s an art installation in an abandoned building. Someday the building will go or it will be renovated. Meanwhile if one looks around you see the greatest things. Who thinks of this stuff?



IMG_4342His remarks reflect much of the conservative nature of the AANS membership. Robert Gates’ long and distinguished career spans eight presidents. He was recently US Defense Secretary. It was an interesting talk from a man no longer in government who could speak his mind without fear of losing his job. So he spoke rather candidly about his own opinions and could highlight his own ideas so often subverted by political appointment. In fact he’d have been fired over many of his remarks which were so different from the administrations under which he served.

As for Hunt and Wilson, I know and have met William Hunt and Charlie Wilson. I trained with Bill’s son David. At the time I trained Wilson’s program in San Francisco and Ransahoff’s at NYU competed as the premier training programs in the US. And when we presented our data indicating early CNS manifestation of HIV was toxoplasmosis, the west coast experience was for lymphoma and PML. Our early work remains widely cited.

I recall just before the 2nd term election of ‘W’ Bush I sat in the audience at the CNS waiting for Mikhail Gorbachev to speak. The room was packed. A member from the national leadership stood before the microphone and I thought he would introduce Gorbachev. Instead he said short and sweet, “Bush supports malpractice reform. Kerry and Edwards do not.” He sat down and the room remained dead silent and I was amazed that the CNS had endorsed Bush. That November I did in fact vote for Bush. He would win anyway, with or without my vote. I voted on that narrow bit of platform knowing that it would never be passed in Congress. What?! My only problem is if I am discovered by Lisa.

A Bunch Of Old Guys

IMG_4315I’ve reached the point where I am now a senior neurosurgeon …like it or not. No “Peter Pan” for us. This grab shot at the recent AANS meeting is four of us who were fellow residents together at NYU. One is semi-retired. I get to dive about every weekend and feel semi-retired. We’re all a few pounds heavier and got some grey hair. Kids are grown; curiously none became neurosurgeons. Overall the years have not been too bad. One of our residency fellows (not pictured here) passed away a couple years ago of a malignancy. The meeting also featured a jab at our NYU Chairman, who took a dim view of spine surgery in his time (1994).IMG_4316 Of course history has proven that spine surgery is a vital component to the income of neurosurgeons nowadays. Go ahead and laugh but they really did think we didn’t know how to screw in a screw?IMG_4318 And then there is always a bit of history. Graham Teasdale was an invited speaker. His claim to fame is the Glascow Coma Score published forty years ago. Anyone in trauma, emergency medicine, neurology, or in neurosurgery will be familiar with this score because it is used to describe level of consciousness that could be translated from hospital to hospital. It’s quite a thrill to be listening to a man who has changed/affected our very thinking for so many years.IMG_4321 I have indeed been fortunate to have seen and heard so many men who I would consider to be heroes in neurosurgery. What I have learned is that things change, things stay the same, and that one needs to keep an open mind to know which is which.

Opening Ceremony

IMG_4224I admit that I have been living under a rock. The recent AANS meeting took place in San Francisco and on April 6 the opening ceremony featured Bob Geldof speaking. I don’t know him though he has a claim to fame. He rambled on in a rather inspiring way for about thirty minutes about how his life’s turns brought him to this point in time. He is planning to go into space next. As I looked him up on the internet today, the news was about his daughter’s funeral. She, too, was famous. He gave the eulogy. The news was reported that her body was found at home the very morning after the evening he spoke at our meeting. Sobering and sad news. My condolences. peaches

A Good Idea

_DSC6989Public restrooms are a problem in big cities. The answer is not always obvious. Many restaurants post signs: “Restrooms for patrons only.” Starbucks employees have complained about cleaning the restrooms. In San Francisco there was a public restroom. I happened to hang around long enough to find out that this turned out to be a good idea gone bad. It didn’t seem amiss when I noticed a woman pounding on the door. In an instance I noted she was probably homeless. The door swung open and inside I could see several people one of whom had a shopping cart. I realized that this room was probably in use as a homeless shelter. I idly wondered what a single woman … lest you wonder why I was idling, it turned out there was a fountain and I was resting my weary feet._DSC6973 Across the street was a street graphic which provided a convenient backdrop for my camera._DSC6990

_DSC6997 I watched as people came up and pressed the buttons to use the restroom. The door never opened. City workers were around and about but never entered nor attempted to clean the facility. A crazy homeless man appeared and persistently banged on the door. Finally the door swung open again to admit him. The single woman emerged and the homeless crazy entered. I confirmed that there were at least three other occupants in the shadows inside. Life goes on. My advice: McD or Burger King is an easy one. Any large hotel will never be able to distinguish if you are a guest or an itinerant passerby. Either way there is some assurance that you will be successful and not harassed._DSC6992

San Francisco Cable Car

2100 02 San Fran cable car copy

Motion blur and tilted shot, this was an iconic image for me. I shot, tilting the camera to make the cable car horizontal. But the perspective says that we’re on the uphill side. And the motion blur makes you feel like you’re moving right along. I’ve done this shot since. But this was the first. And tilting the camera is a technique that I use frequently now. After all the years I spent telling Lisa to keep her horizon straight, I feel guilty breaking the rule so much these days. But since the advent of cell phone photography, it’s pretty common to see tilted horizons. The trick is in making it work for the image. Lately I especially like the technique for food photography.


In case you missed yesterday, the billboard is politically incorrect and certainly has me wondering what its impact would be if it were advertising today. But that was then and this is now. Recently the NYC police allowed topless body painting in Times Square and bottomless after dark. It’s a freedom of speech right. I won’t comment on the politics. It’s a great country. To paraphrase one Supreme Court Justice’s comment on the topic of pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

San Fran Diner

That’s Don my able-bodied assistant and guy who always has my back. We’re in San Fran on the same trip to the AANS meeting. That’s the rental car. This is the diner we parked in front of. The menu is Californian confused and appeals to about every food preference and ethnic group. Oh, the billboard, I suppose, deserves some comment…


I shot this slide in a gallery window in San Francisco, 2000. I keep a database and could look it up. Somehow I remember Chicago or Seattle. That’s why I keep a database (more accurate than memory). Luckily I started this record many years ago on index cards and later transferred to computer. Now it takes only a few moments to look up information. As to the image and the art, my only interest is because of my profession. As to why only the artist can say why he chose this subject and its meaning. My curiosity is also in wondering why all the teeth appear to be well.

Internet: Today of all days, suddenly a lot of random hits from all over started coming to my blog. I don’t know why. A casual search on the ‘net and I have this picture front and center. You can get/swipe the shot so easily. I’m amazed at how fast the ‘net can work. It appears the visits are wordpress traffic. I’m not ‘freshly pressed.’ So, it’s a mystery to me. Thank you all for reading/looking.

San Francisco Cable Car


When I was in San Francisco many years ago, I shot this image of the iconic cable car. The Powell Mason line runs from Market over Nob Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. The hill is steep! I have taken many photos of the cable cars all along the route. I shot this on slide film. There is no record of the camera settings. This image shows two techniques. The first is panning. The car is moving and I am moving the camera and keeping the car in focus. The effect will blur the background. The shutter speed has to be just slow enough in order to get the blur. The second technique is tilting the horizon. It adds a dynamic feel of motion. This goes against the rule that you should always keep the horizon straight. Tilting is a street photography technique that gives an edge to the image. Depending on your choice tilting right or left will give the image a different feel. Often one of them doesn’t work as an effect. You can take a straight shot a bit wide angled and then crop/tilt in post processing. Or, with digital simply experiment and shoot three images – straight, right tilt and left tilt. In addition, I have kept the area of interest in the lower third following the rule of thirds. With slide film everything has to be perfect in the frame – exposure, shutter, f-stop, blur, framing and rule of thirds. That’s a lot to juggle.