Pleasanton - San Francisco



I have written two reports on trips based around meetings of the Aeroballistics Range Association, ARA, one in France and another in the Netherlands. this year the ARA meeting was held in Pleasanton California. To refresh your memory, the ARA is an "Old Farts club made up of guys who have tested bombs and bullets for so long that they forgot that these things can actually kill people. This was the 50th meeting of the ARA and there are a few guys here who were at the first one. These people have been meeting for so long that they have long since integrated and evolved the technical meeting of world experts into one of the most pleasant social events that one could imagine. Each year the meeting sponsor makes an attempt to outdo the last year's sponsor.

The sponsor this year was the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. That is why we went to Pleasanton, which is just South of San Francisco and next to Livermore. Since I had not been to San Francisco in a few years I went a day early to hang out in one of the most beautiful cities in America.

One can sometimes find really cheap flights with the right planning and with a little help on the World Wide Web. I used the web this time to get an $80 fair out of Orange County. We touched down at 8:20 and it took me longer to get to the car rental terminal than it had taken me to get to San Francisco in the first place. The San Francisco Airport has been under construction for about 50 years and it seems to get further from completion every time I see it. Some day when finished it will be a marvel.

San Francisco has so many wonderful attractions that it cannot be experienced in one or even ten visits. It would be hard not to enjoy a visit to San Francisco, regardless of what you do. My first stop was the holography studios of Ron and Bernadette Olsen. Ron is one of the premier holography portraitists in the U. S. and I was anxious to visit him in his new studio in downtown S.F. in the art district near the Moscone center. I was not disappointed. As an avid promoter of holography I am always looking for people who have been successful in producing a product based on holography and especially in art and display holography. I was greeted at the door by a real Ron and a virtual (the honorable) Willy Brown, mayor of San Francisco, that is, a hologram of Mr. Brown hanging at the entrance. Entering the studio, I was greeted by many other virtual people, who I must say were much more interesting than Mr. Brown, since most of them are Playboy Playmates wearing the same attire that made them famous, namely nothing.

These holograms are truly works of art. They are exactly life-size, truly three dimensional, and extremely well posed and you would almost like to reach in and touch the image which lies half behind and half in front of the glass. Ron has solved many of the problems that often make holograms less than ideal to look at. The hologram of Mr. Brown is very distinguished and probably made him very happy. Skin color is one of the problems still really difficult to solve, but nature gave a great gift to the black man in this regard. In a holographic image the skin of the Caucasian playmates comes out a yellow, brownish, goldish, that needs a little imagination to retain the sexiness of a nice pink skin color. It tends to have a sort of metallic look. Ron has managed to lessen the effect somewhat by careful choice of lighting and filtering.

On the contrary, the skin of black people comes out in a brown, golden, yellow that, so I was told, is extremely flattering to the blacks. Consequently, it seems that a lot more holograms of blacks may be produced in this era until the problem is solved for whites. The problem is also not serious for the macho types, such as football players, who would not mind the hard look.

Ron's collection contains many Playmates, black and white, football stars, and other celebrities. Why celebrities? The answer to this is apparently an economic one. The cost to produce a master from which the wall hangable hologram evolves is about a thousand dollars, so the selling price must be at least double that. Then of course, one may need to make a few before he gets exactly what he wants, so the economics is not tractable for the common consumer. Ron's strategy is to produce holograms for customers who either doesn't worry about cost or for the celebrity in which case he can sell many copies to collectors. So I could buy a beautiful hologram of Miss January for about $1500, but to get one of me would cost at least double that, not to mention the fact that Miss January is a lot better looking than I.

Holographic portraiture has a few other interesting problems, especially in a society like ours where dishonesty is not only accepted but desired in imagery. The image in the centerfold has been airbrushed and doctored to the extent that one may not even recognize the real playmate if she stood beside the centerfold. One cannot airbrush blemishes, freckles, and wrinkles out of a holographic image. What you see is what was there when the recording was made. Anything that needs to be covered must be done with makeup, so the makeup artist for holographic portraits can be extremely important. Manipulating a holographic image would be too expensive even for Willy Brown to handle. One would think that this "honesty" property of holography would have some valuable application.

I had another motive for visiting Ron's studio. In my own career I have not had the luxury to do much art holography since my profession is in scientific holography. About a year ago I had assembled for the U.S. Air Force a holography system to study large outdoor explosions and impact events and in it was the largest commercially available laser in the world. Just before shipping the system we assembled a makeshift portrait studio, invited a few artist friends and played with the system for one weekend. We made portrait masters of employees, their kids, and oh, yes, we hired a model for about four hours. (But this is another story with its own highlights.) I had brought with me a box of the art holography portrait masters that we had produced, hoping that Ron could perform his magic on them and create wall hangable transfer holograms. After looking them over, he agreed that he could do so, and we arrived at an agreement. Before leaving I also decided to add a few of his pieces to my own collection.

San Francisco may be the most perfect city in the United States to see on foot. Almost anywhere you walk is interesting and the cable cars, street cars, buses, and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) take you anywhere you would like to go. Around the Moscone center is as good place as any to start. The Museum of Modern Art is a building of astonishing architecture and it is surrounded by fountains, sculptures, and interesting sights to see. I took a quick visit to a special event, called "The Artist and his Camera" , which showed how 19th century artists used photography to aid there art. Some artists like Degas were known to espouse and take advantage of photography. Others, like Gaugin, scoffed at photography and refused to accept it as an art form. This exhibit showed, in fact, that many of these skeptics had secretly used photography to assist them with some of their most famous works. Beside the original masterpieces were photographs discovered in the artist's belongings that told the story.

One striking example was the art of Gaugin, who produced many paintings of Tahitian women. Apparently, these were not "real" women after all, since most had been taken from postcards that showed the women dressed like the tourists would expect them to be, not like the real natives dressed. Artists found it necessary to lie even before photographers became experts at helping people lie about how they looked. This is not too surprising, since any artist who created and ugly picture of a king or queen would likely have been beheaded. In the history of art one of the most fascinating evolutions is that from the early concepts of: painting people that bear little true resemblance to how they look, to painting them how they should look, to how they actually do look, to how they would like to look, and ultimately to total abstraction that bears no resemblance at all to how they look.

I have adopted a specific MO in most art galleries. I go to see one exhibit, spend whatever time is needed to absorb that exhibit, then take a fifteen minute walk through the rest of the gallery. I found it unpleasant to make shifts between two art styles in the same visit. I can enjoy impressionism, abstract expressionism, even minimalism, but not in the same visit. It would be like drinking a fine wine followed by a Scotch and topped off with a Frozen Daiquiri.

Across the street is an interesting monument to Martin Luther King, Junior. It is worth a visit and a good place to sit beside water falls and meditate. We have a lot of beautiful monuments in the country because of Dr. King and I have enjoyed many of them. I just wish people would stop naming streets after him or at least abbreviate his name. Every city now has a "Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard" (or street or avenue). To get that name in takes a huge sign that blocks the view or else is unreadable. By the time you read it you have rear ended the guy in front of you. Couldn't we just agree to call him MartyKJ or something like that?

Better yet, why don't we outlaw naming streets after people, especially after politicians. In Europe the situation has gone critical, where every two blocks a street changes its name from something like Boulevard de General Bzlfixinickpnxikemekstof to Chausse de Henfredzxmikessove Blandvzdescilotliv.

The United States certainly is not immune to political graffiti, which I consider to be sometimes a worse offense than the wild, unauthorized type. As you leave the 405 Freeway to take the 105 Freeway on the way to the Los Angeles airport, you will see a sign that says "Harold Delano Swartskoof overpass". How many people will know or even care who Harold Delano Swartskoof is and of what possible use is such information to any of the millions of drivers who pass by this point each year. Why is it not obvious that naming streets and overpasses, etc after politicians is more dangerous than the usual graffiti that gangs put up. The latter never pretends to be useful information and is easily distinguished from necessary street signs that must be read by drivers while moving 2000 pounds of metal at 70 plus miles an hour.

From the Martin Luther King Junior monument, the view of the San Francisco architecture is magnificent and one should sit here for at least an hour in amazement. One block away the Powell Street cable car meets Broadway. For less than a dollar one can have a thirty minute ride to Fisherman’s Wharf that by itself is worth a trip to San Francisco. On the way I jumped off several times to take side trips to interesting places. First, the Episcopal Church on Knob Hill. The church, which is across the street from the Fremont Hotel features two Labyrinths, one inside and one outside, where one can walk and meditate. One of the most famous Labyrinths is in Chartz Cathedral in France. The idea is to walk slowly to the center of the Labyrinth with a question one needs answered. When you arrive at the center, you find five circular scalloped rings to move around. The first is the self, the second is .............. and the fifth is God. The answer to the question comes in the movement about these circles. One then proceeds to exist the Labyrinth in the reverse direction, expressing thanks for the answer.

Another good stop is China Town, which is about two blocks off the cable line. San Francisco is so rich with things to experience one should go there many times and do just a few each time. Seeing all of San Francisco is one trip would be like seeing all of the art in a gallery in one trip. So I did Golden Gate park, the Japanese Tea Garden, and then headed for Pleasanton. This turned out to be a lucky choice because in my wake, a rainstorm hit San Francisco and caused complete chaos in the flooded streets.

I had some dread that our USA host would have trouble competing with last year's host in The Hague, The Netherlands. How could anyone top trips along the dikes and canals of Amsterdam and visits to museums like the Rijksmuseum, home of some of Rembrandts most famous works, not to mention Vermeer, van Gough, and others? I could not have been wronger. Dennis Baum, our host from the Lawrence Livermore laboratories, turned out to be a connauseiur of food wine and entertainment and he had at his disposal an unbelievable wealth of resources.

The week included a night in the Blackhawk Antique Car Museum, a boat trip on the San Francisco Bay, a banquet at a winery, and a luncheon at a winery where we all met Edward Teller who is still the Chief Scientist Emeritus at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. And of course the week also included all day sessions on how to blow the bad guy's stuff up. Actually, I don't blow up stuff; I develop the methods that tell the ones who do blow up stuff how well they blew it up. On the other hand, I also tell the ones who don't won't their stuff blown up, what to do to keep their stuff from getting blown up, or at least how successful they were in achieving the latter.

While Ron Olsen is back in San Francisco making holograms of gorgeous playmates, capturing beautiful body parts in full three dimensions, I have been making holograms of the three dimensional distribution of bits and pieces of metal flying outward from an energy center with a rather ungeorgeous intended purpose on the receiving end. I often find myself wishing the world wanted more of Ron's service and less of mine. I think I could get use to bathing playmates with photons.

When they told us that we would be visiting the Blackhawk Antique car museum, I actually considered taking the night off. I am glad I didn't. At an ARA meeting in France we had visited a car museum in the city of (Moores?)...... That museum had the worlds largest collection of Dusenburgs............. , an awesome sight to behold. Dennis had nerve to hit this group with yet another car museum. I would have never guessed he could top the M.... museum. From the second we entered the Blackhawk museum, I was struck with the elegance of the place from the classical Greek architecture to the marvelous collection of paintings of automobiles. A few classic cars were strategically placed in the lobby and on a second level.

Entering the main floor provided an awesome experience. Before us lay at least a hundred automobiles that began with the early 1900 steamers to the fifties, all in absolute new showroom condition. I had never realized what works of art some of these cars were. Some of them were absolutely huge and some were decorated with the finest woods, hand carved, trimmed with gold, and chrome like I had never seen. Moreover, some of the cars had been owned by legends, kings, and moviestars. One can stand before almost any of the collection and simply stare at it in awe for an hour. I have never been so moved by a car.