A Face In The Crowd

Identifying Faces from Google Picasa

As this has been a slow afternoon at work, I decided to try to identify my friends on the thousands of photographs I have stored on my second work computer. These are faces of people in Chinatown parades, Obon Carnival line dances at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple, military re-enactors, or just people in the background of many of my shots. They may be people who cut me off on the highway, served me lunch, speakers at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, or what have you.

After one has been looking for a while, one keeps wondering whether the face is the face of a friend or acquaintance. Then I bring up the original photograph, and it’s just a tiny face in the background greatly enlarged by the mighty Google face recognition software.

Even so, I am surprised at how many faces I recognize of people I haven’t encountered for years. Have they dropped off the edge of the earth? Or have our paths simply diverged, as they frequently do, for reasons relating to geography, changing interests, or whatever other reason. Some of them represent friendships I will take up again. Perhaps some of the people I see most now will be somehow re-prioritized in life’s endless reshuffling of the deck.

None of the faces above are familiar to me, but several look as if they possibly could represent people I met once (and filed away in my mind as “do not make any special effort to remember”).

There is a term in demographics called cohort. The term refers to a group of people one is affiliated with at a particular time. For example, I belong to the cohort of Hungarian-Americans born in 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio. I also belong to the cohort of people who attended graduate school in film at UCLA but never attained their degree objective. There is also the cohort of people who regularly attend the Chinese New Year Parade on Hill Street every February, people who go to the Obon Festival, people who attend military re-enactments, or people who just read obscene numbers of books because they love to.

All the people in the thumbnails above intersected, however briefly, with my life at one time or another when I was sporting one of my digital cameras. Every one of those faces represents a different world which intersected mine.

How many faces will we see in our lifetimes? How many millions? How many people are wondering about my image as they edit their Uncategorized Picasa photos? Who knows? The answer is blowing in the wind.

64 Years of Independence

This is my first blog written for WordPress, and I thought it would be fitting to use it to celebrate the sixty-fourth anniversary of India’s independence. It has been a long and turbulent ride for both India and Pakistan, which were both created at the same time in 1948. At the time there was mass violence as millions of Muslims and Hindus emigrated to avoid getting stuck behind the wrong boundary line. Read Ved Mehta’s books about that time for background, especially Daddyji (1972) and Mamaji (1979). He may be blind, but Mehta saw more than most sighted people.

I thought I would also mark at this time the rather complicated history of my blogging activities. I started in 2005 writing for Yahoo! 360, which is no more. The name I used was Solnabanya, which is Slovak for “Salt Mine,” after the salt mine where my father worked from the age of ten.

Then when Yahoo! 360 blinked out of existence in 2008, I moved to Blog.Com, where I wrote under the same name I’m using now, namely: Tarnmoor. There weren’t too many people at Blog.Com, so I felt as if I were an elf fart at the bottom of a deep well. When Blog.Com started getting a bit shaky, I moved to Multiply.Com, where perhaps you knew me as Ixtaccihuatl, after the Mexican volcano next door to Popocatepetl.

So here I am—as Tarnmoor once again. Here, from something I wrote for Blog.Com, is my explanation of the name Tarnmoor:

Many years ago, when I was a graduate student in Film History and Criticism at UCLA, I collaborated with several of my friends in writing a column for The UCLA Daily Bruin reviewing the various ethnic movie theaters in town. At the time, there were five theaters showing nothing but Japanese films and several showing Mexican and other Spanish language pictures. We adopted as our pseudonym the name Salvatore R. Tarnmoor.

As it happens, we were not the first to use this name. A somewhat better-known author, Herman Melville of Moby Dick fame, published a number of pieces under this name. We even used a line drawing of Melville from a Signet Classics paperback edition as our picture.

At some point in the Cenozoic Era, when I started using the Internet, the name Tarnmoor sprang to mind, and I started using it for various accounts.