Posted on June 16, 2013
So, I don’t usually double or triple up on Weekly Photo Challenges, but this week’s topic is too fun (and someone guessed what the “thing”was in the first post). So, here it is, Curves 2.0, in color …
Other notable entries on the topic:
Posted on June 14, 2013
Posted on June 12, 2013
“Iron Photographer” is one of the several ongoing series (this particular one being 175) produced by the good members of Utata, a collection of “Tribal Photography.” this particular series consists of three elements:
1 – a summer drink (Iced Tea)
2 – a summer read (It’ll take all Summer to read through this puppy. Don’t ask me how long it’ll take before I get it)
3 – photographed in a summer place (Tennis court, also a complement to part of the storyline)
I included an additional element in the form of a spilled bottle of Levothyroxine for my underperforming thyroid. It’s a bit odd given the theme, but not so if you’ve read the book which has all sorts of medical and pharmaceutical references.
Posted on June 12, 2013
I woke up Thursday morning with a thick mucus burning in the back of my throat. The slow motion distortion of everything in sight confirmed what the burning first hinted at. Sick again.
Get up. Get dressed. Walk the dogs. Swallow. Pins and needles. Wake the kids and get them ready for school. Do this all in slow motion, on autopilot, making sure the essential points are covered, overlooking the trivialities. Swallow. Pins and needles. Careful driving the car, you’re not 100%. Go back. Clean the house. Get it ready for the return of the out-of-town-on-business wife. Swallow. Pins and needles. Get back in the car. Get out on the highway towards the airport. Maintain a good cruising speed. Don’t get in anyone’s way and don’t try anything too ballsy. Float along the flow of traffic with monotone-treble-morning news and the drone of 60 mile-an-hour tires. Swallow. Pins and needles. Park the car. Shamble to the terminal (a surprisingly apt word for how you feel). Wait. Get up. Give her a welcome-home hug. Ask how the flight was. Answer the how-are-you question with a low, blunt I-feel-like-shit statement. Swallow. Pins and needles. Explain why as briefly as you can. Back to the car. Head home trying to pay attention to any conversation as best as you can, but not so much as to distract. Get home (safely, thankfully). Give in to the ever-increasing gravity at the instant the wife suggests to take-it-easy. Swallow. Pins and needles. Crawl into bed and sleep.
Wake up in the early evening, pins and needles and a strange increase in my ability to see the upper portion my cheeks without trying. Go to the mirror. Have a look. The word “pummeled” echoes from some corner in my frontal lobe followed by “red, swollen, puffy, cracked, hot,” and finally “newly carved wrinkle canyons.” Touch it. It throbs with pressure. The kids and wife are home. They look worried, but not overly concerned. Zombie walk the dogs around the block. Come home. Sit down. Try to eat. Fail. Take over-the-counter pain pills. Pins and needles. Go back to bed and suffer. Fall asleep. Wake up late at night. Last walk with the dogs. More over-the-counter pain pills. More sleep. Can’t sleep. Pills not working. Memory of leftover 500mg Hydrocodone tablets from wife’s deviated septum surgery last year. Desperate times, desperate measures. Take, wait, mild buoyant relief, and finally sleep again.
Wake up. Pins and needles and an increased cheek-eclipsing view. “Gotta see a doctor” wafts its way off my lips before any other conscious action. Squeeze hands into a loose fist and notice a dry cracking sting. Tiny little hives where it was once nice and smooth. Affirmation of a doctor’s visit. Grudgingly go through the morning motions. doctor’s office opens at 9. Don’t have an appointment. Risk of paying more for emergency room deductible vs. copay is higher than not being seem immediately. Sit and wait. Pins and needles. The clock is taking forever. Finally get to the doctor’s office. “You’re in luck. He was completely booked for today, but he’s just had a cancelation. If you wait 15 minutes, he can see you.” Thank you. I’ll wait.
Posted on June 11, 2013
Posted on June 1, 2013
A couple of days ago (May 29) I posted an excerpt from a portrait project I did with over half of the staff of the Berkeley Unified School District’s Garden and Cooking Program. The whole project was posted on the local news blog Berkeleyside.com. The greater idea was to raise awareness about the funding crisis the Garden & Cooking Program has been facing recently as well as to promote a local fundraising event for the Program. The Dine Out event, which took place all day May 30, was a group of local restaurants, cafes, and other food related joints that, in one form or another, agreed to donate a percentage of their proceeds to help fund the aforementioned Program. The basic premise: spend your money at these places and part of what you pay for will go to help fund the Program. Pretty simple stuff.
Although I’d already made a contribution in the form of organizing and executing the portrait project, wasn’t that just a glorified form of talking the talk? On the morning of May 30, I decided it was time to put on my old walking shoes. The following are only five of the forty one businesses that participated. I chose them not because of any particular form of favoritism, but because that’s what worked best on a practical level.
Why should anyone outside of the city of Berkeley care about this kind of thing? Solutions start on a local level, and there’s no better demonstration of that notion than to cover one’s hands up to the wrist in local dirt and let everyone else know about it.
The Acme Bread Company. Born in 1983, it’s done nothing more than bake really good bread the whole time. Walking through the front door of the original retail shop can be both awe inspiring and claustrophobic. Loaves, rolls, baguettes, decorative breads, sweet meats, and sourdoughs stare you down the moment you walk through the door. The temptation to get a little closer is stymied swiftly once you realize that all customers are cloistered off in a roughly 4 foot by 8 foot corner of the shop right at the front entrance. They don’t like letting anyone beyond this point as the variety of bread hanging on the shelves are less than 10 feet away from where the hands that made them make them. Why’d I choose ACME? Well, sandwiches need rolls (and yummy ones at that) and my kids needed sandwiches for their next day’s lunch. As many of you may already know, sandwiches aren’t just rolls. You’ve gotta put something between them. Myself being raised on the three major Eastern European food groups (pork, pig, and swine), I decided it was time to find something to fill the grainy void.
The Local Butcher Shop is not just a local butcher shop. After all $15/Lb for smoked ham isn’t exactly bargin basement. That said, the price doesn’t seem that outrageous if you bother to ask why it costs as much as it does. This is the good stuff (not all ham is alike and anyone who says so is … well … and idiot), not just in its preparation or savory flavor, but I’d go so far as to say it’s a meat-eater’s antidote to the poisonous guilt of lining the pockets of large factory farming. Still, its not just the ham. They’ve got the usuals and some of the not-so-usuals too (I’ve yet to find rabbit in the cold case of any major supermarket chain’s meat section), they’ve got KILLER sandwiches, and if you want to pick the brains (not literally of course) of the butchers who work there about any meat related topic, they’re eager to please. So I got myself a 1/4 Lb of the smoked ham satisfied in the idea that the extra money I’d spent was worth it.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always held fast to the practice of culinary matchmaking when it comes to sandwichry. It was time to find the perfect partner for the ham, and what goes better with ham (IMO)?
The Cheeseboard Collective has been around for awhile, and for good reason. It’s every fromageophiles’ dream, not to mention a real grinner for the clandestine unethical cardiologists of the world (the lactose intolerant can take solace in the fact that it’s also a bakery). Seriously, look up at that menu. After sampling a couple, could you really go back to Kraft slices with the same sense of satisfaction? By this time in the day all this bread, ham, and cheese was making me hungry, but like I said, these were all items meant for the kids’ lunch, not mine. Plus, I could not forget Dine Out. I looked at the list and made a friendly choice.
Babette might not seem so friendly at first glance. It’s tucked away in the rear section of the Berkeley Art Museum, a building that is almost entirely made of solid concrete with very industrial looking hard angles and bolts. If you dismiss the restaurant by first impression appearances alone, you’d be … well … and idiot. Although the sleek interior design screams “hipster,” and one glance at the sparse menu might be cause for pause, all doubts are shattered once you talk to the folks behind the counter and, tasting anything on the menu, you’ll find yourself wondering if or why you had any doubts at all. I came here, not just because it was on the list or for any fondness I might have for concrete, but because I happen to know the couple that owns the place. They’ve been cooking professionally in the Bay Area in one form or another for the last 20 years, and they’re damn good at it. They’re also the antithesis of the stereotypical haute cuisine restauranteurs that grace the pages of popular style publications. They’re working the food business the hard way, and like the other occasions I’ve been there, there they were, hands on everything everyday. Although I never asked, I’m relatively certain that recognition wasn’t the only purpose for their participation. They’ve got a boy in the public school system, and like Babette, they’re putting all their blood, sweat, and tears into making sure that he can be as best prepared as one can be to face the world when the time comes. Besides all that, they had a scrumptious chicken sandwich with a roasted red pepper aioli, and to wash it all down, a fresh made ginger lemonade.
My Dine Out day had to be put on pause after that as there is more to do in a day than just sandwich-themed donation for a good cause. That said, the grand finale was there and waiting after the 5:00 hour.
I chose the Elmwood Cafe for dinner for several reasons. First, it’s not that far from where I live. Second, they’ve got really good food. Lastly, and not the least, the Elmwood chose to donate 100% of its proceeds between 5 – 10pm on that day. A cheshire grin folded out across my face at seeing the serpentine line winding its way into the entrance. Ok, that’s overdoing it a bit. It’s not exactly spring break waiting 20 minutes in line with two ravenously hungry kids just to order the food. The tale end of waiting another half and hour for the food to come felt like something out of a Solzhenitsyn novel as all three of us had wonderful drinks in front of us that we were carefully NOT drinking for fear of having to go back in line just to ask for a refill. Still, I was happy to see the many familier faces of parents and kids from the school both my kids attend. The kids ran around and played and there was plenty of good conversation to be had. When the food finally arrived, all three of us morphed into shrews and we gorged ourselves on, what else? Sandwiches! I had a chicken curry sandwich, the kid each had grilled cheese and tomato. Salad was eaten by all.
In the end was it all worth it? It was in terms of the yummy factor. Financially speaking? I hope so. The Dine Out fundraisers will be posting the total funds raised someday soon (so promises their website). Judging from the amount of people I saw at the places I attended, I feel pretty certain that they’ll meet their goal of $15,000. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll exceed it, but it’s never a wise idea to speculate using personal experience alone. If it does exceed the amount, it’ll be a successful not just in raising more money than expected, but also in proving the power of people to look after their own community. Dinner has been served.
Posted on May 31, 2013
The words can’t even compare to the imagery of the soon-to-be-squished and the horrified onlookers
Ironically I found this scene on the side of a building in Dublin, Ireland.
Oh the irony of smiles and razor wire.
As if a “New Design” would really make any difference.
Other entries for this week’s challenge can be found at the Daily Post.
Other noteworthy posts on the theme:
Posted on May 29, 2013
Most folks outside the boundaries of the City of Berkeley, Ca probably have no clue that over the last two years leading up to today, the Berkeley Unified School District’s Gardening & Cooking Program have been teetering on the edge of austerity’s executioners axe. Most people may not have even know (or cared) that there was such a program in the public school system here. It might ring a few bells if I mention the name of Alice Waters and the efforts she made roughly fifteen years ago to kickstart the above mentioned program.
The Program has been around for awhile and isn’t just some glorified version of that old Home Economics class you might have taken way back when. Among some of the Programs accomplishments is the incorporation of biology, chemistry, mathematics, and culture.
Until just recently the program was set to loose all funding (mainly Federal and State). Thankfully the City stepped into to fill the budgetary void, but in doing so halved the amount of funds the Program received from Federal and State coffers. While the political details of figuring out the funds was going on, I gathered together as much of the staff that was willing to participate for a portrait project. The idea was to try and put faces to the numbers that were being discussed, not as a plea for pity, but more so to highlight the very real implications of that old maxim “You don’t what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Who you see above are just a few of the people. Here’s the link to the full project on berkeleyside.com.
Posted on May 27, 2013
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
- Moina Michael
Memorial Day has been, in one form or another, celebrated in the United States for close to 150 years. Know originally as Decoration Day, May 30 was primarily a day to remember those who had fallen in the American Civil War. Still, the remembrance wasn’t always recognized by everyone. There were states that refused to recognize the day and instead chose other days to specifically pay heed to confederate soldiers’ memories. It was decided after World War I that Memorial Day should be a day to remember not just those who had fallen in the Civil War, but all U.S. soldiers who had fallen in any war.
Inspired by John McCrae’s battlefield poem “In Flanders Field” humanist Moina Michael wrote the above verse of a slightly larger poem as a response and proceeded to embark upon a campaign to use the red poppy as a symbol to represent the war fallen. For many decades during the 20th century, Memorial day was held with poppies and parades, raising and lowing of flags, and visits to places like Arlington Cemetery. Government, moving at its usual snail like pace, didn’t officially adopt Memorial Day as a national holiday until 1971. Parades were still held, as were the raising and lowering of flags, but the day had begun to take on a different tone.
These days Memorial Day still sees flags flying, but there are few, outside of those who have led a military life, who remember the flag ceremony, and fewer still who don red poppies. These days for many Americas not actively involved in the military it’s about the Indy 500, barbecue, and what to do with the kids for that extra weekend day. There seems more and more to be a disconnect between the general public and the initial reason for Memorial Day.
I ran across this house in the heart of Oakland, Ca just down the street from the entrance to one of the largest ports on the western seaboard. Although I can’t say for sure, I’d be willing to bet that the house has been standing there for the better part of 60 years or more. If it had a memory, I’m sure it would tell stories of Memorial Days past and the better days of the house’s youth. It still stands, but the window blinds are shut. The original front door is masked with an metal grate screen, and with crooked angles and worn façade the house seems wary of the days to come.
Today isn’t a day for boisterous flag waving and boastful chest thumping. It’s not a day to show off who can be the most patriotic, nor is it a day to take false pride in the accomplishments of race car drivers or who’s got the best recipe for babyback ribs. It’s about the people who died (senselessly or not) fighting wars they did not start but swore to finish. It’s about forgetting the politics and pomp for a day and coming to the humble realization that at some point in the last century real people lost their lives so that we might continue to lead ours.
Posted on May 24, 2013
We’re so busy with what’s right in front of us that we’ve got no idea what’s going on in the background. Head buried in the latest, greatest (maybe not so latest, not so greatest), digitological, postmodern, anti-structural structure of the personalized uniqueness that is each and every one of us. “What’s going on out there and how can I adapt it to fit me?” Self absorbed? It’s not as easy as that.
Ever look around the room for something only to discover it’s right there infront of you? But for some reason, you had to look everywhere (including the refrigerator) for it. Who said we’ve lost perspective on what’s going on in the background?
I once was walking down the street so involved in a conversation, trying desperately to parse the larger idea of what I was saying, that I nearly gave myself a concussion when I smashed into a street sign pole. The background distractions. Which was it, the conversation or the pole? The distinction is blurry at best in the present and only comes into focus in that old school “20/20 hindsight” thing that those of us with the upper hand like to patronizingly level at anyone else we see having trouble with their personal didactic fog. That is until the blur descends on the upper-handers, whereby finding one’s self in that position leads to the kind of shame that we never tend to live down, but for some reason forget so easily when we see it happening again to other people.
Uh oh, I’ve gone and done it again. It looks like I’ve just spewed out another load of background noise!
Other Noteworthy Posts on the Theme:
Posted on May 23, 2013
“Iron Photographer” is one of the several ongoing series (this particular one being 174) produced by the good members of Utata, a collection of “Tribal Photography.” this particular series consists of three elements:
1 – something with text
2 – something that complements something in the text
3 – saturated color
Who doesn’t love the color orange?
Posted on May 20, 2013
Posted on May 17, 2013
2578a was his designation. He couldn’t remember his name, but he knew it began with an “S.” He knew deep down inside the first time he told himself, “I can escape” that he couldn’t. The lie was a newfound opium he took every night to soothe the pain that came in those two minutes before he’d fall asleep when truth forced itself upon him. The wrought iron ivy that tangled his cage door tried to do the same, but served only as a reminder of what could now only be vague memories of fuzzy times, places, and people. Warm, soft skin, a cool breeze, elation in finding and doing new things turned into cold, hard razor and barbs, stifling stagnation, and the persistent apathy of no choice but reiteration. The key to the door was gone.
Reenforced concrete walls built of years of false promises and blind hopes grew into Escher-like delusional mazes that always led back to the same room. In the day, he’d wander the galleries he’d built looking for new cracks in the façade or something else he might have missed, always with the same results. Mornings lost their bright-eyed breakfast smiles and nights their cocktail embraces. They were just something else that needed doing.
The clock in his head was broken. He felt the same age as far back as his memory could go. He remembered cries for help, but never was the help he wanted given, only the words “I’ll give you the help you need, not the help you want.” Now, no one answered. No one said anything because no one was there and he’d given up crying what seemed like years ago.
He’d drag himself up onto his blundering feet and shamble the halls. At the end of every day he’d go to his room, the first room he’d built. It was made with simple brick and mortar. He’d stare at the twisting arms of ivy crawling their way through the gaps in the bricks and babble through the mantra that put him there in the first place, “I can escape.”
Other noteworthy posts on the theme:
Posted on May 16, 2013
Posted on May 16, 2013
“Iron Photographer” is one of the several ongoing series (this particular one being 173) produced by the good members of Utata, a collection of “Tribal Photography.” this particular series consists of three elements:
1 – something with a handle (the knife)
2 – something with texture (my face)
3 – near and far (thankfully it was out of reach)
Dreaming Blue Murder
Posted on May 12, 2013
Floral in Gray,
Keep it Simple.
In the US, flowers are a typical Mother’s Day gift. These roses were not purchased at a florist, but culled by the mother’s own hand from a rose bush that was given as a gift many years ago. Mothers grow things. It’s an instinct that switches on when they give birth, to care for, to nurture. This is also a gift. A mother’s work should not just be acknowledged for what she has done, but also for the fact that she has the gift to do the work.
Posted on May 10, 2013
Patterns. We love them. It’s what we’re good at, looking for them, recognizing them, breaking them down, building them up. It’s what’s allowed us to come so far in such a short time relative to the other inhabitants of the oblate spheroid well all share, but it’s not as easy as our simple love of patterns. How boring would it be if all we did was notice and strive for only perfect repetition? Don’t get me wrong, these kinds of patterns have their place, but what peaks our curiosity isn’t only redundancy (that would put us to sleep). It’s when a pattern gets interrupted that we tend to sit up and take notice. “Why did that happen? Why is that there? Does this thing that doesn’t belog mean an end to the pattern, or is it just part of a larger pattern I can’t quite figure out yet?”
E-7 | F#-7 | E-7 | F#-7 |
Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 | Cmaj7 |
A-7 | D7 | Gmaj7 | Cmaj7 |
Gmaj7 | Cmaj7 |F#-7 b5 | B7b5 : |
Bang that out on a piano, a guitar, a banjo, pipe organ, or a gamelan and, if you follow the pattern, you’ll hear something pleasant. Still, after awhile you’ll get tired of listening to it. Throwing in some in-key melody will keep your interest, but what if you do something altogether unexpected? What if the rhythm section played the progression in a different style every time around? What if you play the melody in a different rhythm or in a different key? What if everyone playing played the all the wrong notes at first and as the piece progressed they’d slowly blend in the right ones until, at the end, everything would come together the way is should?
It doesn’t always work out, but when you try to smash a square peg into a round hole and it works, you’ve got something memorable, if not a work of genius.
Other Noteworthy “Pattern” Entries:
Posted on May 3, 2013
From below, the sky’s the limit. From above everything’s downhill. I suppose I could have scaled some structure to get the full effect of finding that majestic bird’s eye view. Someone once said, “I’m not afraid of heights, just scared to death of falling from heights.” That about sums up my feeling in terms of scaling structures. Although the view of the world might seem very restricted from a human’s eye view in their natural habitat looking down, I found more than I had expected and not once had to face my falling fear. Appearing at my feet were:
The ground looking like it might crack open and swallow me whole.
A guy whose name I think is Tom
A piece of a very large puzzle
Like I’m slowly being buried alive
Strange things from faraway places
An ‘X’ marking its spot
A different direction
And, last but not least, a friend
Posted on May 1, 2013
Posted on April 30, 2013
Posted on April 29, 2013
Imagine you’re with your extended family and you’re on your way to the beach for a picnic. You get there. Everyone starts doing their usual beach stuff, playing by the shore, chasing each other around, etc.. After a while it’s time to eat. Everyone gathers together and starts to chow down. After the main course there’s a simple dessert of plums. You’re not a huge fan of plums. You are however a huge fan of causing a stink. Being the rebellious teenaged child of a mother who’s an obsessive compulsive when it comes to cleanliness you decide to have a nasty bit of fun. You lob one of your plums into the water. It gets a reaction, but not the one you’ve hoped for and you decide to up the ante of teen angst disgust. You run over to where the plum you’ve thrown has washed up onshore and, making sure everyone’s watching you, you snatch it up and take a huge bite. The rest of the group looks at you for a moment, shake their heads with a bored disdain, and go back to enjoying themselves.
You’re about to let loose your frustration at the lack of attention when all of a sudden, “Hey? Wait a minute?! That’s yummy! Why is this plum all of a sudden yummy?” Your attention is solely focused on scarfing down the plum. After you’ve eaten it you go and get another. You take a bite, but it doesn’t taste as good as the last one did. You stop, you think, and then you throw the new plum in the water like you did before. You go and pick it up and take another bite. There it is again! It’s yummy again! As you plow through the second plum you say to yourself, “from now on I’m eating all my plums this way!” Every time you go to the beach you make sure to bring some plums and you make sure you throw them in the water. Eventually, one of the more curious family members decides to follow suit. They like it too. After a while more and more family members start tossing their plums in the water like you. You’ve just started a trend, not one that initially makes any sense, but one that only makes sense once you’ve tried it. You’ve just inadvertently figured out what culture is, but you can’t call it culture because you’re a Japanese macaque and Japanese macaques don’t use words like culture. The anthropologists studying the macaques do though.
Anthropologists generally define culture as learned behavior that is transfered from person to person. I’d add to it as behavior that doesn’t find its source from instinct, but from watching what others are doing. I’d go a bit further and say that culture is behavior that isn’t essential to survival until, after enough people start doing it, it is. Taking a seed from a plant, digging a hole in the ground, dropping the seed in, covering it up, and pouring water over it doesn’t exactly come off as instinctual. Humans survived for thousands of years without doing this, but the moment that such behavior caught on, there was no going back.
Still culture is a funny thing. Once cultural behavior reaches a certain tipping point it becomes either tradition or falls by the wayside as a curious historical footnote. Think of one of the twentieth century’s most widespread cultural activities, smoking. By the middle of that century huge swaths of many adult populations around the world were either regularly doing it or they wanted to. In the U.S. there were even television commercials touting the “health benefits” of particular brands of cigarette. Smoking originally started out as both religious ritual and as a cure-all medicine by natives in the Americas. People saw it as a necessity. Overtime the trend spread around the world and instead of smoking to ease physical pain it was smoking to soothe social anxiety which quickly became smoking to claim social status (the GI had his pack of Luckies while the wealthy industrialist pulled on the end of a Dunhill). It took a while for medical research and public relations to form the bond that would ultimately show the greater public just how horribly addictive and unhealthy smoking was.
That’s when another form of cultural behavior stepped in, the art of culture jamming. Illustrations of Daliesque melting cigarettes dangling from the lips of supposedly once viral men started showing up claiming impotency as a smoking side effect. The once famous Marlboro Man dying of lung cancer graced billboards in a campaign against smoking instead of his usual for stance. Now smoking is on the cultural decline helped by images of people with holes in their throats or tar soaked lungs stamped in full color on the front of packs.
Culture jamming is usually associated with campaigns against a mindless consumer culture supposedly pushed on the general public by corporations out to make another buck. What about cultures of consumption that don’t involve direct financial transactions? Today’s internet culture is full of fiscally devoid consumption. Facebook, Youtube, and yes, even WordPress are places where people consume their time and effort without paying a dime in order to do so. Of course it’s just a matter of time when a disgruntled percentage of users rise to the top and start skewering the providers of the very activity they’ve become so accustomed to. Some have legitimate gripes. Some do it just to look cool. Some do it just for the self deprecating fun of it. After all isn’t poking fun at the things you do a way coming to terms with your own flawed self, or is it just another example of monkey see, monkey do?
Posted on April 28, 2013
“Iron Photographer” is one of the several ongoing series (this particular one being 172) produced by the good members of Utata, a collection of “Tribal Photography.” this particular series consists of three elements:
1 – a pot or a pan (that big circular thing in the middle of the shot)
2 – something sentimental (what’s left of a wallet)
3 – Orton effect (you be the judge)
A wallet isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks you about sentimentalities (that is unless you’re an investment banker). Then again, I’m not too much of a sentimental guy when it comes to material things. No, I didn’t make it, but it is handmade and I do know the man who designed it. I got it around the tail end of our business relationship, a business relationship that at the time was golden. Everything was golden back then, or at least it seems so now, but then hindsight is always 20/20. The wallet’s been through a lot since I first got it. So have I. I got it just before my son was born. He’s now 8. I can’t recall specific memories during those years very quickly. I usually need a trigger for that to happen. I can remember that during that whole time the wallet never lost me. It still works, although it’s worn around the edges with those “everyday grind” scars. I could say the same thing about me. Eventually it’s going to fall apart. So will I. Before that happens I’m going to put it some place for safe keeping.
Posted on April 19, 2013
Who looks up? Ok, obviously there were the Montgolfier brothers, the lawn-chair-tied-to-many-a-weather-balloon crowd, and let’s not forget those one-in-a-million astrophysicists (although I’m fairly certain that most of them would argue for a more relative definition of the word “up”). I can say with some certainty that most people most of the time don’t look up.
In the early 90s I lived in a 5th floor apartment in the city. My room had a large window that faced the street. I often spent my free time for the two years I lived there hanging out of that window watching people go by. I can count on one hand the amount of times that people walking down the street looked up. And why should they?
Most people look “forward” (literally and metaphorically). After all that’s where most of the action takes place, that’s the direction you look to anticipate where you need to go and what you need to do. Sometimes we look back (“where the hell is that bus?!”). Sometimes we look down (“I wish people would pick up after their dogs!”). Sometimes we look from side to side (“can I make it across the street without being plowed into by the bread truck?”). Most of the time it’s all about “straight ahead.”
Purposely looking up is mostly a feeble attempt at amateur meteorological prognostication. There’s the occasional cat-stuck-in-a-tree or a long-slow-trudge-up-a-steep-hill. The best is laying down, either on a beach or in a park, and staring at the sky for long periods of time (Note: when you’re laying down are you really looking up or are you looking forward looking up?).
For me, looking up is all about the abstract, not in the open sky=open mind kind of way, but more in the daydream what-would-it-be-like-to-be-a-sentient-cloud kind of way. Ever since my time in the apartment all those years ago, I’ve made a conscious effort to look up more often. I’ve smashed my nose on a couple of occasions, but most of the time I’ve gotten the better of the gnome-like part of my repetitious character.
Posted on April 17, 2013
This is a girl. She’s standing at the top of ladder #10 grabbing the bottom rung of ladder #11. She’s not a morning person. She likes to play shy, but she’s not afraid to stick her neck out when it counts. She’s not sure what she wants to do, but when she does find something, she does it well. She’s got serious motor skills and loves to peel bark off trees. She doesn’t like the color pink. She likes bones. She likes music. She’s in her 5th grade advanced math group.
This is her school. The school is one of the smaller schools in the district. It’s cafeteria doubles as an auditorium which triples as a gymnasium on rainy days. Everybody knows everyone else’s names. The inside of the school is compact and maze like. It’s known in the district for churning out good students who usually read above their grade level. It’s teachers know it’s students well. It’s teachers have survived 4 1/2 years of budget cuts without raises in their salaries. It still manages to hold on to music and art classes as part of its normal curricula.
This is a cello. It has one owner, but many people have borrowed it. It stays in tune most of the time. It’s got stickers on its neck to show where to hit the right notes. It’s been bumped and dropped and played and sometimes ignored. It’s been picked up and strummed like a guitar. It goes to school twice a week and every once and awhile it goes out at night for a stage show. Its current borrower is a girl who goes to school. She loves to play it but hates to carry it.
Posted on April 15, 2013
Look at the picture above. Would it be wrong of me to say (either ethically or legally or both) that I think the truly disabled person is the one standing on the soapbox instead of the one in the wheelchair? Would it be a form of defamation? If that person found out about this post, could he sue for libel and have this post taken down? After all, I didn’t get his verbal permission to use this shot, let alone have him sign a release.
Would it be wrong of me? I don’t think so. After all, I’m just expressing my opinion as to what I think of this individual’s attempt to let the public know his opinion on evolution. If this post went viral (a highly unlikely probability) he might try and sue for libel, but then he’d have to present strong evidence that his quality of life was somehow affected by the virality of this post (loss of income, emotional distress, etc.) This is not as easy as it seems (at least not in the US anyway). Although a change in the circumstances of this shot would see the balance shift in his favor.
A bit of context. The soapbox preacher above is standing in a public place, speaking about a general topic of public interest, and, most importantly, he’s NOT directing his point of view at anyone in particular unless first engaged by someone else. As a result of his choice to express his views in such a public way, he therefore opens himself up to public scrutiny. I therefore have the right to level the charge of disability at him so long as I qualify the charge with a statement like, “he must obviously be disabled to think it a wise idea to preach his disbelief of evolution on the campus of a publicly funded state university with one of the highest ranked post-graduate biology programs in the country.”
Does he have the right to be there and speak his mind? Of course he does. Free speech is all about the marketplace of ideas, no matter how outlandish or offensive the ideas may seem. Do I have the right to photograph him in public and post my opinions regarding his public preachery? Yup. Are their any restrictions on either of our rights to express ourselves? Not in this particular instance, but should the circumstances change, so might the freedoms.
Take for instance if the preacher were preaching in a hallway of one of the universities dormitories instead of a public space like a plaza. Or, if the preacher decided to initially pick out one of the students and specifically address that student in his preachings, following the student and prosthelytizing to him or her all the way to that student’s next class. What if I decided to follow the preacher to his house and secretly photograph him through his living room window? Or, what if he wasn’t a preacher at all and I just overheard him talking about his beliefs with a friend while walking down the street and I decided to take a shot and post it?
Where free expression becomes a bit tricky is when the public singling out of a private individual who does not want any part of the public discourse takes place. Take the instance of the vitriolic Westboro Baptist Church and its picketing along the route of a memorial service for a marine who died in the Iraq War. The members of the church (sic) stood along the road chanting and carrying signs that read (among other things) “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The family of the deceased filed a defamation case against the church and initially won in court. Still, the US Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling based on Westboro’s right to free speech. As it turned out the church and crew were far enough away on public land and did not specifically target the marine or his family by name. They therefore had the right to protest.
As loathsome and repugnent as Westboro’s message was (and still is IMO), the court was right in upholding the church’s right to free speech. After all it’s the same right that Michael Moore exercised when he followed that same church around and held counter protests in favor of homosexuality. Still, I sometimes wonder whether or not the church considers their Supreme Court ruling a victory or not. One need only watch a single interview with the Wicked Witch of the Westboro Baptist Church, Shirley Phelps-Roper, to get a sense that she was secretly praying (preying?) for the hallowed status of “martyr” had the court not ruled in their favor.
Freedom of expression can sometimes be a messy business. Attempts to tidy up the mess can backfire. The example that first comes to mind is that of Germany and its agency, Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien’ which indexes forms of expression deemed harmful to minors. Although holocaust denial isn’t the main focus of the agency, it has been cited in the index and people have been punished for publicly expressing such feelings. While the German government’s intentions may be good in theory, prosecution of such law has taken extreme right wing racist groups that would normally be laughed off the streets and given them the very real cause of fighting censorship, attracting new young converts with taboo swastikas. Like stealing a swig of whisky from dad’s liquor cabinet when he’s not looking, prohibitions become, “cool.” As ugly as the ideas held by the Westboro Baptist church are, imagine how ugly things would be if they had a legitimate grievance besides their usual mindless drivel.
I, for, one am glad to see the messy, noisy rattle of people like the preacher above (or the Westboro Baptist Church for that matter). Because they have the right to opine, I have the chance to find out where they stand. I have the chance to figure out for myself if what they stand for is worth my time and effort to disagree. I have the right to take a picture and express my own opinion. I have the chance to see how the rest of the public reacts to their stance And, most important, I have the chance to dismiss their ideas when their ideas are wholeheartedly proven false.
Posted on April 12, 2013
“Change your shoes, change your clothes.”
“Change lanes, change direction, change places.”
“Change your mind.” Wow! Physically, that sounds like a very painful and expensive proposition, and I’d love to see the insurance premiums that cover that procedure. Still, we do it all the time (at least in the abstract). Have you ever asked a friend, “did you change your mind?” You’d never ask, “did your mind change?” That might be rude. You might also ask a friend, “Did your feelings change?” As if your feelings are some sort of mysterious autonomous entity. Still, I’v never heard anyone ask “Did you change your feelings?” Don’t get me started on having a “change of heart.”
Here’s one you hear from politicians all the time, ”Change you can believe in.” The phrase itself sounds like a less hazardous way of asking people to take a leap of faith, and considering who’s saying it, you might want to proceed with caution.
My father, a native German who migrated to the US in the late 1960s, constantly goes on about the almighty dollar being the safest currency. “It’s been around for well over a hundred years,” he’ll say. It takes him only a half a breath to toss out the next line, “During my mother’s lifetime she saw four different currencies!” The funny thing is that he moved back to his hometown in Germany to retire.
50¢ is still 50¢, but you can arrive at that sum in a multitude of ways. Paradoxically, 50¢ hasn’t always been 50¢ in that what you can buy for 50¢ today is not at all the same as what you could buy for 50¢ 50 years ago.
So the joke goes that the buddhist paid for his hotdog with a $20 bill. The hotdog vendor gave the buddhist his hotdog. The buddhist stood there staring at the hotdog vendor and after a while he asked, “Where’s my change?” To which the hotdog vendor replied, “Change comes from within.”
Posted on April 10, 2013
Posted on April 9, 2013
Posted on April 5, 2013
If you’re going to use color, you might as well bathe in it. It can be muted, saturated, minimal, busy, whatever you like. Just make sure it’ll make you want to dive right in.
Posted on April 5, 2013