Friday, January 30, 2009

when bad photos go badder

Here's what you need to know this morning.

1. I took this photo a few years ago on while hiking with a good friend, my college's chaplain, on our huge sprawling wooded campus. On that hike we saw a pretty little green snake, a picture of which I have probably already posted before but, if not, I'll post soon so you'll see how cute he was.

2. The campus is so large that I have biked on a number of trails for years but am still discovering new nooks and crannies of the campus. While we were walking, we turned down a gravel road I'd never checked out before. Turns out that it led to this church. It was early summer and humid and warme in the late afternoon. The weather was oppressive, and the elements combined to gave me a distinctly "Deliverance" type of forboding. The church was in good repair, but it just screamed "compound" or "cult," and I expected to be snatched up from church folk coming out behind the wood piles (there were wood piles) either for a good old fashioned human sacrifice or just to abuse me.

Or both.

3. The church had a huge bee's nest under its awning (is that what that is? the part of the roof that sticks out from the house?), and you could hear the bees from a good distance away. I wanted to get close enough to take a good photo, but the bees were very active and became agitated as I approached their hive. My usual fearlessness with a camera abandoned me. I'll take confrontations with weirdos any day over an attack of swarming bees.

4. It turns out that the bees were African killer bees, and I was lucky I got away with my life!! So it turns out my judgment was prescient.

5. Number 4 is a lie.

6. The bees did add to the general creepiness of the scene, and I wondered how the parishioners could focus on the service when the bees were buzzing so loudly. Also, surely a few of the bees made it into the building.

7. The last time I was stung by a wasp was at a church we were visiting while church shopping. We church shop because we're American, and that's what you do. When you're American. You church shop. I can't recall whether we were arriving at the church or leaving, but I remember walking down a hallway and putting my hand into my pocket. If we were leaving it was to get my keys, and if we were arriving it was to send a subtle nonverbal signal to those around me that I don't want to shake their hands.

7.5. Why can't we just bow to one another instead of shaking hands?

7.75 Sometimes a handshake is a nice warm affirming moment of human contact. And sometimes it's a neutral act yet still very germy. And a few people are so bad at shaking hands that it conjures up terrible images of how their soul is corrupt and filled with bugs.

I'm just saying...bugs. Or worms. Their soul. Because their handshake is disgusting. And you know just who I'm talking about. About one in fifty people have such an awful handshake.

7.9 But as I was saying, as I reached into my pocket I pricked my finger with a needle. Or so it felt. Now why in the world I put a needle in my pocket escaped me. Then I pulled out my hand and with it I pulled out a wasp.

7.95 Why did my wife put a wasp in my pocket that morning?

8.0 At that same service, I was fixated by a wasp buzzing around my pew that kept hitting a window. Over and over again. My temptation was to do the congregants a favor and to quietly take a step to my right and squish it.

8.1 But I suspected it's wrong to use a Bible for the purpose of squishing bugs. Even stinging bugs. So I didn't kill it, or if I did my unconscious mind has suppressed the memory.

9.0 Being superstitious and seeking out signs and portents, you may be tempted to think that if you go to a church and are assaulted by a wasp and then tormented later by another one, then Satan is in that church and you should stay away. But I don't think along those lines, so it never crossed my mind.

9.4 That's not true. I did think those things and had to fight every fiber in my body from standing up, screaming "Satan is in this house!!!", and fleeing while shrieking like a a little girly man.

9.6 Because Satan was definitely in the house!

10. When I think of infestation more generally, I'm drawn to a story of Paul, a good friend of mine. Nearly as much as anything else in my life, this story sent me down a path of spiritual crisis and violent theological questioning.

It goes like this, in truncated form. Paul heard a funny kind of scratching noise under or around his bathtub. He looked everywhere and could not figure out what it was. Was it a twig rubbing against a pipe, and the noise was transmitted through the bathtub? Was the piping under strain? What? What? The sound carried on for a few days--I forget how many--and then stopped.

End of story. Or so he thought until a few months later, Paul had reason to go into the crawl space under the house.

And there he found a skeleton of a possum hanging upside down by a foot that somehow got trapped underneath the bathtub. The scratching sound had been the possum clawing for his life. Day after day.

When Paul told me this, I stopped in my tracks. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.

It struck me instantly and overwhelming about the unimaginable amount of suffering going on at this very instant--I mean right now as you are reading this--that is unknown to anyone else. Suffering in the animal kingdom. Suffering among humans. Unbearable horrific suffering. Children who are kidnapped and hurt in horrific ways. People who are lost and terrified. People starving. Pelvic bones crushed from car accidents. Diseased bodies filling their owners' lungs with fluid. And on and on.

You have heard of mystical experiences in which a great light opens up and the mystic receives a kind of ineffable epiphany of goodness and transcendence.

I encountered the same kind of experience in reverse. What I experienced was not a chain of thinking. It was a near-physical blow of awful understanding that made my knees turn to rubber. I saw with perfect clarity the utter and complete indifference to life that characterizes the cosmos.

But who am I to think a loving god should have--tiny tap--released that poor animal's foot? I mean, where was I when god laid down the foundations of the earth? I neither know nor understand, so surely it's not my place to question any of it. That would be wicked.

11. As I may have shared with you on an earlier post, a few years ago I read a news account of an Amish family whose three daughters died when, while playing a game, they squeezed themselves into a cedar chest. When they pulled the lid down, the latch fell and caught, and the girls suffocated.

I have three daughters.

I'm confident our all-loving and omnipotent God was doing far more important things than to condescend to reach down and--tweak--unlatch the children. Oh no, all things work for good under god's providential care, and their death by suffocation surely works to the betterment of we survivors and all to god's glory. I feel better knowing that, don't you? That you can't see the obvious good that god brought about through their terror and suffocation only reveals your sinfulness.

Becuse let's not forget that our default position for our original sin should be immediate death and a one-way express ticket to hell. Anything better than that is nuthin but a mercy thang. The girls were blessed beyond all measure to make it to six years of age, the little sinners.

I'm sure these daughters' parents, who were good pious folks, instantly saw the glory of god's plan and rejoiced at their deaths. As we all should, knowing god's plan is sovereign and loving and glorious. God knows the number of hairs on our head, and he knows when a sparrow drops from the sky. He knew about this deed and gave it a great big heavenly thumb's up!

I for one know that my own faith was deepened and strengthened by reading this news account.

12. I manipulated the photo above to capture the sense of creepiness I felt at the church.

I failed.

As you can see below, nothing about the pre-manipulated photo conveys anything but sunny and bright and cheerful feelings.

13. Which is the kind of day I wish for you all today. Have a good one!!

14. Number 13 is not ironic. To acknowledge the awful is not to deny the goodness of lovely sunshine and warm days. And I do wish you a lovely day.

15. Really really.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


How contingent is the world. How murky. How impenetrable. How ineffable. How promising in equal measures of mystery and despair.

All of it only so much straw. And glorious music.

oh happy happy day.

Yesterday once again the world disappeared!


When I first arrived here to this grand and beautiful state, the birth state of two of my daughters, I immediately subscribed to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which is a very fine newspaper recently ranked in the top-20 newspapers of the nation.

Newspapers are lots of things, but with the rise of the Internet their purpose has changed some for me. Whereas once upon a time reading the local paper was the easiest way to get the news, nowadays you can learn of the news almost in real time from a variety of sources. My fave is the online version of the Washington Post.

What a local paper can do uniquely well, however, is to let you know of the happenings around town--the small festivals and local meetings of alcoholic anonymous and birthdays of small children and aging grandparents and so on. It still conveys the news, but its charm is in how it connects the people of a community by giving us stuff to talk about and--as will eventually happen to everyone in due time--to get you into the newspaper yourself. And for happy reasons, not the usual big city reasons. You wake up in the morning, shuffle your way in the dark to the driveway, pick up the cold newspaper, come back to the house, grab your coffee, open the pages, and--presto!--there's a glorious picture of your lovely children at last night's production of "The Grinch."

It's sweet.

Sweet but not very newsy.

So we decided to cancel our subscription to the AJC and start subscribing to our local paper. Not a week goes by without mention of someone I know personally--in fact, most days mention or quote somoene I know.

I'm not presumptuous enough to know how to evaluate my paper compared to other small city newspapers. It is forever telling us that it is winning one journalism award after another, and I have no reason to doubt them. I'm sure the fact that the awards are sponsored by the paper itself in no way diminishes the honor they bestow. (Okay, that was a gentle little tease.) But the point is that I am not trying to make fun of the paper any more than I would want them making fun of my college for not being the University of Michigan.

A place for everything, right?

One of the more surprisingly delightful feature of our paper is that several days a week the world disappears.

I mean, not a single article about international news.

I don't mean "only a few."

I mean none. Zero. Nada. Nichts.

And to us good provincial Americans who are chronically troubled by that messy and uncooperative mass of humanity who speak funny and live in cities with unpronounceable names, this is such a sweet relief. Who wants to ruin a perfectly good egg and cup of coffee with stories of people who, unlike us, can't get their act together, huh?

Ahhh....the world has disappeared, and with it all their inconvenient and annoying troubles have disappeared with it. and an announcement of a new bakery in town--what a nice way to start the day!

Yesterday was one of those days. Not a single mention of the world. No international news story at all.

But we did receive this bit of news: The Council for Community and Economic Research's survey of 322 urban areas concluded that my hometown can boast the cheapest Parmesan cheese prices in the nation!

Take that, you big fancy cities!

So think of that. No nasty world to trouble us and the cheapest Parmesan cheese in the land. Serve me up a trouble-free world with extra Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, please.

Oh happy happy day!

Just don't ask where the Parmesan originated--you'll ruin the whole thing.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I like flowers. I should learn their names.

Sadly, I can't.

The brain is surely more than wiring and neural paths, but that image works nicely as shorthand for me. And there are some things that my brain is not wired to do. Such as appreciate musicals. Man, how do I try! And yet my brain keeps telling me, "dude, you're right. This pretty much sucks. Doesn't anyone else here see that?!" That's what my brain says.

Because of the faulty wiring--I can't help it.

The brain is pretty versatile, and there are some activities that can be learned even if the original part of the brain slotted for that section is damaged or underdeveloped. (See above, about musicals.) Sort of like learning to write with your non-dominant hand.

What is the non-dominant hand called? I prefer to refer to it as the "left" hand, but some weirdos out there may object to that as slightly "handist." Those would be the lefties out there. But "weak" hand doesn't seem quite right, and neither does "recessive" hand. So I stick with "non-dominant" hand.

As I was saying....

Your left, ahem, non-dominant hand can learn to do stuff your dominant hand can do better, but it won't be a natural or easy process. Similarly, your brain apparently can use alternative routes to accomplish what it must, but it's not as efficient.

Which brings me to my injured leg. Guess when my leg exploded when Randy Richardson kicked me during a game of basketball?

That's right. Last freaking May!!

Here's what Randy did to me.

Those are not photos of an amputated leg on a sink. Those are photos of my exploded (non-amputed) leg on my sink.

I went to the orthopedic doctor, who saw me hobble in like Quasimodo (with a serious leg injury), and he looked at it and said something like, "well, it's a moderate strain." Or pull. Or tear. But what he did not say as he should have said is this: "Your leg just freakin' exploded, dude! Did Richardson kick you with his cowboy boots?!!" And here's the other thing. I went to visit the doctor a week or so after it happened. So when I limped in to see him like Dr. Frankenstein's Igor, he should have known better.

My leg is not close to being healed. It's so so discouraging. You can stand up on your tippy-toes, right? Which means that your calf muscles are working properly (enough). I can get on my tippy-toes only because my left leg is doing all the work. When I shift my (considerable) weight to the right leg, I immediately drop--plop--to the ground.

Which leads you to ask, naturally enough, how I can be running in a 5k this March. You're thinking, "dude, I know what you look like, what, with all those self-portraits you put on your blog and all. You have no business running a 5k even with a healed leg. But running it without a healed leg, well, that is incredible. I stand amazed. Frankly, you're my hero."

Is what you'd say. And I don't blame you, especially the nice compliment you paid me after the rude insult. (I forgive you.)

To which I reply, yes, you're right. I have no business running the race. First, because I fear my heart will explode during the race much as my leg did last May (when Richardson took a bat to my leg and just started swinging at me like I was a no-look passing, three-point shot drilling pinata). Second, I'm not technically "running." It's more of a vigorous Quasimodo-Igor shuffle. You know, on account of my leg and all. Third, and here's the real point that ties everything noted above all together in a pretty bow: my other muscles have partially compensated for my paralyzed exploded calf. well, maybe not "other muscles," because I guess it's all calf muscles. As seen here.

Which is what I'm saying about flowers. I have tried many, many times--and I'm being 94% sincere right now--to learn the names of flowers. And I can't. I just can't.

Here are the flowers I can name by sight:

Iris. (See picture above.)



Carnation (when in a wrapper at WalMart marked "carnation.").


Venus flytrap.

Dogwood petals.


And that's it.

Here's a photo of a pretty green flower I took last summer in D.C.

I also can't learn lyrics.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"I don't shoot blanks!"

I'd like to introduce you to Shaun the Advocate.

While palling around with my archenemy "Steven Taylor" in NOLA a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go to a cemetery in the Garden District.

It was a jaw-droppingly beautiful day, but that didn't stop us from getting lost. Which really was quite remarkable because the Garden District is about three blocks by four blocks. Tiger woods could hit a ball over it with a 7-iron.

By the way, have I mentioned before that Steven has "Ripley's Believe it or Not worthy" unusually small feet for a man his size? In fact, his feet are more like hooves than proper human feet. And when he walks, he trots like a horse. I swear I'm not making this up. He walks faster than most Olympians run. I'm not making fun of him. But I am calling him devilish. That's different. Really I'm just doing you a public service is all. The man has hooves, and that just screams "in league with some bad elements." (You'll thank me later.)

Anyway, eventually we stumbled into the cemetery, about which I'll soon post photos and commentary.

Almost immediately Shaun came out of nowhere--an empty tomb, I think, because there actually were some--and came up to us (i.e. "me") to talk.

A lot.

A scary lot. And with a randomness and turnover rate of subject matter that I couldn't help think betrayed the kind of brain that has had its share of good times in its time.

Think Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now and you'll have a sense of what I'm talking about.

Shaun is an "Advocate" for the cemetery, which means...

that I don't know. I think it's something like a historic cemetery's version of the renegade vigilante border guards. He's there to keep an eye out for the bad "elements." I kinda sensed he loved it when they came so he could them show them what.

Shaun rejoiced in the fact that neither Steven nor I were "Yankees," and he didn't seem troubled at all by Steven's feet.

With his typical good sense, Steven simply loped away, and I found myself talking with Shaun the Advocate. Now for most of you who know me, you know that I'm very selective with the people with whom I like to strike up conversations. But I am transfixed by crazy people like the poverbial deer in the headlights, and they can sense it. So Shaun and I struck up a conversation.

He pointed to a tomb and said, "Here's my family."

Oh no! This poor man has suffered horrible tragedy (probably at his own hands), and here I am thinking shameful thoughts about him and his mental stability. He's suffered a horrible horrible blow, and of course he wants to come to the cemetery. Of course he is troubled.

And then he pulled a photo of his family off from the top of the tomb and said, "Yep. They live in San Diego. Me and the misses..we're divorced now, but we still get along...just couldn't live with her. Some people just ain't made to live with one another. She's got the kids. So you can see I don't shoot blanks!!"

The rest of the details went kind of fuzzy after that.

But Shaun the Advocate, I applaud you for your work. I don't understand what that work is, not exactly, but you tell me that you don't get paid for it, and I believe you. I do know you are devoted to your great city. And that's all to your credit.

So maybe the world is better off because you don't shoot blanks, and maybe we're all blessed by the future Shauns advocating for cemeteries all over the nation.

Blessings. I salute you, Shaun the Advocate.

woman with cigarette

Taken in NOLA.

An open letter to Mr. Steve Jobs (who is dead to me!)

Dear Mr. Jobs--

I activated the "genius" button on my iTunes account today. When I first learned that you had created a program that groups similar music from my music library to create playlists, I was intrigued. I was even more pleased to discover that "genius" would make music recommendations within genres based on my library. I use Pandora occasionally, and I'm always impressed with its technology. Looky here, I thought, now you've allowed me to do the Pandora thing right through my beloved iTunes library.


You've always had my heart, Mr. Jobs, and once again I recognized you for the hip genius that you are.

And so I gave it a shot. You knew I would eventually succumb, Mr. Jobs, and I did. What else could I do? Because what would I have to lose? Other than giving you my Social Security number, my bank account numbers, and two of my daughters, you asked nothing of me. Well, that and installing several web cams around the house so you can observe our every movement. But other than that, nothing.

After I said good-bye to my daughters, I activated the program. The first thing I did was create two playlists centered around two of my favorite songs, Autumn Tactics by Chicane and The Bleeding Heart Show by The New Pornographers. And guess what? The playlists were quite good in capturing music with the same mood, tempo, and feel. I was pleased. You did not let me down, Mr. Jobs, and I still had a man crush on you and your groovy black wardrobe.

But then I went to the iTunes store to see what music recs it would make. I went to the "pop" genre, and guess what I found? Well, I'll tell you what. Music recs for music by:

1. James Taylor.
2. Dan Fogleberg.
3. Cher.
4. Ambrosia.
5. Backstreet boys.

Not that you haven't seen it before, Steve, but let me ask you to note numbers 1 and 3 on this list from my other blog:

You're dead to me, Steve Jobs. You're a no good pod person. True, I will continue to give you a significant portion of my income every month and, yes, I will continue to eagerly look forward to your new products, and of course I will still end my day by drifting off to sleep dreaming of sweet mac laptops, elegant iphones, and exquisite new touchpad ipods--yes, I will continue to lust after and covet every product you make. And yes I will give you my third daughter if you request her. But you, Steve Jobs, you're dead to me.


Now I know I shouldn't say that given that your poor health threatens to may make all of this far more literally true than either of us would desire. But you get the point.


Try evil genius. Or better yet, Moron. Evil moronic genius.

James Taylor?!?!?!?!

See you in hell, Jobs.



p.s. Please recover fully from your illness; I love your products.

p.p.s. And you, too. I love you, Steve. And yes, I'll start listening to James Taylor. I know you wouldn't lead me astray.

p.p.p.s. Don't worry about the ties and coins photo, Steve. I sometimes just post photos that have nothing to do with anything. I'm sorry if you found it distracting.

p.p.p.s. Have I told you I love you lately?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Not a composite picture. In NOLA I saw a pane of glass behind which there was another glass, that one shattered. I attempted to capture a reflection of a person intersecting with the epicenter of shattered glass. Of the five pictures I took, this was the best I got. The poor dude looked my way, just as I hoped he would, but I'm sure all he saw was a weird guy pointing a camera at a building from four inches away. Below is a picture, undoctered, in which I didn't get the timing down quite right.

You all would be proud of me for how I resisted asking strangers to pose for the photo.

Of course, I would have done so had I thought they wouldn't have made it look phony.

Strangers! They just don't model properly. Where's my Harvey when I need him?

And I do need him.

keeping out what's not wanted

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


So a good evangelical Christian friend and I were discussing gay marriage the other day. (Not our gay marriage; just the idea of it more generally. I'm just clarifying that for for his decidedly anti-gay sake.) Taking a page from the standard evangelical playbook, my (hetero) friend defined love as seeking what is best for a person. Because we love the sinner, not the sin, and because love is directed at doing what is good for people according to an objective standard of their final purposes, then we love that person best and most unconditionally when we direct that person away from their sin. Okay, you now have enough information to see how this unfolded. Standard stuff.

Agape. Caritas.

Unconditional love.

Okay, I'm down with agape. Especially when I'm the one doing the directing away from your sins. I'm also cool with it when I'm pitiful and in a hospital bed and can offer absolutely nothing of worth to the world--at this point I'm really down with agape. I'll take an extra heaping of it with a cherry on top, please.

But imagine a world in which agape was the principal kind of love there was--say, the love between lovers, between parents and their children, between friends, between teachers and pupils, and so on. A situation where we would care about other persons because they are humans rather than becaue of what makes them unique and worth knowing as individuals--and what separates them apart from others.

How dreadful.

were agape love the only kind of love, then human beings would be valuable because they are valuable types of things and our final ends are ultimately one and the same. What makes you and I special--and the daily work we do to become just the right you and I for you and me--isn't nearly as important as the fact that we're creatures, a type of being.

I'm pro-human to be sure, but I'm also pro-person. And it seems to me that respect for persons means more than simply having the person follow the ultimate ends as my lights have directed me to understand them. Isn't it groovy when people follow a billion different paths?

Wittgenstein famously (and, to my light, convincingly) discusses how some concepts are essentially contestable. (That's not his term.) He challenges his readers to consider what makes a game a game--to aim at a decisive and final definition with platonic certainty. Some games are playful; some are contests with winners and losers; some require skill--and on and on. So what is it that ties marco polo and Frisbee and solitaire and tetris and bowling and lacrosse and tag and chess? It's not a single thing. No single definition of game could exclude all non-games and include all games. Instead, Wittgentstien tells us that some concepts are like a family resemblance--each resembles the other parts in some respect, but all the parts may not resemble all the other parts in the same respects.

Maybe it is so with human ends. It surely is the case that people cannot live out perfectly individually-tailored notions of happiness and fulfillment. Just as there can't be a private language, there can't be a perfectly private happiness--a notion of happiness utterly alien to all other people's understanding of happiness. At the same time, surely we cannot be reduced to a single good, or perhaps even a finite (single) set of goods.

And that's what makes life so cool--those wacky people we encounter everyday. Weird, funky, obnoxious, and beautiful people. So you have Neil Diamond and Neil Armstrong, Lance Armstrong and Louis Armstrong, Karen Armstrong and Karen Carpenter. You have lots of interesting people leading interesting lives. What is the single end that tied all these lives together? You figure it out; I don't have the time.

In contrast to agape love, which ultimately urges us to view people as placeholders for something beyond them, friendship and eros are loves that pivot on keenly sensing what makes one person different from another.

I like these loves much better. Agape has its place. At times it is lovely and profoundly human. And at the worst moments--the moments where we have nothing to offer--then agape is the best thing going. But both the other loves are are more satisfying. I don't want to be a type. Eros aims at completion, and so it seems to me that it is the genuine love we should have for god. To be made complete. Not in a generic way, but in just that way my being calls for completion.

I'm pro-eros. WAY pro-eros.


What prompted all this was they "hourglass" look of the photo, which made me think of....well, never mind.

"gathering clouds"

I took this photo before Obama's inauguration. I was the first person there, thus the absence of people.

I was the first there because I lined up for the event last June. Sadly, I had to go home and no one held my place. So tragically I missed the actual ceremony.

A question and a directive:

1. Why do I ruin my serious photos with silly commentaries and lies?

2. Provide us with an example of when you won an argument--that is, when you decisively persuaded someone who disagreed with you about a serious and substantive matter to accept your view of things. Feel free (in this one occasion only) to submit your response anonymously.

As promised...

Here are two more photos of wine glass with lit candle in jar.

So with these, you now have two more rare "symmetrical" shots from me.

Those "quotations marks" in the last sentence were completely unnecessary.

As is the true with that sentence as well.

And here is the original of the photo posted below.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Free and determined.

Partial and Complete.

Good and Evil.

Finite and infinite.

Eternal and bounded.

Physical and Spiritual.

Noble and ignoble.

Creator and Parasite.


Here's Jonbon's nice (Princetonian) response:

In theological terms:

"simul iustus et peccator"--justified and yet sinner

divine and human

bread and flesh

wine and blood

ineffable and knowable

fallen and redeemed

fully new and terminally old

inflated (by hope) and deflated (by self-knowledge)


that's my boy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My big girl..

...a few years ago.

Help: Does anyone know how to post photos on blogspot so they're not so small? Do I need to change my layout format? I used html to increase the size of this post, but as you can tell the image became notably pixelated. Much appreciation if you can lend me some advice.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

wax and wine glass

a negative image, of course. the original is orange and dark--warm and mysterious. but for cool cool elegance, this works better. virtually antiseptic. though equally evocative, i think. I'll post the original with another candle and wine glass on another post.

even if i had a better camera and this photo were crisper and less speckled, you would never blow this up as a poster and hang it. it would be too depressing to look at after a while. it's cold and sad, i think. pretty but sad.

why is that--why is it sad? i think because any world in which this would be a real world (visually non-manipulated) image would have to be so sterile it would be devoid of the human heart. reason but not love could operate in this world, and therefore reason would work poorly, too, for it would have so little to puzzle through.

boy, i really regret making this photo.

guitar wizard in new orleans


Friday, January 16, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

and just like that...

I quote verbatim from the first comment of the last post. Ms. Shinigami-Sidh says,

"This is a sincere request, made with hope and love and flattery:

Sir, you are so talented at taking beautiful pictures of death, and gravestones, and dead pigs, and dead pigs' eyes, and things related to death, and more death; I always look forward to seeing your grim photos, knowing that they will inspire many valuable meditations on life, death, art, and beauty. Why do you squander your abilities on cheery cheer and pretty flowers? Please return to the grimness and the death. If this is impossible completely, could there perhaps be juxtaposition between the cheer and the death?"

Reader, do you know how long I've been waiting for a comment of such discernment and insight to counter the vicious attacks of Mr. "Look at me, the weirdo who uses his own name"?

A long time. And I thought with "Taylor" forcing me to squander my talents on primary colors and giggles, I'd never be able to post this, easily one of the best photos I've ever taken/made/created. Again, it's two photos merged. Both photos are on the blog.

Your assignment if you so choose to take it: Find the two originals. You'll find one easily enough, but the other may be difficult.

I love this photo.

Love it. I'm not kidding. No phony persona or voice here. It really is about the best thing I've ever done. When I first made it, I paused, reflected, and thought: "Finally. I've created something. At last."

I hope you like it.

Thank you, Ms. S-S for giving me the courage to post it.

Taylor's back at it, so.....

we're back to the pretty little flowers.

How nice.

Thanks a lot, Steven Taylor.

Inside the waterwheel

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Lacrymosa Dies Illa

As I explain in the comments section, I couldn't quite capture what I was aiming for in this blended photo of the two photos below. I merged the photos, played with the color, and added light where the nails penetrated the body. I took the photo of the crystal back in September, and the marble Christ photo I took in Chicago in 2007--it's featured on the blog in May of that year. What I was aiming for was the sense of triumph through death, and I was trying to generate the idea of heavenly light coming through the cross. The problem is that the photo of the suffering Christ is so excruciatingly painful that I could not extract a sense of victory out of it no matter what. Which led me, of course, to consider theology. In their churches (and jewelry) Protestants depict the cross as empty. The theology they want this representation to depict is victory over death. Catholics, in turn, have an altar crucifix (and piece of jewelry) which always depicts Christ still on the cross--the idea, I think, being to remind worshipers that the Christ who triumphed (represented by the altar) was the same Christ who made that horrible sacrifice (represented by the crucifix). Naturally Protestants have a real beef with this because, after all, it's different than their view, and we wouldn't want that, now, would we? Oh, and don't forget that Catholics relish re-crucifying Christ with each Eucharist. What other proof would one want than that Catholics aren't Christians, right?

I digress.

The point is that the no matter how I played with these images, I could not extract triumph to my satisfaction from the image of that poor man on the cross.

So the photo remains ambivalent. Something is going on for sure, but it's a mixed message in terms of that Moment.

Which strikes me as about right. The day of Crucifixion is called Good Friday, after all.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hey white boy, let me hit you with one word: Cheery. And Joyful. (Okay, two words.)

I remember well what my cheery daughter told me when I took this photo. She said, and I quote her verbatim, "Dad, my heart is just about to burst with all the cheer I feel when I see your transcendentally (and permanently fixed) cheery smile."

That's what she said.


It's one big joyful cheer fest around here, Mr. "I use my own name"!

Here we got some cousins and an aunt just lovin' on each other and living large--as they always do in the irresistible glow of my happy cheerful chipper jolly presence.


I'm talking about cheery, baby!

Rose petal on the nose. Look at those crazy pre-braces teeth. Still, this photo captures her inner joy.

That's genetic, Taylor. That joy is my joy, bro. It comes from me, from my genes. That joy was passed right down through my loins, my friend. know what I mean.

Monday, January 05, 2009

For the last time, I'm telling you to be happy!!

Two of my homeys featured here. Here's the story. We're in NYC visiting cathedrals. (That's what happens when you go with seminary students/graduates.) I was taking my usual array of death-haunted photos, when I decided to go cheery because, frankly, I was giddy walking around in that blessed city with two people who tolerate my constant derision more than any healthy people should.

So I asked them to pose for a cheery shot.

And they gave me cheer. But not enough. I needed "people turn to look at the display of cheeriness" cheer. That's what I needed. So I asked for more cheer. They rolled their eyes and gave me even more cheer. Impressive, really. But just to play with them I kept asking for more, knowing that sooner or later they'd burst into laughter and I'd get the shot I wanted. Well the dude on the left, Jonbon, in response to my photo tyranny, started calling me things I choose here not to repeat. This prompted both of them to crack up.



And I thereby gots me my shot. Photo tyrant? Or, photo genius? You decide. (Photo genius.)

So take that, S.T.

I got cheer out the ol' yin-yang AND the wazoo.


I run with a handsome crowd, don't I?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I got your cheery cheery cheer right here, Steven Taylor

Yeah, that's right, fool.

I gots me lots where that came from, too, Taylor.

Friday, January 02, 2009

"life is too short and too long"

This is a phrase I've been using a lot lately.

Life is too short not to do the important things we want to do. And it's too long to be stuck doing meaningless things that make us miserable.

So life is too short and long.


Join me and let's make this a national catchphrase.

We can do it. Life is too short and too long not to do so.

Okay, that was an abuse of the phrase.

I'm sorry.

UPDATE: Mr. Freak-o "I Use My Real Name" wrote this about this post, and I thought it was important enough to bring it up front.

"Everything is death.

(Unofficial motto of this blog--because life is too short and too long not to dwell on death)."

To which I say, unfair!! Here's how I'll prove it. My next three posts, whenever they may come, will have a cheery photo. That's a promise, and I'm definitely a promise "maker."

Now...I need to go out and find something cheery.

But where?!

A song for 2009

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark'ning dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
The sky is the color of blue
You've never even seen
In the eyes of your lover.

--Carly Simon "Let the River Run"

And a stylized image of lovely Chicago with Lake Michigan in the foreground.

Tim and Caleb being Tim and Caleb as only Tim and Caleb can

Beautiful men, both.

All grown up now--one an attorney, the other a future pharmacist. And me simply grayer and weaker on account of having had them as students (many many times) in my classes.


On a sidenote, the little thing I did with the leaves in "nestled leaves" below was I put the tip of the dark leaf at the top just over the green leaf. I did it to give it a little more color balance and to make it subtly more interesting.

It was the right thing to do fo sho.


Here's a good thought brought to you courtesy of Bob Marley:

"Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right
I said, everything's gonna be all right-a
Everything's gonna be all right
Everything's gonna be all right, now
Everything's gonna be all right"


I hope he's right. Flesh is soft, pliable, and gives way ridiculously easily to the sharp and hard objects all around us.

Literally and metaphorically.


Bob Marley died from complications stemming from a wound inflicted on his big toe.


So it goes.


So it all goes.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Rene Descartes in the wine

Okay I want to write a little essay about this photo, and in particular how people see Jesus in moldy bread and angels and bear claws in the ice. Sadly, that essay will have to wait along with a hundred other things on my "to do" list. I've got some deadlines on stuff that needs doing, and hard as I've tried to will their completion through the force of my mind alone and, preferably, while I'm sleeping, it has not happened.

There's no real reason to put up the second photo shown below, but I thought it would be fun and funny to do so. Fun and funny are often (almost always) sufficient reasons for doing something in this life. Life is too short and too long to do otherwise.

When they march/
When they march/
When they march around the throne.

Yes, I wanna be/
Wanna be/
Wanna be in that number/
When they march around the throne.

Why? Because it sounds like a grand time, a party in which the wine just gets better and better. And all to God's glory, I'm sure, but god can take care better of his own glory better than I can fo sho. I'd just be thrilled to be marchin' around to some cool music, a groovy light show, and a feeling of perfect yearning perfectly fulfilled. That's not asking for too much, is it? And if that glorifies god, all the better for Him. Sounds like a win-win situaion to me. I'd give Him the props, just as I would for all wonderful hosts. It would come naturally and effortlessly. Especially when the Host is the main show.

Which brings me to Rene Descartes's image in the wine swirls and the little essay I didn't write.

Sad, really.

I included the second picture not because I believe you are officially retarded but because I am retarded. It's me, not you. I wanted to see if I could put arrows and texts on my photos. As you can see, I can.

And how.

Which disproves the idea that I'm retarded.

Did I just blow your mind?


Though I could not figure out how to make the arrows darker. Which I would have figured out had I had more time to explore. But I don't. (See above.)

A few other matters.

Here is an updated version on our New Year's resolutions for others.

I kicked it off with this irrefutable winner:

1. Don't pretend to be Swedish when you're not. (That doesn't apply to me when I'm saying "Jumpin' Jiminy!" in a ridiculously over-the-top Swedish accept. That's just fun and funny. See above.)

2. From Technoprairie: Learn to love all vegetables. If you are unable to love the vegetables, at least learn to like them a teensy bit. (Comment: most excellent advice when followed with the suggestions I have offered elsewhere on the blog.)

3. From Andy D: Be yourself. (Non-ironic side note: This resolution is beautiful. It made me tear up when I read it because it's simple and affirming and lovely. But it's also problematic. It's glorious advice for those whose selves are worth being amplified and revealed to the world. The world becomes better and bigger for having these people touch and shape reality. But what of those persons whose selves are such that the world--and maybe even themselves--are better off by cloaking or ignoring?)

4. From Timekeeper: Stop whining and take action! Hypothetical non-particular example: If one were wanting a new photo enabling device, one should just buy one and leave the rest of the world out of it! (Comment: "photo enabling device." Huh? You're so ashamed of your role in not purchasing me a fabulous new camera--"A NIKON D90 ALREADY!!"--you can't even say the word "camera." Very much like how the American Framers referred to slavery as "the peculiar institution" and slaves as "all other persons." Yes, very much like that.

I'm ashamed of you, Timekeeper. You owe me reparations--in particular in the form of a brand new photo enabling device.

5. Back to my helpful resolutions for others. Again, not offered to anyone in particular, especially not to those adults who do not live with me. But here goes:

Do not treat the phone as a megaphone at a football game. Please remember that the phone is a cleverly-engineered instrument designed to carry voices audibly over very long distances. It is the phone and all the electronic jazz it's connected to, and not the volume of your own voice, that allows others to hear you in other states.

Trust in the phone.

I'm just saying.

6. Again aimed at no one, I offer the following. When I happen to smash my finger into the hearth while putting a log into the fire, please do not say loudly and incessantly "what is it?! what is it?! what is it?!" when you hear me cry out in pain (agony, actually). Just as there are rules to determine whether someone is choking, there are rules to determine whether I am dying from a finger injury and in need of your urgent assistance. If the person you are with is wincing, holding back girly-boy screams (or not), and maybe uttering a quiet profanity or four while alternately grasping one's soot-covered fingers, shaking it like a Polaroid, and sucking on it like a lollipop--then this person doesn't need you at that particular moment.

He wants some quality private time. That is what he wants.

My advice also applies to situations involving stubbed toes on the bed post. If the person is jumping around and grabbing one's foot, that means he doesn't feel like speaking at that particular moment. Speech will come later, at a more agreeable moment. Please be patient in those moments no matter how tempting and overwhelmingly helpful it may feel to say "what is it?! what is it?! what is it?!" over and over again.

This is good advice for everyone.

Let's continue with this theme. I find it very gratifying.

Rene baby:

Or is it Francis Bacon??

Or Rabelais?

Or one of my all-time faves, Pascal?

Could it be Shakespeare?

Oh no!! Is it Shakespeare's rival Christopher Marlowe?

Joseph Fiennes is in my wine!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!

Or as suggested by Technoprairie (I think she is suggesting this), it's Ralph Fiennes.

To which I must say this: Ralph, you're always welcome in my wine. That man is impossibly beautiful. And I mean that is in a purely heterosexual way.

Man, he's beautiful.



But he really is lovely.