Friday, February 27, 2009

Phantom Eyeball Booger Scrub

Note: Today this morning I received this elegant email note.

"I don’t have much time, but I thought I’d take a second to write you about my feelings regarding my caption proposal, Phantom eyeball booger scrub. It’s a gosh-darned fantastic caption – poetic some may say (just call my wife), and is not, in my opinion, getting the mad props it rightly deserves. Gee, the more I think of it, the more impressed I become with myself. My intellectual heft (not to be confused with my charismatic girth) cannot be ignored – feel its weight, Mr. Mxxxxxx Bxxxxx. Feel its weight.

Please do not ignore my magnificent contribution to the blogosphere, and for sake of all that’s right and true, do not direct it to the wastecan of captions gone bad – it would be a tremendous loss to humanity, if not the universe (perhaps even, the solar system).

Your humble captioneer,
Pxxx Axxxxxxx"

How could I argue with that? Really. He makes a good case.



So do it. Make a suggestion. The winner gets the caption. Here's what we have thus far:

From Justcurious:

* Where I End and You Begin

* Strange Overtones

* Creep (see note below)

* memento mori (see note below)

From Paul Atkinson:

* Phantom eyeball booger scrub

From Andy D.:

* Too High Five!

From Timekeeper:

* "If this guy lets go of my nose, I'm toast!"

Steven Taylor:

* Sinus Pressure


* Cutting off a nose to spite a face

I shouldn't make comments at this stage in the process, but let me just say this. Justcurious, you surely know by now how brilliant I think you are. And I think that because you are. But you must also remember that I'm a dude, and as such captions like Paul's have a HUGE advantage over your more subtle, if still clever, captions.

I'm just saying.

It's going to be hard to top "Phantom eyeball booger scrub." Now maybe between now and the time I make the final decision I'll mature by two or three decades, in which case I would choose something else.

We'll see.


Creep is better, Justcurious. Still, a little cheap. How am I to resist that title? Not fair.


memento mori? really? justcurious, when i think of you i think of an eminently fair person, a person who believes in justice and playing by the rules. gosh, normally you're graceful and charming and, well, just very civilized. but here you'd stoop so low to use memento mori?! you'd pander to me this much just to win the caption?

i must say that i approve. good move on your part.


Andy D. Too High Five. Fabulous, if done with a Borat accent.

S.Taylor, Sinus Pressure is great. The label, not the actual thing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Flowers for Julianne, my wife, on Valentine's Day

The rumors are wrong. She does too exist, and here she is.

Here, Juli, my love, are some flowers posted in honor of you, my dear and blessedly cheery wife.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

UPDATED: You gotta love NOLA!!

Update: So here was a pleasant greeting from this morning:

"Hand-holding Family No Match for Tornado."


Did I mention, "Sigh......."?

Now, back to your original program, already in progress.


Okay, you know the drill by now. It's not a composite. I took a photo of this passerby's reflection (the man, not the skeleton) in the window, inside which was this cheesy skeleton conjuring up images in a crystal ball.

Which makes you naturally wonder this: Aren't crystal balls most helpful for the living? I mean, what's the point of being dead if it isn't for the certainty of the thing? It's like receiving tenure in a manner. Here's what you need to know if you're a skeleton: You're dead. I don't know what death will be like, but I always sort of saw it in one of five ways:

1. You cease to exist, and that's that. In which case, the whole skeleton with the crystal ball thing is just silly. Good for taking photos, and that's it.

2. You go to heaven, and that's that. In which case, the whole skeleton with the crystal ball thing is just silly.

3. You go to hell, and that's that. In which case, the whole skeleton with the crystal ball thing sounds pretty good. Because though I might not want to make a career of looking into a crystal ball as a skeleton, I can imagine far worse scenarios for hell. Or can I? Maybe the hell part of the crystal ball scenario comes from the torment. "Ah, now I look into this crystal ball to see our future. Ahhh....yes, something is emerging. Yes! I see it clearly now. It's.... It's.... It's....Oh, damn my soul! It's me looking into this crystal ball. For eternity. My eternity is just me looking at myself eternally looking at this crystal ball for eternity. Damn you, mocking infinite regress!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

So if the essence (and certainly the entrance) of hell is this--"Abandon all hope ye who enter here"--then a gift upon entry of a crystal ball that tells the future would be a devilish gift indeed.

Look what you've done now, reader. You've gone and upset me. Again.

4. Purgatory, in which case there is hope for a blessed future, even if that hope comes only by way of purging your sins through a refining fire. In which case, you might want to have that crystal ball handy to discern how much longer of your Extreme Soul Makeover you'll need to endure.

But maybe you don't want the crystal ball. I mean, Dante tells us that the whole purgatory thing will really hurt. Bad. True, it will be a sublime hurt because--we're told--the purging of our sinful nature, while painful, is also accompanied by the joy of becoming more holy. And that's good. But what exactly is the pain to joy ratio of the process? What exactly is the mixture of the two? Is it like the mysterious and supremely complex and wonderful mixture of pleasure and pain connected to love in all its expressions? Or is it more like having a gangrenous wound on your arm cauterize--but instead of getting anaesthesia for the procedure, you get a candy bar instead. True, the chocolate still tastes yummy, but its creamy yumminess is somewhat muted by the excruciating pain and the smell of your burning flesh.

So it's like this. If in purgatory we believe that our release is, like Hoover's promise of economic recovery from the Great Depression, "just around the corner," then we could withstand just about anything--including the candy bar/cauterization scenario. If, however, our crystal ball were to tell you that, oh man, we have another seventeen thousand years of burning flesh fumes to deal with--and the candy bar is getting stale--then you might want to start peeking around for the exit signs.

Which leads you to this question: Is purgatory kind of optional, like going to college? Or is it more like Marines Boot Camp, in which case you still have a choice--going AWOL--but the penalty is stiff? Or is it more like being strapped to an assembly line conveyor belt and you go through the process just trying to transport your mind to another place?

I'm thinking conveyor belt.

In which case, you don't want a crystal ball.

5. You might be subject to metempsychosis. In which case, you'll be wondering as you gaze into your crystal ball, "Why am I a skeleton? Wasn't my spirit supposed to be transplanted into the body of an aardvark or something? Is this whole skeleton simply a way-station? Is it a punishment, or is it a reward? Is it better to have arms I can use as drum sticks, or is it better to be sticking my snout in in ant nests for my next meal? Tell me, crystal ball, tell me!!"

In which case a crystal ball would come in most handy for a skeleton.

This is a creepy picture.


Three other things you need to know.

1. I really like coffee in the morning. I'm on cup number three!!
2. You can't stop me from posting creepy pictures.
3. I learned the word "metempsychosis" from a book about politics.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


In NOLA I saw this door, partly in the shade, with three crosses, along with other marks of grafitti.

So then I was confronted with this question: What prompted me to see the crosses? Was it my chronic anxiety about my sinfulness, or my photo sensibilities?

Or both?

oh beautiful bars....

enter my brain and complete me.

or something like that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

here's lookin' at you, rick's

Not a composite photo. Just reflections from the window. Taken in NOLA.

Monday, February 09, 2009

computer magic

Jonbon--the title is for you, natch.

The original photo (below) was a closeup of a statue that I snapped in NOLA. I was drawn to the statue because (you guessed it) the late afternoon sun hit this dude's face, creating a nice bit of natural contrast.

Shadows are my catnip equivalent.

(Did I just say that out loud?)

The statue was in the flea market area, but for some reason this little courtyard where I met Mr. Statue was eerily empty. Something about the statue made the place even lonelier. Especially when it turned its head toward me and started talking.

Wait, sorry, that was Sean the Advocate (See several posts below).

But the lonely part is accurate. I don't know whether I captured that feeling with this photo, though I suspect I did not.

Okay, what I started to say before you interrupted me was that I wanted to take the hardness out of the image and make it more painterly. I converted it to its negative image and sharply clarified it. The main thing this did was bring the background into the foreground, rendering the image more two-dimensional--i.e. more painterly. Or, if not more painterly, at least more like a charcoal drawing.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

lines and planes is all

This photo, or really this sequence of three photos, prompted some of the tried and true questions and thoughts that play like a broken record in my mind and here on the blog.

1. How do we make sense of the world? How do we get from point A to point B in an intentional way? How do we make sense of the overwhelming amount of sensory data that hit us?

We filter it out; we ignore virtually all of it.

A wheat field. We don't see the the wheat. We hardly see the wheat field.

2. That's basically what I try to do with my photography: To notice what I normally filter out. To actually look. (Photography has dramatically altered my reality in ways far larger than what I'll write here; perhaps I'll return to this theme in a later post. My orientation of all of life shifted in some ways when I started taking photos, and not all for the better. Arguably a lot of it for the worse.)

Since I've started taking photos, I'm far far better at resisting the cruel tyranny of functionality to notice a thing for what it is visually--shape, color, contrast. I adore shapes, and as I've said a thousand times before I swoon in yearning and pleasure and sorrow from chiarscruo. Colors are not my strong suit.

3. Then I tyrannize over you by forcing you to look at what I see. Which is sorely disappointing to both of us. You're disappointed because as often as not there's nothing there in my photos apart from shapes and colors and contrast of light and dark. No functionality at all. And what's the point of THAT?!

No point. No point at all. Not really.

No message apart from what is evoked by the image itself--mostly mood.

And of course I'm disappointed because you resist the tyranny, as you must.

4. All the clean surfaces and sharp angles and perfect lines of these past few photos just make me so sad. They are so depressing. How do you hook or attach your soul to these planes? You can't. The soul just slips off of them and slides into space, and there you are looking in from the outside in a weird inverted version of Dante's Inferno.

Not good.

5. I wasn't made for photography; I was made for painting. Were I to paint my tyranny would be far greater than it presently is. And yet I can't paint at all.

You're welcome.

bored guy in the corner

Whatcha gonna do?

It happens.

I've been the bored guy in the corner before.

Maybe you haven't been the bored guy in the corner, and good on you. You have most excellent wiring, and you should be grateful for it.

walking up the stairs

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rust aesthetic!!

As you know, I'm not one to boast about my own photos.

That's crass.

I'd much rather invite (request? demand?) you to praise them. See, it's a win-win proposition. After you do the praising you feel good for your evident good taste, and I'm pleased to find out you have such finely honed artistic sensibilities.

See? You demonstrate your brains, and I demonstrate (yet again!) my humility.


But let me beat you to the punch just this once. That second photo--man, that's something else, isn't it? I especially like the scratch marks in the top-right quadrant. What caused them? (No, not a possum!) You'll never know what caused them, and you're okay with that. And I am too, but still something caused them, didn't it? I'm still a believer of cause and effect as a basic category for understanding the universe. I don't know whether at at the end of the day cause and effect actually squares with reality, but I don't see how (or why) to do away with the category for now. The phrase "$h*t happens" sort of implies the ultimate lack of causality in the world. Things just sort of happen. Or maybe it just means that one shouldn't try to look for meaning or some sort of justification for that event. It's a background fact--now just deal with it and move on.

I had a friend write me in response to one of my recent blog post, "I do differ with you on the interpretation of the verse that you cited. I don't read it as "all things happen for good." I read it as "good can come of all things, however bad." I don't think that the good has to justify the bad, and it often does not... examples seem endless."

I like that: the good not justify the bad, and it's not that all things happen for good. But bad need not have the final say.

I'm down with that. Very nice.

The other morning I told my pastor that I love disrepair. Then I got kind of freaked out for having said that. First of all, it's weird to think that I "have" a pastor. But let's be honest: they do come in handy. Not only because they are professional confessors (which is pretty much awesome, as I love to confess my sins), but also because someone needs to eulogize you when you die, and who wants to burden a friend or family member with such things?

I can imagine what some poor sap would have to say at mine:

"Well, we surely all have our favorite memories of him. I admit I'm struggling a little here because most of my stories about him involve him making noises, and I'm not good at making noises. Plus, I don't know whether it's appropriate to make noises at a funeral even if I'm doing it in honor of him--and he really liked noises. It's a hard call. He was sort of like that--the kind of guy who would make giving a eulogy really hard.

That's something. Kinda.

Umm... he had this great squirrel noise. Ha ha. Pretty funny. Pretty pretty pretty funny.

Yes. Pretty funny. I think you had to be there.

Oh, and once he cracked us all up when he made this great cormorant call. We all doubted whether it was a real cormorant or whether he just liked to make a noise and then say it was a "cormorant call." But he was insistent. So we stopped arguing about it. But dang it all, if I didn't check out a tape from the library on bird noises and, guess what, he just made that noise up. It wasn't a cormorant noise.

And here he is dead. I'm not saying that that's justice. I'm just saying that he made that up about the cormorant. And he did lie.

But that doesn't mean we're happy he's dead. We did like his noises. But I don't know why he had to lie about them. He was kind of like that in a lot of ways. He made bird noises and then got huffy denying that he made them up. When we all know that he made them up. I dunno.

Anyway, I'm sure you have your own stories, so I guess I should sit down and let someone else come up and say something they remember about him."

I say let a professional handle the job, and pastors are professional BIG EVENTS people. They're good at it. Thank goodness.

I know I would be terrible at giving a eulogy, unless you want your surviving peeps to hear a faithful cormorant call. In which case I'm just the person you're looking for.

It's also fun to have a pastor because pastors can be very pastoral. You can tell them all sort of stuff, and that's their job--to listen. Frankly I think I would find this veyr challenging. Not the withholding judgment part. The listening part. And the "not competing" part.

If I were a pastor:

"So Pastor MB, I just feel terrible about what I did, and I don't feel like I can get my head on straight until I face what I did squarely."

"Wait wait wait. Hold it there. Let me get this straight. THAT'S what you came to talk to me about?! That's your big sin? Dude, I sin more in my sleep than that. You think THAT'S a sin, listen to this..."

They discourage that kind of thing at pastor school.

I would not make a good pastor, so that good protestant doctrine should be recast as the priesthood of most believers.

As I was saying, I'm drawn visually to disrepair. Shiny new and symmetrical things can be mesmerizing fo sho. And a really fine photographer (not me) can make such new and shiny things look beautiful. I don't know how they do that. I'm not drawn to them. Imperfection is so much more interesting. Perfect things often trace the same lines of perfection--symmetry, smoothness, clean edges. Imperfection seems to take it's own sweet path wherever it may lead.

I was looking from a second-story building into a beat-up and tired alley, and I told my pastor, "ooh, that's really beautiful. i'd love to get back there and start taking photos. I'm really drawn to disrepair." A little conversation ensued, and being an incredibly agreeable guy who is still committed to truth, my pastor tried to reach me at a half-way point by saying,

"Disrepair in Paris or Rome might also be interesting. That might be worth seeing."

True dat.

But sometimes the trash in your own backyard can rival the greatest trash of the most lovely cities of the world. It's unpredictable that way. It's certainly a wonderful place to take simply fabulous photos.

Or so you like to tell me. And so I ever humbly thank you.

Crosshatch of steel and shadow.

This blog in a nutshell.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

aye, 'twasn't in the cards, me friend. just 'twasn't in the cards.

Technoprairie's dh's dw sent me the most delightfully thoughtful Christmas gift this year.

Wow! A new digital camera, you ask?!?

No, not quite. But that's pretty adorable of you to think that.

No, it wasn't a new camera. It was zucchini. That's was what she sent me. Zucchini.

Well, two items of zucchini. One was a bag of dried zucchini chips to be warmed and eaten like potato chips. I mean, potato chips are made from potatoes, right, and potatoes are a quasi-vegetable, just like zucchinis are quasi-food. So it might not be half-bad, I thought. Th other item was dried zucchini powder, along with a recipe for zucchini bread which incorporates the powder.

Well, here are the results. I thought the idea of dried zucchini chips, heated or otherwise, sounded altogether too frightening for human consumption. So I decided to jazz it up a little by pouring some olive oil and sprinkling some paprika on them and heating them up in the oven. All went well, and they were looking crispy and light brown. And then I rushed back literally within sixty seconds after I smelled the distinctly unforgettable smell of oily paprika-covered zucchini chips burning.


Little carbon crisps. And I knew I had to eat them or otherwise I'd never live it down.

So boy I did what I could, choking down every crispy carbon crunch I could manage.

Remarkably, the zucchini flavor remained intact, and the "burn" added flavor but in no way "covered" the zucchini flavor.

So I had that going for me.

What you see above is all the dent I could manage.

What I'd say, then, is that it was me, Technoprairie. It wasn't you, it was me. Just 'twasn't in the cards.


Now the zucchini powder for the zucchini bread, well, that's another story altogether. Technoprairie's dh's dsil--i.e. my dw--was good enough to make the bread for a Super Bowl party we went to my at my dp's house (dear pastor's house).

And let me say this, that zucchini bread just flat-out rocked! It was just as yummy as can be.

Tragically, however, I could not taste any zucchini. Shocking, I know.