Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Desperate for You

Continues the theme below. This photo, too, is untouched. Scroll down to see the place from a few yards back.

(Not a reflection but seen through a sheet of water.)

The Crying Divine

Every great once in a while, I know why I've taken up photography as a hobby. I took this photo a few months ago (in late May) and have wanted to post it ever since but couldn't do so because I also wanted to keep it my own.

My wife once asked whether Tchaikovsky was saddened by connecting his "Pas de Deux" with the Nutcracker Suite. Her point, which I used to tease her about, was something like this: he can present it only once to the world, and once written it stands as a standard by which his other works are compared. To borrow my father-in-law's vernacular, I think Juli wondered whether old Petey T. feared he had "peaked too early."

I don't want to take this too far (too late), but I do quite like this photo. I knew as soon as I took it (before I took it, actually) that it somehow fit me. Fundamentally. It captures some of what I strive to capture in my photography--and that is to express how I view the world. I didn't dare alter it--so it's presented here in its original form, imperfections and all.

My buddy Stephen took the photo below of me below on his iPhone when I was taking the photo above. He did so to show me how silly I look taking photos of weird stuff. I quite like this photo, too. Ironically, it nicely reveals how "seeing" is a kind of skill. Because there's not an obvious translation from the little face in the photo below--as seen from Stephen's perspective--to the face above. And it's kind of nice being that translator. I'm very happy doing that translation. It's where I'm most lost in the best sense of the word.

And here is another photo of the scene, much closer. Untouched photo.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Stephen reflected twice--with two iconic gestures.

Once in a statue, once in water.

Mother with Child

Presumably. Could be Aunt with niece. Or MUCH older sister with baby sister. Or adult stranger with infant snatched from a local nursery. I don't know. But it's a happy photo. And that's what I'm all about: happy happy. Happy happy photos.

Yeah, that's right.

Taken (natch) at full-paced walk. That's how I do.


That felt good. We were overdue.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Here's what came to mind when I thought of this title and smirked, quite pleased at myownself for such cleverness:

"Why I Am So Clever" --- Chapter Title from Nietzsche's Ecce Homo

Other chapter titles from the same book include:

"Why I Am So Wise"


"Why I Write Such Good Books"


"Why I Am A Destiny"

Sadly, you will not find this title in the book:

"Why I Write Ironic Chapter Titles For Good Ol' Fashioned Joshing Fun"

That you don't find.

Caption please

From Timekeeper: "Hey, is that the most recent 'Flies Illustrated'?"

From Andy:

"Don't think of me as a creepy guy reading over your shoulder... Think of me as the wind... in the willows..."

"Son, please get off that frog's lap and come back here to read with me."

"Excuse me Mr. Frog - didn't I see you and your 'little friend' there on a funny billboard in NYC recently??"

From Technoprairie:

"I can't believe he's reading Lord of the Flies to someone that young!"

From Justcurious:

"Psst! Hey, pal! I'm just trying to decide what to order here and, well, maybe you want to cover the little guy's ears, but is it true what they say? You know, the whole 'tastes like chicken' thing?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The jumper

This would make a fun painting in the vein of Norman Rockwell. (Hint hint, you painters out there.) Decrease the number of trees, clear the clutter, and bring forward the dude in the lower right closer to the viewer. But the essential dynamic is here: I like how the eye tracks his stare to find the other dude.

And below is a wimpier diver. Tsk Tsk. Far less impressive.


Freudian floriculturists among you: Go to town. You know who you are.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

pretty. simple.

Sometimes your subject matter does all the work for you. I kept going back to this photo to see if I could tweak it a little to improve it. But in the end it just sort of worked the way it was originally. (Let me know if I've already posted this before. I sometimes forget what I've posted, what I've just played with, and what I have mentally queued up to post next.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Steve Taylor

Doin' his thang.

Under the table

Apropos of nothing, I'm listening now to Thea Gilmore's version of "Bad Moon Rising." It does seem fitting somehow for this photo (and thereby belies the "apropos of nothing" comment). I've always liked that song (a lot), but now I have even greater reason to. Before I liked it just because it was foreboding and mysterious. But her version is foreboding and mysterious and completely believable. The original is frantic and therefore urgent. This version is contemplative and therefore even more urgent.

When she says, "hope you've got your things together/hope you are quite prepared to die" it made me think, dude, am I prepared to die?

And the answer? Well, that's for me to know and you to not know.

Friday, September 11, 2009

High Museum of Art

So which one is better? Top or bottom?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

rain on glass

Looking up.

Oh dear reader, I have a number of photos yet before my supply is depleted, but the supply is definitely finite. I don't see a photo op in my near future. I fear therefore that soon--unless something unexpected comes--you'll be seeing a few more self-portraits and eyeballs posted on the blog.

Stare into the eyeball at your own peril

I could not stand to see that other eyeball for another second. It was drving to me madness. So gross. This is lovely by comparison.

That's me in the spot....light.

You get that pause, right?


Friday, September 04, 2009

The evolution of stacked chairs

This is the final product. To create it I rotated the image below and converted it to its negative. I also pinched it from the middle.

To create the image above I took the image below and cut it and duplicated the upper half of image as a miror image below.

To create the image above I primarily stretched out and pinched the image below.

To create this image from the original, I cropped it, darkened the areas surrounding the chair, pinched and stretched it.

Truth be told, none of the explanations make much sense when I actually compare the photos one after another. For example, look at the bottom of the legs of the chair on the left side for the bottom photo, the original. The legs of the top chair are on the outside of the photo, the far left side. The leg of the base chair touching the floor is tucked inside, closer to the middle of the photo. Now look at the first doctored photo, the one above it. The position of the legs is reversed. The bottom legs are on the outside and the stacked legs are on the inside.

The computer gremlins are playing with my photos while I sleep (or don't sleep) at night.

I blame Obama.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

When everything is turned upside down

A few years ago I attended a Jewish memorial service for a young man who had committed suicide. The ceremony was lovely and beautiful and spiritually moving, terribly so. There was no wailing or gnashing of teeth, and I fully and powerfully sensed that we left the synagogue, all of us, closer to one another and richer in our lives. Mysteriously so. A last gift of the departed to his family and friends. A miracle. Our lives were not more joyful but they were richer.

The rabbi made a few observations during the ceremony that have stayed with me through the years. Both comments dealt with mysteries, and I can only paraphrase what he said. One thing he said is that ultimately we do not know and we cannot know why life for some people is joyful, light, and basically easy-breezy, while for others getting through the day is burdensome and full of pain utterly unimaginable to the person who naturally skips through the course of her day. It seems that a least some portion of this difference, a goodly sized portion of it in fact, is how we’re wired. The other thing he said is that when we look for reasons about how life could have turned so completely upside down for this young man—despite the fact that he was well loved and had many winning traits—is to ask nothing less than to see through God’s eyes. He used an analogy to make his point. He suggested that when one looks at the back of a cross-stitch pattern what one sees is a confusing mess of multi-colored knots that signify nothing, or at least very little. Only when one turns the cross-stitch over can we see the pattern, the design, the fit of how things work together. On this side of the divide we truly cannot see the pattern. As Christians say, we see through a glass, darkly. We are often left looking at knots and strands of thread that seem to reveal more disorder than ordered love.

So all we can do is trust that, yes, there is a pattern, a purpose and personal mind holding it altogether. And, yes, it is trust, not simply a conclusion from a well-reasoned airtight set of arguments. Trust requires that leap; it requires vulnerability. There are moments when the thin line between everything and nothingness is but that thread of trust.

(Yes, the photo is upside down.)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

St. Ennui

If psychologists have studied boredom in any serious way, I don’t know about it. It does seems to be part and parcel of our modern condition, and Pascal recognized as much as early as the 17th century. Walker Percy tells us that much before that time the word boredom didn’t exist. Perhaps because the self didn’t exist in the same self-obsessive and isolationist manner it does today. And yet by the 17th century Pascal is modern enough to describe the life of man as anxious, bored and inconstant. Or something to that effect.

Walker Percy speculates that “boring” is derived from the verb, “to bore.” But what is being bored through by boredom?

The self, of course. Boredom, therefore, is an act of extraordinary violence to the soul. Which is why much of our lives is an attempt to divert ourselves from ourselves, to get “caught in the moment,” the “flow,” or what have you. To gain our souls by losing ourselves. It seems we were made such that the self can’t stand to look at itself and will do virtually anything whatsoever to avoid the sight—all the while obsessing on itself, a prisoner of itself. ‘Tisn’t easy being a self.

I recall as a little boy going shopping with my mother at Metcalf Mall in Overland Park, Kansas. Sometimes she’d get her hair done at a salon, the kind of open room with the hard plastic scooped chairs and rows and rows of beehive dryers. The place was thick with the unholy and unnatural odors of chemicals unfit for humans yet sprayed around the head. The hair cutters wore smocks and the place was bright with light amplified by mirrors that reflected wet female heads and echoes of the same sharp whiteness. It was all porcelain, tile, and sterile as a forensics lab. On the small smudgy glass tables where the clients (and their sons) waited there were stacks and stacks of hair magazines in which women posed, elbows akimbo, staring into the middle distance at some unseen other. The countenances of the women were all the same—women who knew were they being gazed upon but who clearly had no need for any human relationship whatsoever. Their eyes were looking at nothing in particular and had no purpose, it seemed, apart from conveying with their icy coldness this warning to others: I’m self-sufficient and in need of nothing, thank you, and especially not you--so when you’re done looking at me, creep, please take your leave. The hairdryers roared like jet planes, and above it all I could hear the cackling of women whose laughs were far from invitations to join in the fun.

And there I sat on the hard plastic chair waiting, alone. And at that moment I remember a kind of generalized pain to my body akin to suffocation. I felt trapped and fought urges to bolt. (It was good training for making it through committee meetings.)

I was bored. My self, my soul was being bored through and hollowed out. Emptied of content and disordered.

Boredom kills the self by bringing it into itself without diversion. Which, of course, is what hell must be like. A state of just me, myself, and I. And that should be torment quite enough. In such a state, a visit from the devil himself would be most welcome.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


"I read the other day that...."

How often is that true?

How often is it actually the case that one really did read a study by some medical journal? Or a business study? Or whatever? I, for one, am not into the medical journal reading business. As often as not I use this expression as a sincere (and sincerely believed at the time) proxy for, "Somewhere floating through my mental flotsam and jetsam, I vaguely recall that..."

Like this story. I don't recall whether I heard this on NPR, or whether I saw it on TV. Or whether I overheard in line at the post office. Or what have you. I somehow doubt that I read it in a journal on primate psychology. But the story goes as follows. Zookeepers were at wits end in their attempt to get one of their female gorillas to breed. They shipped one male gorilla after another to their zoo, and the female gorilla would having nothing to do with any of these gorilla fellas. (Can you blame her?) She would shun them from the instant they were introduced, and nothing the male gorilla could do did anything to woo her. A lot of chest-beating in vain. It was a time-consuming and expensive task, and ultimately frustrating. For the male gorillas. And for the zookeepers. Then one day one of the gorilla's keepers got the clever idea of trimming expenses and labor by simply judging the female gorilla’s reaction to potential mates by showing her videos of them rather than arranging for their transportation to the zoo.

Which they did. And, not surprisingly, as they rolled the videos of potential Mr. Rights, Ms. Gorilla displayed the same ho-hum attitude as she did in her face-to-face encounters. Not impressed. Been there, done that. One poor male gorilla after another was shown and immediately rejected. That is, until Mr. Big came along. When this guy appeared on screen Ms. Fussy clearly took notice. She became agitated. She tapped on the TV screen, indicating in gorilla sign language, "Oh yeah, baby. Now that’s what I'm talkin’ about." To the zookeepers, there was absolutely nothing discernable of distinction about this male gorilla that shouted "top banana," but to the lady gorilla this Mr. Lucky hit the spot.

So they brought this guy to meet their lady and those crazy kids became fast friends. He was a gentleman, and they grew into each other slowly and respectfully. And you know how the rest unfolded. One thing led to another and, well, Baby Rilla was conceived before too long.

Who would have thunk?

And how do you explain that? Really.

I mean how in the world do you explain that?


You can’t.

How does one explain immediate attraction? Of any kind? I remember watching how my little girls in pre-school would immediately pair up with this girl or join that small group of little girls. And that was that. Sight unseen these wee ones immediately gravitated toward one another. All the while from my perspective there were lots of kids in the nursery who seemed like perfectly fine preschool friend material. So why this girl and not that one there?

Something subtle, maybe invisible, or perhaps something chemical connected them together. Something subrational.

And so it is with all sorts of attractions. There can be stimuli that pleases an inner piece of our neurological wiring in a kind of simple and basic, or at least, fundamental way that remains mysteriously beyond our poweres of explanation. When I show my photos to Juli, her responses are given in a nano-second, and they're locked in, not subject to negotiable change. (This I know from experience.) She renders judgment in lightning quick fashion.



Ooh, I like it.

Trash it.

What, are you kidding? Delete.

Post that one.

And her opinions don’t change. She may soften them to spare my feelings, but they remain what they are. She’s not being stubborn. She just knows what she likes.

And so it is with some things for all of us. There is a lot of music that takes a long time for me to grow into, to discover its patterns and secret (or subtle) delights. But then there’s some music that hits me immediately. I've experienced a few songs that within a half-dozen measures of my first hearing of them have sparked the drug-like high that accompanies new neural paths lit and circuits completed. Yearnings I didn't know existed simultaneously offered and satisfied. Some examples:

Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Brandi Carlile's "The Story"

M.I.A.’s Paper Planes

Mika’s “Happy Ending”

The Animals' "The House of the Rising Sun."

RHCP's "Other side" and "Snow"

U2's “With or Without You”

Dave Brubeck's "Take Five"

I've discovered that there is a very common (nearly foundational) rock/blues four-chord sequence to which I am completely and utterly defenseless to its allure:

I. V. vi. IV. (Major. Major. Minor. Major partial resolve. Repeat infinitely.)

This is not a sophisticated sequence. But it is primal, at least to me. It’s the chord structure of yearning. Of deep burning desire. Of hurt borne from lack. Of partial resolution. It’s the chord structure of unrequited love.

Janet Jackson's "Again" is a nice example of this sequence. “Again” moved me to tears the first time I heard it, and it has moved me on every subsequent hearing. The lyrics are cheesy, I suppose, but I know this only because others tell me so and I have no reason not to believe them. Virtually any words put to that music would likely strike me as perfectly sincere, perfectly believable, perfectly tragic. Juli is amazed I'd love such a schlocky song, but honestly I can't help it. It's a hook I can't avoid. A subrational response. A heroin drip in music form.

And that's how some things are in life, at least for me. Things in which the subrational response overwhelms the rational. For good and, probably as often as not, for ill.

So it goes.

What's the connection of all this silliness to this photo? Not much, not really. (The photo, by the way, is of the atrium of the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX.) Except when I saw this photo I thought to myself, I bet some of my loyal readers will immediately respond positively to this photo. I think it's an okay photo. The blue is pretty. But I think I've learned a few of your tastes well enough to predict a few of you will quite like it.