That's just Serene.

[a follow up to the last post]

You haven't lived. . .

. . .until you've watched Firefly on a screen--[holds out hands as wide apart as they can go]--this big.

I love my life.

Monday, October 31, 2005

"Gettin' awful crowded in my sky"

I watched Serenity tonight. Not the movie, but the opening episode of the original Firefly season. I'm trying to turn my flatmate into a browncoat. I think it might be working.

I think that there might be some interesting parallels between Firefly and my current employment situation, and that concept actually has me both interested and excited.

I've raved about the show before, so I won't go on too much tonight except to say: if you haven't seen it yet, take the time. You'll be richly rewarded for investing those 10 hours of your life.

In other news: the wife of one of my suitemates from college is about to have a baby. OMFG.


[edited and then reprinted from a comment in a friend's Xanga]

"Rest is a funny thing.

Found funny places,
trapped inside cages of turmoil
          and joy
                    and laughter
                              and chaos
          we find. . .

. . .little bundles. Tied up tight, but ready to be opened and enjoyed.

Sometimes rest overflows from a cup made of energy.

Perhaps tomorrow all we will need is a little more. . .
          and the rest will follow behind it like a lost puppy or an old friend.

Rest is a funny thing."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I think the hard part's over.

Today it felt as if the hurdle had been leapt. The rubicon crossed. The turning point was seen, marked, considered, and passed. The past life I could have led, of irresponsibility and dreamlike freedom is diminishing in my rearview mirror like an on-ramp to an interstate untaken.

My way is clearer now. This path more well defined, is perhaps less traveled. I can feel it in my feet and hands, that I am moving as I should. My universe is congealing, and that is as it must be.

In the long run, will the lessons, habits, and addictions of the past 18 months remain, or will they fade as my new life becomes more defined?

I do not know. Nor can I hope to predict an answer to that which does justice to the fierceness with which I have lived the past 18 months, or the passion with which I am taking up my new life.

We shall see. That much I can promise you. We shall see.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I now own. . .

. . .one of these. . .

That's not necessarily a good thing. [scowl]

If I weren't so tired, I'd rant at significant length about how attempting to do something as simple as edit an entry in the phonebook makes me feel like a monkey playing with a small nuclear reactor. I have no idea how it works, what it does, or what I'm supposed to do to it, yet it's mine.


Ohwell. *shrug* I guess I'm officially entering the 21st century today, whether I want to or not.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Project. . .

. . ."IGI."

If you don't hear from the real me in 12 months, send a rescue team.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Well, I was motivated this morning. . .

but this evening. . . I feel like death warmed over.

Let's hope tomorrow goes better.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sudoku, redux.

So, I went out looking for this scary new concept an evil evil friend introduced me to. The thing I was looking for was sudoku in hexadecimal (either 0-9+A-F or 1-9+A-G). IE a 16x16 board. I found one or two.

But in the process I also ran across another variant of Sudoku, called Samurai. In short, my response is fear, loathing, and instant attraction.

I mean. . .Holy Shit.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

good things to remember.

Yesterday was good. processing yesterday today has led me to an interesting and encouraging conclusion, which is that my transition to this new job needn't be a complete overhaul of my social status, location, and personality.

I have so long expeced to move to a different part of the country (at a minimum) when I got a robotics job that I have always kindof assumed I would have to change almost everything when I moved. Who I knew, who I talked to daily, who was in the harem, who I visited, where I put my after-work energy, etc. etc.

But now, living within just over an hour of my old alum, I can keep in touch with much of my old crowd without difficulty. I can come down for the weekend and see old friends, plan get-togethers, and so-on.

It will be interesting then to see the fusion of my new vocation with my old character and my constant temparment.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I heard a new theory today.

I'm giving it time to ferment, so I'm not going to talk about it.

Instead, I'm going to talk about what theory means to me, briefly.

I'm an engineer, by temperment, choice, and vocation. That means that when I speak of theory it is not to diminish the authenticity of something but rather to clarify its status as a lens for understanding reality.

In engineering work we do a great deal of modeling, often of systems where one (or many) of the properties are unknown and represented using only variables. The models we create give us a conceptual and mathematical understanding of the system we are modeling.

I extend this concept to all other aspects of my life. I have applied the theory of modeling complex interactions to everything from my love life to the way I cook. I use method planning for simple tasks and high level conceptual modeling for understanding complex emotions and feelings like love or loyalty.

When people give me analogies, concepts, or principles, my mind automatically begins to churn them into some sort of mental model of the phenomena they are describing.

These models are often then reinterpreted and reworded to better suit how my personal understanding has coupled with the model they've given me to consider.

I'm not really advocating this as a good way to do things. I'm not really going anywhere at all with this description, I'm just logging a little bit of my mental process. Giving you, the reader, one of many models of how and why I think the way I do.

And because it's late and I have work tomorrow--(internal monologue: "WORK! AHAHAaHaha! I am EMPLOYED! WEEEE!") [hits internal monologue with a shoe]--I'm going to crash now.

Friday, October 21, 2005

As much as I love the name. . .

somebody needs to tell the guys over at Hip2B2 that nobody uses "square" or "hip" anymore. . .

Still, it's a catchy name, 'neh? I'm thinking of having it tatooed on my forehead.

Then I'll look too stupid to be hip, OR square.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

well, crap.

I forgot to update this morning.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Arrival is always a Letdown.

Arrival is always a quirky experience, complete with both rewarding and difficult moments.

There are times when you want to scream "This wasn't supposed to happen!" and other times when you want to grin and say "wow, that's so much better than I was expecting."

If you don't count dormitory rooms, this will the second apartment I've lived in, but I subleased the other one, in Gainesville, from a fellow who was away for the summer. This time the place is well-and-truly mine, ground up.

The condo in question needs work. It's a renovation in progress. Of course I've lived in a renovation in progress for the majority of the past 18 years of my life so this is hardly a new experience to me. In fact I'm uniquely gifted by my parents' ongoing quest to renovate their home because it gives me a background of knowledge from which I can work to do the things I want to do here. Flooring, electrical work, and basic detail and cabinetry are all in need of little improvements or changes, and I am already familiar with most of those methods. Over the coming months, I'll be putting that familiarity to good use.

But for now, I've got real work to do. Time to go get my hands dirty.

update: Have you guys seen today's Zits?


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Leaving Town

Currently Listening: Dexter Freebish - Leaving Town

This particular Dexter Freebish song is a guilty pleasure. Catchy, infectious, easy to sing along with, and containing a completely vapid and edgy-pop feel.

The lyrics don't match the upbeat drum, distorted guitar or absurd studio-remix effects in the least.

Oh your reputation's so golden
you're never lonely and you're never home
I know you've been talking about leaving
you've lost all your feelings for this town.
Paint your nails and put your lipstick
you don't want to miss your ticket out.
Just because you graduate from school
so high in the gene pool that's your point of view.

This song has always made me think of a couple of specific people. One of them would have followed this advice but never saw the need, and one always spoke as if the need was deep and whole and real, but never got up the guts to act on it.

Both of them make me nostalgic for times when it mattered deeply to me what happened to them.

But when you're broken down and no one else is around
You'll come running back to this town and
I'll be there, yeah I'll be there.

I used to intend to be there whenever they needed me. To convey to them as clearly as I could that I was as dependable as the sunlight and as stubborn as a mule.

But in truth, it never matters how available you are if they don't think they need you. You'll stay warming the bench while they live lives full of adventure and danger and you'll always be ready to help but never asked, even if they need it.

Cause I remember how we drank time together
and how you used to say that the stars are forever.
And daydreamed about how to make your life better by
leaving town, leaving town.

I have wonderful memories. Important moments when nothing seemed capable of worrying me or making the day any better.

Pristine afternoons spent making such memories are a noble time, when you're young enough for them to matter.

Pack your bags, your smokes in your pocket
Your wearing my locket around your neck
Take a drag and wait for the Greyhound
the world is your playground and you want to win.

I have a flawless mental image of an event that never happened, watching you standing at the bus station with a rucksack and a cigarette. You're not coming to visit me, and you're not running away. You're just leaving town.

It is a memory that makes me smile.

You don't smoke, of course, and you never left, so the image is a figment of an imagination that was obsessed with you when I first heard this song. But it is still an image I intend to keep.

. . .Cause I remember how we drank time together. . .

We did that once. A long time ago. I still remember the date. And the words exchanged. I still remember how your attention made me feel.

We drank time.

Nothing in life will ever come that easy.
Doesn't mean it has to be that hard.
I know you will find out who you are

I used to tell one of my now-ex's that she would find someone better than me. And she would always say "I don't want anyone better. I want you. That's all." It was one of the only things she said right the entire time we were together.

But it was a powerful anchor and a good feeling. It makes me realize something now looking back, which was that we never needed each other. You certainly didn't need me, and I didn't really know what I needed. Both of us wanted something more, but it never worked out and the important thing for me to remember is: that's o.k. with me.

I don't expect you'll ever appear on my radar again unless I make the effort. And there is a tempting opportunity that has presented itself. Perhaps next spring I'll reconsider the chance and take it after all.

For now, I'm considering it tabled as a flight of fancy, which isn't really my department anymore.

But when you're broken down and no one else is around.
You'll come running back to this town and
I'll be there, yeah I'll be there.

But it is still true, y'know. That's the funny part.

After seven years of waiting, and four years of freedom from that same waiting, if you called me right now and told me that you wanted to get together, I'd change heaven and earth to make that meeting happen.

Nothing changes in this town. Maybe that's why it is for the best that I'm leaving.

Maybe Specter Alabama is finally losing its hold on me, and maybe that is more a mental trip than a physical transportation. Maybe this time I'll weigh anchor for real.

Maybe I'm the one standing at the bus stop this time, cigarette in hand?

Take a drag and wait. . .

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Mathematical Definition of PWNED!

Sudoku: SAY MY NAME!


Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Mathematical Definition of Agony

Sudoku, I hate you so.

You'll find me gone.

Currently listening: Carbon Leaf - On Any Given Day.

T-minus Two.

In 56 hours I'll be moved in somewhere else.

I woke, I broke free drove a long time
It didn't purge you from my mind
Hang up the halo, maybe you're right
Chalk it up to a starry night
To be set free, to live and learn
Did we pass or fail the term?
You wrote a note with chalk on my door
A message I'd known long before:
On any given day, you'll find me gone
On any given day, you'll find me gone

A young fellow named Tim, a.k.a. Zig, who was a freshman during my final year at Mercer, piqued my interest in Carbon Leaf when he spoke of their concerts on the Atlantic coast and rich folk-pop sound. I began to discover their music through the influences of others later on, and now have a small collection of favorites including Mellow Tone and The Boxer.

However, of all their songs On Any Given Day is the one that catches my ear and holds my attention.

Give me your reason, give me your rhyme
So I can tempo me to your time.
So I can scratch your surface and be
A deeper part of the mystery
To be undone, to be alone
To live life in monotone
I reach the beach and try to ignore
The warning I'd known long before
On any given day, you'll find me gone
On any given day, you'll find me gone

Amo, I love.

Amabam, I did love.

Ironically, that is the imperfect case.

I have searched for a lover and each one has found me wanting, or been found wanting in turn.

On any given day you'll find me gone. Itinerant. In motion. A Gypsy.

And yet, Amaritudo eludes me. Bitterness does not gain a clawhold in my heart. Why?

If I cannot have that which I once prized, and have now abandoned the search of it, why am I not saddened?

Why does my heart leap within me with joy whenever I realize I no longer wear the ball-and-chain of one desperate to be loved?

I've been down to the sea
I've been down to the sea
And so all of the lovers will say
Forever star-crossed will we stay
Still I can't help feeling
castaway on any given day
Still I can't help feeling
you'll run
      away on any given day

I have departed from the trail. The road less traveled by is my new footpath, free of companions but also of brambles and ruts. There is a saying that when seeking knowledge on difficult roads that many travel, there is much wisedom to be found. "The road is not smooth, but it is well worn."

My road may not be well worn, but it seems smoother these past months than any I traveled before. It is dappled with sunlight and seems free of obstructions, injustice or greed.

I window shop for you in my mind
A flannel shirt at the five and dime
A leather coat cut big city style
Boots from plastic crocodile
A pinecone dipped in glitter glue
A penny - 1942
A necklace with a cheap green stone
Barefeet, cold sand. Chill to the bone

This is the sort of list I would have compiled once for someone who wouldn't notice the little variations that mattered so much in my mind when it was assembled. Because the one who trained me to be so detailed is long since gone.

I sent you a collection of gifts, once upon a time.

You were sick and I was busy missing you. Do you remember? The elephant earrings and the candle that was too large for the base?

You were beloved, and when He made me give you up, it almost killed me.

I'm not sure I ever forgave Him for that.

My eye on you. My eye on you.
My eye on you always

And each lady since has been little more than a pale reflection in a pool of moonlight and yearning. I've wanted to stumble across another of your ilk and caliber, and each one disappoints. Each one was less than the perfection to which I reduced you.

For you were more complex than I gave you credit for. You left me in the dust of a dream crushed and a hope realized. Honesty becomes us both better than the wistful fantasies of adolescence ever did.

Does he treat you well? Are you still lovers? I haven't heard from you in years now. Perhaps . . .

But no, it is better that you remain within my past. Buried as a memory. For your power there is greater than it ever would be again if I reduced it by meeting the real you in the real world, without my rose colored glasses and youthful imaginings.

I lift my hands up, smell to reveal
Your perfume on the steering wheel
You're next to me asleep and I smile
I think I'll drive on for awhile

You can keep this place within my heart. Stay, and serve as my most jealous of mistresses. Drive out all the impostors who might seek to uproot you and make themselves my loves. Be my beloved and perhaps I will return to the simplicity of the years when I had eyes for no-one else.

In bitterness at time lost I once claimed that seven years was too long a period. But perhaps it was too short.

On any given day you'll find me gone.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Away From Home

Currently listening: Stan Rogers - First Christmas, and The Idiot

I grew up listening to Stan Rogers (wikipedia). He's a canadian folk singer that my parents have loved for years. They listened to him when they lived up north, before I was born. He died in a commercial airplane crash in 1983, just 43 days before I first drew breath.

Sometimes when I close my eyes and listen to him sing it challenges my disbelief in reincarnation and the 'here on earth' afterlife. There certainly is a part of my spirit that hearkens to his words and voice at a very structural level.

These two songs both touch me deeply and for very different reasons. The Idiot is a passionate song about independence and self-reliance.

It is a call to move where the money is, and take survival and personal pride as a person's primary motivators, abandoning comfort and luxury and what is 'easy' in favor of what is real, what is free, and what is right, even when the work is hard. It's a call that I respect and hope I am always ready to answer. Part of taking this new job of mine is being "the idiot" and doing what I know to be my work, instead of staying where the meals are free and I can wake up whenever I like.

First Christmas stands in direct contrast to the hopeful promise of the Idiot's refrain. It is a woeful dirge about the heartbreak that comes into a life lived in solitude, especially during those times and seasons when we celebrate community and family.

Each story that it tells (and it tells three) is a tale of strength and independence but also a heartfelt cry of pain and loss. I know that I will have my share of these times, and I use this song to remind myself that even in the midst of my joy there are those around me, down the street or just around the corner, who suffer. It lends me a compassion I sometimes forget if left to my own devices.

I wrote a post some time ago about music as a mood effector, and I very often use Stan Rogers for this exact purpose. He's an amazing artist.

In preparing this post today I gathered a collection of music of my father's to review before I leave for my new life away from home. My father's stash of Stan Rogers was one of the primary motivators for that. I'll be attempting to amass a more thorough collection of his work myself after I establish myself in Georgia.

The picture, by the way, is James Dean, and for some reason his determined face and steady gait on a completely abandoned city street sums up my feelings nicely today.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Since You've been Gone.

Currently Listening: Dismemberment Plan - The City.

I decided I'm going to make this a theme week: Songs about leaving.

Today's is by a band that I've loved for a couple of years now. EKG mentioned them in passing somewhere and I fell in love with them after hearing The Ice of Boston in my dorm room in the spring of 2003.

The ghosts of graffiti they couldn't quite erase. . .

I guess that while I've never claimed Montgomery as my home, it is still the place where I developed most of my understanding of the 'city' concept. I grew up here, in a way.

I've always made fun of this place. I hate the malls and the drivers and meaningless ways that they pass the time and the fact that there is no real music scene and when music does come to town few people appreciate it. I hate the vapid, self-absorbed way kids my generation focus on themselves and the bitter, ignorant way that my parent's generation looks down on us all as exactly the same and lacking in taste and class.

And this is where I live, but
I've never felt less at home
So I'm not unsympathetic
I see why you left
There's no one to know
There's nothing to do
The city's been dead
Since you've been gone

In another sense I wasn't really raised here. After all, past the age of 4 I lived in a small town outside this city and had to combat the small town mentality that came with that location. In addition, during much of my formative years my family traveled heavily and so I became somewhat itinerant in attitude. A person with a flare for dramatic prose might have said that this unrooted pre-teen experience transformed me into a nomadic, wandering soul who no longer seeks to put down roots in the traditional manner. And they might be right.

Sometimes I stand on my roof at night
And watch, as something seems to happen somewhere else
I feel like the breeze will pick me up and carry me away
Out and over this iridescent grid
Up and away from the bar fights and neon lights
Out and away from everything that makes me what I am

But I cannot deny that I grew up here. That this is the place that despite my resistance and its own unfeeling, poorly educated culture, can lay claim to the title of "the city where he grew up."

This city is where I get my understanding of malls, subculture, dining, and art. It has provided me with my first perspectives (often skewed) on everything from ethnic cuisine to high-tech software development. It has foisted upon me a love of quiet spaces and green fields, but it has also driven from me a patience for the southern drawl and people with poor decision making skills.

It has been formative, even if neither the city, nor myself meant it to be.

There's nothing to do
The city's been dead
Since you've been gone

I guess in a sense I've been chasing something ancient since I was 13 years old. Every moment since could be viewed been an attempt to recapture something I let go because I "thought it was for the best." Perhaps it is a pattern only broken within the last year, and only through a bitter mix of cynicism and intentional distancing.

Maybe. I don't know.

Oh I never had just whatever it is you want, baby
And I really tried, I tried with all my might, it made me crazy
To try to figure out what it is I've done wrong every time
When everything I love, everything I hold dear
Heads out sometime
And all I ever say now is good-bye.

But the last year has been about breaking patterns and molds. The last year has been about escaping past errors and learning lessons. The last year has been about preparing to move.

My roots are drawing up. . . my mooring lines are cast off. My time is coming soon.

And all I ever say now is good-bye.

It will be your turn soon, Montgomery, to say good-bye to me.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Time for Moving On.

Currently Listening: Switchfoot - Playing for Keeps.

I got a job today. I started thinking about it over a month back. My vocation was calling to me. I'm 'wired up' for this work, and I'm passionate about it.

I started turning my 'looking' into 'trying' about a week ago, and started with a tiny startup in my field. After an interview series this past week, I was offered a position starting next week, so I'm packing over the weekend and I move next Monday.

Some of you probably remember this post, from last September.

I managed to let the travel bug bite me and survive it, I found my comfort zone in relationships, and I picked up a hobby I enjoy. The profession feels like one of the final pieces in a puzzle that seems to be falling together almost on its own.

And now I'm leaving for a new life. I'd like to say that nothing will change and I'll still blog every day with just as much direction and open-ness into my life as there has always been here. . .but that just isn't true.

I have no interest in getting Dooced and that means I intend to maintain a strict "no work discussion online" policy. No names of coworkers, no amusing research related anecdotes. Not even any mentions of the company name or location.

I will attempt to continue to post here but in time I think I will decrease to probably thrice-a-week instead of daily updates. My life will be much busier for the forseeable future, and that's just the way I want it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Art and Business.

Driving home from my inteview today I heard that new Death Cab for Cutie song, Soul and Body, and I didn't like it.

I love DCfC. I have adored them ever since I first heard "Passenger Seat" over a year ago at EKG's recommendation (completely unrelated: it seems she hates me now, again) when I listened to Tiny Vessels my heart nearly broke because they sang my story, and when later I became entwined between the lines of Title and Registration it seemed natural and whole. Their songs were my songs and they told my stories. And they sounded great while doing it.

But this new one sounds kindof catchy and heartless and empty and vapid are reminds me of "Ocean Breathes Salty" and it doesn't feel like someone has jammed a fishhook in my ear and snatched my head towards the speaker and shouted "THIS IS YOUR LIFE" which is how it felt when I first heard Tiny Vessels.

And so I came home a little dissapointed and a little concerned and I sat down and checked my customized google page, and there I noticed that Violet Blue (NSFW) had updated. So I went and read the post and she told a tale about a concert that sucked, and how one of her favorite bands (Modest Mouse) was there and the whole music scene at the show was entirely corporate and the bands got fucked and the media got herded like cattle and the music was lost beneath a veneer of money and lies and bigotry and hate and uptight assholes with their eyes on the cash flow and their ears turned off.

And it made me think about business and music and money and art and the fact that I am passionate about what I do and I plan to continue to be passionate about it, and the first time any business for which I work gets between me and my passion for my profession I will put two fingers in the air, give a shout out to my fellow alumni at Fuck U., and move on to somewhere that my passion can be channeled and used.

I hope that some people at that Modest Mouse show had a better time than Violet did, and that it wasn't a total loss for the fans that really did come to see the music.

And to the "music business" assholes who think this is the way to make money and sell records: I hope you get something like this shoved somewhere uncomfortable. Use your imaginations to equate the level of displeasure to the shit you put your 'stable of bands' through every time they cut an album or try and play a show.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Real Writing: Coming Soon.

But not today. Sorry kids, I gotta run. The real world is beckoning me and it is time I answer.

Introspection on a Monday

Last night I went through some of my own archives and ran across some of my musings from the past twenty months. It got me to thinking about maturation, learning, and the fact that my writing (while improving steadily in readability and technical competence) has become less vibrant. I think that perhaps it has also become less yearning, less heartfelt, and less passionate.

I'm rather torn about that. I thought last night about writing an impassioned and pell-mell entry on how lives change, people learn and grow, and everyone has to adapt. Then I remembered that today was Monday and it is a link day, so I'm posting some links instead.

From the "scariest thing you'll read today" department: an article on RFID chips. If you have any shred of interest in personal privacy, this one will keep you up at night.

In addition to that, you get two comic strips from Unshelved.

Here is the first, which struck a resonant cord with my "Why I choose freedom" article from August.

The second is just hilarious, especially if you've been through the unshelved archives and know that Dewey has been avoiding even speaking to Cathy for months.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Genies and Djinn III: The Folly of Flickr Flattery

I know I said I was going to post this yesterday, in keeping with my big-ol'-hunk-o'-content, but I got distracted by something very shiny and spent the day doing other things.

Now I'm back.

I spoke yesterday of my flickr account and what I try to accomplish when I take pictures of people.

I have, of course, found specific artists I admire in the flickr world. Gregory Kim is one. Scott 5x5(caution: some images NSFW) is another.

The work available ranges from simple and innocent studies in skin texture and tone to complex and sultry captures of erotica. Simple tricks like environmental lighting and use of local props or weather opportunities are easier to pick up when you notice how they effect the picture rather than just being told to try them.

I do have one major complaint with Flickr, however. It seems that any artist with a large enough body of work (especially those who take erotic or revealing photographs) will attract a legion of flickr surfers and fans. The comment system (being painless and extremely easy to use) then begins to come into play.

And by and large, the collection of comments an image of the female body will generate is the most vapid, useless, pile of bullshit one could ever hope to discover anywhere on the internet.

This image (caution, contains cleavage) is a typical example. There are twelve comments on the image. Of them, exactly three actually contain feedback that is unique to the content of image. And those three read as follows:

"nice shading between her breasts"
"Fantastic contrast !. . ."
". . .Nice pose there!"

This image (caution, contains implied nudity and a midriff!) from Scott 5x5 is a much more rare case. The image was posted sometime yesterday and there are already thirteen comments about it. Of those thirteen, five reference the photographic quality and content, and one even presents a mild criticism.

This criticism is like a needle in the haystack of the flickr system, rare and often incredibly valuable.

More than half of the comments left on an image won't reference the content at all, being hollow, from-the-hip back-pats like "amazing" or "beautiful shot!" The comments could have just as well been left by a simple comment script acting at random.

Meanwhile, most of the remaining comments talk only about the subject "wow, she's really beautiful", "hot!" or my personal favorite for being both useless and somewhat degrading: "humina humina!"

When I post an image like the one to the right, sure, I'd love to hear the occasional "pretty!" or "neat idea" but far more appreciated would be "the lighting is too bright, did you try it with a softer source?" or "the angle seems kindof funny. Maybe from closer to floor level?" Those comments, from other photographers, would aid my development as an artist and give me a step-up in improving my work.

My models don't need their self-esteem stroked. When they chose to climb in front of the camera they were already proving their own self-confidence was strong (I once told one of my models that a previous shoot she'd done was amazing because the photographer had managed to capture every bad angle her face had, and none of the myriad of good ones). Everyone is not a beautiful and unique flower, and not every picture of a woman (even of a beautiful woman) is a beautiful image.

I feel that the constant back-patting and mutually-masturbatory discourse in the flickr comment system does more harm than good, stifling revision, challenge and improvement in favour of the status quo. "Do more of what you're doing, it's lovely" is not always the best message to send. Especially when the artist is using the wrong exposure times, shooting subjects poorly, or just generating crap images. That kind of encouragement is only going to cause them to get stuck doing the same thing they've been doing since they started.

I call for a Flickrevolution! Stop being so damn nice to one another and point out ways we can all improve. Let's move forward and actually get somewhere.

[All of these images are mine, and can be saved/reworked and redistributed as much as you like as long as I'm given credit and you don't charge for the result (copyleft, creative commons image, etc.)]

Saturday, October 08, 2005


[blur cranked up]


Friday, October 07, 2005

Genies and Djinn II: Under the Brush

I talked yesterday about why I take pictures and what I'm searching for when I photograph people.

I spoke of being uninterested in studio-type photographs. I like the quality, but rarely appreciate the style that most 'professional' photographers employ.

Now let me make something clear. . . I'm not discrediting the work of photographic retouchers. Glenn Feron is an artist. I don't dispute that point. I simply don't enjoy the art he creates. The type of post-processing that means photographic integrity can be ignored or discounted in the exchange that takes place in the editing room is something that holds no appeal for me.

It's much like cheesecake. I have no interest in the taste of cheesecake. I don't dislike it, nor do I find the taste unpleasant. I can even distinguish 'good' cheesecake from 'bad' cheesecake, but I derive no pleasure from the experience.

There are aspects of professional post-processing that I find very helpful, and make use of myself. color correction and glare reduction are healthy, useful functions of the studio's ability. Where I draw the lines are things like wrinkle removal to make a face look younger (and less human) or 'reshaping' to make a model more buxom or skinnier.

These techniques are in wide use across the 'industry' of professional models in personal photoshoots. Everyone has always joked of course about Playboy airbrushing the models used for the magazine. Most of the major magazines that feature images of women (Maxim and FHM, et all) follow suite, and this means that finding professional photographs that haven't gone "under the brush" is as rare as finding actresses and models that haven't gone under the knife at some point to enhance their careers.

Now, as a person trying to collect photographs that enhance my understanding of how to capture raw images of beauty as a result of the camera-work and the body in question, and not the result of some fellow in a dimly lit room with a copy of photoshop and too much time on his hands, I've got a bit of a challenge ahead of me. My solution has been to turn to flickr.

Flickr is an online photograph hosting service/community. The upshot: you get to post public and private pictures at your leisure, and share them with people. Want to show granny all the pictures from cousin bob's wedding without e-mailing her 30 jpegs? Send her a link to the wedding set. The system isn't perfect (you have to hope granny doesn't find the 'swingers in action' set in one of your contact's collections and think it is yours). But it does allow for a whole lot of pictures to be shared by a whole lot of people.

Over my time searching for images of the female form that are based in reality and skilled photography, I've come to rely almost exclusively on the (often) amateur collections available on flickr. These collections range from professionals who take personal photographs on the side, to the-girl-next-door that just happens to love her digital camera.

The photographs on flickr are not always raw. Some of them are post-processed, some even heavily, but rarely are these effects applied with professional goals in mind. Mass-marketability is not the driving force behind the modifications. This means that most of the after-work, often done by the same photographer who took the picture, is merely an attempt on the artists part to make the image more closely resemble their own memory of the moment at which the image capture occurred. Sometimes they may edit to bring out some certain emotion or reaction to the image, but rarely will they reshape a model to fit more closely into society's 'sexy' mold.

Flickr, like any other public community, has bad apples. There are plenty of flickrites who merely repost other work, including much professional stuff from photoshoots for magazines or pornographic movie covers. This work is just as heavily mangled as any of the work you'd see in this month's issue of Maxim, but it is a simple matter to avoid such users and plumb the depths of the amateurs and professionals who are motivated by drives similar to my own.

I have created a flickr site of my own, under the moniker Rossum's Child, and am slowly building a small portfolio there. Not much of it is worth noticing yet, but over time I hope to create a comprehensive body of my personal work. If you have a few minutes to spare and are incredibly bored, I'd love to hear some feedback on the (small amount of) work I've already posted. Criticism strongly encouraged.

So this public photograph sharing service has become my goldmine for images that give me inspiration and ideas about the kind of photography I want to be able to generate on my own over the coming years. Which is where I'll leave off for today. Part III comes tomorrow, where I'll rant about my biggest problem with Flickr, and how I hope it improves in the future.

All images copyright/copyleft their respective owners in the flickr system. If your work is displayed here and you'd rather it wasn't, I will happily remove it, just drop me a note.

Special thank you to Greg Kim. I used several images of his.

Also, an apology: I haven't kept the flickr account names associated with each of these photographs, so I can't link to their owners, but I would prefer to. If you're the owner of one of these images, please drop me a note and tell me your user name so I can link the image to you.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Genies and Djinn: releasing the girl inside the body.

I collect images.

I have a sort of random rolling clipart gallery assembled over the last 6 years that means often when I need an image of an object I've already got a couple.

Bears? Got 'em. Microsoft logo? Got it. Juvenile Porcupine? Yup. Guy in a disco shirt on a skateboard? uhuh. Robot playing the piano? Got that too.

In the spring of 2004, I took a class in chemical photography. My abilities as a photographer surged forward into new areas and I became dramatically more aware both of how a camera works and of what I am capable of capturing on film.

I also became aware of what aspects of my photography I want to focus on and improve (posed shots with willing models, architecture, machines), and what I'm willing to let fall by the wayside (I suck at candids, and so I've pretty much left off trying).

During my trip to Europe I expanded somewhat my interest in photography and for the first time I put some work into playing with a cheap, ancient digital of my father's. The renewed interest opened up some new opportunities for me as a photographer and renewed my interest in the photography of the human body.

As I realized that my photography of the body was lacking in part due to ignorance, I decided that one method of discovery was to search out photographs of the body that played on the strengths of angles, poses and lighting to create better photographs. Thus, a half a year ago I began assembling a collection of photographs of the human body, male and female. The collection currently stands at 1,430 images, with the vast majority (1,191) being of women, because I am far more interested in perfecting my ability to capture the female form to film than the male one.

And since I have no interest in becoming adept at taking pictures of plastic people or airbrushing extensively to improve my photographs, I do not seek primarily the 'hot chicks!" that seem to inhabit at least one thread in every forum in which there are males present. These images are off my radar for two reasons. The first is that I have no desire to build the skillset needed (such as the post-processing to dull the humanity of the image), and the second is that the combination of fake breasts, ridiculous settings, and often exploitative posing creates content in which I have no interest.

I take pictures because I feel that the female form is something like a genie in a bottle. Each girl is trapped inside herself, waiting for a way out. Looking for that one moment, that one perfect instant where everything comes together and people see them as they are, rather than as society expects them to be. Every woman has those moments. The band Counting Crows says it this way in A Long December.

All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

My effort in the photography of people is to find those moments when everything lines up. Like a photographic zodiac, the pose, the lighting, and the environment all coincide, and it's up to me to find the angle and the settings that will open the bottle and let the genie out. And when I find it, I find a window into a different world. I hope that in that moment I find a way to release the girl inside the body.

My work has a long way to go, and I've got a lot to learn. But so far, I like what I'm learning. It's a challenge and an adventure. A photographic quest, and at the end of the search is something beautiful and unique.

Continued Tomorrow.

All images copyright of the author of All-is-Well, 1997-2005.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Links and RIAA scares.

First: some news from the "consumers have rights?" campaign of the RIAA.

If you still think the RIAA is just 'protecting its assets' have a look at this article from EconoCulture. It's a long read, but the picture it paints of RIAA raids is chilling.

And for an encouraging look at what might be a brighter future, know that consumers are striking back. If you know anyone who has been targetted by the RIAA, encourage them to contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation as soon as they can. They're an organization dedicated to maintaining our freedoms in the information age, and they can help.

And last: a link to the excellent web comic PartiallyClips. These people are hysterical. If you're looking for excellent anti-climax humour, this is the place to find it. Each comic is typically three panels of clipart with words added, but the dialogue so often reveals something brilliant about a simple illustration that it more than makes up for the static imagery.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Signs that you are turning into a browncoat.

"Shiny" has officialy entered into my vocabulary as a synonym for cool.

[sigh] Thanks Kaylee.

In other news: the ball will be rolling by the weeks end. Can I keep up?

(no links today. I'm lazy. Maybe tomorrow instead. Or tonight).

Monday, October 03, 2005

Yesterday was different.

I got the first quasi-professional edit of a short story of mine completed, so either tonight or tomorrow I'll rework the manuscript and then I guess I'll start looking for a publisher.

And last night was unique. I'm went and hung out with Hipster, EKG, and company. After a very cool blues concert (Willie King) we moved the party on board Serenity.

Which was. . . well, Serenity. If you're a browncoat, go see it and enjoy yourself. If you've already seen it once, see it again. It can't hurt. If you're not a browncoat yet, then become a browncoat first, then go see it.

My Baby and I also got to indulge in a little bit of incredibly irresponsible behaviour on the way from EKG's place to the movie. We played traffic show-off games with EKG's friend driving his Z4 convertible. So that was fun. I had the advantage (just barely) in manueverability and size, and he had a ridiculous advantage in speed and acceleration.

Oh yeah, and earlier that night, on my way into town, I let my mind wander and nearly died. So that was fun. Accidentally taking T-intersections on steep hills, at 50+ mph is. . .unwise. Amazingly, my baby executes a remarkably graceful near-right-angle turn at those speeds. There must be a patron saint who watches over idiots like me.

And if you're looking for a funny, sharp daily-update comic about life as a librarian. . . try Unshelved. No idea why you'd be looking for such an item, but there ya go.

Saturday, October 01, 2005