Thursday, September 30, 2010

(...) Mardi Gras

If I wrote that there was a New Orleans event with music and parades; with beads being bartered for sights of skin; with crowded streets, costumed people and a general abandonment of good taste; you'd probably think "Mardi Gras."  And until you saw the pictures or I added some commentary on the demographic profile of the revelers, your thought would be correct.

Southern Decadence is often called the Gay Mardi Gras.  The comparison is fairly accurate, at least if you're talking about the Mardi Gras activities that take place on Bourbon St.  There's the same bold, alcohol induced lasciviousness in both events.  The main difference being the much higher ratio of men to women during Decadence, and maybe the notable difference in the number of genuine compliments on women's outfits coming from men.

This is not a story about gay people.  It is not a story about guys in dresses.  It's simply a story about people being free to do what they want, about people being free to do what makes them happy.  On this island in a sea of southern conservatism, these people got their party.

Maybe someday I'll write about my first encounter with Southern Decadence.  Friends came into town and a hurricane was only a day away...

Related article:
My earlier commentary on the people trying to bring negativity to this day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Required Reading

"I am at this moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip."
John Kennedy Toole (A Confederacy of Dunces)

The display tables at Barnes and Noble might lead one to assume that A Confederacy of Dunces is required reading for high schoolers in New Orleans. I can only hope that that is the case. There aren't many books that have caused me to laugh out loud my second time through, let alone merit a second reading. The characters and circumstances in the novel are as unique and curious as those surrounding its author and publication. A literary void as massive and unpredictable as Ignatius J. Reilly himself was left with the early end of his creator.

Just before I left for New Orleans, a friend recommended the book.   I didn't think much of it at the time, but several months later I stumbled across an old hardcover copy stuffed among the moldy merchandise in a thrift store's back room.  The title page was scrawled with personal notes from previous owners passing the book along to others.  One dollar spent and I can never look at a Lucky Dog vendor on Bourbon St., nor walk by the statue of Ignatius that stands on Canal St. without a chuckle and a nod.  I just might add my own note to the opening pages of this copy and send it back to the thrift store so that Fortuna may bestow it up some other unsuspecting reader.  

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Well Saints fans, sometimes you get the gator, and sometimes the gator gets you.  Just replace "gator" with "falcon" in this case.  I'm off to practice my field goal kicking...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tastes awful, but it's good for ya'

It's an interesting reality that most often, the things that are good for us are also a huge pain in the ass.   Go out for a jog?  Sure it's good for my long term health, but eating frosting out of the can is more immediately gratifying.  Read that book?  I can probably find somebody reenacting the Cliff's Notes version on YouTube.  Sure I'll learn less, but I'll learn less in much less time, leaving me more hours to watch ninja cat videos and musicalized versions of IQ draining crap.  Take that class?  Well, that brings us to to the point of this post.

I've taken a few photography classes at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts.  I like having a fixed day of the week to do photo-y stuff.  The most recent one I signed up for is called "finding your vision"...something, something, something...  It has more of a fine art tilt than I've previously been exposed to.  That creates a problem for me.  I've never considered myself an artist, nor do I envision myself pursing such purely "artistic" endeavors.  I'm not going to get into my philosophies on the arts here.  We all have our motivations for doing things, and those motivations can be vastly different.

We're supposed to try to pick a common theme for the class and then use the bi-weekly lecture topics to shoot a few images relating to that theme.  The images will be presented and we'll get feedback on whether we're being effective in communicating whatever it is that we're trying to say with our images.  Challenges:  (1) I have no idea what theme to use, and (2) I've never given much of a thought about what I'm trying to communicate with my pictures.  Sure, sure, every picture is supposed to tell a story, but can't I just enjoy capturing things, people, places, moments that are interesting to me?

This isn't going to be easy.  After one class, it was clear that I just don't think like an art school guy. I spend my entire work day using logic and data to accomplish things (not that it always works).  Sitting still is difficult enough for me (I'm the annoying guy drumming with my knife and fork at restaurants), but I can't even think of a decent analogy for having to sit still while listening to people subjectively interpret hypothetical images.  I get to enjoy this change of mindset after a nice long day of dealing normal work challenges; after work hours I could be spending eating pepperoni slices and watching MacGyver reruns.  Why do this?

Like exercising or reading or getting a full night of sleep, it's going to be a pain in the ass, but it'll be good for me.  Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone forces you to learn; to learn about yourself, or in the least, to learn about others.  After however many weeks this class goes, I'll probably have been stretched out of my comfort zone enough to admit that I've learned something even if I bitch about it every step of the way.  I think the old Popeye cartoons are a relevant analogy in this case.  That canned spinach must have tasted like crap, but it always helped him overcome his obstacles.  Hopefully this class will be as good for me as the steroid infused super-vegetables that Popeye used to find violent solutions to his problems.  I'll be sure to keep you posted.

**Side note -- as a result of setting up this picture I now know that my cat likes eating spinach.  Must formulate optimal blend of greenery and fish and sell recipe to cat food moguls.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday's Textures

Today is going to be a long day.  I wanted to remind myself ahead of time to slow down and appreciate whatever little things there are to be appreciated.  Take the time to absorb things with as many senses as you can; the memories will be more vivid.  I ran my hand along the flaking paint of this wall and can remember exactly what it felt like, where it was, and why I was there.

Taste can be a tricky sense to do this with.  Don't taste things that obviously shouldn't be tasted, such as paint and gutters.  Unless, of course, you want to make memories of a hospital, in which case, taste away.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Empire Building

I've used much of my time over the last two weekends building a foundation for the presence and presentation of my photographic alter ego.  There are so many ways to open yourself up to the world that at some point, you just have pick a place and get started.  You have to accept that you're a drop in one of many oceans.  The hope is that you can scatter enough drops out there that at some point they start overlapping and adding to one another.  

My first drops... 

Old fashioned physical social networking devices are on their way (i.e. business cards), courtesy of Jenny.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Walking the gridiron

In my ongoing efforts to generate envy in those that love the Saints way more than I do, here are some pictures from last night in the Superdome.  I got to throw footballs, be on the big screen, and if one of the players finds a tortilla chip in the "0" of the 50 yard line, it's probably the one I dropped.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In between 1 and 3...

I wish I could recall where I heard this, but here is a very simple approach to life.

(1) You're born.
(2) You're alive.
(3) You die. 

In between 1 and 3, don't be a dick.

Easy, eh?  Unfortunately, people are able to dig up all sorts of excuses to be dicks toward one another.  These guys, for example, are dicks.  

I could go on at length about the issues I have with this sort of people, but I'm not going to waste my time on hateful attention whores with a warped worldview.  That sign alone demonstrates how completely ridiculous these people are.

Thumbs up to the counter protesters.  

A great interchange between this guy and one of the protesters. 
Hateful protester --  "Fuck off"
Counter protester -- "Thank you! How very Christian of you!"  

Remember, in between 1 and 3, don't be a dick.   

P.S. I'm posting this on 9/11 to illustrate a point.  Religious extremism can take many forms.  These guys are completely sure that they're right -- just like those guys that took down the planes nine years ago.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Your Friday Fix

If I were Dave Matthews in this picture, I'd be saying "My week has been really busy between work travel and other crazy stuff.  I'll write more on my blog in a couple of days.  In the mean time, enjoy this picture of Taylor Swift during her cover of Slayer's Angel of Death."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Artsy music man in awe of talent

I really enjoy getting out to see and hear what the creative musical minds of the day are producing.  The challenge is that the businessman schedule and the artsy music man schedule overlap on different ends of the 11pm-6am time period.  The businessman always uses his fancy logic and big words to talk the artsy music man out of doing anything interesting.  Artsy music man needs to find something better than PBRs and ringing ears to negotiate with.  

Every once in a while, I do manage to drag my lazy butt out to one of the many bars or music venues around New Orleans to catch a performance.  It helps when there's either somebody I really want to see or I know somebody in the band.  On this particular night at Saturn Bar, Dane Terry was the touring pianist with Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch.  I first encountered Dane in my high school music theory class.  Not that he was enrolled in the class; he'd just wander in periodically to pester the teacher and make people laugh.  Oh, and he'd occasionally put on a show behind the baby grand.  

Let me back up.  I've learned to half-assed play several instruments over the years.  I've studied a little music theory.  I've played in front of different crowds with different groups on different instruments.  The point being that I'm not a complete ignoramus when it comes to understanding what goes into playing instruments and making music.  I know that most people have to practice a lot just to achieve a level of basic competence.  That's most people, but of course, there are exceptions.

Dane would sit at the piano during our class and bang out whatever intricate little piece of music crossed his mind.  I'd say he did this from memory, but I don't think that the pieces were necessarily memorized in the traditional sense (i.e. repeated over and over again).  It's probably more accurate to say that they were being recreated from some sort of audio-visual echo that had been imprinted on his brain.  Watch a song get played and it could be reproduced.  Frigging impressive, there's no other way to put it.  Add several years of additional training to that natural ability, and now I'd call it f*cking impressive.  

It was great seeing somebody doing something that nature seems to have engineered them for.  Not everybody has such a talent so it would seem a shame to go unused.  How many other people have these differently wired brains?  We can only hope that they're out there putting on their own shows for us to marvel at while we grumble to ourselves "why can't I do that?"

As for my scheduling issues - PBRs were consumed, my ears rang.  Score one for artsy music man.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's been how long?

Has it been over a month already? Where the heck does the time go? It seems like only 40 days ago that I was taking self portraits and considering starting a blog.

Ha ha ha. See, that's funny because it has been exactly 40 days. The observant reader will notice that my sense humor hasn't improved in the last month. Hmmm. I wanted to put a line through observant to make it look like I crossed it out, but I don't know how yet. **sigh** OK, any reader can notice that I haven't learned much of anything about this blogging stuff during the last month.

The fact that I don't care or have a commitment to anything on here is what makes it so gratifying. I'm free to populate these pages with inane drivel until I can drivel no more. I can also write nothing. Freedom is its own reward. With all of this unrequested responsibility accompanying my adulthood, that reward is invaluable.

I figured there would be a lot of possible directions I could take this. Pure photography, pure writing, or a mix? Common theme or random blabbering? Profound and serious or giddy and idiotic? So many choices. A lovely part of that freedom I mentioned above is that I basically get to say "Eff it, I'm not choosing." Although, I think that defaults me into a "hybrid-random blabbering-seriously idiotic something or other" mold.

Overall, I'm happy about a few things:

1) I've managed to get a post up about every three days.

2) I've got more things I want to write about (and photograph) now than when I started. Ideas promote learning which yields more ideas; truly a virtuous circle.

3) People have actually told me that they're reading this, and for one reason or another, they're enjoying it. I love self-selected samples - the people that read this and conclude I'm an idiot surely aren't going to tell me.

Looking forward to whatever the next 40 days bring.