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kyle cassidy

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It's the little things [Oct. 5th, 2013|09:18 pm]
[mood |nostalgicnostalgic]
[music |There's Got to be a Morning After]

On an Amtrak racing from somewhere to somewhere right now (this is life at 100mph) and noticing they have really fancy napkins with the Amtrak logo on them. This is the sort of thing that my dad would bring home for me when I was a kid and he went somewhere.

I remember once when I was probably in first grade, he and my mom went out to dinner and a movie, my sister and I had a babysitter. Our babysitter's name was Tim and he was awesome. He had curly hair and he was in high school. He'd already seen the movie my parents had gone out to see and he told us the whole story, in great detail, making a paper boat, and showing us, as we stared goggle eyed how a giant wave hits the ship, and it rolls upside down -- trapping the survivors who must then climb down to the bottom of the ship, which is really up -- through upside down rooms, up upside down staircases, past upside down dead people and right side up fire to try and escape.

It hadn't dawned on me yet that movies got shown over and over. We couldn't fathom how Tim knew all this stuff, but it was a great story it mesmerized us.

I remember my dad waking me up when they got home. He'd had some sort of club sandwich at dinner and he saved the little plastic swords that held the bread together and he gave them to me. It was probably ten o'clock at night but it felt like it was the middle of a new world. I'd never seen anything as wonderful as those tiny plastic swords. Or really as wonderful as a guy who'd think to save them for a six year old.

I prefer being an adult, but that night I remember as being something like magic.

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In other news... [Oct. 4th, 2013|01:59 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

In other news, the New York Times did an article about my Romeo and Juliet poster.

Clickenzee to Embiggen

I guess if something has to happen to drown out news about your awesome video project, having it be a New York Times article about something else you did is pretty good.

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A Doll's House: First Look [Oct. 4th, 2013|08:46 am]
[Current Location |the antipodes]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Counting Crows: Round Here]

I want to ask you a question.

As you hopefully know, I'm kickstarting a video production of Henrik Ibsen's masterpiece "A Doll's House". The Kickstarter made its initial goal in three hours, but it's real goal is to get this play to as many people as possible.

I'd like you to think of it like this: There's a play going on so close to your house that you don't have to get out of your pajamas to see it. The ticket price is $15, and for that you can bring everybody you can fit into your living room, and you can go to see it as many times as you want.

That's really what's going on here. This is for every one of you who's not been able to make it to one of trillian_stars' plays but said "Oh I wish that I lived closer." -- I made this for you. All of you theater geeks, Victorian aficionados, feminists, costumers and people who've memorized sonnets who've been reading this blog for a decade. I made this for you.

Here's a quick peek at how it's going to look.

If you don't have $15 for a DVD and can't contribute financially, sharing the Kickstarter with your friends would be a great help to making this happen.

If you can afford a DVD, please also consider giving one away to someone who can't afford it. Initially I'd wanted a reward level where we'd send a copy to your old school or library which Kickstarter rejected as raising money for a political cause -- however, no one can stop you from buying and extra copy and sending it to the English teacher who made a difference in your life years ago. There are multi-copy backer levels just for that sort of thing.

Remember I said I wanted to ask you a question? My question is this: What's the first time you remember being moved, amazed, impressed, by a theatrical production? What was that like? What was the play?

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KICKSTARTER LAUNCHES! Top Sekret No Longer! [Sep. 30th, 2013|06:32 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

You missed an amazing play, but I'm desperate to share it with you. We have a video. Almost. I need your help to make it real. Backer rewards start at $5, and $15 will get you a DVD.

In August of 2013 Henrick Ibsen's dramatic masterpiece A Doll's House was staged at the Ebeneezer Maxwell Mansion just outside of Philadelphia, directed by Josh Hitchens. The mansion exists as a museum from the exact time Ibsen's play is set but because it's a museum and not a theater the run was extremely limited. Only a few seats could be placed throughout the house and the museum closed to the public only for a short time. Every performance sold out and it became my dream that this beautiful, immersive production not be lost forever. I scrambled in the final days of the play to assemble a video crew and convince the actors to spend two long hour days re-creating the play scene-by-scene for multiple cameras. It exists now as about twenty hours of raw footage that need to be edited, packaged, and sent to you.

If you've never been able to make it to one of trillian_stars' plays, here's your chance to see her in one of the greatest roles ever written for an actress for less than the cost of a ticket to see the play.

Click to to go the Kickstarter

Let me tell you a bit about the characters in A Doll's House with some photos from the production.

Nora and Torvald Helmer (Jennifer Summerfield and Peter Zielinski) the ideal couple -- you've never met anyone happier. Torvald is smart, he's on the way up in the world, he has a beautiful house, wonderful children, and the most beautiful wife anybody's ever seen. Nora spends her days sneaking bon-bon's, planning parties and taking care of their beautiful house. From the outside it seems the world couldn't be better. But Nora has a dark secret that could ruin everything.

Dr. Rank (Carl Granieri) –- a wealthy friend of the family and constant fixture at the Helmer household. He is a great friend of Torvald's and a confidant of both of the Helmers. Dr. Rank has two dark secrets: he is dying and he is desperately in love with Nora.

Christine Linde (Megan Edelman) -– an old friend of Nora's who's been away for a number of years. After her husband died she fell into financial troubles and is hoping that Nora can get her a job working for Torvald.

Nils Krogstad (Ryan Walter) –- Krogstad is a desperate man with a disreputable past. He has the power to destroy Nora and Torvald's marriage and everything both of them have worked for.

Anne Marie (Linda Minster) –- Nora's former nanny who now cares for Nora's children. She's the closest thing to a parent Nora has left. She is fiercely loyal.

The Ebeneezer Maxwell Mansion -- the sets for this play were built almost a hundred and fifty years ago. We were able to use multiple rooms of the house. It's the most expansive stage play you've never gotten a ticket to. But if you can help us out with this kickstarter, you can see it, over and over.
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The glaring omissions of Banned Books Week [Sep. 23rd, 2013|05:11 am]
When we all got together to keep a book from being published and then forgot about it:
The glaring omissions of Banned Books Week

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. -- Noam Chomsky

It's banned books week, and that's a good thing. It's good that we hold attempts to keep people from information up to the light and waggle a finger, though holes in their reporting methods keep some of the most challenged books in America from being recognized while singling out others challenged by single individuals.

First, let me point out that everybody who wants to stop someone else from reading a book does it for a good reason, or at least a reason they think is good.

Their reason may be that they think the book is devoid of any educational or literary content, such as in the case of Fifty Shades of Grey pulled from library shelves in Brevard County, Florida -- it may be because they believe the information in the book is too dangerous for you to know, like the frequently challenged though now classic bomb building manual "The Anarchists Cookbook -- it may be because they think the text is insulting to a group of people, as in the case of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses --  or, they may think that it will incite people to harm other people -- which was the reason the Texas Department of Corrections has given for censoring Christian Parenti’s Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis -- fear that the book about prison reform would cause racial disharmony and riots.

Since 1982 the American Library Association, among others, has been keeping tabs on books that people have tried to get removed from library shelves. Every year they produce a list of the books that received the most challenges. According to their website they logged nearly 5,100 requests to have books stricken from shelves between 2000 and 2009. In 2012-2013 the number one book on their list is Dav Pilkey's series Captain Underpants – an adorable comic about two fourth graders who turn their school principal into a hypnotized superhero running around in his underwear. We read this, we make a funny face, say “Who the hell would want to keep people from reading Captain Underpants? We laugh at the silly people who still freak out over The Catcher in the Rye and get indignant that they don't understand Beloved or Huckelberry Finn and we sit around feeling intellectually superior to those rubes who would get so worked up over a book about gay penguins that they'd write a letter to a library demanding it be pulled from shelves.

So when the 2012-2013 list came out last week I was a little surprised to see that Banned Books Week ignores completely, what I think were inarguably two of the most challenged books of the last year, or at least the only books I ever saw any news articles about, namely the unwritten behind-the-scenes tell-all by George Zimmerman juror B37 which was squashed six hours after it was announced by avalanche of Internet protest bombarding the nascent authors literary agent until she dropped the project, the second was Reddit troll Ken Hoinsky's attempt at self publishing Above the Game a book on how to act like a jerk and pick up women. His Kickstarter received $16,000 worth of advance orders, but an Internet petition with more than 63,000 signatures caused the crowd funding website to shut down his project and pull it from their website four hours before the end. In response to the outrage Kickstarter eventually issued an apology to the public for even allowing the project in the first place and announced a ban on the entire genre of so-called "seduction guides".

The threshold for getting on the list of Banned or Challenged Books is low; some were challenges by a single person, often a parent or school principal. Take, for example, the case of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card which, according to Banned Books Week was "characterized by one student and one parent as pornographic." Or Sarah Brannen's picture book Uncle Bobby’s Wedding which was “Challenged, but retained at the Brentwood, Mo. Public Library (2012) despite a resident who did not like the book’s subject matter.” (Gay guinea pig wedding? Bring it on! I say.)

While the list specifically targets attempts to remove books from official institutions; schools or libraries (and a book can only be "banned" by a government entity), ignoring books that were prevented from ever reaching a publisher is a bit like asking members of a country club if they think the membership requirements are too strict without surveying the hoi polloi at the gates demanding to be let in. After all, Banned Books Week isn't cataloging the number of time a government body removed a book from the shelves; they're documenting the number of times someone ASKED a government entity to remove a book, so you'd think they'd be interested in the number of people asking publishers to never let a book be printed so that it could end up in a library in the first place. Removing a copy of a book from a shelf makes it more difficult for some people to get access to that book. Keeping a book from being published keeps everyone from reading it. By ignoring larger threats to books, I think BBW may be spending too much time counting fish in their own aquarium.

I worked in a bookstore during what were probably the two biggest attempts at book censorship of my generation, and neither came from the US government; the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses and the first non-publishing and then eventually publishing of Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho. I dutifully bought and read both and eventually ended up coming to believe they were both masterpieces. I seriously doubt that either Above the Game or Juror B37's unnamed book would rise to their level, but some individuals were so certain that Rushdie's book was of no value that people were murdered over it and people at Simon and Schuster got up from their desks quit their jobs over the decision to publish the misogynisticly violent American Psycho (Vantage eventually published it). I think the public responded properly to the challenging of those books – by getting irate, buying them, and reading them (or at least buying them) in a symbolic middle finger that says “you can't tell me what ideas I can be exposed to!” The publishers took a risk (especially in the case of the paperback edition of Verses which was ghost published by an anonymous group mysteriously called “The Consortium”) in putting out the books but eventually decided it was a moral obligation.

From the “Books Challenged or Banned” report come these words:

Even when the eventual outcome allows the book to stay on the library shelves and even when the person is a lone protester, the censorship attempt is real. Someone has tried to restrict another person’s ability to choose. Challenges are as important to document as actual bannings, in which a book is removed from the shelves of a library or bookstore or from the curriculum at a school. Attempts to censor can lead to voluntary restriction of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy; in these cases, material may not be published at all or may not be purchased by a bookstore, library, or school district.

This is high minded rhetoric and I, for what it's worth, completely agree with it.

We [and by “we” I mean “me”] enjoy furrowing our brows over ignorant people who get bent out of shape over The Kite Runner's "vulgar language" or "some parents" in the ironically named "Liberty, South Carolina" who were furious that Romeo and Juliet was "too mature for kids because of the sex," we shake our heads and and are glad that we live in enlightened environments that wouldn't run from a book. We think we're champions of ideas and, especially, we think we're champions of controversial ideas, because we know that's the right side of history to be on and we've all benefitted from controversial ideas that someone, somewhere, tried to keep us from reading.

Banned Books Week rightly charges us to take action and protect our right to read:

"The First Amendment …” they point out, “ensures that none of us has the right to control or limit another person’s ability to read or access information. Yet, when individuals or groups file formal written requests demanding that libraries and schools remove specific books from the shelves, they are doing just that—attempting to restrict the rights of other individuals to access those books."

They go on to admonish: “The best way to fight censorship is to be aware that it’s happening. When you encounter it, be prepared to speak up or let others know."

So I am.

Googling "banned books week" + "Above the Game" I get only two relevant results; one is someone musing that it's probably wrong to ban books, whatever they're about, and the other is a small publishers blog celebrating Banned Books Week in a laudable entry which ends "Here’s to all the banned books, the good, the bad, the brilliant and the brave," and then a scant four entries later, a post announcing that the publisher is pulling their work from Kickstarter in protest for it being used to fund Above the Game saying "we cannot in good conscience continue to ask potential backers to support Kickstarter at this time."

I think quietly, in the backs of our minds, regardless of what we say publicly, we'd mostly all prefer a free exchange of ideas that only involved ideas that we like, but that's not really what a free exchange of ideas is. If we want to protect speech, we also have to protect speech that we find tasteless or morally reprehensible, because that's what we're expecting everyone else to do.

The only valiant place to throw stones from is from the moral high ground. It is not, by any means, a safe place from which to throw stones, but seize it, set up camp, and don't leave. Especially when you find yourself speaking up for a bunch of people you don't believe really have anything worth saying.

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This is not a fitness blog, but I just ran 13 miles. [Sep. 16th, 2013|09:08 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Walk Off The Earth: Red Hands]

So I ran the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Philly on Sunday, September 15th 2013. I've been running half-marathon distances every week for the past couple of months and figured I might as well get a medal for my efforts. Typically the way I do it is "Roswell wakes me up at 4:30 am, I get dressed, I run 13 miles and I come home, take a shower, wake trillian_stars up and we have breakfast and the day goes on," but there's something oddly different about running that distance with thousands of other people. I started worrying about it days out thinking, rethinking and overthinking all sorts of decisions that I'd never worried about before, at all. Running is a sport, but it's also an activity. Sports you do for times or for scores and activities you do for fun and I suppose when you add a bunch of people your activity is more like a sport. Some of my decisions seemed to be good, others maybe not so.

I picked the wrong corral. That's for sure.

When signing up I entered the time I'd been running, 2:15 in my corral assignment sheet -- which is how they group you with other people who are going to run at the same pace and they let everybody out in a staggered fashion so there's not a bunch of crashing as faster runners collide with you from behind. This should work really well if everybody puts themselves in the right corral but there were an awful lot of optimistic people in front of me and I spent almost the entire race weaving around people (I guess it could have been worse; it might be demoralizing to have people passing you the entire time). I'm not sure if the lesson learned here is "overestimate your corral, because everybody else is" or "keep reminding people to be realistic about where they're starting from." I ran it in 2:06:36, with an average pace per mile of 9:29. I was hoping to come in at under 2 hours, but it just wasn't in the cards.

Roswell didn't know that today was any different, so she got me up at 4:30 right on schedule.

Roswell gets me up at 4:30.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

I made my way down to the start about 30 minutes before the gun. It was a weird setup -- there were dueling PA systems blasting different music just a few yards from one another. At one point some poor guy was trying to sing the national anthem on one set of speakers while the other was blasting Thunderstruck by AC/DC. It left me wondering if one person was in charge of the whole thing or not. The start was a rolling thing over a period of about half an hour. Instead of corrals actually being released at one or two minute intervals it seemed they just had the big line walking up to the start and then starting off when they crossed the line.

Before the start selfie.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

I actually couldn't run as fast as I wanted for the first few miles just because of the congestion. Within a mile a lot of people had stopped running and started walking, by mile three this turned into a really significant amount of people and I found an angry young woman with a blond pony tail and pink top who was really annoyed by this and tucked in behind her as she yelled "excuse me! excuse me!" and made a hole.

The course went through the city, around city hall, down to fourth street and back -- it seemed to take neither time nor effort and by the time we'd gotten to mile 5, looping around the starting point I felt pretty much like I'd just stepped out of the house. That part of the course was all new for me and it was exciting to run in the middle of the street with lots of other people.

The last organized half marathon I ran I clocked an extra 3/4ths of a mile crossing the street to get into the shade and other things that made my running less efficient. This time I was promising myself to stick to the inside lane as much as possible and not expend too many extra steps going around people thinking I'd be better off saving the energy until the end (note: not sure if this worked to my benefit).

After mile six the course spilled out onto my every-weekend-run along the Schuylkill and it was all familiar territory. I knew how far apart everything was from everything else and the crowd spaced themselves out a bit more.

Clickenzee to embiggen!

Mile seven was more or less the the half way point and around here a group of 70-something guys put the hammer down and shot past me like I was standing still. I picked up my own pace, hoping to do the last half faster than the first half. After chowing down on some horrible tasting energy paste my feet turned into veritable rockets and I passed ... KISS.

I ran past KISS.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

I love this part of the course, along the side of Laurel Hill Cemetery, you run past Elisha Kent Kane's grave which is on the side of the hill (and will probably one day be in the middle of Kelly Drive) -- a lot of people think Ben Franklin or Edgar Poe to be Philly's most interesting resident, but my vote goes to Kane -- and I'm happy to look up as I pass him every week.

There will come a day....
Clickenzee to embiggen!

The miles went by quickly after that -- I felt like the crowd was pulling me along faster and I had a great playlist on the iPod.

People running into a tunnel.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

Eventually around Falls Bridge where a lot of people stopped to take photos (not me, I was taking them on the run thank you very much). The water tables were having difficulty keeping up with people and people inexplicably would run up to the table and just ... stop ... creating big throngs around them, and it suddenly made sense why some people would run with their own water. If you're looking to get a time by seconds or minutes, you can lose it trying to get to a cup of water through a group of people just standing around. I ended up skipping a bunch of the water stops, which was fine. I managed to hit one of the Gatorade tables and ... wow, that stuff tastes awful. I'm amazed that people drink it recreationally -- and enough people drink it recreationally that it's a huge wall in every 7-11 (thank you people) and it kept me feeling fueled and hydrated.

At mile 10 I decided to throw everything I had left on the fire although my hopes of making an under-two hour half were unlikely by then (I'd have to run pretty much the three fastest miles I could) and that was where it stopped being fun. There was a voice in the back of my head going "this can be fun again if you just freaking slow down" -- but I was able to beat it back with thoughts of it all being over fairly soon.

Along the final stretch there was a cheerleader standing in the middle of the road from my high school, waving our mascot around (the bulldog), and then I noticed there were a whole BUNCH of cheerleaders from my high school I yelled "I went there!" and ... they started cheering and waving pompoms and I had this fractured moment in time thinking that cheerleaders from my high school were cheering me in a sporting event. I felt somehow vindicated, though it may have been the endorphins -- it was one of the better moments of the whole race, even though it didn't last for more than ten seconds.

Final stretch.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

Trillian was waiting for me on the ramp on the way to the art museum right by the finish line and she waved and screamed and jumped up and down as I ran past ... which is something that's so nice to have. I can't really even begin to describe what that's like. Anyway, it was just a couple hundred yards after that and I was over the finish line and someone handed me a medal and a bottle of water and I got directed down the Chute of Plenty where there are many bananas and bags of potato chips and bagels and giant pretzels. It was difficult to get out of the fenced in area and it ended up taking me about half an hour to get 10 feet from where I finished but I eventually met up with Trillian by the Rocky statue, sat under a tree and drank a lot of water and watched the world spin around me. (I discovered among other things on my journey that The Philadelphia Police Department has a Batmobile. )

I won, here's my medal.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

Part of being the Rock and Roll half marathon I guess is that you need Rock and Roll. There was a band performing every mile or so the point of which I'm not entirely sure of since you're only within earshot of them for 15 seconds and you mostly probably have headphones on anyway, but it ended up with a concert by Walk Off the Earth in front of the art museum, who were fun and just the sort of people you'd get to headline something like this.

Here's that band, Walk Off The Earth.
Clickenzee to embiggen!

The Big Machine that's behind RnR (Competitor Group) has gotten some flack for turning what was once the "Philadelphia Distance Run" into, as someone put it, "the Walmart of races" and I definitely noticed that. There was a sort of "have your credit card ready" vibe to the whole thing, from being forced by security to walk through the gauntlet of vendors at the expo before you could leave, to not allowing people to pick up multiple packets (for friends and family) without paying $20 per packet to the most expensive race photos I've ever seen, there was a large size commercial atmosphere to the thing which was a little off-putting. But on the whole I had a grand time. My medal looks nice, I came out stronger than I went in and had a pretty splendid day.

Hope you did too.

Clickenzee to embiggen!

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Top Sekrit No Longer! Romeo and Juliet [Sep. 12th, 2013|07:24 am]
At a clandestine midnight photo shoot last week I photographed actresses Rachel Gluck and Isa St. Claire who are playing Romeo and Juliet (respectively) in Curio Theatre's upcoming production of the William Shakespeare play directed by Krista Apple.

What would happen, Curio wondered, if Romeo and Juliet were both women? And from this premise is launched the misadventure of these star-cross'd lovers.

Clickenzee to Embiggen

Previews: October 3, 4, 5, 10 -- 2013
Opening Night: October 11
Closing Night: November 2
4740 Baltimore Ave. Philadelphia PA

Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
at 8pm

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9/11 [Sep. 11th, 2013|09:22 am]
[mood |mourning for a present we don't have]
[music |Walk Off the Earth: Red Hands]

My posts about 9/11 are now a dozen years old. It's hard to think. There are three, one from the Pentagon the week of the attacks, one from the World Trade Center site, and one from Shanksville PA, slightly later. I think the thing I wonder most now, after all this, is if you could ask those hijackers now, "do you think you made things better?" What would they say?

You can read them here.
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The Blog Post on Packing [Sep. 7th, 2013|03:52 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Walk Off the Earth: Red Hands]

I travel a lot. A few weeks ago when I picked up Amanda in the airport we talked about the best ways to stuff stuff into stuff and I realized that I should do a comprehensive blog post about it. So this is how to be a globetrotting photographer, getting your things from one place to another with the least hassle.

(tl:dr get functional clothes that pack small and perform multiple purposes, be organized, don't weigh yourself down with things that perform only one function.)

1) Pack small. Don't check bags.

Checking bags is a hassle -- it slows you down getting on and off of the plane and the airline can misplace your luggage, lots of airlines charge for checked bags now and someone has to carry all that stuff once you get wherever you're going. When I travel I want to be able to carry everything that I'm going to use with me, like a snail. Or a turtle. Or a flying turtle, like Gamera. This limits you to one carry on and one "small personal item". So you need to be able to fit all your gear and your clothes into a small space. This is particularly difficult for photographers who are carrying dozens of pounds of gear as well as the stuff everybody else brings with them ordinarily.

Here's me in an airport with all my camera gear in a Loweprow AW Trekker, sometime in 2011.
It's made for cameras and also has a laptop bag slot, which you can also stuff with clothes.
Backpacks are efficient and good for carrying your gear when you get to your destination,
but they're more fatiguing than a rollerbag.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

2) Buy clothes made for backpackers.

Why re-invent the wheel? Backpackers have been trying to get things small since the backpack was invented. Cotten is right out, it's bulky and it takes a long time to dry. Polyester clothes you can wash in the sink at night, hang them on a towel rack and they'll be dry in the morning. I usually bring two pairs of cargo pants, three shirts, and two pairs of travel underwear. You wash one set of everything each night and rotate between three shirts so it doesn't look like you have the worlds most limited wardrobe. Here's a link to some EMS camp cargo pants, if you're reading this in the future and the EMS link is dead, they're cargo pants made out of really thin fabric that roll up about 50% smaller than a pair of denim jeans and weigh maybe 1/3 of what jeans do. You want these.

3) Use packing cubes.

Packing cubes not only keep things organized, but they keep stuff compressed.
You can find them at places like Eastern Mountain Sports or REI. Bring an empty cube to keep your dirty clothes in.

Small Eagle Creek packing cube with a pair of pants and a shirt stuffed in.
You can make it smallllll. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

4) They don't count your clothes as a carry on.

This is the Big Secret so I'm bolding it. If you're wearing it, they don't count it. So buy yourself a Domke PhoTogs vest.

I have a messenger style camera bag and this is what I usually carry around with me. One camera, (two if you count the iPhone, and I've used it before), five lenses some batteries, storage, a first aid kit (the green thing) with pain killers, antacids, anti diarrhea meds, decongestants, emergency money (bills and change), Band Aids, allergy pills and some sleeping pills.)

This is usually my "personal item". Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Having a camera bag like this kind of screws your "personal item" that other people might use to carry around important shiznit. So, I take everything out of my camera bag and put it in the vest. Now you've got all your gear with you if you need it and you can either stuff your empty messenger bag in your other carry on and bring a larger duffle bag, or put more stuff in your carryon.

Likewise, don't put that bulky sweater in your suitcase, wear it on to the plane. If it's too warm, tie it around your waist.

Everything in the vest, now you get a whole new "personal item". Clickenzee to Embiggen!

5) You don't have to put your bag in the overhead over your own seat.

There are fewer overhead bins at the back of the plane, in fact, the last two rows don't usually have any. That's where they store some of the emergency equipment and the crew's bags are often there too. When getting on the plane scope out the overhead space on the way to your seat, if the bin is already full where you're sitting, put your bag in the next space you pass. You don't want your bag full of zillion dollar lenses to get gate checked and returned to you like a bag of broken light bulbs. (In addition, the first few rows on some planes have slightly smaller overheads due to the curvature of the fuselage.)

6) Get an e-reader.

Yes, I know how cool you look reading a tattered trade paperback o Tristram Shandy but books will weigh you down faster than anything else. If you need to put a sticker on the back of your iPad that says "NOT READING 50 SHADES OF GREY" but suck it up and leave the books at home. Before you got to 10,000 feet you can look at the in-flight catalog and wonder who on Earth buys that crap.

7) Pack things you can't get at your destination.

It's really easy to borrow a shirt from someone when you get to Tulsa, or to buy one at ye local store, it's more difficult to get a charger for your sony Mavica, so pack that first.

8) Pack food.

Pack portable food that will keep, like energy bars. Fruit is nice but it's destroyed too easily banging around in your luggage. Don't pack something that's going to make you thirsty, like a jar of salted peanuts.

9) Leave your core travel items in your luggage.

You know that stuff you need every time you travel? Your toothbrush, your swim suit (there will be a hot tub at the hotel if you don't pack it, plus it doubles as "lounging around" wear while you're washing your pants) your first aid kit, your business cards, and model releases -- keep all that stuff in your bag all the time. (Roswell here is sitting on the nail clippers.) This save a bunch of time while you're packing. I also leave a travel cube with underwear and socks in my bag so when it's time to go you don't need to wonder if you've packed that stuff.

Leave your core items packed. Clickenzee to Embiggen!


10) Always have enough gear on your person to get the assignment done if you lose all the rest of your stuff.

My grandfather was an electrician who always used to say "study the hazards" -- which is useful advice. When you're packing you should be thinking "what happens if..." -- What happens if you lose that suitcase? What happens if that camera stops working? What happens if your card reader dies?

I bring a backup of everything critical -- which means an extra camera, extra memory, extra batteries, so that if something stops working you don't need to worry about trying to fix it while people are tapping their toes and staring at you, you just swap it out.

On the left here is the gear that I packed for a roller derby portrait shoot in Minnesota, it's everything that I needed to get the job done awesomely. On the right is a backup kit that I could do the job with if somehow the airline lost all my gear. Bringing a backup doesn't mean a duplicate. If your main camera is a big gigantic DSLR, you don't need another one of the same model, you can pack a smaller camera. Enough to get the job done.

Bring Backups. Clickenzee to Embiggen!


So that's it. Get small stuff, pack it tight, keep it with you, don't bring things you don't need. The goal is coming back with the pictures. It's very easy to pack way more clothes than you need.

Patrick Rhone adds this link to a post where he's collected rewviews of "traveling pants".

Someone had asked about traveling with numerous bottles of medicine and the large amount of space taken up by mostly empty bottles. Thanks to Jennifer E. Carr from Facebook who says: "I am a Pharmacy Tech (in my other life) and we will put medications into plastic bags with all the information you need to get through the airport." And this from Celeste Young "you can also get blister packs done up on the weekly with an 'official' print out of all the meds taken."

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Ciao baby -- it's the theater!!! [Sep. 6th, 2013|07:21 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |The Cult - American Horse]

What's the last play you've seen, and what's the one you're most looking forward to seeing in the future?

I've been taking a lot of theater photos lately. There's a BIG GIANT TOP SEKRET PROJEKT coming up which involves theater, and then there's some other things. In the past couple weeks I photographed three shows for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival which opened, I believe, last night.

The first is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from stalwarts Curio Theatre and adapted by actor Josh Hitchens. You know the story -- Ichabod Crane, gangly schoolteacher bullied around town trying to make it across the bridge, pursued by the ghost of a dead Hessian soldier....

This one is free and in Clark Park September 7, 8, 9 at 7:30pm 2013

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

The second show I photographed is The Ballad of Joe Hill which tells the story of Joe Hill, a folk singer and labor rights activist executed in 1915 for either the murder of a grocery store clerk or writing pro-union songs, depending on which side of the cloudy story you believe. This production contains a number of songs written by Hill and performed beautifully by an animated cast in a very clever set inside a very real and very notorious prison.

Runs Thursday - Sunday, the 5th - the 15th 8:00 at Cellblock 7, Eastern State Penitentiary.

The Ballad of Joe Hill
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

The third play I photographed is Traveling Light by Lindsay Harris Friel and directed by Liam Castilian which is at the Skybox in the Adrianne Theatre.

Traveling Light is an imaginary conversation which could have happened between Beatles manager Brian Epstein and playwright Joe Orton, just before dawn in a Jewish cemetery in London. The premise is that Paul McCartney, who had invested a thousand pounds in one of Orton's previous plays, asked the playwright to pen their next movie. Orton submits a draft which Epstein rejects. The playwright follows the Fab Four's manager from a gay club to a cemetery where Epstein is contemplating suicide which won't do for Orton, who has questions he wants answered. They run from cops, they take off their clothes -- you'll have to see it to find out what happens.

Traveling Light
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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The Dead Chipmunk Invitational Half Marathon [Sep. 4th, 2013|12:58 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |eye of the tiger in my head]

I'm training for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon on September 15th in Philadelphia and to do that I've been running a half marathon every week for the past month or so. This week's happened to be in Wisconsin along a really beautiful bike/running trail with trillian_stars and my sister, Heather, who's a real runner and has been since track in high school.

While I ran, Trillian rode behind me like Burgess Meredith shouting "You're a champion, Rocky! You got the Eye of the Tiger!"

The Eye of the Tiger. You may clickenzee to embiggen!

occasionally she'd speed up and ride past me so that she could hi-5 me when I ran by. I'd gotten it in my head that, slow as I am, I might be able to do the Rock and Roll half in under two hours but my hopes were shattered when this one took me 2:17. It would be pretty impressive for me to cut nearly 20 minutes out of my time in the next week and a half.

You may clickenzee to embiggen!
P.S. Look at those freaking leg muscles!

All of which matters naught. I've got goals but if I miss them, it's ok. The biggest goal is just "get better consistently" and if that's slowly, so be it. I saw someone on Twitter post a quote that said something like "a year ago, you'll wish you'd started today" -- which is wise. If I can chisel off a little here a little there and I keep at it, I'll be happy. Finishing a half Marathon once seemed unlikely and now I'm doing it every weekend which seems baffling, but I'm not going to complain about it.

The Wisconsin run went great. I saw a dead snake, two dead chipmunks (plus a lot of live ones) a dead dragon fly, and a whole bunch of dead cicadas.

Who could not love this?

The run was off-the-rails beautiful, with many bridge crossings and few people, straight, level dirt roads with some gradual hills so that you don't get too pampered and friendly people who waved when they passed, which was occasional.

I plunged through some 10:14 miles and then went to watch my nephews blow through a bunch of 5:20 miles at their track meet. They resisted all temptation to make fun of my time and were very supportive ... which I guess is the thing boiling all this water -- ever since I've started this everybody's gotten right behind me and cheered. I'm fortunate. It's not everybody who's got a partner who will ride behind them and cheer like the crowd at Madison Square Garden. I'm so glad I have this one.

Mile 13. You may clickenzee to Embiggen

Oh, this showed up in the mailbox today:

Thanks Internet-person Mitch.
In all actuality this looks more like the severed leg half marathon than the bloody toe half marathon of two weeks ago. But I'm grateful all the same.

(If you're not following on twitter then you missed the Bloody Toe Half Marathon mostly because I figure if you're following someone on Twitter you're fair game to hear about their toes in a way that you probably wouldn't put up with on a blog.) My toe started bleeding from, I suspect, rubbing up against the other one. There's a not terribly graphic photo of it here if you're into that sort of thing. Either way, I appreciate the medal.

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Farewell Fred Pohl [Sep. 3rd, 2013|07:37 am]
[mood |sadsad]

I met Fred Pohl in 2009 while working on Where I Write: Fantasy and Science Fiction Authors in Their Creative Spaces. At that point I'd met a lot of science fiction writers, a lot of famous science fiction writers, but Fred Pohl was the only one that I was really nervous about meeting. There were giants and then there were titans, and Pohl was a titan. His novel Gateway was one of the most influential books of my youth. It's epic science fiction at it's best -- humans discover an enormous derelict space ship built inside a hollowed-out asteroid. In the spaceship are thousands of pods pre-programmed to travel to other worlds. You get in a pod, you push a button, the pod takes you somewhere. Sometimes it's a world filled with riches -- minerals, technology, scientific discovery, other times the pod shoots off into space and never returns. The hero, Robinette Stetley Broadhead, is a desperate miner who takes a job as a test pilot on Gateway. What will happen when he gets in that pod and pushes that button? Pohl didn't disappoint. silveringridd went with me, carrying lights and doing the talking when I got too flustered. My nervousness freaked her out. I write about the experience here.

Fred Pohl writing in 2009. Click to Enlarge.

He was extremely frail when I met him and I really thought that I might be one of the last people to see him alive. He wasn't ready to go yet, he told me, he still had three novels left that he wanted to write. I forgot a lot of the questions that I wanted to ask him, but it didn't really matter. He was used to talking to people like me, starstruck whatnots jotting things down about science fiction. He was one of the original members of the American science fiction writers community. He started the first Worldcon convention and he was the person people went to with questions about whatever.

He'd begun to lose the use of his muscles, it happened suddenly, he told me. One day he went out to get in his car and was unable to put the key in the lock, his right hand had just ceased to function and from there the degeneration continued. At the time I met him he could move a pen across a notepad but the marks that it made weren't very legible and served mostly only to give him a reminder of what he was thinking. After he wrote he'd look at the page and read back what he'd written to his wife, Dr. Betty Hull, who would type it. He had three writing rooms in his house but mostly wrote now on the sofa in the sun room, attended by his dog. We talked. Then he wrote for a while and I took photos. I stayed for most of the day. He signed my copy of his autobiography, The Way The Future Was -- "To Kyle, Fred Pohl" -- the writing was tiny and I felt guilty for taking four words out of the many he had left to write. When Fred fell asleep on the sofa his wife, Dr. Hull, took me around the house and showed me his cabinet of awards. Early Hugos, back to back Nebula's, and also tiny things home-made by fans an given out at obscure conventions, trolls, crude robots, he gave them all the same respect. They represented tens of thousands of people saying "thank you for doing this for me."

He later finished the novel he was working on, All the Lives he Led (2011) I don't know about the other two he had ideas for; but he went on to win another Hugo in 2012 for his blog.

I was with a bunch of science fiction writers when we heard Harry Harrison died in 2012. Novelist Tom Purdom said solemnly "Fred Pohl stands alone" -- he did, and now we're all alone.

Click to Enlarge

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2013 Philly Geek Awards: Recap! mst3k, alligators, chess superstars! [Aug. 21st, 2013|07:15 am]
[Current Location |amanda palmer: do it with a rock star]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

tl;dr summary

I presented at the 2013 Philly Geek Awards. I did a good job and you should watch the video. Trillian was performing in a sold-out show elsewhere, so I went with a famous chess player. I got to hang out with Joel Hodgson from Mystery Science Theater 3000 who was also one of the presenters.

Here's the video of my speech, you should watch it.

Long story not really that long, with lots of photos.

I had so much fun at last years Philly Geek Awards presenting the Best Comic Book Artist & Best Comic Book Writer awards that I got invited back this year to present Best Visual Artist. (You can read about last year's Philly Geek Awards here on mah blog.)

trillian_stars couldn't make it as she was starring as freaking Nora in A Doll's House (which, I might add, sold out every single performance in advance, even with extra seating installed), so I went with Two-time U.S. Women's chess champion & author of Chess Bitch, Jennifer Shahade (her most recent book is Play Like a Girl!) Jennifer is one of Those People who's always making things great wherever she goes so it was a marvelous opportunity to hang out and spend some time with her.

Being on the cover of Chess Life is about as awesome as a person can get in my book. Srsly.
You may clickenzee to embiggen!

The Philadelphia Geek Awards are currently in their third year, they highlight & showcase the best tech & creative people & projects in Philadelphia, from mobile applications to viral projects to feature length films. The awards are held at the Academy of Natural Sciences which opens just for the awards. You get to spend some time wandering around the museum where staff members walk around with all sorts of interesting animals. Like this.

Walking around with a giant bug.
Clickenzee to Embiggen it even further!

(That's Chris Urie in the background, contemplating our new insect overlords.)

There's currently an exhibit called "glow" which features animals that luminesce, like fireflies, and like these scorpions which glow under UV light.

I was once on an airplane to Arizona and sitting in front of two people who were talking about the scorpion infestations in their houses. Specifically they were talking about walking around their houses at night with UV lights watching all the scorpions light up. Which is one reason that I was very curious to see these guys light up.

Scorpions glowing under UV light.
Clickenzee to Embiggen them!

The Academy also has a butterfly room where you walk around and dozens of butterflies flit about and land on you and things. It's hot and muggy and wonderful in the butterfly room, and there's a cocoon room where dozens of butterflies-in-waiting are hanging from racks and we got to watch one emerging and spreading its wings for the first time. There was also an alligator who I'd also seen last year at the awards and he was a lot smaller then.

Jenn petting an alligator.
Clickenzee to Embiggen them!

It's a black tie affair, which is fun for me since I don't get to wear my tuxedo all that often. Lots of people in formal wear and some people in some very creative variants, like this battery powered light up space dress.

Jenn and someone with a lightup space dress.
Clickenzee to Embiggen them!

And a giant walking stick. The staffer who was holding it said the males get more easily annoyed and will attack with thorn-like spurs on their back legs. This female walking stick was a bit more chill.

You could pet a giant walking stick!
Clickenzee to Embiggen them!

Another photo of that giant walking stick right here.

The Photobot 3000 was there -- it's sort of a robot that takes your photo, but it's actually just a photo booth with no walls. You sit in front of it and press a button and wingo! It takes a photo of you that then gets projected on a big screen. Fun for parties.

The Photobot 3000 is a robot that takes your photo.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

dh00dz -- we are geektastic. Note: I tied that bow-tie myself. Which is why it looks like a dying bat. Don't ever wear a clip on tie.

I specifically told Geekadelphia that I wanted to be seated in front of Joel Hodgson so that I could partially block his view of the screen and talk the entire time.

What? What!
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

I went up, I did my thing, presented people laughed. I gave the award for Best Visual Artist to Austin Seraphin and Sonia Petruse of Braille Street Art (they later gave me a piece of Braille Street Art that said "rescue cats"). I went back to my seat Joel shook my hand and said I was funny and I beamed privately for a bit and thought "wow, I'm sitting in this row of chairs between two people I really admire and I just did something that made people clap and I feel really good." I felt like I was part of the awesome, like the Mathmos churning under Barbarella's city -- part of the thing boiling Philadelphia in good. And I wondered if I felt that way because I was sitting with famous people. I slowly came to the realization that the up-side of being in a room with famous people is that you can ask them questions about specific events that you've been curious about, but the up-side of life is the ability to recognize that in everyone and the desire to create those not-yet-famous moments with whoever you happen to be around.... Anyway, that said I also met the already famous Leah Kauffman the ... what is she? Marketing genius? Songwriter? I dunno. But she invented the Obama Girl and the Box in a Box video. We now have Top Sekrit Plans to do something vague and awesome. Which may or may not involve viruses. Over the years I've heard so many marketing pitches that begin with "we're going to make a viral video" or "we're going to design a viral ad campaign" -- Leah is the only person I've met who actually goes to stage two of that plan "make viral video". (Okay, a lot of people start out with a crappy video and phase two of their plan is "wait for video to go viral" -- which is a bit sadder because they've already wasted their time making a crappy video.)

Dh00dz, it's Tom Servo's dad!!

After the awards ceremony everyone was invited to a private party in a Northern Liberties bowling alley. There's some step on the road to success which is labeled "throwing your own private party" especially with a bunch of people in ball gowns and tuxedos.

Eric Smith and his private party!
Clickenzee to Embiggen!

At the party I got to spend some quality time with Joel, talking about Things We Were Working on, but also a bit about MST3K -- one thing I was particularly interested in was "How many robots were there?" and "Did they go into a panic after they got signed that they'd run out of Tom Servo heads?" -- (Answer: One of the first things Joel bought with the signing check was a fabrication machine that allowed him to mold and replicate robot parts so that things breaking would be less of a problem.)

I also got to hang out with Darlene Cavalier, who runs Science Cheerleader, a group of 250+ current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders (real ones, with pom pom's) pursuing science and technology careers. As much as I thought my presentation was pretty good, Darlene's was better. She set the pie higher. Hopefully there will be video of it up soon -- she was like ... a real presenter. Then she kicked my ass at Ms. Pacman.

I went home finally around 2:00 am and caught up with Trillian about her two sold out performances. And plans for the next plays. The sofa seemed about the happiest place on earth at that moment and it was good to get back to things.

The next day I saw that Philadelphia Magazine said I was hilarious and sprawling and the 5th best moment of the event. 5th best I thought, really? But you know, I'll take it. I was in tough company.

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Models & Photographers! Harrisburg PA Photo Workshop - Saturday September 21st - Union of the Snake [Aug. 12th, 2013|08:22 am]
[Current Location |amanda palmer: do it with a rock star]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Models & Photographers! Harrisburg PA Photo Workshop - Saturday September 21st - Union of the Snake

Have you ever wanted a python hat? or have you ever wanted to figure out how to photograph someone who has a python sitting on their head? Well, after the success of our recent snake-related photos shoot Eleanor Justice and I are collaborating to make this a possibility with a one day photo workshop near Harrisburg Pennsylvania on Saturday the 21st of September. The snakes are coming back along with their wranglers, and I'm bringing a crate of lighting equipment out into the woods.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

We have slots for PHOTOGRAPHERS and we have slots for people who want to be PHOTOGRAPHED. Do you have to be photographed with a python wrapped around you? Absolutely not. The workshop takes place on a beautiful farm with woods, fields and more than one pond. There are plenty of opportunities for great portraits that don't involve snakes.

Photo by Eleanor Justice - Clickenzee to embiggen!

So do you have a Rennfaire costume you want pictures of? Do you and your significant other have no great photos of yourselves? Do you need a graduation photo?

Well, if you're willing to be be part of a freewheeling classroom environment and let ten photographers have a go while we learn this is your chance.

Photo by Eleanor Justice - Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Photographers! Do you have a camera you're trying to figure out how to use? Have you hit a rut in your photography? Would you like to learn how to use off-camera lighting? Then this is for you.

This isn't the sort of photography workshop where you watch me set up lights and take photos. It's the sort of workshop where you and I work together to set up lights, figure out the proper exposure and then I watch you take pictures while sipping fruit smoothies. You go home with a batch of kick ass photos and some new skills that will let you keep on going.

Photo by Eleanor Justice - Clickenzee to embiggen!

Workshop is limited to 10 photographers and 10 subjects (if it sells out really fast, we'll add a second day Sunday). Price is $80 per person. Pot-luck lunch (now's the time to get out your grandmother's pecan pie recipe). If you're traveling and want to arrive the night before there are camping arrangements on the farm. WHAT?! I CAN CAMP OUT ON THE FARM?! Yes you can.

We also have two free spots available for people who are interested in helping out by people wrangling / organizing. Inquire if that's you.

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This is not a fitness blog [Aug. 7th, 2013|07:01 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |andy guthrie: you'll be king]

A few somewhat remarkable things have happened in the past few days, they're small things when compared to the whole, but if you take them out of context and compare them to where I'd be otherwise, I think they're worth mentioning.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

One is that last Wednesday I went out with the West Philly Runners and they'd left before I got there, I mostly knew what their route was so I plotted one of my own hoping to catch them on the way back and finish up the group run with everybody else. They're almost all faster than me, so I usually only see the bottoms of their shoes anyway, but I figured if they'd just run six miles and I was on my first I might be able to keep up. Who knows. But anyway, I started off after them, went a mile and a half and got a text that they were at a bar in the other direction, so I turned around. When I finally caught up with them, I discovered that I'd broken my 5k Personal Record, which I'd been doing every couple of weeks anyway, but notably this time a) I wasn't trying and b) I was running on the road with traffic lights and stop signs and other things. Also, the last few times I'd broken my PR it had been on a treadmill, so I wasn't sure if they counted.

Lately all my 5k runs have been part of much longer runs too, so today I figured I'd get up at 5:00 and find a patch of flat, uninterrupted ground, go all out for 3 miles and try and shave a minute off last wednesday's record.

I started out faster than I probably should have and spent the final mile picking out places that I could safely stop and barf if necessary which my track-star nephew tells me is simply the sweet taste of knowing that you're doing your best.

And ultimately, I didn't knock a minute off my 5k time, I knocked like four minutes off my 5k time. SMASH. And I now feel like I have a respectable 5k time to start working with. Though I'm running up the hill of aging, I assume it's probably possible for me to knock another five minutes off my 5k time over the next year before those numbers, inevitably, start going up again.

In other news, comic book artist MC Matz who made those super cool steampunk Roswell t-shirts started a project to do a tarot card deck of images of Amanda Palmer and asked me to do the Queen of Pentacles. Started a Kickstarter last week that I didn't even get a chance to blog about before it got fully funded, but you can still get a deck of cards and begin scrying into the future. All the cards I've seen look fantastic.

This came from an outtake of a shoot for a dress made by Heartless Revival at Amanda's house in Boston. I was happy to be able to do that an happy to be able to contribute to MC's deck.

Clickenzee to go to the Kickstarter!

That's about all the news from lake Woebegone.

Have a swell day.

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Snakes [Aug. 5th, 2013|12:27 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |black sabbath: mob rules]

I've known Eleanor Justice via the Interwebs for years and via Adagio Teas, where she makes all sorts of fascinating blends.

A few weeks ago we'd gotten together for a Top Sekret Projekt which I think is still Top Sekret and during which time she told me about Faith and Eden, friends of hers, who were looking to start a non-profit to help people get over their fear of snakes. They had lots of snakes. This week we all got together to do some photos.

Faith and Eden are two of the coolest kids I've ever met. And they love snakes.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

They were also inveterate spider-rescuers. We spent a lot of time in the woods today and on Eleanor's farm and the depth of their fascination and breadth of their knowledge was invigorating. I met some very marvelous people today.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

I shot the whole thing with a Panasonic GX1 and two lenses, the Leica 45mm f 2.8 macro and the Panasonic 20mm f 1.7. For the studio shots I used a simple lighting rig with an off camera flash behind a white shoot through umbrella triggered by pocket wizards.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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Sometimes you know you did it right.... [Aug. 3rd, 2013|04:49 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Billy Idol: Blue Highway]

Me: "Are you ready to leave?"

trillian_stars: "Should I change?"

Me: "Change into a leopard."

trillian_stars: [Snarls & bites me on the collar bone.]

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This is not a fitness blog, but it is my diary, so I'm writing this down. [Aug. 1st, 2013|06:57 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |VNV Nation: Space and Time]

After I ran that 10 miler in April I promised myself "no more long distances" because ten miles seemed crazy. Six miles, I thought, that's a nice distance. And it is. But right after that 10 miler there was a half marathon and I figured since I'd already trained for 10, I might as well give 13 a shot and I did and somewhere along the line I figured it would be silly to lose the advances I gained, so I kept up on a more or less rigid training schedule of short, medium, long, every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday. I've been getting up at 5 am on Sundays because it's so freaking hot out and either riding my bike down to the river and running along there, or starting at the house. This usually translates into something like 3, 6, 10, but once Nike+ told me I'd run 100 miles in the last 30 days, I can't let that number go down (because I'm OCD like that.)

It's nice to run at 5 am for a bunch of reasons, firstly it's cooler, and secondly, the only people out are other people who are running. The streets are deserted. And you sort of get to know people. You wave. There's a guy who does tai-chi (I guess) in the same spot by the river every morning and I pass him touching his toes a hundred times in a row.

So this Sunday I'd planned to run a long distance, I wasn't sure how long when I started, but at least ten miles, maybe thirteen. And when I got to ten I felt pretty good and I figured why not try and break my maximum mileage? This was 13.8 set when I ran the Odyssey Half Marathon (you think you're going to run 13.1, because that's how far a half-marathon is, but what you don't realize at the time is that every time you cross the street to get in some shade, you're adding to your distance, and over the course of a lot of miles, that adds up to a lot of miles. Serious Runners hug the edges of the course from shortest distance to shortest distance like race car drivers for the same reason. And races are officially measured by people who find the absolute shortest distance the race can be completed in. It's an odd but interesting science.) So, anyway, I ran 14.3 miles on Sunday and though I felt like I may puke during the last 200 yards, I pushed through and finished strong.

Running through the graveyard, early morning. Clickenzee to Embiggen.
Captured by the cemetery paparazzi who, it seems, also got her finger in there.

What I didn't realize, though it seems obvious, is that with all these miles, speed is just sort of happening by itself. When you run ten miles not infrequently, three is a breeze and it seems that at least once a week now I'm breaking my 5k record. This happened again last night when I was out with the West Philly Runners, I'm still by far one of the slowest people in the group but the distances are helping my feet move faster. Which is nice. The other nice thing was knowing that I kept slacking off when I was doing this, so I haven't reached the end of the rainbow yet. This is good, because running 14 miles slowly gets BORING. I'd like it to be over sooner.

Physically I can also really see the changes in myself, my stomach is pretty flat, I don't suck in my gut when I walk past the mirror in the gym anymore because there's not actually much worth sucking in. My face looks thin, and one big thing is that my glasses no longer cut a channel down the side of my face, which they'd done for a while now. It's odd to think that every day now I'm the oldest I've ever been, but at the same time, almost every day now I'm also the fittest I've ever been. My resting heart rate is so slow galapagos tortoises think I've died.

This is as big as this one gets.

I need to figure out what my goals for the future are -- at the moment they're all nebulous "do some more half marathons, wear my medals on the street corner and wave at cars, get faster" but there's not really a place I know that I want to be apart from "not where I was last October", for the moment, wherever I am is good enough. (I've also run out of episodes for Season Two of Zombies Run.)

Do you blog about running/fitness somewhere? Let me know where so I can read your posts. And if you're a FB friend who writes about running, let me know so I can add you to my runners list.

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A Big Deal in a Dolls House [Jul. 30th, 2013|07:35 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

The world of theater is filled with great roles for men scattered across all age groups: Hamlet, Lear, Willy Loman, Ricky Roma, Trigorin ... but the great roles for women are few and far between. Lady MacBeth is one, but she's still a sidecar to her husband. For the most part, women in theater react to things men do. Which can be dreary if you're an actress who doesn't relish being a nurse, or a mother, or a wife, sitting at home waiting for the action to happen somewhere else.

One of the great roles in theater is Nora Helmer in Ibsen's "A Doll's House", which trillian_stars is doing next month and I'm very proud of her. Nora starts out in someplace akin to Stepford, she's got a cookie-cutter happy life, a husband who provides her with lots of money and a fancy house and treats her like a child, but when her family is ground in a crucible her outer shell is destroyed and she discovers she alone is made of iron and everyone around her of lesser stuff. It's one of the true great awakening plays in literature and performing in it is a giant, important part of an actress' resume and career. We hope you can make it out for this.

It runs August 16th - 18th. You can get tickets here.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

And the real question is Why are plays like this so rare?

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(no subject) [Jul. 21st, 2013|12:17 pm]
If you Google "stylish hats for runners" it should just come back with an animated .gif of someone laughing.

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What you don't know about security could sink your company.... [Jul. 21st, 2013|11:57 am]
[mood |slightly annoyed]

Achievement unlocked boneheads, your random character/case/number password requirements are so strict that my password is now on a post-it note on the side of my monitor. I hope none of you design bridges too.

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Top Sekret No Longer! Behind the Scenes Philadelphia Weekly Cover Shoot with Brian Sims [Jul. 19th, 2013|08:12 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |VNV Nation: Tomorrow Never Comes]

Philly Weekly staff writer Randy Lobasso had been working on his profile of Brian Sims, Pennsylvania's first openly gay elected state representative for six months when the whole thing blew up. You probably remember the headlines.

After the Supreme Court shot down the Defense of Marriage Act Brian wanted to comment about it on the floor of the house and as he got to the microphone, he was prevented from speaking by a colleague, Representative Daryl Metcalfe who said that he believed Sims was about to violate "Gods Law". The media went crazy, everybody had a field day with it, Sims' earlier observation in Harrisburg that "Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible" was rediscovered and got a lot of traction on social media and I was on the top of a hill in Philadelphia with Brian Sims, Randy Lobasso and my assistant Sarah photographing a cover for a story that was suddenly about a national fist-fight over gay rights rather than local politics.

Because of Rep. Sims' schedule we had to shoot while the sun was still up (I would have opted for sunset, but he had meetings) I used two flashes with the city in the background and a Nikon d800 with an 80-200 lens and me standing about 40 feet back.

Clickenzee to read the article at Philadelphia Weekly.

It was fiercely hot out so after doing the cover we did some pickups back in the city. There's always the possibility that your editor will say "these are so great, let's put a slide show on the web page!" so I tend to always try and shoot extra.

Sarah, Brian, Kyle

So you can see here what we're doing with the light -- exposure set for daylight outside (which you can see through the blinds) and then light added from a Photek Softlighter II to balance with that. The softlighter is my favorite lighting modifier -- here we're using it as a reflective (rather than shoot thru) so it's directional, aiming light down but not throwing it up on to the ceiling (which would give a lot more fill) and there's a second piece of fabric, a baffle, that the light passes through after it's bounced off the back of the umbrella, this cuts down on hot spots and makes the illuminating surface larger and more even. So you get a really even, soft, directional light. It's a bit like a softbox that you can fold up.

In this shot the light is a character in the image, you can see it in the window, and you can see Sarah holding it which (in my mind anyway) shows the media spectacle, and it gets the pride flag in there off to the left out of focus enough to not be distracting but in focus enough you can tell what it is. I'm pretty happy with this one. If I was going to get all fancy I would have put a small gridded softbox above the camera on a low power to throw some fill into his eyes but I think trying too hard to fix this one would just detract from it's simple effectiveness.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

There's a BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO which you can check out here (ooh! check it out!)

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Come see me in NYC [Jul. 18th, 2013|07:11 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

I'll be speaking at the New York Leica Users Group 2013 Colloquium on the broad subject of "recent works" but with a focus on the North Dakota Man Camp Project.

See this image larger


1:30pm to 5:00pm.

School of the International Center of Photography
1114 Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue and 43rd Street)
New York City

Date and Time:
Saturday, July 20, 2013, 1:30pm to 5:00pm

Registration Fee:$30.00


-- Paypal --
Chris Saganich.
chs2018 at

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Why you run might be different than why I run, but that's OK. [Jul. 16th, 2013|07:12 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Säkert Det här är vad dom säger]

For the past few days lots of people have been sending me the Oatmeal comic "The Terrible & Wonderful Reasons Why I run Long Distances" and there's so little of why I run in there that I figured I should post about it.

First, and most importantly: Everybody is Fighting Their Own War. The reasons we do things are all different and there's not a right one, or a wrong one.

I Started Out as a Child
I got picked on a lot as a child. I was bookish and weird and I wore glasses and wasn't strong or fast. Leaving school was a gauntlet of fear; I was like a rabbit crossing an open field nervously waiting for a hawk to swoop down and chase me home or rip me apart. When I was in 4th grade a bully named Eddie Hawn chased me into the public library and waited outside, for hours, for it to close, for me to have to leave so he could beat me up. I sat inside and watched the clock tick; closer to the time when my sanctuary would evaporate. I never understood what gave him the ability to just wait there, like a spider. And there was no reason for him to want to beat me up other than that I was smaller and couldn't get away. We had no classes together, we didn't live on the same block, he was a lot older than me, I didn't owe him money, I never spit on his bicycle seat. He just picked me out on the playground and decided to make my life difficult, like Michael Henchard picks Donald Farfrae out of the blue to be his nemesis in The Mayor of Casterbridge. In retrospect, I've never been more afraid in my life than those days in school and trying to get home from school. In ninth grade some kids had an older cousin visiting from out of town and they had him chase me down and pummel me for no reason other than they thought it was funny. Two college students stopped it and one of them gave me a ride home and gave me a shirt to stop my nose bleeding. I sincerely thought it was the kindest thing a person had ever done for me.

If I could go back and give my 12 year old self any advice I'd say two things. First: Go to Europe in your early 20's, because everything changes after that and it's good to have that perspective in early, all this crap of people being terrible to you for no reason goes away once you get into college and after you've gone someplace else that's very different and seen the world from a new perspective you get older much more easily after that. And secondly, find a sport that you like, that you can compete in, and stick with it. I turned into a very good tennis player once I hit my teen years -- I had lessons and summer programs -- all this partly, or mostly, I think because I was tall and I could get the ball over the net more consistently than other people my age -- it's the only thing I've ever won a trophy for -- and I was looking forward to getting to high school where I could play regularly on a team. When I got to high school and signed up for Junior Varsity I discovered that along with sports came jocks. I got hazed, team members who were supposed to hold me up dropped me and laughed, I got excluded, people took things from me and it turned into games of monkey-in-the-middle to get them back. It was a hazing culture that went with the territory and it was territory I was unable to cross. I couldn't make it to the other side where I'd be the one throwing people's underwear on the roof of the school so I bailed and never played tennis again. In my life. And I never played another organized sport again. Ever. Not even a weekend softball game. I'd had it with jocks. That experience both robbed me of an ability to enjoy a particular type of life as an adult and it also gave me time to do other things. I didn't climb mountains or go scuba diving, but I wrote books and I made music and I moved along, and I moved along happily.

You can make this bigger.

And Then You Get Older
But somewhere in there your metabolism catches up with you and sitting around writing books and not climbing mountains took its toll and one day I discovered that I'd gotten fat and it was difficult for me to perform normal tasks -- like walk up stairs, or stand in line in airports carrying lots of camera equipment, or sleep, or sit comfortably. I saw a photo someone took of me in August 2012 and I knew that something needed to change. I had to draw a line in the sand because I wanted more from life.

You can lose weight by doing many, many, many different things. You can ride a stationary bike, you can skip rope, you can use an elliptical, you can swim, but for me, the thing that I didn't have was the thing that the jocks kept me from getting in high school -- the ability to think of myself as an athlete. I wanted to do something that I could accomplish on my own, I wanted something that would make my body better, make me stronger, make me thinner, and something that I could get a trophy for to put in the box with that path that dead-ended in high school. And ... very secretly, I wanted into that club of athletes that closed the door on me. Not the towel snapping, not stuffing people in lockers, not the hazing, but the respect. I wanted people with trophies to say "Well, Kyle can get up at five a.m. and run ten miles in twelve degree weather, why don't you ask him?" (This is one reason that I admire Rollergirls so much. It's a sport that's rejected the towel-snapping jockocracy and said "we don't pick athletes out of a lineup, we make athletes out of people, and we help one another along the way.")

Running was hard, but it burned a lot of calories and it was the sort of thing that other people did; athletes. It was a high goal and rewarding in the way that nobody ever got a medal for using an elliptical or riding a stationary bike. It wasn't the aimless burning of calories, it was a way I could chart my improvement and something I could wrap a lifestyle around. Running totally sucked in the beginning. I'd set the treadmill for three miles and every footstep after mile 1.5 I'd repeat the mantra "more than anything else on earth right now I want to quit" -- but for some reason I didn't. And Peter Sagal tweeted me "It gets better, I promise." And it did. In a few weeks three miles is something I could do while clipping my nails. Then five miles got easy. Then six. And while I was running the world went away and my brain started to focus on things, it ordered my life while my body was taking care of putting one foot in front of the other. Running still hurt at the edges, the first mile isn't your favorite, and every time you're pushing new distance it kind of sucks, but in the middle ... in the middle it's like a drug. And the places it takes you.... I've lived in Philadelphia for years and years but there's so much of it I've never seen. I joined a running club that just heads in directions -- we run west, we run north, we run south. I've seen all the streets within 20 blocks of my house, and I've found nature. I've found the woods and the streams that I didn't think we had. And, when you're running, it can be like you're flying -- like in those dreams where you can just point in a direction and go, and you're there, at great speed, seemingly without effort.

And Then You Get Better
So, did I start running because I hated my body? I started running because I was unsatisfied with my body and I knew it could be better. Is that a bad thing? I don't know, but I don't have trouble walking up stairs anymore. Was it a lot of work along the way? Yes, but it wasn't insurmountable, the battles are small, and the victories build up. Everybody's fighting their own war, remember. This one is mine; your mileage may vary. Do I keep running because I like what my body's turning into? Yes. Do I keep running because athletes respect my accomplishments? It doesn't hurt.

So ... there are lots of reasons and they're complicated; And one of them is that if I ever meet up with Eddie Hawn again, he'll have to be able to run 14 miles before he gets to fight me.

You can make this bigger too

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Small gods, big talent [Jul. 15th, 2013|06:22 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Panda Riot: Serious Radical Girls]

So, freaking Lee Moyer was staying at our place last week with his s.o. Venetia. If you follow science fiction & fantasy at all you know Lee's work as the cover artist for countless novels, or maybe you know him for his literary pinup calendar -- or maybe you know him as the lead designer for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. In any event, I'm not sure exactly how we met Lee, though it was probably via LiveJournal (to this day I don't think I've made a single friend via facebook, though we've made legions of good ones via LJ).

Lee is criss-crossing the country being Guest of Honor at various conventions and managed to fit us in at the tail end. Lee's one of those people who's not content if he's not doing ten things.

He'd just been at a Terry Prachett Discworld convention where he was guest of honor and talking about a project he's working on called Small Gods -- which are a Discworld thing -- there are various small gods that perform small duties, and Lee is drawing one of these a day for a year. While he was here he made three, one of trillian_stars, one of Roswell, and one of some statuary we have lying about the house.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

I believe these will be available for purchase on his website in some manner, so if you need to build a shrine to the small god of Cats on the Internet, you'll be able to.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Not content with drawing up a storm while he was here, Lee also built us a bookshelf. Being a book-shelf-space-conscious stort and noticing that we had stacks of books piled everywhere (as you do) Lee said one morning "I notice that there's a recessed space in your bathroom I could easily build a bookshelf into. Do you have any power tools? And -- of course I did, so he and Venetia hied off to the lumbar yard and came back with wood and spent the morning hammering and sawing and now there's an annex to our library with 26 shelf feet in the hot-tub room.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

So there you go. There are many benefits to having talented friends.

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Top Sekret No Longer! Behind the scenes theater poster shoot for Traveling Light. [Jul. 13th, 2013|04:26 pm]
[Current Location |the antipodes]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Eisbrecher: Kann Denn Liebe Sunde Sein?]

Brian Epstein and Joe Orton walk into a graveyard....

That's not a joke, it's actually the setup of the play Traveling Light by Lindsay Harris-Friel (aka ms_violet) which I saw a few years ago while it was being workshopped and now it's in full blown production in Philly, directed by Liam Castellan (link is to a video of Liam playing Malvolio in the 12th Night, which is funny & you should watch it), opening at the Adrianne Theater on Friday, September 6th 2013.

The premise of the play is that the Beatles hired Orton (strangely brutally murdered at the peak of his talent author of "What the Butler Saw") to write a play for them and for various reasons, it's rejected. Orton and Epstein end up meeting in a cemetery and have the sort of epic conversation you'd expect two such great minds to have. It's a difficult thing to pull off, because first you have to be able to think great thoughts and then you have to think great thoughts like other people would think great thoughts.

Trillian and I loved the play when we saw it and I'm super happy that I got to work on the publicity photos for it.

When Lindsay called to ask if I knew of any epic cemeteries I was happy to suggest Mount Moriah and its caretakers were super helpful, especially Ed Snyder who runs The Cemetery Traveler blog.

We drove into the cemetery and up a side road which ended in a forest with stones in it. There was a perfectly secluded spot (the graveyard itself is very secluded, but I wanted a landscape that suggested intimacy, a place where someone could have a private conversation, so some overgrowth and trees were in the cards for us.)

Click to enlarge

You can see from Lindsay's behind the scenes photos that it's actually daylight when we shot this, which meant that I needed an initial exposure high enough to be completely black (which was about 1/160th of a second at f8 or f11) and then to fill in the things I wanted lit with flash. There are two flashes here, one a gridded spot on the two guys in front (Bob Stineman as Brian Epstein, Doug Greene as Joe Orton) and a second flash being held by Kyra Baker (as the police officer) in lieu of a flash light. (Why in lieu of a flash light? Because the flash has variable power and a flashlight would have been a constant we would have had to work around to make a proper beam.) So Kyra's light is coming from the side of the granite monument (Really? Yes. We're using a grave marker as a reflector) and the two guys are lit by the gridded spot. If you're wondering, I shot it with a Panasonic GX1 (currently selling for $249 on and the 40mm f 1.7 pancake lens. Mostly because I'm still trying to force the Micro Four Thirds format into working for me as a pro system.)

Photo by Lindsay, click to enlarge

The result looks a bit theatrical from the gridded spot light on their faces, which may or may not be desirable, depending on how they ultimately decide to go with the advertising. So I also did a more realistic version so there would be options. The play takes place (I may be paraphrasing) "When it is too late to be night but too early to be morning"). In the second one, Bob and Doug (who'd never heard of Bob and Doug McKenzie -- I'm dating myself I guess) are lit by the ambient light which I toned down enough with the exposure that it looks duskish.

Click to enlarge

We did a vertical and a horizontal, one for post cards the other for a poster. The setup on this is one gridded spot on the talent set at about 1/32nd power and one bare flash raking across the tomb in the back also at about 1/32nd power just to let it pop out at little. I had to fight myself, wanting to put a third flash behind them to give them a little rim light and pop them out of the background but would have created one of those "I can buy that their faces are lit up by a street light or car's headlights, but where is that other light coming from?" paradoxes that I always hate when I notice in movies. So ... all pretty simple lighting setups.

Click to enlarge

Lindsay blogs behind the scenes here.

The Facebook invite for the play is here.

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In which I photograph Weird Al [Jul. 11th, 2013|06:28 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |eisbrecher: sunde]

Woah hey! My Weird Al Yankovic portrait is a featured photo on Wikipedia!

Wait, Weird Al portrait? Yes. This is the end of the story, so I'm going to backtrack a bit.

Clickenzee to EmWeirden!

I've known Kevin and Gina for four or five years now. Gina was a model and Kevin was the production manager on the biggest shoot for the entire Big Book of Who killed Amanda Palmer (which I'm both delighted and horrified to see is currently moving for $175 - $250 in the used market). The shoot lasted three days, involved twenty people and some elaborate sets, a vintage hearse, a giant funeral, costumes, coffins, and ultimately, only one single image ended up in the book (it's the very creepy one with the swing set). Which is not because of Kevin and Gina, it's just the way that those things roll.

In fact, here's Gina as one of the mourners at the Amanda Palmer funeral -- in reality she was a medium who knew more about Who Killed Amanda Palmer than most people knew -- (that was back when the plot of the book was a lot bigger than it ended up being). Anyway, here's Gina.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

So while we're working on WKAP and having a really swell time, it somehow comes out the Kevin and Gina are friends with Weird Al Yankovic, as you might expect, because they're the sorts of people who are doing things and Kevin told some crazy story about driving Weird Al around in his VW bug at 3 am looking not for drugs or hookers but for a roller coaster they could go riding. Anyway -- fast forward a few years, Kevin's a good friend and he's crashed at our place a bunch of times and he took photos at our wedding and we love him and he calls up to say that he and Gina have some extra back stage passes to see Al and would we like to go. And of course I would, because, you know, Nature Trail to Hell and all. In high school my friend Holli and I used to drive around listening to Weird Al and singing along in the car, so he holds a special place. Plus I think it would be swell to do a portrait of Al, so I text Amanda and say "yadda yadda" (because he sang on the Evelyn Evelyn album) and she texts Al "yadda yadda" and Al says "whee!" (which is also the way things roll when you're hanging out with the sorts of people who do things).

So we go to the show, and it's beyond my expectations. It's hysterical, it's wonderful. There's a DVD of his current tour which is very much like the show we saw, I recommend it. (My favorite song from the new album is CNR about Charles Nelson Riley.)

Clicenzee to EmParadise!

So, backstageish after the show, we met the band and I scoped out places for a portrait. Backstage areas are pretty much all alike, in that they're not really interesting places to shoot photos and it's a challenge to carve something out of nothing.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Trillian spent much of the evening chatting with Jim Kimo West, Al's guitar player for lo these last million years and Kevin and I tried lights in various places while Al relaxed and talked with stormtroopers. I ultimately decided to use the road-cases on the stage but it was a moving target since the crew was actively moving them out. I made a couple of plans based on a few road cases, Al came out and Kevin was the Voice Activated Light Stand while we blazed away. We did two different setups, one was pretty good, the other was awesome. (The one I sent to Wikipedia was the spare.)

We lounged around for a bit more after that talking about the road and touring and the record and whatnot. We did some portraits of Jim West, as he was supremely awesome and fun to hang around with. Eventually, we waved farewell to as splendid night and to Kevin & Gina. Trillian and I drove Jim back to the hotel and learned about his other guitar work (check it out here for a video and on his web page.

I wasn't shooting portraits for anyone or with any specific reason apart from that I thought it would be fun, plus Al had a pretty mediocre live image on his Wiki page so I sent it to them. Wikipedia decided to feature/favorite it, which is fabulous. Thanks to Kevin & Gina & Amanda & Jim and Al.

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Top Sekret No Longer! [Jul. 10th, 2013|05:26 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Sultan + Ned Shepard - Walls Feat. Quilla]

A few weeks ago I photographed three of Philadelphia's most famous artists, Tony Auth, Bill Scott, and Alex Kanevsky, who are being honred at the Philadelphia Sketch Club's 150th anniversary gala. The theme of which is "Mad Men" which is, I believe, a ribbing on the club's origins as "mens only" (today membership is about 50:50, I believe). In any event, all this precipitated me watching about 20 episodes of Mad Men to try and get a feel for what should be going on. (My takeaway, lots of booze, lots of cigarettes, skinny ties.) But we also wanted it light hearted and to reflect the sketch club, which is the nation's oldest art organization and to which most every great artist in the city has belonged for the last century and a half. (The last honoree was Magnum photographer Zoe Strauss, whom I adore.) The club has always existed on a lovely precarious balance between stuffy and whimsical, packed with the most talented painters and engravers who were always doing absurd and ridiculous things.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

This was shot in the Sketch Club's library which is my favorite room, well, one of them, in that building. It's packed with hundreds of art books by former members, treasure troves about undersea exploration, love, war, travel, technique (and two of my books, I should make sure they get the others, now that I think about it.)

I'd started with a pretty sophisticated lighting setup with some rim light in the back and, as Tony Auth put it, after seeing the first photos "We look like a bunch of bankers." As we moved along we added more props (I forget who the death mask is of, but it's a famous member of the club (it might be Thomas Anshutz.) I think the thing that makes this photo is really the mischievous look on Bill Scott's face. Bill's an extraordinarily famous painter and a really fun and swell guy. (As are they all. I love Tony Auth dearly.)

Eventually I started paring down the light, ending up with one 36 inch Photek Softlighter II.

I shot it with a Panasonic Lumix GX1 with a 14mm lens, because I'm still trying to make the Micro 43 system work for me. It worked here. We were in and out in about 12 minutes.

Members of the public are invited to the gala to hobknob with these, and many other fine artists (I'll be there, for sure.)

That's that. I'm off to go running. Perhaps I'll see you at the gala.

The 153rd Sketch Club Gala

"Mad Men … of art"

Saturday, October 5, 2013 - 7 pm to Midnight

The Philadelphia Sketch Club’s 153rd Anniversary Gala honoring
Auth, Kanevsky & Scott

Patron: $150 ($125 is tax deductible) * Art Lover: $100 ($75 is tax deductible) * Artist (Sketch Club members only): $60 ($35 is tax deductible) * The first 150 ticket purchasers will receive a two volume set of books on the Philadelphia artist and Sketch Club Member Peter Moran entitled Domestic and Wild: Peter Moran’s Images of America by David Gilmore Wright (retail value $120 – limited one per household).

Cocktails, Buffet, Dancing, Madness - 1960′s “Mad Men” attire is optional.

Tickets are available now by calling 215-545-9298 or by sending a check payable to the Philadelphia Sketch Club, 235 S. Camac St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.

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At the Gallery [Jul. 7th, 2013|11:40 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Attrition: unraveling of angels ]

There comes a time in every couple's relationship where they say "I think it's time we had our portrait painted." The rational behind this is often "there should be at least one image of us not chugging beer through a vuvuzela during a soccer riot." For this we commissioned Liz Afif because she understands us.

trillian_stars wanted a portrait that was like Anne Boleyn's and I figured if she was going to look like Anne Boelyn, I wanted to be an astronaut.

So we went out to the Afif gallery yesterday for some photos & preliminary sketches. It'll probably take a few weeks, but we're excited. And I will, I understand, be an astronaut in it.

Trillian wore the top half of the gown she wore in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (she played Queen Gertrude, among others (you can see her being fitted for the costume here.) Normally it's got a skirt and a train but for some reason she was wearing shorts instead. Maybe so it wouldn't bundle up when she sat down. Anyway. She looked like Queen Gertrude Superhero.

Queen Gertrude, Superhero.
You may clickenzee to embiggen teh asskicking.

We sat for some sketches and Liz took a bunch of photos. And one of the highlights of the day was meeting artists Marion and Sal De Quinzio who were super cool. We ended up talking about movies and art for a long time and we left feeling like we'd made terrific new friends.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

We'd previously seen both Sal and Marion's work in shows and it was great to find out that they were awesome nice people too. I have a paranoia about meeting people whose art I admire for fear they're disappointing. I remember reading an interview with Ozzy Osbourne once where he said he was once invited to a party at John Lennon's house but he declined at the last minute, out of fear that he'd discover one of his idol's was a jerk.

Anyway, we left feeling like people must feel leaving Gertrude Stein's living room. (There it is, two Gertrudes in one day.) After the gallery we went home and jumped into the pool where Trillian read more from the Fellowship of the Ring which we're enjoying very much. (If you're friends with Trillian on Facebook she posted a photo called Sunset Blvd, West Philly that you should see.)

I've started work on a new Top Sekrit Projekt which is vast in its scope and beauty and will unfold probably over the next six months. It's going slowly but it's going well. Also working on the North Dakota Man Camp Project which is coming together slowly, its ever evolving but we've got some great work done and there will be some results you can look at in the next couple of months. There are interviews that need transcribing before things start happening -- that's kind of where we are on that. If anybody's interested in transcribing interviews w/ oil workers in exchange for prints, drop me a line. We have someone working on it but, as they say, many hands make light the work.

Hope your day is swell.

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Happy 4th of July [Jul. 6th, 2013|12:57 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |kent: Livräddaren]

We had a pretty low key though spectacular 4th of July. Instead of fireworks and cookouts we decided to spend some time celebrating the Declaration of Independence which was signed in Philadelphia. trillian_stars and I hosted a dramatic reading of it conducted by a number of actors who each took turns reading.

I was impressed at how simple and elegant a document it is and how relatively straight forward.

Listening to the Victrola

We tend to learn in school that it boils down to "taxation without representation" but that's not really the case. The authors laid out a list of grievances. Some of the more interesting:

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

After the reading we sat around and listened to various patriotic songs on the Victrola, from WWI and WWII propaganda songs to Sousa marches.

Director Cara Blouin is always dressed to the nines.
You may clickenzee to emgiggen her outfit.

Trillian and I spent the rest of the day in the pool where she read The Fellowship of the Ring out loud to me because she's that awesome.

Clickenzee to Embiggen

Friday we did a West Philly triathalon which means we rode our bicycles five miles, ran four miles, and played nine holes of miniature golf.

Clickenzee to Embiggen

Later we went gallery hopping at First Friday and met some great artists. I spent much of saturday working on a new Top Sekret Projeckt which has been a long time coming and will be spectacular in its execution. Very excited about this one, though it's going to take a long time to finish.

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my mad career as a screenwriter [Jun. 28th, 2013|11:06 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

I have a great idea for an episode of Mad Men where they're all trapped on a yacht, adrift at sea, with no cigarettes. Eventually they start smoking the boat and it starts sinking and you think "they can't try to smoke the keel! it will ruin the structural integrity of the boat!" -- but they light it up. Then you think "they can't possibly smoke the transom, they'll start taking on water!" but after a long standoff Betty makes the first grab for it and they all rip it apart and start stuffing it into rolling papers while they take on water like they backed into Niagra falls......

Those people smoke to freaking much.
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Civil War [Jun. 24th, 2013|07:50 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Marilyn Manson: Great Big Wide World]

I've been running through the Woodlands Cemetery for a while now, it's been built up to encourage people to use it recreationally, and it's been used as a picnic spot for more than a hundred years, it's oddly not odd to go to the graveyard and spend time outdoors. Anyway, there's a jogging course at Woodlands that's almost exactly a mile and it's fun and lovely and you sometimes have the whole place to yourself and you sometimes see people and dogs. A few weeks ago I was running far from my house when I met a woman parked in a car along the side of the road just taking in the scenery, which was ... trees. Living in the city you crave and appreciate a forest, anything green that doesn't have a little fence and a bag of mulch around it is special. We got to talking about how marvelous it was to find a big patch of woods to either run through or just sit in your car and watch and she told me that down a particular path and to the left a certain number of yards there was a Civil War graveyard. How interesting I thought. So this afternoon trillian_stars and I rode out bikes out there in search of it.

There's a large cemetery the bulk of which is made up of the tombs of wealthy Philadelphians from the 1800's. It's been abandoned and forgotten for years and it looks like a movie set. Far away from everything else there's a fabulous forgotten beauty about it. There's a scene in Logan's Run where Logan and Jessica escape from the domed city out into the outside -- neither of them have ever been there before, and they walk along forgotten roads and eventually into a building covered in vines that we recognize as the Lincoln Memorial. It always impressed me as a kid, that something important could be forgotten.

The cemetery is overgrown, like something from an Indiana Jones movie.
You may Clickenzee to Embiggen

The manner in which the cemetery has been taken back by nature for some reason comforted me in the thought of being buried somewhere -- that eventually everything looks like this -- well, either some company buys the cemetery, moves the monuments to some place far away and churns up your bones while building the foundation to an office building, or everyone forgets about it and nature just takes it back -- that's the thought I find some solace in, that you are just part of a cycle and however important you are and however big a marble marker you leave, eventually vines and wind and rain will forget you from the face of the Earth.

Then over a hill, there's a row of stones in perfect rows.

The civil war graves. You can click here to make it larger.

Amid everything broken down and consumed, the civil war graveyard is immaculate.

The civil war graves. You can click here to make it larger.

It's my understanding that while the rest of the cemetery was forgotten, this area was maintained by the federal government who sends someone out to make sure that the grass is cut and that there's a flag next to each tomb. There's also something oddly reassuring about the thought of some autonomous bit of government bureaucracy, that somewhere there's always been a guy at a desk with a sheet of paper that says "231 graves, middle of the woods" with some survey lines and someone is dispatched every however many days to make sure it's kept up while the forest takes everything else.

Graves. You can click to make the image larger.

Trillian's brother is a Civil War scholar and reenactor. He tells me that many states have registries of all their soldiers on line so you can find out who people were. I'm often curious about people when going through a grave yard -- who was this person? but for some reason it seems even more compelling when you know that someone died abruptly -- that they didn't get the opportunity to become a Burgher of Calais, that whatever their potential was, it was cut short.

There were also some familiar names from Pennsylvania and I wondered of the relationship of people to people. It's a weird web that interconnects us all.

This thing actually exists. It's some sort of gate, but with a building attached.
You may Clickenzee to Embiggen

The path is pretty rough and bumpy, lots of hills and the growth is so thick that you get disoriented very easily, not sure what direction you're traveling in, or where you came from. It was paved at some point in time, but I don't know how long it takes for grass to take over a road. 50 years? More? Less?

You may Clickenzee to Embiggen

We came home, I went running, worked on some covers for things that seem important now but won't be remembered in a hundred years.

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I totally let the dogs out [Jun. 21st, 2013|06:53 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Occasionally when I'd run in the cemetery I'll see people running with their dogs and the dogs always look happy -- flopping and prancing with their tongues wagging in that sort of "OMG! I'M DOING THINGS!" way that only a dog can. Sometimes when I'd see the dogs I'd smile at how happy they were, but other times I'd think of this dog that lives behind us and is often chained up in a vacant lot. He barks at the cats and he digs holes and he makes noises like he wants attention and I think "he's such a big dog, he would probably really like to be running in the cemetery like those other dogs that have people that run with them." And I thought it would be nice to start a group of people who found people who couldn't run with their dogs because the were old or hurt or they just never thought to run with their dogs and then I could have a dog to make flappy-happy like the giddy dogs in the cemetery, but it wouldn't be a dog that I had to worry about during the night or the day or the rest of the time when we weren't out running. I thought it might be the sort of thing that made a lot of creatures happy -- and some of those creatures would be me.

You can click to see this fellow larger

and I kicked this idea around for a while, but I'm inherently lazy and I didn't do anything about it other than think of it again whenever I saw a dog either running or not running. But then our friend Jackie mentioned that the Greys Ferry animal shelter had a program where you could take a homeless dog running and I thought that sounded like a very wonderful thing to do.

This is how we met the Monster Milers. They operate at all the PAWS animal shelters in the city and after going to an orientation class, you can show up and take a lonely dog out and make it a happy dog which is what we've been doing lately. Most of the dogs spend 22 hours a day in their kennel's and when you walk up to the door the dogs freak out, they're so excited to see a person. I've done some things in my life that made people happy, sometimes very happy, but I think I've never before been responsible for as much joy .

If you're in Philly you can find out about the Monster Milers by clicking here. If you're not in Philly, maybe you can start your own.

Clickenzee to Embiggen June Bee the happy dog

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(no subject) [Jun. 19th, 2013|06:59 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

"10 years ago [being CEO of Warner Brothers was] a killer job. Right now, that’s a job that’s going to last you six months unless you figure out the Internet. And no one’s going to figure out the Internet.

Courtney Love in the Philadelphia Weekly

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Catastrophe Keeps Us Together [Jun. 18th, 2013|02:02 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |rainer maria: catastrophe keeps us together]

A year ago I saw Josh Hitchens one man play "Guilty but Insane" when it was being workshopped. It was an extraordinarily powerful play -- just a monologue by serial killer Jeffery Dahmer explaining, pretty matter of factly what his life was like. I was really impressed by the complete transformation Josh made during the play, he looked completely different even though his entire costume was a hairstyle and a pair of glasses -- his whole manner changed. It was pretty easily the creepiest play I've ever seen. One person fled the theater about an hour into it. Anyway, I knew it was something that I was interested in working on and that I thought I'd be able to do justice to.

So this year it's part of the SoLo festival in Philadelphia and I got my chance to work on the promo poster.

It's playing Monday and Tuesday of next week. Here's the Facebook invite. It's a remarkable play. You ought to see it.

Click to enlarge

Behind the scenes video with Camera Geekery:

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(no subject) [Jun. 15th, 2013|04:47 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Tin Beast: Earworm with a hook]

Day 5. I am beginning to suspect that the reason @HillaryClinton is not following me on Twitter is because I am not following her.

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Camera gear interview with me [Jun. 11th, 2013|07:36 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |molly robison: jolene]

There's a super swell interview with me up at Medium written by Richard Baguley. In it we talk about the gadget that I currently love & hate the most and what I'd do to fix what's wrong with it. In this case, Micro Four Thirds cameras which I find agonizingly almost useful enough and the various dances you must do in order to work on that fine line. I do recommend reading it, and commenting. (It's easier for me if you comment here, but I'm sure Richard gets more rah rah rah's from his boss if you comment there, so that's probably best.)

Clickenzee to read the article!

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A slight case of overreaching [Jun. 9th, 2013|10:33 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Bittersweet Drive: Duet]

The people who run the Odyssey Half Marathon figure that if you're crazy enough to run ten miles, you're probably crazy enough to run thirteen, so they scheduled their race just a few weeks after Philadelphia's ten mile Broad Street Run, though what actually got me to sign up was hearing two guys discussing Broad Street saying that ten miles was a good "amateurs distance" I was like "what the heck? I just ran ten freaking miles and I don't get to join the runners club yet?" So I signed up.

I'm easily manipulated like that.

Thanks so much to Tzuo Hann Law for this photo.
You can clickenzee to embiggen it.

My practice runs were kind of hit or miss. I did have one while in North Dakota working on the North Dakota Man Camp Project where I ran 11 miles through the badlands with two of the researchers which was pretty awesome. Especially when the road was blocked by freaking bison.


That was a pretty great run with wonderful scenery interrupted only by a really grumpy park ranger with an AR-15 who seemed to have a very bad case of "I have a big gun in an empty park and nobody to boss around but these dang bison." And last week I had a pretty horrendous 10 mile run along the Schuylkill river that I should have started at 5:00 am but made the mistake of waiting till 8:30 for and got cooked like a freaking pie when the sun came up.

Anybody who knows running knows that in the week before Your Big Run you're supposed to taper, which is to say, not really run much, if at all. You don't get any better in the 7 days before your race and you're supposed to relax and watch TV and not drink booze or eat fatty foods. But on Wednesday I figured I'd go out with the West Philly Runners (my teammates for today's half marathon) and I ran four miles and it was swell. And then the next day one of my running buddies who couldn't make it to Wednesday's run said he was running and since he's a weight-loss-running-buddy I take it as some sort of sacred contract to always be the rah rah rah positive force (and he does the same for me) and the three miles we were suposed to run turned into four and then five and then I figured since we'd done five we ought to sprint another mile because, you know, stupid, and about half a mile into mile six I felt this PONG! in my left calf a sharp pain like I'd taken a stone from a slingshot to the leg and I charged through it but when we were done I knew I'd screwed up. It didn't get better on Friday and I spent most of the day foam rollering it and Saturday as well, and so I rolled into Sunday with a brand new Sports Related Injury of my own overreach that common sense would have kept me from getting and therefore once again on the day of The Big Run I wasn't sure that I'd be able to finish.

trillian_stars and I rode out to the race on our bikes at 6:00 in the morning and it was pretty glorious, a wonderful, cool day. I'd not run a step since Thursday and really wasn't sure if 100 yards into it I'd just go "ak! ak! ak! not finishing!" and quit so Trill stayed close to the starting line but when the gun went off I was guardedly optimistic and I ran at a pretty slow pace. The course was really beautiful. One of the several gifts that running has given me is seeing places that I'd never see -- not just in Philadelphia, (although particularly in Philadelphia) but like the frozen river I ran on in North Dakota and the frozen forest I ran through in Minnesota with the Arctic Running Club. Living in a city you (and by you I mean me) tend to spend so much of your time in the useful places rather than the beautiful places. When one of your goals is moving your body the definition of Useful Places expands to include the Beautiful Places. My leg hurt pretty consistently but I was running behind a guy wearing a shirt that said "NO WHINING" so I figured I'd just suck it up and power through.

Round about mile nine the sun came up and it started getting hot and I found myself trying to figure out exactly how I felt. Tired? Not really. Uncomfortable? Not really. In pain? Not really. But to some extent all of these rolled together but the overarching thing, and the completely inexplicable thing, was that despite feeling generally tired, uncomfortable, and in pain, that I felt good -- I felt maybe proud or something not sure what it is, but with my leg aching and my sweat band filled to the point that it could hold no more sweat and it being hot out, I felt happy. I think to some extent I was happy that I'd run nine miles just a few months after I was winded walking up a flight of steps and happy that I was sleeping better and feeling generally better about myself physically. But it's really hard to quantify.

Looking at my GPS watch I realized I could probably finish in less than two hours and thirty minutes and I stepped up the pace a little and, like she could read my mind, trillian_stars texted and said "don't push it." (She, like the NSA was also tracking me via my phone, but unlike the NSA she was also sitting under a tree reading Jane Eyre back at the West Philly Runners base camp.) The last couple miles is all up-hill and right before the finish line there's a big, giant, steep hill that was killing a lot of people, but it was so close to the end. I put pretty much whatever I had into the last half mile and finished in 2:37:17.

Finish like you're fighting a bear for your life.
(iPhone photo by Trillian Stars. This one doesn't get any bigger.)

Someone handed me a medal and if felt like all that hurt & tired and everything over the past weeks had been put in a car crusher and squashed down into that bit of metal and handed to me. Here, we got the bad out and magically imprisoned it in this disk.

I would have color corrected this image, but I'm pretty sure this is an accurate depiction of what my face looked like.

Clickenzee to embiggen!!!!

We hung out with the West Philly Runners and then went off to the bar, where I wore my medal, cause damnit, I earned it.

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Top Sekret No Longer! The Tempest [Jun. 5th, 2013|01:56 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |roswell breathing]

For the past however many years I've been doing the live photos for Shakespeare in Clark Park because park-Shakespeare-picnic fun and it's always been a great gig. This year I did the poster for this summer's production of The Tempest. I much prefer doing the big thematic lobby poster type stuff to live photography and I'm really glad I was able to have a crack at this one.

The Tempest has a wizard, a monster, a spirit, a princess, a shipwreck, and Robby the Robot -- what's not to love. That's Catharine Slusar as Prospero and Hannah Gold as Miranda.

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

Here's me photographing it:

Clickenzee for Behind The Scenes Action

This was a relatively straightforward shot, main light into an umbrella, 45 degrees to camera left, camera 180 degrees from the sun, rim light 45 degrees behind the subjects, also camera left. If I'd had more off camera assistants I would have put a huge amount of wind in it as well as maybe some smoke but we did pretty good for 7 am in a muddy mostly dried up pond.

Unused more fotoshopped version of the poster here.

I hope to see some of you at the play. I'll be sitting up in the very front row with a gorgeous picnic basket and a very enormous lens.

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(no subject) [Jun. 4th, 2013|06:53 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Share it if you like it.

Clickenzee to Embiggen

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roswell for myles [May. 31st, 2013|07:45 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |molly robison: i have a tank, i drive it like a madwoman]

No doubt echoing the sentiments of many, trillian_stars is in Wyoming this week where someone said to her "there's not enough Roswell on the blog" -- so here she is. Helping me to try and make vegan deviled eggs.

You may clickenzee to enRoswell!

The experiment was pretty successful -- we tried two different things, both were good in their own ways, and we came up with some ideas for doing both of them better next time. So this one will very likely end up in Cooking With Roswell.

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(no subject) [May. 28th, 2013|07:46 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Roswell was all over the place while we were cooking and then she found something else to do while I was eating. Mushrooms, spinach, black beans, tofu with sesame seed oil. Roswell ate a dust bunny.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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I'm leaving, on a jet plane [May. 22nd, 2013|08:41 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Alcest: Les Voyages de l'ame]

I'm headed back to North Dakota where I'll be spending time with some of the fabulous academics who make up the North Dakota Man Camp Project, we'll be doing oral histories, interviews and photographs of people living in temporary work force housing springing up around the Bakken Oil Boom -- truckers, roughnecks, engineers, and all the people who support them -- carpenters, welders, pipe fitters. It was a really amazing experience when I went in February. Looking forward to seeing another face of that state this time. We'll be in Western NoDak around Williston and I think south maybe as far as Killdeer.

Here's a post from the last time I was there which contains beautiful photos of a snow covered landscape.

If you want to follow along, I'll be updating the blog as wireless allows (who knows when that'll be) but also I'll be tweeding with the hashtag #OilCampsND

Here's me in NoDak during our last trip in February. I'm packing lighter this time.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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Behind the Scenes on the Philadelphia Weekly cover shoot with Neil Gaiman. [May. 20th, 2013|07:58 am]
[Current Location |the antipodes]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |The Decembrists: The Mariners Revenge]

Behind the Scenes on the Philadelphia Weekly cover shoot with Neil Gaiman.

While it's the cover shoot, it ended up not being the actual cover photo. The actual cover was a photo I took last year of Neil taking a Behind The Scenes tour of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology given by Dr. Brad Hafford (you can read about that here. The photo that I'd actually taken for the cover ended up on a full page on the inside, which is fine, because it's a better photo and the cover had an ad on it that needed to be fit in, so the one I liked better got an uncluttered layout. There were about six different cover variants, of which I got to see the final two.

Which do you prefer? You may clickenzee to embiggen.

Anyway, the shoot was really basic and really fast. It was late at night, Neil had just gotten into town and picked trillian_stars, Amanda and I up at a house party in North Philly and we were headed back to center city. I'd wanted to do something with the Philly Skyline in the background because the story's about a speech that he gave in Philly a year ago. So we went out onto an island in the middle of broad street. I love the view down that street and I've used it a couple of times before.

Here's one that I took of Trillian on our way home from somewhere a couple of months ago -- a fog bank had rolled down and the place was lit up wonderfully.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

One of the things that happens when you take a lot of photos of things is that you start to tuck little shortcuts away in your brain like "ah, now I know how to do this, I can pull it out of my hat later." I figured this lighting setup with this background might be useful later and it was.

So, with the idea of getting Neil and Amanda out of the street and into bed as quickly as possible, I figured the easiest and coolest thing to do would be to photograph Neil the same way, right in front of the pretty-pretty city hall. This is, I think, one of the most important aspects of a lot of my photography -- being able to move really fast. Many's the busy politician or musician who sighs mournfully when their publicist tells them they need to do a shoot for some magazine and then it's your turn to save the day by coming in and saying "I can be in and out in 9 minutes." It puts the pressure on, but it also makes you a lot nicer to work with and then people start asking for you.

Photo by Amanda

The lighting setup is really simple, there's one flash behind a shoot-thru umbrella. I'm using a Luma Pro LP605s light stand because it folds down really small and some generic double fold umbrella for the same reason. The camera is a Panasonic GX1 and a 20mm f1.7 lens -- I'd brought a Leica 45mm f2.8 as well but that had somehow broken earlier in the day and wouldn't focus -- which brings up a point -- when you're going on an important shoot, bring two of everything. I had a backup camera body and two lenses which the small footprint of the micro 4:3 format allows you to do relatively easily. The flash was triggered with a pair of Pocket Wizards.

So, shooting with the 20mm lens and an off-camera flash you have two sources of light, the flash, and the ambient street light. The ambient street light is made up of traffic lights, street lights, and the bright klieg lights aimed at city hall. The first thing to do is expose for city hall, and you do that by setting your f-stop and aperture until it shows up properly. In this case it was f 2.2 at 1/130th of a second at an ISO of 200. THEN, once that's figured out, you set the exposure for your subject with the flash power. Two light sources, two different controls -- camera first, then flash.

Once the light is properly balanced, you just start shooting. Badda badda bing.

Later in photoshop I burned in the edges to darken the bottom of his jacket and most of the street behind him -- this draws your eyes to the subject -- there are two things you want the photo to say "Neil" and "Philadelphia", and here you have it. You can read the article about "Make Good Art" here.

Hope this was useful.

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science [May. 19th, 2013|06:18 pm]
If I could clone myself. And then shrink my clone down until he was about 3 inches tall, I could find out if Roswell would eat me if I was little without actually having to die to find out.

I'm pretty sure she'd eat me.

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Last race related post for a while, (if you've held on this long, don't unfollow me now!) [May. 17th, 2013|06:50 am]
[Current Location |the antipodes]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |judas priest: electric eye]

This is not a fitness blog, I promise

I just need to do a race recap.

The Broad Street run is a ten mile race through Philadelphia in a straight line from Einstein hospital to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. About 40,000 people do it every year. It was The Thing I'd set my sights on late last year when I realized that I was getting less fat and more capable. Ten miles seems like a ridiculous distance and I wanted to do it mostly because it had seemed absolutely impossible at one time and then possible, however unlikely....

When I arrived at the starting line though I began to worry. City hall marks the half way point, and despite it being gigantic and looming, it was so far away that I couldn't see it. I'd never run in a straight line like that before. I'd run in loops and I'd always been able to see the next place in the loop, realizing not only that I'd have to keep running until I got to that point that I couldn't see, but also that when I got there, I'D ONLY BE HALF WAY was freaking me out. My training had been Not Good, since I'd fractured my tibia I had only very slowly come back to running, the longest I'd run in the last two months was five miles the week before, five difficult miles. I wasn't sure if I'd have the stamina and I wasn't sure that I wouldn't re-injure myself -- in fact, I wasn't sure if my fracture had healed (spoiler: I make it and nothing breaks).

clickenzee to try and find city hall

I was right at the very back of the pack, in fact, out of 40,000 people, only about 100 were behind me. The big lesson for next year was "bring a disposable sweat shirt and sweat pants" -- it was freaking COLD and they tell you to be there long, long before you actually need to be there. They suggested I get there by 6:45 or so which was a good two hours before the race starts. Next time, I'll pull into town around 8:00.

Finally the starters gun goes off, but it's so far away that we can't hear it from the back of the line. It takes 20 minutes, maybe more for the back of the line to actually get to the starting line but finally I was off. All along the way through North Philly people line the streets, waving and cheering, it was great. After about half a mile I started passing the first people who'd stopped running and started walking but I was cautious about going too fast. I wasn't sure if my leg would hold up -- I hadn't done a long run since the fracture -- which made my training a nightmare, and I didn't want to turn into one of the people who had to stop, so I loped along with 10 minute 45 second miles.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

There are people all along the route, and every sleepy-eyed garage band in Philly is set up on a corner playing Counting Crows covers and eventually you pass the Temple University marching band (not marching) with baton twirlers performing amazing feats of dexterity, playing "Eye of the Tiger" (possibly over and over and over again) and the whole thing is like some grand party. It's somewhere after mile three that people start to space themselves out and you're not really passing people or getting passed too much, you're just trotting along. It was around here we passed two injured people, one had fallen in a pothole and was being carried off by friends -- the other had twisted his ankle and was limping defeatedly towards the El stop. I asked if he needed a train token, he waved me off and said his father was coming to pick him up and went back to looking sad and injured. To me, being so worried about the same thing myself, it seemed like a catastrophe.

Finally, at mile 5, city hall looms up and you realize that you're half way. I got much more enthusiastic at this point. I'd been promising myself to hold back judgement until I got to seven miles, but at five I felt pretty good which was encouraging.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

At mile six my running partner said "I just hi-fived (former Philly Mayor and Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell!" "Where?!" I said. "About a block back? Do you want to turn around?" -- of course I wanted to turn around. So I ran back a block, and spotted Big Ed on the side of the street hi-fiving people & wearing a Boston uniform.

Palms were slapped and I continued to mile seven with a celebrity charge. Also, trillian_stars was waiting to cheer me on somewhere between mile six and mile seven which was a great thing. It's kind of hard to express just how happy it makes you when perfect strangers shout "you're crushing it! go go go!"

Clickenzee to see Big Ed even bigger

Big psychological charge by being on the other side of City Hall,
plus having Trillian Stars cheering.

At mile 7 I saw someone holding up a sign that said "only three more miles to go!" I was tired but that sign made me realize that now it was ony a 5k, and I can run 5k while clipping my nails now, it's no longer a big deal. That amped me up, and my running companion who decided that now was the time to put the burn on and he shot off in front of me. I would have been perfectly content to keep going at the same speed, but he saw this as our opportunity to pass a lot of people so I gasped and tried to keep up.

Clickenzee to see me surge through mile 8 or something.
Also note my weird messed up walrus flipper of a right foot.

The last three miles weren't all that fun. My hands got a little numb, I felt really tired, but all around me were people walking, they'd just stopped and I wasn't going to stop, even though it felt pretty bad the last mile. Eventually I saw the finish line about half a mile ahead. We surged through the chute with what I felt was the last bit of anything I had and there was someone standing with an armful of medals handing them out to people. I took mine and felt incredibly, indescribably happy. Everything started to go white, like the world was powerfully over-exposed. Someone handed me a plastic bag filled with food and a bottle of water. I walked out onto the grass and things kept getting brighter and finally went purple and my legs were wobbly. I realized I was going to fall over if I didn't sit down, so I sat in the grass and started eating the junk food out of the bag. It tasted pretty good. There was a 270 calorie "breakfast bar" from local vendors TastyKake which was ... freaking incredible. And I ate a banana and a bag of potato chips. There was no cell signal so I couldn't text Trillian to let her know I was finished.

Later I discovered that I was suffering from something called "Orthostatic Hypotension" paired with or causing another thing called "Exercise Associated Collapse" (conveniently called EAC) which happens a lot at endurance events and is mostly temporary. It's caused by blood pooling in the lower extremities -- when running the action of running helps circulate the blood, when you stop, it doesn't return as quickly and not enough gets to your brain. There are several recommended solutions to this, one is to keep walking, briskly, at the end of your run, the other is to lay down and elevate your legs. This is sort of what I did, but I substituted "eating candy" for elevating my legs.

As the crowd started to thin out I found Trillian and we watched the very end of the race come through the finish line -- the very end of the race is made up of all of the routes bicycle cops and golf carts they use (presumably) to pick up injured runners. When the bike cops and golf carts pass you, you're not a racer anymore, you become a pedestrian. I wonder if they shut down the finish line and stop handing out medals as the last golf cart crosses the line or if some kind soul stays there to see if anybody crawls up.

Anyway. When I got home I printed out a photo of myself at the finish line and mailed it to my sports medicine doctor.

I started the race with about 100 people behind me, and I came in 26,262th. At 1:50:19, my time was about double that of most of the people in my running club, but I realized that somewhere in there, I still managed to pass about twelve thousand people. Go little walrus flipper. Go me. My only goal was to finish, and I finished.

So there you have it. Last October I was fat and out of shape and today I ran ten miles. In the interrum I survived a fractured leg and various aches and weirdos at the gym and I feel pretty good about myself. Plus I have a medal. My final thought is this: Pin your goal in a place that seems possible, though very difficult, and work towards it relentlessly. The view from the top of the mountain is worth it.

I will now shut up about exercise for a while. Have a swell day.

Have I shown you my medal? Clickenzee to see it LARGER!

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Harps harps harps [May. 11th, 2013|09:43 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

At and Undisclosed Location with Elizabeth Hainen, principal harpist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Kimberly Rowe harpist & editor (for twenty years now) of Harp Column magazine & trillian_stars.

We are performing teh awesomez. You actually kinda wish you were here.

More to come.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Kimberly, Elizabeth & Trillian. Clickenzee to Embiggen!

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stuff and stuff and stuff [May. 4th, 2013|06:26 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Judas Priest: Devil's Child]

So I got to see trillian_stars be Brutus in Julius Caesar last week at Boy Latin and it was spectacular. It's one of those Shakespeare plays that nobody ever seems to do (I don't really need to see Midsummernight's Dream again) but it's just packed with awesome. I now know where "the fault in our stars" comes from and "Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!" -- which is a great line. Aaaaand, I always thought that "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him," meant that Antony was, you know, angry and Caesar and was going to kill him -- but now I know that's not what happens. It's a great play filled with noble & ignoble people and beautiful language and Cassius -- hey, I was persuaded.

Brutus is actually a really good guy (I didn't know). Brutus doesn't just kill Caesar, Brutus kills just about everybody. He's a fierce warrior, and, really truthful and trustworthy. When he explains why he stabbed his good friend to death, it all makes even more sense and you end up feeling really sympathetic -- or at least it did when Trillian did it. She makes a really wonderful Brutus. I have a super awesome wife.

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

Race Stuff
I'm live-updating my progress in tomorrow's race on Facebook. If you want to follow or whatnot, you can friend me there. I'll probably do a re-cap later in the week and then hopefully I'll shut up about sports/fitness for a while. It's been a long time since October 1 when I joined the gym and got on the rowing machine for the first time and was so beat up by it that I couldn't lift my leg high enough to climb into the tub to soak my wounded body.

If you're going to be along the course of the Broad Street Run tomorrow, let me know where you'll be sitting and I'll try and be on your side of the street for the waving and whatnots. The exciting thing is my leg may just snap in half and you'll get to see the agony on my face as I limp by.

Today was my mother's birthday and what do you think she wanted for her birthday? We all went on a picnic & then watched The Creature from the Black Lagoon -- which is about as awesome a birthday as I'd ever want for myself.

Anyhoo. I'm going to bed in half an hour. See you tomorrow.

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the big day approaches... [May. 3rd, 2013|06:32 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |judas priest: ram it down]

First -- I want to thank Mary & Picasso (who may be a ... cat? dog? rat? fish?) for sending me this awesome homemade button to wear on Sunday's race. It says "HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT MY SPORTS RELATED INJURY?" and has a photo of my tibia fracture. I shall wear it with honor and I'm sure it will start many a wonderful conversation.

Clickenzee to embiggen!

Sunday is The Big Race -- well, for me it's the big race, ten miles through the streets of Philadelphia, though I saw someone on the Internet call it "a good beginner distance". Yikes. Anyway, the race starts at 8:00 AM and if my leg doesn't break or my heart give out, I'm expecting to be finished by 10 or so ...

If you're in Philly and are watching the race
I'm having my position posted automatically to Facebook because I figure that people on Facebook have signed up for that sort of annoyance, so if you're on your porch stoop and want to watch me stagger past, you can check there to see where I am. And if we're not "friends" on FB already, please feel free to add me (you can unfriend me on Monday if I'm not interesting).

I think that's about it for the not-a-fitness-blog shiznit. I'll have an update about Trillian playing Brutus and how cool it was.

I should have a photo of trillian_stars as Brutus carrying a sword, right? At the Battle of Philippi. Right?

Anyway -- have a swell day. I'm going to bed.

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more on the pocketesses [May. 2nd, 2013|07:08 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |judas priest: shout it out]

There's been a huge response to my post about womens pockets, a lot of really interesting comments here, on twitter, tumblr and facebook. I wanted to mention two things -- one is that Bri Date (aka @WittyToddy on twitter) reports from the United States Navy that while the mens dress uniforms have pockets, the womens dress uniforms have fake pockets, they're just flaps. This was something I discovered is common on womens clothing -- the appearance of a pocket with no actual functioning pocket. Mind boggling. I'm not really able to wrap my head around the why of it.

There was one great comment I found on Facebook though that shed a lot of light and insight into this discussion. It was made by Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney on her FB page where she'd reposted my blog post. Prior to this I'd gotten an angry-unfriending email from someone who thought I was expecting him to take blame for something (as he pointed out) he had no knowledge of nor any control over. Which is one of the reasons that I hesitate to throw around words like "patriarchy" because it does seem to suggest that if you're a guy, you're, somehow at fault.

Kristen explains this really well and I wanted to share it.

When something is referred to as "patriarchal," it doesn't necessarily mean that it is only heterosexual men perpetrating it. Women contribute unthinkingly or even wholeheartedly to practices that are inherently patriarchal -- to take an example somewhat more serious than pockets, women definitely contribute to restricting other women's access to birth control, or to shoring up practices that result in lower wages for female workers.

One of the interesting things about fashion is that it tends to enshrine certain things far past the point that they are useful or even that their purpose is understood. A gender-based example might be the tradition of having women's and men's shirts button in opposite directions -- at this point, no one is even positive that the explanations for why this is so are even accurate. Another example might be the vestigial "watch pocket" still found in pants and even jeans, when very few people carry pocket watches.

I think Kyle Cassidy's modest proposal is that designers should ask themselves, "Have I put pockets in this clothing? Why not? What are my expectations for the person wearing it? Are they consistent with reality?" What Kyle has noted is that most men's clothing is designed with pockets as a matter of course, whereas most women's clothing is not, and the reasons given for this (when reasons are given at all) are pretty weak. Did someone set out to deprive women of agency by taking away their pockets? Probably not, no. But there are a set of assumptions that have led to women's clothing being designed the way it is (including but not limited to: "women always carry purses" and "the man carries the wallet anyway") that deserve to be interrogated.

Thanks for all the discussion, and the sharing of links for places that make womens clothes with pockets. I like to think that if enough people bang their cups on the bars, the people who make buying decisions for large retailers and who make design decisions will wrinkle their brows and ponder ... wait, why are we doing this?

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