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kyle cassidy

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Be well [Dec. 31st, 2013|10:13 pm]
Auld Lang Syne from us to you. Nicki Jaine vox & saw, Ray Ashley accordion, video by me. Share it with your friends and hold them tight.

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(no subject) [Dec. 25th, 2013|11:08 am]
It's been a busy couple of weeks -- Ohio, Boston, new possibly book project with Amanda Palmer. Something. Anyway. More soon. Have a swell day.




>
Clickenzee to Embiggen!







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Ada Lovelace [Dec. 10th, 2013|09:59 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

It's Ada Lovelace's birthday! trillian_stars discusses playing her in Childe Byron.






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This is not a fitness blog: but baby, it's cold outside & I'm still running [Dec. 9th, 2013|06:22 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Running in the summer sucks. Running in the winter is great.

A lot of people stop running in the winter which to a large extent baffles me -- especially when they've slogged through 80 degree days. Cold weather running is your reward! Trust me, you'll be more comfortable in the winter if you just dress properly.

The big downer of dressing appropriately is that you're a lot warmer after you get started so, both in summer and winter, you need to plan for how you're going to feel on the majority of your outing rather than how you feel when you walk out the door. This is a particular bummer in the winter when it may be twenty degrees out.

I've been trying to come up with some sort of formula for staying comfortable, no doubt someone's already given it a go, but my hypothesis is "1 layer for every 15 degrees below 60" -- you should also have a full zip something or other, light jacket, or heavier hoodie because you're coldest when you first leave the house and for the first mile, so you want something you can easily take off while you're running. When temperatures get down near freezing, it should be a full-zip hoodie, so you can cover your head & ears. Hoodies are better than hats because you have more variation in controlling your warmth with them. A Good running hoodie will zip up tight around your head and the zipper will stop just below your nose, this gives you a lot of variation in temperature control with the zipper.

If it's windy, raining or snowing, one of your outer layers should be weather resistant.

If you have the option, it's wonderful to have a place a couple miles from home where you can stash extra layers.

Today it was 28 degrees and snowing. I was wearing a compression base layer, an over layer and a weather resistant Sugoi top that keeps the snow from coming through while, allegedly, still letting my sweat escape. Along with that was a micro fiber hoodie that I alternately put on and tied around my waist depending on how I felt. Ultimately I was slightly warm in the three layers. This may seem a little odd considering my beard and eyebrows froze and my hat developed icicles.

But it's true. Get your shoes, go out for a run.








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STAR trek, STAR gate, lots of STARS [Dec. 6th, 2013|08:02 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

While many of you in America were chowing down on cranberry sauce & watching football, I spent the day in a rather uneventful airplane flight to Indiana to work on Joan of Dark's new book Geek Knits, a followup to her second book "Knits for Nerds".

They're both books of knitting patterns for people who were in the AV club in high school and spent their summers sitting in trees reading Madeline L'Engle and Isaac Asimov. The difference between the two is that for Geek Knits we're getting geek celebrities to model the finished pieces for this book. So I went out to Indiana to photograph some actors from Star Trek and Deep Space Nine and ubergeek John Scalzi.

You may recognize Rene Auberjonois as Odo from DS9, but he's been in a million other things as well, including the movie M*A*S*H. He was super-nice, very professional, and an exceptional model. It was great working with him because you could see that a) he'd done this before, a lot, and b) he took it very seriously, even when he was being goofy, he was being goofy to get you what you needed. We got to talk a bit about Shakespeare, and Macbeth and he modeled this Top Sekrit Thing.




Clickenzee to Embiggen father Mulcahy!



Some of the people we photographed were on extremely tight schedules and this was another "two weeks of preparation, four hours of setup, ten minutes of photography" things but it went well, even when people arrived half an hour early and surprised us. We had a lot of down time and a lot of prep time. I ran into science fiction writer Michael Z. Williamson who's in my book Armed America who I hadn't seen since I photographed him in 2007. I also got to throw a Frisbee for a corgi and I realized that I had not understood what joy was before I saw this dog experience it in it's complete distillate form.




Clickenzee to Embiggen the Behind the Scenes!



One of the great things about working on this book of roller derby portraits is that I can work on it in my down time wherever I am. And, because Joan of Dark is also a Rollergirl she hooked me up with the Naptown roller derby and we celebrated a days worth of successful photo shoots with some quick rollergirl portraits. This project has been going really great. So it was scifi geekery and rollerderby athleticism and playing tug-of-war with a dog in between. Plus having Joan and Dill's bird stare at me like she wanted to eat me a lot.




Clickenzee to Embiggen Sock 'ems Razor!



More later.




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A Doll's House from our house [Dec. 5th, 2013|10:06 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |walter sickert: soft time traveler]

The DVD's for "A Doll's House" arrived today and they look wonderful. We decided to address all the envelopes by hand because it just seems wrong to print out labels on something like this. All the packages headed overseas I've been drawing little things on while we listen to Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken toys on the stereo. The house is stacked with DVD's and envelopes and photographs, which go into some of the envelopes, and it's slowly coming together, despite Roswell's help.

Thanks to everyone who backed the Kickstarter. I'm looking forward to the time just a few days now where you'll be able to sit in front of the television and see this play that only so few people were able to see during its very short run.

Brian did a great job with the Behind the Scenes, be sure to watch those too.






Clickenzee to Embiggen!








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Something unexpected! [Dec. 5th, 2013|07:11 am]
[mood |happyhappy]
[music |roswell purring]

This afternoon there came a strange and wonderful package in the mail with the return address of "Gaiman". It had the joy of all unexpected packages and we waited as long as we possibly could, looking at it, before anticipation got the better of us and we carefully opened it.

Inside was a beautiful edition of The Ocean at the End of the Lane that I didn't even know existed, with a cut slipcase and illustrations by the inimitable Dave McKean printed on paper so heavy you could crack oysters with a single sheet of it (if you needed to do that sort of thing).




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



trillian_stars has yet to read it -- I read it on my Kindle -- I wonder how her experience will be reading this beautiful copy. Wow!

Thanks Neil & Kitty!








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Top Sekrit No Longer: A more concise writeup than this bit of awesome deserves [Nov. 26th, 2013|06:54 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Cat's out of the bag on this one. I'm photographing Joan Dark's upcoming book Geek Knits -- it's knitting patterns for geeks modeled by celebrity geeks so we're traipsing across the country spending time with scientists, writers, actors and various whatnots. The second stop was Los Angeles for a week.

Tuesday

My flight was early, early ... so early that I landed in Los Angles at nine in the morning. You do the math. Met up with Joan of Dark, Dill Hero & their assistant Kerrie at the airport and hit the ground running, right into a photo shoot with the always spectacular Leah Cevoli from Robot Chicken and then Miracle Laurie from Joss Wheadon's "Dollhouse". Somewhere out in the Hollywood hills where a famous skateboarder lived next door with a giant skate park in their back yard. We did Miracle in two outfits, an arm shrug and a sweater and Leah in two outfits, a wrap and a scarf -- I'm not sure if they'll both be in the book or if that was just to give us some coverage. Joan blogged about the shoot for Tor here.

I can't show you any of the outfits, but I can post some of the lighting tests.




Lighting tests! Whee! Clickenzee to Embiggen!



Dill and I set up lights for each of the shoots and then sat around drinking beer. (It's a tough life.) Somehow Joan had convinced Oaken Barrel brewery to sponsor her book, so they shipped a case to every shoot. I wasn't going to complain. Somewhere it wasn't eleven in the morning.

Most of the day was taken up by hair & makeup so I was largely sitting around doing nothing. My shoots are typically really fast and this was even faster because I had so much time to prepare while everybody was getting ready. In-front-of-camera time for each of the shots was probably ten minutes. We also spent a lot of time playing fetch with a border collie who pretty much demanded any not pressing-the-shutter-button time and who never settled for just catching one thing a time -- he wanted you to throw two balls & he'd catch them both.




I discuss important shiznit with Joan Dark while
Miracle Laurie gets her makeup done and Dill points at me.
(For some reason.) Photo by Leah Cevoli.
CLickenzee to Embiggen!



The photos came out great and I can't wait for you to see them. I'm always a bit anxious at the start of something like this so it was a huge relief to get some good photos done right out of the chute which let me relax a bit. When you're the one behind the camera, you're the one everybody's looking at and you're on the hot seat to produce. All those eyeballs always gives me stage fright until I've been able to produce something worthwhile.





The crew! Clickenzee to Embiggen!




After the shoot we met up with John and Sandy Carpenter who bought us dinner (guys! you didn't have to do that!) and then invited us back to their place to watch a basketball game. I met the Carpenters somehow on the Internet and got to know them when I went out to do a portrait of John last year but it's still a bit weird -- wait, I know John and Sandy Carpenter? Anyway -- after the game Dill & I crashed at the Carpenter's guest house and Joan and Kerrie went to Cat Mihos' place -- Cat's Neil Gaiman's tour manager, she was out of town and had a spare house and cats.





The Crew -- Dill, John Carpenter, Joan Dark, Kerrie, Sandy King-Carpenter.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!



Wednesday
Relatively chill day. One of our shoots got moved around and another one got cancelled which gave us mostly a free day. Normally this would freak me out and send me into a WE'RE DOING NOTHING! panic but we'd gotten so much good stuff on Tuesday I felt fine about it. Joan and I were interviewed for a Respect! Films' documentary about Neil Gaiman, I told some stories, we baked in the hot sun and we were able to take as much time as the filmmakers needed rather than having to rush off and that felt nice. We decided we'd make this the "if you're in L.A. and want to hang out" day so I emailed Michael Kwan who's a photographer for the L.A. Derby Dolls and asked if he could find me some rollergirls to photograph for the roller derby portrait book I'm working on.




Respect! Films interview. Clickenzee to embiggen!



We filled up half a bar with people from the Internet which was a grand thing and something that I really like about Twitter, it seems to be designed to do stuff like that. Shunami Bomb showed up from the Derby Dolls with her dog and a bunch of other people.

I just started photographing right in the bar with Brian C. Janes holding lights and Donielle Gross snapping some behind-the-scenes. I was a bit worried that the bar would throw us out but the bartender just ran over and instagrammed us for the bar's web page. I guess in LA this sort of thing is just what goes on.




Clickenzee to Embiggen Shunami Bomb!



I went to bed at a reasonable hour, Kerrie, Joan and Dill stayed out partying with the L.A. peeps into the wee hours and looked a bit warmed over on....


Thursday
I got up early on Thursday to go running, because I had a half marathon that Sunday and I wanted to get a few miles in. I ran through the Hollywood hills and was absolutely certain that everybody I saw wearing sunglasses and a baseball hat walking a dog at 5:30 in the morning was Kevin Spacey. No doubt I was correct.

Then we went off and photographed Roman Dirge in a really bad-ass sweater. I can't show you the sweater, but I can show you the lighting test that I did with Joan the night before and me photographing Roman.




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



Roman was always one of my comic book heroes as anybody who remembers my ubiquitous Lenore t-shirt remembers. And it was great to meet him and find out that he's just a super-nice guy who likes to watch horror movies and draw things.

From there it was back to John and Sandy's. Apart from making movies they're also doing a comic book called "John Carpenter's Asylum" (Read about it on the Facebooks here) so Joan wanted to photograph them with their comic and a nifty comic book holder she's designed. We spent some time figuring out the lighting beforehand because who wants to stumble around with lights looking like an idiot in front of a famous movie director?




Lighting test for the comic book holder. Clickenzee to Embiggen!



I set up lights in their living room while Sandy made dinner. Earlier in the day she'd said: "You need pie. We're not letting you go home without pie." So they cook us an amazing dinner of vegetable soup and there's an apple pie that looked like it came out of a child's nursery rhyme, it had a huge gnarled top, and when you cracked it open inside there's a baked exquisiteness that seemed sculpted in its perfection.

We said goodbye to the Carpenters who'd made life so easy for us. It's kind of mind-boggling that in a place as nasty as Hollywood there are people who are just so dang nice.

Anyway, two more shoots after that with Whitney Avalon who's been in a bunch of TV shows plus this:





Whitney'd been out doing a TV commercial from 4:30 in the morning until sundown but she didn't seem tired. We did her in two outfits, a skirt and a superhero dress -- both of which were awesome.

It's hard to say which photo is my favorite because they're all pretty good, but if I had to choose, it might be Whitney's skirt, which we shot in ... like 2 minutes.

Friday
Three a.m.. Wake up, make breakfast. Get in the car, drive to the airport with Dill, Joan & Kerrie. Wave a sad goodbye to the Carpenter's guest house. I read Game of Thrones on the plane and wrote an article for Videomaker. Pretty much as soon as I got home, around five in the evening, I went to bed because the half marathon thing on Sunday began at five a.m. and I need to slam myself into east coast crazy time, so I set my alarm for five.

Saturday
Got up early, picked up my race packet and bib, caught up on email, said hello to my wife as she left to play Lady Macbeth one penultimate time, went to bed at 7:00.

Sunday
Up at 2:30am, cleaned the house, got dressed, ran the half marathon, took a fast shower, jumped on a train went to the closing performance of Macbeth, from there we went to the Ebenezer Maxwell mansion with Brian Siano and shot the final scene for A Doll's House (exterior, winter), went home and Brian and I worked on finishing the edits of the movie.

Life at 100 mph.






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This is important. [Nov. 25th, 2013|07:45 am]
[mood |gratefulgrateful]

Documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark is launching a Kickstarter to fund a new book and film "Streetwise: Tiny Revisited" she wants to go back, thirty years after her Oscar nominated film and award winning book to document the life of Erin Blackwell, aka "Tiny" who back in 1983 when Mary Ellen met her, was a 13 year old homeless prostitute living in Seattle. Tiny's a grandmother now, with ten children of her own.





Without Mary Ellen Mark I wouldn't be where I am today, and that's not hyperbole.

I met Mary Ellen and her husband, filmmaker Martin Bell back in 1999 when I was a cocky successful guy with a camera. I was churning out work at a prodigious rate and getting gallery shows at a mind-numbing pace and fortune one afternoon tossed me into a boat and I ended up working as an assistant for one of the greatest photographers on the planet and I thought it was going to be my chance to grandstand a bit.

I showed her my portfolio and she was ... completely and utterly unimpressed. Then I watched as she took a classroom filled with people who had mostly never picked up a camera and they all shot circles around me, producing images I thought were impossible. I was baffled. I'd been working at this for years, how was I not great? And worse than that, how could she make amateurs better than me in a single day?

In that time Mary Ellen Mark gave me the first real and honest critique of my work I'd ever had, and over the years I realized that every thing she told me was right. After that I went on to have the number one selling photography book in America and to do a ton of things with amazing people that I never would have been able to do if someone hadn't taken the time to point out that it's easy to be the best photographer in the room, but you don't want to be the best photographer in the room. You want to be much, much better than that.

Since I want you to back this Kickstarter, let me tell you some of the things that I learned from her.

1) Treat all your subjects the same. Bias starts when you choose or accept an assignment. You have bias, you're a human being. You need to be aware of that, consciously, and then be as honest as possible with your camera. Resist sensationalizing your work to fit the preconceived notions of your audience.

I don't think any photograph has impacted my view of photography and the role of a documentary photographer as much as this photo Mary Ellen took at a Klan rally in 1986. It says more by not saying anything than any other photograph I think I've ever seen. That it is ordinary makes it extraordinary.





2) If you want to be a successful photographer, you don't need a fancy camera. What you need is this: The ability to go to a street corner, any street corner, or a bus stop, or a swimming pool, and be able to get someone you've never met before to invite you into their house to photograph them. Sometimes that ability comes through natural charm and a curious nature, other times it's sheer force of will. But that's what you need. Photography isn't about f-stops and shutter speeds, it's about talking to people.

This photo is from her essay about the Damm family who lived mostly in their car. (Caption from the Telegraph.)



Crissy, Dean and Linda Damm, Llano, California, USA, 1994. Mark first photographed the Damm family for an assignment on homelessness in 1987. The 1994 follow-up found them still living in squalor


Mary Ellen's third book was about prostitutes in India. She went to a notorious street corner, with her camera, and stayed there for days. Eventually she got to know the women who were working there and eventually, they invited her back to their hotel rooms and houses and she got some amazing work because she went and stayed and worked as long as it took.


3) "No" just means you haven't asked the right person.

The first thing Mary Ellen had me do when I was working as her assistant was go to the local 1 hour photo lab and arrange for the class' film to be picked up at 8:00 pm, developed over night, and delivered to us at 9 the next morning. So I went to the photo lab and I talked to the manager and the manager said "Our store closes at 8:00pm. We'll start developing your film when we open and we can have it to you by 1:00."

So I called Mary Ellen and told her we could have the film back by one. She said "That's unacceptable. Call her back and tell her we need the film at 9:00 am and if she can't do that, find out who can." So I went back to the store, the manager had left, I created a ruckus until they gave me her home number, I called her at home, she said the store closed at 8:00pm, thank you. So I asked for the number of her district manager who I called at home at 9:00 at night or so and said "We need this store to stay open all night and process our film. It's 200 rolls (or whatever) and it needs to be done by 9:00 in the morning." I said it not because I thought she would, but because I wanted to be able to go back and say "I tried, they said no." But the district manager called the manager and said "schedule people to work over night on this." I called Mary Ellen back at 11 pm or so and told her they'd do it. I was expecting she'd be overjoyed I'd done the impossible, but I hadn't, I'd only done my job. The class went on, I did more impossible things, but each time they seemed less impossible, and now I do impossible things nearly every time I take on a photo project, but now I realize that if you want things to happen, you have to be the sort of person who makes things happen.



So it stands to reason that if the documentary magazines are all dead and nobody's giving out the assignments that matter -- that no magazine is going to pay to send Mary Ellen and Martin back to make a movie about Tiny, that Mary Ellen and Martin need to find the people who can say "yes", and that's us. We're all the people who make things happen.

Reward levels between $25 and $100 get you things like a signed post card, poster, or copy of the book. Rewards go all the way up to $10,000 for a portrait sitting.

You can also Check out Mary Ellen's work here.

There are clips from Martin's film Streetwise on youtube here and you can see all the photos from the book Streetwise here on Mary Ellen's website.




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This is not a fitness blog, but I just ran the #PhillyHalf Marathon... [Nov. 17th, 2013|10:37 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |the replacements: alex chilton]

This is not a fitness blog, but I just ran the #PhillyHalf Marathon...

... so I'm going to talk about it real quick, and then I'll get on to the week with George R. R. Martin and last week in Hollywood with movie people and comic book superstars and all that. So bear with me.

When I was a kid my great-uncle taught me a card trick and said "You'll have to learn to appreciate this one yourself, because nobody else is going to care about it," and that's been sound advice for life. I know most people's eyes glaze over when you start telling gym stories, but it's important to me and this is where I write the things that I want to remember.

I signed up for the Philly Half Marathon sometime after the last one because I didn't want to have an excuse not to stay in shape and I ran at least 13 miles one day a week along with two other shorter runs. This time I wanted to break two hours -- I wanted to break two hours the last time but missed it by six minutes.

The organizers said we should get to the race TWO HOURS before start and expect it to take an hour to get through security ... so I went to bed at 7:30 the night before and set my alarm for 2:55 am. Got up, ate breakfast, cleaned the house and rode my bike out in the darkness. It was an interesting time to be awake. I could see the runners creeping across town, they were awake, and maniacs driving like drunken vampires trying to get home before the sun, they were awake too. I parked my bike under an overpass because it looked like it might rain. In actuality security took, really, less than one second. I didn't even have to slow down. As I was walking to the gate some guy said "do you have any bulky bags with you?" I said I didn't -- and since I was about to run 13 miles and essentially dressed as a superhero in skintight everything it was a kind of silly thing to be asking.

I wanted to try and find my friend Patricia who was running with the wheeled athletes (she wrote a guest blog about her training) and while a bunch of people let me through barricades, I got thwarted at the last one and couldn't get into her corral. So I snapped a photo and only just now did I notice that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is blocking Patricia in the shot -- which might be why they didn't let me in. Anyway.....




Clickenzee to Em-hizzhonorisen!



I got into my corral ("green") and found myself standing next to the 1:50 pacer.

Pacers are people who are so freaking good at running that they can run at exactly a particular speed, so they get drafted (or possibly paid) to have signs with their pace time and if you want to finish in that time, you just stay near that person. I got this brilliant idea, which I let Twitter know about because Livejournal still doesn't have a decent mobile app.





The race started and I suddenly got a bit weepy thinking about how I felt a year ago and how far I'd come and as I crossed the starting line I forgot to start my GPS watch and then I got further distracted by award winning photographer Joseph Kaczmarek who shouted and waved from high atop a crane. He shouted, I waved, he snapped a photo, I found myself wondering if there'd be a cat in it somehow because every photo of a murder scene he ever photographs has a cat in it.



(No cat)


Thus distracted I ran an entire mile before I realized my watch wasn't tracking me, I turned it on and realized I'd lost sight of the 1:50 pacer, which was difficult because his sign had a bunch of freaking BALLOONS attached to it.




Waiting for the magic to start. Clickenzee to Embiggen!



So I got paranoid I'd lost him and I started running faster and sure enough, there he was, about half a block in front of me, so I started trying to catch him, which, in retrospect was stupid, because you're supposed to conserve your energy the first half of the race and go fast the second half (this is something called a "negative split" and all the cool kids are doing it) but try as I might, I couldn't close the gap so I kind of resolved myself to not breaking 2:00 -- this was somewhere around mile three -- and it got a little easier then.

yadda yadda sweat pain gatorade NINE MILES AFTER THAT

Someone from the Intharwebz made a sign with my name on it and was waiting at mile 12 and I figured that was where I'd make my move and I just threw all of the very little I had left into it.

Which reminds me -- I wanted to say something. Occasionally people will say "It's great that you love running" or "it's great that you found something that you love to do" and I want to point out I don't like running, it's kind of awful. I had a conversation with my nephew about this a few months ago, he's a real runner, like the cross country type with .02% body fat, and he said something along the lines of "successful running is just distracting yourself from the pain for as many fractions of a second as you can" -- and that's kind of it. It hurts, you see a lake you think "lake! I wonder if you can rent a canoe here" and hey! you've distracted yourself from the pain for like half a second and then it goes back to sucking again. So, anyway, I poured it on at mile 12 and it sucked and I tried to distract myself thinking "it's only ten more minutes, it's only three more songs, this is almost over" and then I thought I'm not fat anymore and this makes me happy, and if this is what it takes to make me happy, it's what I do. And the last mile got more bearable. I was able to keep that on repeat, more or less, (imagine that every 1/4 of a second you also think THIS SUCKS YOU NITWIT, STOP RUNNING RIGHT NOW -- that's what you're fighting against. I've wondered lately if the amount of discomfort is the same but the duration is different -- like you get the option to get all your pain at once rather than spread out. When I was heavier I was uncomfortable all the time -- my back hurt, I had difficulty sleeping, it was fatiguing to walk up stairs -- it's worse when you're running, but it stops when you finish.

Anyway, some minutes later, I crossed the finish line, Mayor Nutter, unexpectedly appearing out of nowhere, hi-fived me, and, once again, everything went white and I couldn't see. I was worried that I was going to have another "exercise related collapse" but they tell you to keep moving so I kept moving, but, of course, I was blind, which made it difficult. But someone hung a medal around my neck, and someone else wrapped me in a space blanket, and some guy saw I had my phone in my hand and he said "hey! do you want me to take your picture?" and he did.




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



And I walked for a long time in a straight line and eventually my sight came back, a little at a time and I kept walking. Since I hadn't started my watch at the right time I wasn't sure if I'd come in at under two hours, I suspected I might have, but knew it would be close. Eventually I found myself sitting against a tree with a bag of pretzels, germaphobically realizing that after hi-fiving the mayor who'd been there since 5 am I had the DNA of every person in the city on my sweaty hands and I was using them to shove food into my mouth; but I felt so good I can't really describe it.

So there's the truth.

I don't like running. But I like being someone who runs.



Official time in. I did it, knocking 8 minutes off my previous time.







(Patricia came in 1:59:17 in case you were wondering.)




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Thanks to everyone who served and everyone who loved someone who has [Nov. 11th, 2013|08:01 am]
[mood |gratefulgrateful]

As a country we all asked these people to do something dangerous and compelled some of them to keep doing it. We've broken families, we've sent people to die and asked them to do things that damaged them in ways both physical and mental. We now have a generation of people who have known nothing but a nation at war.

Thanks veterans. Come home safe and soon. And if you're back, welcome home.





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It's my party so I'll play lawn darts if I want to.... [Oct. 30th, 2013|07:14 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |molly robison: I Drove Your Car into the Lake Michigan and I Did it For You]

Did you know that tomorrow's my birthday?

And that the very first thing that's going to happen on my birthday, one minute into it, is that my Kickstarter to make a video of Ibsen's A Doll's House ends?.

After that I'll start celebrating. And I'll celebrate for about five minutes, and then I'll get to work making this DVD happen.

Late last night I got the first draft of the artwork for the deluxe version of the DVD which looks like this at the moment:




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



We have about ten days from the close of the Kickstarter to get all the materials to the production company so you still have time to tell me what you'd like to see in the materials (and if you haven't backed the project, you have about 16 hours to order a DVD or blu-ray.

We're going with an eight panel digipack featuring artwork from the show plus some EXTRA GOODIES. There are some production stills and some behind the scenes images. What would you like to see more of? Liner notes? Art without text? A combination of both? Fewer large images or more smaller ones? Let us know.

And if you want to move up from the bare bones DVD in an envelope to the fancy version or to a Blu Ray, there's still time.

This play was a very special thing, such a unique experience that because of it's very intimate nature was seen by so very few (and very lucky) people. Thank you so much for helping us to let it keep on happening.

If you've backed this, thank you, if you haven't, thank you just for being here. And if you can, please share this with your friends in the final hours.

You all make my heart happy.






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Witches they ride, on broomsticks you know..... [Oct. 28th, 2013|07:50 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Eclipsed in all the George R. R. Martin news and all the Dolls House Kickstarter news is the great news that trillian_stars is right now playing Lady Macbeth in Hedgerow Theatre's production of the play. It runs until November 17th, but you should get tickets now because the shows will sell out.

Here's a bit of behind the scenes from a rehearsal and then some photos from the final dress.





Here's what the play looks like in excellent production photos by Ashley LaBonde.




The witches revive the body of the sergeant.
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The witches revive the body of the sergeant. He'll be their emissary into Inverness.
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The witches amulet which Lady Macbeth later uses to speak to spirits.
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Jared Reed as Macbeth
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Lady Macbeth receives a letter and a strange amulet from her husband.
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Lady Macbeth uses the amulet to conjure the murdering ministers, beseeching them to fill her with evil and resolve.
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Macbeth returns from battle, Thane of Cawdor.
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King Duncan praises the Macbeths. They have already decided his fate.
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Lady Macbeth with Banquo and his son Fleance.
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Macbeth weakens, his wife does not.
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Duncan slain, Macbeth a weeping pile, Lady Macbeth takes matters into her own hands, returning the daggers and framing the grooms for the murder of Duncan.
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Noble Banquo is murdered to keep his sons from becoming future kings of Scotland.
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Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost.
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Despite being King and Queen of Scotland, things begin to fall apart for the Macbeth's.
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Lady Macbeth is haunted by what she's done, unable to sleep.
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Macbeth is hunted by Macduff, whose family the King has killed.
Clickenzee to Embiggen!




It doesn't really end happily ever after, but it's really good.





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This is not a fitness blog: Guest post by Patricia Crebase [Oct. 27th, 2013|09:00 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |dragonslayer: eye of the tiger]

Everybody fights their own battle in the gym. We're right next to one another, but we're all alone and we're all doing our own thing; working toward our own goals and our own victories and our own results.

You know this isn't a fitness blog, but I asked my friend & fellow Philadelphian Patricia Crebase if she'd write a guest blog post about her decision to do the Philly Half Marathon on November 16, 2013 and how she's training for it. It's 13 miles, which is a long freaking distance. She's @PCrebase on Twitter if you want to follow her adventures. And if you come to the Philly Half, stick around and party with us afterward. We'll be the people wearing medals.
--- Kyle






Clickenzee to Embiggen!



Kyle asked me, “What drives you? What’s your eye of the tiger?”

My immediate response was “It’s the thrill of the fight.” And while I will spout ‘80s pop lyrics at any opportunity, that isn’t what he meant.

I started going to the gym because of shame. A co-worker (who I admire tremendously) and I were talking. We both said that we had been thinking of joining the gym but there were so many reasons why we didn’t. “We don’t have the time.” “I don’t like group classes.” (The ones I didn’t say out loud were: What if my wheelchair gets in the way? What if I fall? What if I fail?) J and I talked each other into taking the tour, joining and then, because we sat near each other, actually going. If either was thinking of bailing out any day, the other shamed them into going.

Torquemada could never invest this…






J got me through the door, but I had no idea what I could or couldn’t do. Multiple Sclerosis had taken away a lot of things from me over the years but I’d been stable for quite a long time. There are reasons that people become personal trainers. It’s not only that they like to torture people into doing hard core workouts that make Vin Diesel cry like a baby. They honestly want to help people become better. I had a great trainer who understood and supported me. She knew that some days, just getting through the door was an achievement. She knew that making me laugh could keep me going. I still have my workout journal with its first entry. It says that on March 13, 2007 I did 3 minutes each direction on the Upper Body Ergometer. (I won’t tell you what resistance I used.) I can remember my arms shaking and being completely spent.

Then a funny thing happened. It got easier! Over time, that first day workout became just my warm up as I started lifting, too. My stamina increased. Wheeling a manual wheelchair can be exhausting. Do you know that sidewalks aren’t level? They’re crowned so that the rain drains off them, but it also means that one arm is always wheeling up hill. Now I could wheel myself outside or across carpets! I didn’t need to rely on somebody else.

With some browbeating *ahem* encouragement from my trainer, I started practicing with a walker. I can’t walk without holding on to something and when I run out of juice, I need to sit down NOW. The trainer would walk beside me with a chair. With that safety net there, I was willing to push my boundaries. I started keeping track of how far I could go by counting square of carpet. Two became four became eight and became laps. I know I cried the first time I did a lap without resting. But they were tears of victory! Look how far I went!

J was with me cheering me on! The trainers cheered me on! Strangers that I knew only as faces in the gym everyday gave me The Nod! Every time I reached a new milestone, I gained confidence. Every time I gained confidence I dared more. I got braver in the world because I felt that I could handle things that came at me. I was stronger. I was practically a superhero! (Please note: a superhero in relation to my starting point.)

[begin romantic interlude[ This may be a bit off topic, but my view of myself changed. I’d been very shut down for a long time. Part of it was that I needed to deal with all the emotional baggage of accepting a disease that changed my life. Part of it was re-learning how I could love/be loved when I was such a different person. When I started working out, I took something back. I took control of something when so much had been taken out of my control. When I became involved with my Sweetheart, I was strong enough physically to dare getting on a plane to fly to Florida by myself. I could wheel through the airport. I could walk down the aisle of the plane to my seat. I could carry my baggage and meet someone at passenger pick up. What I didn’t realize until later was that working out had made me emotionally stronger, too. [end romantic interlude]

Keeping my workout journal was key. On good days I could say look! Look what I did today! On bad days I could remind myself of where I started and how far I had come. Everything eventually becomes routine. In all honesty, I need something to keep me motivated. There have been times when knowing that Mr. Handsome would be at the gym got me there (never underestimate this one). There have been times when we’ve had what amounted to a book club because I ogled what someone else was reading. I’ve had little competitions with people: who got to the gym more often? who did more cardio? etc.

In 2011, I watched the Broad Street Run. I saw the wheelchair racers go by before the runners. Racing wheelchairs look like regular wheelchairs, but lightweight with a little wheel. That little wheel is for extra steering and so they don’t wheel so hard they flip out of the chair! Those people are hard core! I watched from the 5 mile mark (the half way point). I got caught up in the excitement as people ran by: the ones who were doing great and the one who were struggling. The group effervescence totally got to me and I decided that I wanted to be part of something…

Like I said, racing wheelchairs are for the hard core and while I talk a good game, I don’t aspire to that sort of level. I decided that I would try a hand cycle. These are a three wheeled bicycle that you pedal with your arms rather than legs. Getting started wasn’t easy. When I called a bike shop they had no idea what I was talking about. I tried medical supply companies who sent me back to the bike shops. I didn’t know if I would like it so didn’t want to invest in a brand new one (they can run $3k+). Finally, I found one on Craig’s List for a decent price. I convinced a friend to go with me to pick it up. I was so excited I was giddy. On May 15th, I took my first ride under the watchful eyes of a mural. It was exhilarating although very short.

It was a little bit like starting over. The first ride was twice around the parking lot. I started going up Broad Street (because go uphill on the way out, downhill on the way home). Each time I rode I went a little farther but it was pretty scary. The first day I rode for more time than it took me to get out on the road was a huge accomplishment. Victory was mine! I would bring my cell phone with me, but if I broke down I couldn’t walk to the bus stop. I didn’t dare push things too far without a buddy.

Then, through a friend at that gym I discovered Philly Achilles (www.phillyachilles.com). They are a running club that focuses on removing the obstacles for people with disabilities. Every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. (which I consider disgracefully early), the group meets in the lobby of Cigna at 50 S. 16th St in Philadelphia. There are people who guide blind runners and they run with me, too. They get interval training when they run with me. Fast on the down hills. Slow on the up hills. I’ve gone farther and faster and to places that I would never have done on my own. From the day I showed up, I’ve been welcomed and included. I’ve watched other people show up: a person recovering from a stroke with a goal of walking around the block; a person trying couch to 5k; a person who is planning on running a 100 mile race. Everyone is welcomed. We’re a rather boisterous bunch. People seem to get that showing up is an achievement, too.




Clickenzee to Embiggen!



I’ve learned that Real Athletes acknowledge and respect anyone who is putting in the effort. Real Athletes don’t mock someone because they haven’t been running for the past five years. They respect someone who chooses to run today. I may not be an elite athlete, but I am a Real Athlete and if you show up and do your work, I will consider you a Real Athlete, too. Any goal is a good goal.

My next goal is November 17th. I’m doing the Philly Half Marathon. I’m so excited and nervous when I think about it that I might throw up. I’m going to be out on that course with 28,999 other people that will be running hell bent for leather. I leave the starting line at the completely uncivilized time of 6:57 a.m. I plan on staying toward the right hand side of the road the whole way, but I have no idea if that is even possible. If you see me in my mohawk bike helmet, give me a shout: “Hey, Patricia!!” “Woohoo!” Make some noise! Let me know that you know that coasting the down hills and fighting on the up hills is worth it. I have no idea what a decent time would be, but I am doing it. I am going to cross that finish line and it is going to feel sooooo good!

It feels like winning. It’s adrenaline. It’s pride.

So Survivor was right after all. It is “the thrill of the fight.”

EYE OF THE TIGER!!




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Macbeth, GRRM, A Doll's House, and Me, Kyle [Oct. 25th, 2013|07:48 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Since you couldn't come to the play, we want to bring the play to you.

I want to talk about Macbeth and I want to talk about George R. R. Martin, but trillian_stars' successes are eclipsing her successes, or at least trodding on the toes of the one that came before. So right now I need to talk about A Doll's House and our Kickstarter for it. We're so tantalizingly close to our $5,000 goal with just five days to go. It's an opportunity for you to see this play without leaving your house and for half the cost of a ticket at the door. Backer rewards start at $5 and $15 gets you a DVD. Of course, everything's cheaper in bulk so the more copies we can order at once, the more things we're going to be able to send people and the better everything is going to look.

And pre-ordering a DVD isn't the only thing you can do to help out -- you can share this post, you can share the Kickstarter with people you think may be interested -- your old high school drama teacher, your favorite director, the actor in your family.....




Clickenzee to become a part of this




you can also see some of the video here and listen to Brian Siano talk about the behind the scenes work going on to make this happen.





When next we meet, Macbeth, GRRM, and those other things I need to talk about.


Thanks so much folks --




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And, so we did this.... [Oct. 19th, 2013|03:11 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

You know, since we're here.

Discussing shady bidnizz. With cosplay superstar Megan Marie.





Photo by the equally famous Anna Fischer.




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So much stuff going on.... [Oct. 19th, 2013|11:48 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So, I'm in New Mexico staying at George R. R. Martin's for a couple days working on a Top Sekrit Projekt but also just hanging out with Anna Fischer, the famous cosplay photographer who's out here working on the Wild Places, so the place is filled with women in armor and crowns and steampunk guns and characters I don't know.

We went to dinner last night and had some great conversations and then went to see The Good, The Bad and the Weird at George's Cocteau Theater. The movie was pretty good, Korean Wild West pastiche, but I was jet lagged and groggy.




At dinner last with
yagathai and GRRM. (That's Megan Marie on the end.)
Photo by Anna_Photo. Clickenzee to Embiggen


Spent part of yesterday with the Disco Brawlers roller derby team doing some photos of them. Today my schedule gets busy with Top Sekrit Projekts but at the moment I'm lying a corner and the cosplayers are in the other room going over the photos they shot this morning.

The big news is that opened Macbeth last night at Hedgerow which I want desperately to get home and see. I hope you get to see it this weekend.

I'm off to find my toothbrush.

Have a swell day. If you're on the twitters Anna's hash tag is #TheWildPlaces and I'm updating too. Oh, and I started Instagramming.





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A Doll's House [Oct. 17th, 2013|12:16 pm]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

You know we're running a Kickstarter to bring A Doll's House to you. We're 13 days away from the finish and we're so very close to making some great things happen. DVD discounts hit at the 1,000 units mark and if we're able to order that many our costs will go down significantly which means we'll be able to use the money we get from pre-orders for other more exciting things, like commissioning a soundtrack or hiring a sound engineer to tweak the audio. Already our stretch goals have let us add a high definition Blu-ray to the package and we hope to keep expanding.

If we hit $5,000 there will be some cool upgrades for everybody.

I've been working with editor Brian Siano and am really happy with the footage -- we've gone through color correction and done some really fine edits I'm very proud of.

If you missed the play think of this as an opportunity to see it without leaving your house for half the price of what a ticket cost at the door.

Thanks so much for helping to make this real.




Click to to go the Kickstarter

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(no subject) [Oct. 14th, 2013|01:19 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |VNV nation: the great divide]

I have previously discussed the greatest roles for (many) women in theater and this is one of them, seriously. In fact, this is one that's so big, so important, that it's one of those that actresses will never forgive you if you don't come to see them and you could have physically made it; in a wheelchair and dragging an IV inclusive.

If you missed trillian_stars playing Nora in A Doll's House, you can still redeem yourself by coming to see her play Lady Freaking Macbeth in the Hedgerow Theatre production of Macbeth in October of 2013.

You want to see this.

Especially if you're our friends and you missed other important stuff.

We keep a list.

Lady Macbeth ... KEEPS A FREAKING LIST.

It opens Friday, October 18th and you can buy tickets here.

(This scene, by the way, is from the murderous ministers speech where Lady Macbeth conjures spirits with a pendulum.)




Clickenzee to EmTicketGettin'







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Get this fabulous Roswell approved print! [Oct. 13th, 2013|11:00 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Hey folks -- I have a handfull of these Roswell approved stills from A Doll's House -- back the Kickstarter, then email me your address and you get one mailed to you. While supplies last.










Clickenzee to go to the Kickstarter!

Kicksterter is here.







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Theater [Oct. 10th, 2013|12:26 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

I saw the most amazing play on Saturday. I saw it four times in a row, I cried like a baby every time and I'm still not exactly sure what happened.

The day after the Times article about the Romeo and Juliet poster hit, I got a call from Drew Petersen from Trusty Sidekick about photographing their production at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. I went up and got to photograph four rehearsals and it was one of the strangest but most beautiful experiences of my life.

A man and a woman under an umbrella come through a curtain and tell you to follow them. And you do, down a rabbit hole. You emerge in a set of large, enormous rooms really, connected by a giant hallway. In each of the rooms is an actor, maybe more, doing something, talking to themselves mostly. There's a jazz-age soundtrack coming from somewhere, though sometimes the music is replaced by a big creepy noise, like from a science fiction movie, and as if on que, all the actors get up and move. You can follow whoever you want and as you do, you start to hear some of the same things from different people, there's a story, but you just don't get it.

And then this guy shows up....




Clickenzee to confound yourself further



And he's out of place because he's wearing an old fashioned life jacket, and he's wandering around, looking very lost and alone, and people aren't paying attention to him, they're swirling around like a great flock of giddy birds, he weaves in and out. And then a torpedo hits the Lusitania and we're all on deck, and as the ship starts to sink the chaos stops, it recedes and the noise and tumalt go away and the man in the life jacket is talking to an unseen little girl. "What's going to happen," she asks him, "when I die?" and as the water rushes onto the deck of the ship he tells the most marvelous story a father could tell a little girl who asks that question when death is so real and so close and hand, and so visible: and that's the first time you cry.

And then the chaos returns and everybody's in the water, and they're floating, some of them, and they're dying, others of them, and you, you're in the water with them wondering if you're dying or if you're floating, and you don't know what's happened to the little girl, and you can hear rescue crews in the darkness trying to find survivors and everyone breaks apart again.

But this time you have more clues.




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You start to figure out who some of the people might be, and occasionally all the actors rush to the same place and they ring in the new year at a party, listening to a general give a speech, or they're at a dance, whirling with partners made of empty clothes and each time the loop goes around you again, it starts to make a little more sense. You spy actors having covert conversations and you eavesdrop more intently. Sometimes you realize it's now and other times it's decidedly not now and you start to wonder who you are through all this.




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In the end, when you realize what's happening, and what's happened, you cry like a baby again, but not really in a bad way. You're a little sad, but you're content too in the way a play probably hasn't ever made you content.




Clickenzee to Embiggen



And it was all the more amazing because I was invisible, walking through this scenery with my camera, standing before ghosts who didn't care that I followed them -- or that I was in their path, they'd walk around me, they'd go on. I think we expect often to be unseen in a maelstrom, we're anonymous during a riot, but it'e eerie when it happens during the quiet moments, when you're inches from someone. Thanks to Trusty Sidekick for letting me experience that.

You can find Trusty Sidekick Theater Company here on their Facebook Page. And you can find the Park Avenue Armory here. It's an amazing place; as majestic as elephants.




Clickenzee to Embiggen



Sadly, for you, every performance of 7 1/2 Mysteries sold out before the show opened. But Trusty Sidekick is looking for other giant, labyrinthine venues to put it on.




Clickenzee to Embiggen







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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




http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/612451148/henrik-ibsens-a-dolls-house-a-video-by-kyle-cassid

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.
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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.
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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.




Mile 8. I AM WINNING.
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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.
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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....
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.




Shoes.
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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!

</center>


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!

</center>

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.



***EDITS***
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
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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
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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
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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




NYLUG'13: PHOTOGRAPHY COLLOQUIUM

1:30pm to 5:00pm.

Place:
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

Payment:

-- Paypal --
Chris Saganich.
chs2018 at med.cornell.edu





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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 amazon.com) 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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