They are playing Morphine’s album Cure for Pain. What year was I….a junior?…at the end of the semester I started spending time with a woman I’ll call B. I have NO IDEA how we found each other, classes? friend of a friend? Anyway, her two obsessive loves were Morphine (the band) and Aliens. She had the director’s cut and knew bits of trivia about it that were very obscure in 1996…now, of course, you can find them all on IMDB. (Kids, we used to have to fight for the knowledge that made us cool and/or geeks. Also? We had to spend money on music, either directly or by buying tapes to copy from friends. Also? We couldn’t even really copy movies since double VCR decks were a lot rarer than double tape decks, so if you had a copied movie it was probably taped off TV. Also? Get off my lawn.) Anyway, Tryst. They do this to me all the time, what with the music.

Ah, B. Why was I so interested in you? I think we shared a level of snark. Also a level of depression. For the last few weeks of the semester we spent many hours in her basement cave of a dorm room listening to Morphine or watching Aliens while not really having sex. There was a degree of sneaking around involved as she hid me from her hallmates (and hid herself from herself). It was all very tension-filled and dramatic for reasons I just cannot remember. The end of semesters was always a hothouse in some way. Girls, depression, euphoria…something was always going on, at a much more intense level than usual, for everyone on campus, me included. Unsurprising I suppose. So yeah, things with B were intense. And then we went home for break and that was that. We never really spoke again.

I swore off straight girls soon after, but she wasn’t the final reason, just one of the nails. (Heh. Nails. Oh wait! IIRC B also liked Nine Inch Nails.) The next summer, I innocently tried to get in the pants of C, a very cute, bubbly woman who lived on my hall in the summer dorm. In retrospect, I think she was from Minnesota. She was one of those happy straight girls who thinks they are just being nice to everyone, but in the outside world that everyone else lives in they are madly flirting with everything that moves. I flirted back, as you do. C realized she was in fact attracted to me, but she was 1) very Baha’i (Baha’i are as anti-gay as any other denomination, it turns out) and 2) very conflicted about her sexuality. Needless to say, perhaps, I never got into those pants. Instead I witnessed epic levels of angst and soul-searching. I felt bad for the girl, here I was just wanting a little fun, and I make her question her faith and very identity.  Sheesh.  Also perhaps needless to say, she came out f’reals a few months later. Hey — no need to thank me. Glad I could help!

Haven’t listened much to Morphine since. As I have now been given the chance to remember, they do get a bit repetitive. I don’t seem to have them in the ol’ iTunes, seeing as how — see above — I only had them on tape. I did see them in concert once. My review: I didn’t know you could be that high and still hold an instrument.

I do, however, own the director’s cut of Aliens. Outright. It’s one of my two desert island movies. I mostly watch it at night…mostly.

(You can expect more college reminisces between now and my 10th reunion in June.)


Via strange maps — a very cool blog — I find this:

Turns out this is a Thing: making Excel graphs of rap/hiphop lyrics. This page has the most comprehensive collection I’ve found.

I seem to be late to this meme, but jesus. I haven’t laughed this hard since I first found LOLcats. Here’s the one that got me the worst:

Of course I have been trying to think of my own. Here’s what I got:

Who should put it in the air?

a big bouquet of cactus

7 March, 2008

A Leonard Cohen phase is coming on. I can feel it. My iPod is presently about 75% hiphop; that percentage has been creeping higher and higher over the last few months, and I’m reaching saturation. This is how I do music: several months of immersion in an artist or genre, then on to either the next thing or revisit an old thing and immerse in that. (I’ll have to make it back in time for Mr. tha Funkee Homosapien’s concert at the 9:30, though.)

Cohen is, for me, an old thing. It dates back to around 1988. My mother had two albums on heavy rotation: Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat and Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man. And when I say heavy rotation, I mean: NOTHING else in the CD player. Nothing. I was 12 years old and my family was on a nickname basis with the man (we called the first album “Jenny sings Lenny”). I looked high and low for a blue raincoat of my own (no luck, even now when I don’t want one anymore). And it wasn’t even young-poet-living-in-Greece “Suzanne” Leonard Cohen, but darker, aging, “Ain’t no cure for love” Leonard Cohen. That can’t have been good for my perceptions of romance and adult relationships. (Srsly. I was reading Bop and Seventeen, listening to Tiffany and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and singing along to “Or I’d crawl to you baby and I’d fall at your feet/And I’d howl at your beauty like a dog in heat/And I’d claw at your heart and I’d tear at your sheets/And say please…(please…)”)

Still, those albums were my mom’s. They still feel that way. But when the tribute album “I’m Your Fan” came out…that was mine. REM! James! The PIXIES, fer chrissakes! Yeah, that’s the one I’ll put on my iPod first, it’s how I start. We’ll see where I go after that.

This all was inspired by stumbling upon this paper on my blogadventures today: “It Doesn’t Matter Which You Heard”: the Curious Cultural Journey of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. I know you’ve heard this song. THREE-YEAR-OLDS have heard this song. It’s a nice analysis of why, exactly, I know that you’ve heard the song.

Yeah, so I read that and my Cohen phase began. Since the internets it always seems to include reading this interview. I bring you an excerpt that always makes me smile. Have a good weekend, all.

MUSICIAN: I understand that somehow during the course of your travels you ended up in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

COHEN: … I went down there and immediately found myself accurately described as a “bourgeois individualist poet.” I said, “That’s right. Suits me to a tee.” I wrote a poem in one of my early books: “The Only Tourist in Havana Turns His Thoughts Homeward.”

I was walking on the beach in the middle of one night and was suddenly surrounded by about 11 guys with Czechoslovakian submachine guns; I was an American who didn’t speak Spanish, and they thought I was the first guy off the landing boat. I was the first guy arrested. It was a bit tricky to sort this thing out. But they happened to be very gracious. Wherever they took me, by the end of the night we were drinking toasts to each other and “the friendship of the people,” and they let me go.

A little later it hit the newspapers in North America that the airport had been bombed. I’m in this little seedy hotel in Havana and somebody knocks on my door and says, “You have to go down to the Canadian consulate right away.” They don’t like the look of me there because I really do look like a Cuban revolutionary – I had a beard and wore khakis. Finally I’m brought in to one of the secretaries of the consulate – I’m pretending to be pretty tough. And he says to me, “Mr. Cohen. Your mother is very worried about you.”


15 March, 2007

Some email subject lines today:

Subject: Urgent massage

If you ask me, all massages are urgent.

Subject: Temporary Stance Against Windows Vista Use


I haven’t posted much about my latest (re-)obsession, which is hip-hop. I’m sad I missed these ladies, who were in town on Monday night (just resubmitted the paper, and worked basically straight through Sunday noon until last night midnight to get it out once and for all). I cannot get over the awesomeness of hardcore feminist MCs. One of them is named Hesta Prynne (Ph.D., have not yet figured out if that’s true and if so in what). Hip-hop* lyrics never sound as cool typed out (I just tried it), so you should check them out yourself.

I got a post in me someday about the paradoxes of working at Tryst. They support the laptop-worky lifestyle on the surface, but don’t give free refills. This is meant to keep people ordering, but one can nurse the dive-in cups most drinks come in for a long time. The service is absolutely awful, but since there are no free refills if they came around more they’d make more money. There are precious few power plugs, so if you get one you tend to camp out, making the place crowded, which would seem to make more money for them, but they don’t work that (see “awful service” above). I think they should get outside the box and charge for free refills by the hour. Say, base price for the first drink and a dollar or so for refills piecemeal or hourly, for all their major drinks? Yeah, but that means more work for their servers and if they wanted more work they would just come around more and make more on actual drinks. Hmm.

Your last note for this beautiful wintry-mix friday: a fascinating story of the consequences of mania.

Car salesman sells new car to woman with bipolar disorder who only came in to have the oil changed in the other, six-month-old, car she bought from them. But she was in a manic state, and easily persuaded to buy a whole new car she totally didn’t need.

Hilarity, and a lawsuit, ensue.

What do you think, hymes? Is she responsible for her actions? (Of course others may comment–I just know hymes will have an opinion 🙂 )

*I find no phrase more difficult to type, for some reason. When I saw Brown Sugar a few years ago, I remember thinking how awful it’d be for me to write a book about hip-hop like Sanaa Lathan’s character was doing.

Ain’t nobody dope as him

20 February, 2007

Mos Def plays Obama’s tune

You’ll recall comments made recently by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., which landed him in some hot water. A few weeks ago, he said that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” That controversy seems to have blown over but it resurfaced Friday night in Brooklyn, N.Y., of all places.

Musician and actor Mos Def, a Brooklyn native, took to the stage Friday night for the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Brooklyn Next festival, which showcases local artists. No stranger to comments made recently by Biden, Mos Def (real name: Dante Terrell Smith) and his 15 piece orchestra (and DJ) all wore T-shirts with the words “So Fresh, So Clean” around Obama’s picture.


WordPress seems incapable of doing video embeds, so if, like I was, you are now inspired to see the Outkast video, you’ll have to actually click a link.

Now, the song has a “nigger” or two in there, and it’s all sexed up, so unfortunately I can’t really see it being used at a campaign event. But let me here and now plant the meme that it should be played at any inaugural balls that might someday be held for President Obama.

Or, hell….even for President Biden.

I’m alive

26 September, 2006

Or so they tell me. Many ideas for blog posts, many ideas for pictures, no time to post or make/process them because lab work is going so damn well. (Thanks in no small part to the blogosphere itself, about which more at a later date. Lemme just say, fear its power, people. For powerful it is.)

One idea I had for a post was based on my hearing the Clinton-Wallace interview on C-Span radio on Sunday. Only half-listening at first, I tuned in when I heard Clinton actually raising his voice. Radio was a good way to catch that interview: when he accused Chris of smirking, Chris AUDIBLY SMIRKED. I doubt the cameras covered that, and if they did one was probably too distracted by a frothing ex-President to appreciate the beauty. You can’t make this stuff up. The next day, I watched the interview without sound, which was a great complement to the listen. I began a body language transcript, because the whole story is there. Oh, for a feed of the wide-angle coverage camera of that interview. I don’t have time to finish, but it sure is fun. Here’s my start if anyone else wants to play with the idea:

CW: Upright posture: I am respectful. Antsy left hand, lean fwd and back only a little, start question.

WJC: Slightly closed, looking at hands — OK, he’s started. Big smile, teeth. Relaxed posture slightly slumped in chair: I am Elder Statesman and have earned the right to slump. He’s talking now: open up hands, jiggle leg without uncrossing, maintain slump.

CW: Serious and slightly regretful expression. Question.

CUT TO LISTENING WJC: Smiling, then hand to mouth, completely obscuring it. Smile wiped for look of concentration. Look neutral, neutral. Blink-as-nod, slight real nod, teeny movements.
CUT TO CW LOOKING UP: This question is my obligation as a newsman, I am also somebody and this is my space and I will ask it. Hands weighed down with this heavy question, which is necessitating strong gestures, aimed at the neutral space between him and WJC. Face even, even. Hands pass question over to Clinton. Rest.

WJC: Uncover mouth. Accept question with hand, begin massaging it, shaping it with hand. Smile is less genuine but politician-functional. Steel creeping in, emphatic expressions creeping in. Scold with head angle. Bring in other hand: form wall, and move it around for extra emphasis. Punctuate return of question by folding hands: Statesman has given you your answer. Return to jollity of before in anticipation of a change to the real interview topic, but allow some satisfaction with answer.

CW: Eye roll. Cover with regretfully dissenting blink using head to emphasize. Sigh, pull back, re-pick up question, both hands. Match Clinton’s animation level. Massage question, shape question, place it down with forward shrug of shoulders. [This guy is good! This was a helluvan ambush.]

WIDE SHOT: CW upright, leaning a bit forward from initial position. WJC in same position as the start, smiling and nodding to question part 2.

CW: Pick question back up. Put question RIGHT. Drag question LEFT. Toss.

WJC: Catch and move question left-right with hands and head for a bit. Insert comma with neck. Engage (You can hear him thinking “a’ight…I can play this one….bring it, Fox.”) . Move away from L-R axis and move forward towards CW. EMphasis. Get it? EMphasis. Scratch head….

Yeah. Sadly I never got around to the meat of it — the pointing, and the smirky, and so on — but you can watch it yourself and have a go if you like. (Note that the transcript of the words seems to be incomplete — that was not how the interview started.) It capped a great week for fans of good political rhetoric, with the Devil himself being invoked in attacks against George Bush AND Hillary Clinton. Is Lucifer the political version of Hitler in Godwin’s Law?

I join Billy boy in recommending Richard Clarke’s book. It can be very frustrating talking about 9/11 with people who haven’t read it and/or don’t know the info it contains (sure the info is public record and available in other places, but his account is as primary as it’s possible to get, and has held up over the years however self-centered you find his writing style to be). Those who have read it have a good understanding of the complexity of the Bin Laden issue pre-9/11, and also of just how the Bush Administration’s seething rabid hatred of Clinton contributed to 9/11 getting the chance to occur. This is where the people who haven’t read the book hear me accusing Bush of causing 9/11. Admittedly I fuel this by my rhetoric — as you can tell from the above, I likes me a fiery statement — usually phrasing it as “Had Gore been president, the 9/11 attack would have been thwarted.” That’s a logical leap from the direct evidence, but one I can justify (with science, even) and it’s NOT the same as saying “Had Gore been president, 9/11 would never have happened” — which is the statement they usually hear me saying no matter what words I use. It’s not unlike trying to discuss animal rights with a carnivore or scientific researcher who hasn’t read Peter Singer. Which is a whole other can of C. elegans that I will not be opening today. (The above is plenty, no?)

I also need to post about my birthday weekend, which was rule, and on something that happened on it that seems to be the “I can’t believe I’m 30 years old and I’ve never…” experience I had been wanting. It’s in regards to a particular pop album, several of the songs on which I knew well (as does everyone who grew up American) but which is actually a work of genius at a level I had not before appreciated. I wonder how obvious this has been to everyone else…maybe it will be fun for people to guess in comments? (I also relistened to an album I knew was a work of genius, ’cause everyone kept saying so before it even came out, but which I never really got — so you have two chances to be right!) It’s not every day you get to listen to music you know and hear it for the first time, and getting to do so was like a whole other gift. And twice! What fun! What a great way to spend a long drive back from a weekend away! R. had already given me the best present an urbanite photographer could ever want: a shiny new lens and a weekend in NYC for a subject. I’m so fucked for coming up with something good for HIS birthday. Thank goodness his isn’t a decimal or even quintile birthday…

Work is awesome, and postworthy, but the better it is the less time I have for good old LO. I’ve got one presentation down and two to go for the fall. So I’mma get back to it now, and see some of yas tonight at the meetup, and try not to let the pauses between posts get too long. I know you hate that, Mom.

Life, on a dime

28 March, 2006

I had a fabulous weekend photography-wise. I'd have told you about it earlier, but today I had a really busy and stimulating day at work and I'm (the right kind of) exhausted.

I wish I could bottle spring. This always happens — everything seems to turn at once, for the better, in a matter of weeks. It's why I scheduled my defense last year to hit around now (April 5: first anniversary of Dr. Techne! Or is it the first birthday of Dr. Techne?). It's fascinating enough to make one switch one's career focus to SAD.

My weekend officially started when I walked into Ben's Chili Bowl for some pre-nightlife grub. Like I was the cue, Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" started just a few seconds later. Very few things in music make me happier than Sam Cooke, especially as a sneak-attack, and very few places in DC make me happier than Ben's. OK, so that had nothing to do with photos. But it was a fortuitous kickoff and put a big grin on my face. Later that night I met one of the DCist editors, Martin, who recognized my flickr handle. (This comes up later.)

On Saturday I shot the kite festival, which brought back many a happy memory of the one I went to a year ago in Chicago right after handing in my dissertation. In fact, I bet I'll always love kite festivals from now on.


On my way from kite fest to meeting some friends, I came across 6 kids out with a mentor, working off steam by jumping off a low wall in front of a Mall museum. Decided to go for the challenge of motion-blur in bright light…but the kids noticed me….well, long story short, I walked on 20 minutes later, contact info in hand, lens stopped aaaall the way down, with a CF card full of blurry, hip-hop-star-posed, or almost-teenager-so-too-cool-for-school kids. I'm really looking forward to going through those and getting back in touch. I love shooting kids and this was both the oldest group and the biggest group of kids I'd ever photographed.

Sunday, I decided to head down to the GMU-UConn game to shoot crizazy-dressed fans. However, I got a late start and got there just as the game was starting….which meant instead of incipient drunk college kids, there were only desperate scalpers around. Well. I didn't live near Wrigley Field since age 7 without learning this game. (Although I did not factor in the rudeness of underselling scalpers with a big ol' camera on my shoulder. One was angry enough to point that out, and the tipoff helped my next negotiation.) Called a friend I knew'd be in (he's Australian) and got us in for the second half. What a damn game. As a fan who knows chronic-loser-team pain, hopping the underdog's NCAA bandwagon at the Elite 8 level feels like cheating. Or possibly hard drugs. Instant dopamine/adrenaline, for free; no months of ups and downs required. No wonder people who don't care follow college ball. I may start…
I got my photog chance after the game, when Aussie pal and I wandered about and found ourselves outside the exit nearest the GMU cheering section. I wish I knew why that 30 minutes of shooting was as much fun as it was. Was it because I'd taken a side? I don't think so–I also shot some of the sad UConn band members leaving, which was every bit as satisfying, but not because it was schadenfreudariffic. It was the capturing of emotion that made it rewarding. I think I have the right emotional makeup to be a wedding photographer. (Just not the actual skills, I made a lot of, er, technically poor choices…)

Ego-massaging coda: Before working the scalpers I had been chatting with a Wash Times photo intern (got him a ticket too). Maybe that's what made me think about the market value of what I'd shot. I asked around my photography peeps that night and people had good suggestions for how to get them out there. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take them cause my workflow is so damned slow (I have to talk to Mac ppl and see if it's the app or my system–how's lightroom work for other mac users?). So I just flickr'd them and went to bed.

Woke up to some nice comments on them. Went to work. Read more comments. One guy who'd seen my question — not a photographer — had some weird and discouraging answers that kind of missed the point that all the photographers understood: me thinking about publishing these was me looking at my work in a new way. (As "work," for one thing.) Here's a bit of our discussion:

Him: I'm guessing the local papers had photogs on hand.

Me: you're missing the point. It's not that I thought nobody was going to be taking pictures and they needed my help. How do you think those photogs got their jobs?

Him: Didn't miss the point, I just can't think of any outlet that would pay for crowd pics, even if they are awesome…..I watch a lot of sports, and even for local fans, there isn't much demand for postgame fans shots.

Literally AS he was writing this, I received a solicitation on flickr:

NowPublic is a public news service that uses stories and footage from non news sources. It would be great if we could use your photos…

And an email from Martin telling me that this post was about to go up.

I had me a nice chuckle.

The weekend made me think about what's next. My intent with photography was never to make money or even achieve recognition beyond getting picked by DCist sometime. I just knew, vaguely, that this was an identity I'd be able to occupy. I thought it would just be about the idiosyncratic stuff I saw and wanted to show others; something to do for myself and maybe people close to me. But now, what I also like about photography is the chances it gives to interact with others. I didn't post about the movie I saw Saturday about war photographer Jim Nachtwey — way too much there — but it occurs to me that this part of my approach is not dissimilar to his.