Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday Shootout -- Spooky

Diabolic competition has seized us this week!  Bagman, Butler, and I have been possessed by the spirits of competition!  They don't even talk to me -- just run around trying to pull out the spookiest picture!   Pixels are flying like poltergeists...

BUTLER:  "Calm down old boy.  A pixel poltergeist would be very very small..."

BAGMAN:  "HAH!  While you guys were talking science, I found a spooky picture in the archives!  I"m first!  I'm first!"

BUTLER: "That is not very spooky.  It's a only a piece of translucent amber that Mark shot long ago.

BAGMAN:  "Talk away, Butterball!  I'm posting another while you pontdeficate!"

BUTLER:  "That's pon-tif-i-cate, you illiterate boob."

BAGMAN (racing back to the archives):  "Butler said 'boob'!  Butler said 'boob'!"

And I realize that I can't let Bagman win this competition so I take the camera and head down the street, returning instantly to magically reappear with my first entry.

I call it "Inflatable Witch Killed by a Puncture Wound."

BAGMAN and BUTLER speaking simultaneously:  "Dumb idea!"

Well how about this one then?

BUTLER:  "It definitely has a certain spookiness."

BAGMAN:  "Pfui!  I remember this shot.  Bill was actually grooming snowball and licking her gently."

Butler has now gone back to the archives himself.  I head back down the street to shoot some more neighborhood decorations.   Bagman is back from the archives first with  his third post:

I fire back with another Halloween decoration:

BAGMAN:  "Humph.  You did better with your black widow shots last summer."

BUTLER:  "It was a brown widow anyhow.  Tabor was right, you know.  And everyone has seen it already."

So I mysteriously cause night to fall and present it in a spookier light.

BUTLER (looking at it sadly and shaking his head):  "Mark, my dear fellow.  Even with a tripod it looks fuzzy.  You are rushing your shots very badly.

BAGMAN (giggling):  "Let's put him in stocks and throw stones at him."

BUTLER:  "He was too sweet back when he was a tyke to be spooky...Besides, I'm now ready to show you world-class spooky.  Nobody does spooky like the Vatican in Rome!  Behold!"

BUTLER: "Where else to people hang their coffins on the wall for tourists to look at?  I claim victory."

I think for a long time and try one last spooky picture:

BUTLER: "That's not spooky at all!  That's just the empty house down the street where everyone walks their dogs."

BAGMAN:  "I get it!  Over the last three years, because nobody lives there, everyone walks their dogs there!  And it is a very spooky place to walk at night!  Yuck!"

Sighing, I guess I need to explain.  So I tell the story in a deep spooky voice,  "Long ago there was a family that lived here.  A man and his wife and two small children.  He never spoke much to the neighbors.  The children were rarely seen, playing behind the fence on a swing set.   When I tried to talk to the man, he had a distant look in his eyes and a slight tremble in his right hand.  I only saw the woman once, behind the window you can see in the picture, now showing only shadows.  She was pale and wan and almost translucent.  Then one day they all disappeared. 

BAGMAN:  "Ooh!   Did the man murder them?  Are they buried under the overgrown lawn where dogs now poop?"  

Worse, I reply.  The housing market crashed, he lost his job, and the bank forclosed on them.  And the house now sits with many other houses on the market. 

Now that is really spooky.

Frustration shot

So I'm wandering around at night trying find something spooky -- or was it scary? -- for tomorrow's shoot.  It's a tough shot because Bagman, Butler and I got into a competition about who could find scary --or was it spooky -- shots. 

Anyhow, even with a try-pod, I couldn't get sharp images because I had forgotten to bring a remote clicker and couldn't see enough to set the timer, so my finger pressure was jiggling the camera.  Finally, walking home, irritated, I just pushed the button and swung the camera around as I walked. 

It looks like traffic but it's only a couple of street lights near a house.

See y'all tomorrow.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Barclay, Culture shock, and Drooling with Envy

"For one thing," said Barclay, "I have been more easily irritated than usual by people who complain about small things."

This is understandable since he is just back from five months in the Sudan, working in refugee camps and going to sleep at night with artillery fire in the distance. 

"And the fact that water just comes out of the tap," he added. 

BUTLER:  "You might want to mention who Barclay is."

BAGMAN: "Pfui!  Mark has babbled obsessively about him for years.  By now everyone knows him.  Wife's best friend's son, just finishing medical school, blah blah blah...."

Anyhow, unpacking his stuff from his Land Rover, he pulled out a huge box and said, "You're gonna die."

He didn't mean that literally, of course, but that I would die of envy.   He will be staying with us for a couple of months as he finishes his last months of work with a rotation at MUSC, prepares for his final Boards, and works on a project that the U.N. contracted him for, having to do with analysing satellite GIS data and interfacing it with health and mortality statistics and something to do with DALI (which, I gathered, is not the artist).

And I may not have died of envy but I certainly began suffering major symptoms of envy as he unpacked his computers -- top end Apple, top end Mac laptop, and a 28-inch screen. 

So how do we put this thing together?

Crawling under the ping pong table to attach wires.

But when the time came to turn on this monster, the screen was blank!   Endless fiddling was followed by a call to Apple's tech staff.  Hours of talk befuddled Apple's experts as well!  Finally an appointment was made to take the stuff back to the Apple store.   As he began to unplug it and rebox it, he noticed the plug to the monitor wasn't all the way in and gave it a slight push.  Bingo.

Nice to know that great minds can forget to plug things in! 

Up and running!  Synching laptop to the monster.

"So how did you run your laptop in the Sudan if there was no electricity?" I asked.

"I wired it to a truck battery."

That probably explains his current difficulty with plugging things into normal outlets.  We went downstairs and marvelled at getting water out of a tap.   "Do you need me to explain how a toilet works?" I asked.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Shootout -- Patterns

I'm late this morning and don't really have time to figure out some humorous patternish thing.  Well, I really am late...but  I also can't find my muse...

BAGMAN:  "I'm right over here, Mark!!  Open your eyes!  Let's have a Friday Shootout Party."

Didn't I just say that, in addition to having no good ideas, I also didn't have time.

BAGMAN:  "You give up too easy.   Besides, you have some photographs."

But I hate to just put them in without some kind of zippy caption. But Barclay is due in anytime and Karen left me a short list about watering the plants and I don't have time to...


BUTLER:  "Calm down, Baggie, old chap.  Don't you see what Mark is doing?  He is cleverly exploiting his 'Pattern' of self-depreciation and creative whining."

Oh.  Was that what I was doing?   Maybe that is a pattern.  I do tend to whine and apologise a lot.  So I guess I'll shut up and leave Bagman sitting with a confused expression on his face and post the pictures. 

Boy, am I tired now!

BAGMAN:  "Hooray!  At least you put in one pun!"

BUTLER:  "Tread lightly, Baggie.  Mark isn't really with it this morning."

Bagman giggles at the fact that strait-laced Butler actually made a pun himself.  I decide to push the post button and go look at other people's posts while I wait for Barclay to show up.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Fall “Catch a Leaf” Ritual

The old family homestead where I grew up in Wrentham, Massachusetts was called “Maple Farm.” It wasn’t much of a farm but there were a ton of maple trees around the big back yard.

So, around the age of 12 or 13, being the self-absorbed ego-inflated boy that I was…

BUTLER: “Was? You still are! You and Bagman, both.”

BAGMAN: “And you too, Butler! You think your perfectionism isn’t related to ego?”

…anyhow, I decided that pumpkin carving was okay but what the world really needed was a new fun-filled Fall ritual. So I made one up called "Fall Leaf-Catching.”

The idea was simple: At some point in Autumn, you had to go out and catch a leaf that was falling from a tree before it hit the ground. Then you put the leaf somewhere secure where it will never touch the ground. By doing this, you ensured yourself a year of good luck.

I think I invented this ritual really to give myself an excuse to run around in circles trying to catch windblown, zig-zagging leaves, diving heroically onto the ground at the last moment, impressing grass and mud stains forever into my clothes. I figured that if one leaf brought good luck, a thousand leaves would bring even better luck, so the game could go on all Fall.

I taught this ritual to all my friends so that they could teach it to their friends and it would eventually be known around the world. And mostly because we could all run around in wild circles, crashing into each other, laughing, and creating even greater laundry challenges for our parents.

I don’t think this ritual ever really caught on worldwide, but I continued to do it into adulthood although with progressively less and less running and diving. In college I taught it to a few girlfriends, mostly because it was a cheaper afternoon activity than dinner and a movie.

But the fact is, while it never became as popular pumpkin carving, I still do it in my sixties although it now contains no running at all and mostly relies on the number of leaves falling and the statistical probability that one will eventually hit me. This year, I caught one by complete accident while riding the riding-lawnmower. But I dutifully tucked it away in the corner of the shed.

Another year of good luck ahead of me. Hooray!

And who knows? Now that I’ve put it out there in the blogosphere, perhaps it will catch on.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Waiting for Barclay

Subtitle: Chain reaction fission in the Honey-Do Environment

Barclay is the son of my wife’s best childhood friend. Although I’ve watched him grow up from a small tyke who calls me Uncle Mark, for the past several years I’ve watched him go through Medical School and he has now finished up a Master’s in Public Health in London. He has little interest in the traditional medical career and has a passion for working in third world countries. He has become my number one hero.

And he is going to stay with us for a few months!

So we went up to change the sheets in the guest room.

And decided we should move in a bookcase from my studio.

Which led to the need to clean out one of my bookcases…and the top of the pingpong table I use for matting and framing pictures.

And since it was clean and could be folded up, we decided to get out the carpet cleaner and clean some spots that have periodically been donated by Daisy when we don’t get up early enough to walk her.

And since the carpet cleaner was out, we thought we’d do Barclay’s room…and our bedroom…and the stairs.

And since the furniture was getting moved for the carpet cleaning operations, why not completely re-arrange the furniture throughout the entire house.

The Honey-Do list really is like an atomic bomb where one small atom hits another atom which splits and hits more atoms (I know that Nan will correct me on the real science of it) and Boom!

At one point I went outside, gasping for air, and noticed by the side of the house a shingle. I was trying to hide it and throw it discreetly in the trash bin but Karen saw me. Next weekend I’ll be replacing the roof.

But when I get a moment, I’ll regale you with tales from the adventures of Barclay.

Barclay’s coming! Hooray! And the guest room couldn’t be cleaner! Then again, it could be overkill for Barclay who sometimes spends months sleeping on the ground in Northern Kenya.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout - Chairs w/ Reader Warning!

Warning: The following blog may contain words that might cause a certain song to become irritatingly stuck in your mind causing you to hum it to yourself over and over.  If tune obsession lasts for more than 24-hours, see a doctor immediately.

_________________________________________ usual, around the middle of the week, I wander into the Bagman and Butler studio to plan for the Friday photo shoot out. The first image that strikes my eyes seems hard to believe. The two of them are seated together on the big sofa, sharing a large bucket of popcorn and watching “The Sound of Music.”

It is hard to believe because, not only because they are not fighting, but from what I remember of “The Sound of Music” neither of them would like it. It is not lusty, passionate or thrilling enough for Bagman and it seems far too bland for Butler’s overly intellectual bent.

BAGMAN: “Not my favorite, but it’s pretty romantic and the last part has something that is almost a chase scene. And Julie Andrews is kind of cute.

BUTLER: “Not my favorite either. The music isn’t Beethoven, but, you know the songs and lyrics have some appeal.”

In other words, it is the only movie that is close enough to almost matching both their tastes that they could watch together. Bravo. But I want to get to work because I don’t have many chair shots. I have one that I already used once for a rainbow color shoot.

And another of a seat that's hard to stay in:

But that's about it.  I slump down in the office chair in my studio with a deep sigh.  Butler and Bagman, both  look at me and suggest, “Why don’t you just take pictures of the chairs where you usually sit…you know, a few of your favorite chairs.

And suddenly, Julie Andrew’s voice begins singing in my head:  “These are a few of my favorite things…er…chairs.”

If you know the song, sing it out loud while you scroll down. I dare you. You will be singing it for days. I haven't been able to get  it out of my head for a week.   Everybody join in.  Altogether now…

Lounge chairs that stretch out
 in soft plushy leather

Sitting while speeding
top-down in all weather

the seat where I sit while I
blog out my cares...

These are a few of my favorite chairs

The place in my office where
 I do much talking


the bench where I boot up
 to take the dog walking

Here is the place where
 I shoot wildlife rare

These are a few of my favorite chairs

The nook in the kitchen
where we eat our lunches

Antiques in the living room 
nobody touches*

Here is the place where
I sit when I'm bare.


These are a few of my favorite chairs

When my bones creak

when I lose my hair

when I'm feeling cold

I simply remember my favorite chairs

and then I don't feel soooooo   old.

*Editorial note -- I need to make a slight disclaimer about the livingroom line about "antigues in the livingroom nobody touches..."   I used to unfairly tease my wife that we never went into the livingroom unless there was a special occasion but looking at the picture, I realize that is not true.  The white sofa has a sheet on it because Daisy sleeps there, and there are gates that we put on the stairs when the grandchildren visit and other signs that we do actually use that room.  But I was running out of rhymes...

BUTLER: "Touches doesn't rhyme with lunches anyhow!"

Picky picky picky.  Now excuse me while go I find a meadow on a mountaintop where I can dance in twirling circles. 

And Conner can sit on his favorite seat and mow the lawn.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Commute of the Shadows

Yes, I get bored driving to and from work sometimes.
I had the top down and the guy behind me thought I was nuts.
I think the shadows get better gas mileage than the metal machines to their right.

Brief grumble about the spiritual axiom

Somewhere in the 12-Step Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is mention of what we recoverying alcholics like to all the "spiritial axiom."   Then, most of the time we make a face. 

It goes something like -- pure paraphrasing here because I'm too lazy to look it up this morning -- It is a spiritual axiom that whenever anything bothers us, it is usually because something is going on with us.

A.A. is like that -- we keep having to take responsibility for ourselves, turning things over to God, accepting what we cannot change.  We are suppose to stop trying to get what we want and practice wanting what we get. 

So it can be very frustrating when I'm surrounded by assholes and I can't stand up and tell them they're assholes.  I can't storm abound home and office slamming doors and kicking garbage cans.  Instead, because I'm so dadgum emotionally healthy, I have to look at what it is inside me that makes me think I'm surrounded by assholes. 

Damn it!!  I can't even hold on to a good opportunity for self-pity for very long!  So I guess I'll take the dog for a walk and enjoy the sunrise. 

(Of course, this doesn't mean that one or two of them might not be genuine assholes...)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Friday Shootout – Reflections

Walking into the studio to work on Friday’s shoot, I find Bagman and Butler sitting cross-legged on the floor. I ask them what they are doing.

BUTLER: “We’re reflecting. At least I am reflecting. Knowing Butler, I suspect he is actually refracting.”

BAGMAN: “Hey! You insulting me!?”

BUTLER: “You don’t know what refraction means, do you?”

BAGMAN: “Well…no…but it sounds sexy!”

At this point Bagman jumps up, grabs an air guitar, and begins singing in his best Howlin’ Wolf impersonation:

“I’m a refract-tor man! I’m a refract-tor man!
The men don’t know, but the little girls understand!”

I roll my eyes up in frustration and suddenly notice a reflection of a toy box in the middle of the ceiling fan.

After posting it, I turn to Butler to see if we have any other pictures for the reflection shootout.

BUTLER: “Thousands! All of them! Don't you know that everything you shoot is light reflected off something.”

I think about that for a moment and realize I might have actually thought of something that Butler missed. It doesn’t happen often.

“How about sunsets? The sunlight is coming straight at the camera and not reflected.” Butler pauses to consider this but Bagman loves the idea..

BAGMAN: “Yeah! The sun is a refraction! Like me! Hot!”

He bursts back into his song:

“Went to the doctor…shot full of holes.
Nurse cried out, please save his soul!
I’m a refract-tor man! I’m a refract-tor man!

Realizing this could go on all morning, I force myself to concentrate on posting some pictures of plain old normal reflections.

BAGMAN: “Brought up for murder…first degree. Judge wife cried out, let that man go free! I’m a refract-tor man! I’m a refract-tor man! The men don’t know but the little girls understand!”

BUTLER: “Who is Howlin’ Wolf anyway?”

I don’t respond but wonder out loud: “What about rainbows? Are they light reflected light off raindrops or light refracted through raindrops?”

BUTLER: “Both! The light is first refracted entering the surface of the raindrop, then reflected off the back of the drop, and again refracted as it leaves the drop. Because the back of the drop is curved, it reflects back in a variety of angles.

Whoa! Stop! Why did I ask?  Two much information! Or TMI as the texters would say!

BUTLER: “But some folks might want to know!”

Well at least save it for the end of the blog so people can read it later if they want.  Realizing that I have lost control of this blog which is now shooting off in two opposite directions -- Delta Blues and Mr. Wizard -- I just slam in the rest of the shots as fast as I can while Bagman is twirling his coat above his head and Butler is setting up a PowerPoint presentation on optics.


There.  Period.  I'm done with my part of it.  If anyone wants to stay for Butler's rainbow lecture, they are welcome to do so, but I'd rather mow the lawn.  Bagman follows close behind me. 

BAGMAN:  "I'm outta here!  Butler's rainbow lecture is rated "G" for Geeks only."

At least Bagman has stopped singing.  We slam the door leaving Butler with his pointy stick beginning to speak.


BUTLER (adjusting his bow tie and clearing his throat):  "If you recall, class, we were taking about how light bounces off the back of a raindrop at various angles.  The angle is independent of the size of the drop, but does depend on its refractive index. Seawater has a higher refractive index than rain water.  This explains why the radius of a rainbow in sea spray is smaller than the radius of a true rainbow."

Wow!  Who among us hasn't wondered about that mystery?

BUTLER (Continuing):  "The amount by which light is refracted depends upon its wavelength, and hence its color. Blue light (shorter wavelength) is refracted at a greater angle than red light, but due to the reflection of light rays from the back of the droplet, the blue light emerges from the droplet at a smaller angle to the original incident white light ray than the red light.

"You may then think it is strange that the pattern of colors in a rainbow has red on the outside of the arc and blue on the inside."

Wow again!  I'm sure we've all lost sleep obsessing why red is on the outside and blue on the inside.
BUTLER (Ignoring the fact that two people in the front row have already fallen asleep): "However, when we examine this issue more closely, we realize that if the red light from one droplet is seen by an observer, then the blue light from that droplet will not be seen because it is on a different path from the red light: a path which is not incident with the observer's eyes. The blue light seen in this rainbow will therefore come from a different droplet, which must be below that whose red light can be observed.

Contrary to popular belief, the light at the back of the raindrop does not undergo total internal reflection, and some light does emerge from the back."

Popular belief?  Yeah!   Right! Just the other day I heard two guys in a bar arguing about whether light at the back of a raindrop underwent total internal reflection.

BUTLER:  "However, light coming out the back of the raindrop does not create a rainbow between the observer and the Sun because spectra emitted from the back of the raindrop do not have a maximum of intensity, as the other visible rainbows do, and thus the colors blend together rather than forming a rainbow.
"A rainbow does not actually exist at a particular location in the sky.

Which explains why I’ve never been able to find the pot of gold.

BUTLER (Raising his voice above the snoring): "Its apparent position depends on the observer's location and the position of the Sun. All raindrops refract and reflect the sunlight in the same way, but only the light from some raindrops reaches the observer's eye. This light is what constitutes the rainbow for that observer. The position of a rainbow in the sky is always in the opposite direction of the Sun with respect to the observer, and the interior is always slightly brighter than the exterior. The bow is centred on the shadow of the observer's head, or more exactly at the antisolar point (which is below the horizon during the daytime), appearing at an angle of 40–42° to the line between the observer's head and its shadow. As a result, if the Sun is higher than 42°, then the rainbow is blah blah blah below the horizon and usually cannot be seen as there are not usually sufficient raindrops between the horizon (that is: eye height) and the ground, to contribute blah blah etc.

Blah blah...ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"