Thursday, December 20, 2012

Songs and their Photos - my year end list.

About a week ago, I decided to revisit my old tradition of ranking albums and songs of the year. I had barely started before I realized the reason that I stopped - it was really difficult to put things in a specific, justifiable order, especially when I wasn't making any contribution to go along with what can only be labeled as criticism. So, instead, I decided to do this: here are some songs I liked a lot this year, in no particular order. Each one is paired with a photo I took that went along with my interpretation of the song in some way. It's just a thing I'm trying out.

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra - Smile (pictures or it didn't happen) - I came up with this entire project while listening to this song, so it deserves to start it off. I took the picture out the window while driving around Grosse Ile, for the simple reason that I'd never been on that island before.

John K. Samson - When I write my master's thesis - This entire album is fantastic, but I went with this track to showcase the wonderful fact that I have a new job in this very building, which I love, and it is in part due to the fact that I completed my master's degree this year. 

Beach House - Lazuli - I didn't mean to end up in this spot behind the train station, but when I took this photo freehand and got the leading lines and symmetry nearly perfect, I knew it could only happen in an 8-bit world. So, an 8-bit song off of Bloom, which was wonderful, fit perfectly. Important note -- I'm not a big fan of showcasing ruined pieces of Detroit, but this photo came out too good. Sorry.

Benjamin Gibbard - Shepherd's Bush Lullaby - A picture of rain to go with the frontman of DCFC? Look, I'm not trying to be subtle here, and I'm a sucker for a capella. I was driving home with the camera on the passenger seat, decided to snap quickly, and it worked out okay.

The Gaslight Anthem - National Anthem - While a lot of the songs on Handwritten made me feel younger, this is a track that I can count on enjoying when I am older than my grandfather. I'm not talking staying power, I just feel emotionally connected to the melody.

The Mountain Goats - Amy A.K.A. Spent Gladiator 1 - This is one of the tags I'm used to passing on the way to and from work. I don't know that I understand graffiti, but it seems to fit into the message of this song: "Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive." Taking pictures of tags in lousy neighborhoods makes me feel that way. Guess I'm lame.

Craig Finn - Balcony - I'm wasn't in a highrise when I took this. But you know what? That doesn't matter, because this song is incredibly non-bitter while being hilarious about the choices people make about who to be with, so downtown Royal Oak could fit the story well. 

Walk the Moon - Anna Sun -  The original plan for this photo was to take the selective focus picture from inside the doorway. That didn't work out because someone (the owner of the boots) was inside using the shower. Wander into abandoned houses for the sake of photography might be a terrible idea.

The Tallest Man on Earth - 1904 - this isn't the natural disaster we were looking for, nor is it a disaster at all, but this works. I like this guy/band. This album did not knock me back, but 1904 really stood out. So, you get a photo, tall man.

The Killers - Flesh and Bone - This first track off of Battle Born asks "What are you afraid of, and what are you made of?" This guy is a Detroit Firefighter, and I think his answer is clear. I chase smoke when I see it, but so did a lot of other people, so I think it's okay.

The Lumineers - Ho Hey - this is everywhere, yes, but my wife and I sang it to each other constantly shortly after we bought our house this year. Here's a view of the front door that I liked. The whole place is pretty great, if you haven't seen it.

Anyway, that's my year-end music post, coupled with photography. It's been a great year. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Careful Planning

Now, when using the phrase anything is possible, it should be gathered that at some point or another, people are going to be critical of the semantics. I’m so certain that you are aware of the particulars that I present to you the following reply to one person speaking such a phrase, undoubtedly submitted by at least one dissenter in the audience.


I don’t need to explain the tone, because you just heard it exactly as it would sound. Whiny and infuriating, and always a preemptive strike for a dagger of a dare. As I’m certain you will find yourself in this situation again, I have created a set of simple-to-follow steps for your response:

1. Lock eyes with the purveyor of condescending language. During all subsequent instructions, keep this one a constant until such time that (inevitably) it is no longer possible.

2. Attempt to make yourself taller in any way possible. Beyond simple tip-toe stance, use a stair or inconspicuous wooden box, or even pull a far shorter person (willingly) behind your right shoulder. This common intimidation method has been used for centuries.

3. Assuming you have either a slight  overbite or perfectly aligned jaw, lower your tongue to sit as flat as possible across the bottom of your jaw. (Otherwise, PLEASE, DO NOT USE THIS. Especially if you have an underbite.)

4. Without a focus on truly unhinging, open your jaw as wide a possible. It is important to remember that if such a thing was dangerous, it would not be part of the procedure of a routine teeth cleaning.

5. Relax the throat muscles. Imagine you have accidentally swallowed a large jawbreaker, and follow through with the same motions your body would automatically take in an effort to avoid asphyxiation.

6. Lean in toward your verbal assailant with the last moments in which eye contact will be possible. Rattling your diaphragm will allow for a roar to escape your lungs, but under no circumstances should you move your tongue or relax your jaw; both are imperative for the paralyzing fear that is keeping your target in place.

7. Swallow the head of your opponent. 

8. Allow for your upper body to slowly and completely return to normal, as rushing may cause dangerous cramping. Slow your breathing gradually as it may have increased to oxygenate your blood faster, which by the way, has been pumping at super-human levels.

9. The stretching of your lips may have caused chapping, so apply a lip balm immediately to keep painful dry spots from developing. Do not lick your lips; it looks tacky due to the events that have just transpired.

10. With a relaxed expression, look to the folks that heard the condensing comments in question, and sternly punctuate your proportional response with a simple and non-sarcastic, “Anything.”

By paying mind to these simple steps, you may find yourself able to overcome the comments that a more functional human being would have simply moved past. If you would like to acknowledge societal norms, act as a mature adult, and be a productive member of society, skip steps 2 through 9, and then move on with your life.

Photo credit: @coolestkmayer, originally, but now she's @KarMaGoBlue. Published on the Tumblr on 02/06/2012, and by far one of my favorite posts that I made there. 

Sorry for the multitude of older posts recently -- keep on the watch for a big project I've been working on lately to show up sometime next week with all new content.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Climate Change is not a Victimless Crime

A melted snowman is not the visage of Ozymandias, but they mean the same thing. Who were we to be so arrogant that we tried to make a man of this miracle that fell from the sky? These crystal, individualistic as they are fragile, came from above preformed and perfect, and our response was to shape them into a bastardization of our own image? Shame on us.
We must always believe that we can immortalize ourselves with items we simply did not appreciate in their own form, despite its overall ability to be perceived as perfect. Nothing we make can be as great as the original elements, can they? But we try it anyway. Sure, a painted picture is more beautiful than the individual tubes of acrylic, but is it as beautiful as the woman crushing flowers and water to create the first version of that violent, crimson paint that catches your eye first? A professor instruction on the manner in which it pops from the page would do well to think of her centuries-old contribution to the canvas.
You’re great, trust me. But you’re still a collection of elements, forged in a star that could liquefy you the same way it did your creation. Appreciate it, appreciate yourself, and try and see the world by itself, and not your mirror. Not every electron was made to spin the same way.

Photo credit: @hemogoblins. Originally posted on the tumblr on 01/31/2012, at which time it was called "57 on 1/31," referring to the unseasonable warmth that decayed the filthy snowman that Kari spotted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bringing Back the Heat

Vicki sighed and sipped her melting drink, considering what her grandmother would say about this situation. Etiquette dictates that the man should have sat toward the sun, not you she would have cried with a wince. Now Vicki sat with her version of that hereditary wince, wondering why she hadn’t brought sunglasses on a summer walk. The sun’s rays kept her from looking up at Jonah without narrowing her eyes, so she continually averted her gaze. That, of course, was a sign of sorts — not one he picked up on in a good or bad way, but one that brought Vicki to consider the problems in their relationship. Using her straw to mix the remaining whipped cream with the blended drink, she decided to try and break the silence. with a fight.
“We never do anything fun anymore.”
“I’m having fun,” Jonah replied unaffectedly. “It’s a great day, and we’re just hanging out.”
“Sunshine and coffee isn’t enough for me. I’m more exciting than that.” She fussed with her tie for a moment, then risking the glare of the sunlight, looked straight into Jonah’s eyes. “Let’s rob a bank.”
He shrugged. “Okay.”
“Okay? Really? I mean it. We need to do something exciting, so why shouldn’t it be over the top? We’ve seen every movie about it, even Skills like This, and talked for hours about how it really wouldn’t be that hard. We should just get up and do it.”

Jonah, seemingly deciding that he’d actually like to be involved in this conversation instead of just waiting for Vicki to talk herself through and out of it, began to ponder out loud. “I think we need some kind of a plan. Let’s figure it out using the layout of Old Valenche Trust on Fifth.”
Vicki was readily surprised when Jonah followed up his statement by setting out a stack of napkins and, procuring a sharpie from her purse without asking, began sketching the layout. Placing to sugar packets near where the doorway was drawn, she said “First, we walk in.”
“Right,” Jonah replied. “We’ll have to cover our faces. You can use your tie, and I’ll just shave right afterward, so that we won’t be noticed.” He was smirking, but serious in some dream-like way. He wanted this to be true, and so did Vicki. “We’ll rush the security guard in the back —”
“I’ll rush the guard so I’m there when he draws his weapon,” Vicki interrupted. “You have to start doing a booming voice thing. Something about getting on the ground.”

“Should I imply having a gun?”

“Sure, why not? We can just say that we were referring to hot glue when we get arrested. Or that you just said gum.”

“Oh.” Jonah raised his eyebrows toward the sun that burned behind him. “I didn’t realize you were planning on getting caught.”

“Well, it seems like that’s the way of things in the twenty first century. We’re planning it out, so we’ll get caught. You have to improvise from the start if you want to get away with everything.”

“Does that mean we should stop talking about it and just go rob a bank?”

“No. You’d probably get shot anyway.” Vicki’s straw drew in air awkwardly at the bottom of her cup, and she was no longer able to keep up the charade. She burst into laughter.
Jonah joined her, and then added, “So, is that the kind of excitement you’re looking for? We never do anything fun, let’s get you shot and both go to prison, claiming craft supply defense.”
Vicki smiled. “Yes. Kind of. It just feels good to think about it once in a while.”

Jonah felt put off. “You like to think of me getting shot once in a while?”
“No, no,” Vicki consoled. “I just like to think of you and I having the kind of love that would last, even with shackles around our wrists and a bullet in your leg.”

“Oh.” He felt dumbfounded, yet happy. “I love you like crazy, too.” 

Photo Credit: Jackie Z; story originally posted on the tumblr, 08/31/2011. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Over the next several days, some scheduled posts that I've migrated from the Tumblr will be going up. I'll be on break for a few weeks starting Friday afternoon, so at that point I'll be working on a big project that'll involve all new photos. Please keep an eye out for that, and pardon the "best-of" collection if you've seen the next few stories and photos before. If you haven't, please enjoy! Friday morning's post is one of my favorites ever, and the idea I'm working on right now will be a gem as well, if it goes according to plan. I'll keep creating new content, and just know that I appreciate the opportunity to share my work with you.

I didn't want to make an announcement post without a photo, so I've included a goat I met on Father's day. Enjoy.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Downtown Royal Oak, late last winter

I don't live in Downtown Royal Oak anymore -- the wife and I bought a house in Clawson just a couple months ago. But, over the past year, I've played with the lighting a bit and gotten a good view whenever possible from the multiple parking structures in the city. The last one was a bit haphazard while I drove about, but I ended up liking the sky that evening. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Freeway at night.

I noticed a lot of little substation-type buildings along the freeway when I was stuck in traffic a while back, and decided to map out how to get to one from the service drive. This one was right by the 11 mile exit off I-75 South, near my old house in Royal Oak. The gate was open and the stairs were well maintained, so it just seemed inviting.

It was a bit tough to find a balance for the tripod on the metal steps, since they were full of holes and grip-spikes for all-weather situations. But, once I was well-balanced and kept the shutter open for a good long time, it turned out to be a worthwhile venture. I will probably do this again after a good snowfall.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First of Creative Edits

When we were moving to our new house in Clawson, my wife Alison and I decided to decorate it with some of my photography, graced by her design skills. I'm learning to do this kind of editing myself now, but this one is her work on my photo, and now hangs printed on a large canvas in our new home. I've learned from her how to do a bit more post-processing, and will, but for now, enjoy this.

Upper Peninsula

I spent some time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my wife and father-in-law. It was deer season, but I won't bore you with that -- just peaceful pictures here. Some of these, I may go back to edit later, and thus they will repeat in a post about post-processing.


I took a tripod to a 4th of July party. It was an excellent decision.

Portland Trip from June 2012.

Work sent me to a conference in Portland this past June. I loved the city, and I spent a lot of money in a lot of wonderful restaurants, then never turned in my expense reports for reimbursement. Shucks. Anyway, here are some things that I saw.

I'd go back again, but there are plenty of other places I'd like to see in the world, too. This trip was actually my first time west of Chicago, and there is a whole country in the middle that must have something to see.

We can, as it turns out, have nice things. We're old enough.

Walter had never enjoyed himself at a party before. People scared him, social skills escaped him, and the thought of getting a large group together in a room brought him to ponder only the most inane questions. How is the mercury within the thermostat supposed to compensate for the chill air of repeated entrances and exits by smokers, as well as the labored and heated breathing of those who scream and shout for charades? It was probably true that at most parties that the poisonous liquid metal behind the glass and needles related better to Walter than any of the guests he observed. You can be certain that he is not a sociopath, despite this strange comparison, because he is not comforted by the fact at all.
Walter drank wine because he wanted to belong. He didn’t care much for the taste, and he had read several articles on the damaging factors of sulfites, but he wanted to belong. He took deep, flavorful sips, and fought against the urge to wince at some of the harsher tones, so as not to seem under-confident in himself (he was). The bits of cheese on trays throughout the room did not tempt him, because he had watched too many documentaries on how it was made, and could no longer appreciate the pasteurization process as the miracle that it had been made out to be. He ran through one of these processes in his head, attempting to calculate backward how long before this moment at the party his hostess had unwrapped and de-waxed the Havarti before him, how long before that it had been on a truck to an independent market, how long before that the market had ordered it be taken from the wooden shelves of an aging room three states away, and how long before that it had come from a cow’s udder and entered the process, as well as whether that cow was actually Danish in origin. It was during this extraordinarily unnecessary train of thought that Walter was bumped.

Red wine, meet carpet. Carpet, say hello to red wine. You two are going to be friends.
Walter didn’t notice the music in the background before, but certainly heard it stop as the glass bounced upon the floor. It was a thing of beauty to see the trail of wine soar and arc, then splash down as a scarlet trail across the plush white berber. He moved swiftly down toward the floor, cocktail napkins in hand, attempting to soak up as much of the vile red as possible before it became one with the floor forever. He furiously blotted while making promises to himself. After this, never another party – not wine and cheese, not holiday nog, not even a family birthday – Walter was happy to live in seclusion until such a time as there were no longer parties, grapes, or napkins in the world, so that the situation could never be described and the embarrassment could never be relived. Still blotting, he knew inside that he would always know, and that was enough to keep him away. Perhaps he could use his time not socializing to take a second job at night, open a new account for cash deposits from waiting tables or cleaning messes, and then use it to send a nameless cashier’s check to the hostess of the party for her new carpet, and perhaps even matching drapes. ­­­It might remind her of the terrible offense that he was currently trying to blot, ever more furiously, but at least his name could be removed, and perhaps one of these other onlookers could be credited (or seize credit) as the good Samaritan who, present on the night of the white berber/red wine catastrophe, decided to secretly do the right thing, despite not being in the wrong, like Walter. Looking up for who might be such a person, Walter realized that no one was actually looking at him. In fact, the music had never even stopped. True, several bustled about, fetching club soda and ratty towels, but others discussed the same old remedies for different stains their grandmothers taught them, and still even others talked of nothing of the sort, as if the stain on the carpet was not the largest problem in the world or even the room. Walter, trying to take this all in, felt his blotting hand stopped, seized by the wrist of his hostess. He calmed down as he looked in her face, and she spoke one word that made everything okay.

He breathed a sigh of relief, not considering even for a moment the fact that scotch-guard chemicals might have been agitated by his furious blotting, and that he could be welcoming them into his lungs right now for an awful case of bronchitis. He didn’t think of that at all, because he felt a sense of serenity and elation, as his guilt melted away like the soft mozzarella set too close to the candles. The fading adrenaline was replaced with alcohol-tempered endorphins, and Walter slowly stood, backing away from the stain that would never be.
Walter liked parties. People might even begin to grow on him.
originally posted on the tumblr 10/19, migratred here on 11/27. photo credit: @bartkowj