Monday, October 26, 2015

Dating is Important?

It's that time of year when I have to fill out some maintenance paperwork relating to student loans. Like all sites on the internet that you don't pay attention to except once a year, they've changed their login information since I was last there. It's no longer the obscure Federal Government PIN that I could never remember and always had to reset (thereby defeating a large portion of the security). They've shifted over to username and password.

But oh! the process. Not one but FIVE security questions need to be specified. I hate security questions and think them terrifically insecure. The best way to deal with them is to provide non-sequitur answers to utterly befoul guessing (i.e., "What is your mother's maiden name?" Answer: Pumpkin Spindlewheels.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

The E at the End Means Costumes

I spent all weekend at the KC Maker's Faire, and I came away with some thoughts:

1) I know why the Jedi Predator is there.

2) I don't know why so many people are wearing official Doctor Who shirts. Or maybe I do...

3) Having a booth selling T-shirts with internet memes obeys the letter but not the spirit of "making" things.

4) Corsets, apparently.

5) You're nobody without goggles, but only if they don't do anything and don't protect your eyes. Very important.

6) Having someone in Marvel-branded fetish gear describe their bygone days of trombone playing is never not strange.

7) No Telsa or Edison cosplay. But then, they have only themselves to blame for historically not having swords or laser pistols. Or corsets.

8) The Twinkee company was handing out entire free boxes of Twinkees. Not individuals or two-packs -- entire boxes. The arms of the fattest free-stuff grabber I saw held four boxes, which seemed appropriate. His female companion had two more.

9) A surprising number of children and adults will run up, ask "What's this?", put their mouth on something, and wander away before I can get any further than "Well, it's a..." 

10) Leaving at the end of the day and seeing a thirty-foot-long potato on a tractor trailer with signs proclaiming "It's Real!" when it was rather clearly NOT made of potato was an appropriate finale. I suppose it's "real" in the sense that it wasn't a figment of my imagination. 

Friday, June 05, 2015

Other People's Fluids

Today was a hell of a day.

There were lots of things that happened, but what made this day particular was that some things happened that don't usually happen. I'm going to skip most of those, because otherwise this is going to turn into a even-more-overly-long entry than I already envision it becoming.

The most exciting thing was that someone entered my place of business, and within two hours of him crossing the threshold, he was being escorted out on ambulance gurney, and I had his blood and spittle on my shirt and hands.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

An Afternoon's Pause

It's in the upper sixties here and spring is trying its best to show everyone it didn't sleep in. The sun is bright, the birds are chirping, and I saw a bicyclist almost get killed by a Mercedes. Happy Easter!

I have, during this Easter Sunday afternoon, the briefest of pauses. It's been hectic up to this week and I start a new/old job tomorrow morning. But for the space of a few hours after my Easter gig, I have no responsibilities.

That tends to be good and bad.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Veritography IV: Making the Cut

This is a photography entry that addresses some of the process I go through after I'm done shooting an event. How do I go from a massive pile of photos into a (hopefully) smaller pile that I want to spend the time to edit? Why do I pick one image over another? How much thought do I give to style? I'm going to talk through all these points while we look over some photos that didn't pass the test.

These photographs are all from the performance that followed the lecture recital of a saxophone doctoral student, Michael Shults. Appropriately enough, it was in a local jazz club. The subject was the music of Bobby Watson, world famous saxophonist and jazz icon, and the special guest was none other than the same Bobby.

I hadn't intended to shoot anything, wanting to just listen. I hadn't been approached beforehand by anyone to take pictures, but as soon as I entered the club, I started to get questions: "Did you bring your camera?" "Are you going to shoot anything tonight?" "I don't see your camera; I hope you brought it!"

It was very flattering. Of course, it would have been more flattering for these people to say, "We have money! Please come shoot!" but one step at a time. The truth is I didn't want to be caught unprepared, so I'd brought my camera but left it in the trunk of my car. If I didn't feel the need to shoot, no need to go back into the night. If I did, no need to go back home.

I didn't want to shoot photos during the lecture, because if Michael (the doctoral student) is anything like me, photos of me standing up and talking are just likely to make me even more nervous when speaking than I already am. I just wanted to listen and absorb the topic. It was the right choice for me, since the lecture was informative and interesting.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Suited to a Tea

I didn't grow up in the South.

When I went to school in Chicago, one guy referred to me as being "from the South," but everyone laughed at that. I was from south of there, but not the South. Growing up, I learned about the South in terms of Colonel Sanders and his white suit, picking cotton, the Mason Dixon Line, and them Duke Boys, who had a car named the General Lee for... some reason.

And after I left the childhood education of TV characters behind, I had a widening perspective of the various forces and entities that composed southern states. But even learning that the South encompassed a wider variety of cultures and ideas than I ever knew about, I was also aware that I wasn't "it," with my suburban St. Louis upbringing. I was, if anything, Mid-West, which has less claim to charming eccentricity and more to being a plain-speaking farmer.

But I want to address something I've noticed especially in the last decade or so. Something that marks me as "not Southern" as much as anything geographically or historically. And as with the history of our country, let's start with tea.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Veritography III: A Real Reality

"Veritography" was the word I coined for this series of posts about my experience of photography. I liked it because it sounded like an intensifier (VERY-tography) but also because it incorporated the Roman god of truth, Veritas (or, if you're under 25, a good Harry Potter word). The series was conceived as being about the "truths" of photography, as they came to light (heh!) in the course of taking pictures. Today's entry is also about TRUTH, in the capital-letter sense of establishing the pure, real, and essential nature of something.

In addition, I just launched my own photo gallery website. I borrowed the name of this series for that website, partially because I like the name, and also because it was available as a domain (that part is important). You can find my photography site at

Reality is a tricky subject with photography. Assuming one hasn't applied any after-exposure manipulation, each individual shot could be considered "real." If I take a picture of a dog, like Hannah (photo above) then I know that's a real dog. She looks like that. We were out for a walk in a park -- that part is also real.

One standard of reality is a basic acceptability test: this seems real, so we're willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. I'm showing a picture of a dog and saying that it's a dog. That makes it easy to use our innate senses to say, "Sure. I've never seen that dog, but that's definitely a dog... and it's not in front of the pyramids or anything, so I'll also stipulate to the fact Andy might know that dog. That's real."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine's Approacheth

Valentine's Day hasn't been the same since I stopped giving and receiving Transformers valentine cards.

Back then (and it was many years ago FYI), the valentine cards that were dutifully distributed to everyone's classroom desk were a fun little physical manifestation of being liked. Let's set aside the fact that it was largely compulsory. And that it didn't really have anything to do with being liked. To me, it *felt* like I was receiving Valentines from all my friends, even if that group consisted of everyone in Mister Jordan's fifth grade class, even the angry girl and the boy who smelled.

And it hasn't really ever been the same since. I've only spent one Valentine's Day actually in a relationship, and only two or three V-Days with women I was dating, but hadn't been dating long enough to make the day into a DAY. I've spent other fourteenths of February keeping my head down, largely ignorant of the fact (or pretending I was to myself), or lost in an existential hallucinatory haze. You know: as one does.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nothing Doing

One of the nagging things in my life is searching for an answer to the question, "what's going on?" This informal conversation-supplanting tool has me utterly and completely flummoxed. Every single time. Never in my life have I produced a satisfactory answer, either to myself or to the person asking the question.

Let's try to break this down:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nine Months and Change

Stepping off the bus that had taken me from the Denver airport to the mountains outside Estes Park, I arched my back in an attempt to release the knot. It's a long bus ride to trundle along in a re-purposed school bus, full of hard plastic seats reorganized to sit parallel to the road instead of perpendicular. The early September air was a lot cleaner and cooler up there, compared to the dusty and overly warm days in Kansas City.

The scenery leaves no doubt where I was. Pine trees, for one thing. And trees that are dotted across the mountains -- that's another clue. And near the tops, the trees fall away, too large to survive in the harsher conditions (and frequent snow cover) of the peaks. A world away from the flat, largely treeless area of KC where I live.

Then my phone rang. It's my brother, and after a few tense moments of fearing something terrible has happened, he lets me know that he and his wife have begun revealing that they are expecting a baby in the spring of 2015. My phone connection is very poor, but I congratulate them and promise to speak more when I'm next in St. Louis. Ben, my brother, closes by letting me know that they're only told the close family, so I promise not to tell anyone.

I did tell some people, though, which was a bursting of that promise. But the people I tell don't know my brother or his wife, and they're unlikely to then post something saying, "Congratulations to my friend Andy, who's going to be an uncle! What a great secret!" And even if they took that step, it's not going to reach anyone who's going to feel offended that Sarah didn't tell them PERSONALLY.

What I understood when they said, "We're only telling close family," is that they're trying to control the release so that certain People Who Care About These Things don't find out the good news from anyone other than the happy couple. When I lean over and tell the trombonist next to me, "my sister-in-law is pregnant," he smiles and says, "Hey, that's great. Congratulations to them." And then he forgets it, because that information is pretty far down the list on his priorities for life. And I still feel good, because it's nice to tell people good news from my life, even if it's not going to change the course of anyone else's.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Breathe, right?

As a stocking-stuffer this year, I received a box of "Extra Strength" breathing strips. This was parental feedback to my various stories of the BPAP breathing machine not being comfortable for me. Readers may recall that I was prescribed a positive-pressure breathing apparatus in the wake of my three nights in a sleep diagnosis center, which lead to me having zero sleep those nights and embarking on a series of introspective, fitful, and eventually quasi-hallucinatory experiences. (Read about them: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.)

My parents heard me saying that I don't really use The Device anymore, so they made me the present of a box of 40-ish little adhesive bands. The band fits across the bridge of my nose, and has enough support in it to attempt to return to straight. Adhere it to the face, the bar attempts to straighten, and it rather-ingeniously helps to hold the nasal cavities open.

A couple of nights ago, I applied the first one. I felt like the small folded sheet of instructions didn't provide me as much information as I needed, but then these are really just fancy stickers, right. How much instruction do I really need?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

And he whispered, "I love you period."

I miss the period from my writing. Mostly in text messages. Specifically, I miss the functionality of the neutral sign that marks the end of the sentence. In my own text message writing, many periods that I write get reconsidered and transformed into exclamation marks. Why am I writing texts as if I'm always excited?

Monday, January 05, 2015

Favorite Photos of 2014: Seventeen Through Twenty-Five

Last set of photographs for the (previous) year. As before, these are my momentary favorites: selection can and will depend on the day. Also, these are by no means my "best" photographs from a technical sense. For one, I'm rarely satisfied with the technical aspects of my photos. I always seem to be fighting with noise and shadow detail. New equipment necessary? Maybe, but that would probably just push the complaints along.

Please enjoy this last set of photos.