Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Thrill of the Chase

Little brother running after bigger brother.

Fun!

Remember fun? Remember laughing yourself silly? Remember zooming around at top speed in a game whose rules changed every five minutes and where winning was not the point? Remember playing with your brother or sister, or friends from school, and not giving a moment’s thought to the next meal or the unpaid bills or the broken promise or the upcoming promotion?

Having fun is not the same thing as being entertained, although of course there is often some overlap. Fun is purposeless purpose, playful exploration, activity that keeps you joyfully grounded in this moment.

Having fun is something you do. It would be better as an intransitive verb: funning (which is in fact a real word, meaning something like ‘joking’ or ‘making fun of,’ but which is not at all what I’m getting at).

I have not had much fun lately. In fact, I haven’t funned hardly at all in quite awhile. As I sit here right now, I’m struggling to remember my last episode of fun. I don’t mean in any way to discount the enjoyment I’ve had from many of my regular pursuits. My photographic practice, for example, continues to bring me a sustaining satisfaction. I get great pleasure from spending time with friends, and good food is a delight.

But fun? All-out, unbridled, waaaaaaahoooooo fun? Not so much. Indeed, I’m hard-pressed to imagine what activity I could engage in that would restore that feeling of untrammeled, bodily fun. Maybe I need to go ride a roller-coaster or raft down a river; in any case, I’m pretty sure it needs to be something with a strong physical component and a social element.

Any suggestions?


A Year Ago: The Gilded Cage

Shop Window, Forum Shops, Ceasars Palace, Las VegasWe are tame birds, fluttering between the varied, lovely, shiny, traps of consumerism…
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Raindrops on Roses

Close up of raindrops on rose.

I have had a large version of this image on my 27″ monitor for 24 hours now (you can see the Gallery version here). It’s so luscious, so ridiculously beautiful that I can’t take my eyes off it. There is some corner of my psyche that is soothed and healed just by the light from this image. I don’t care how many clichés about whiskers on kittens are invoked!

I think the selective focus, where only a very small portion of the picture is sharp, is absolutely essential to its success. (This photograph was shot from maybe 3 inches away, at f/3.2 and 1/250 sec.) I am grateful to my Macro Elmarit for reminding me of the joys of shallow depth of field.


A Year Ago: A Dream of Paris

Paris Hotel seen from the Bellagio, Las VegasIt’s been nearly two decades since I visited Paris…
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Kindred Spirit

I recently discovered Karen Walrond’s blog “Chookooloonks,” probably while doing some googling around the terms ‘something beautiful.’

My first reaction was “OMG she’s doing the exact same thing as me only better and with a huge following. I should quit now in despair.” Of course her work is too appealing and she is far too likable for me to devolve into bitter envy! And, since I have stated in front of a real live audience that beauty is not a scarce resource, that there is more than enough to go around for us all—I’d do well to practice what I preach, right?

Karen published her Mission Statement today, and it’s a really good one.

I will engage in the relentless pursuit of real, uncontrived beauty, in every form. I will illustrate that beauty is everywhere, even (and sometimes especially) in the most unlikely places. In so doing, I will work tirelessly to counter negativity, violence, sadness and desperation, and join forces with those who celebrate positivity, peace, kindness and joy. I will convince the skeptical of their uncommon beauty, and I will create tools for helping the weary see the beauty in their own lives. I will provide hard, irrefutable evidence that there is good in the world, and I will be fiercely dedicated to showing how beautiful our planet really is, one image at a time.

In keeping with her much more extraverted (than mine) personality, it has a more activist flair to it than my about page paragraph, the one I wrote for the very first post I made on Something Beautiful:

It’s so easy to go through life without appreciation, despite the whole vibrating, pulsing, glowing gloriousness of the world around us. I am embarking on a daily practice of noticing and sharing beauty: one small effort to counteract the laziness of obliviousness, dismissal, and cynicism that can gradually sour our outlook on just about everything.

I admire and appreciate Karen’s pursuit of an agenda we have in common. Let me suggest you check out her book: The Beauty of Different.

While our visual and writing styles are as distinct as our experiences and personalities, I aspire to integrate my advocacy for the appreciation of beauty into my professional life as thoroughly as Karen has done.

Species Unknown

Plant

Some of you reading this will look at that picture above and scoff: “That’s not species unknown, that’s obviously [insert obvious name of common garden plant here]!” Of course it is. I am well aware that just because I don’t know the name of something, doesn’t mean that it’s new to botany or anything.

Plant with blue blooms

What I would like to do, though, is to renew your sense of strangeness even if it is familiar to you. Observe how this plant’s flowers hang down, although they don’t seem particularly heavy. The color and texture of its stems is positively fleshy. And it’s hairy.

Flower in profile

From this angle, the blossoms look almost insectoid. That’s pretty weird, isn’t it?

Flowering plant

The whole thing seems constructed on five-fold symmetry, and reminds me of nothing so much as a starfish. And isn’t it a little odd for one plant to have flowers of two separate colors?

There’s an unending, inexhaustible supple of oddness and curiosity and otherness out there in the world, all around us, in the most mundane and ordinary surroundings. I get a perpetual thrill out of that.


A Year Ago: In the Tank

Beijing Noodle No. 9, Restaurant at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas“Beijing Noodle No.9 is the kind of casual noodle shop you’d expect to find on the bustling streets of Shanghai…”
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Ringer

Cones and bumpers.

This traffic cone reminds me of a kid whose hula hoops have all ended up around her ankles.


A Year Ago: 98% Payback

98% PaybackThis is where dreams go to die…
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Signature (Red)

Mark on pavement, transformed.

I’m not sure what the purpose of this marking was, originally. If it was for municipal maintenance of some kind, it’s unusual in that it was made by a fluid drip rather than the usual spray paint. I don’t think it was urban tagging of any kind.

So: is the image posted here mine, half-mine, or not mine at all? I ask myself these kinds of questions all the time. Photography is a minefield of ethical concerns and dilemmas, and if you turn a deaf ear to them, you miss out on an important part of the artistic dialogue. Yes, I think it is important to care about these questions, both as a matter of personal and cultural moral integrity AND as a part of the creative process itself.

Since the original mark was in no way intended to stand alone as art, and it resides on public property and was probably made by a public servant carrying out government business, I don’t believe that any private copyright could be considered vested in the first place. In addition, I have substantially altered the medium, context, framing, and color. Of course, as we say on the intertubes IANAL (I am not a lawyer), and I have no idea how this might play out in a court of law—not that I can imagine anyone actually bringing suit over it.

Here’s what the camera saw:

What do you think?


A Year Ago: Too Busy

Outside Four Queens Hotel, Las Vegas, NVThis image is Exhibit A for “too busy”…
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Succulent

Green plant with water drop.

Much as I admire the desert landscape, I adore the season of plump green lushness afforded by a temperate climate. Too much humidity is a misery (and DC definitely gets there in the summer), but water in the air also carries fragrance and soothes the skin. Like cream in your coffee, it makes the sensory experience so much richer.


A Year Ago: Fake

Plastic BouquetSometimes you just have to embrace the aesthetic of the false, the vulgar, the bogus, and the silly…
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Another Look

Two men and two women at a restaurant.

I took this picture at a restaurant in my neighborhood. I’d like you to take a moment and mull the scene over in your head; have a look at the larger view for more nuance. How would you describe the relationships portrayed here, if you had to guess? What might you say about this scene other than “It’s a photo of four ridiculously good-looking young people?” (Trust me, the woman facing away was gorgeous too.)

Here’s one tidbit of information: the redhead with her back to us is about four months pregnant.

Now, what do you make of it?

Here’s a another data point: about five minutes after I took this picture, a fifth preposterously lovely young person appeared, pulled up a chair to the table, sat down and exchanged a more-than-casual kiss on the mouth with the guy in the blue shirt at left.

Oh, did I mention? The new arrival was a man.

As I ate my own meal, I eventually decided that the two women were a couple. That the man facing me was the brother of the woman at right, and that the man in the blue shirt was her friend. The two blonds had highly theatrical conversational styles, and I wondered whether they might both be performers of some sort.

This, of course, could be just as wrong as my default impression—which was that I was seeing two heterosexual couples on a double date, every qualifier of which was incorrect.

First impressions are a powerfully useful tool, but they can also lead you seriously astray unless you remain open to new information. (For what it’s worth, watching the man-in-blue’s behavior before the arrival of his lover, I was already questioning my first take.) Quick and broad characterization of people and relationships is only productive when your window for decision-making is extremely narrow and urgent. In other circumstances, it is simply lazy stereotyping and may even lead to harmful prejudice.

People are more complicated and interesting and beautiful than a first impression can convey. Give them a chance to unfold their story to you.


A Year Ago: Golden Gears

Golden Gears at Payard, Caesars Palace, Las VegasPayard at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas wishes to assure us that its desserts are not entirely hand made…
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Wreath of Gold

Flower detail.

There are no imperishable laurels; no crown endures forever. Honor and fame are fleeting. But transitory beauty can lay claim to eternity in one moment of glorious imperfection.


A Year Ago: All You Need Is Love

Sgt. Pepper Live, Cheap Trick @ Paris, Las Vegas

I’m back from my sojourn in Las Vegas…
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Open Book

Distressed metal surfaces.

Modern-day brosimancy* in action: seeking to tell the future by reading the patterns in rust. As is so often the case in legends, the oracle’s answer isn’t really much help—even when it’s clearly intended for you.

*(No, Wikipedia is not failing you. I made this word up and probably got the Greek root wrong.)