Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rainbow photo

Rainbow, 6-30-2009 (c) 2009 Incorrigible Curmudgeon

Whew! I finally received my new Canon A590IS PowerShot point-and-shoot camera from eBay and like I said before, I felt right naked without it.

One of the first things I got to photograph with it was this rainbow.

A good sign, I think.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sobering video

This is a sobering video.

That said, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information, nor do I know who compiled it or what their agenda may be or even if they have an agenda.

I'm posting because it made me stop and think.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why I love Trader Joe's

(c)Incorrigible Curmudgeon

My California cousin (a veggie, like me) always raved about Trader Joe's whenever I'd visit LA.

And so when one opened up fairly near me in MD I hurried over to check it out. Unfortunately, after all the hype I was underwhelmed: smallish size store, somewhat meager selection, not all that veggie, etc.

I just didn't get it and it wasn't until I saw this unofficial Trader Joe's commercial on YouTube that I finally understood the appeal.

Now I get it. The staff is laid back and very service-oriented. I just dig the whole funky, proto-counter-culture vibe. Green but not pedantic. Prices are competitive too (thought they would be 'Whole Paycheck' high). Certain friends of mine like it because of all the attractive middle-aged women which shop there (they have rather un-gallantly taken to calling Trader Joe's 'MILF Mart').

The video was apparently created by some guy named Carl Willat using the video camera on his Palm Treo. It is exceedingly clever in its writing and editing and the tune is relentlessly catchy.

Intrepid researcher that I am, I determined that the tune is called Aguas de Marco, or the Waters of March. Written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, who did the music for Black Orpheus (my favorite movie). I downloaded the Jobim original recorded in 1974 with vocalist Elis Regina, though I haven't figured out how to (legally) link to it here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stormscapes, June 2009

All photos (c)2009 by Incorrigible Curmudgeon on my now-defunct Canon A570IS PowerShot point-and-shoot camera.

One of the reasons I've grown addicted to having a point-and-shoot camera on me at all times is so that when I come upon a storm brewing like this one as I left my job, right before the skies opened up, I can document it in my photographs.

Like today there was a horrific Metro train crash on the Red Line in DC. The only thing worse than being in the crash (aside from death or injury) would be being in it without your camera.

I'd rather not take that chance. I guess I'm just going to have to lug around my 3 lb. Nikon D200 DSLR until my new point-and-shoot arrives.

My point-and-shoot died

Landscape while walking the dog

Incorrigible Puppy, smiling

Incorrigible Puppy chillin' from sidewalk level

Fogscape while walking the dog

Artomatic: "Catharsis and Karma" by Deb Jansen (purported screed by the artist against the woman who slept with her husband. Note the so-called 'skank' dolls on side). I had to focus by hand because the motor that moves lens in and out to focus had started to die.

I primarily use two cameras these days: my workhorse digital SLR Nikon D200 and my point-and-shoot Canon A570IS PowerShot point-and-shoot camera which I keep parked on my belt and have with me everywhere I go, ever ready to capture anything I see--until now. Like most of the photos on this blog, and like these last few above (all photos by Incorrigible Curmudgeon (c) 2009) on my now-defunct Canon A570IS PowerShot point-and-shoot camera,
taken shortly before my camera crashed).

I know digital cameras are ubiquitous and cheap these days but I'm a professional and I'm picky about my cameras--even my point-and-shoots. I got the A570IS because it had an optical viewfinder (I need reading glasses to see the LCD screen on the back. Plus I don't feel all amateur-dorky looking through a viewfinder).

And the A570IS has manual override. I NEED to be able to set my own shutter speeds and f-stops. And I like having a camera powered by 2-AA batteries. I use re-chargeables and they last a long time. I keep a spare pair on me at all times so I'm never without a working camera

I think I paid about $130 for this puppy new a year-and-a half ago but now that it has died I find that Canon no longer makes anything comparable for under $500. Ditto Nikon and all the rest. All the Canon PowerShot cameras under $500 have dropped the Manual setting from their shooting choices, a colossal deal-breaker for me

That's why I'm left with two choices (in order to get a comparable and comparably-priced replacement): pay $135 to get it fixed at the go-to DC camera repair place, or take my chances on eBay. I've been trying to do the latter for a week now and I keep losing the cameras I bid on.

I know, there's always Amazon, and I usually swear by them, but the Canon A590IS is the only thing comparable to mine and Canon no longer makes it either (they used to list it for $129.99). It is going for $239.99 new on Amazon. All the other web venues are out of stock. My own Canon A570IS is now going for $299.99 new on Amazon! This is crazy.

Addendum: I finally won a bid on eBay for the Canon A590IS Powershot. Cost me $148.50 plus S&H. Whew!! Now all I have to do is wait. Damn, I feel naked without my camera.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

R.I.P., my brother

Some of you (okay, one of you) wanted to know what's up with me not posting since February 1st?

Well, this has been a very stressful Spring, beginning with my brother's illness. Then the college where I have spent my entire career and where I continue to toil began offering buy-outs and instituting mandatory unpaid furlough days, all in an effort to forestall RIFs and Layoffs (aren't they the same thing?). Those of us who opted to stay and take our chances so we could hold on to our health insurance are on pins and needles. It used to be like working for your family but now everyone's looking over their shoulders.

Thirdly, I turned 60 this Spring. Actually that part hasn't been that bad. My health is still sound (knock on wood) and my weight has been down and stayed down for the better part of a year (walking my puppy a mile first thing each morning rain or shine has certainly helped).

My friends and I have lost so many contemporaries these past few years that one friend postulated "if you can just make it through your 50s, you are home free." So it was actually with a sense of relief that I turned 60. So how did I celebrate? Ate some Whole Foods carrot cake with candles on it with my daughter and my dog.

Which brings me back to my brother. He was my baby brother and my only sibling. As army brats, we grew up traveling the world together (Japan, Germany, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, DC, MD, Virginia, and Texas), moving every three years or so, so that when we both made it to college we sprouted roots, me in DC and he in Texas. He loved Texas as much as I love DC (I've loved DC ever since second grade, my first stint here).

My brother and I grew up fighting like cats and dogs, yet as grownups we were always there for each other. Fiercely competitive, my brother prided himself on outdoing me in everything: athletics (he played football, baseball, basketball, and golf. I rowed crew), Boy Scouts (I made it to First Class, he went all the way to Life Scout, one rank shy of Eagle Scout), grad school (he earned his Masters in Business and Public Administration 10 years before I even entered graduate school), salary (he had a string of well-paying jobs. I've stayed in the same low-paying one my whole career). Hell, he even got laid first (not something I'm proud about). He got married first too, and then did it twice more. I quit after my first and only try. You name it, he took pride in doing it first or better, and I in turn prided myself on not letting on that I cared (and I didn't. No really I didn't). I did beat him at children though, I have one (and he doted on his niece), he had none.

By the time I was in 8th grade, he was taller and bigger than me so our whole lives people naturally assumed that he was the oldest. In all honesty it was probably more due to the (ironically) sober and purposeful way he carried himself.

My brother lived hard, played hard, and partied hard. He was one of the last of the 'Good-time Charlies,' a sobriquet he embraced with relish and tried to live up to for as long as he could. He used to joke that what was the point in giving up drinking, smoking, and fatty foods, since he wasn't going to live past 50 anyway? He started smoking at 11, drinking not long after, and he scoffed at his non-drinking, non-smoking, vegetarian older brother, particularly since I had my stroke first (a mild one, thank God).

Ultimately, all his challenges, health, personal, marital, and job-related, were related directly or indirectly to his depression, which, for most of his life went undiagnosed and untreated. Sadly, the Black community in general is squeamish about acknowledging, let alone seeking and getting help for, depression and other mental problems.

Still he was healthier than me about some things. He never let worry get to him the way I do. And he had a temper and was quick to vent instead of keeping it all inside the way I do. And most important he went to sleep when he was sleepy. I fight sleep with every fiber of my being and then want to sleep as late as possible, fully awakening only after drinking one of my prodigious mugs of coffee. My brother was famous for throwing parties in his house and then once the party was jumping disappearing to go to bed. To sleep. My brother was a morning person and loved to rise with the birds.

Among the things I admired about my brother I most admired his fearless freedom from vanity. I mean he could have cared less about what people thought of him, what he did, what he said. He could be vain about grooming (particularly his hair which he managed to hold onto for life) but he never lost a moment's sleep fretting over what people might think or say about him. While I was the one fearlessly jumping out of airplanes, getting my pilots license, driving motorcycles and skiing (okay not exactly fearlessly but I did it), he was the one who was fearless in life, particularly socially. He was the one winning a twist contest in his teens, and I'm the one still reluctant to get on the dance floor at all.

In February, I took my brother (who had just finished aggressive treatment for an advanced case of prostate cancer) to the emergency room with stroke symptoms. The first stroke was mild, milder than mine had been in fact. Then a day later he suffered a second stroke accompanied by seizures. This one left him barely conscious, unable to communicate other than through nods and shakes of the head in response to yes-no questions, and through squeezing my hand with his right hand (his only still-functioning hand).

A physician friend of mine said it was "locked-in syndrome" which I had only recently learned about after seeing Julian Schnabel's great film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" at Talk Cinema at the AFI. The character in the film, a true story, suffered a massive stroke and was left with his mind intact yet unable to move any of his body except for the eyelid of one eye. A therapist was astute enough to devise a way for him to to communicate with her by blinking this one eye every time she said the letter he intended as she painstakingly repeated the alphabet over and over awaiting his blink. In time he was able to dictate his memoirs (He had been a famous magazine editor, for French Elle, I believe). His memoir, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was published shortly before he died from complications related to the stroke. Definitely add it to your NetFlix queue if you haven't seen it, but I digress...

After 8 weeks of hospitalization, my brother's condition essentially unchanged, he suffered a third and final stroke leaving him completely comatose and he died two days later. He was 58 years old.

Looking back, I am not as sad as I would be had I not visited him all but two days out of that 8 weeks in the hospital.

Also, in recent years, as his challenges mounted, personal and health-related, I am happy that we always managed to get together for his birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I've learned the hard way not to leave oneself open to regrets about things left unsaid or issues left unresolved, so even though we spent much of those dinners together in awkward silences and small talk, at least we gave ourselves the opportunity to express ourselves. Neither of us was given to navel-gazing or talking about our 'feelings' (ew!) so we expressed ourselves in the only way we knew how, talking about family and sports and trivia. We both had a mind for trivia and when we were on the same team at Trivial Pursuit we were unbeatable!

We did not grow up in a touchy-feely family environment, though we were never in doubt about our parents' love or their pride in our accomplishments. One time a well-meaning friend guilted me into giving my father a hug. She was incredulous at the thought that I never had. My retired military father was so surprised he responded in the only way he could: with a perplexed "what's wrong, son?"

My brother would have been severely discomfited too had I tried to hug him. Once in the hospital, after my having complained about some aspect of his care, the hospital responded by sending him a music and massage therapist. I had to smile watching my brother getting his feet massaged as new-age music wafted through the air. While I am sure he enjoyed it (he likely hadn't ever had one or even considered getting one before) I could imagine him telling me "when I get well, I'm going to get you for this!" He disdained what he would have referred to as "all that new age hippie shit."

Same thing with the beard. While I have always been a liberal/progressive, tree-hugging, latter-day hippie kind of guy, my brother always played the conservative (I'm convinced it was just an attention-getting act). I think under all that bluster, he was actually a card-carrying contrarian. His brother was a hippie so he played the Alex Keaton of the family. His brother sported an afro and a life-long beard, so he affected the clean-shaven Black man look (what's more contrarian than a Black man with no facial hair?). His brother loved the R-words so he loudly proclaimed his love for the hated Dallas Cowboys, particularly during his years spent in and around DC.

I suppose I should feel guilty that, when he was essentially paralyzed those last several weeks, the nurse's aides would groom and trim his hair and the beard he had involuntarily begun to manifest. I always told him the beard was a good look for him whenever he'd take furtive steps toward growing one (which, contrarian that he was, was the surest way to guarantee that he'd quickly cut it all off).

On the morning when they called me to tell me he had passed away in the night, I went to see his body, say some things to him I couldn't/wouldn't say in life, and collect his things and I have to say, he looked down-right dapper in that salt-and-pepper goatee he was sporting. Naturally, I took some photos 'cause I'm a photographer and that's how I roll (actually that's how I distance myself from trauma).

In keeping with his wishes, he was cremated and I plan to spread his ashes in places that meant a lot to him: favorite golf courses, various places in Texas and New Mexico (he really dug the Southwest) and others I recall as time goes by. I have already spread some on our father's grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

Bottom line is I miss my brother a lot. He was always the charming, engaging, outgoing one and I was the shy quiet one. He had a gift for the witty put-down and a droll, cynical, world-weary sense of humor. He made friends easily, and everyone who took the time to know him loved him.

Though he once majored in religion ('pre-God' he called it) he was not much for church-going so we all thought the appropriate way to memorialize him was to throw him an 'Irish wake' at which friends and relatives would gather to toast to his memory. In May we did just that and the love and friendship and warmth we all shared through our remembrances of my brother made for an uplifting send-off.

My brother was a character and he lives on through the memories of those whose lives he enriched by his presence in them. Rest in peace.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Art-O-Matic 2009 is upon us

Just a reminder that Art-O-Matic 2009 is upon us, running from May 29-July 5th.

Each year they take over several floors of an empty office bldg. in or near DC (under construction or renovation) and provide space for a wide-ranging and diverse collection of artists to show their work.

Much of the art is quite good, some not so much, other work is tacky and many works are provocative for the sake of being provocative. You'll experience the whole range: from edgy and cutting edge to safe and boring, from work you would like to buy (some are available for sale) to work they couldn't pay you to take. The proverbial sacred and the profane.

In any case, its an art happening, pulsing with energy and live music, and its all free (donations are accepted).

Last year it was in one of those 'NOMA' bldgs. (real estate speak for 'North of Massachusetts Avenue') near the NY Avenue Metro stop.

This year it will be at 55 'M' Street, SE, a bldg. called Capitol Riverfront, near the new Nationals baseball stadium and directly above the Green line Navy Yard Metro station.

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, it runs:
Fri + Sat: noon - 1am
Wed, Thurs + Sun: noon - 10pm

As the website proclaims, it is "the wildest Free arts extravaganza on the East coast--275,000 square feet of unfiltered art on 9 floors. Five weeks of days and nights filled with amazing visual, music, dance, performance, film, workshops, and collaborative creative expression of every kind."

Who says you gotta go to New York to experience an art scene?