Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fear? Sanity? Sanity? Fear? We'll go with...

I'll go with a little bit of insanity. For the three or four of you who weren't on the Mall on Saturday for the Rally to Restore Sanity/Keep Fear Alive, it was a bit of a, hmmm, mad house. I heard an estimate on CNN that 200,000 people attended Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's throw down this past weekend. The anchor did take a bit too much satisfaction in relaying the news this was double the number people who came for the Glen Beck event in September.

Here's my photographic journey from Saturday. I should point out, these are not the best pictures I've ever taken. It was way too crowded for that and the light was really weird. But I think they're representative, especially in that there's none of the stage or any of the performers. I never got close enough to even see the stage. I did hear a bit. The Mythbusters doing something with a wave and Colbert emerging from his Fear Bunker. Aside from that, nada.

Anyway, we got an inkling of what the Mall would be like when we weren't able to get on the first two trains that came through the station because they were so full. When we arrived at Navy Memorial/Archives, it looked a little like this:
That was the ground-level shot with the camera held above my head. This next one is the bird's-eye view:

The signs were pretty interesting, for example:

Considering my love of The Princess Bride, this was one of my favorites:

Very funny ... Of course, considering the double meaning of the word, that might not be such a bad thing. On a side note, I can't believe there's a Wikipedia page for this.
Another of my favorites:

Somebody also had a sign reading, "Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others," a fine nod to the Treehouse of Horrors.

I find myself in agreement with Ben on this ...

Franklin didn't say this, but I'm sure he'd agree ...

This is looking west toward the Washington Monument. I have no doubt the 200k estimate is accurate. There were, to use a technical term, a metric fuck ton of people at the rally.


Well, I guess this answers that question ...

Is it really worth climbing up a light post to get a better view?

Or, for that matter, a porta shitter...

There's always one asshole in every crowd ... Seriously dude ...

And the winner for one of the best costumes of the day ... You can't see it in this shot, but it was an anatomically correct penis ...

Recycling is good, unless it's a protest sign from four years ago ...

And, on a lighter note, I saw this wonderfully decorated house up on Capitol Hill. Somebody takes their Halloween seriously ...

Hope everyone who went had a good time. Now, there's one thing left to do: Get out and vote tomorrow. Going to a rally is fine, but you've got to follow up on that enthusiasm.

Vote to restore sanity tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A special place in Hell

What could be cuter than dogs in Halloween costumes? Nothing, of course.

Although you do have to set aside the embarrassment these dogs must feel at being humiliated by their owners. I'm sure in Doggie Hell, there's a special place in the Sixth Circle for owners who dress their pets up in costumes.

Leaving aside their dogs' momentary mortification and shame, and the owners eternal (x7 since we're talking dog years) damnation, that doesn't mean the rest of us can't get a grin or two out of the dealio.

I'm just wondering how the heck they kept this little guy from shaking off the gator?

This might have been better if'n it were a shark or orca.

Does this count as cross-dressing in the canine world? Seriously, even though it's a lion, ya still dressed a dog up as a cat.

This dog is thinking, I'll get you back for this. Trust.

I've tried taking pictures of my brother's four kids. I've never gotten them all to sit still. Not once. How, in the name of Zeus's butthole, did they get four dogs, in costume, to sit still for a picture? I want to know.

OK, this one's not too bad.

A 10-legged spider? I think not.

Grandma, what big teeth you have...

"I can't believe they did this to me again this year."

As the great Sam Kinison said, "Can you do me a favor? If you see me working on the yard next week and around the house? Kill me. Kill me! Are you my friends? Don’t you love me? Do you remember when I was a man and I controlled my own destiny? KILL ME!"
Yeah, I find this one funny too.

I hope there's no water in that pot...

My question is, how did they get the cat to go along?

See, I can't tell if he's Darth Vader or Dark Helmet.

I don't know if I'd want to be the one putting on, or better yet, taking off, a doggie thong.

"Really? Seriously? After all I've done for you over the years, this ... This! ... is my reward? Thanks a lot. No, I mean that."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Four freedoms

“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear – anywhere in the world.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress, January 6, 1941

Anyone know what today is the anniversary of? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

On this day, 124 years ago (1886 for those who don’t want to do the math) Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. The NYT article from that day begins: “The statue of Liberty yesterday was seen through a mist darkly. Piercing winds blew around Bedlow's Island, and the numerous workmen, who were not in any way protected from the weather, worked uncomfortably.”

The description of the weather from Oct. 27, 1886, I think, also describes the political climate we see throughout America today, five days out from the midterm election. Liberty is, indeed, shrouded in a dark mist. At a time when compromise is needed, many Americans are getting set to elect leaders who will do their best to divide us more than ever.

My brother once posed a simple question to me, which I in turn ask you: Does the United States have a two-party system?

Seems like an easy one, but it's not. As much as one side likes to call the other socialists, and they like to respond with fascist (which are indeed two distinct parties), what we have here is a failure to comun’cate. In America we have a one party system. A one-party system divided by ideology since both parties actually believe in democracy. They just have a different way of showing it and different ideas on how it should be implemented.

Contrary to popular beliefs, President Bush was no more a fascist than President Obama is a socialist. If responding to an attack on our country however badly carried out (the response, not the attack) is fascism, and wanting to provide health care to all, however badly conceive, is socialism, well then, sign me up for both newsletters.

I remember being the only guy in my Marine platoon to vote for Bill Clinton. Interestingly enough, even in that supposedly radically conservative environment, it wasn't enough to generate more than a comment or two.

Fast forward to the present day and it seems differing political views are enough to set neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother. Strangely enough, I had one woman tell me she couldn't date me because I wasn't liberal enough, and another a year or so later end a relationship because I was too liberal. To me, that would seem to mean I'm doing it just about right.

Sadly, political tolerance has become the exception rather than the rule in this country. Some recent headlines:

Head Stomp Victim: Paul Supporters Planned It

Violent rhetoric on the trail

Miller security guards handcuff editor

Yes, I know all three of these examples involve Tea Party-backed Republican candidates. However, if I’d heard of a Democratic candidate’s security guards handcuffing a reporter at a public event, you can be sure I’d take note of it.

To me the first article, the one about Rand Paul’s supporters, brings to mind images of Bull Conner’s bull whips, fire hoses and attack dogs. Silencing an opposing political voice through violence is not the American way. Neither is shouting them down, I’d like to point out. I truly thought we’d moved beyond stepping on someone’s head or voice as a political act.

Seems I was wrong.

I seem to remember there being a question on a couple of different forms I filled out for my security clearance asking “Have you ever advocated the violent overthrow of the United States?” Now tell me, how can someone running for a seat in the Senate truthfully answer “no” to that question if they’ve said “Americans might seek Second Amendment remedies to their problems with government”? How can they honestly say “I do” when they are asked to swear or affirm they will support and defend the constitution of the United States as they take the oath of office?

I don’t think they actually understand the Constitution if they feel this way.

One of the most important things I learned at the School of Journalism of Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina is that the First Amendment wasn’t the first amendment. It was actually the third. The real first amendment didn’t pass and the second amendment finally passed in 1992 (202 years after introduction) becoming the 27th Amendment.

However, even if they weren’t first, these words are not a bad basis for governing: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Read those words again carefully. There are candidates out there who believe there should be a state-sponsored religion. They believe in censoring speech and muzzling the press. They believe it’s OK to attack people who gather to ask them questions they don’t want to answer.

We all deserve the four freedoms Roosevelt talked about in 1941, especially freedom from Fear itself. I should not be afraid to express myself in public. I should not be afraid to go to the church, synagogue, mosque or temple of my choice. I should not be afraid to go to a doctor because I’m worried I won’t be able to pay the bill.

For the past 10 or so years I’ve been a firm believer in the need for a third party in this country. Sadly, I thought it would arise from the voters in the middle who’d lost their voices to the fringes of both parties. How could we have known it would explode from the far right?

There are some ugly things happening and being said today in this country. Things I'm sure our founders would cringe at. If they could figure out how to forge this country despite their differences – and they had some doozies – I'd like to think we could rediscover that spirit of compromise. You gotta meet the other guy halfway.

In the end, absolutism never works for anyone.

The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.

– P.J. O’Rourke, Parliament of Whores

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Difference

As the old saying goes: The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

Well, I found the next expensive toy I want. Behold, I give you the new MacBook Air (the 13-inch one with the big hard drive).

Isn't it pretty?

Oh so, pretty...

And thin. So very, very, very thin.

My only concern is that it may be too slim and sleek, i.e.: How careful do I have to be with it? Does it have the cojones to stand up to my giant paws? We'll see.
Now I just have to squirrel the Benjamins over the next month or so in keeping with my new policy of only buying things I can actually afford.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eastern Market...The answer to life, the universe and everything

Well, at least it was for me on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. As I'm sure we've all heard by now - ad nauseum - Sunday was 10/10/10. Or, if you prefer: 10-10-10. Or, one more time: 101010, which, strangely enough, is 42 ... in binary. Hence the title of this post.

["Please Lord," he prayed silently but fervently, "don't let me be the only one who gets the joke."]*

It was bright and sunny so I decided to head out with the camera, brave the Orange and Blue line shutdowns, and take some pictures. But where should these pictures be taken? Well, Eastern Market on a Sunday is, as Goose once said, "a target-rich environment." Photographically speaking, of course.

Instead of boring you to death with 10 or 15 pictures, I've picked out just six today to tantalize you and direct you to my Flickr photostream for the rest (there's 23 more).

Warning! Photographic knowledge ahead! Warning! Unlike the pictures here, (OK, the last set I put up) Sunday I was experimenting with very, very big apertures, f/2.8 generally speaking. What this does is pick a point in space and focus on it and other objects not at that point are going to be out of focus. This is especially fun when you're shooting faces in a crowd and you want just one to be ... well ... the focus of the picture. I tried that a bit here, hope you like them.

Have you ever noticed how many people are selling mirrors at Eastern Market on Sundays? I sometimes feel as if I'm about to be interrogated for a crime I didn't commit. Anyway, in this picture, I think I managed to get parts of four different people reflected in five mirrors.

These guys were playing some fantastic bluesy guitar music. I would have hung around longer, but some woman passed out right next to them and that was my signal to exit stage left. This is a good example of a very shallow depth of field. The player in the background is in focus, but the hands of the closer one are not.

Please note, if you will, the sweet smell of success there on the right. If that doesn't do it for you, perhaps the wet kisses in the middle are more your speed.

These almost make me wish my nephew was still in onesies. But he's not, he's four and more fun to play with anyway.

This woman's face jumped out of the crowd at me. I don't know why, perhaps it's because it seems like although she's surrounded by people, she's created her own space.

And, remember, remember the sixth of February (hmmm, not as catchy as "the fifth of November..." but it'll do). That tan-and-orange hat on top of the pile on the right? It's got a fringy 'fro thing going on. I almost bought it.

For more pictures, go to my Flickr page. Or you can click on the link over there on the right side of the page.

*The answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. If you don't know that, go read a book.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Up early on Saturday morn

Just before my head hit the pillow Friday night, I told myself if I could drag myself out of bed when my clock went off at 6 the next morning, I'd try to get some pictures of the sunrise over the Mall. Well, believe it or not, I did.

To prove I was up in time to see the sunrise on a Saturday morning, I took some pictures. Come to think of it, this was the third consecutive Saturday where I saw the sunrise, the last two being due to bike rides. Going to have to sleep in one of these days. Anyway, here are the pictures of my early morning adventures.

7:02:01 a.m.
Latitude N 38° 53' 18"
Longitude W 77° 4' 3"

One of the things I was trying to do was shoot some very small apertures, and all of these were shot at f/22 the smallest available on my zoom lens. What this allows is very deep depth of field - both the Lincoln Memorial and the dome of the Capitol are in focus despite being almost three miles apart. It also let me mess with the light levels with the shutter speeds. And that was fun.

Also, if you will please notice, I now have the power of Global Positioning for my pictures. Yes, my newest toy is a GPS unit I can attach to my camera. I. Am. Man. Anyway, back to to the pictures, which I should mention all have the same location.
7:05:46 a.m.

I kinda like the way this one goes from black through the yellows and oranges, and into the azure blue of the sky all the while the Washington Monument stabs through all of the colors from the shadow.
7:07:54 a.m.

The photo below is the exact same picture as the one above...only different. Literally, it's the same exposure, I just did the brightness and contrast levels just the slightest little bit different. I usually don't mess around that way too, too much with my pictures, but I like the way this one turned out. I guess you could call it a modern-day dark room accident.

7:07:54 a.m.

7:10:12 a.m.

I kinda like the way there's just a hint of sun hitting the memorial and the Capitol. Just a hint of the day to come.

7:13:42 a.m.

And then BOOM! The sun's up and the day's begun. Then it was off to Bruegger's for an everything bagel with cream cheese and some chocolate milk. All in all, a pretty good way to start the morning.