Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm on the case Sherlock!

Today's post is mainly for Michelle Le, it's a little inside but she'll know what it means... but the rest of the world can use this as an excuse to check out some cool light and think of other ways to use an extender as a magnifying glass.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: Developing Kawit, Cavite

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays, a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week, I've decided to start this new feature.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

This week I take a look at Developing Kawit, Cavite, a look at the conflicts they arise when goverment interests and citizen interests come into a direct head-on collision.

The families that live along Boracay Blvd in Kawit, Cavite, Philippines are being asked to abandon their homes to make way for new factories and roads. Clearly it the type of story that deserves to be told, and by going multimedia photographer Diana Diroy is able to allow the story to tell itself in it's own words.

In Diroy's own words, via Daniel Sato:

According to residents living there, the area that they have been residing at for almost all their lives—some about 50 years— are being asked to leave because the space they are occupying is government owned. The government is now planning to develop roads, buildings, and factories and need the residents to leave. Some have no where to go and are asking for some kind of compensation to start over. Some are given money that is not enough, and some have had their houses demolished without given a cent.

Many residents who have revolved their lives around fishing, find themselves jobless because fish no longer occupy the water that is polluted from the rubble and garbage of the demolition. Many residents have no where to go and have no money to support their families….

I particularly like a sequence in the middle where the subject is walking to his home and the photographer inter cuts the home life of the subject. A good way to play with the narrative that shows that sometimes going chronological isn't always the best decision.

Very cinematic and I loved it.

Also the way new voices are introduced is simple and elegant in design and gets across everything you need to know and still remains un-intrusive.

The audio is well done and I get the sense that a lot of thought was put into them, particularly the transitional ambient sounds. However, I heard a few "uh-huh" type sounds from Diroy on the audio that should have been removed.

One suggestion I'd have is to stitch the panorama in the opening and pan across it to remove the herky-jerky movement.

And if you're wondering where the subtitles are, Diroy assured me that subtitles were coming soon. So stay tuned.

Diroy has sure come a long way in a very short time, I can't wait to see what she throws at us next.

*Full disclosure: Diroy is a close personal friend, but that doesn't mean it's not good work... yea, that's my story.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quick hits: when isn't enough

A couple of things that I've found in the last few days that are pretty awesome, IMHO... let's go!

The Roanoke Times continues to push the envelope online and today I stumbled across a series with the staff photographers called Photos of the Year, where the staff talks about their favorite captures and the stories behind those images.

My only wish, please create these for everyone and make it a tab on their profiles. I love these and so far the only option I've found is to refresh the page over and over for more.

Constantine Manos' Magnum piece, "American Color" is a case study in how and why to use color. Manos provides commentary that provides insights into how a BW shooter discovered and developed into a color shooter. Be sure to listen carefully as he talks about his pelican and boy picture, he nails what the decisive moment is all about.

When I was going over my portfolio for Eddie Adams with Dai Sugano and Richard Koci Hernandez of the Mercury News, one thing they made a point of asking was if the color was helping to tell the story in my images. As an experiment, try looking at the images and ask how different they would be without the color. It's a necessity! How many images can we say that about?

And I mentioned it in another post, but I gotta mention it again, this NPR broadcast is a must. If you haven't heard Paul Watson yet, do it!

And here's a fun Flickr Vegas set from Noah K, the latest guy to do the old "take a picture of myself" bit and become an internet curiosity, but even if he is riding his 14th minute already, the man is undeniably talented. This is an amusing set that hearkens back the days with postcards ruled the land, complete with rounded corners.

Lastly, just for fun (and to have five because I'm OCD about it for some reason) here's a fun website from deep deep within my own delicious feed. Now you to can be just like Jackson Pollock, only without the dancing and ballet music.

Well that's that for now, let me know if you like this stuff and maybe I'll do it more often.


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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Has America lost its mind?

In the span of the last week we've had:

The taser kid, Andrew Meyer starts asking too many questions and annoyingly disrupts a political forum with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Kerry claims later not to have seen a thing and that it happened in another room. Pretty spine-less senator, the video shows the truth. You were in the same room and saw and heard it all, where do you get off? You obviously were overwelmed by the situatition and asked people to calm down, but you shouldn't have let it happen. This man wanted to be our president and he couldn't even react to step in and stop 6 cops from tackling and tasering one man. On the other had, it's the most excitement ever at a Kerry forum.

Former CBS newsman Dan Rather is asking some tough questions and getting heat from all sides in his $70 million lawsuit against his former employer. And trust me, it's not about the money, think about it, you can't have a civil suit without damages. He describes the lawsuit and the fallout from his for Larry King.

The story hasn't moved beyond journalism circles, but it's a big one IMO. Rather is basically saying that corporate interests (i.e. media conglomeration and advertising) and political interests have hijacked broadcast journalism and systematically under reports or buries unfaltering news in relation to economic and personal bonds.

This is major, and the reason why I feel that TV news has lost its way and isn't as reliable as newspapers. Why isn't this a bigger deal? Reporters are being stopped from reporting, the basis of the free flow of information is under question.

This week the House decided to vote on an advertisement by ran in the New York Times, effectively giving them tons more publicity than their $65,000 ad could ever have bought them. The ad questioned Gen. David Petraeus' testimony to congress about Iraq by, among other things, referring to the man as "Gen. Betray Us?"

The general responded and the House naturally put everything else on hold and decided

The resolution passed and everyone agreed that had gone too far in attacking Petraeus. Everyone got in an uproar about the first amendment and free speech and what not.

But two things come to mind for me. One, why are we wasting our government resources on such stupid things and two, look at the wording of the resolution. They're not saying that MoveOn should not have done it, it says that they don't condone attacking our military members or Petraeus' character in critical verbal or written attacks.

Hello all you guys in an uproar, did you really expect any member to not vote for this? Look at the fall out, the few democrats that voted against it, the republicans are already spinning it to say they are un-American. (Maybe we should just get another HUAC to get rid of these traitors... oh wait we already did, it's called the Patriot Act... just check back in 50 years, that's how history will define this time.) This isn't about free speech or Iraq, it's about political name-calling across the hall.

And here's something that I just have no words to describe:

... what? ...

In other news that's hardly getting any play, Hillary Clinton's giving health care another stab.

This is major and has the potential to change all of our lives in a profound way.. yet where are we talking about it? I'm not even going to pretend I've researched it myself, because when I search Google, I can't find a single unbiased sourced of information.

There's still more, a top democratic fund raiser, Norman Hsu
was arrested on a train, naked... but not for being naked. He was arrested on charges steaming from New York and accused of swideling people out of $60 million, much of it he donated to Democratic candidates.

Personally I think this is another major story and we should use it to start really taking a hard look at champaign financing reform, and I mean seriously this time. Not the usual make it a champaign topic every four years and then conduct business as usual for another four years after January 1st.

I think we should take Canada's example and cap each candidates funding at half a million. It'll level the playing field for one, but more beneficial to America, it severely limits the power of lobbyist and corporate interests in government.

Whoever has the money has the power, let's give some of that power back to the people.

Has America lost its mind? What is going on and why aren't we talking more about this stuff? Then again maybe I'm being an elitist, thinking these topics are important and trying to make them so.

But perhaps these issues aren't very important, I mean if we talked about this stuff who would report on Britney Speers, which route OJ took to the airport after bail, who is Anna Nichols' baby's dada, Kid Nation is premiering on CBS, the NFL's Patriots may be cheaters, Angelia and Brad are adopting, Kanye and 50 are (fake) beefin' (to sell records), NBC's Heroes is coming back, DMX pulled a McNabb, or any of the other much more important and pressing matters.


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Friday, September 21, 2007

So far no sour kraut

I've been in Albuquerque about a month now and Weird Al was right, so far no sour kraut, but they do have a ton of green chile.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

How'd this happen?

A former editor recently dropped me a line and pointed out that for a photographer I sure haven't been posting many pictures to SLR... so, here we go as today we ask, how'd this happen?

It must be some sick twisted joke.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

That's all folk!

Well, I'm a bit swapped today with a ton of work and projects on the back burner, so I thought I'd let an old friend take over SLR and do the posting for the day.

Take a look and let me know how he does, it's sometimes hard to tell what he's saying so don't feel embarrassed if you have to have him repeat something.

(And yes, this is the post of the day :) Enjoy!)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: Burning Man

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays, a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week, I've decided to start this new feature.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

I hope you guys (both of you) enjoy it.

This week take a look at The Las Vegas Sun's coverage of Burning Man, the annual week long gathering in a dry lake bed in Nevada that celebrates... well... just about anything.

I've been watching this site for a while and it seems they've finally put up the last of the updates, so let's take a look at the goodies.

They've got blogs, slideshows and videos, but it's not any one thing that is done well on the site, it is the site itself. I like how the Sun dedicated a special section to the web, the same way the print side would generate a pull-out section or Sunday tab on the latest events.

Another newspaper that gets it. A pull-out may sell some ads and tell people what happened on a particular Sunday, but online it does a community service and acts to document history.

Others have talked about using the web to go hyper local or cover an event in new ways, but I've never seen it pulled off with such finesse. There is a large variety of coverage, from a nice video on being out in a sand storm to 360x360 panoramas of art installations to personal diaries from the scene.

There is just so much going on, that it's hard to single out any particular singular thing. I'll just say, this is the most inspiring thing I've seen online in recent memory.

I e-mailed the mastermind behind the project, Zach Wise, the Sun's newly hired multimedia editor, and a name you may recognize from "Soul of Athens" to ask him a few questions about his motivation and the process. It's been over a week, and so far no response. Understandably he's most likely busy, just look at the site.

This is amazing and I am inspired.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Photoshop on your iPhone!

Awesome! Now you can edit photos on the go, and it's the same complete version as your laptop/desktop!

Double awesome!!

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Friday, September 14, 2007

I got a flat tire

I don't get it... first the laptops and now a flat tire.

It's almost the worst thing that can happen, especially after I had just come home from shooting the University of New Mexico football game until 12am and had to be up at 5am for a marathon.

Being a young hungry intern, you don't complain, you set your alarm for 4am and charge your batteries. But when I got up, there it was. Looking back at me like a bloated dead-weight passed-out frat boy from the football the night before, it didn't look like I was going anywhere.

You gotta roll with the punches I guess.

But wait, there's more... one of my two work issued camera bodies decided to take a nap on me. I'm hoping it's a short, but when you have a camera that won't respond to anything, motherboard board concerns start to enter into the equation.

It's not easy being a poor journalist... if anyone has any leads on a part time job, let me know.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Postcards from the road to ABQ

While I was driving over to ABQ, as I tend to do, I jotted a few my thoughts on the scraps of paper within arms reach.

Here's a few of the sights and sounds I noticed on the road to Albuquerque...

-The way it worked out, to cross over to Arizona I had to cross the bottom tip of Nevada, which was a ten-minute drive past one casino. Seriously.

-Whoo-hoo we're in Arizona now! If I was filming this, this is where I'd have a long silence followed by a bored face. (No offense AZ, that's just comedy... and you're boring.)

-The gasoline in Arizona smells like the gas in California used to, like when I was a kid. That garlic-like scent that smelled kinda good, but was not at all a good idea to sniff from the car while your dad was filling up the tank. We did some stupid things as kids.

-Hello Flagstaff, AZ. Pretty cool place, it's a little touristy, but it somehow still fells real. Hunger was calling, I hadn't ate in 15 hours, it was time to score some grub. I didn't want to have the normal fast food so Lonely Planet clued me in on a Mediterranean restaurant with a southwest kick that was inexpensive. I spent about half an hour looking for it, at one point I manage to go the wrong way down the ONLY one way street in town. All that to find out that the reason I can't find the place is because it went out of business. I guess Planet was wrong, it's wasn't an institution.

-I'm so glad my car has air conditioning, although it's not so bad. I think the humidity in Miami and NYC helped me develop a whole new tolerance.

-Stars at night.... wow, I wish I could go camping in the desert and just stare up at the stars all night long. What a show. People out here may be used to it, but seeing a meteor shower in a pitch black landscape is a luxury I had not been privy to before. Now the thought in the back of my head of what creepy craw-lies might be around my feet is a luxury I don't want to have.

-Cross off two major rivers from the list. Cruised by the Colorado River in Arizona and later the Rio Grande in ABQ. Nothing special... they're narrow bodies of water moving downhill... I saw 'em... whoop.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Time out Tuesdays: The Shock Doctrine

Welcome back to Time out Tuesdays.

In a continuing effort to share the stories that resonate with me and to keep myself constantly spelunking for the very best in photojournalism week after week, I've decided to start this new feature.

Every week, I'll post up a new photo story, video, picture or multimedia piece that I think gets it right and is worth taking a look at for study, ideas, appreciation and inspiration.

I hope you guys (both of you) enjoy it.

This week take a look at "The Shock Doctrine," a short film by Alfonso Cuarón (if you haven't see "Children of Men" yet, go see it, if only for the technical skill of film making) and Jonás Cuarón on disasters and the government, corporate and social response to such events, inspired by author Naomi Klein's book of the same name.

Aside from the topic and the discussions that come out of it (I've already made plans to pick up the book), from a technical stand point their is much going on here.

The audio is in many ways more essential than the visuals, just try watching it without the sound and see how different the experience is. Not to say the visuals are not worthy of their own merits. I like the inter-cutting of graphic elements with archival footage to create a sense of new and old, coming together to make it fresh yet familiar.

For photojournalist, this piece reminds us that multimedia isn't only about the images. Yes, the images are important, after all that is why 99.9% of us decided to commit ourselves to poverty to do this with our lives, but I find that sometimes with multimedia, some of us forget the 'multi' part.

Sound, graphics and text are important tools for a good multimedia presentation, having seen this short film today, it's hard to image if any one of these elements were removed, that it would be better for it.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Our first multimedia

The University of New Mexico Lobo's charged the field in their home opener against the New Mexico Aggies and we decided to give it the old Joe Wise college try.

Click the image to check it out.

Fellow ABQ intern Morgan Petroski suggested it after realizing it's most likely the biggest game of the season and the first home game (she was right) and I decided to extend my 8am to 5pm shift to midnight (don't worry editors, I wasn't paid overtime for it) to help out.

She ended up needing a recorder so with a quick rundown of how to use mine she was off and running, recording all the sounds of the packed crowd and then sitting down to edit it together.

Meanwhile staff photographer Jim Thompson and myself took pictures of the game and the rowdy crowd and provided some of the sights of the game (read the captions to see who shot what).

The piece didn't take long to put together, Morgan starting putting it together in the car as I drove us back the office and she bounced ideas off me throughout the process.

As you can see from the end result, it came together pretty well.

I think we made a good team, so well that I'm actually trying to think of new projects for us to work together on in the future.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Mercury News Photo gets a new look

Yet another redesign over at the merc, there's something to this whole self-taught thing that I have yet to learn.

I was feeling a little something for home and decided to check out the local news, wowza, someone's been busy!

While there take a look at SF Fashion Week (there's a really awesome shot at the 33 second mark) and Boardwalk (it makes me a little misty eyed for the coastal town and all the memories I made there).

This is very much an improvement on what was already an industry leader. Seriously, any other photo staff out there, you should demand to get this same respect as anyone else in the newsroom.

I'm pretty much preaching to the choir I understand. Many newspapers have realized this, but it's not happening everywhere, and it needs to. But while many papers do have an online component to their photo operations now, they miss one major step.

Look at the photo websites of the Washington Post, the Naples Daily News, the New York Times, the Rocky Mountain News, etc. The leaders IMHO of the multimedia newsroom, and you'll notice one major component missing that the Merc incorporates. (Only the Roanoke Times comes anywhere close to the Merc, that I've seen.)

There isn't a photographer's tab (lower right corner on the Merc). That's the biggest innovation on the site, because as a reader it gives me a chance to find other work by the same shooter, as a student it helps me get to know the staff and as a businessman it helps me build a brand around my shooters and market as such.

There is no reason why a photo staff should not have a place to showcase their work, not to mention that establishing such a space creates an expectation to create work to showcase.

It sparks creativity and allows us to do what many of us got into the business to do- tell the stories that matter to us. In the past our only option was gallery shows or books, today we can do it online and still reach the same audience, if not more.

And it's in the best interest of the paper to build a visual brand. Take a look at the Merc site again, those banner ads were not there before. What? ... Making money on the web? What? It can be done? What?! (Do I have your attention now?)

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

What is truth?

As journalist, our stories go into the paper and inform the public today, but in time it becomes history and if that history is built on lies, then we become a nation of lies.

But how do we define truth and when does something become truth? We once believed that using leeches as a medical remedy was a truth. Weapons of mass destruction were sold as a truth. Up to a few weeks ago scientist had to reexamine the truth of dark matter.

I don't have a simple answer to this, this is just the type of fascinating stuff that I like to think about (other topics include: How is memory stored in the brain, will nano technology lead to cameras we can wear over our eyes and fire by blinking and how do they get those widgets into cans of Guinness?)

I think it's important to think about these things, especially as journalist we have a gatekeeper's responsibility to ask the sometimes rude questions and pursue every angle so that truth will emerge.

We have no other choice but to get it right and get it right the first time, and if you think otherwise, perhaps you should look into another line of work. For one, fiction pays more.

War and Truth is a recent documentary that looks into the history of war, from WWII to today and examines the way we cover it, what our government controls and how truth and history is shaped by these actions.

And unlike Fahrenheit 9/11 or OutFoxed or Fahrenhype 9/11 it tries to do so in a balanced approach where truth is paramount and no judgment is made on the part of the film. (Also see Why we Fight, Fog of War and Capturing the Friedmans if you're into good journalistic documentaries done right.)

And it doesn't pull any punches: "If people are going to vote for war and we are gonna put this nation at war, we ought to know something about it," says Roger Peterson, former ABC coorespondant who was seriously injured in Vietnam, in the film. (Bonus: Ted Koppel name drops him in this excellent speech to the Overseas Press Club.)

The focus of the film is journalist and how war is covered. They speak with journalist from every era and from all sides, from the mainstream free press to the internal military press. It also asks why this is important, for journalist to take such large risks to do the job. According to Committee to Protect Journalists 112 journalist have been killed in Iraq as of today (10 more since the May 07 statistics the film uses).

There has to be a reason why we do this.

One more thing, Helen Thomas is a firecracker. I've never felt compelled to reference the 40s and call anyone a "fire cracker" before, but there you are. She's a firecracker.

Other's have also examined the essence of truth.

Steven Colbert (yeah like his ego needs a link) has made a career out of coining words like truthiness.

The Washington Post's Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran wrote all about his struggle to report on Iraq in the book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City."

Sig Christenson of the San Antonio Express-News recently wrote a commentary on his struggles and frustrations with both sides, but in particular he takes journalist to task for not asking those tough questions and questioning the given truths.

Last week I was listening to NPR and tuned into to an engaging hour with Paul Watson, and his story of the 1994 Pulitizer Prize winning photograph (warning, the image is very graphic, otherwise I would not be linking to it instead of posting it) of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu,Somalia that still haunts him.

I can't mention everything, but one thing in his story what struck a cord was his reality of what images the Pentagon, wire services and newspapers would allow and reject and thus in turn how this would shape the history of events. In once instance he moved some images of American soldiers whose body parts were being flung about, they didn't run but the word was out and questions were being asked. According to Watson, the Pentagon denied it as truth and claimed it never happened, in turn this became the new truth of the events.

I can't recommend it enough, you should give it a listen, it's very good.

Even Dr. Seuss was shaping the message as a political cartoonist for New York City's tabloid magazine "PM" during WWII.
Dr. Seuss may be a surprise, but it shouldn't be. Political cartoonist are often at the forefront of challenging norms and asking the tough questions.

Its a topic Professor Dennis Dunleavy has been examining in relation to the current war. In his research (which I guess he hasn't published yet) he's found that in the case of Iraq and in particular Guantanamo Bay, it was the daily newspaper cartoonist who were challenging our excepted truths.

The nature of truth is a very delicate balance. As journalist we are taught to inform and present our findings without any sign or hint of an opinion. There's a very obvious reason for this, one that I hope should be very clear and evident by now.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Less pin-up, more set-up

I’ve never had cable TV before, but at my new place I’ve been watching it a bit and I’ve noticed there are a lot of advertisements with scantily clad women and commercials of models having their picture taken.

My roommate also buys a bunch of tuner magazines and these always have scantily clad women all over them as well.

A quick search for “model shoot” on Google’s video search just now, turned up pages of segments with models having their pictures taken with flashes popping and bad music playing.

Where am I going with this?

You know what I’d like to see, less of the scantily clad women, bad music and random beeps and flashes and more of the behind the scenes set-up from the photographers.

With my rejuvenated interest in lighting, I think it’s be cool to see photographers break down how they do what they do.

I haven’t found to many places where I’ve seen this, but last fall when I brought Michael Grecco to San Jose State University to speak, he showed us a time lapse video of a recent shoot that really helped break it down.

Also from time to time Strobist posts about set-ups and includes some videos from other folks.

And although he doesn’t do it often enough, when Kevin German talks about his newest studio project, it’s a treat.

I think there’s a niche here that could be filled by NPPA, PDN, Stobist, the Discovery Channel, MTV (“I wanna be a fashion photographer,” huh MTV? Wanna sign me on to produce? It is my idea) or some enterprising blogger. Why not create a 3min video segment that walks us through how a shoot was done and actually talks to us about the craft rather than just throwing bad techno over lazy footage.

And that’s my thought of the day.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Time out Tuesdays

Welcome to Time out Tuesdays, where we stop for a moment and take a break from our hectic daily assignments and blistering pace of deadlines, errands, reporting and trying to remember to slip a lunch in there and instead take a deep breath and remind ourselves why we do this by peeping some inspiration.

It's a a new feature on SLR where every week I will post a link to a piece that is inspiring me, and trust me it won't be the usual stuff you might be thinking of.

You might be wondering why am I doing this.

After all, we've got Journerdism, Multimedia Shooter (Oh Richard thank you for the new design), News Videographer (seriously Angela, sleep), Mindy McAdams, the Center for Innovation in College Media (one of my projects was once featured there, no that's not bragging... okay a little) and Interactive Narratives(which I hope isn't as dead as it looks... it hasn't been a year yet). Not to mention Daniel also jumped on the trend recently as well.

So why?

It's simple, first you can't have to much of a good thing. Second, it's important to always have your pulse on what is developing and to look for inspiration wherever it is.

So while I may be providing both my readers a small service, it's mostly a selfish act that will give me the motivation to constantly seek out the cream of the crop and re-examine what I aspire to.

If you're wondering why Tuesdays, because that's my day off from the Albuquerque Journal.

This week I grappled with the idea of what will take the honor of being the first selection ever (well, my mom thinks it's a big honor... are you calling my mom a liar?) and after trying to find a few things I wanted to find, but couldn't I ran across this Magnum in Motion produced piece on David Hurn and his photographs of the The Beatles on the set of A Hard Days Night (an excellent film for inspiration BTW).

I like it for its seamless marriage of historical narrative and new-media MTV editing. Plus there's some very nice play with typography that adds to the production. It's an archival documentary with a new media twist, and it's done right.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Vanity and fairness?

I've been away for some time, running here and there and everywhere, but I finally got a chance to check out Vanity Fair's July issues with the 20 different covers with various people in the public eye all posing and strutting for their support of Africa.

Hmm.... it's cool and all, but one thing... how come zero covers shot in Africa? Something seems off here.

I fear that everyone is saying one thing, doing another and fully failing to grasp the concept of what and why they are doing something.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another one bites the dust

No I'm not talking about Alberto Gonzales and the mass exodus of the Bush administration, I'm talking about my laptop battery.

Yup, it can't hold a charge anymore, and I've been very limited in my online time. Darn.

I thought that only happened to Apple folks, seriously how many of you have not had to change the battery yet? And no I'm not Apple bashing, I'm just saying I'd rather spend $300 less on my tools.

But that's not all folks... on my other laptop I now have two half-inch long bars of dead pixels. This thing was brand new in February, WTF!

And finally, oh yes the computer woos continue, on my work issued laptop (this one's an Apple BTW) the screen degrades into a blurry pixelated mush every time I bring it out of sleep mode. No one knows what's going on, but fellow ABQ Journal staffer Richard Pipes thinks it may have taken a bad fall in Iraq (great, even my laptop is a better traveling than me).

Yay technology!

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart?

*Warning! Today's post deals with some intense social issues and may not be suitable for anyone. If you're hoping for the usual zany post on SLR today, I'm afraid this one isn't it. It started out that way, but didn't end up that way. I have hesitated publishing this for some time, afraid that my message would be lost in the delivery, but today I've decided to post it...

Back in the Bay Area before the Simpson's Movie came out, there was a 7-11 promotion which had designed some stores to look like Kwik-E-Mart.

I got a chance to very quickly stop and take a look and... A part of me would be offended... but darn it, it's the Simpson's and it's just to cool!

I especially like the attention to details, like the Krusty O's and Buzz Cola.

I won't go into how Apu has become the face of Indian-Americans, or East Asians, or Eastern Middle Eastern or South Asians, or sand ni**ers (yes, I've been called that) or Fazians or whatever you guys are calling us this week.

Or how much that sucked growing up, having our only identifiable image in the media be a sterotypical 7-11 store clerk who lives and dies by his store and its sky high prices and can achieve that American Dream of hard rock, fast times and a Trans-Am if only he can sell one more slushed ice drink while avoiding being shot one to many times (50cent has nothing on Apu... I wonder if his name has anything to do with the Apu Trilogy).

Haha, I sell Slurpies and work at 7-11, it is to laugh. Haha. (And your dad sits on a couch all day looking in the cushions for loose change for those Slurpies while he has to constantly remind himself that your sister is off-limits but you're okay. But lucky for you, because tonight he's to drunk on moonshine he made in the tub out of an assortment of whatever was under the sink to get up and do anything to you... whoa whoa whoa! I gotta be careful, there could be children reading this.)

Thanks Apu for keeping that image alive, I know it was tough with the LA Riots and the Korean grocery store clerk from "Menace II Society" and that fat guy from New Jersey challenging your store clerk dominance, but you persevered.

He's our most identifiable personality, and he's animated to boot! WTF?!

I remember the first time I saw an Indian person on TV, seriously, I was 11 or 12 and it was a Saturday and a commercial for AT&T came on and in it an Indian grandfather in India was talking to his grandson in America. I remember it in that much detail, it was that monumental for an 11-year-old to see someone that looked like him on TV.

Years later CNet would have a series of ads with an Indian man in a yellow shirt helping people find tech answers... but of course now we're just in another service role and another stereotype. Before that there was Short Circuit (or maybe the sequel) that had an Indian character and since then all we've gotten is Kal Penn (what? Penn, you know Penn... sigh, Kumar) and M. Night Shyamalan. (Way to go "the next Spielberg"... hey you wanna know something, Steve's secret is good source material. If you can't write it yourself just make a movie from a book like all the greats did- Spielberg, Kubrick, Scorsese, Frankenheimer, Coppola, Lean...)

Anyway, I said I won't go into how Apu is my culture's sole representative (Deepak Chopra does not count, he's only selling you what you want, that we're some mystic people discovered by George Harrison, and you too can be just like the Beatles), so let me stop now before I really get my rant on.

The Simpson's has been a part of the TV landscape forever it seems, but it's actually only 18 years. That's almost an entire generation's lives! I still remember when the Simpson's came out. School's were banning Bart Simpson shirts, my parents wouldn't let me watch it because of the language (and Cosby was on at the same time), "Don't have a cow man" became a part of the lexicon and I was making an anti-drug poster with Bart for an assignment in my 5th grade class.

I remember the first episode I saw as well, it was the one where Bart and the other kids in class all band together to fight off Nelson the bully. It even had a great sequence that was lifted right out of "The Longest Day" (which I'm not sure why I recognized at the time... my dad let me watch war movies but somehow "Eat my shorts" crossed a line). And the Christmas Special before that, which taught me another new word, "galoshes" (I was sad to learn that it wasn't anything dirty).

So when I heard about this 7-11 in Moutain View, one of only 11 nationwide redone to resemble Apu's Kwik-E-Mart, strategically placed at that in between Google, Microsoft, and other tech companies (hereto refereed to as nerd central, a core Simpson fan base), I had to take a trek.

And no, my favorite character isn't Apu... but I'm sure you guessed that by now.

Sure some people will still, as my friends roommate refers to me, call me 'dot'. A slur derived from the Hindu ritual, so I guess I can't blame Apu for everything. At least people know that there were Indians before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

*If you found today's post at all offensive, well I warned you. Happier posts to come, I'm sorry if this dose of my reality was to in-polite.

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