Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dith Pran dies, 65

Dith Pran, the Cambodian-born journalist whose harrowing tale of enslavement and eventual escape from that country's murderous Khmer Rouge revolutionaries in 1979 became the subject of the award-winning film "The Killing Fields," died Sunday. He was 65.

Dith died at a New Jersey hospital Sunday morning of pancreatic cancer, according to Sydney Schanberg, his former colleague at The New York Times. Dith had been diagnosed almost three months ago.

Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant for Schanberg in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, when the Vietnam War reached its chaotic end in April 1975 and both countries were taken over by Communist forces.

Schanberg helped Dith's family get out but was forced to leave his friend behind after the capital fell; they were not reunited until Dith escaped four and a half years later. Eventually, Dith resettled in the United States and went to work as a photographer for the Times.

It was Dith himself who coined the term "killing fields" for the horrifying clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered on his desperate journey to freedom.

The regime of Pol Pot, bent on turning Cambodia back into a strictly agrarian society, and his Communist zealots were blamed for the deaths of nearly 2 million of Cambodia's 7 million people.

"That was the phrase he used from the very first day, during our wondrous reunion in the refugee camp," Schanberg said later.

With thousands being executed simply for manifesting signs of intellect or Western influence, even wearing glasses or wristwatches, Dith survived by masquerading as an uneducated peasant, toiling in the fields and subsisting on as little as a mouthful of rice a day, and whatever small animals he could catch.

After Dith moved to the U.S., he became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, dedicated to educating people on the history of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Schanberg described Dith's ordeal and salvation in a 1980 magazine article titled "The Death and Life of Dith Pran." Schanberg's reporting from Phnom Penh had earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1976.

Later a book, the magazine article became the basis for "The Killing Fields," the highly successful 1984 British film starring Sam Waterston as the Times correspondent and Haing S. Ngor, another Cambodian escapee from the Khmer Rouge, as Dith Pran.

The film won three Oscars, including the best supporting actor award to Ngor.

"Pran was a true reporter, a fighter for the truth and for his people," Schanberg said. "When cancer struck, he fought for his life again. And he did it with the same Buddhist calm and courage and positive spirit that made my brother so special."

Dith spoke of his illness in a March interview with The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., saying he was determined to fight against the odds and urging others to get tested for cancer.

"I want to save lives, including my own, but Cambodians believe we just rent this body," he said. "It is just a house for the spirit, and if the house is full of termites, it is time to leave."

Dith Pran was born Sept. 27, 1942 at Siem Reap, site of the famed 12th century ruins of Angkor Wat. Educated in French and English, he worked as an interpreter for U.S. officials in Phnom Penh. As with many Asians, the family name, Dith, came first, but he was known by his given name, Pran.

After Cambodia's leader, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, broke off relations with the United States in 1965, Dith worked at other jobs. When Sihanouk was deposed in a 1970 coup and Cambodian troops went to war with the Khmer Rouge, Dith returned to Phnom Penh and worked as an interpreter for Times reporters.

In 1972, he and Schanberg, then newly arrived, were the first journalists to discover the devastation of a U.S. bombing attack on Neak Leung, a vital river crossing on the highway linking Phnom Penh with eastern Cambodia.

Dith recalled in a 2003 article for the Times what it was like to watch U.S. planes attacking enemy targets.
"If you didn't think about the danger, it looked like a performance," he said. "It was beautiful, like fireworks. War is beautiful if you don't get killed. But because you know it's going to kill, it's no longer beautiful."
After Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia in 1979 and seized control of territory, Dith escaped from a commune near Siem Reap and trekked 40 miles, dodging both Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge forces, to reach a border refugee camp in Thailand.

From the Thai camp he sent a message to Schanberg, who rushed from the United States for an emotional reunion with the trusted friend he felt he had abandoned four years earlier.

"I had searched for four years for any scrap of information about Pran," Schanberg said. "I was losing hope. His emergence in October 1979 felt like an actual miracle for me. It restored my life."

After Dith moved to the U.S., the Times hired him and put him in the photo department as a trainee. The veteran staffers "took him under their wing and taught him how to survive on the streets of New York as a photographer, how to see things," said Times photographer Marilynn K. Yee.

Yee recalled an incident early in Dith's new career as a photojournalist when, after working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, he was robbed at gunpoint of all his camera equipment at the back door of his apartment.

"He survived everything in Cambodia and he survived that too," she said, adding, "He never had to work the night shift again."

Dith spoke and wrote often about his wartime experience and remained an outspoken critic of the Khmer Rouge regime.

When Pol Pot died in 1998, Dith said he was saddened that the dictator was never held accountable for the genocide.
"The Jewish people's search for justice did not end with the death of Hitler and the Cambodian people's search for justice doesn't end with Pol Pot," he said.

Dith's survivors include his companion, Bette Parslow; his former wife, Meoun Ser Dith; a sister, Samproeuth Dith Nop; sons Titony, Titonath and Titonel; daughter Hemkarey Dith Tan; six grandchildren including a boy named Sydney; and two step-grandchildren.

Dith's three brothers were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

I never had the opportunity to meet him, the closest I ever came was winning second place last summer in the AAJA sponsored Dith Pran photo shootout.

We lost an icon today.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Someone's trying to tell me something...

A friend recently sent to me... I wonder if (the jerk :P ) is trying to tell me something?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Portfolio (singles)

My singles portfolio. Multimedia, stories and graphic work coming soon...

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Monday, March 24, 2008

There are some Happy Journalist out there Auntie Em

A while back I (along with every other blogger out there?) posted about AngryJournalist.

Well, in those early days it seemed like a cool idea, but what I saw in the continuing weeks was very disheartening. I'm not talking about the few fights that broke out from people calling others out on not being more pro-active or vocal in the newsroom, I'm just talking about how much negativity it created. It made us look like all we do is complain about "idiot sources" "idiot editors" or "idiot publishers"... of course it's all them, and everyone's an idiot, never us.

It's like we're all just a profession of complainers.

What a downer.

(Although Ryan did make a good point... an annoying habit :P ... about the fact that so many journalist are finding it at least, which means they are online themselves or listening to someone who is... but still)

Well, thankfully someone else felt the same way because Happy Journalist came along and left us also talk about the things that are working.

Whew... I guess I'll take down that rope from the support beam in the living room now... (for now... dun-dun-duuuuum!)

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Peep this yo! Happy Easter.

Normally I'd just throw this in my feed (look in the right column) and call it a day, but I figure it's Easter... and this pic really makes me laugh.

A bounty of mallow rained down on us this Lenten season. The Peeps came not like locusts but like meteors of great ambition and, yes, some arts-and-crafts psychosis. More than 800 entries choked the Sunday Source's inbox for the second annual Peeps Diorama Contest. Our cup runneth over. Thank you.

Happy Easter!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Time out Tuesday (extra!extra! edition): Looking back on Iraq

Having lived through half a decade of living with the war in Iraq on the public conscience (for some of us that's all of high school or college) and upon the cusp of a sixth year... two questions come to mind: 1. What happened to the Afghanistan war? 2. What happened and what can we learn?

Here's a few of the stories I've been looking at while trying to find an answer...

MediaStorm's teamed up with Reuters for their latest collaboration, and produced a piece that looks at what experiencing war has meant for those reporters charged with the task of documenting history. "This is their testimony - bearing witness to ensure the story of Iraq is not lost." Very powerful, not to be missed.

MSNBC created an interactive timeline that looks at the key military and political moments from Colin Powell's UN speech in which he presented the US's reasons for seeking approval for military actions to Saddam's down fall and trial to Blackwater employees gunning down Iraqi civilians to a surge of US troops that is reported to be working. With videos for many of the key events instantly available in a pop-up slider, it's the best time line I've found yet. If only history books came this way.

Over at Magnum, they've decided to approach the topic with "WARS" a four part essay series that takes the work of Philip Jones Griffiths (RIP) in Vietnam, Christopher Anderson in the Middle East, Thomas Dworzak in Chechnya and Iraq and Paolo Pellegrin in Lebanon. With pictures, commentary and a slick design, WARS is one to watch and there are plans for future installments to the series, so stay tuned. (P.S. Hey Magnum, 2003 called they want you to add an RSS feed!)

I have a soft spot for cartoonist, in particular political cartoonist, which I'm sure is because for a time I gave it a go to create my own comic strips and spent a semester creating a few political cartoons for the college paper. Plus as a kid they were my first exposure to newspapers as I used to read after my dad was done with the paper, and you never forget your first. Cartoonist have always been the unsung contributors to newspapers, summing up the days hot topics in one panel and sometimes ending up on Nixon's enemies list or invoking the wrath of the Pentagon among other things (ever see Zodiac, they sometimes even become investigative journalist). Take a look at over a 1000 political cartoons on the Iraq war.

"Through the smoke: A soldier's story of recovery" was created last year for the fourth anniversary and comes from the family of a soldier where he speaks in his own voice on what his recovery was like. Where the pictures may lack in variety and impact (and I'm speaking in PJ terms here so don't get your panties in a bunch Stella) his voice makes up for it.

In another MSNBC piece, a wife, a father, a family looks at the life, military service and death in battle of Spc. Anthony A. Kaiser. "As America contemplates the almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed in the conflict in Iraq, one family reflects on the life, service and legacy of their lost loved one."

*Time out Tuesdays is back on SLR for a while, until gets all the kinks worked out and I can start posting over there again.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5years: A number game

5 years

127 journalists killed (84 by murder and 43 KIA, of which 14 killed by US forces)

400,00 - 600,000 (est.) Iraqi civilians killed.

55,000 Iraqi insurgents killed

548 Contract workers killed

305 Non-Iraqis kidnapped (54 killed, 147 released, 4 escaped, 6 rescued and 94 status unknown.)

164,481 coalition troops deployed (155,000 from the US, 4,500 from the UK, 2,000 from Georgia, 900 from Poland, 650 from South Korea and 1,431 from all other nations.)

3,989 US soldiers killed

29,395 US soldiers wounded (5,879 of which, afflicted with serious brain or spinal injuries.)

$800 billion and counting at a current rate of $12 billion a month.

$4.6 billion: Halliburton Overcharges Classified by the Pentagon as Unreasonable and Unsupported

1 Government that attempts to limit press freedoms

1 Civil war that no one is acknowledging.

0 Exit strategies

Worth it?

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Philip Jones Griffiths, dead

Philip Jones Griffiths passed away yesterday (or early this morning, details are still sketchy), you might remember him from his work in Vietnam and the subsequent book "Vietnam Inc." which lead Noam Chomsky to comment on it that: "If anybody in Washington had read that book, we wouldn't have had these wars in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Magnum's Stuart Franklin wrote about it for the Magnum blog.

And after that, be sure to take a look at his Vietnam work featured in WARS. In a coincidence Magnum just published a new series on war and his is one of the first four featured. It's an amazing piece, not just for the pictures, but because we get to see and hear Griffiths talk about the experience in his own words. Not to be missed, and what a way to honor a fallen master.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Nice pants, oh and MultimediaShooter is back up

After giving us all a huge scare last week when was hacked, and according to Richard they messed it up so bad that he wasn't planning on jumping back on in a hurry. (I know I couldn't log in to the user panel at all, so it musta been something major.)

"RIP... I do not have the time or resources at this time to
continue. I wish you all the best."

A little dramatic, but you can't blame him, that was his baby. Plus with all else that's on his plate, being an ambassador in the Merc newsroom, having to work in the lay-off ridden Bay Area and of course he's so in demand (it's nuts).

But all that doesn't matter now. Thanks to a community that poured out in support and offered aid, Richard decided there was no way he was ready to lay it to rest and now MultiMediaShooter is back! (Which is good, b/c there are some real goodies in store... let's just say, the site is entering a new era.)

Best of all, he took this disaster and turned it into an opportunity to create another short film (and his first foray into Vimeo)... correction, another AWESOME short film, with nice pants!

How to fix a Hack from richard hernandez on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

MultiMediaShooter down... not if I can help it...

MultimediaShooter is down... but I'm hoping despite what Richard, the creator of the Web site, says, it won't stay down for long.


I write this with a very heavy heart:

I am sorry to report that this website is down for the count. The site was recently hacked several
times this weekend and severe damage was done. I do not have the time or resources at this time to
continue. I wish you all the best. I only wish this hadn’t happened.

[To the ‘hacker’ I hope it makes you happy to destroy something that people put their heart and soul into for years, for the sole purpose of learning and creating a small community
on the web. Just to have you destroy it for no reason. You win. There is a special place in hell for you.]

To those of you who supported the site over the years, THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

I don’t know what more to say, except, remember, it’s all about the STORY, not the TOOLS.


I haven't said much about it (Mama's always said braggers aren't doers) but a couple months back I became a contributor to MultimediaShooter and was set up with a user account to enable me to post stuff. Why am I mentioning it now? Because I loved being associated with something that benefited the PJ community so much, and I'll be damned if it goes away without a fight. I've already e-mailed Richard to offer my help in getting the site back up, and I encourage anyone of you reading this (all three of you.. oh I mean 4, hi Roberto!), if you've at any point visited the site or turned to it for the latest on what's going on, or if you've got some coding skill, shoot Richard an e-mail and help the cause!

It's too good of a resource to let die like this.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Strobist thought it was cool...

Ran into a big hunk of equipment complications today, basically I need a portable power pack, and so in my research I ended up heading over to see what ol' man David Hobby, aka the Strobist guy, was up to these days.

I see he's posted this video for Canadian rock group "Aquaplane" which was composed entirely out of still photographs.

The video, IMHO, is a utter failure, or as you l33t speakers say: an epic fail (seriously, when did that become a popular saying?!). It's not for the photos or the production value, it's because the style of the video does not match the band or the song. That old wisdom, it can look cool, but if it doesn't tell the story it ain't worth $#!t holds true here.

Nevertheless, this does give me an opportunity to start thinking about new tools for multimedia and how we can tell our stories with different techniques.

The process they are employing here is an old one. Basically a sense of depth and movement is created by placing different visual elements on different planes and then moving a camera in zooms and pans about the scene to give it that "inside the image" illusion.

Walt Disney first employed it in Bambi, by animating multiple glass plates with different layers of the forest and then sliding them in and out as the camera tracked in on the action. The result was very much the same and it never really moved beyond animation or Magic Eye toys until Adobe created After Effects and some animators and photo guys got curious. (In the simplest of terms you're cutting out each element and then placing it on a different layer that you can then slide around at various speeds in front of a camera.)

Recently I've seen the famous 1976 do this to great effect (1976 is also why I know so much about how it's done since I was obsessed with reverse-engineering it) and also the opening credits of the TV show "How I meet your mother" uses it as well.

In the last couple months I've seen lots of new developments in multimedia tools: Vumox, Animoto, PhotoSynth (still looks promising) and the video flash players keep evolving (the new BlipTV looks nothing like the old one)... and now that many of us have gotten past the hurdle of just learning how to do it, we can start thinking about how we present it.

Maybe After Effects is the next program to learn...

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Joe Swan, former SJSU PJ professor dies at 78

I never had the pleasure of meeting him, be even then, he was part of the San Jose State University family. And a man who helped make the photojournalism program at SJSU what it is and was.

I probably would not be a SJSU grad today if he hadn't been there to continue the work started by PJ program and School of Journalism founder Dwight Bentel.

According to Mack Lundstrom, a current SJSU professor and good friend, "He died Sunday night. Joe taught Steve Starr, Kim Komenich and Doug Parker, who individually or leading a staff have won four Pulitzers."

He clearly left his mark.

The Spartan Daily, my old college paper stomping grounds, published two stories on Swan. A Feb 20 interview with Swan shortly after he decided to take himself off kidney dialysis, a decision that he made knowing it would mean death. A second story, published today, announces his death at home Sunday.

At the time he said, "I just try to look at what's ahead as maybe an adventure." And why not, from reading the article, it looks like living for an adventure is how he ran his life.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

All the presidents boys get mash'd-up

This is just one of those things that is just too perfect for me to not post.

That part after the first drop beat is sheer brilliance.

I seem to have a weakness for clever editing, the Beastie Boys, good Robert Redford movies and engaging dramas based on journalistic endeavors. (Which reminds me I still need to rent "The Hunting Party" and that Daniel Pearl movie that Angelina Jolie apparently kicked major ass in.)


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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hello ladies, apparently me have something in common

Today is March 8th and apparently the ladies, or lay-dies as I prefer, and I have something in common. No, it's not that we both cry at weddings, like Audrey Hepburn movies or secretly wonder if we'd be able to stop ourselves from throwing ourselves at George Clooney and screaming like a school girl in line for a High School Musical reunion tour... (too much?)... it's actually, really, truly, just a cruel joke, really.

It's International Women's Day and it also happens to be my birthday.

Whoop... a yearly reminder that even though another year has passed, I still don't understand you guys.

Oh what cruel joke is this that has been bestowed upon me?

... and that's my random thought of the day...

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Friday, March 07, 2008

SJSU Multimedia Academy launch

I may not be at San Jose State University anymore, but last week one of our projects during my time finally moved from a great idea to the real deal.

The SJSU Multimedia Academy was brainstormed last spring as a multi-year, world-wide program to explore the stories that litter the planet, just waiting to be found.

And if that's not enough, we (somehow) got The San Jose Mercury News and National Geographic on board as co-sponsors and then got them to commit one staffer as a faculty member on each trip.

Like those ping-pong tables we raised money for in the 8th grade, I won't be around to enjoy the fruits of our labors, but trust me, if you have the cash as the desire, apply!

Here's the official word:

Students are invited to the SJSU Multimedia Academy. Jim Gensheimer from the Mercury News will co-teach in South Africa and Sadie Quarrier, Sr. Photo Editor, at National Geographic Magazine, will co-teach the program in Ghana from June 16 to July 4, 2008.

Students can earn three units of credit. The cost is $4,200.
SJSU Special Session Tuition (3 Credits @250/unit) $750
SJSU Program Management Fee $200
Program Fee $3,250

The registration deadline is March 3. The monies are due at a later date.

MCOM 180: SJSU’s Multimedia Academy
• Co-instructed by National Geographic Photojournalist
• Explore Real World multimedia journalism
• Produce compelling multimedia stories in the field and on deadline
• Learn the importance of discipline with time, shooting, and gathering information necessary to advance the story
• Learn the importance of research, organization, adjusting, adapting and patience
• Earn 3 units of SJSU credit

This program is open to all undergraduate and graduate students who are matriculated towards a degree at a U.S. university or college. Students who have successfully completed their advance photojournalism and or broadcast sequence courses are especially welcome to take this course.

Proudly co-sponsored by National Geographic Magazine and the San Jose Mercury News, the SJSU Multimedia Academy is an ambitious, three-year program designed to give photojournalism students and broadcast journalism students the opportunity to gain an edge in the competitive job market. The San Jose Mercury News has committed one staff photographer or multimedia editor to co-teach the three-week course in South Africa.

Besides Ghana and South Africa, the multimedia academy will explore Brazil, India, Bangladesh, The Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China and Dubai. Each program location will have a National Geographic or San Jose Mercury News staff photographer or multimedia editor to co-teach the program. At the conclusion of the program, a coffee table book exhibiting the students’ work will be published, along with a behind-the-scenes DVD documentary. A photography and interactive multimedia exhibition featuring the students’ work will also travel the U.S.

The fee includes tuition, air fare (West Coast departure) and hotel accommodations. These estimated coasts do not include personal expenses as this varies among different participants.must take the following MCom 180 (INDIVIDUAL STUDIES) 3-unit course.

Prof. Michael Cheers, who coordinates the photojournalism sequence at SJSU, will lead this program. Cheers, the 2007 Faculty Fellow at National Geographic Magazine, worked more than 20 years as a photojournalist in Africa. Jim Gensheimer, an award-winning staff photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News, will co-teach this course.

More info,
D. Michael Cheers,Ph.D
Director of Photojournalism
San Jose State University
408-795-5062 or 408-924-3259

Study Abroad Office:
International Programs & Services San José State University
Located in Clark Hall, Room 543 One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192
408.924.5931 408.924.5976 Fax

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Quick Hits: Kids with Guns

Tim Hussin, who is interning at the Deseret Morning News, decided to fill in his time away from work with, what he describes as an opportunity: "I just wanted to go as overboard as I could with it. And I wanted to experiment with garageband."

And experiment he did with "Kids with Guns," a feature he found of a group of kids playing "war."

I shot (pardon the pun) some kids playing guns at what seemed to be an abandoned church the other day. These kids were serious. One of them actually knew a little history for some of the battles they were trying to act out. I realized that I don't need to go to Iraq to shoot war when it's right in our backyards...

The result is one of the most exciting and poetically crafted pieces I've seen in recent memory, plus the visual variety is impressive and keeps the vignette going.

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I'm right here Roberto!

That guy right there on the right who's hugging the hell out of me (or looks likes he about to tackle me?), that's Roberto Rosales, a staff shooter from the ABQ Journal, and apparently he misses me.

We're also flanked by Jim Thompson, center, and Greg Sorber, left, also staff shooters that had been great advisers and friends to me during my time at the paper.

The pic is from the wee hours right after my last night at the Journal. The guys decided to take me out to Hooters, which believe it or not, was the first time any of us had been there. Like many things in life, I found it didn't live up to the Shangri-La hype I've heard all my life (Andy, seriously, you like this place?). No one was really dying to go there, it was actually the result of a running joke in the office, I'm not dying to go back, and I don't think anyone else is either... but I digress.

I ran by Roberto's blog and saw his public "missing person" report and thought, why not keep the gag going by responding to him here. Hey, phone calls are expensive when you're unemployed! Plus it gives me a great excuse to link to his blog.

Sooooo... here I am Roberto, right here on a couch, watching Around the Horn on ESPN, still unemployed (but not for long...), still in ABQ, still wondering which way the winds are blowing today and still at the same phone number in case you want to call me the next time you have some Shaminder-withdrawal.


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Re: I need a haircut...

Ok... this is just too good not to share...

Arriving in my e-mail a few hours after my last post, my good buddy Daniel Esch decided to not be shackled by the distance between us and took it upon himself to share his razor sharp wit and knowledge of all things awesome.

A Biz Markie album cover, bravo sir, I am standing and applauding, how could I not share... now how about you update that there blog-i-ma-gigger of urs so I can get to reading up more these here nuggets of gold on a more regular basis?


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$12, 12 hours, 12 musicians

I'm sure you've all heard about the 48 Hour Film Fest and a few of you may have heard of 24 House Comic Day, but I'm pretty sure not to many have heard of the inaugural Crate Digger Deathmatch, a 12 hour contest that challenges contestants to spend $12 on supplies and produce an album in half a day.

I love this kinda creative pressure cooker experimentation. The results aren't always stellar, but they're always fun. You can read all about one contestant's experience here and check out the tune-age here.

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I need a haircut...

Ok... I'm giving in, once it starts whipping me in my own eyes, it's time.

That's me back in August when I first arrived to start in ABQ.

And here I am about 2 weeks ago.

In between zero trims.

So there.

Also, some people out there have expressed that I'm not posting enough pics, so there! (Yeah'huh! This counts!)


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