Bonfire of the Vanity

I removed a piercing. I got it, an industrial,  in 2009, on my first day of grad school, and after jonesing for one for years. My plan was to wait until the piercing healed and then shave my head (another thing I have always wanted to do, shave my head, although now I’m somewhat fearful I’ll do it and then my hair will grow back different: curly or wholly gray or knowing the entire Glee soundtrack by heart or something).


So the piercing never healed; I also never made good on my promise to shave my head. I will not insult your intelligence by pretending that one of these things caused the other. I have not shaved my head for one reason and one reason only, and that reason is: My mother would freak out.

Now, I know that a piercing that is still sore a year and a half after its insertion into my body is, like, uh, a bad thing, and for most of you it wouldn’t have taken this long to figure out, “Gee, maybe I should remove this,” but I obviously have problems.

My problems, though, are not so much about stupidity as stubbornness:  I had been told at the piercing place that something like 60% of industrial piercings fail, and I should not get my hopes up about keeping it.

I now know a True Fact about myself, which is that my competitiveness, which already hovers on the Competitiveness Continuum somewhere between Mark Zuckerberg and John McEnroe (but with, one hopes, less social ineptitude and screaming profanity), soars to terrifying new heights if called upon. I am not above living a Greek tragedy if it means that I will win. So I have been torturing myself with this metal bar that ached dully whenever I lay on my side and also made it difficult to wear ponytails. (Lest you think I was being hyperbolic before, when I likened the inability to wear my hair a certain way to a Greek tragedy, I’ll have you know that Euripides wrote scores of overwrought treatises about ladies’ hairstyles, but most have been lost. I blame the Etruscans.)

Don't even get me started on femullets, brah.

I seemingly would have done anything to keep my piercing in, just so I would not have to go through life knowing that I am among the 60th percentile of FAIL PEOPLE whose bodies reject an industrial. To have gotten me to remove it any sooner, I think it would have needed to actively catch on fire or leaked hydrochloric acid or constantly produced a high-pitched screamy noise, and even then I probably would have been like “Eh, let’s give it six months and see.”

Then again, keeping this piercing even though it was hurting me is probably among the more punk things I’ve done in my life (here is what I believe the punk movement to have been about: painful body modification and peeing on things), so I think overall, a success.

I am obviously not going to let the holes just close up, in case I lose my mind someday and decide to try the industrial again. I haven’t been to visit the head shop here in town to get new earrings, largely because the head shop smells (as all good head shops should) like centuries-old patchouli. So to prevent the holes from closing up in the meantime, I have stuck two spare bellybutton rings in my ears. It looks, in a word, completely insane.

Speaking of fake punk things, last weekend I went to a themed dance party where everyone was supposed to act like they were from the 1980s. I think doing cocaine and ignoring the AIDS crisis were optional, but you were supposed to dress up. Now, I happen to have a variety of (awesome) 80s clothes handed down from my mother — a majority of which are cerulean cocktail dresses — so I tried a few on, but on that night I was feeling less Working Girl and more Madonna On Nitrous Oxide, so I started improvising. Out came the costume box. A little polka-dot dress I once wore to a wedding, a homemade tutu, some torn fishnet armbands, and 70% of the necklaces I own.

I then turned to Hilary to find out what she was planning to wear. “What I have on,” she said. “Uh-uh.” I said, “We are not going together if you’re wearing that and I’m wearing this.” I started wheedling with her to let me dress her up too.

Et voila:

I’m going to be honest right now and admit that I wish I wore this every day. Particularly the tutu.


Fun: Crush the Castle is back! Please offer my condolences to your productivity.
Linguistics: It should be your goal in life to take as many rantum scoots as possible, and also to refer to them as rantum scoots.
Designy: Before coming back to school, I would only have marveled over the brilliant use of the word “mothballed” as a transitive verb in the opening sentence of this story. Now, thanks to the J-school, I am also marveling over the overall layout as well as trying to determine the lighting scheme for the photo: dark-field, possibly a colored card behind the coffee filter and coffee in the basin — but I have no idea how they got those coffee drips to show up red. Voodoo likely.

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A Discussion of Subjects I Almost Certainly Do Not Comprehend

This discussion of photography and the golden ratio is so charming and adorable. I can tell you that I barely even understand it, but I love affirming that there exists this broad esoteric spectrum of crazy, weird things that certain small numbers of people care deeply about. Arguing over the internet about the golden ratio and its suitability as a photo size is about as adorable as it gets, for my money. Swoon! Marry me, internet. (If I were a dude, I would EVEN AS WE SPEAK be concocting some sort of horribly ill-advised “I now pronounce you man and wi-fi” joke. Let us all now give thanks for my two X chromosomes.)

I found that Flickr argument, by the way, via a Google search of “Mark Rothko” and “golden ratio.” I was at the National Gallery last week, and I spotted these two Rothko paintings and dragged my girlfriend and cousin over to view and exclaim over them.

Okay, so I was the only one exclaiming anything complimentary. My girlfriend accepted the Rothkos without comment, but my cousin loudly and humorously** objected to any and all color-field paintings at the gallery, and as these are the pieces I always tend to love the most, I found myself flutteringly trying to explain what cannot be explained, i.e., why I like a thing when other people like another thing.

** Initially typed “humerously” here, then experienced a protracted mental disconnect about the adjectival version of the humerus, and why in tarnation we don’t hear this more often. There must be at least occasional need for someone to describe how something happened in the manner of the arm bone. It occurs to me that I should try inserting “arm-boning” for “humorous” into various sentences, Cockney-rhyming-slang-style, and see if it catches on. Example: “That is quite the arm-boning comedian!” “Community is the arm-boningest show on television!” “Your new boyfriend is totally arm-boning; please make him do some more John Glenn impressions.” “I find Heidegger’s use of arm-bone in ‘Being and Time’ to be very endearing.” This would totally work, right?

I apologize if the preceding paragraph is too stupid to even read. I’ve been up all night monitoring a stray dog I picked up yesterday, and while my patience is thin at the moment (starving dog + possible intestinal parasites + cheese Pringles and I’ll let you do the rest of the math), my capacity for the ludicrous is at dangerously high levels. When the rescue group comes and collects the dog later, let us hope I have not attempted to shave him or dye him pink or put him in a Tron costume or anything.

Oh and yeah, so I picked up my umpteenth stray dog. The dog was wandering along a busy interstate in the middle of nowhere and was clearly cold and hungry and scared. And he  came over willingly, tail-a-wag. I am not stoked about having this stray dog here, but I would have been even less stoked about leaving him alone and dealing with survivor’s guilt all the long-and-cold night, so there it is. He’s very sweet and would make a great buddy for some kid. So long as the kid in question does not share any of his Pringles.

So, right, I got started on this blog entry because I had googled Mark Rothko and the golden ratio. I heard a curator at the museum (remember it? when I was at a museum?) going on about how Rothko always used the golden ratio to create his paintings, and that’s why they resonate with so many people despite being “about” nothing. (Ironic use of a preposition! Glory! I am totally on fire with this entry.)

This Rothko/golden ratio thing blew my mind because, like many people, I love the paintings. I love them without having the slightest idea why I love them, other than their just generally being huge and evocative and colorful and weird and a joy to look at. I didn’t find any further compelling evidence to suggest Rothko was doing the golden ratio thing on purpose, but I sort of stopped searching when I got to the Flickr discussion because it derailed me with its crankypants adorableness. I hope future Googlers do not enter the same search term I did and come here hoping for helpful information because ha-ha I have bad news for them.

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New York after 9/11

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Footie Pajamas + Angela = TRULUV4EVR

I should preface this by saying that I have yet to hop on the Snuggie/Slanket bandwagon. I’m no stalwart, and I don’t think they’re stupid, I just haven’t gotten one yet.

I’m assuming that I have not owned a set of footie pajamas since I was 8 years old. And I have no idea how or why I have survived 25 winters without them. I bought some on Friday for a sleepover, and I think I have had them on for some portion of every day since. I’m sure my roommates are all making fun of me — as they should — but I don’t care. I’m warm, suckerrrrrs. For the first time in years! No ankle drafts, no needing to layer three sweatshirts, no shivering away like one of those tiny hairless dogs. Thank you, footie pajamas. You’re my favorite fuzzy article of clothing in the whole universe.

Did I mention they have pictures of monkeys and stars all over them? Well, THEY DO.

True story: a former professor once told me that I harbored a sort of innate sophistication that wouldn’t really find its outlet until I moved somewhere urban and started hanging around with sophisticated people. Or something like that. I was likely drunk at the time, so this might not have been the point he was trying to make. I think he was more maligning my hometown than trying to pay me a compliment. But anyway, the point is, my sophistication, I GUESS IT HAS FOUND ITS OUTLET NOW.

Footies Forever
You can’t tell, but right here, I am listening to Coltrane on vinyl, drinking a gin and tonic, and contemplating the role of fatalism in the later works of Diderot.

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Color Correction

I can tell: These hand-held flash assignments are where you separate the real photographers from the just-muddling-through-and-trying-not-to-fail photographers.

I struggled and struggled and struggled with this assignment. Even now, I don’t know where I went wrong, but I suspect it was a multitude of places. I kept feeling like I had my settings wrong and reshooting. I still don’t know that I managed to get any RAW photos even though I know I set my camera to RAW and did a variety of shots that way. I went to a few different scenes: the mall, Barnes and Noble, the grocery store, the library, my friend’s house, my house.

I am totally not comfortable going up to strangers in situations like this and asking if I can invade their privacy, which is how I know I am not meant to earn a living as a news photographer. I’m a pretty outgoing person, but put a camera in my hands and suddenly I want to melt into the floor. Also, I feel like I fumble and futz with the equipment the entire time I’m shooting. Nothing feels natural, and when people move out of my shot just as I’ve got it composed and balanced and focused, it makes me want to cry.

I decided finally to create a shoot in my room, since after all what I want to do is work for an interior design magazine. I know it doesn’t have people, or interaction, but it is the closest approximation of what I think I might do later on. Unfortunately, printing these shots was a disaster. I tried five times with different settings and there was weird pink halation all around the table lamp. In some photos it was less noticeable, but definitely always there. Is this something to do with the depth of field? Or possibly the color balancing I did was off. I’m not sure. I just know it was unusable. So I ended up using a photo from the library. I like the angle, and I think I did successfully blend the two lights and then turn ugly green light into something human-looking in Photoshop, so I definitely learned something. And in the room shots, I had fun trying lots of different ways of getting light onto my objects: direct, bouncing off the ceiling, a mirror, the underside of a white shelf, and the guitar. So I do feel learning is taking place, even if the end result is less vibrant than I would like.

Rita was right: I miss the studio! Controlling everything was awesome.

Will keep plugging away at this and hopefully produce some things I like more as I become comfortable with all this equipment and the new steps and dimensions of thought it adds to the process of photography.

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Metal and Glass Photo Shoot

For my photojournalism class, I was instructed to come up with a concept to shoot either a metal object or a glass object. I was immediately drawn to the glass photography examples we looked at in class for their beauty and simplicity. I think maybe I just like glass objects more than I like metal ones, as well. Glass = serene and transmissive. Metal = hard and garish.

The glass technique also interested me more. I had never thought about lighting glass much at all, so I certainly hadn’t thought in terms of brightness or darkness of field in order to achieve white or black highlights on the edge of the glass. When I came up with my concept (“Coke Equals Diabetic Coma”), I initially thought I should do a dark field in order to more easily showcase the piles of sugar. But aesthetically, I thought the image would be more visually appealing on an all-white background. My partner, Madison, and I shot it bright-field first, and as it ended up working well, we didn’t try it with dark field. If I’d had more time, I would have liked to try it both ways, but I think the white field succeeds here.

I’m not much of a soda drinker, so that’s how I, who have a totally absurd diet worthy of a nine-year-old (lately consisting of crackers, Golden Grahams and tangerine popsicles) can presume to be so high-and-mighty about sugar consumption. Here’s my doom-and-gloom caption: “A 12-ounce can of soda contains approximately eight ounces of sugar. The USDA reports that Americans, on average, consume between 150-170 pounds of sugar every year, or roughly four 12-ounce servings of soda per day.”

Things I should have brought to the photo shoot but didn’t: a dustpan, and we’ll leave it at that.

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