Joel Stein* Reads This Blog . . .

A Mulletted The Joel Stein

That’s right. Joel Stein, general funny guy and frequent contributor to Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and a number of other A-list publications, reads this blog. The Joel Stein. Or possibly The Guy Who Responds To Joel Stein’s E-mail (let’s call him “TGWRTJSE”). Now, I would love to tell you that TGWRTJSE just happened to hear about MuchAdo while standing around the writer’s workshop (that’s a thing, right?). Or that the internet buzz about MuchAdo has reached a fever pitch. And I would really love to tell you that I did not, in an act of supreme douchery, write to The Joel Stein simply because his e-mail address (or rather TGWRTJSE’s e-mail address) is prominently displayed on his website, www.TheJoelStein.com. Sadly, that is exactly what I did.

Unfortunately, not being an e-mail-a-celebrity kind of guy, I had very little that I actually wanted to say to The Joel Stein (or to TGWRTJSE). However, it occurred to me that given his penchant for the funny, The Joel Stein might actually send a funny response to an e-mail from a random stranger (is there any other kind of stranger?). Or that he might be prone to hire someone who would send a funny response to an e-mail from a random stranger. (What is the opposite of a random stranger anyway? A particular stranger?)

I suspect I would feel like far less of a tool had I written what I imagine is the standard fan letter. (“Gee, Mr. Stein, I think you’re super neat.”) Instead, I proceeded to tell The Joel Stein (or TGWRTJSE) that after a week of writing a blog I was prepared to stand in for him should he need a week off from Time Magazine. I may also have implied that doing so would be a major step back in my career (which is to say that I said exactly that). But, TGWRTJSE being the class act that he is, responded with the following message:

I enjoyed your site. It’s full of stuff about art and photography and smart people stuff. Therefore, I will not let my editors know about you in case they want to replace me with something smart.

Joel

Decidedly nicer than, “Dear Condescending Ass, Your writing is amateurish and formulaic. Joel,” wouldn’t you say? I won’t fault TGWRTJSE for not getting past the home page of MuchAdo (let’s just say that the traffic patterns of MuchAdo are not all that hard to divine at this stage of its development). I’m just happy that he stopped by, read a few of the category topics, and sent a nice message. And I choose to believe that The Joel Stein, either as a result of having one too many margaritas or because he lost a bet with TGWRTJSE, will visit MuchAdo (again). So, Joel, if you’re reading this, thanks for the nice message. And the offer still stands, I’d be happy to stand in for you any time. I promise not to write anything smart.

[Note: The Joel Stein’s new book, “Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity” comes out May 15th. You might want to buy a copy.]

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The Supremely Talented Cecilia Paredes

Every now and then you come across an artist producing works that just make you scratch your head. (In a good way — as in, “How does she do that?” or “Why does she do that?” or “Why am I so remarkably untalented?”) Cecilia Paredes is one of those artists for me. Check out her series of camouflage self portraits and note the part of the linked article that says Paredes “paints her own body” for these images. Taking the photos would be an accomplishment. Painting the model would be astonishing. Painting, posing and photographing yourself? Crazy! I cannot imagine the time and patience (not to mention the talent) it takes to complete any one of these images. Check her out!

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Cecilia Paredes “Siren in the Sea of Roses” 2011

A Few of My (Least) Favorite Things . . . (Part 2)

Dear Passenger Behind Me in the Parking Lot,

Hey, I’m just writing to make sure you’re not upset with me.  It seems you may have misunderstood my intentions this afternoon.  I assure you that I meant no harm as I backed up to let another driver pull out of her space.  It seems that your boyfriend/husband/friend was in a hurry to get somewhere.  No doubt there was a snow emergency that could only be resolved by a Jeep Grand Cherokee plow.  I’ll admit that I’ve never seen a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a plow attached, so it may be that I violated some Soccer Mom Plowing Association’s code of conduct in my attempt to be gracious to another driver.  If so, I am deeply sorry.

But clearly I did something to upset you.   I thought it was nice of your boyfriend/husband/friend to abandon his attempt to pass me once he recognized that doing so might slightly inconvenience the poor woman pulling out of her space. No doubt when you drive a plow, you become acutely aware of the positives and negatives of driving your plow into the side of a car.  I’m assuming the negatives outweigh the positives, but I’ll admit that is just a guess.  Now, you might be worried that I was irritated by the fact that you stopped in a way that prohibited me from backing up further, but the truth is, the woman backing out had plenty of room to perform a 14 point turn.  And anyway, what’s life without a few challenges, right!

However, when you got out of the Grocery Getter Plow and called me an “a$$hole,” it occurred to me that you may have been upset.  I want you to know that I did not take it personally.  As I said, I’m quite sure I did something wrong.  Could it be that the woman I was letting out drives a Subaru Forrester with a plow attached?  Oh my, I certainly hope I didn’t give your arch plowing enemy a head start!  By the way, if you are at all worried that I am upset, do not give it a second thought.  In fact, I was quite happy for you.  Based on the way you tottered out of the cab of the “plow” and back in again, it looked as if you got quite a cardiovascular workout (not to mention the increased heart rate you were probably experiencing from the apparent anger), and I think the medical experts will come to the conclusion some day that that’s a good thing. So good for you on getting a leg up (slowly, but that’s OK) on that one.  And if you are at all concerned that your boyfriend/husband/friend was at all mortified by your behavior, I say, “Pshaw!”  I would guess a little guy like that is quite literally incapable of escaping the thought that he has been given more than he could ever have prayed for with a girlfriend/wife/friend like you!

Watch This Now . . .

This behind the scenes video of  a commercial shoot for Canon Pixma printers is nothing short of stunning.  It is amazing what they did with a super high speed camera outfitted with a macro lens.  Did I mention one of the guys in the video has the title “Biochemist / Photography?”  I don’t even know if that’s a thing, but I think it’s kinda cool.  It’s three-and-a-half minutes I think you’ll find was well spent if you are at all into photography.  Or cool stuff.  Or “ink explosions.”  Or spinning cameras.  If none of that floats your boat, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do for you.

Mourning the Loss of a Loved One

OK, so “mourning” may not be entirely accurate here, and the “loss of a loved one” bit is a bit melodramatic given the circumstances.  But the news of Eastman Kodak’s bankruptcy has caused me to reflect on many of the recent changes in the photography world.  Specifically, it is the symbolism of the bankruptcy – the near literal death of film photography – that weighs on my mind.  I know it’s odd to mourn the loss of an (almost) antiquated technology, but film photography will always be near and dear to me.

Near and dear in an idealized, romantic sense, mind you, but not in a practical sense, given I, like most other photographers, haven’t purchased a roll of film in years.  The end of film photography for me can be traced to the day I gave my wife a digital SLR for Christmas three years ago.  To be clear, I had no intention of ever shooting with that camera.  I had only put one roll of film through my new Canon Elan 7E (a 35mm film SLR) and had my beautiful Mamiya RZ67 (a medium format film camera) for when a 35mm just wouldn’t do.  The thought of switching was still out of the question, despite the fact that most of the world had already embraced digital cameras.  To be sure, digital was flourishing and film was already gasping for air, but somehow the romantic notion of remaining a “film guy” had taken root.

Now, while it is true that I had no intention of using my wife’s new camera, I knew I would need to shoot with it just to show her how it works.  It also happened that the gift I received from my wife that year was a Canon 580EXII flash.  Being a “natural light” guy myself (for some reason I seem to label myself when it comes to photography — something I don’t tend to do in other areas of my life), I had spent very little time shooting with a flash.  And so, without really thinking much about it, I snatched my wife’s new camera out of her hands to “show her how it works” practically before the packaging came to a rest on the the heap of discarded wrapping paper that was passing for our family room floor.  That first tutorial lasted a few hours, my wife being absent for a good many of them.  I shot my daughter opening her gifts.  I shot my daughter playing with her gifts.  I shot my daughter’s gifts as they lay on the floor, abandoned for the next new toy.  I shot the floor. The tree.  That heap of discarded wrapping paper.  The Christmas dinner.  The Christmas dinner dishes.  I haven’t shot a frame with my film cameras since.

And that, after all, is the beauty of a digital camera — you can shoot with reckless abandon, because it doesn’t cost you a penny.  Just pure, free, instant photographic gratification, and you don’t even have to do the Polaroid shake.  No doubt digital photography has made me a better photographer.  The ability to instantly see what a change in aperture has done for an image or how a change in lighting impacts the mood of that image is invaluable.  But that is also the curse of digital photography.  There is no need to think anymore — no need to plan — because you can just shoot, and shoot, and shoot until your image looks right.  I always hated keeping the log of images and settings — a process that inevitably detracted from the image-making process — and it was torture waiting for the film to be processed (hoping and praying all the while that those 36 images would turn out like I imagined they would).  But that process made me a more thoughtful photographer.  The notion that I had a mere 36 chances to get it right – to capture that decisive moment – made me think.  It made me plan.  It made me visualize.

I understand that “good photographers’ do all of those things whether they are shooting digital or film.  But today I chimp more than I visualize (I know I’m not alone), and I don’t think there will be as many “good photographers” in the digital age.  That’s not to say there won’t be lots of photographers making great images, but too many of those images (IMHO) will be luck of the draw.  I suppose if the net effect of the digital revolution is that there are more great images in the world, we’re better off regardless of how they’re made.  I’m just hoping that despite all the bad habits I’ve picked up — or in spite of the discipline I’ve shed — I can some day become a “good photographer.” It just saddens me to know that I’m unlikely to have Kodak film to fall back on if I decide to shake the dust off those film cameras and actually put some thought into photography again.

Questionable Parenting Decisions

Sometimes I make parenting decisions that make me wonder whether some day I might find myself saying to the two year old, “Hey, buddy, would you just grab that running chain saw and bring it over here? No, it’s the one next to the super sharp knife.”  Last night’s questionable decision was suggesting that we eat dinner in the family room so the kids could continue to watch the football game. (My judgment may have been a bit clouded by the fact that the kids were actually interested in a football game.  It may have been clouded by the fact that I was interested in the football game.  Most likely it was clouded by the scent of porky deliciousness in the air.)  Approximately 168 iterations of “Stop watching TV and eat!” and 33 floor-bound pieces of carnitas and corn later, it was clear this was a questionable parenting decision.  (OK, it was clear long before that.)  It may not be as bad as that whole running chainsaw thing, but it’s a step closer than I’d like to be.

A Few of My (Least) Favorite Things . . . (Part 1)

Dear Person in Line in Front of Me at the Grocery Store,

Hi!  Remember me?  I was in line behind you at the grocery store the other day.  I just wanted to commend you for recognizing how important it is to make sure you get some “me time” every day, even if it is in line at the grocery store!  I hope you appreciate that we all did our best not to bother you.  Everyone except that irksome checkout clerk.  I thought it was careless of her to interrupt your meditation with a silly question like, “Paper or plastic?” but I was happy that you didn’t let her bully you into making a hasty decision that would undoubtedly have had a profound impact on the remainder of your day.  And for my part, I thought it was rather clever when I instructed my four year old daughter to “just look at the candy,” so as to not disturb your few moments of revery.  I assure you that was a first for me and for my daughter.  And, yes, I did find it charming that you seemed utterly gobsmacked at the notion that this particular grocer is requiring payment for your items.  There was literally no way to see that coming.  I’ll admit, I was on pins and needles for the several minutes you spent rifling through your pocketbook looking for some form of payment.  (Thankfully, you waited until the cashier had finished ringing your items.  Had you started looking earlier, you may have lost all of that personal time!)  Imagine my relief when you found your checkbook!  Good for you!  Plus, I was happy to know that I have the option of paying for my groceries with a check.  I’m not sure I even have a checkbook anymore, but I like to have options.  Of course, I would need to get a check cashing card like the one you eventually found in that bottomless pocketbook of yours.  (Another few minutes of heart-stopping drama that had me questioning whether I could even take another second of it all!)

Anyway, I thought I would write you this note, because the fact that you were able to collect all of your belongings and carefully place them back into that pocketbook – all the while maintaining the organizational system that allowed you to locate them so expeditiously in the first place – in just under three minutes meant that I had very little time to tell you how I really feel about you.  And trust me when I tell you that I wanted very badly at that moment to tell you how I feel about you.