Monday, August 28, 2006

So Long Summer

The kiddies are back in school, fall football is in full swing and the unofficial end of summer will culminate with this Labor Day weekend's debauchery.

As a so-long to the season, I'm taking a look back at the music that defined summer 2006 for me. Not all of this came out in the last three months. Most of these artists I discovered through other blogs. Each made an impact on my summer listening. Now I pass the savings onto you:

8) A Nod On Hold by Ms John Soda - So for a little while at the start of the summer, I thought I was way into German synth-pop. No, really. As it turns out the bands I was into- Ms John Soda, Lali Puna, The Notwist- are all pretty much started/led/influenced by one or both of the Acher brothers, Micha and Markus. So I guess I'm more an Acher brothers fan. They're a bit weird. But as this track shows, their rigid synth tunes can also be quite beautiful.

7) Vienna by The Fray - The first song I heard from this band was "Hundred" on some random blog. Loved it. Great song. When I finally made the connection that they were the same band spewing on the radio with "Over My Head," I went out and bought the CD. While the entire CD is good (it's hard to miss when all the songs sound just like their radio hit), Vienna kind of stood out for me. It was moody, a little sad and who doesn't love a little falsetto?

6) Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado - I don't listen to the radio all that much when I'm really into a CD. But on a summer excursion to Tampa I was without my music and had to listen to the radio during my trips around town. While I was inundated with a lot of bad music (Paris Hilton's song came out right at that point, why I didn't run screaming from radio all together I'm still not sure), a few wormed their way into my head. With this song, its the ending that got me. When Ms Furtado hums along with the melody and that back beat kicks, I can't resist.

5) Move Along by All American Rejects- Another song picked up in Tampa. I liked their video for their last song, "Dirty Little Secrets," but never thought much more about them. This anthemy song eventually got stuck in my head, and is now one of my favorite tracks to run with on the treadmill.

4) Sovay by Andrew Bird - An absolutely beautiful song and a great CD. I first heard his "Fake Palindromes" on some random blog. When I finally got around to getting his CD I just fell in love with this track. This was also the song I was listening to as I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time this summer (I promise I really don't do that much vacationing).

3) Map of the Problematique by Muse - If you don't have this CD, "Black Holes and Revelations," run and get it now. It is fantastic. Its a little heavier rock than I normally listen too, but its so good. I first heard of these guys when they replaced Damien Rice on the Austin City Limits music festival line up. At first I was pissed Damien was replaced by some band I've never heard of. Now I'm so glad I checked them out. The first song on the CD blew me away, and it just gets better as the CD goes on. This track has a very Depeche Mode vibe but not in a depressing, whinny way. It rocks.

2) Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois by Sufjan Stevens - For me, this summer was all about Sufjan Stevens. I heard his "This Land" song on a random blog and was intrigued. I didn't really want to get his current CD with leftovers songs from his "Illinoise" CD, so I went straight for the "Illinoise" CD. It's great. And this song, the first track, is just gorgeous.

1) The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! by Sufjan Stevens - Since it's all about Sufjan, another Sufjan track. I just can't get enough of this one. I've also been working on a photo project the last half of the summer, and this song has become its unofficial theme song. Its brilliant.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fade to Background

As a photographer, you try to make your subjects feel comfortable around you. You want your subjects to be natural. You want to fade into the background.

This isn't fading into the background.

I've been working on this photo project for a little while where I've had to follow around a local family a few times a week. When I arrived at this function they were at tonight, I saw one of the kids in the family hanging out at the front of the room. He was framed by this huge U.S. flag painted on the back wall, and I thought it would make a great shot. I was focusing in on him and waiting for the background to clear a little when the kid eventually noticed me. That's when he gave me this huge wave and ran up to me.

Although he ruined my photo, I thought it was kind of funny. For weeks he had been kind of shy and quiet around me. Clearly that's changed. At least I know he finally feels comfortable around me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Photography on Ice

These days I'm trying to make a concise effort to improve my photography. Clearly the results are mixed.

I don't know what it is, but this blog has made me think more about the pictures I take. For some reason many of the photos I take for the newspaper, which is seen by 40,000+ readers (on a good day), just aren't good enough for my blog, read by 4+ lost or extremely bored people (on a very, very good day).

Now there's nothing groundbreaking about these photos, shot at a local kids hockey camp, but they are a little more in the direction I should always be thinking- slightly different angles, playing with dead space, that kind of thing.

For me the verdict is still out on the top photo. I'm not sure if keeping the line of hockey players in the back with the main subject off to the right is interesting, or if the girl in the pink is just a distraction. I think for the version I gave to the paper I cropped the girl in the pink out. I figured if I didn't do it the page designers would anyway.

For the photo on the left I just put the camera on the ground next to the kid, angling up as he tied his skates. Again, nothing new, but it's a bit tricky for me to get a shot where heads, arms, or other important body parts aren't cut off when not actually looking through the camera. I thought it worked

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Grape Growing Goodness

Good God it was hot today.

So what better way to beat the heat than crawling between rows and rows of grape vines trying to get a good shot from the harvesting at a local vineyard. It was a fairly large farm, with narrow rows that stretched far into the distance. Rather than walk all the way out of the vineyard each time I wanted to switch rows, I found myself ducking through gaps in the grapes and trying to keep my camera equipment from getting tangle in all the vines. I rarely succeeded.

I was kind of surprised that the grapes went directly from the vine into the plastic containers you see in the store. Although now that I think about it, my mom used to tell me about how when she worked as a migrant worker as a child, they would always put the ugly or bruised strawberries at the bottom or middle of the packages so you couldn't seem them in the grocery aisle.

Despite the heat and the hard labor, I so want to do this some day. Not here in the U.S., but In Australia. They have these migrant tours where you work as a farm laborer for the summer, traveling across the continent picking fruit. You work all day, make poor wages and most likely live in cramped housing provided by the farm owners. It sounds fantastic. My mom can't imagine why on earth I would want to voluntarily do something that she was forced to do with her family as a child. Did I mention it's in Australia?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Party Ben Rules

Today I spent most of my day-off scowering the internet for my new musical obsession: Mashups! They've apparently been around for a while, but are gaining in popularity (and by gaining in popularity, all I mean is I now know about them). Also called "bastard pop," mashups combines music from one (or more) song(s) with the voice tracks of another. They can get a bit over the top sometimes. For me the best ones still sound like one complete song, just re-invented.

In my efforts to try and imitate all the hip musical blogs I read, I'm posting a couple of cool mashups I found. I think its no accident my favorite ones were all put together by one guy, Party Ben. He's my new musical hero.

So here we go:
1) "I Feel Crazy" by Party Ben
Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" vs Donna Summer's "I Feel Love"
- This summer's sleeper hit feels right at home on top of the disco beats of Donna Summer.

2) "Hung Up On Soul" by Party Ben
Death Cab's "Soul Meets Body" vs Madonna's "Hung Up"
- I am absolutely obsessed with this song. I've always thought the Death Cab CD was great, but for some reason or another it never got much play from me.

3) "Boulevard of Broken Songs" by Party Ben
Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" vs Oasis' "Wonderwall," vs Travis' "Writing to Reach You" with a bit of Eminem's "Sing (For the Moment)"
- Though it looks like a mess, its a Party Ben classic. Its also the first mashup I heard several months ago before I knew what mashups were.

For more on Party Ben, click here.
To purchase any of the original music, click here.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Can I Get A Hallelujah?

I'm always surprised when I run into someone that's heard of Lake Jackson, Texas. Not that it's a terribly small town or anything: It's home to the largest Dow Chemical plant in the U.S. and the childhood home of slain Tejano singing sensation Selena. But despite those illustrious claims to fame, people rarely seem to know where exactly my hometown is.

So I was quite shocked a few days ago when I ran into this guy. He's a preacher who just moved to Arkansas to start a new Spanish ministry at a local Presbyterian church. We started talking, and as it turns out, he's not only been to Lake Jackson, he lived there for a year and his second son was born there in 1991. (He seemed proud of the fact that his son was born in the same hospital as Selena. I didn't say anything, but I'm pretty sure the hospital in LJ in 1991 didn't exist when Selena was born. Besides, everyone knows St. Selena was delivered by Mexican angels under a heavenly mariachi band, not in a hospital)

I contemplated putting a Selena song with today's post. It seemed to make sense until I realized I don't really like or own any of her music. Instead, I'm working the religious angle of today's musings and giving you a little "Hallelujah," courtesy of the reigning British synth-pop queen Imogen Heap. I know, its just like Selena, right?

Listen Here

Friday, August 11, 2006


I rarely get a nice backstage photo. I rarely get a nice symmetrical photo. So when I got a nice backstage photo that was also symmetrical, I knew I had a winner.

These two girls were hiding behind a set piece (which was the main stage entrance/exit) adjusting their costumes and preparing to head back on stage. When I shot this, I had a random Nelly Furtado song stuck in my head. While the song has nothing to do with an actual show, the chorus of "Showtime" kept looping in my mind while I stood behind center stage waiting for some of the kids to get in the perfect position for this photo.

In an effort to disseminate my random music tastes as well as my random photography, there's a link to "Showtime" below. Though its wedged between two highly annoying songs on her CD (yes, I have her CD I'm sad to say), its actually not too bad of a song. Enjoy.

Listen Here
Buy Here

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Forget The Butterflies

Butterflies are nice and all, but kids obviously prefer worms.

I was on assignment shooting a butterfly program at a local museum, and I got a little insight into the mind of a child. Why just sit outside a glass tank watching a bunch of trapped flying insects when in the next tank over you can stick your hands in and poke a caterpillar into submission?

But what the worm tank really had going for it was this mom and daughter. Forget the fact that the assignment was about butterflies (I obviously did), I couldn't get over their expressions and the interaction between these two. Sometimes they spoke in English, often they spoke in what I assumed was Chinese. And every once in a while one of them would laugh or smile and their faces would just light up.

Those butterflies didn't have a chance with me.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sunrise, Sunset

I hate pictures of sunrises. As a general rule I try to avoid them, mostly because I'm not good at shooting them. What I end up with in my camera is never as good as the reality in front of me.

But on a recent early morning assignment atop a high rise hotel (8 floors is big time in Northwest Arkansas), I figured I might as well try.

It was a nice view. I love being on high roof tops. I was suppose to be showing growth or environmental destruction or whatever the point of the story was, but sometimes you just want to to make a pretty picture. Or at least attempt one.

To hear the inspiration behind my blog, John Mayer's "3x5," click here.