When you’re sick, the last thing you do — after dying — is check the internet …

On Sunday I wasn’t feeling great.

Over night on Sunday, I felt like someone kicked me in the crotch. Apparently there’s very little difference between stomach cramps and being punched in the balls.

On Monday, I was completely shut down. And by completely, I mean I got up to send a couple emails, but otherwise I was out for the count.

Tina took care of me. Luckily. She felt fine enough to do that.

I had some rice and chicken for lunch and the Xeroxed that menu for dinner.

Just before lunchtime, I checked the internet for what to do about stomach cramps. The results were less than great. With stomach cramps, I could have everything from appendicitis to some kind of cancer.

I probably had nothing more than a bit of a bug, but — goddammit — the internet is the worst consultant in the world.

I would have been better off just calling my mom. She would have said, “Get some rest and eat some rice” — which I did.

Or I would have been better off asking Jesus; because no answer would have been better than having the Internet worry me that I have appendicitis … or CANCER!

The next time I get sick, no internet will be consulted.

That’s it.

reflections on the observational universe

A few weeks ago, I was at Whole Foods on Halsted and Waveland.

We had descended into the basement-level parking deck and stood at the elevator bank waiting to go up to the first floor store. A dad walked up with his young son, who was probably 4 or 5.

When the doors opened to enter the elevator car, Tina was encouraged to go first. I followed her, and the dad and son followed us in. Not before I turned around, the son says, “Daddy, we’re upside down.”

I saw him out of my periphery. He was looking up at the mirrored ceiling. I smiled to myself and wanted to congratulate him on a stunningly astute observation. The dad replied “What?”

The son was pointing up toward the ceiling. The dad seemed to shush him, indicating that they were in public and his observations were silly. The boy embarrassingly hid into his father’s crotch, and looked at me smiling down at him and he stuffed his head away from me near his dad’s jeans pocket.

The Petit Prince flashed into my mind. “My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.” images

Children who aren’t allowed to see the world with creativity and difference become stifled. They become the product of a insipidly sheepish world afraid to be different, or say things differently.

The boy who drew pictures of a boa digesting an elephant become a orthodox to certain behavior. That is to say, they become “straight thinking.”

Then the colorless, fruitless monotony sets in. Tina and I often watch the zombies of our universe, crossing streets mindlessly. Driving cars as if it’s their little world and we’re just strangers in it.

I wanted to tell the boy to read the Petit Prince as soon as he could. Read it in english. Then read it in French, and understand its every nuance.

A couple weeks ago, I was picking up some things at our local Aldi. Aldi has a growing number of organic foods, locally produced and 1/3 to 2/3s less expensive than any other grocer in town. They also have the best prices on cheeses and other non-organic produce.

When we shop, we tend to make two to three stops. We’ve been eating smoothies every morning and if we shopped the local grocery store or even Whole Foods, we’d go broke before we could sip our first sip of juice.

Our Aldi is stuffed with diversity. Everyone from the best-looking couples you’ve ever seen to people who haven’t had a bath in weeks.

Speaking of baths, I was checking out in one of their infamous long lines. I was behind a young Asian girl who only had two bags of flour on the conveyor belt. The guy in front of her was about 6’3″, 350 to 400 pounds, African American. He wore a tattered brown coat and sweatpants.

When he finished putting his groceries on the belt, he brought a brown stick separator to place between his stuff and her two bags of flour. I noticed that she was sheepishly staying back on the conveyor belt.

Then I noticed why. An odor pierced my olfactory nerves so deeply, so strongly, my eyes started to water. It was as if I were in a portapotty after Lollapalooza and stuck my head deep into the toilet and inhaled deeply into my nose.

It was nauseating.

I watched as the cashier checked him out, and — as if the most professional customer service expert ever — she didn’t act like she smelled him. She was patient with him as he swiped his SNAP card and tapped in his pin. She smiled as she handed him his receipt and he smiled back in his thunderously jovial voice said, “Thank you. Have a nice day.”

The Asian girl finally got to the register, where remnants of the big man remained. The cashier swiped two bags of flour over the electric eye. “Shoot, I forgot something. Can I go back?” She asked the cashier. You could see the cashier look at the two items she remembered and think, “What a dumbass.”

“Sure,” said the cashier. “I’ll take these two things off. Go on.”

So the cashier rung up my stuff. We made small talk. Howdy dos.

The world keeps turning around the sun. The sun in the galaxy. The galaxy in the universe.

This speck in a vast sea of dark matter, clouds, and light.

You have a significant place, it’s just a speck, but it’s big. So be creative today. Make some observations that make other people embarrassed. You don’t want to be a dumbass who waits in a long line at the grocery store only to discover the third thing on your list is still back on the shelf.

Recommended listening: two interviews on NPR’s Fresh Air

I’m covered up with work, but while I work, I listen to the radio, both music and NPR.

Yesterday on NPR, Terry Gross aired an interview with Bart Ehrman, the UNC bibllical scholar who wrote “Misquoting Jesus” among others. He has a new book out just in time for Easter called, “How Jesus Became God.”

You can read about it and hear the interview here.

And today, Terry Gross interviewed a scientist and feminist named Barbara Ehrenreich about her “spiritual experiences” and how she views them from the perspective of an atheist and rationally-minded individual.

Check that one here. Both I can’t imagine my family and friends from back home listening to, but that’s par for the course.

Nature is naturally amazing!

These two images (below) I found over at TYWKIWDBI. I could post almost everything I discover at Minnesotastan’s blog. But these two were not to miss.

The first is this one:

orchid mantis

As Minnesotastan wrote:

I’ll bet you didn’t see the mantis on the orchid. … Neither did the fly.

The next image is fascinating as well.

It’s a group of ants squirting formic acid into the air after they felt threatened. What an amazing group protection plan.


ants spray


Read more about it here.

Vaccinations win again! India beats the odds, beats polio

CNN reports:

Howrah District, India (CNN) — Rukhsar Khatoon is too young to fully grasp the significance of her life: that she is a last in a country of 1.2 billion people.

She has become the greatest symbol of India’s valiant — and successful — effort to rid itself of a crippling and potentially deadly disease. Rukhsar, 4, is the final documented case of polio in India.

Her face has appeared in newspapers and on television. She’s been invited to national events by Rotary International, the organization that led the effort to rid India of polio. She is a literal poster child, an inspiration, a symbol of a feat that no doctor or health official thought possible even a few years ago.

Apart from the publicity, though, Rukhsar’s life has hardly changed, her future still a question mark.

Read on: 

Let me distract you with these links!

trilobite fossil copy

I’ve got to get some stuff done today, so I’m providing you with links of distraction.

ABOVE: Impressive trilobite fossil (TYWKIWDBI)

How to make it in photography: sell overpriced bullshit to photographers

Have you heard?

fStoppers is holding an amazing photography workshop and conference at the end of May. Seriously. This is an event not to miss.

The greatest of the great will be there. Aaron Nace. Dixie Dixon. John Keatley. Mark Wallace. Michael Grecco. Mike Kelley. Peter Hurley, to name a few. They’ll be there to teach you the intimate and intricate details of photography that you, yes you, can integrate into your workflow, your inspiration, your perspective and your idea set.

It’s an opportunity to expand your knowledge while visiting an exotic location.

Oh. Did I forget to mention that the workshops are all to take place in Nassau, Bahamas?

Yeah, you’ll get to learn from these greats in paradise.

How much does it cost? You ask bright eyes and bushy tailed.

Well, you gotta get there. So there’s airfare. And per night at the selected hotels is generally $200/night. A little less at the budget hotel and a little more at the other.

You’ll be in resortland, so add in over-priced food to your budget.

Oh, and you’ll be in the fucking Bahamas, so if you’ve got kids, a spouse or a girlfriend or boyfriend (or both), you have to take them. Because who tells their spouse that they’re going to an important photography conference in the Bahamas, and I gotta do it alone.

How much is the conference? You ask with furrowed brow. 

That’s a good question. The menu for classes is a la cart. So a two-day seminar with Aaron Nace on how to plan your  dream photo shoot is $1500. One day to learn to light the Keatley way will set you back $750. Four-hours learning to shoot interiors like Mike Kelley, a measly $400.

Do the rough math for Tina and I to go — and for just me to attend workshops — add up airfare, miscellaneous travel expenses (cabs, trains, dog sitters, a beer at O’Hare, an Egg McMuffin in transit), accommodations, overpriced resort food, and a menu of outrageously priced photography workshops packing your days while you’re visiting fucking paradise … so now you gotta stay three or four extra days to soak up the sun and see the sights … I’m guestimating dropping between $12,000 and $15,000.

Let’s do some more math.

How many photographers do you know who do photography full time?

I do. That’s one.

I recently attended a bar powwow that my buddy Bill organized for photographers. Out of the ten photographers in attendance, I think three of us were full time. Three.

The average income of a photographer, I’ve heard is around $50k. On this site, it’s $25,000.

So let’s pretend that the average income for photography is around $35,000. Our income happens to be on a higher end of the spectrum, but we’ve been doing it for a while.

I personally don’t have $12,000 to $15,000 to spend, so I’d have to use credit or not go. If I depleted $12k to $15k, that’s much more than my average budget for gear, replacement gear, expenses, gas, mortgage, shoes, food for Talulah, a meal or two, other travel, other expenses.

Part of my point, though, is that more photographers are hobbyests and part-timers than full-timers. And what’s more attractive than spending five to ten days blowing hard earned dough in Nassau?

The target for a gig like this are photographers who are yet to make it. So they are probably on the low-end of that income level or they’re working a full-time job hoping to break into photography full time.

And what’s going to set a part-time photographer back from going full time more than blowing a shit-ton of cash on a frivolous vacation/workshop trip to goddamn Bahamas, where you’ll be sitting around watching Aaron Nace remind you a thousand times a second why you suck and he’s a genius.

This effort is literally the most egregious wannabe-photographers ripoff I’ve seen in a long, long … long time.

There’s so much shit, and I mean horse shit, marketed toward photographers, a herd of creative people nearly going extinct in the most rapidly changing market that it’s faced since Mathew Brady published images of dead soldiers during the Civil War and blew up how awful war is.

What fStoppers and all the photographers at the workshops are doing is a grift. They’re hustling a crapload of hopeful photographers into a den of thievery.

This workshop should be in a place and in a pricepoint that makes more financial sense for the market that they are targeting. As it is, they are handicapping the hopeful, pie-in-the-sky next generation by sucking their wallets/accounts/credit dry as an Arizona desert.

Because, as it seems, the way to make it in the photography world … is to literally sell hope and other garbage to sanguine photographers.

Yes. This means I’m not going. And I’m sure fStoppers and the rest could give two shits if a guy like me was there.

But if you are going, consider yourself hustled. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot. A ton, really. If the cost isn’t prohibitive to you, good for you.

I hope what you learn turns that $15,000 into a bottomless trough of clients with fat photography accounts and endless photographic and creative pleasure.

My recommendation is go to Nassau. Skip the workshops and buy every single one of Aaron Nace’s online videos.

You’ll save a ton, learn a lot and get a better tan.

misplaced passive assertive aggression

On the road to equilibrium, a friend made me aware of something I’m already aware of, but not in the sense of self-analysis.

Let’s say there are four types of communication. They are:

  • Passive
  • Assertive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive Aggressive

Defining these terms is likely somewhat simple for you. They were for me. For some help, a simple google search is doable. Or try this one.

There are a few thoughts I have regarding this new awareness of something old.

But the way I understand it, assertiveness provides the best form of communication, and how it was described to me, almost utopian in nature.

On further analysis, assertiveness is the form of communication that is the most absent in our culture. Most people communicate either passively or aggressively. Or passive aggressive.

I know I’m very guilty of this, here on this blog and in “real life”. For the most part, I’ve been unaware of how passive aggressive I am.

For instance, the other day, I photographed a band and it took me longer to do than I anticipated. Tina wasn’t with me, and she didn’t understand why it took me so long. She also wasn’t understanding that some of my negativity about the shoot was not directly correlated with the happiness of shooting a band like this.

So she kept harping on the idea that it was negative and asking why would I want to do it then. I became frustrated, because my communication, while direct to me, wasn’t sinking in to Tina’s brain. We had picked up groceries during the discussion, and when we were getting out of the car, I picked everything out of the car, expecting Tina to say, “What can I take up? You’re clearly bogged down with two camera bags, a grocery bag and a 12-pack of bubbly water.”

But she didn’t. So I didn’t say anything. I huffed up the stairs in a sort of temper tantrum-y, “Why wouldn’t she ask to help?” fit.

When I got through the door and to the table to set down everything, the cardboard in the 12-pack of bubbly water cans ripped and they tumbled to the floor. “FUCK!” I shouted and kicked one of the cans as it hit the floor, which immediately burst and splattered everywhere.

“What is going on!?” Tina called out. “What happened? Why didn’t you ask for help?”

“I was hoping you would notice that I was weighted down to the hilt and ask me!”

The argument dissolved, but I had to ask myself, “Why didn’t I ask for help?” Why did my passiveness result in a loss of temper? It was clearly my fault. I didn’t assert what I wanted, and I paid the price for it.

Aggression ain’t just a river in Egypt. 

On this road of discovery, I learned more about the concept of aggression. People often don’t realize they are communicating aggressively. Yes, aggressiveness can pertain to belittling others, or personal attacks, to get what the aggressor wants.

But aggression is also not listening. Aggression is talking over someone. Aggression is an “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude.

Assertiveness is allowing others to be right as well.

Where I grew up, religiosity was/is an aggressive stance in conversational activity. It’s aggressive in that it teaches not to listen to others points of view, not to be an active, empathetic listener. It doesn’t allow others to have a valid perspective.

And you know what, this aggression leads to developing enemies. It leads to developing a passive aggression from those who we love.

It’s an inadvertent yet direct way to say, “Fuck you.”

Be Assertive. Be be assertive. 

My misunderstanding about these types of communication types has certainly caused a dramatic withdrawal from my public persona, not only in my inner-personal relationships, but my business, my family and my social media.

Often, my communication slips from passive to aggressive in one fell swoop. I hate feeling like I’m being stepped on. I feel like I am not heard or listened to, and then someone posts something on Facebook gets the wrath of my passiveness.

The other day, I wreaked havoc on a friend’s wife. I mean, HAVOC.

Social Media is worsening the concepts of passive aggression.

When you post to a social media site that is controversial to one set of your “friends” and favorable to the other half, you’re basically saying to one group, “Fuck you” and to the other group, “See, we’re right and they’re wrong. Slap five.”

People think they’re being assertive, while they’re being aggressive in disguise. 

Being assertive is stating ones opinion, but not saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It’s a listening attitude, rather than a one-way directional, from-the-pulpit kind of communication.

That’s why comments are always open here. So comment. And I’ll be better about keeping my aggression in check. :)