Gatherers of Light

I’m nearing the end of my project of excavating old images from the depths of my hard drive. There have been some interesting discoveries along the way. A few days ago, I found a set of photos I thought had been lost, from March 23rd, 2002. That’s when I made a road trip to Shreveport for an event called “Arts in the Edge: Gatherers of Light.” I was showing a video there.

I believe this was when I first met Paul Gailiunas and Helen Hill. Helen was showing a film in Shreveport too, as was Courtney Egan. Courtney was my connection to the whole event. I rode up with Courtney and David, then rode back with Paul and Helen.

I was particularly happy to find this photo of Helen and Rosie:

Helen & Rosie

People had been telling me “you’ve got to meet Paul and Helen” for a couple years. And on this day in March, I finally did. And I finally understood why they were so celebrated by all their friends. I’d never met such happy, friendly, loving people.

It was a good day.

Helen slept on the ride back to New Orleans, but Paul and I stayed up and talked the whole way, six hours I guess.

I’ve posted the whole set.

Displaysia

Bad news everywhere. The sunken barge shifted in the Mississippi last night, spilling yet more oil into the river. Stacy Head (my Council rep) is attacking Jerome Smith for no good reason. Derrick “Saggy Pants” Shepherd is going down in flames.

But I don’t care, because I got a new monitor at work.

Actually, I got the monitor a couple weeks ago, only to discover to my chagrin that I couldn’t get full resolution without a graphics card upgrade. So it’s been sitting to the side, unplugged, until today.

The card has arrived, and I am rocking four megapixels.
Continue reading Displaysia

Drop Off

I left my daughter with a bunch of strangers this morning. Kind of an odd experience, but not as upsetting as I might have thought. The folks at the daycare seem to know what they’re doing, and the whole scene inspired confidence.

This is teacher prep week, so Xy’s not quite back at work full time yet. She was going to do the drop-off herself, but decided last night that she was too likely to burst into tears. So it fell upon me, as it will regularly once school starts. I strapped her onto my chest and walked the four blocks. Didn’t integrate the bike into the routine yet. It was threatening rain, so I wanted my hands free for the umbrella. Didn’t need it, though.

Daycare is expensive. I’ve rented whole houses for less than we’ll pay per month. It certainly does make one look twice at the possibility of one parent staying home to care for the child. Garvey says he and his wife manage it; coincidentally I read (in Parade of all places) about another couple (from Indiana of all places) who are doing the same thing. In both cases, these folks are making ends meet with substantially less salary and a bigger mortgage and they’re not going into debt.

I don’t know how they do it. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. By my calculations, even if we cut out all luxuries — no internet, no Netflix, no alcohol, never eat at a restaurant — it still doesn’t add up to that much. I don’t know what else we could cut.

Anyway, those calculations will have to wait, because we’re committed to our present course for at least the next school year. Xy isn’t the type to welch on an obligation; she’s said she’ll teach this year, and so she shall. That means our daughter will be in the hands of others for a good portion of the day.

And I think she’ll enjoy it. She seems fairly happy and comfortable with strangers, and I suppose there’s some socialization value even at this young age.

But the next month may be a difficult transitional period.

Around the Corner

Here’s an excerpt from the 1st District Crime Activity Report for July 24, 2008, reproduced verbatim and without editorial comment:

Type: Aggravated Assault

Location: 3100 block of Bienville

Gist: At 6:30pm, the victim had a verbal confrontation with her live in boyfriend over the one month old baby not being his son. After being informed by the victim that he had to leave the residence, the boyfriend then relocated to the bedroom where they slept and retrieved a small black revolver that was under a mattress and brandished the weapon at her and informed her that he would kill her. He then departed the location.

Description: Wanted: Justin Johnson; black male; 08-08-1986; 11435 Will Stutley Dr.

Packing Up

I spent a few hours over the past week helping a friend pack up and move. Something I’ve done many times before.

Only, in this case, my friend already left. And wherever he is now, he won’t be needing his file cabinets or his shoes or his pipe collection… or any of his worldly possessions.

So, that was a weird experience. Packing up and moving… nowhere. Most of his furniture and clothing was going to a local charity (Bridge House) so we just carried it down the stairs and, instead of putting it onto a moving truck, we simply piled it in the driveway.

Moving that couch and sofabed down the narrow stairwell was quite an adventure. I’m not as sore today as I thought I might be.

Scott’s mother was in town from Birmingham. She didn’t have much use for all this stuff. The antiques and valuables were sold, but she was happy for us to take whatever we could use. I think Frank may have a new library (mostly science fiction paperbacks) to replace the many books he lost to the Federal Flood. I took home a coffee table, an old mirror, a toolbox full of tools, and more than a few odds and ends. A big hunk of coral for Xy’s classroom. A bottle of Murphy Oil Soap. A box of peppermint tea. A sword coated in glitter — which is not an unusual thing to find in any New Orleanian’s closet, really.

The Boboli Video

And now here comes a video from the unfathomable T Bill featuring Xy and yours truly at the Kroger grocery in Bloomington, Indiana, circa mid ’90s. I guess I gave this raw footage to T Bill when he visited years ago and then forgot about it. I never expected to see it again. But, lo and behold, he edited it together with some other appropriated video and posted it to YouTube yesterday. This was stuff we shot for ROX but never used. Never before seen! Enjoy.

Puddling

Puddling

Rainwater collects in little puddles on several of the steps leading up to our front porch. Ideally these old worn treads should be replaced, but that’s a lot of work. As an interim measure, before I put down the second coat of paint, I was thinking to drill a few small holes to allow drainage. I just hope that doesn’t create some bigger problem.

Poetry Party Photo Collage

Dipping into ye olde hard drive, I found this photo collage I made six years ago. I still think this is pretty cool.

Poetry Party

I didn’t use a flash and so most of my pix turned out blurry, but when reduced for this collage they actually look decent.

Of all the people who read and performed at this event, I was most impressed by Christian Champagne. He was introduced as “doing for Yat what Dylan Thomas did for Welsh.”

Also, the big out-of-town guest, Art Goodtimes, is a pretty interesting guy.

All in all this was a great evening.

A Few Humble Suggestions

The Louisiana Department of Transportation held a public meeting at City Park Tuesday night to gather input for a statewide bicycle/pedestrian master plan. I missed it, but good ole Charlie London tells me we can still send ideas to [email protected]

Here’s what I sent:

I commute to work every day in New Orleans using the Jefferson Davis Parkway bike path. A simple, cheap thing could be done to enhance the safety of this path — just put some of those white bumps on pavement where the path crosses the various streets. This would help motorists know the path is there. Also, how about a sign or two indicating there’s a bike path? And finally, where the path crosses Tulane Ave. is quite dangerous. Cyclists can’t tell when the light will change and I often get stuck on the neutral ground, which unfortunately is very narrow and difficult to be on with a bike because the cars are passing in very close proximity. I’m not sure what the best solution is here but something could surely be done.

I’m don’t know if this is the kind of information they were looking for. Probably not. Oh well. I’ve been wanting to make these suggestions for years and I’ll pretty much tell anyone who listens. I think this path is maintained by the city, not the state. Maybe I should send it to the Department of Public Works or Parks & Parkways.

Update: I got the following in reply.

Thanks for your comments. We are working on a statewide bicycle and pedestrian policy plan for the LDOTD, so while your comment can be part of the public record, which may be helpful to the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in the future, we aren’t doing a case by case look at all bike facilities in the state – we are focused on the policy that ‘drives’ the project development process.

It’s my understanding that that bike path is city maintained, so you may want to contact the public works department, or the Regional Planning Commission.

Out (and About) with the In-Laws

Mike & Susie

Just wrapped up a four-night visit with the in-laws. (Actually they left town yesterday morning.) What to say? They read this blog, so of course I can’t be too honest. Heh heh.

No, really, I love my in-laws. I just like to make fun because they’re, you know, my in-laws. They’re fun people. Xy gets a little taxed because they’re her parents. But I get to enjoy them more as friends. A guy couldn’t ask for better in-laws, really.

Still, there are moments. For example, our daughter was getting a bit fussy at one point, as infants will. Susie’s remark: “It’s only going to get worse.” I just had to laugh. She has a penchant for such observations. Of course, she may be right.

They stayed at a time-share condo in the Garden District. They don’t want to have to mess with the parking valet and tip him every time they drive somewhere. So we get to play chauffeur. Say they want to come over to our house. We drive over to their hotel, pick them up, and bring them to our house. Later, we drop them off, then drive back home.

Actually, the arrangement does have some advantages. It was nice to have access to the swimming pool. Also, Xy probably appreciates the mental space. I think I’d prefer it if they stayed with us, though.

But far be it from me to dwell on such things. We had a festive visit, and some fine meals — Zea’s, Venezia, Juan’s Flying Burrito, Drago’s — mostly on their dime. Now they’re on their way to Florida, where Mike will be competing in yet another Scrabble tournament. Thanks for everything, and good luck.

Puppy Theft

Here’s an excerpt from the 1st District Crime Activity Report for July 20, 2008, reproduced verbatim and without editorial comment:

Type: Theft

Location: Dumaine and North Rocheblave

Gist: The victim stated that at 6:15pm, she received a response to an ad that she had in the newspaper for a puppy. The victim met an unknown black male in the 900 block of North Rocheblave. She let him hold the puppy and then he fled with puppy eastbound on North Rocheblave.

Description: Unknown black male; 5’6”; 125lbs; white shirt and blue jeans

Five Months

You don’t cry much, but you’ve been grunting and making a lot of other noises, pretty much since the day you were born. Over the last month you’ve been gurgling and cooing more. Then, a couple weeks ago, you went swimming with Sebastian, who’s two years old, and he taught you the joy of squealing. You’ve been squealing off and on ever since.

You seem to be on the verge of babbling. I’m looking forward to that. I expect you’ll be pretty verbal some day.

Weekend Update

You’d think a guy like me would be all over Tales of the Cocktail. (Hell, I should be on a panel. After all, I’ve co-hosted almost a hundred episodes of a show about mixed drinks.) But every year it sneaks up on me, and I find myself obligated elsewhere. This year I’m hanging with the in-laws, who are visiting from Indiana. They aren’t our only Hoosier visitors; Jenny & Herb also stopped by yesterday; we had burgers and sausages. But the really big news is that Daisy’s water broke last night (I got updates from DJ via Twitter) and she gave birth some time around noon today. It’s a girl, but she has no name as of yet. I find that poetic. I like the idea of existing in the world without a name. Also, I avoided killing myself on the ladder but was unable to unstick the painted-shut upstairs windows; I did successfully reinstall all the old burglar bars however. Man, it’s hot out there.

The Voskhod Experiment

Here is some random audio mess I mixed up lately.

Cosmonaut
  1. Voskhod [26:15]
  2. Proton [25:53]
  3. Cosmos [26:35]
  4. Soyuz [27:58]


All files are in MP3 format;
each clocks in at just under half an hour
and just around 50 MB.


Actually it’s not entirely random. There is a method at work here.

How best to describe this stuff? They might be called mashups or remixes. If I had a two hour slot on a freeform station like WTUL, WFMU or WFHB, this is what I imagine it would sound like.

These programmes are constructed entirely from the works of other musical artists. I believe I’ve created something that might be heard as either new work or derivative work. Either way I think these programmes are technically illegal. I did not get permissions or licenses from any of the artists whose works I used. In my imaginary radio show I’d come in between sets and give credits, but I’m not doing so here because that just seems like asking for trouble. (In the off chance that someone actually hears their own work sampled here, I can only hope you like it.)

Each piece is constructed according to a slightly different formula, with Soyuz being the biggest deviation from the norm. In fact I think I might prefer this alternate version, Soyuz [Second Variation], but I go back and forth. I’m still developing the technique.

Enjoy? I guess the real question is, can I do anything with this stuff besides just posting it to my blog?

Poster

Three years ago, I became aware of a collaborative poster project which made use of a couple of photographs I’d published under a Creative Commons license.

Peach Poster, 72 dpi

According to the krazy genius who put it all together:

This mosaic was made from 2500 individual photographs of circles, photographed by 542 talented individuals.

The mosaic was constructed algorithmically by Jim Bumgardner using images from the Squared Circle photo pool at Flickr, the photo-blogging website.

Jim was selling these posters at cost. I ordered one and was really knocked out by the quality. So I took it to a shop to get it framed.

Then Katrina hit, and the floodwalls failed, and New Orleans flooded, including the frame shop. To the best of my knowledge that shop never reopened.

Recently I was reminded of the poster, so I took another look at it online, and was touched to discover that back in 2005 Jim was selling autographed copies to raise money for Katrina relief.

I looked in to ordering another copy of the poster, but they had sold out long ago. I didn’t really mind. The Federal Flood taught me not to place too much emphasis on material possessions.

I left a note for Jim, recounting my story, and thanking him for helping the cause. Lo and behold, he had a couple extras sitting in the garage, and he mailed ’em to me, no charge. Thanks, man.

So now I’ve got a beautiful work of art in my office, with a great story behind it.

But I’m not getting it framed during hurricane season.

Another One Gone

It would have been nice if this big old house could have been preserved. It would have been nice if someone had taken responsibility for this property and not allowed it to further deteriorate and become a haven for vagrants and a (perceived) threat to the residents across the street.

3114 Iberville

Instead, we get another empty lot. The demolition of this building actually clears an entire city block. There’s another vacant city block on the other side of Bienville. Our block is between these two empty blocks. We’re feeling a little pinched.

But at least I got this funny picture out of the deal:

Big Squirt

Call & Response

I was playing with the girl yesterday, and I asked her some silly question I don’t even remember now. Then I answered my own question, “Yes you are,” and gave her belly a little rub.

She laughed.

So I repeated myself, “Yes you are,” and rubbed her belly again.

And she laughed again.

“Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh. “Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh. “Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh. “Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh. “Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh. “Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh. “Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh. “Yes you are.” Belly rub. Laugh.

That was pretty cool. It was like a conversation. She’s getting to be more like a person every day.

FOLC in the Zone

WWL-TV will do a feature on the Lafitte Corridor this Thursday morning at 7:45 AM.

This is part of a series called “In the Zone.” They’re covering a different recovery zone each segment. They’ve done almost all of them, so this is one of the last. If you want to see previous episodes in this series, look online.

I did an interview with them Friday, right on the Lafitte Corridor. The camera operator said he’s shot hundreds of stories about projects around town. He said he’s cynical and skeptical toward just about everything — but THIS project turned him on, big-time. That was pretty inspirational to me.

They’re hoping to shoot interviews with a few other folks. Linda Landesberg and Edgar Chase will also appear in studio. The reporter, Rob Nelson, seemed to have a pretty good handle on the issues, so I expect this to be some great publicity.

Please tune in, and if anybody has a means to conveniently capture the broadcast as a digital file, please let me know.

The Speed of Dark

Title: The Speed of Dark
Author: Elizabeth Moon
Published: 2002

So here’s a book that I enjoyed despite some glaring deficiencies. It’s the tale of a young autistic man. He’s high-functioning with a genius aptitude for pattern recognition, so he’s gainfully employed. In fact he’s part of a whole unit of autistic employees at some high tech company. But a nefarious autistic-hating supervisor wants to pressure his whole department into undergoing a radical experimental treatment to “cure” their autism.

Plus, there’s a lot of fencing.

OK, so first the negatives. The characterization of Crenshaw, the autistic-hating boss, is just unbelievably bad. Unforgivably bad. Here’s his first line:

“I’m a natural leader,” Crenshaw said. “My personality profile shows that I’m cut out to be a captain, not crew.”

Yup, he’s a villain all right, and Moon deploys him with all the subtlety and nuance of a nuclear bomb. He’s a one-note character, and that note is asshole. I found him utterly unconvincing, and this weak characterization undermined the whole story.

And then there’s the ending. I’m still not sure what I think about that exactly. My opinion seems to be changing even as I type. I don’t want to spoil it for any potential readers, so I’ll say no more about that.

But the majority of the book is narrated from the point of view of the protagonist, Lou Arrendale, and this is what I found compelling: the viewpoint. As mentioned, he’s autistic. He may be high-functioning, but he’s also profoundly different from the “normals.”

I found myself not only able to relate to Lou but also somewhat spooked by just how much of myself I saw in him. I have a number of compulsive habits that wouldn’t have been out of place for Lou. I find myself spelling words backward, then pulling out the vowels and reversing them with the consonants forward, then reversing the consonants but not the vowels, and so on. And I could really relate to Lou’s problems understanding other people. He was constantly confused and irritated because people say one thing and mean another. Me too. I get hung up every time someone says “How are you?” Most of the time, people don’t really want an honest assessment of your current status; it’s just a way of saying hi. But, like Lou, I have a hard time not taking people’s casual pronouncements literally.

I daresay most people will identify with Lou in some way, on some level. None of my autistic friends have read the book (yet) but from what I gather, by scouring various internet forums, many autistic readers have found Lou to be a very realistic depiction of their interior experience. Moon’s son is autistic, so I suppose she’s had plenty of opportunity to see the world through his eyes.

So: a very humanizing perspective, and that’s pretty cool. It also raises some interesting questions about the very concept of normality.

Also in the plus column, I found this an extraordinarily easy read. Lou’s straightforward, logical narrative style was extremely easy for me to digest. I’m not a fast reader, but this was a fast book. I wouldn’t call it fast-paced, though.

Fencing is a theme in the book. Lou’s propensity for pattern recognition serves him well in this arena. Turns out a friend of mine who lives in Austin fences with Moon on occasion. Small world.

The book is set in the near future, and Elizabeth Moon is primarily known as a writer of science fiction. Speed of Dark even won the Nebula. Yet it appears to me that this book is not being marketed as a genre novel. I think that’s wise, because it really does read like mainstream contemporary fiction, or at least what I imagine mainstream contemporary fiction might be like. I don’t venture there often.

When I finished the book last week, I scoffed at the Nebula. Even though I enjoyed reading it, I thought surely there must have been a better science fiction novels in 2002 than this. But I have to admit it’s grown on me a bit since then. Some stories grab you, and others creep up on you.


This paperback is on the shelves of Octavia Books now, and you can join us to discuss it there tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM.


I was saddened to learn that Thomas M. Disch died by his own hand July 4, one week ago today. I have an old anthology of his work in hardcover, Fun with Your New Head. Bleak, bleak stuff, but also incredibly good. I don’t think it’s in print, but poking around the net I found the title story, an extremely short and weird and unsettling piece from ’68 that’s worth a look.