Saturday, July 31, 2010

EMPS: "Fixing" it in the Edit!

For the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #100: Fun With Editing!, I present a few totally silly edits and a not-so-silly one.

My first attempt. The background is from a year and a half ago, and the bobcats are from last week.


I spent all night on this, but I'm not quite satisfied. Somehow, as busy as it is, it needs more...something. Oh, I know! I forgot to include a notice of the park rules!


Lovely. Incidentally, there was a guy in the original shot bending over at the water's edge with his butt showing. I added Ganesha (from the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland) to block him out of the picture. It seemed rude to post such an unflattering image of him, whereas his companion in the chair was too photogenic to pass up. Speaking of whom....

Here's a more straightforward edit, at least insofar and I didn't paste in any elements from other pictures. I used a watercolor effect, and a paintbucket to change the color of the water. The caption is doubled up to make the lettering a little thicker.

I actually have done a fair number of FX shots over the years, including a brain in a frying pan with flames coming up from the burner, another one of me on the moon (sort of), a vortex in the sky and so on. You can see a fairly complete collection here. Mostly, though, I've been doing Doctor Who photo manipulations for Gallifrey Base. Some of these have elements from my own photos, some not. That set is here.

And here's a last-minute addition:

Cayenne and Pepper meet the jumbo bunny.


Round Robin: You Can Tell By The Water...

...that the monsoon has finally arrived!

As of early Friday afternoon, my entry for Round Robin Challenge: By The Water was going to be completely different from what you will see below, and probably kind of lame. I had photographed a bottle of water next to a telephone, and I'd used my phone to photograph Jason, the treasurer of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, hiding behind a fountain outside the sanctuary. In a pinch, I could also use a photo of the grounds of St. Matthew's in the rain - such as the picture above. That's what I'm talking about in my jokey title to this blog entry. The monsoon has finally arrived, and that means frequent thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings.

That was the original plan, but then I got off work early. This gave me a chance to drive home by way of the Pantano River. It seemed dry, despite last night's rain, but I couldn't really tell without getting out of the car and walking. The place I sometimes pull off the road to check the state of the river was marked No Trespassing, because the city is apparently building a long, narrow park along the riverside path just off Pantano Parkway. It's going to be called "Gardens of the Ancient Signs," but so far it's basically a series of twenty foot brick walls. I'll have to visit it properly when it's done, and bring back pictures.

I then went home and collected the dogs, and we went to Chuck Ford Lakeside Park to photograph the lake there, which bears the absurd name Lakeside Lake. I'm pretty sure all the lakes in Tucson are artificial, this being the desert; and this one is artificially stocked with trout and bass for fishing. Pepper did a little wading (on a leash, of course), but Cayenne had no interest in approaching the water.

Oh, great. I just found out a young woman was murdered at this lake six weeks ago.

On the way back, I checked out the Alamo Wash a few blocks from our house. As I expected, it was basically dry - but flood warning signs were up in anticipation of evening rain. So tonight, at the tail end of our most impressive storm so far this summer, I ventured out to see what pictures I could get of the wash in the dark.

I parked on the street and walked down to the dip in the road.

This is the same wash that was so dry earlier in the day.

Here is a different stretch of the same wash, flooding a different street.

Now let's see other interpretations of the topic "By the Water":

Linking List
as of 4:47 PM MST, Saturday, July 31st 2010

Carly - Posted!

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Rich - Posted!
Rich Image

Freda - Posted!
Day One

Linda - Posted!
Mommy's Treasures

Monica - Posted!
Shutterly Happy

Jennifer Robin - Posted!
Robin's Woods

Tanya **Welcome, New Participant!** - Posted!
Capturing Tranquility

Your Daily Photo Depot

Margaret - Posted!
Margaret's Musings

Taylor **Welcome, New Participant!**
Taylor's Photos

Peggy - Posted!
Holmespunfun Memes and Themes

Maryt - Posted!
Mary Tomaselli's Photos

Sandy - Posted!
From The Heart Of Texas

Rue (AKA Ethos)**Welcome, New Participant! - Posted!
Passion in the Moments

Manang Kim - Posted!
My Photography in Focus

Ruth - Posted!

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Weekend Assignment #328: Writing to Writers (Mostly)

Fan Mail? Yes, I've written fan mail. So glad you asked!

Weekend Assignment #328: Fan Letters

How about a lighter topic this week? Let's talk about FAN LETTERS. I have never personally written one, because the one time I attempted to, it came off, well, sounding kinda weird! LOL. Apparently I have NO talent for them at all! Nope. Nope. Nope. But how about you? Have you ever written a successful FAN LETTER? If so, tell us about your experience. Did you hear back from the celebrity? Was it a positive experience? Tell us all about it.

Extra Credit: Write a one paragraph FAN LETTER to your favorite celebrity.

I suppose most people who write fan letters address them to actors, but that hasn't been my pattern:
  • I wrote to the Laugh-In tv series as a whole circa 1969 when I was 12 years old, and got a few photos and a contract in return (for joke submissions to a spin-off game show, Letters to Laugh-In). I think I asked for autographs from "everyone involved." "Everyone," based on the response, was pretty much just Gary Owens. I've long since lost that photo, and doubt it was really autographed. But I still have the contract!
  • When Wayne Rogers announced he was leaving M*A*S*H on the grounds that his character Trapper John was not being given equal prominence with Alan Alda's Hawkeye, I wrote and tried to talk him out of this, citing several episodes that centered on Trapper. I don't think I ever heard back.
  • a package from Harlan, 2005.In 1975, as editor of a local Star Trek zine and, more importantly, because he was my favorite writer at the time, I wrote to Harlan Ellison, author of the Star Trek story "The City on the Edge of Forever" as well as a slew of highly-imaginative, award-winning short stories. He replied promptly, with a letter that I mislaid a few decades ago but which may yet turn up. I wrote to Harlan a second time, asking permission to publish his prior letter in 2-5YM. He gave permission, advised me on securing speaking engagements at Syracuse University and the folly of living in Los Angeles without a car, and closed with "I don't have time for correspondence. Please." I still have that letter. I've met him a number of times since those two pieces of mail, first when he spoke at Syracuse University (imagine that!) and we took him out to dinner, later when John and I met at the Clarion Writer's Workshop where Harlan was teaching, and most recently when he was given the SFWA Grand Master Award in Tempe, AZ a few years ago. He's a fascinating and maddening person, and my small acquaintance with him began with two fan letters from a recent high school graduate.
  • In July, 1986, after reading Ellis Weiner's excellent novelization of the flawed-but-fun film Howard the Duck, John and I wrote to praise the book and to ask whether he was Steve Gerber (creator of the Howard character) writing under a pseudonym. We got an appreciative and funny reply in return, which I still have in my autographs binder. Weiner now writes funny stuff on Huffington Post, among other venues.
  • About the same time as the Weiner letter, I wrote to artist and editor Dick Giordano, then in charge of DC Comics, objecting to the jettisoning of decades of story continuity in order to "reboot" the stories of Superman and other major characters. His form letter reply had a long, individualized postscript, defending the decision on the basis of sales, but doing so in a fairly gracious way. All these years later, I still think the short-term gain in sales was not worth what DC did to its characters in that era and since. I concede that it can be hard to keep the stories "fresh" after 50 years or longer, but I don't think in helps to press a reset button every few years and simply start over. How many origin stories does one character need?
  • Also in 1986, I wrote to writer Madeleine L'Engle because I was having theological and literary difficulty with her use of Noah and his family in her most recent book about the Murry family, Many Waters. As it happened, her husband had just died of cancer, but she added a postscript to a form letter about her bereavement, explaining briefly that there was nothing wrong with using the Ark "myth," as she called it, in a fantasy novel, and quoting Karl Barth: "I take the Bible much too seriously to take it literally." Heady stuff! 
  • 1986 was the year that John and I tried to write for a living rather than hold down conventional jobs, which perhaps explains why so many of the entries on this list are from that year. I also wrote to writer Damon Knight that summer, but that was more of a business letter. So was my letter to Martin Milner, requesting clarification on a few questions I had been reluctant to ask when we interviewed him that earlier in the year.

In the early 2000s I wrote to Madeleine L'Engle a few more times, offering her condolences on the death of her son and telling her about the website I maintained about her books. I also sent some photos to Harlan Ellison at his request in 2005 so he could make copies of them. But that's about it for snail mail to celebrities. My most recent contacts with writers I admired have been online. After the publication of the original and revised editions of The Writer's Tale by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook, I wrote to Ben Cook via Facebook and got a nice reply each time. And just in the past week or two I wrote to another Doctor Who Magazine journalist, Andrew Pixley, for a truly pleasant and informative swapping of ideas and anecdotes about the history of fan research about the show. Good stuff!

I always wanted to send a letter to Thurl Ravenscroft, the basso profundo behind the song You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch, the character Tony the Tiger, and, for more important to me, a long list of Disney shows and attractions. He died of cancer a few years ago, but I still have a cheap Tony costume I intended to get autographed. Which reminds me: I did get around to writing to Fess Parker in the early 2000s, and got an autograph back. He's dead now as well.

Another writer whose work I love is also on the short list of people who died before I got around to writing to them. Every time a Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide book came out, I inevitably started writing a letter to him in my head, and occasionally onto a computer drive. But I never quite managed to say anything cogent enough, witty enough, or interesting enough to make it worth sending.
    Finally, I've never written a fan letter to any of the actors who played the Doctor on Doctor Who, unless you count a brief by-mail interview with Colin Baker. I've interviewed four of these actors, but no fan mail. Yet for years I've been writing a letter to David Tennant in my head, on the grounds that he was my favorite Doctor, the best actor of the lot, and by all accounts a nice man. The urgency to get this letter out of my head and over the the BBC has faded considerably this year, because his successor in the role, Matt Smith, is so outstanding as the Doctor that he threatens to take over the top spot in my affections. With that in mind, here is my fake but heartfelt letter to Matt Smith for the Extra Credit:

    Dear Mr. Smith:

    As an American who has been a Doctor Who fan since 1988 and interviewed four of your predecessors in the role, I never expected David Tennant to become "my Doctor," which he did over the course of his tenure. I expected even less for you to win me over completely in the first minutes of "The Eleventh Hour" this past spring. You had me from the moment you popped out of the crashed TARDIS and asked, "Can I have an apple?" Your Doctor is youthful and ancient, funny and sorrowful, brilliant and clueless, and always a joy to watch. How do you manage to look and act over 900 years old, when you yourself have not yet hit the tender age of 30? I just can't figure it out. What I do understand is that you are truly amazing in this role, which you were seemingly born to play. If forced to choose a favorite Doctor today I strongly suspect I'd choose yours, and your performance as well. May you have a long and happy tenancy in that ancient, brand new blue box!


    Monday, July 26, 2010

    The New TV: A YouTube Video by KFB

    My friend SB has poor health, no money and very little human contact, so a TV is pretty much essential to her wellbeing. After her ten-year-old TV broke down, John and I decided to loan her the cost of a new TV. But can I even get the new TV to work?


    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    A Take of Two Graveyards, Part Two

    For Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #99: Cemeteries, I took photos at two very different places: the St. Michael's Memorial Garden and East Lawn Palms where my mom is buried. This is the second of the two entries.

    My mom didn't really believe in getting cremated, having been raised with old-fashioned Roman Catholic attitudes. I made arrangements for this cemetery and this marker just weeks before she died. I designed the marker from a couple of standard options (stone color, scroll, comedy/tragedy masks and roses) and added a quote from a song my mom wrote in the early 1970s.

    Keeping the grass green is an ongoing issue. I've complained but it doesn't help.

    The Garden of Love.

    The high-rent district, where standing markers are allowed. In my mom's section, all markers must be flat so a law mower can ride over them. Even flowers must be on stands that bend flat.

    Some of these high-end markers are rather elaborate...

    ...and this one is especially striking.

    Carly also wanted to see a black and white version of one shot. Here it is!


    EMPS: A Tale of Two Graveyards, Part One

    For Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #99: Cemeteries, I took photos at two very different places: the St. Michael's Memorial Garden and at East Lawn Palms where my mom is buried. I will devote an entry to each.

    From Arizona Cemeteries
    This is the NE memorial garden at St. Michael and All Angels. It is the larger of the two sections.

    My 104-year-old friend Eva Osburn was one of the people most recently interred here.

    Customized remembrances at this cremation-only graveyard are small-scale but heartfelt. A hummingbird ornament adorns the grave on the left, while the flags of England the the United Kingdom mark the ashes of a parishioner who was born in England.

    Some of the "All Angels", perhaps?

    Here is a black and white version of one photo, by request.

    I recently carried a crucifix at a funeral at St. Michael's. I didn't have ready access to my camera that morning, but there was a 21-gun salute for the retired Marine, something I'd never seen before in person. Taps was played, and also a hymn on bagpipes. The folding of a flag for the widow was done very slowly and deliberately, and the saluting was also done very slowly.

    This is where I intend to be interred. I haven't made the arrangements, though.

    Now on to East Lawn Palms!


    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    Weekend Assignment #327: Surviving Summer!

    Funny how things work out. I had a very different entry planned for Weekend Assignment #327: Beat the Heat!

    Weekend Assignment #327: Beat the Heat!

    Summer is well underway now. If you live in the northern hemisphere, the days are long and the sun is on its way to being about as hot as it gets in your particular climate. How do you stay cool when the weather gets hot?

    Extra Credit: If you've ever relocated hundreds of miles to a new home, did the climate play a role in your decision to move?
    You know; it was going to be something about how this is the worst time of year to be in Tucson, when the humidity rises but the monsoon hasn't really gotten started, clearing away the heat with dramatic thunderstorms nearly every afternoon. Our monsoon was due a couple of weeks ago, so so far it's mostly sweltery, and hardly rainy at all.

    I also was going to reveal that the white round thing in my Round Robin entry was indeed a fan, a standing fan that John just bought for his office. And that other thing, white with ice? That's the air conditioner in out den, frozen up because of the humidity.

    Anyway, I was going to write about all that this morning, my entry having been delayed by my working every day since July 6th for one church or the other. (I may have had the 11th off, but Sundays are always busy for me anyway.) But then this morning I had a Facebook message from my friend Sherry Watson, the artist known as Sherlock. She and her sister Amy were in town for the day, and headed out to the Desert Museum. Did I want to get together with them? Well, yeah!

    Sherry and Amy at the Desert Museum, in the pre-monsoon heat and humidity.

    But mid-July at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is not the most comfortable place in the world to be. There were clouds and storms on the horizon, but it barely sprinkled over the museum itself, which is essentially a modern, cage-free zoo in the desert. I was soon hiking around the desert in 100 degree F heat, with high humidity making things much worse than they would be otherwise. Even though I made use of almost every bench and almost every water fountain I came across, I was in a bit of distress after a while. Ultimately the Watson sisters meandered on toward the hummingbird aviary while I recovered at the coffee bar with a bagel and iced tea. (Yes, I did get to the hummingbirds eventually.)

    a coyote in the shade

    Along the way I did see a number of animals, but most of them (the mammals, anyway) were taking advantage of any shade they had available to them. In fact ASDM is set up for that, providing dens so the animals can wait out the heat of the day, just as they do in the wild.

    Javalinas, sacked out under a bridge.

    And me? I was really appreciative of the gift shops, the underground viewing galleries and the fake cave where the geology exhibit is. In my own way, I did my best to escape the heat the same way the animals did - by getting the heck out of the sun!

    Oh, and yes, we knew about the climate in Tucson, and chose to move here in 1986. We were sick of winter in Syracuse and Columbus, Ohio, and had spent a few months driving around, looking for someplace it wasn't winter. Our first day in Tucson, it was 90 degrees in March, and we went to the Desert Museum. We soon hit an unseasonable storm, complete with hail(!). So it one day, and in the days around it, we hit a range of Tucson weather. And it was better than 278 non-sunny days annually in Syracuse.

    But not in the weeks immediately before the monsoon!


    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    EMPS: A Semi-Necessary Summer Treat

    Working two part time jobs at once this past week, I haven't had much time to think about Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #98: Summer Treats. But I did buy a few summer treats, and yes, I took pictures of two of them!

    As you almost certainly know by now, I live in Tucson. What you may or may not know is that this is the very worst time of year to live in Tucson. In May and June it was hot and dry; now it's hot and the humidity is rising. I'll explain in more detail when I post my entry for Weekend Assignment #327: Beat the Heat!  in a day or two, but for now let's look at two of the treats I've bought to try to cool off!

    This is a McDonald's Mixed Berry(?) Smoothie. When I hit the drive through on my way to St. Matthew's the other day, I got this in addition to a large unsweetened ice tea. The person taking the drive through order offered me the smoothie, then misremembered which kind I'd ordered, and then asked whether I wanted it with the yogurt. Well, yes!

    Three or four minutes later, the ice tea fell out of my cupholder when I made a left turn, spelling onto the passenger's side floor. I didn't get one sip of it. But the smoothie survived.

    This one is more decadent, but I felt I deserved it after a long afternoon of wrangling parishioner pledge entries. I think it's a strawberry banana split shake. Very pretty, but frankly the smoothie was better.

    There's one more similar treat I've purchased several times this week but forgot to photograph every time. There's a local chain of restaurants here called eeegee's. They sell subs and fries (with ranch dressing!) and other stuff, but their main claim for fame is the eegee, a frozen fruit drink. The standard flavors are lemon, strawberry and pina colada, and they have a Flavor of the Month as well. I loved last month's Orange Dream flavor, but this month it's Watermelon so I've been getting the Pina Colada. They've also recently brought back egg salad subs, and I've been enjoying those as well.

    Anyway, I stopped by my local eegee's just before sunset last week for a small egg salad and a large pina, and noticed that the sun and the clouds were reflected in the front window. So I photographed it. Because in Tucson, photogenic weather is a different kind of summer treat!

    Please scroll down for my Round Robin entry. Thanks!


    Round Robin: What Is It? Stuff Out of Context

    Happy Saturday! It's time for the next Round Robin Challenge, entitled

    Guess What This Is!

     The topic was suggested by Lisa of Lisa's Chaos back in May 2008.

    So you know what you've got to do, right? You've got to "Guess What This Is!" If you know, or think you know, what the following objects are, please post your answers in the comments below. Ready? Here we go!

    The first three photos depict parts of the same object.

    Do you know what it is yet?

    Okay, then, same drill, different object. Only two photos this time:

    And only one shot at this last one, unless you count the logo for this Challenge!

    To me, these are super-obvious, but I can't tell whether it's because I already know what they are. I look forward to finding out whether I managed to stump anyone, even for a moment!

    While we're at it, let's guess what's in everyone else's photos:

    Linking List
    as of 3:45 AM PDT/MST, Saturday July 17th

    Karen - Posted
    Outpost Mâvarin

    Jama - Posted
    Sweet Memories

    Day One

    Sandy - Posted
    From the Heart of Texas

    Jenn - Posted
    Shutter Happy Moments

    Jennifer Robin - Posted
    Robin's Woods

    Mary Tomaselli's Photos

    Erin - Posted
    A Hardcore Life

    Sherrie's Stuff

    Rich - Posted!
    Rich Image


    Carly - Posted

    Gattina - Posted
    Keyhole Pictures

    Have fun!


    P.S. Okay, so these were too easy. I've pulled one photo and here is one from a different object:

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Weekend Assignment #326: Camp Among the Stars

    It's taken me all week to figure out my response to Weekend Assignment #326: Off To Camp:

    Weekend Assignment #326: Off To Camp

    Guess what? You have been offered the chance to be the keynote speaker at a world famous fantasy camp! Great! Tell us what kind of camp it is, and what makes you such an expert!

    Extra Credit: Create a special logo for the Fantasy Camp you are speaking at! :) Let's get a little visually creative!

    Okay, then here's my logo. "Among the Stars" would be a fantasy camp for an audience that doesn't really need one: sf and fantasy fandom. The reason fans of sf and fantasy books, tv and movies don't normally need a camp is that we already have something that serves basically the same purpose, namely sf conventions.

    But let's play this out. How would a fantasy camp for sf geeks be different from a ComicCon, and Worldcon, a Gallifrey One or any number of other conventions? It would be much smaller and more intimate, with more of the one-on-one opportunities that are a challenge for conventions to arrange, if they try at all. In most cases, if you want to chat with an sf author, or a guest star from your favorite episode of your second-favorite tv show, you basically have three choices. You can stand in an autograph line for half an hour or more in exchange for a minute or so of personal contact, or pay extra for a banquet or brunch, or approach the writer or actor in the hotel bar. A few cons manage to do better than this, but the whole point of a fantasy and sf fantasy camp would be to do much better. Attendees would spend much more than a con-goer would, in order to offset the economies of scale. The result would be more genuine interaction between fan and professional, but under controlled conditions. The professional would offer acting or writing workshops, or allow the fan to direct a scene, conduct an interview or even design a book cover.

    John Levene (Sgt. Benton on Doctor Who) poses with an issue of 
    TARDIS Time Lore, for which we interviewed him more than once.

    So what would my role be in such an event? I would introduce a workshop in how to interview actors and other creative professionals. Over the years I've interviewed many actors, writers, and producers, a few directors, a costume designer, and I forget who else. My usual approach was generally to start with a very general question and move in from there. We always had a list of decent questions prepared, but the trick was to listen to the answers and follow the flow of the conversation, while still getting to topics people would want to read about. I'm not the world's greatest interviewer, but I'm fairly good at it, and I have some idea of the pitfalls. The last thing you want to do when interviewing someone is to bore or annoy them by fumbling for words or asking something the interviewee doesn't know or care about. (I'll never forget William Shatner's answer to some fan's technical question about dilithium crystals at an early Star Trek convention. "They're green," Shatner said. "And they make the ship go." How much more did the actor need to know about this fictional power source?)

    Gee, I'm kind of sorry now that this Among the Stars camp doesn't actually exist!


    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    EMPS: We Are Gathered Here Today...

    Well, that's convenient! Boy, do I ever have a lot of pictures for Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #97: Gatherings! Two weeks ago yesterday, a few hundred people gathered for the wedding of Terri Renier to Father John Smith, the rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. Michael and All Angels. And I, for the first time in my life, was the wedding photographer! I was severely under-qualified, under-prepared and under-equipped, but I did my best. I took nearly 500 photos that weekend using two different cameras, spent many hours editing what I had, and just this morning presented Terri with a data DVD containing 385 images.

    "380! Karen, you're out of control!" Terri said.
    "I know," I replied.

    Here are a few of the better shots:

    A little girl arrives in her wedding best.

    The church is filling up!

    This little boy is at his first wedding.

    Relatives of the bride watch for the procession to begin.

    Terri with her father and uncle.

    Flower girl and baby ringbearer.

    Bishop Kirk Smith (no relation) presided.

    The wedding is a family affair.

    Just married!

    I had a horrible time with inadequate lighting, which led to seriously grainy images when I tried to use my own camera in the church. I used a tripod for the rehearsal, but it didn't help much, and at one point I tripped while getting up from a kneeling position and slid onto on the floor! For the wedding itself I was able to borrow someone's professional grade DSLR, but I had no special lighting and no time to learn to change any settings if needed. Suddenly at the end the good camera decided it wasn't going to focus at all. I don't know why, but assume I knocked some setting off of where it had been.

    The rehearsal was a more laid-back gathering.

    I was able to edit out the graininess on many of my wedding rehearsal photos with an auto de-noise tool, but that meant losing detail on the faces. Good thing the happy couple is so forgiving, because I certainly did not manage professional-quality results!