Showing posts with label People Watching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label People Watching. Show all posts

23 April 2012

In Court

(Author's note:  some observations from my recent morning as an uncalled Witness for the State)

Going to court in your home town is kind of like a family reunion.
That you dread.
The accents drop into your ear like old shoes slid onto your feet;
comfortable at first: they make you smile, but too soon you're sore from all the worn out places in the soles.

It's more than just a family reunion -
it's a carnival, a circus.
Where clerks and attorneys juggle piles of paper, affadavits and attaches,
and the clowns make themselves known by their repeat performances before the ringmaster.

Every good show must start with a parade,
And so this parade of people as order coalesces from chaos:
defendants, police, police, police, officers of the court,
another defendant, witnesses for the state.

The aura of the black-robed ringmaster is heavy in the room - though herself yet absent.
Name plaque and chair;
a serious chair most un-circuslike,
made to be sat upon at length and suitable to carry the weight of the judgment of others that falls so heavily on be-robed shoulders.

The garb of the un-robed on display is likewise telling in this civil service circus,
To wit:
the concept of "Sunday Best" exists on a continuum
(let that thought take root, I'll wait).

You see, some folks avoid a tie and button down shirt
as assiduously as they seek to avoid a guilty verdict.
A polo shirt punctuating the observation that
a man who had the forethought to obtain a tie would likely have avoided whatever troubles brought him here on this day.

Others seems to have sprung from the womb
with full-windsor firmly in place,
decorative neck cloth as a badge not so much of office as state of being.
Especially the State Police.

The players confer and move
to a spectator the choeography seems always close to collapsing entirely,
yet the pieces and players all fall into place as the barker, no the bailiff holds forth.
We hear "All rise", and so the real show begins.

19 July 2011

Goodbye Borders

     As much as it is possible to love a large chain store that homogenizes tastes across our vast nation, I have loved Borders. The store combined the best of variegated selection with the feel of a local one off bookstore. Not only for me, but for my marriage, Borders has been a favorite place for the Mrs. and I to go when we want to get out of the house.  Maybe we find a nice new book, maybe we merely browse, but we'd enjoy a cup of coffee, a pastry, and some time together watching the world go by.  And now we'll be watching Borders go by.

17 July 2009

T-6: Thoughts

Getting ready for work this morning I was thinking about my impending trip, mostly the flight, whether I'd go contacts or glasses (contacts), and decided that I was probably going to be awake when the plane landed in Hawaii because I'm not going to miss that approach and landing (much like one of Aerosmith's worst songs, I don't want to miss a thing. Hey, wasn't Liv Tyler in Pearl Harbor? This feels like a bad road to follow...anyway...) when I realized that my awesome new 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 lens, with its 67mm diameter glass, doesn't have a polarizing filter. Crap, that means most of my attempts to shoot the shores of paradise from the air would end up with the ghosts of my fellow passengers' reflections in the shot. That might be fine for Pa Kettle's vacation snaps, but I'm practicing my art here, and you never know when luck, preparation, and timing (timing is similar to luck, but something that you can learn, unlike luck, which is probably tied up with quantum theory) will coalesce into a shot for the portfolio. Preparation and timing are the largest parts of the equation ... I wonder what that equation would be, maybe:

Pr = Preparation
T = Timing
l = Luck
Ph = A Good Photo

(Pr3) * (T3) + l = Ph

I'm opening the floor on this one if anyone else feels nerdy enough to help fine tune the formula. Again, I digress.

To the point, I've ordered a circular polarizer for my lens, which means I should be able to cancel the reflective effects and maybe, just maybe, get an awesome shot of the Hawaiian shore. I ordered my filter by first checking out what Ken Rockwell has to say about them. Ken's never steered me wrong, and he's put a lot of work into his site's content. He has links to vendors that get him paid when you click them (you know how it works), so I went through him to Adorama, a vendor I've had good dealings with, and blammo, $30 later I have a Tiffen 67mm circular polarizer on order, should ship today (from NYC), and by the grace of God and a good tailwind should make it to my door tomorrow, or at worst Monday. Definitely by Tuesday, because if it doesn't arrive by Wednesday I'll be sleeping as the plane descends into Kona.
Can you tell I'm ready to go?

30 April 2009

Playing for Change

A big thanks goes out to my Aunt Robyn for putting me on to this. No matter what your personal politics might be, you cannot argue that these guys are doing something amazing, artistically and technologically.

I know FZ was doing something similar before he died, only he was bringing different musicians from around the world to him.

My only critique is that it needs more trumpet ... I'm here when you're ready for me guys.

Check this out, check them all out:

21 April 2009

Ending the Embargo

I swore I'd never go to a Trek convention. Sure, I've seen just about every minute of Trek that ever aired, and I've read more Trek novels than is recommended for a sane person. But I always kept it in the house. I never let it hurt those I love; so why would I want to go to a trek convention now?
Partly because of the curiosity of what I might see, the deals I might find (I'm always on the look out for a good deal), the photo-ops. I might actually be able to compose a decent shot or two - you look at the photos from these things and you'd think that these people have never heard of off-camera flash, or even bouncing the light.
And that's why I have to go. The pictures. Not the mechanics, but the subjects. The stars. The people we as sci-fi watching nerds all love, love to hate, want to be, or want to be with (watch some TOS, and your hailing frequencies will be open, allright) are up on stage, or at some table, signing autographs, hugging sweaty nobodies in ill-fitting and poorly sewn costumes, and generally looking uncomfortable.
I'm not white-knighting. I don't plan any major SAVE THE STARS campaign. I'm willing to bet the money's even pretty good. But something about the way they look in those photos just doesn't sit right with me. Our idols reduced to common men. Heroes of our youth (and, let's all be honest, not-quite-so-youth) brought down to our level. Not even do they appear to be treated as celebrities, cordoned off from the rest of us by assistants and security and velvet ropes. Plastic folding tables, sharpies, and glossy prints from 30 pounds and a decades past. Is the money worth being on display? They just look borderline miserable to me.
Except when they are on stage. Then they come alive. I mean, they are actors, after all. The photos while they are on stage, performing, reminiscing - the fourth wall ephemeral but still there, almost in phase with our reality (to borrow some technobabble).
Or, I'm completely off base, projecting my own feelings into some inopportune moments captured in jpg format; faces in transition from listening to a smile of warm recognition of a shared experience. Maybe it's too a bit of my naivete that I'm unwilling to part with: I know they are just people working on a sound stage, but in a deep part of me I want it all to have been real. So I want to go to a convention to see for myself. While I'm there maybe I can take some decently lit photos, and capture the moments that I'm hoping I'll see.

07 March 2009

Rob Watches (the) Watchmen

She was going to drag me to Twilight last night, but a with little luck and a brother-in-law on my side (thank God for Chaz), the three of us went to see Watchmen. I've read the novel, so I knew what to expect coming in. I also knew that I would likely be in close proximity to NERDS.
First things first - this is definitely an R rated movie. It likely pushes the envelope of the R rating. I won't go into too many details, but if you don't like seeing generously proportioned blue-schlong or a tastefully done sex scene between costumed adventurers, then you won't like this movie.
They also use the word "Fuck" in it a few times. I know, right?
Synopses you can get everywhere else on the internet, so I won't carry on with one of those. I will share my impressions:
  • WOW
  • Holy Shit
  • Freakin Awesome
  • How Cool
  • How Clever
  • Nice
That's a good sampling of how I felt.
Moving along, the soundtrack of existing songs was nicely chosen. The songs all trended towards the cliche for me, but it felt like that was intended. After all, Moore was making a similar point when he wrote the novel, so the use of very widely known songs from the mid-late 20th century did a great job of painting mood and feeling with a nice broad brush. Like a 4-color comic book, if you will.
The casting was likewise fantastic. The actors all did top notch jobs, faithful to and fleshing out their previously 2-d characters. I didn't feel like anyone turned in a poor performance. Well, the actor who portrayed Nixon felt a bit TOO charicature for me, but again, I think this was done for effect. If they'd wanted a more faithful to our reality representation, they would have done it.
The camera work didn't make me nauseous and I never felt disoriented. Those are my 2 criteria for "good" camera work.
I did have to sit next to a skinny, bearded, long-haired nerd (who thankful did not have any weird odors) and his buddy. They giggled during the aforementioned sex scene. I wanted to ask them if they'd ever actually been that close to a naked woman that they hadn't paid for (likely they wouldn't do that either, because the stereotype is of the White Knight - obviously those girls need saving! I digress...), but I just sighed quietly to myself and used my Man Power of Selective Hearing to tune them out and get back into the movie. Because after all it was a sex scene.
The NERDS ("basement dwellers" -Chaz) didn't spoil the movie for me, and overall the packed theatre was well behaved. I imagine a 9:51pm showing weeds out most of the idiots.
One weakness that was pointed out was the length. The pacing - such as I am able to speak of such things - did drag a times, but I think this was often when back story was being filled in, or maybe when Doc Manhattan was pontificating. His calm, detached demeanor would be likely boring to anyone who forgets that he is an energy being who comprehends the UNIVERSE.
You saw my impressions above. Go see it. Brace yourself for the slow moments, but if you find yourself getting bored, think about how Doc Manhattan could take out the galaxy at any moment, and pretend that he's thinking about it. Because he probably is.

29 September 2008


I'm writing three posts for today, I know that excites you. I'll be recounting our weekend excursion to the City herein, then making space for a special Broadway Review, and finally, a patented rant cum lament slash tin-foil hat post, well, you'll see.
When I last wrote I was exhausted from several hours of Greyhound travel and one brief if crazy cab ride from agrarian Frederick, MD to industrio-organic New York, NY. After sleeping off the trip we woke up about noon (how decadent) and made our way to a bagel shop on 8th Ave for some brunch. I got chicken salad on 7-grain bagel and a cappuccino (I did not once set foot into a Starbucks on this trip). The chicken salad was freakin' delicious, and the bagel was soft and perfect. You really can't get a good bagel outside of the City, I now know everyone who has ever told me that is right.
After eating we wandered back to the apartment on 9th where we left the Mrs. and Dathan while Parker and I strolled around Manhattan, him telling me what everything was, me hungrily consuming everything with my eyes, pupils drinking in the photons as though parched from a trip through a long, dark desert ('sup Jersey). We strolled, and talked, and not long after setting out into the misty afternoon where low-slung clouds hid the mighty peaks of Manhattan from our mortal eyes, we came upon some interesting architecture, and an asian man in short-order cook's garb seated on a stoop enjoying a smoke. The light was good, the time felt right, I reached into my bag for my camera and began my pre-shoot Settings Ritual. The camera wouldn't power on. It was broken. More on this in my rant.
We wandered on and took in Columbus Circle, the Time Warner building (what's up with the 15 foot statue of tha naked dude -hello proportionally small wang, just hangin' out there- who looks like a chocolate Osca stature what ate another chocolate Oscar statue? Seemed like some homage to Consumerism, given the fact that we were in a shopping center where everything was really expensive), made our way over to the Hudson.
There's an apartment in a bottle sculpture in a small park by the river. Again, interesting on many levels. We saw the Intrepid's dock, but the carrier is off undergoing maintenance, I was told. We saw some cruise ships - wow, they really are huge, and even saw a Free Tibet protest outside the chine Embassy, which itself is an interesting mix of deco, Maoist and traditional Chinese architectural forms. I wanted to tell them I'd take 2, since they were free, but poking hippies with a stick didn't quite seem fitting with the mood of the day.
We strolled home, and then entered into the lottery for discount (front row!) tickets to see Wicked, which out of the 4 of us Dathan's name was pulled and he got 2 tickets, which he gave to the Mrs. and I.
After we dined at Arriba Arriba (good Mexican), we went to the show, which I review in my next of three posts. After the show we became true New Yorkers - we had 15 minutes to get from 51st to 44th, and there were a bunch of freakin' tourists sauntering about the sidewalks, so we had to bob, weave, and sometimes push to get past the fly-over cattle. I wanted to yell "MOOO-0oove It!", but only my middle name is 'Craig'.
Why 44th? Birdland, of course. We sat at the bar and listened to Betty Buckley (I'd never heard of her, either, apparently she was in Cats when the Mrs. was in the womb) sing standards with her tight 4-piece band. After that we stood outside and chatted for a bit before beginning the walk home, at 130 in the morning. Of course we stopped for a slice on the way; did you honestly think we were in NYC for an entire weekend and didn't even enjoy a slice? I could have eaten a whole pie, but I settled for a slice.
Sunday we brunched at The Nook on their block, said our goodbyes, and made for the Port Authority, the New York sky crying as we hiked down to 41st to hop our South Bound Greyhound.
In 7 hours, 3 stops, and 1 transfer, we were back in Frederick and my tailbone was sore.
I definitely want to live in the City at some point in my life. It feels like the right thing to do. That said, save for the apartment I don't know that I sat in a single place that I would call comfortable for any length of time all weekend (on second thought, the back seat of a cab is very comfortable for my butt, if not my stress level). I think maybe you need to spend more money in Manhattan for the comfortable seats.


An observation that I'm sure has already been made. Looking at Manhattan, the buildings, the sidewalks, the fire-hose taps and hydrants (a hydrant was being drained as we walked home from Birdland, and some tall skinny chick in a too short dress and expensive-looking heels turned to her short friend and commented on "all that water being wasted". aha. And then, as they navigated around the rushing water as it was swallowed by the storm drain, she wondered where was a man's jacket when they needed it? Well, I was wearing a jacket, and admittedly it was a Goodwill purchase, but come on, chica, that water was a good 6 inches deep and my jacket would have been false hope, oh wait) the streets and the stoplights and what trees there are, my mind began to work. The city is as organic as any living being. Seemingly disused items are left in place as their replacements are installed. Even in the old buildings from the 1800s the remnants of over 100 years often linger in the ceilings and under coats of paint. New buildings seem to grow to replace the old people shift around from room to room, circulating, breathing life into the bones of this old city. There's a siren song to be heard if you listen. More than the belting on Broadway or the lapping of the Hudson, but every bit the staccato 'woop woop' of a NYPD cruiser at 3am and an old man picking trash off the streets singing "Singin' In the Rain" as you walk to brunch. It's all of this. It calls to you and if you hear it you find it hard to resist. You find yourself thinking that maybe you could make a home in a large wine bottle by the river where onlookers could watch you at home like you watch them when you aren't.


I was talking with Parker about this as we walked around Manhattan Saturday!

27 September 2008

Holy Crap, I'm in New York

It might be the city that never sleeps, but I'm not far from the pillow, personally. The Mrs. and I hopped a Greyhound in Frederick and rode on up to the City. The bus showed up an hour late, but our driver from Baltimore to NYC made up some time so we were "only" a half hour behind.
And then we were in New York.
This is only my second trip here, my first time being a whirlwind tour where we were in and gone in 24 hours. I'm trying to get at the cab ride once we were here. Wow. If you've never been to NYC and taken a cab do it. It's like a roller coaster with worse odds, but still really exciting. And with a better view. You see more interesting things in a 5 minute cab ride (as you whiz by at neck-breaking speed) in NY than you do in an entire day in Frederick or Hagerstown. Maybe even 2 days.
Hopefully the rain holds off enough tomorrow so that I can fill up a memory card or two.
Now I'm going to close the lid on my laptop and pass out to the TV-inspiring sounds of mid-town Manhattan.

p.s. this gets a "zen" label because you have to approach that kind of calm to survive the cab ride. At least, I do.

10 September 2008

Right of Way

Fresh after hearing a story on the radio about how raising the driving age in Maryland to 17 will save lives (noted here for irony, this debate another time), I am stuck at the red light turning from Himes onto Ballenger Creek Pike. You know the intersection. If you don't, I'll include a handy Google map at the end of this for you. I've just somewhat narrowly avoided my second speeding ticket for the week (you'll have to ask me about #1) because Himes is significantly downhill and I had the 7:59 inertia pushing me in the back.
Finally, I get the green, after sitting through the red twice. I turn left onto Ballenger Creek at approx. 8:05, but OH HO, who cuts me off but Frederick County Public Schools Bus number 437 barreling from the off ramp from 15/340, a ramp that is clearly marked with a Yield sign for traffic arriving via that ramp?
The bus, admittedly, was empty. However, if a bus driver (she obviously and definitely purposefully accelerated to jump into traffic ahead of me) exhibits that sort of decision making with an empty bus and a non-threatening situation, what sort of decision making will she make with a bus full of screaming kids and a tenth of a second to make the right decision?
Mostly I'm P.O.ed because of the idiot I was stuck behind at the red light with the selection of bumper stickers which read:
  • Geekier than thou
  • GB (Great Britain)
  • Atheist (ICTHYS fish with feet)
who proceeded to let this guy from St. John's pull into traffic ahead of him, even though I was the only car behind him. I would have only sat through one more red cycle rather than two. I wouldn't have had to deal with Bus Driver McDeathtrap, and I likely would have made it to work just on time.
I'm thinking 17 isn't high enough for the driving age. I think whatever the driving age is, it needs to be above Stupid.

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16 August 2008

A Beautiful Day for an Oil Change

It's 66 degrees and sunny - my computer and my eyes agree. A perfect Saturday morning. I'm here at my "Dealership for Life" for another free oil change, my mind just spinning up on this day off. You've chosen to read the verbal output of this. Lucky you.
If Jiffy Lube commercials were to be believed, there's nothing people hate more than having to make appointments to get their oil changed. I don't so much mind it. Sure, I had to get myself in gear on a Saturday that will find me home for the remainder, but at least the dealership is on our end of town ... more or less. It's not sitting in a wood-paneled room what smells of old smoke and past-its-prime lubricants, either. The waiting area here is spacious, with leather couches, an HDTV mounted on the wall, and hey, what do you know, free wireless internet - though I seem to be the only person ever taking advantage of it when I'm here for my appointments. There are refreshments, too. The coffee leaves plenty to be desired, but this is a car dealership, not Starbucks. Though, Hamilton, you could consider an upgrade to the coffee system. Just sayin'.
Beyond the free mediocre brew-up and comfy seating, the best fun has to be the people watching. A young mother with her toddler daughter who tears off into the showroom, squealing with joy (the child, mind you - I know it's hard to infer which any more), mother apologizing "she always does that". I bet she does.
The employees, the sales force &c. Serious looks on their faces - the masks of concentration that show them planning their next move in the chess match that is automotive sales. Their true faces suddenly replaced with pearly smiles of genuine joy when they make eye contact. Remember, you've already bought one car here, and they're hoping with all the hope their mortgage (or drug habit, but I'm not judging) can muster that you'll be back to buy your next car from them.
The looks on the faces of the people who whether by necessity or by choice are here to buy a car. Are we making the right choice? Can we afford this? Cousin Jack said this place was good, and we trust Jack's opinion. But still ... are we going to get a good deal? After all, Jack said to ask for Steve, but Steve doesn't work Saturdays, so we're dealing with Roger. Will Roger give us as good a deal?
Getting back to my original point, the oil changes. The appointments are fine by me, because the most important thing is that they are free. This is the best part. Oh, I know what the gimmick is: come in for the free oil change and tire rotation, but we're going to sit down and tell you that your car needs this service to prolong the life of the engine, and isn't $300 a reasonable price for the peace of mind going down the road?
Actually, it's about $300 too much. We've all been driving for a long time, and I have yet to have one person not paid to do so tell me that the $150 engine flush and $200 waternator reboot were worth it.
But. This momentary confrontation is also a worthy price to pay for what otherwise would have cost me $40 at the local lube emporium, because at the end of it all I drive out of here with a washed car with fresh oil, topped up fluids (including the air in my tires - I really should buy a pressure gauge, or dig out the one I know I own somewhere), only out the time and gasoline that I spent in getting and being here. And honestly, on a Saturday morning, it's either sit here and drink their coffee and use their internet, or sit at home and drink my own coffee and use my own internet. The major differences being that I'm better clad and someone is working on my car.
I'm going to keep rambling, as my brain is still spinning and I'm frankly, well, bored. Car sales people are interesting to watch when they are standing outside the front of the dealership. Like sharks swimming the briny deep, noses open for the tiniest drop of blood in the water - the smallest amount of oil leaking that indicates someone is done with the piece of junk they drove on to the lot.
How do they determine who will pounce on the next customer? Rotation based on seniority, feats of strength, or whomever isn't currently daydreaming? It's likely not terribly interesting, but I bet I could make it interesting. Have we ever seen a television program take place in a car dealership? Taxi companies, the occasional garage, dry cleaners, bars, hospitals, homes - these have all been done, but a car dealership? We had Larry Dallas, but we never spent any time with him on the lot in sunny Southern California.
They say the sitcom is dying (and largely I'm glad for this), but a car dealership seems ripe with possibility. I'll leave the details up to you, dear reader. I've lost my train of thought on this issue.
In fact, it appears that my entire train of thought has been lost, so I'll grant you mercy and stop writing.

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