When I was a kid, my very first camera ever was this Kodak 110 that I won at my dad’s company picnic, in maybe 1979 or 1980. The name Instamatic rings a bell, but after a bit of googling, I think it was an Ektra. Anyway, it used this 110 cartridge film, this grainy stuff that took perfectly square photos in an almost psychadelic color scheme, with tons of lens flare and the inability to take a picture in less than full daylight unless you bought those strips of flash bulbs, the kind you plug in, take a few pictures, then flip over to the other side, then throw the whole melted, short-circuited mess out. And as a kid living on allowance, my budget for this hobby was somewhat less than the average trust fund hipster swinging around a Holga and mailing off their shots to some super-OCD lab in Seattle.  In fact, I think I shot maybe four or five rolls on this thing, and except for maybe one or two of them, the exposed rolls sat in a kitchen junk drawer for years until they corroded into nothingness. But I do love the handful of images I took with it, not because they look good or are artistic in any way, but because they have such quirky size and color.

So today I discovered the Hipstamatic app for the iPhone. It’s essentially a replacement for the iPhone’s built-in camera software, but it’s also an emulator for all things hipster-esque in the camera department.  It looks on the screen like you’re holding up a freaky German plastic camera, with a little square video preview window, and another square window showing you the film “cartridge” loaded into it.  But the cool part is, you can mix and match various film, lens, and flash combinations by drag and drop in the interface.  And they have an in-app purchase system to buy other new packs of lenses and films, if you want to go B&W or get that plastic lensed Holga look.

I snapped a few shots at lunch and after work in Palo Alto, and really dug the results.  Some of these photos look like they were taken in the mid-seventies and forgotten for decades.  Maybe it’s just a gimmick, but it’s great fun, and I did not need a lick of Photoshop work to accomplish this.

Anyway, here’s a slideshow, or click on the preview picture above to go to the Flickr set.  (Note to people not reading this from – you might not see the embedded images – sorry.)


Dirty fingernails

Today I had this wise idea to get my car washed and waxed.  Well, I actually just went and got it washed first, at this weird ghetto car wash within the Macarthur Maze, a place that looked like it used to be a gas station, but with all of the pumps ripped out of the islands, and the former mini-mart now sold bootleg t-shirts.  It was run sort of like a barbershop, with a bunch of essentially freelance dudes, all hungry for the next car to pull in.  I got this guy that looked like Snoop Dog, wearing a Jahvid Best jersey, and he charged me $13 although I just paid him 20 because he spent forever scrubbing off roughly a years’ worth of bugs and tree droppings all over my car.  The whole thing was just strange in a surreal way, these dudes detailing a bunch of Caddys and cruisers with 22″ rims, while my little Yaris sat there in the bay.

So then on the way home, I decided I wanted to wax the car.  After lunch, I went to the local Autozone, and bought some weird Turtle Wax kit for cars with black paint that promised to rejuvenate it magically.  It weighed like seven or eight pounds and had a variety of formulas in it, so I figured that was the stuff to get.  Back home, I started in on it and then realized the whole thing was this four-step procedure that required about twenty microfiber towels.  First it used this cleaning agent, which was a thick black spray that basically looked like dirty motor oil, and got all over me, the parking spot, my hands, my clothes, and some of it got on the car too.  Then you washed that off with a detailing spray, then sprayed on a wax, then another round of detailing spray.

By the end of the fourth round, I really did not give a flying fuck what my car’s finish looked like, and just wanted to be done.  I am not sure if the stuff did any magical wonders or not, except that my fingernails will be black for the next week.  And it made me wonder about age and aging and all of that, because twenty years ago, I would have spent an insane amount of time working on my car, washing it or cleaning it or whatever.  And now, I don’t change my own oil, and I don”t do any repair work, and I wonder if I ever had a project car, like if I got an old unrestored Camaro, if I would ever have the patience and time to ever work on it.

Case in point, I brought the Yaris to the dealer this week to get a few things done.  They changed the oil  (I realize it’s stupid to let a dealer do this, but I figured I would throw them a bone and give them a simple high-margin bit of profit so they would put up with my other issues), and I also had them flush out the air conditioning system with some crap to kill all of the various mold and mildew and whatnot.  I’ve also had a check engine light on and off since my accident last year, and I can read and reset those codes with the ScanGauge, but I did not know what to do about this.  They found the issue – the valve in the evaporative emission system was broken, and the hose that connected it to the charcoal canister was cut or broke.  So they ordered the parts, and I will get this fixed tomorrow.

I could probably have let this repair go, but I want the car to be CEL-free when I eventually have to get the next smog inspection.  I guess that doesn’t happen until 2014 or when I sell this car, but I still fantasize about buying another car soon.  I would really like to get a new TDI VW, maybe a Jetta, but I also don’t want a car payment, so I will keep squrreling away money, and when I eventually I get enough to buy a new car for cash and a trade-in, I will start to seriously entertain the idea.

The Yaris is still chugging along fine otherwise.  It’s just about to cross the 40,000 mile mark, and I’m still averaging just shy of 40 MPG for the daily commute.  I figured I would need new tires by now, but the original set still have a decent amount of tread.  I think the first thing to wear out on the car will be the driver’s side floor mat; my right shoe is rubbing raw a little area on a daily basis.  (And no issues with floor mats getting stuck on the gas pedal or any other sudden acceleration issues; my car was not one of the Toyotas affected.)

I think I’m going to go scrub my hands for the tenth time and see if any more of this crap will come loose.


New Look

WordPress 3.0 got released, and I took the plunge and upgraded.  After using my own scripts for a dozen years, I like the idea of a quick download adding a bunch of new features, instead of having to actually implement the things myself.

The biggest change is the new default theme, which I’m using, at least for now.  I’m sure once I run across a thousand other sites that look exactly like this, I’ll change to something else.  One of the features I like is the nifty header image.  I swapped in a nice sunset from our trip to Mexico last Thanksgiving, but I’d like to find a good plugin to handle random image changes and plop in a dozen or so banners.  I’m resisting the urge to start tearing into the PHP and adding my own duct tape; I’ve even avoided any plugins, at least for now.

Anyway, let me know if you find any weirdness or bugs…


Lost City Lost

So Lost City is an interesting blog, an attempt at documenting all of the old bits of New York that are rapidly vanishing and being converted into Subway restaurants and doggie day cares and five dollar cupcake shops in the Bloomberg wet dream of gentrification and sterilization. But I should say was, because the proprietor of this nostalgic blog has decided to close shop.

In a sense, I feel bad about this; I mean, I never found out about this blog until I heard about its closing, so I didn’t get to waste tons of time scouring its pages, looking for things I remembered that got bulldozed or scraped out to build yet another Bank of America branch.  One of the first things I found on his pages is that Chumley’s, the underground, speakeasy-like bar hidden in the village, once  a haunt of literary types and just around the corner from William S. Burroughs’ place, has since shut down because of a chimney collapse, and has been forever stalled in that “under construction” phase that means death. Anyway, I do love me some nostalgia, especially having to do with places I lived, so it’s sad to see a site like this go away.

But, here’s the deal: I know how hard it is to run a gig like this.  I worked on The Necrokonicon for a good four years before I finally scraped it into a paper book and shut down the original site.  It’s a thankless job, one that can generate some decent traffic, but that requires constant revisions, to the point where your full-time occupation becomes the maintenance of this profitless venture you could never hope to monetize.  You get constant emails from people bitching about how you got an opinion of yours “wrong”, and how you got facts backwards when explaining an urban legend that wasn’t true in the first place.  You find dead ends researching restaurants that have long since closed, in cities that don’t keep records of the past, with residents that have no long-term memory anymore.  Every little update becomes a political struggle, and you wonder if it would be easier to just write Twilight fan fiction and call it a day.  There’s some reward when you find a person that gives you some information that’s useful, or when you stir up the thread of nostalgia in someone who appreciates it.  But it’s also a bitch, and there’s never an end in sight, because you’re talking about a city that always changes.  So I understand the decision to call it a day.

What I don’t get is all of the negative bullshit being stirred in the link above that goes to  I started poking around this site a bit, and it’s sort of a hip New York-centric pop culture thing.  So it doesn’t surprise me that much that all of the commenters go off on this guy and proclaim the general uselessness of his work.  I mean, it’s hard to really explain the undertone of the comments without a complicated Venn diagram, but in general, there’s a lot of venom.  I’m not sure – do these people actually appreciate when a place like Zen Palate goes under and gets replaced by a TGI Friday?  I thought urban decay and throwback architecture is hipster cool, but there are people who actually seem excited about mallifying Times Square and building huge glass condos that will look asinine in five years.

I don’t know – arguing about urban planning with someone who self-identifies as a New Yorker is almost as futile as arguing religion with someone who runs a church.  These are the people who claim the city never sleeps, even though I could never, ever find a 24-hour pharmacy within ten miles of my apartment, and yet Elkhart, Indiana, population 40,000 has at least a dozen.  I mean, there is a certain validity in the fact that you can’t keep New York into the exact thing it was the second you got there, because everything constantly changes.  But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to try to remember these things.  Because we have no attention span and now with the death of all paper media and the twitter-ification of all things reference-oriented, you will find it absolutely impossible to look up something that happened five years ago without facing a sea of 404s.  All news has become blogs, and all blogs have a shelf life of even less than a Thai-Mexican fusion restaurant with a $14,000 a month rent in SoHo.  So I find it commendable when someone does try to make a reference of the past like this.  Because all of you are going to wake up tomorrow, a dozen years from now, and only have the vaguest of memories of that Shea-whatever-it-was-called place where the Mets maybe used to play, and every single maybe-relevant phrase you enter into google is going to redirect you to a CitiBank advertisement.


Video Time Machine

In 1996, I suddenly decided I was going to become a filmmaker, and bought a Hi8 video camera.  I’m sure some of this was the intersection of past viewings of ROX, the blooming Seattle public access cable scene, and the fact that I actually had enough money to buy a video camera.  So I bought the camera, looked at video editing software for the PC, got discouraged, and eventually did nothing.  But on and off for a few years, I lugged around this thing on trips and captured some video, and then never did anything with it.

Now with YouTube and advances in software, this stuff is slightly more useable.  I mean, in 1996, you had to spend at least five grand on a good Mac to pull in and slice up the video, and maybe another couple grand on software like Avid or Premiere.  Now you can buy a thousand-dollar iMac, fire up the included iMovie, and you are set.  Add to that a hundred dollar Flip camera, and you’re ready to roll.

So I have a ton of lost video on these tapes.  I lost some tapes in the last dozen moves, and some of them are disintegrating, but others have some nice little time capsules in them.  All of the quality is garbage, and I am not a very good cameraman.  But sometimes I find little bits and pieces that are interesting.

Anyway, here is a shot of Seattle from 1999, right before I left.  I was with my friend Virginia Lore, doing my big round of goodbyes, so this is probably the last time I saw her in person.  We were hiking around Queen Anne and I shot this minute or two from the hill looking down onto the city.  This is right before Boeing left town, before the big protests, before Microsoft stopped minting millionaires and before the dotcom economy crashed, so it’s an interesting little touchstone into the Seattle that was, at least for me.

(Note: this is my first attempt at embedding a video.  If you’re looking at this in facebook, it probably won’t work, and you have to actually look at it on my journal page to see it.)


The other Portland

It’s hard to realize that it was almost exactly five years ago I went to Maine.  But I was messing around with WordPress, trying to figure out the easiest way to get a picture out of iPhoto that didn’t involve printing out the photo and then re-drawing it by hand into MS Paint (and in OSX 10.5 and up there is – more in a second) and I found this picture and a couple more from that visit.

The whole thing came out of a trip to Boston to read at Tim Gager’s Dire reading series.  I read there before with John Sheppard – actually, John read there and I took the bus up from New York and stayed in a hotel that used to be a bunker at some deactivated Navy base, and I had enough drinks in me to convince myself to get up during the open mic part of the reading.  I read from Rumored, and someone got up and walked out, so I consider that Mission Accomplished.

So I rented a car and got a hotel and invited along Sarah, who just started dating me a couple of months back, and this would be our first trip together.  I wanted to hit all 50 states – I still do – and pretty much everything north of Mass. still stood in my way, and I couldn’t think of any other reason to visit up there.  I mean, I’m a fan of maple syrup and all, but not enough to freeze my ass off and walk into the middle of nowhere to watch it being made (or extracted, or bled, or whatever.)  So I proposed we make a long weekend out of it, and twist up through Vermont and New Hampshire and stay in Maine.

My only experience with Maine was a certain ex I had in college who many of you lovingly remember because she was essentially the female version of Winchester from MASH and had some pompous entanglement with pretty much everyone I knew from 1989 to 1995.  She hailed from Bangor and could not have a conversation without mentioning how much better Maine was than anywhere else.  She left long ago, so I figured it would be safe to check it out, and cross that state off the list.

The reading went okay, except the opener wrote a book about how his sister died in 9/11, which really set the stage for an experimental fiction author who wanted to read a piece about necophilia.  Also his entire extended family was there.  And I was sober, which doesn’t work well with public speaking for me.  I read a chapter from Dealer Wins, and did okay.  We stayed in this Holiday Inn Express out in South Boston, and the only things I remember about it were that it was in the middle of nowhere near a highway; it was a block or so from a huge row of big-block stores; and there was some local chain of diner right next to the hotel and we ended up eating there like five times, because anywhere else would have involved driving in a town where the roads were mostly laid out for horses, (except for that eleventy billion dollar tunnel that would collapse in about a year, which had plenty of lane width.)

The drive up to Portland reminded me of the heavy forests and winding hilly roads of upstate New York.  We stopped somewhere, a sandwich place/gas station in an old converted barn that sold homemade fudge and little glass bottles of syrup and homemade pies.  We also pulled over at a rest stop after the crossing into New Hampshire so I could get a picture of my book at the welcome sign.  (This was back when I took pictures of the book at every weird place I could, like at the Reichstag or Pearl Harbor.

We stayed at a fancy four-star hotel in Portland, and walked around all day, popping into little book stores and looking at these little taverns that sold local beers and crabs and oysters.  And I didn’t drink or eat seafood, but I appreciated the local flavor and the fact that every other person we saw looked like he worked on a boat slinging lobster traps for 20 hours a day.  The hotel was this old restored building, like most of the restored places in that neighborhood, made of stunning red bricks with This Old House style fixtures and old timey windows.

I had an almost-new camera, this Fuji that eventually broke into pieces in my carryon bag a few years later, but I didn’t take many pictures.  The ones I do have, though, have this weird color tinge; that camera seemed to capture primary colors in a strange way I can’t explain, but I can always look back and easily tell what pictures came from it versus the couple of Canon point/shoots I’ve had since then.

And I have not crossed off any new states since.  We tried to go to Louisiana that year, but you probably saw what happened there on the news.  I need to go to both Carolinas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Nebraska.  Any suggestions on any reason whatsoever why I should go to Nebraska are appreciated.

Oh yeah – here’s how you get your iPhoto pictures into WordPress without exporting them first.  Go to insert the picture, and pick the From Computer option, and click the button to browse your files.  If you have OSX 10.5 and up, if you look in the left panel of the file chooser and scroll to the very bottom, there is a Photos icon.  Click that and it lets you browse your entire iPhoto collection and pick images from that.  Genius.



The first Rockies game of the year for me was today, and it looked to be the pitching duel of the year, with two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum versus Colorado’s ace who may be the 2010 Cy Young winner, Ubaldo Jimenez.  It didn’t end up that way, but it was still a great game, and always good to see the Rockies win.

Memorial Day’s a great day for baseball – a day off of work, nice weather without being too hot, and great crowds.  I scooped up tickets on StubHub,  in 108, row J, which is ten rows behind the visitor’s dugout.  We got there an hour early, which meant I got right up to the wall and took enough pictures to burn through an entire battery during batting practice.  I absolutely love the new DSLR for games, although I get lens envy when I see the pros with giant three-foot long zooms on the field.

They had a ton of veteran-related things going on for the holiday, which was surprising considering the political climate of the area.  But they had a ton of medal-laden vets out before the game. The national anthem was sung by Keni Thomas, who was a Ranger in the battle of Mogadishu; he actually did a pretty decent job of it.  They also did a moment of silence and “God Bless America” plus all of these taped things of various players thanking vets.

So, the game – basically, Ubaldo pitched very well, and Lincecum did well, but there were enough minor gaps to let the Rockies break it open.  Lincecum walked a couple of people in the second, and then Clint “I’ll swing at every pitch you throw at me” Barmes, who never had a hit against Lincecum, got in a two-run single on an error.  There was also a later pick-off attempt where the ball got loose and someone got two bases on it.  There were a few questionable umpire calls that went in the Rockies’ favor and royally pissed off all of the Giants fans, too.  And Lincecum threw way too many pitches, with a 32-pitch second inning.

Ubaldo’s pitching was phenomenal.  The numbers are amazing: he’s the first ten-game winner this year, something that only 15 people have done since 1952; he had nine strikeouts and extended his scoreless streak to 26 innings with the shutout. He pitched a complete game, which is the fourth time he’s done that – and what’s odd is I saw him do that in 2008.  His ERA has dropped to a microscopic 0.78, too.  What’s amazing is that he threw a 128-pitch game, but even well after the 100-pitch mark, he was throwing 99-MPH fastballs. And I wasn’t watching the pitch board the whole game (I always forget where it is at AT&T Park, and reflexively start looking near all of that Levi’s crap in right field) but even his curve ball was touching 90.

The game was pretty boring offensively, with no major bombs hit, except a few that the Giants launched that went straight to Carlos Gonzalez with no effort.  It was all manufactured runs and NL baseball goodness.

I took a ton of pictures – they’re on flickr here: