Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Highway of Life


DrivingDown360No1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

What do a tattoo parlor, a strange fortune teller who sells toys in the back of her Tarot card reading shop, a Lack's furniture store, and an autobody repair place that advertises by placing half a car on their front sign, making it look like somebody was just in a wreck, all have in common?

They are all strange oddities on Highway 183.

US Highway 183 runs from Refugio, Texas to Westhope, North Dakota. In the state of Texas, it passes through the northwest quadrant of Austin-it snakes down along the east side of town en route to it's final destination, somewhere near Houston, in the town of Refugio. Highway 183 is a commuter road-a highway traveled by people coming and going to work. It's also home to a disproportionate number of highway overpasses as it runs through Austin, so much so that north Austin has become known as the "land of the highway overpass."

It also houses funky weirdness. It has strange mojo. Some speculate that, because the city of Austin grew so far so fast, former "funky" storefront businesses (like the fortune teller, who will happily read your Tarot while her children play in the next room-hence the toys) have not yet been "squeezed out" by the financial "pinch" of the big box stores. Others, like me, maintain that Highway 183 is just weird.

On Highway 183 in North Austin, you can eat at one of 4 IHOP restaurants (pancakes at 3 am? Not even out of the ordinary for this highway) buy a set of Catan or a popular comic book at Thor's Hammer, have your aura read, stop off for some fresh Austin ink at Tattoo Zoo, fix your broken bumper at a body shop with half a car on the front lawn, or devour a Krispy Kreme doughnut in a shop nestled between two different gyms.

Nothing too odd about that now, is there?

Until next overpass...

Meet the Ambassador DELETE


BlueNWhiteManNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

The other day, while reading my email, this strange thought popped into my head (yeah, yeah, I know, "poor, lonely, clue" but, hold on, there's more.)

If there ever really were an ambassador from Nigeria, how would he send or receive email?

By now, everybody's got him in their spam filters, right? As soon as that email, any email really, starting with the phrase, "My name is Chad and I'm an Ambassador from Nigeria" gets received, it automatically goes into our delete queue. BAM! DELETE. No questions asked. I mean, we might start to read it but then, DELETE. We all know by now that it's...DELETE. Don't even get to finish the sentence...DELETE. Well, you get the idea. Most of us have never even met anybody from Nigeria and...DELETE.

And, with all the spyware and computer viruses running around the internet, why haven't the Italians written some oh-so-stylish software that obliterates the hard drive of any would be hackers? If they did, why then, we could all call it "mobware."

It could DELETE, oh nevermind.

Until next DELETE...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Broken Blogger

Blogger.com is broken yet again.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Inside the Outside


InsideTheBigTopNo3, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

This is what the inside of a hot air balloon looks like. The circle is actually the top of it.

I had opportunity to stand inside of one once. It's sort of interesting in there. You don't think much of it at the time but then, afterwards, you think to yourself, "gee, it's not very often I would get to do that."

Sort of reminds me of a circus tent or something, only it's got "wings" in a fly-around up-up-and-away kind of way, don't you think?

Until next time...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tips for Bloggers


PassingBargeNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

A lot of people tell me they "love my blog" and wish they had one, or could do one, like mine. I'm always flattered by this, since I don't think of this weblog as anything exciting or even, "real" (I fully intend to do a "real" website some day but I have lots of fun with the weblog until then.) This leads me though to write up some tips for those who ask.

The first, and most important tip I could give anybody is to decide what and who you want to be. I write this weblog for myself, to help polish my writing skills, and my intended audience is people who click by and like to laugh at me. (No, really, it's true.) I post a mixture of photos and writing because I do both-having been an avid photographer, I jumped at the chance to add images to my site. When I first started blogging, I used to write more about my life in high-tech, but one day realized nobody was interested in that. There are more interesting writers out there, and sites like slashdot that cover that sort of material way better than I ever could, so I've since dropped almost all references to high tech and focused on what was different-what was really unique-what was "me." I narrowed my focus and better defined my audience, at that point, which is really something I would recommend you do from the start. "Know your readers," is sound advice for any writer.

Since I offer up writing on my weblog, another big tip is to write every day. While it may be true that I do not post every day (I average 4.2 posts per week, or so the good software tells me) I write every day. I write sometimes in a notebook and don't always have time to post but I always make time to write. Every day, there's something new (you should see my notebook, really, it's got all sorts of funny stuff in it-a run in with a Brinks Truck, my "trip" to prison, what I was like in high school. Maybe, some day, I'll post them all.) Write what you know, write about something you like, and don't worry about being popular. A well-written piece on penguins in Antarctica will be more popular than a poorly written piece on the Caribbean, even though not many people have seen the frozen birdies. People are naturally attracted to "good" whatever form it takes.

Don't get trapped in templates. I've seen far too many potentially great bloggers spend hours deciding if they want blue buttons or green buttons on their websites. Pick a simple template and stick with it. Spend time on what matters the most-your ideas. Nobody is going to fuss or rave about your blue buttons.

Good writing and good photography are good thinking and seeing. If you have a clear thought in mind, or a clear vision, your words or images will turn out better. Try to clarify your subject. If it's not clear, shelve it and don't post it until you can revisit it. (I've been getting a little better at this, but it takes time to master.)

Don't lose your voice. I'll be the first to admit that I have an informal "quirky" writing style-and it's not for everybody. I've actually made full blog postings about the hate mail I receive, much of it from folks saying things like, "why don't you write all normal and stuff?" My answer? This is normal-for me. It's my voice. It's just the way I write. It's how I put words together as much as who I am. Same with my photography. I make no apologies for the way I see things. If you like it great, if you don't, allow me to introduce you to your browser's back button. I won't change my style for you-I couldn't really change my style if I tried, and I wouldn't even want to. It's just a part of me that I've grown to accept. It's always better to be yourself, even if it means some people will hate you for who you are, then to try to be somebody you're not.

Image isn't everything when you write a weblog. If you run a photoblog, you may think that you need the world's best pictures-that your work isn't, somehow, "good enough." Sometimes, mediocre tells a story too. I post of lot of content on my website that wouldn't make it on gallery walls or across an editor's desk without a lot of red marks. Pffft. So be it. I'm keeping it real and kickin' it day after day. I'm actually writing and taking pictures, I'm too busy to have the time to worry about perfect. The pretty ones will come, and they do-they'll just emerge out of the bunch and, somehow, stand apart from the rest. That doesn't mean the rest of the stuff I do is worthless, it just means that the majority of the work I do might be limited to appearing on my website and nowhere else. So be it. I can accept that. I've had tens of thousands of people see my images, read my words, and share my thoughts. Let's see a chi-chi gallery match that kind of traffic. How many published authors, with "perfectly polished" finely edited books sell that many copies of their first book? I'm too busy doing it to worry about getting it perfect and you should be too.

The most important tip I can give to anyone is, above all else, have fun. If this isn't fun for you, if your idea of a good time isn't sitting down, typing into a white box your personal thoughts everyday, and posting them to a website, along with images taken from your life, don't do it. Go take a walk in the park, fly a kite, go for a swim, do what makes you happy. You don't need a blog just because all your friends have one. Consider putting up a static website, with content that doesn't change frequently, that you can update much less often instead.

If that isn't enough of a tip for you, my last piece of advice is to read. Read lots of other blogs and websites to see what other people are doing. Share them with your friends who blog. Discuss them. Toss around ideas, and try new things. Read books, see movies, go out and experience the world. I once met a photographer who said to me, "I love photography. The best part about photography is that you get to go out and see the world. And then, three days later, you get your pictures back, and you get to see it again."

Everything I've posted to this weblog, up until this point is just water under the bridge. The good stuff? Well, that will happen tomorrow, I'm sure.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Murder for a Song


AdandonedDresserNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

I love Neko Case. Ok, maybe not "love" the way most perverts think of it. In fact, let's just say I "heart" Neko Case so I don't get hate mail. (Gosh, I really hate getting hate mail. The only thing I hate worse than getting hate mail are those "enlarge your penis" mail messages, and those really drive me nuts.)

But, getting back to Neko Case, she writes and sings shiny, newfangled, "vintage," music that's hauntingly beautiful and touchingly melodramatic. You have to hear it to experience it really. It's the kind of music that you know is different the first time you hear it. It's the kind of music that grabs you-really grabs you-like makes you want to drop your newspaper, or whatever you happen to be doing at the time, put everything down, and just listen. It's the kind of music you can't forget-indelible really. I wish I could take pictures that look like her music. It's quirky, offbeat, and different in an "all good" sort of a way. I heard Kevin Welch's new murder ballad on the radio the other day-it was good but it wasn't Neko Case good. She's the queen of the murder ballad in her shiny new Plymouth ragtop car.

Her music is so dramatic and visual, I could almost imagine it being used to score a movie. If Neko Case were to score a movie-I'd go see it, regardless of who played in it, no matter what it was about, just to see it. I'd almost say I'd like to see her score a Nicolas Cage movie but TiVo might hear me, wake up, and work itself into a frenzy, leaving me with a mid-day, half-recorded Jerry Springer re-run, not to mention a broken TV set, and that would not be good. Even so, as much as I hate to admit it, if Neko Case were to score a movie, I'd go see it, even if it had Nicolas Cage, his mustache, his fake New York accent, and his extra-dirty hookers who don't wash their hands, I'd still go see that movie. I'd be so intrigued, I couldn't stay home.

Somehow, I think she'd just be perfect for a movie. She could even be in the movie. She could play some two bit lounge singer who writes a murder ballad-a sad story of love gone wrong set to three quarter time, only to find her story comes true. Her character could go out and hire a detective, to get to the bottom of it all, and, well, that's where the "un-boopable" Cage could come in. He could play some weirded out, lonely, depressed, doughnut-less detective who gets to the bottom of it all. Sure he'd have to get a trench coat or something but, crap, I'd go see *that* movie. I'd be able to tolerate him as a pathetic gumshoe while listening to her spot on murder ballads playing in the background. Crap, I'd even go to a theater and pay good money to see that one, wouldn't you? Ah yes, Neko Case and Nicolas Cage, a match made in heaven. Well, ok, maybe like some really weird, desolate part of purgatory somewhere that like nobody else wants to visit, but, you get the idea.

Now, what we need here, what we really need, is not me dreaming up this kind of stuff. No, my snowflakes, where's M. Night Shyamalan when you really need him, eh?

Until next murder ballad in the park on the podling...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On Pricing Artwork


OneDollar, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

I wish I had one of these for every photographer who ever asked me about how to price their artwork. I would be a rich woman. It's not that I don't mind helping, I do like to help, in fact. It's just that...well...pricing artwork is really not that difficult. You stick a price on the thing and be done with it.

Most photographers (and artists, for that matter) spend way too much time worrying about pricing. They try to psycho-analyze the market and do these "mental gymnastics" over and over again in their head. "What if somebody likes it but they can't afford it?" or "What if I price it at $199, that sounds like $200 but really isn't , I'll get more buyers that way, right?"

Here's a tip for you. Most artwork is bought on impulse. People see a framed photograph, a painting, a sculpture, or whatever, and decide they have to have it. In a mere split second, they decide if they like your work and, if they do, if it will go with their couch. That's how art is bought. It's more like the way you purchase chewing gum at your local grocery store. You find yourself waiting in line at the checkout, you look over, think to yourself, "Hmmm. My mouth is tired and I like grape..." and BAM! another Wrigley's fine product has been dispensed. That's how your artwork is purchased too, only on a bit larger of a scale. This is also the "big secret" behind the reason why galleries do not accept colored mattes and they want everything to be "framed and ready to hang." It has to look like somebody can see it out of the corner of their eye, fall in love, and buy it within a 30 second period of time because, when they sell stuff, that's how it is.

As an artist, you can only get what the market will bear and usually anyway, that price is quite low, but still affords you a profit. Here's another debunking of a "big myth" for you: most folks know that artists have "day jobs" and don't make all their income from selling their artwork. Sure, we try to be professional and look like we know what we're doing but the "dirty little secret" is that everybody works, even if some of us are "just" housewives, shoe salesman, grocery store clerks, or what have you.

High priced art is sold only to big collectors who scope out what they want to buy, and follow the career of artists. They don't start with beginners. You're not Monet, give it up. Nobody is going to spend two point whatever million on artwork produced by a beginner, or even a "serious" amateur. When you're dead, you'll just be dead-you won't be worth anything (other than, say, what a "typical" corpse is worth. Then again, maybe you'll get lucky and some rock star will need yet another liver.) Quit deluding yourself, asking for advice, fretting about your pricing, fussing and all that. Go take more pictures. Maybe, if you're lucky, those'll be worth something.

My only other advice is to pick a price that's within market limits and stick to it. $150, that's my final offer, take it or leave it. That sounds good to me and I can live with it, so that's what I typically sell my artwork at these days. Avoid trying to raise and lower your prices, as this can really back-fire and piss off gallery owners. Imagine how you would feel if you were a gallery owner and just spent hours hanging and promoting a show only to find out that the artist in question "pimped" the work to another gallery, across town, and is selling it there for $100 less. The words "pissed off" would not begin to cover that emotion. So, avoid that trap as an artist, pick one price and stick to it.

So now that all the "big secrets" are out, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go chew on some grape bubble gum. Good luck pricing your artwork. I'm sure you'll sell lots and stockpile tons of these little buggers.

Until next dead prez...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Little Friend's All Washed Up


WetChase, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

This is my friend, Chase. He's wet. He likes to attack lawn sprinklers. He never wins, but that doesn't seem to stop him from trying.

I don't want to let him back into the house once he does either because then, well, he'll just get everything all wet. But I do because, well, he's my little buddy. He's good. He deserves back in, don't you think?

It's those lawn sprinklers that are bad, really.

Until next lil' buddy...

Mundane Things


BroomAndFountain, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

I spent a lot of time clearing off my junk mail table at home this weekend. I don't know why I get so much junk in my email and then so much junk in my real mail box. Do I look like I need more junk to you? (Nevermind, don't answer that.) I do feel a lot better, although tired, from cleaning a bit. It wears me out but it's a necessary evil at times. Sometimes, I'm afraid to remove that protective layer of dirt but then I remember what it's like to be clean and just go for it.

Speaking of "going for it," Chase got into another fight with a lawn sprinkler and I managed to take some pictures of him during the aftermath that ensued. If they come out, I'll post them sometime next week.

On Friday, I went to a "painting with light" workshop that was held at an old cotton mill in Pflugerville, Texas. For those who've never done it, "painting with light" is a photographic technique where you leave your camera open with a long shutter speed and them move light around inside your image. As the light accumulates on the film (or camera sensor) you are said to be "painting with light." It was fun, although I'm somewhat limited to 30 second exposures, due to my lack of interest in my camera's bulb setting and my complete disregard for using a cable release or remote. Hey, my thumb ought to be good enough for anything (well, almost anything. Nevermind. Forget I said that.)

I had attended one of these before, only that one sponsored by a high-end "professional" photographer type club. They recommended all these odd (but expensive, I'm sure) lights to try it with, and were very careful about the placement of the lighting, paying particular attention to the architectural details of the building in question. This one was more like "crayon with light" as we just sort of bathed the entire building with a giant $40 3000 candle light used typically by hunters. Hey, whatever works, right? (Actually, I'm fairly certain the "crayon by light" worked better but, SHHH, don't tell the "pro's" or they'll get jealous.)

This week, look for entries about pricing artwork, which I've promised to discuss at some point and maybe some additional oddities I've spotted along highway 183 because, well, they are there. (Do you really need more of a reason than that?) If I can get it together, I might be able to pull off another PhotoFriday entry but that depends on the topic and my mood at the time. Come to think of it, so too do all of my entries for the week.

Speaking of moods, I've been quite sour lately. I think it's partially due to the heat. I tend to dehydrate quite easily and get very grouchy when I do. I have to start reminding myself that autumn is not all that far away and it won't be long before those late summer storms start stacking up in the Gulf of Mexico to help cool our nights.

The folks in New Orleans, now, they have reason to be sour-look at what those summer storms did to them last year.

Until next mundane-ity...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An Open Letter to Wal-Mart


WalMartNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

How long does it take you to buy gas? How much time do you spend at the pump? Ten minutes? Maybe fifteen if there's a long line?

I just got back from visiting my local Wal-Mart store in Cedar Park, Texas. I spent one hour and thirty minutes and it was an experience that I will never forget. I have never experienced such bad service, and I still do not have gas in my car.

First off, if you want to buy gas in the Cedar Park Wal-Mart, they advertise one price but it is only available to patrons using a Wal-Mart gift card. We're forced to go into the store, to put money on our cards (what should be an unnecessary step to begin with, but I understand how you want to reward loyal patrons with lower prices) only to wait in long lines thanks to understaffing.

Tonight, I was second in line. The lady in front of me was purchasing a product from your grocery area which did not have a price. The cashier repeatedly called for assistance but none was given. She apologized profusely for making me wait and, since I was a mere 20 minutes into my Wal-Mart ordeal, at the time I brushed it off and told her no problem. "You really should blame the folks over in the grocery area," I told her, "I mean, they don't put prices on anything." As I left the register, I was handed a receipt showing that my gift card had a balance of $83.51.

Then, I get into my car and drive over to the pump. After waiting in long lines for a pump, one opened up, and I scanned my card. Some of the pumps in the Cedar Park Wal-Mart gas station do not work correctly-they have problems scanning and reading cards. I tried three times to have the pump read my card but, again, no luck. The shoddy Wal-Mart equipment is only surpassed by the rude behavior of the staff.

So I drove around to another pump, waited in another line, and then decided I would go to the cashier. Lisa, was her name and she was exceptionally rude, even in a land of rude sales clerks. I told her I was trying to buy gas and I pointed out the pump I was attempting to use. She told me she needed the number of the pump and made me walk back and get it saying, "she couldn't see from where she was sitting." She did not get up to help me, and she was rude. I could tell from the look on her face, she knew the pump number, she was just lazy and rude, typical Wal-Mart behavior. Ok, shopping at the Cedar Park Wal-Mart, I've grown to accept and actually expect rude behavior from your sales clerks-if I can even find one, so again, I brushed this experience off.

After another twenty minutes at the pump, I was told (rudely by "lovely" Lisa) that I would have to go back into Wal-Mart because "we're not the same store." Strange, it says "Wal-Mart" on the gas station, care to explain this to me? Does she get a paycheck that says Wal-Mart? I would strongly re-think that if I were you. But then, what do I know? I'm only a customer (and, they way you treat us, you won't have many of those to worry about for long!)

Then, I waited while another employee called for the manager, James-another long wait for no apparent reason. He came over and treated me like dirt, citing that "he just walked up to me," and "he was only talking to me for two minutes." I told him that, since this was the second time I have had problems with the same Cedar Park Wal-Mart, that I wanted to clear out my gift card and get my money back. He made me walk through the entire store and spend additional time at your Customer Service area. Still no gas, still the same rude behavior from the staff, hey, it's Wal-Mart, what do I expect right?

James really made my ordeal a lot "better" because, at one point, he tried to tell me my card was showing a balance of $83.51 and I told him I wanted to clear it out anyway.

"I don't trust you," I told him.

He said, "I resent that."

I told him, "well, what have you done to earn my trust. So far, all you've done is be rude and lie to me. Does that make you trustworthy?"

I guess he did not like my response but I spoke the truth. When he subsequently tried to get the balance off my gift card, it read $0. So, if I had taken the card, drove back out to the pump and the ever-so-rude Lisa, I would have repeated the ordeal, only adding yet another hour of time onto this already infinite loop.

By the way, I still don't trust you and yes, you can take it personally. After spending an hour and a half, not getting gas, and getting treated rudely by your entire staff, I can tell you this. I'm organizing a boycott of Wal-Mart.

In protest of the poor service, rude staff, and shoddy customer experience boycott Wal-Mart on December 1st. Don't go there. Send them a message. Tell them we won't put up with their shoddy service and rude clerks anymore. During the height of the holiday shopping season, make them feel the pinch. Let's band together to make this happen.

Personally, I have cashed out my gift card (yes, I did get my money back) and will never step foot in another Wal-Mart. Soon, a Super Target will open near my house and I will frequent that, as well as my trusty, loyal, nice H-E-B. I sincerely hope Super Target drives all the employees at Cedar Park Wal-Mart out of work and hits Wal-Mart in their bottom line. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people or a more deserving lot really.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to stage a boycott and buy some non-Wal-Mart "friendly" gas.

Until next time...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Having a Ball


ChaseGetsBallNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

He's happy. He's got his ball.

It's actually not a ball, but a round orange object with horns and feet. It's got big feet and small horns. But it's his, so he doesn't care. He loves it, big feet, little horns, and all.

It makes him happy.

Until next time...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Acts of War and Terrorism


WarriorsOnParadeNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

It's almost time for "peace" in the middle east, or so I'm told. Sometime tonight there's supposed to be a stop to the violence in Lebanon and Israel. I don't know if the powers that be will actually adhere to the rules, which I think, is an odd enough sentiment. I mean, how could there really be rules of war? But, there are, and they are following them (I think.)

The terrorist acts of last week in England have us all a bit on edge. Everybody is wondering if we'll ever be able to travel with toothpaste again and just what, exactly, was in the plotting stages. This time around, I'm quite miffed at the terrorists, since they were planning on using photographic supplies to ignite their liquid explosives. That really gets my goat because now, thanks to them, we probably won't be able to travel freely with camera gear. Even if we catch the entire lot of them, we're slowly sacrificing our freedoms in the name of safety and that's a slippery slope we're sliding.

In a lot of ways, photography is about freedom. You really have to live in a free country, or be one hell of a sneak, to pull off taking pictures. Even if you don't regularly shoot people, there are suspicious folks who ask questions like "why are you taking that picture?" or "what are you going to use it for?" The response of a photographer has always been a proud, "because I want to and it's a free country" even if we phrase it much more politely.

I put this picture up to highlight all this senseless violence. I always found it a bit odd when men take their guns and go on parade. I never really understood what could drive one person to attack another. I mean, deep down inside, at our very core, we're all human, right? So, what could drive one man to want to attack or kill another? And what do they think they are going to accomplish by all this war and violence?

Can't they just march around with feathers in their caps and call each other silly names on the news like they usually do? What's wrong with that?

Until next senseless act of violence...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Quick Hits


ChasesSqueakyBall, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

In the "my feet hurt just thinking about it" department, I had occasion to participate in this year's Heart Gallery. Mark your calendars, the gala opening will be September 21st at Austin's Spazio. I'm pretty sure Trent Reznor won't be there (despite the fact that, rumor has it, he's "shopping" properties in Liberty Hill) but look for a host of other more, ahem, shall we politely say "local" celebrities. I'll probably have to don heels for this shindig which, last year anyway, billed itself as an "Austin chic" event (we still think that roughly translates into "shorts with pockets and fancy flip-flops-you know, the ones with rhinestones on them" but I'll probably do heels, just to be safe.)

The Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, CO has another upcoming show, with a corresponding call for entries. Here's a link for details. Hurry, as the deadline is fast approaching, if it hasn't passed already.

My guy Chase no longer fits into his kennel. I've had to swap it out with an old one Charlie never liked either. Luckily, he doesn't have to spend too much time in the box. Unfortunately for us, he's learning how to bark and has started to "yap" when he wants attention which, lately anyway, seems to be every minute of every second of every hour in the day (and, yes, that's a lot of "yaps" for one little dog.)

I'm addicted to that annoyingly catchy Gnarls Barkley song, "She's Crazy," despite the fact that I think it impossible for any reasonably sane man to sing like that without missing some anatomy (or, at least, having his legs crossed. Really tightly.) The Killers (remember them? They gave us Mr. Brightside!) have a new album coming out on October 3rd. As a follow-up to their super, mega, smash Hot Fuss, their new CD, Sam's Town will feature the first single "When You Were Young." I can hardly wait.

In the "I'm not Starvin' but I'm still hungry" department, I've reconnected with an old friend from my days in Potsdam. Mike AKA "Starvin'" AKA "CraftyGuy" contacted me after stumbling onto my website (nothing quite like reading about Potsdam and mac and cheese "in print" now, is there?) In what turned out to be mistake number 492, he told me he was looking to take up photography. He's now flickring, Utata-ing, and even got left some "comment droppings" from none other than the Utata Queen Bee herself, Ms. Catherine Jamieson. Now that he's drank up all the Kool-Aid, all that's left for him is to start hunting photographic snipe in thrift stores and odd hovels (like Santa Fe) the world over (that and, more road signs. Everybody always loves road signs.)

Current celebrity crush is the evil, mad, cantankerous doctor from House. I don't know how he hides his proper British accent so well and he almost sounds like he's from New York (I said almost!) but, I love it. I just hope he doesn't whack anybody else with his cane as part of the upcoming season's storyline because, well, that's getting old (and it never sat right with me in the first place. I mean, he's supposed to be a freaking doctor, afterall.) In the "stop picking on my guilty pleasure, I'm entitled" department, wouldn't you love to see an episode where he "fakes" a British accent and his minions get to needle him for it? Now, with that and his extra scruffy face fuzz, that's what I would call "must see TV."

Ok, so it wasn't quick and it wasn't a hit but, there you have it.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Not Saying a Word


RearViewPawnShop, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

The other day, somebody told me, "you should go to the Natural History Museum. The one on the UT campus. You could write about it for your blog." She described how it's an "old school" museum-the kind with strange objects floating in formaldehyde-and how there are all these "chambers," short hallways really, filled with taxidermied creatures from long ago ("The Hall of Bizarre Taxidermy" does has a nice ring to it, don't you think?) Gosh, I wish I could get a blog out of that one.

Then, I was talking to somebody else and I said that, fresh from the "sombody must be on a diet" department, some misguided (yet armed!) individual threw a rock through the Rudy's Barbeque sign, the one up on 183, that advertises cheap (but tasty!) breakfast tacos (gotta love the potato, egg, and cheese, man!) I wish I could get a blog out of that one but, alas, writer's block strikes again.

As I was driving down 183, I noticed the sign for Grace360.org which is an on-line church. I found it quite peculiar that an on-line church would actually have a store front operation (and that it would be on 183. Well, come to think of it, with all the other stuff that's on 183, that's not too odd) but yet, it's there. Nestled in the corner of the 360 and 183 interchange is, in fact, Grace360.org, a previously only on-line church that now has a happy home. Strange name for a church, strange church, strange highway-I wish I could get a blog-in fact, I can almost smell one from where I sit-but, alas, no.

Gosh, it's time to write and I just don't have a thing to say now, do I?

Until next "silence" in reverie...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Towering Over Me


TreeBeforeTempleTop, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Does your town have a SWAT team? Ever see a SWAT team? Maybe in a nearby city or town? You can thank the good folks of Austin for that (you're welcome!)

You see, about 40 years ago, on August 1, 1966 to be precise, something happened in Austin to cause police all over the country (and, perhaps, the world) to rethink the way they handle tactical aggressors.

The University of Texas (UT) is situated in the heart of Austin which, in turn, is in the center of Texas (we call the Austin-area "Central Texas" when we don't call it Austin actually.) At the center of the University, there's a 27 story tower. At the top of the tower, there's an observation deck.

On August 1, 1966, Charles Witman went to the observation deck at the top of the tower. Armed with a trunk full of sniper's rifles and Marine Corps. sharpshooting skills, he killed 15 people and wounded 31 others in the plaza of the UT campus in a shooting spree that has since come to be known as the "UT Tower Shooting." You can read more about Whitman and the tower shooting, at this link.

On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman killed his mother, suffered from a small brain tumor, and was mildly depressed before the shooting happened. To this day, nobody knows the exact cause of the shooting. Although there is much speculation, as you can imagine, about what drove him up to the tower, with the weapons, after killing his loved ones, all we really know for certain is that 15 people are dead, and 31 wounded, all on a day that stands as one of the darkest days in Austin (and perhaps US) history.

Now, 40 years later, SWAT team in your town or not, nobody really understands human behavior much better than we did on that day. Nobody really knows what would drive an otherwise honest, hard-working, soft-spoken man to go out, buy an arsenal of weapons, drag his cache to the top of the highest point in the City, and start shooting.

As we mark the anniversary of the Tower Shooting in Austin (as it has come to be called) there's a lot of talk about heroes, villains, folks who remember that day, folks who are happy they missed that day, and such. Yet, nobody understands the "why" even though we have a firm lock on the who, what, when, and where of it all.

Texas is one of the many states in the US that has a death penalty. We routinely execute criminals convicted of capital murder and have historically done so, dating back to the 1800's and the old fashioned "hanging trees."

Perhaps, if we were to study some of our criminal minds, maybe even but a few, before jumping to gas them, hang them, or give them "the chair"-if we weren't so quick with our "fingers" on our judicial "triggers" as it were-maybe, just maybe, we could figure out what drove a man to climb to the top of the tower, kill himself, kill a host of strangers, and leave dark memories and SWAT teams behind for all of history.

But that would be making sense of a senseless act of violence, don't you think?

Until next time...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sky and Construction


RoadLandscape, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Lots of sky in this shot. Maybe not what you were looking for when you asked for "sky" but, lately anyway, this is what super hot Texas looks like. It's a hundred degrees under that nearly cloudless pale blue canopy.

If you live in Texas, you quickly learn that the mid-afternoon sun is bad, bad, bad. It'll roast you. It's hot like habaneros, only in a bad way.

Ah yes, the habanero hottie. That's no pepper to play with.

Until next sky...