Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy End of the Year Madness

It's late autumn and I've been fascinated with trees lately. I don't know why but I've been doing red, actually brown, leaf bokeh along with photographing some acorns in the yard. Crazy, I know, but I just can't seem to get enough of the tree stuff as of late.

Yes, it's official. I've gone "nuts."

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It's Time


BrownLeafBokeh, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

It's the end of the year...almost time for me to start posting those top 10 lists that everybody loves to hate (or hates to love.) I got my first iPhoto Calendar in the mail today-it came out ok, not as nice as the books but still better than what I could do if given an infinite supply of duct tape, photo paper, and long since expired film. (Actually, I take that back-sometimes expired film turns funky colors.) Anyway, the calendar is here, it's not bad, I'm liking it, if, for nothing else, than the fact that I made it myself (well, me and a giant Mac computer, when it wasn't busy kicking my ass in chess.)

I got some Christmas cards in the mail today too. It's good to hear from everybody and, actually, see everybody-since everybody's been stuffing pictures into their cards this year. I feel so anti-photographer at Christmas, when all these point and shoot folks run rings around me-what with their Santa hats and all. I almost get sick of explaining, "no, you see, I'm not a *real* photographer...I'm more like an artist who uses a camera and..." Oh, who am I kidding? I've never found a Santa hat that looked good on me. And don't even get me started on that red nose of Rudolf's.

Picture this...time for me to go scarf down what's left of the egg nog.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Almost Christmas-Lookout for that Fruitcake


MadonnaOnTheZoomNo2, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

I hope that everybody has a safe and happy holiday, be it already happening in your part of the globe, or about to happen in a few hours.

I have the next few days off and will be posting on and off, not online as much as usual, but enjoying lots of food and trying to stay out of the rain. It was cold and rainy today at home-one of those days you want to just sleep all day, which is pretty much what I got to do. Sleep is so under-rated this season.

I did watch the Food Network quite a bit today. It was great. There was some show where this guy setup a fancy table in a crowded shopping mall, complete with big signs that said..."Free! Come and Get it!" only to advertise free fruit cake. Needless to say, he did not get many (if any) takers. He did get more than his share of folks lured by the "Free!" sign, walking up, and running away empty-handed though. Kind of funny that fruitcake has become such a horror that he couldn't even give it away, for free, in a crowded shopping mall but then again, what do you expect? This is fruitcake we're talking about, right?

Anyway, I hope you eat too much, sleep all you want, get plenty of presents, avoid the nasty, recycled fruitcakes, and maybe get to enjoy a visit with the kin. I'll probably start up the yearly "best of" stuff when I get back from doing the same.

Until next, is that a fruitcake....run!

PS My friend Mike, AKA "CraftyGuy" has called this image "Madonna of the Blessed Disco." I rather like that. Kind of fits her, don't you think? There was an article in the paper today about the good folks at 37th Street and there, um, "taste" in Christmas decor. Holy Mackerel, anyone?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Storm Clouds-Weather in the Sky


CloudForm9786, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

This is what storm clouds, on an otherwise sunny day look like. This was taken just before a wild storm blew my way. You can kind of see a hint of darkness in these clouds, if you look for it, and look past that clear blue sky in the center.

Sometimes, we have to look for the hint of storm to find it, other times, well, it just rains on our heads.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Person of the Year


AutumnsPaintBrush, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Time Magazine has recently named me person of the year. Yes, it's true, little old me has made it to the top of the heap. *Waves at crowd* What does this mean, what does this all mean, you ask? How could it be?

Well, for starters, I'd like to thank the academy and, um, God, Buddha, and a few other deities (just to cover all the bases in case, you know, the Scientologists were right and we are all headed to the afterlife in a giant spaceship.) My parents, who have always been there for me, as well as, um, the good folks at Canon and Apple computers, because, well, a girl has to have some toys, right? And then there's TiVo. How could I forget to thank my blessed and divine TiVo unit-the one which has brought me countless hours of, ahem, "fine" entertainment. (Yeah, that's what I'd call it.) And, um, Nicolas Cage just for being, well, you know, for being himself (perpetually "boopable" in re-runs and matinee showings around the TiVo universe.) And, of course, Chase, my darling Chase. Stop eating the couch, dear. Where would I be without the love and devotion from my fabulous-I mean it, stop eating the couch-beloved pet cockapoo, Chase. (One more bite out of that couch and it's no kibble for you, you little mutt you!)

(orchestra music starts playing)

And then there's the good folks at Adobe who bring us a Photoshop and Creative Suite applications that never crash. And how could I forget...They're telling me to wrap up....

(orchestra music grows louder)

How could I forget all the fabulous photo clubs I've joined, participated in, and gotten kicked out of over the years. Yes, a special thanks to the good folks at Texas Fine Art Photo Group, TPS, Doc Photo, and Shutterbugs. Thank you very much for this esteemed award...

Look on the bright side. I had to beat out the likes of Osama Bin Laden, and some dictator from North Korea (Kim-Jong-you-make-me-il) to claw my way to the top spot.

Until next "person of the year-yeah right" award...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chase Chews a Stick


PaintedChaseChewsAStick, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Chase chews a stick. Chase runs through the yard. Chase tries to eat Austin's ears. Chase does everything but sit still. Chase will not sit still.

This was supposed to be a portrait of Chase with his new haircut. I was going to show you how it's great that now we can see his eyes. I was going to show him looking all smart, short, and sassy. But, no. Chase will not sit still.

He's the cutest dog in the world, too bad I can't get a picture of him.

Until next time...

Monday, December 18, 2006

KaBoom!


Draidel ExplosionNo1, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

This is the "giant exploding yard draidel that looks like a fiberoptic pom pom or maybe something from outer space" yard ornament from 37th Street I have been telling you about all week. Aren't you glad you finally got to see it? This was taken on the zoom, directly under the yard draidel, behind the square snowman and sort of to the right of the hanging decorated tin cans that were painted to look like fish. Hey, it's 37th Street. What do you want? Ain't no simple wreaths in this 'hood.

In other news, laptop has yet to arrive. It's shipped and it's in transit, actually it's in Austin and should come home sometime today. I can hardly wait.

They unveiled the "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" that was filmed in Austin this weekend, actually, yesterday at 1. It's a beautiful house. Stone with lots of space, very attractive looking. If I have time over the next few days (weeks?) I'll go take some photos of it. I thought about going yesterday but then decided against it, since it was full of Home Makeover people, including a large crowd that had gathered out front for days. I didn't want to get in the middle of that mess. Once it settles down, I'll go take some pictures of the "aftermath."

Didn't one of the Star Trek captains like Earl Grey tea? You can keep the exploding draidel, I want some Earl Grey right about now.

Until next exploding teacup...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Giant Draidel In the Tree

This is the giant draidel in the tree from 37th Street. I'm happy because, this year anyway, I was able to make it look like it was exploding (this in another shot.)

In most important news, I have ordered a laptop. I broke down and got myself a Macbook Pro. It's going to be a 15 inch model, with a dual core pentium, a gig of memory (on one DIMM) and a rather small-ish hard drive, which I can replace later, should I become an addict and start using it instead of my desktop.

Ok, so now I'm portable. You aren't expecting me to get up and dance or anything now, were you?

Until next time...

Ambushed


BarbiePlaysWithAliens, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

"...and then Barbie was taken away by little green men..."

Ken's looking horribly green today, isn't he?

Until next time...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What to Get


Santas Stove, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

What to get for the person who has everything? Ah, I know! "You sunk my battleship!"

This is from 37th Street in Austin. Where else would they take an old stove, put a mermaid in the oven, put a pirate ship on top, and then decorate it with bright white lights, passing it off as holiday decor? And you thought I was a bit nuts? Ha!

I love these people. They make me look so....normal, I think.

(Don't they?)

Until next time...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Department of Bureaucracy Please Move Right On Through


Ladder to the Lights, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

(or how the federal government is confusing me by doing something nice.)

My passport expired. So, I decided (finally!) it would be time to get a new one.

Now, I know what you, my loyal readers, are thinking. (No, not *that.* Geesh.) "Oh this is going to be good. That ranting, raving lunatic of a flake has to deal with waiting in line, government bureaucracy, red tape, and like, probably some really old, slow moving clerks..." And, knowing what I know of the government, I'd say that I'd have to agree with you. I was expecting a hard time, a multi-hour wait, a "take a number/now serving" tangle of misery that only our bungled US government could offer up on a not-so-silver-yet-still-somehow-overtaxed platter. So, you can imagine my surprise when it was nothing like that?

I went to USPS.gov (I still think the US Government should get even with all these cheesy porno sites by registering "odd" domains, you know, stuff like "HotKentuckySchoolGirls.com" and then put up really boring government propaganda, you know, stuff like "Case Study and History of the Bow Weevil in the 21st Century" but that's really a blog for another day. Revenge can still be had, though, for $9.99 a domain name. And, while it might qualify as a waste of our hard-earned tax dollars, it sure as hell would be funny.) They had a form listing the places (physical places) where you can renew your passport. I printed the form, with a map, to the nearest Post Office that offered up "Passport Hours." Passports, it would appear, are only made in the middle of the day, during certain hours. Ok, no big deal, I can read and follow directions. I go to the Post Office at lunchtime, right before Christmas, and there's about 200 people waiting to ship packages. I take my number, expecting a super-long wait, the likes of which, well, let's just say I was fully expecting to grow old today, and I sit down between two towers of boxes, waiting to be shipped to Indiana, supported only by SUV-driving soccer moms.

As I'm waiting, I stop staring off into space (actually daydreaming) long enough to spot passport applications hanging on the wall. There are 2: a purple and an orange one. Great. Now I'm thinking, "this is like the matrix with the pills in pretty colors, except that people might have actually made it out of the matrix. There's no hope for me..." But the forms were easy enough (I needed "purple" for renew.) The wait was shortened because I didn't have to get stuck behind all the "package people" (they have a special line for the likes of me. Ok, well, maybe not but...) I was in and out in about the time it took for them to develop my picture.

Wow. What can I say? Probably nothing, since now I don't have a legitimate gripe to blog, right? Passports are issued by the Department of State, at the Post Office, and cleared with Homeland Security. That's 3 (count 'em! 3) federal government agencies I had to deal with today. And they all just worked together. Like sorcery without the wand, I still can't figure out how they pulled this one off. Must be something in the egg nog.

('Course I still don't have the passport...yet...but they did say 4-6 weeks...so here's hoping.)

Until next giant ball of red tape that's surprisingly agile...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holy Mackerel It's A Christmas Fish

Title pretty much says it all for this one. This is what happens when you mix 37th Street Austin with, well, anything else in the universe really. (Did you ever play "Go Fish!" as a kid? No? Well, you should now...it's never too late to enjoy a mis-spent youth.)

Speaking of mean, I caught the latest episode of my favorite cantankerous medical mystery show last night. House MD managed to claw past Law and Order re-runs and the odd, lone Nicolas Cage movie to make it to the top of the TiVo heap. Thank God, he's that mean, otherwise, I'd have to watch another NY crime drama.

What's all this about Wilson being a rat? I mean, don't the good folks at Fox know that you're not supposed to make "the cute one" turn out to be the bad guy? It's not supposed to be the one with the puppy dog eyes, it's supposed to be either the lead female (oh, you know, rhymes with "witch") the big, black guy or, better yet, the mean evil cop that everybody hates already anyway. Leave poor Wilson out of it, will ya? That helpless sap needs to go back to banging his patients and, like, spreading "holiday cheer" by reminding them all they have cancer.

Well, on the bright side maybe Robert Sean Leonard, when he's not busy giving us his intimate portrayal of the finkerly Wilson, will get to go fishing this holiday season. I'm sure he'll get more than his fair share of cheese balls for Christmas, what with all the rat-ing going down on the show now. Munch on that all you House fans-he asked for a sweater and ended up wagging a long, skinny tail while nibbling that cheddar.

Until next time...

PS I thought the "good" doctor offed the rat with the cane last season? Damn, I have to get out more...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nope, No Mystery Here


BarbiePlaysWithAliens, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

"...Move along...nothing to see here...just keep walking..."

I'm happy to report that the "Keep Austin Weird"-ness, typically on parade on 37th and a half Street is, well, almost in full swing.

We went yesterday. The lights weren't as "fantastic" as they have been in years past. Still, even "pretty crappy" for 37th and a half Street yields some interesting results, such as my flaxen haired friend and her little green buddy. The standards on 37th and a half Street, you see, are quite high. (One year, they had Martha Stewart on the front lawn in Christmas lights and prison garb doing arts and crafts projects, at their own little lit up "Christmas camp cupcake.")

37th Street in Austin is quite a site, even on a "down" year. The folks were nice, the weather warm, and the prison garb, happily, was kept to a minimum. What more could you want from a holiday light display? (Hint: Look for a giant spinning screaming neon dreidel in posts to come.)

Have yourself a merry little something-or-other.

Until next time...

Friday, December 08, 2006

That's Not Write but It's Ok


ShawledWomanInBlueDances, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

So, I thought that, since I yapped about it so much, I should give you a wrap up of my experience with NaNoWriMo.

I ended up the month with a little over 10,000 words. Not my best effort by far, but not a horrible showing either. I did not get to enter my final word count because the site was very busy towards the end of the month and I had little time to "upload" my files for statistical purposes. I did not get a laptop, but I will. I have decided that I really need one, for portability and to be able to backup my writing and pictures. Eh, so be it.

The fun stuff? Well, I got to create a few interesting characters in my story about HoBo's. My idea for the novella was to write a series of short stories, all centered around a train, or train culture (HoBos, travelers, subway commuters, etc.) I think it never really "clicked" because the stories were so disjoint and I never did come up with a central "plot." Some of the stories would make for great short stories in eZines, because I do think they came out pretty decently, or could be decent with some major "clean up" (but they are interesting enough to stand alone.) On the whole, Vagabond Times was a fun adventure, and I might finish it off some day, depending on my ability to solidify a plot.

Writing a novel or novella is harder than it seems, especially for a blogger like me (I've since started calling my fellow bloggers the "yap and snap" club, since, well, that's what we do, right?) A lot of people, especially those who are not writers think that, well, they think you are either a writer or you're not. If you're a writer, that sort of implies that you can work with words-you're a verbivore!-you can put words down on paper, convey thoughts, transfer emotions, and, well, just generally spill your guts using a pen and paper. Being a novice "writer" I can tell you that this is not exactly true. There's all sorts of writing. Some of it easy, some more difficult, some easy for some people, etc. Just because I can blog, does not a writer make me. Sure, I can write an office memo, and I like to joke about having a "bullshit generator" that can make stuff up on the fly but writing a serious piece of fiction, like a novella, well, it takes a different beast. It takes the ability to organize, to develop, to form, to flow. None of that happens in a blog (well, except for maybe "the great TiVo incident" but, like, we won't go there, ok?) So, yeah, I'm a writer, I do an OK job with the blog but, novelist? Far from it. I'm still going to get that laptop though.

And, the best part of NaNoWriMo? I came up with a great idea...for another book. (A "real" one with a plot and everything.)

Until next November...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Great 37th Street Mystery


BusStoponDumaine, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

(or what even Google doesn't know)

In Austin, Texas, every year since 1980, the folks around 37th Street (actually 37th and a half Street, don't get confused. We wouldn't want you to have to get out and walk that last half block) have put up Christmas decorations. Not just any Christmas decorations, mind you, they go overboard with stockings, Santa garb, screaming neon streamers, and lights galore. Overboard, in this particular case, is even an understatement, as it's been speculated that you could see these holiday lights from the space shuttle. The folks on 37th and a half Street in Austin, you see, are world famous for putting up this kind of decor. Loud, wild, obnoxious, unforgettable Christmas decor, is how I would describe it really (although words don't actually do it any kind of justice.)

So, it should be no surprise that I plan on going to 37th and a half Street again this year, to photograph the Christmas decor. I do it every year, actually, it's something I kind of enjoy, even if I never really get great photos of the now famous, annual 37th and a half Street spectacle. Some years it's hot outside, some years, it's cold, some year's the lights are better than other's, some years, well, let's just say there was the odd "incident" involving an old TV that had been gutted and turned into a screaming neon, glowing, overy lit up fishtank that had little to do with yuletide, Santa, or anything even closely resembling a reindeer. Still, that doesn't stop the good folks on 37th and a half Street from putting up their own litlte "unique" blend of 37th and a half Street Christmas lights. It's why we love them, it's why we notice them, it's what they're there for (well, ok, maybe not but, like, you get the idea.)

But, this year something odd is going on. A few weeks ago, the newspaper ran an article about how the fate of the now annual 37th and a half Street Christmas light display was, in fact, in question. Maybe they aren't doing it this year, the paper speculated. For whatever reason, the good folks at the paper put it into our collective heads that, for one reason or another, the folks on 37th and a half Street were going to celebrate the holiday season this year in the dark.

Since it's close to the time that the lights would normally be going on, I thought it would be a good idea to google to check and see if the lights were even going on at all. So, I googled, I wiki-ed, I even flickr-ed and what did I come up with? You guessed it: nothing. That's right, I got nothing. Nothing, I tell you. No "insider" information, no details, no "scoup" on the status of the lights. Nothing.

So now, what I want to know is, what I really, really want to know, is how does an entire city block, in Austin Texas, the heart of a technology center in the United States, hide so well a bunch of Christmas lights-lights that we can even spot from space!-from the web crawlers, spiders, auto "bots," and other odd "technological bits" on the internet?

Damn, what's their secret?

Until next hidden in plain sight Santa hat and light bulb...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Spacy Macy's-Where Are You Now?


LampAndChurchInTheMist, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Sometime last year, they changed all the Foley's stores in Austin over to Macy's. Normally, this would not be a big deal, since the stores are owned by the same company and all, but, for me anyway, it's a bit weird.

You see, when I first moved here, I looked around and noticed that the only store we didn't have (that I liked to shop in) was Macy's. No big deal, they would announce in the paper that a Macy's was coming soon, or that they were planning a new mall across town that would have a Macy's in it. Ok, so I figured, it would be a year or two tops before Austin got a Macy's. I would just wait it out and be happy when it finally arrived.

Then, something weird happened. Macy's never opened. They just never opened. There was always some strange reason, like the buyer backed out or the mall changed locations, or, well, something. Malls came and went and still, no Macy's.

Then they announced the "great Foley's conversion" and I thought, "Ok, sure, now we'll get a Macy's. We'll have to get a Macy's. They have no choice. They're making all the Foley's in town turn into Macy's" And, well, we got a Macy's.

Yesterday, I went to our Macy's. I bought a few things but I didn't feel any better about it. As we were leaving, I overheard somebody, probably another fellow New York "transplant," say, "that's the smallest Macy's I've even been in."

It's true. Our Macy's in tiny. And hardly worth a visit, if you ask me. I would not have gone if I knew how small it was.

So, where does that leave us? Now that we have a Macy's-ette (or maybe you prefer the Mexican "Macy's-ito" instead?) and we still don't really have an honest-to-God Macy's. No Macy's-o-rama-no MACY'S, no "extra grande," no giant one that you can shop in all night-one that has hordes of clothing thrown about the place, with loud music in the Junior's department and an entire floor devoted to pots and pans and kitchen-y stuff. You know, no "real" Macy's to speak of, just this pathetic excuse of a one, where does that leave us?

I mean, I'm sure they won't open a "real" one now, since they've got the petite version taking up all this real estate, right? And, I still kind of want to go to one now.

I guess it's like that old saying, "be careful what you wish for..."

Until next time...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Top 10 Best Cities for Photographing Architecture in the US


PalaceDetail, originally uploaded by carolWorldLeader.

Here is my list of the top 10 best cities for photographing architecture in the United States. Note that, this does not include Mexico or Canada (sorry, but those are for another list.)

Here's my list:

10. Los Angeles, CA-for Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis Brown House, Chinatown, and nearby mid-century modern architecture. All that plus cool palm trees, and you get to see if you hands are bigger or smaller than a celebrity's by stuffing them into handprints pressed in the cement sidewalks. For all this and more, the City of Angles clocks in at number 10.

9. Memphis, TN-for antebellum architecture of the south. Not to mention arguably the world's most famous house: "Graceland." You can quote Paul Simon and sing, "I'm going to Graceland..." on your way to my #9 selection, Memphis.

8. St. Augustine, FL-for Spanish colonial architecture. Ponce de Leon once thought there was a fountain of youth in this coastal town. Good luck trying to find it but I'm sure you'll have lot of surprises exploring my #8 pick, Saint Augustine.

7. Charleston, SC-for colonial plantations. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through a small southern town that survived wars, plagues, and modern day "Dixie-crats." For its historic downtown, plantations, and famous gardens, Charleston ranks #7 on my list.

6. Savannah, GA-for its Victorian homes, mansions and southern style. Savannah is a gem of Georgia that's worth a peek and so it earns a #6 ranking on my list.

5. San Francisco, CA-Victorian style townhomes mix with the modern Golden Gate bridge. The City by the Bay has some of the most wonderful light of any city on the list, not to mention a photographer-friendly atmosphere. Tour the 'Haight district, catch the sea lions beaching by the pier, or peek at the old cannery while you're visiting my #5 city.

4. New Orleans and the plantation country of LA-for the Creole cottage, shotgun shacks, double gallery homes, the French Quarter, and the grand plantations of the south. New Orleans is a city like no other. Old or young, rich or poor, the architecture of the great Crescent City is only overshadowed by it's fabulous jazz music and fantastic cajun food. Stroll down Bourbon Street and listen to some hot jazz while enjoying my #4 city.

3. Miami, FL-for art deco architecture and Spanish style homes. Where else can you find entire blocks of pastel colored art deco buildings but in Miami's South Beach? Couple this with incredible golden light and a year-round mild climate and you have an architectural photographer's paradise. Miami's color, style, and flair check in at #3 on my list.

2. New York, NY-Everything from the Brooklyn bridge to the brownstones, to the towering skyscrapers, including the gargoyles that alone could fill up a textbook, NYC is packed with architectural wonders. (Well, ok, maybe it's just packed.) No list would be complete without the "Big Apple." For it's mix of styles, architecture, art, culture, and world domination, my hometown of NYC ranks a cool #2 on my list.

1. Santa Fe, New Mexico-for adobe and pueblo architecture. Historically significant, photographically important, culturally diverse, and backed by a robin's egg blue sky, thanks to it's ultra-high altitude, Santa Fe and surrounding areas pull in the top spot of my list of cities for photographing architecture in the United States.

Have a favorite city that's not on the list? Leave a comment or email me and I might just add it to my next one.

Until next time...