Some Shadow Play

I think I was looking through the New York Times one day when I saw this incredible photograph:

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I thought automatically that it was New York and it had to be the 1960s.  I looked at the information about the photograph and saw that it was taken in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the 1960s.  Obviously, the photo is perfect compositionally but it has so many other things that make it an excellent photograph.  You see those four men in the photo and wonder what their story is and who they are.  The shadowy men also look like the opening credits of Mad Men.  The whole photo shows a city on the rise, a country on the rise and is 1960s cool all the way.

Of course I wanted to copy it immediately.  Of course I thought I’d be copying it with a photo of New York, but let’s face it.  My shadows pictures of New York are a dime a dozen, so I went to another spot to copy this photo.

Here are my photos inspired by this incredible photo:

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Good artists copy.  Great artists steal.  I think I stole that from someone.

Literally Just Pictures of Trees

Sometimes you get great literature up here.  Sometimes:

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Easily My Third Favorite Bridge

I’m kind of a connoisseur of bridges.  I spent my childhood looking at the Queensborough Bridge so its my absolute favorite.  My favorite bridge in Boston is the Zakim bridge, but everything in Boston is kind of my favorite, so I’m not exactly objective.

I do have a third favorite bridge — the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway.  I mean that name alone makes it just wonderful.  Its a mouthful, but a great mouthful.  A sunshine skyway named after a former Florida governor.  GREAT.

So here are some photos of the insanely wonderful Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway:

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Florida, You Won Me Over

Well, its that time of year again, when I migrate south to Florida.  A couple of years ago, this kind of peculiar Christmas tradition started with my family.  We spend a super nice Christmas in frozen Massachusetts eating yummy Christmas salad and opening presents.  Then we board a plane to sunny Florida.

We spend time in this area called Clearwater and visit Tampa, St. Petersburg and other such areas.

Going back, I’ve had an extremely complicated relationship with Florida.  When I was 15, Florida took my high school boyfriend.  I mean it didn’t really take him.  He called me on a Tuesday to tell me that Friday of that week, he’d be moving to Florida.  I blamed Florida for stealing him, but in retrospect, really it could have him.  It wasn’t meant to be!!!  Everything happens for a reason!!!!  Nah, it was a teenage romance and it was meant to end.  Florida just seemed a convenient place to blame for it ending as all.

Even before that though, I had no great love of Florida.  Every single little kid dreams of the day when they will visit the land or world of a weirdly cheerful mouse.  Well, almost every kid.  Because this kid, visited the land of said mouse in California.  Yes, I went to Disneyland at the age of about six and I knew something was amiss with the place immediately.  Nobody told me that Goofy was absolutely terrifying, so terrifying in fact that I had to hold my mom’s hand when I met him.  Also, when I went on one of the rides, I saw my mom take her glasses off and look generally unhappy, so I figured Disney and all that comes with it was something that upset my mom.

Fast forward a few years.  I mean I could get political up here about how Florida gave us Bush the younger and all of the crazy things that come out of Florida, but that would be too obvious.

I came to Florida for the first time in 2008, to an extremely pleasant area called Marco Island.  Then I returned to Orlando a few months later and now for these visits to the Clearwater/Tampa area and I have to say — this place has grown on me.  I feel like Florida is a new friend.  Let’s say the cities I’ve lived in are my friends.  Boston is my absolute best friend, who loves me unconditionally and wants nothing but good things for me.  New York is my friend that wears dark turtlenecks and abhors the downfall of society to consumerist tendencies but secretly loves to listen to pop music.  Washington DC and I are fremenies at best.  Copenhagen is my unattainably cool friend with all of the latest gadgets and gear and the one who is already over the trends before I even get to them.

But Florida (I know, not a city) is my hilariously inappropriate friend.  OMG, everyone has one of those!!!!  That friend that not only owns a t-shirt tux, but enthusiastically wears that item of clothing.  That friend that says all sorts of ridiculously inappropriate things but also has a good heart.  That friend who might laugh until they pee.  That friend.  That friend that we all need and ultimately we love.

So here’s to my funny inappropriate friend Florida.  Love.  Here’s a little compendium of all the weird things I’ve seen in the three days I’ve been here.

First, a center for the jerks:

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A typical Florida outfit.  I’m Michael Kors here.  I mean where is she (or he) wearing this?? Floridians, feel free to write in with an answer, any answer:

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Funny surfing related tchotchkes, of course:

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A merry octopus Christmas to you all and to all, a good night:

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A stick figure is here with your pizza:

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Shirt and shoes required.  Other things, not so much:

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Oh where oh where can I buy ANY ice cream around here?????  I’m so confused.  It was around here somewhere.  I swear I saw it:

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Now this next sign, I mean I guess whatever happens in the nature preserve stays in the nature preserve:

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A most absolutely insanely ridiculous brochure.  I mean ridiculously useful I guess.  Also, let me add, ridiculously Florida:

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Oh and not to mention what you are supposed to do if you encounter the non-venomous variety.  In my case, run away.  FAR FAR FAR FAR away, but Florida has other opinions on that matter too:

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But what am I going to wash my hands with after I touch the Eastern Indigo Snake?

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There are a ridiculous amount of personal injury lawyers around here.  I have nothing else to say about that other than the fact that it is strange.  It is also interesting that the personal injury lawyer ads are always next to ads for plastic surgery.  Interesting:

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Well, that’s all for now.  There will be more.  Much, much, much more…

Are Shoes Important?

When I was a teenager, there was a show on CNN called “Style with Elsa Klensch.”  It was hosted by this lady whose accent I can only label as having been from a fashionable land called “foreignenia” or some place thereabouts.

Nah, I’m kidding.  Watching Style with Elsa Klensch though was this break from the humdrum existence of a teenager in suburban New York.  The place I went to high school in was for lack of a better word, a kind of a fashion wasteland with people wearing sweatshirts with cuffed jeans and white sneakers.  Needless to say, I wanted to be them.

Every week though, Elsa Klensch offered me hope that a world existed beyond the confines of my boring high school.  I knew a world existed beyond that fishbowl high school existence, but I didn’t have daily contact with it.  Elsa Klensch’s show offered that.

As an aside, this was also during the golden age of the supermodels, driven by God rest his soul George Michael.  Man that is the celebrity death in this garbage year that hit me the hardest.  That one.

Anyway, week in and week out Elsa Klensch would hit designers with hard hitting questions like “are dresses important?” “are skirts important this season?”  There was all sorts of fashion speak that the designers would do over the clothes, but yet, they were just clothes.

I thought of Elsa Klensch when I went to an exhibit at the Peabody Essex museum entitled “Shoes.”  Straightforward.  Those things on your feet, this is an exhibit about them.  Magnificent.

Are shoes important?  I mean we put them on our feet, but do they tell people things about us?  Are they fantastical and whimsical or simply utilitarian?  I guess a combination of both.  Shoes are important.  Without them, we’d have some pretty dirty feet but we’d also be deprived of a way to express who we are.  Rich, poor, trendsetter, fashion follower, fashion denier.  They all matter.

Below I’m going to post some photos of shoes.  In the spirit of Elsa Klensch and the beauty of a George Michael’s Father Figure video and 1980s Chanel ads, I’ve restyled the shoe photos to kind of look 1980s and vintage.

A reminder first of the reference.  I mean there aren’t really any original ideas out there anyway.

Father Figure:

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I have just always thought that the Father Figure video had some of the most beautifully shot and photographed imagery I’ve ever seen.  I’ve unabashedly stolen from its color palette for ages.  Now I can finally come clean about it.  RIP George Michael.

Oh and the other inspiration and by that I mean thing I stole from for the images — 1980s and 1990s Chanel ads.  I mean just look at them:

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And finally, my version:

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Come Caroling With Me

A friend of mine invited me a few years ago to go Christmas caroling with her.  It was quite the funny invitation.  I’m not a singer.  I’m rather a person who people suggest NOT sing.  I can’t carry a tune, except for maybe at home or in the shower.  Then I’m perfect at singing.

I’ve gone consistently with my friend over the years.  This year it really hit me why I go caroling every year.  Its something that has made Boston feel like home to me.  Here I am, no longer a visitor to this wonderful city.  Rather, its a ritual, a habit, something I participate in every year.

This year I decided to turn this into a little photo essay.  I tried to capture the joy of the singers and the joy of the people hearing the singing.  All in all, magnificent:

Stop the Madness

A couple of weeks ago I come to work.  I’m a teacher in an English as a Second language program that prepares students to enter university programs.  As I have for the past seven years, I started my day’s lesson with some simple vocabulary review.  In walks an immensely intelligent student who I have been teaching for the past few weeks.  In my years of teaching I have taught maybe five other people who were as intelligent as this student.  She comes in looking upset.  She had just received her SAT score and it was not what she wanted.  By most measures, her SAT score was fine.  It was on par with the average score received by most of the country’s test takers.

I tried to console her and remind her that her score is on par with the rest of the country, not to mention she has only spent the past year learning English and that getting the score she wanted was going to take time.

Sitting in the classroom that day, I could not help but wonder why we put our young people through all of this.  What is the point of all of this?  What good was all this really for young people?  Is getting into a good college some guarantee of future success?

I thought back to my own experience with the SATs.  I took them in the mid 1990s, before my student was even born.  I also received a score that was way below what I had wanted.  Accompanying my misadventure with the SATs was a chorus of people who seem to know someone who knew someone who took the SATs when they were stoned or drunk or a combination thereof who had somehow gotten a perfect score. That made me feel yet stupider.

Ultimately, I did not choose the undergraduate college I attended.  The combination of my less than stellar SAT scores and my parents finances led me to a college that I had absolutely no interest in attending.  Less than zero.

I arrived at college beyond angry.  White hot rage was more like it.  I had always worked really hard in school, gotten good grades, taken hard classes.  In my class, I was one of two students who took physics in their senior year.  I took a bunch of AP courses and scored well enough to get college credit, but yet here I was at this institution that I considered incredibly subpar.

Yet once I got there, something rather interesting happened.  I realized rather quickly that the college offered tons of opportunities.  I became a yearbook photographer and learned things about photography that I carry on to this day.  I went to two different countries for study abroad.  I interned in Washington DC in my senior year, an internship that led to my first job out of college, covering tax legislation on Capitol Hill for a trade publication.

Somehow throughout all of that and in the years that followed, I felt I was stupid because I had done so poorly on my SATs.  No matter what I accomplished, I always thought back to my initial failure on the SATs.  It was not until a few years ago when I studying for a masters in applied linguistics that a teacher said “one test does not make you stupid.”  Suddenly I was freed of all of that baggage.

I wonder though if my student will be freed of that and what her future will be.  I told her not to think that she was stupid or not capable based on one result of a test.  People told me that over the years, but I never listened.

This takes me back to my initial question.  Why do we put so much pressure on our young people to go to these supposedly good colleges?  What is a college degree after all?  Is it meant to educate a person or is it meant as some kind of insurance policy against future incompetence?

The question of the value of a college education is one that is increasingly being discussed by all sorts of important people in all sorts of important places.  Wasn’t Steve Jobs a college dropout?  Didn’t Bill Gates drop out of Harvard to start some kind of computer company?  Mark Zuckerberg never finished college either.  These examples though are outliers.  The success of these three people who were visionaries in their respective fields does not invalidate the need for college degrees.

In this case, I like to point to the example of a professor I had when I studied at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.  As an aside, I got my masters in applied linguistics from UMass Boston and it was by far the best educational experience I have ever had.  My process in choosing the school was a simple one.  It was on the red line, convenient to my job and exceedingly inexpensive.

It was at UMass that I encountered one of the most unique and inspiring characters I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  This was also a man who was successful by any measure but whose path to that success followed paths not neatly outlined by an undergraduate degree.

My professor Pepi Leistyna, who sadly passed away in 2015, relished telling the story of how when he was in high school, he purposely chose to be in the lowest level reading class because he was lazy.  He nearly did not go to college and only went to UMass Amherst because the school had an arrangement with his high school that they would take any graduate.  At UMass Amherst, he decided to do study abroad and tried to find a town in France that had a castle in it.  He chose Dijon, France, which while a nice town, did not actually have a castle.  Pepi sometimes spoke to us in French in class.  I usually described him as sounding like a drunk Parisian, a description I think Pepi would have enjoyed.  Upon returning to the US, Pepi started teaching French at the Berlitz school on Boylston street, with a methodology that he disliked.  He ended up taking a class in applied linguistics at Harvard University, which led to his entry into the school’s PhD program in education.  Upon graduating, he joined UMass’s faculty and spent twenty years regaling students with stories of his travels, his cats and his wife Susan.

Pepi was always the first one to say that he was not the person anyone would have tipped for success in his life.  But somehow, he became one by all measures.

An undergraduate degree is no guarantee of success.  We need to stop selling this fallacy to young people.  We need to move away from a society that makes students feel stupid for performing badly on one test.  An undergraduate degree is at best one path to success, but it is not a guarantee of success.

Anyway, this is a picture blog and if you don’t feel like reading my diatribe, you can look at these pretty photos I took recently:

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