Big Boy

Big Boy

Another shot of Jason before his first night in his new bed. I'm staying home with him today as he's feeling a little sick, and I just put him down for a nap. It's amazing to me how easy the day has been so far. He's really starting to act like a big boy.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 18-55mm DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, TTL flash mode (+1 EV). Focal length 24mm, aperture f/8, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped to 5x7; retouched a scab on the corner of his mouth; curves to increase exposure and contrast; levels to brighten midtones.

Thoughts for improvement: I really like the quality of the light here, which I got by pointing the camera almost straight down and bouncing the flash off the white ceiling. The composition is a little weak and cluttered, but overall I think it's a nice picture.


"I was just thinking about that bed of his and I realized that it's the same size as that bed you had in high school, that we slept together in. Which is just crazy."


"And then I thought, you know what? He might have a girl in that bed some day."


New Bed

New Bed

We got Jason a "big boy" bed this weekend. It was delivered on Saturday and he got to sleep in it for the first time Sunday night. I had chuckled a bit earlier in the day when Juliette had said "He's officially not a baby anymore," but actually putting him to bed was surprisingly emotional for me. Jason had his normal bedtime routine--bath, brushed his teeth, potty, pajamas, story, bed--and was very excited to get in his new bed. He fell asleep within five minutes, so obviously he was fine with it. Juliette and I, on the other hand, had to stop for a moment after we closed his door to hug each other.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Aperture-priority exposure mode (matrix metering), TTL flash mode (+1 EV). Focal length 18mm, aperture f/8, shutter 1/60 sec (+0 EV), ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: straightened horizon; Cloudy WB preset; curves to increase exposure and contrast; levels to brighten midtones and darken shadows; lightly dodged over his face; burned over the highlight on the headboard.

Thoughts for improvement: I should have gotten a little lower so as to get more of the bed and less of the space overhead. An even wider angle lens might also have been interesting.

Movie Buff In the Making

Movie Buff In the Making

Two things that Jason loves are movies and putting things in rows. Not that there was ever any doubt about his parentage, but if there were... I mean, come on.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, manual flash mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/500 sec, ISO 400, flash power 1/16. Post-processing in Aperture 3: auto WB picked from the white part of the Ice Age DVD cover; levels to increase exposure, brighten midtones, and increase contrast.

Thoughts for improvement: I keep needing to bring up exposures in post, so nailing it in-camera is certainly an area I can work on. I like the composition here pretty well, though the little lamp in the top left corner does detract a bit.

The Sartorialist's Visual Life

The Online Photographer this morning ran a piece about this video from Intel's Visual Life series, featuring Scott Schuman from The Sartorialist. I can't say I was familiar with Schuman before, but listening to him talk about his work and see how he works, it really resonated with me.

About a minute and a half in, he says this:

I feel very lucky to get to have part of my day leading a visual life. It takes X amount of time every day just to make the blog work, just to get everything going and get all the business of it done, but then the real joy of it is having those four or five hours a day to go out and just be in the world that you're in, see it, keep your eyes open and really relate to what you're seeing, react to what you're seeing.

Hearing that, it just clicked with me. That's exactly how I feel when I go out shooting, especially when I shoot street. There's a feeling of presentness, of groundedness, of connection and, yes, joy. Of just being thrilled to be in the world and get to see it and be a part of it.

It's also got me to thinking about my own approach to photography. The interesting thing about Schuman--and what makes his site so popular, I imagine--is that he's not focusing on photography; rather, he uses photography to focus on fashion. It's exactly that kind of particular point of view and direction that makes great artists interesting, and it's something that's definitely lacking from my work.

I've always suffered from a lack of focus. I'm interested in a lot of things. Even just within photography, there's no one subject or style that I like, no unifying theme to my work. I think that's a big part of what's holding me back artistically.

My Latest at Life As A Human: The Popculturist Takes a Trip in the Sketch Comedy Time Machine

"The Popculturist Takes a Trip in the Sketch Comedy Time Machine":

I used to watch a lot of sketch comedy shows when I was a kid. The early 90’s were a great time for that genre — Saturday Night Live had one of its strongest casts during that time, and In Living Color debuted and launched the careers of stars like Jim Carrey and the Wayans brothers. And then there was The State, which I always thought of as the Velvet Underground of sketch comedy — relatively unknown to mainstream audiences but with a devoted cult following, and ultimately very influential on groups that came afterwards. To my young mind, The State represented the pinnacle of comedic achievement, and it became my yardstick for funny for years to come.

Reese Witherspoon Is Not That Much Older Than I

As I was watching How Do You Know last week, I found myself thinking that Reese Witherspoon was looking a little old. I suppose my mental image of her is still stuck in the days of Election and Legally Blonde, even though the latter of those two is now nearly a decade old. Still, when I think of Reese Witherspoon, I think of the fresh-faced, perky young woman she played in those movies, so seeing her now in a movie that really dwelt on the extreme close-ups, I couldn't help but see the little lines starting in her face and think about how time marches on for all of us.

Of course, I realized very quickly after that that she and I are more or less the same age. She's 34, I'm 31. The difference is pretty negligible at this point. That realization was quickly followed by another: that my mental image of myself is also stuck in days past.

I don't actually think of myself as a kid anymore. No, seeing teenagers at the mall, for example, or college kids in the beachside parks, I don't actually feel like I'd fit into those crowds anymore, nor do I have any particular desire to do so. But more and more often I keep having these weird moments where my age kind of hits me in the face.

Like the other day, for example, I was watching this clip of Marc Maron on the Letterman show, at the end of which he talks about how one way he knows he's getting older is how teenage girls see him. It's a funny bit and I laughed, but later I realized that he was 33 at the time, and, yeah, that's pretty much where I am right now, too. (To quote Maron, "Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying, I'm not saying I want to have sex with teenage girls, I'm just saying, 'Hey, throw me a bone.'")

Or when I was watching the Rose Bowl last weekend with my uncle and realized that not only am I way older than any player on that field, but I'm actually older than the vast majority of pro sports players. I pointed that out to my uncle and he burst out laughing.

Mind you, I know I'm not actually old. I did find one gray hair in one of my sideburns a while back, but I just keep my 'burns shorter these days. But, no, I'm not saying I'm old. It's just weird to think about how I'm not actually young anymore either.

How Do You Know

You might guess that this one was Juliette's pick, and that's more or less true, but I had actually been intrigued by it as well. I like Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson, after all, but more than that I was interested to see what kind of movie Reese Witherspoon would pick as her first after a two-year hiatus, especially since I'd liked pretty much everything I'd seen her in before. Sadly, that streak has come to an end, because despite the strong cast, How Do You Know was mediocre at best.

I think that writer-director James L. Brooks and I just aren't on the same wavelength. I didn't care for As Good As It Gets and found Spanglish disappointing and scattered. With How Do You Know, Brooks has continued his streak of well-cast films that can't get past the poor script, and with respect to the writing, this one was the worst of the three.

Things just sort of... happened. Characters behaved oddly with little to no warning and often for no apparent reason. Important relationships were insufficiently explained, leaving me with no clear idea of how or why the people involved should have been acting. Neither of the main characters' plotlines made a lot of sense, nor did they come together or resolve in any meaningful way. It was just a strange, barely connected series of scenes, many of which didn't work individually and none of which worked together to form a coherent whole.

Mind you, I've seen all of the principal actors (and most of the supporting ones) do great work before. I have to give them an A for effort here, because the performances were about as good as they could be. It made it all the more frustrating when they were able to find ways to make moments click, because it was easy to see how good the movie could have been if it had been better written. Alas, it was not to be.


Viewed: 12/30/2010 | Released: 12/17/2010 | Score: C-

IMDb Page



Jason does this thing sometimes, when he's really happy with us, when we're holding him, where he puts a hand on either side of our face and smiles. He just looks at us, looks into our eyes, all over our faces, beaming, and it's like he's drinking in the sight of the face in front of him, like he sees something there that's wonderful and amazing. It's one of the best things about being his parent.

Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Vivitar DF-383 flash (in Gary Fong Lightsphere). Manual exposure mode, manual flash mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/500, ISO 400, flash power 1/16. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped out a bunch on top and to the left; curves to increase exposure; levels to brighten midtones.

Thoughts for improvement: The focus is quite soft, but I can't decide whether or not I like it that way. The window in the background is a little bright as well.

True Grit

I think the first question most people will ask when you mention that you've just seen a particular movie is "How was it?" When I got that question after seeing the Coen brothers' new version of True Grit, the best I could manage was a noncommittal "Uh, yeah, it was good."

Now, you'd think that being a fan of the Coens, Jeff Bridges, and Westerns, this movie would be the type to immediately garner lavish praise from me. The problem, though, is that I'm also a giant fan of the 1969 John Wayne version of the film, so both before and after I found myself with a deep ambivalence about the very existence of a remake.

Remakes, in general, are always problematic for me. It's the kind of thing critics and movie buffs have been bemoaning for years, the bottom-line orientation of the modern studios having lead to a glut of remakes and sequels and a dearth of new, creative work. The Coens, of course, tried to head off such criticism by claiming that their film was a new adaptation of the original 1968 novel rather than a remake of the Wayne film, but that always struck me as splitting hairs.

Unlike most remakes, though, the Coens' True Grit is neither shallow nor technically incompetent--quite the opposite, in fact. What's more, I have to say that it does, indeed, bring something new to the story. The 1969 film is a classic, an iconic movie that cannot be replaced. The new one may not be either, but I don't think the comparison really does right by either movie, and having had some time to think it over, I've decided that the best thing is to simply take this new version on its own merits.

When you do that, it's easy to realize that it's a very well-crafted film. The Coen brothers visual aesthetic, which worked so well with a Western setting in No Country for Old Men, made for stunning scenes. Their signature Coen-y weirdness worked well when they needed a comic moment, but they used it sparingly enough to allow the film an earnestness that made the dramatic moments effective. The performances, too, were excellent. Jeff Bridges was great, of course, bringing a more menacing touch to the character of Rooster Cogburn. Matt Damon was also quite good, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld was perfect as Mattie Ross.

I'm still not on board with the idea of remakes, especially not of classics or of movies that were done right the first time around. I have to admit, though, that there are times when a fresh point of view can make something new that, while perhaps not better than the original, is at least worthy to stand in its company.

Viewed: 12/26/2010 | Released: 12/22/2010 | Score: A-

IMDb Page