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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arts Forum

I was at this event Monday night.

I'd seen an article in the Kansas City Scar about it that day, then Corinna emailed me to see if I wanted to go.

Well, it was ont he way home from work, it was arts related, and there was free Boulevard beer. How could I say no? I even ran into my friend Julie.

Mayor Sly James was posing the question, how can Kansas City become more of a hub for the arts? A good question when you look at what the arts scene does for quality of life and property values. When I was in high school, you couldn't even buy drugs in Downtown Kansas City—nobody lived there so there was nobody for a dope peddler to sell to.

Today they have an overpriced grocery store to sell gourmet food to the yuppies and hipsters who pay outrageous rents and condo mortgages to live there. And the arts, from opportunists like Stretch (of Grinder's fame), to less commercially savvy artists, to the Kauffman Center are all a big part of why they do.

I think Kansas City sometimes suffers an inferiority complex on the hipness front. The whole cowtown thing, and that song from the musical Oklahoma does not help.

We don't have a huge population, we can't compete with Chicago or New York if it takes millions of people to be hip.

But competing with New York for density in the midwest, that's like trying to compete with Hawaii for tropical-ness. What we do have is a half-billion-dollar performing arts center, a bit of a jazz scene, some brilliant street art, and by the way the Nelson and Kemper museums, stellar art institutions both, are free to any schmuck that walks in off the street. As big as the Met or the Art Institute at Chicago? Nope, but bigger than a city our size has a right to expect, and I think I paid $18 to enter the Modern Wing in Chicago a couple years back.

Can more be done? Sure. For one thing, I wish the city would quit trying to wage war on tag art. They don't bother the legal walls, Fox Beverages, that sort of thing. And we might be more tolerant than some other cities, but I've seen some of my favorite pieces of public art covered over with gray paint by city workers, and I think that's a shame.

This gets me a little ahead of myself. I was way early for this event, and I took the shot of the MK12 sign while I waited, but not just that. I have over fifty photos of tag art/murals I had not previously noticed or documented downtown from Monday evening to share with you.

I'd gotten off work early and then got a huge tailwind as I cycled down there, so I found myself with over an hour to kill downtown with a camera, tripod and even a little daylight left. I went a little crazy.

When we broke up into small groups at the Arts Forum, and were asked what we treasured about Kansas City's art scene, I spoke up first, said the tags, the murals. As the meeting went on, I found myself photographing people in the room, including a guy who contributed to the conversation between sketching and doodling in a pad with some intensity. After, I met him and noticed his nametag said, 'Sikes.'

I fell out, saying, "Dude, I just spent an hour shooting a bunch of tags and murals, including yours!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shootout with Julie

So I was at this arts forum Mayor Sly was putting on and who do I run into, but Julie. I've known her since the plains were black with buffalo.

Exaggeration, I know. Actually I've known her since before gas stations had a third spot on their price signs for the dollar amount. Back when I was first hanging with Julie, two digits was enough to express the price of a gallon of unleaded even on the Fourth of July weekend.

Anyway, I saw her and I started shooting. She shot back. She emailed me a couple of the shots, one of me and Corinna, a couple of me with my camera. My D7000 seems like a big, even pretentiously big camera in some situations. With the 18-105mm kit lens, it dwarfs something like a Canon Rebel, let alone a pocket camera like the several PowerShots I've worn out or broke.

But Julie's D3's with I don't even know what monstrous, fast FX glass, these suckers have their own zip codes and she's got a pair of them and a belt full of batteries, lenses, and I don't know what-all. Then again, she was on the job, I was just out playing after work.

Still, I have to admit, I envied her rig. I'd even haul all that shit around on my bicycle, true story.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Les Misérables / Bright Pizzas

So Em's birthday plans got rearranged because we all got sick a couple weeks ago. She finally got to have her sleepover party part tonight. Awake over, really, I can here them as I write this, well past my own bedtime, and I doubt they're going to sleep any time soon.

So part of the birthday deal, I took Em to Les Misérables. She kind of got me hooked the other day with a concert presentation of the music from it she has on DVD.

We were early for the movie, and there was a Trader Joe's right there. I still needed toppings for the pizza I planned to make when we got home, so I went in to get them and Em and her friend stayed in the car. They said they were going to hijack my camera while I was in there, and I guess they kind of did.

Going into the movie, I grabbed a heavy stack of napkins, over an inch thick. Buttered popcorn inspires me to take quite a few, but I'm also getting over a bit of a cold so I figured I might need a few extras for nose-blowing. I had no idea.

The first time I found myself actively crying was when Anne Hathaway is singing after being reduced to selling hair, teeth and her body to save her kid. I was really surprised at my reaction, I kind of knew the story going in, after all. Then Em's friend was asking me if I could spare one of these napkins and I realized that not only was she crying, too, the man sitting next to me was also sniffling.

It's not so much the deaths that worked me over, it's the lives of the characters, the way they surprise me. The bishop who gives Valjean the stolen silver plus more, Valjean's willingness to sacrifice for Cosette, Gavroche's foolish bravado, these are all compelling characters.

But the reconciliation of Valjean to his true identity in the end, I couldn't maintain through that at all. Let alone the barricades in the end. I should probably resent having my emotions manipulated so wildly, but in the end I needed more napkins.

They should wait longer to bring up the houselights after a movie like this, some of us aren't tough enough to pull it together in a couple of minutes.

After, we came home and I made nukular green prosciutto, black olive, alfredo pizza and a purple pepperoni.

I'm still not sure what I think of Les Miz. Is it entertaining to sit in the dark and cry?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Birthday Pathogen Pot Luck

So we rescheduled Em's 17th birthday celebration because we were sick. Mo was puking Thursday, I got it Friday, then after I'd rescheduled the family get-together for the following Sunday, Corinna got it and then Em on her actual birthday.

And there really isn't a present to compare with projectile vomiting on your birthday.

So we all seemed to be well or on the mend from our various ailments a week later. I was still fighting some chest congestion from a cold I had before the puke festival (norovirus, I suspect).

I made my patented chocolate mayonnaise cake and my even more patented even-more-frosting-than-cake cream cheese icing.

Seriously, this was a regular, two 9-inch pan cake, and the frosting used three pounds of cream cheese, three sticks of butter, some confectioner's sugar, vanilla and food coloring. That's nearly four pounds of frosting for a cake that uses two cups of flour.

The party was great, we had a surprise visit from our rent-liberated friend Raymond and most of the fam over.

Fast forward to about ten o'clock that night, and I was puking my guts up. Second time in a fortnight, and I basically never get sick. Then I woke up in the middle of the night sneezing so violently I thought I'd given myself a hernia. I even took a sick day Monday, something I go years on end without doing.

Ever since (that was Sunday night, today is Wednesday), my nose has been so violently inflamed I've taken such desperate measures as jamming Vagisil into my nostrils to numb things out.

Vagisil is really marketed entirely too narrowly. It has more narcotic pain killer in it than any other ointment I've ever found. It's good for saddle sores, and as far as using it on your schnoz, if there's a part of a man's body that's somewhere like a vagina tissue-wise and nerve-wise, it'd be inside the nose.

My Mom called last night to ask how I was because she'd heard that basically all the family members who came to the party had gotten sick, too. No telling who brought what pathogens to our little buffet of infection.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Birthday With the Power of E

I had to call in sick for Em's seventeenth birthday. Actually, her sister was puking Thursday night; I was projectile vomiting so hard my abs got sore on Friday; Corinna got it Saturday and Em got it Sunday, on her actual birthday. I think it was the norovirus.

So fast forward a week and we're doing the family cake & ice cream thing tomorrow, and Em wanted an orange cake. Corinna tried to talk me into buying a cake to save time because of other obligations I have this weekend, but the only way I could be satisfied was to make one from scratch.

I'm pretty sure the frosting actually outweighs the cake. It was my usual chocolate mayonnaise cake, two cups of flour, three eggs, 3/4 cup mayo, 4 oz chocolate, etc. The frosting was made from three pounds of cream cheese, three sticks of unsalted butter, some confectioner's sugar, vanilla and food coloring. I doubt the cake weighed anything like four pounds, so I'm thinking I've found a magical 1.58:1 ratio of frosting to cake.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Night Shot

I've been doing more reading on the subject of night/low light photography, and I haven't got it all figured out, but I did get this.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blue Highways to Carthage & Joplin

After my abortive attempt to pedal to Joplin and Carthage, I decided to punt and take the car.

Corinna and Brian were keen to at least ride back from Carthage, and while my leg was hurting too bad to consider riding that far fully loaded, I was keen to visit our friend Edward and to see the recovery of Joplin.

Edward lives in nearby Carthage, but had the bad luck to be driving in Joplin when the tornado hit. His car was thrown approximately a half mile with him in it and landed on its roof with a pole skewering it from front to back. If he'd maintained a normal driving position while his car was being thrown about, the pole would have impaled him, but as it is, he made it out with miraculously minor physical injuries.

We took a more or less bicycle tour route going down. My xB was loaded with Brian and Corinna's bikes, Brian's B.O.B. trailer, all their touring/camping gear, my CPAP, changes of clothes, and against my better judgement our dogs.

I don't get the whole take your dogs everywhere impulse. I love our dogs, but I love for them to stay at home. If I leash train my cats, I can see taking them on some trips, but not multi-day out of town ones.

I am alone, in my marriage, in this view of pets and travel, and to her credit, Corinna does the vast majority of the dog-handling/managing/care when we take the hounds with us.

By the time we were in Harrisonville, I had my fill of interstate driving. US 71 is only recently dubbed 'Interstate 49' but it has long been the sort of road I hate to drive on—fast but incredibly boring.

Brian rode shotgun with a Missouri Gazetteer and we visited a pecan shop in Virginia, ran the dogs in a park in Drexel, saw an oil pump cowboy, and lots of scenic sorts of things getting to Carthage.

We even passed through Amsterdam, which had a windmill by it's caboose in the park. I think they could really pump up their tourism revenue if they used their name to justify legal drugs and prostitution.

We passed through Alba, which appears to have a sort of critical mass of the car unsafe at any speed, the Corvair.

We got to Edward's in a mere five hours. Or something like that. We enjoyed our trip along highways named 'V' and 'Y' and 'FF' but they took roughly double the time. It was such an eccentric route that when we called Edward for final guidance in to his Carthage estate, he kept asking where we were in 71 Hwy/I-49 and not seeming to hear when we said no, we came in on 96.

Some of the stuff at Edward's place was hard to identify. I asked about this swiveling truck thing and he didn't have any more notion how it came to be and for what than I did.

Edward also has cattle. Or his family does, I guess he doesn't have much to do with them except they're in his back yard and his dog plays with them.

Sheba kept barking at the cattle and it took me awhile to realize, she thought they were more dogs. And since they were the biggest dogs she'd ever seen, she figured she had to put up a big front to keep them from kicking her ass.

What I wasn't prepared for was our tour of Joplin. We did some fun stuff, ate a couple of meals out (Edward has a different sensibility about what is a 'good' place to eat than I, I would have definitely done the Colonel's Pancake House, for instance, but he seemed to think it might be almost lethal).

But when Edward started giving us a play-by-play of his tornado experience against a backdrop of the rebuilding effort, it got pretty heavy.

I guess I expected a mostly positive look at how marvelously all this has come back sort of story. There is definitely that. People have rebuilt about as fast as materials could be hauled in, new roofs, new houses, etc.

Between that are driveways to empty lots that appear to have no owner. And between all those new houses, so many twisted, shattered trees with dead branches and broken off limbs.

There are bright spots, a painted tree, rebounding neighborhoods.

But there were so many ghosts. The overwhelming nature of the tragedy is still near surface level.

I wondered at my friend Julie, I've known her since high school, and her career as a photojournalist. I was pretty set back by my own little photo-tour of Joplin a year and a half after the fact. She was there on assignment right after, took a picture that ran big on the front page of the New York Times.

Of course I wasn't the only photographer running abound Joplin shooting away. Which I found strangely comforting because I get the impression that our national attention span is so short that Joplin and it's kind get forgotten except maybe on anniversaries of disasters that make them famous.

We visited the gem & mineral museum as well, and even made an attempt on the George Washington Carver National Monument, getting there about ten minutes after it had closed.

My trip home, I didn't take the blue highways. Corinna and Brian are getting ready to cycle back, but I needed to get home with the dogs while I was still sharp, and since it was dark there wasn't a scenic advantage to those back roads. I got home in half the time, but with less than 10% the visual stimulation.