Sunday, December 30, 2007

the marble machine

I help Leo build a magnicifent marble machine over xmas.

seaside spin-around

A popular photo technique has been revised for vid-joe!

Seaside vids and such

Lucy and I are lucky enough to be spending New Year's with my parents in Seaside, along with my brother and four — count'em four — dogs. If you want to see assorted video, it's here.

Check back and Happy New Year!

Seaside Dogpool Arrives

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lucy's lost one

Recently, there was a tapping at the front door. We've got a glass door, so I could easily see who was there: a somewhat unkempt middle-aged man in a blue thrift-store nylon parka and beige house slippers, who nonetheless carried himself with some pride and authority. He politely stood back as I opened the door and exuded no menace.

As I expected him to start into a story that would culminate in a need for money, he instead said: "Is the lady of the house available?" I replied that no, she was actually not home. He calmly thanked me and turned to go, and I ventured one more question, utterly out of curiosity: "Can I give her a message?" I said. His eyes lit up as he stopped and looked back at me: "A message?" he said, implying that perhaps I had one for him. So I reiterated: "Would you like to leave a message for her?" And he said: "Yes! Ask her to please come home."

I didn't want to burst the guy's bubble, but I decided to clarify and told him that, interestingly enough, she was my wife, and this was, in fact, her home. After which, he promptly thanked me and walked on down the sidewalk, with gusto.

A little while later, I saw him knocking on the front doors of other houses on my street, only now palming a gold spraypainted styrofoam globe in each hand. And then after about an hour he knocked on my door and we had nearly the same conversation again.

I didn't feel like calling the police. The man — clearly schizophrenic — seemed calm and rather happy. It was a sunny, mild Winter day, he was reasonably clothed, and he was looking for somebody to come home. No problem, that I could see.

SantaCon Lexington!

I'm delighted to report that Lexington's first entrée into SantaCon was a bit hit and a success! About two dozen "Santas" and assorted elves and reindeer convened at the Hyatt early friday evening and from there, began our Santa rampage across downtown Lexington. Stops and highlights included:
  • A couple of public bus rides
  • Al's Bar
  • Natasha's Café (in collaboration with Rakadu Gypsy Dance, pictured)
  • BANG
  • Mia's
I'm "Blind Santa" (though I was more going for Witness Relocation Santa).

Here's some video from my new little Flip camera. (photo by brooke)

Wyn's Wacky Xmas Show on Trivial Thursdays!

This morning was the annual gas that is Wyn's Xmas Show, hosted by Trivial Thursdays. We heard sad songs where children die on Santa's lap, we heard how they do the 12 Days of Christmas in David Lynch land, and also we learned what Christmas means to Wookies.

If you want to hear it, it's available for download here! (107mb mp3)

(5 minutes of live Daft Punk at the beginning, no extra charge)

Also, here's a link to video of Wyn and I discussing the roster of the Star Wars Christmas Special, live on the air.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The merits of FILM.

Holga Maine
Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
I've been quietly nursing an actual film fetish, in the form of my Holga toy camera (this image), and my recently-acquired and completely heavy and badass Zenza Bronica XTRC medium format. Room for lots of improvement, needless to say, but some images from both cameras can be found in this gallery.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Pictures of friends

Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
I love taking cool pictures of my friends. Near the end of summer, there was a nice little gathering at the Houlihans and I put my thus-far-unused lens baby to some work. Take a look at some dreamy pictures.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
Nick collins performs sonic audacity at the ice house in lex, ky

Monday, November 12, 2007

2007 Carrion Flower blooming

2007 Carrion Flower blooming
Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
This is the unlikely story in pictures of how Lucy and I and a number of esteemed guests witnessed — first-hand — the blooming of the ultra-strange Stapelia Gigantea, commonly known at The Carrion Plant. It was an amazing way to spend a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thriller Lexington 2007

Alrighty, undead!

We just had YEAR SIX of Thriller: Live in the Streets of Downtown Lexington, and it was probably the greatest yet. Over 100 zombies. 3 Michael Jacksons. And about 3000 people downtown to watch. Even an appearance by Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It's hard to underscore what a great event this is, what a great community art event — but I want to try. Mecca Live Studio is the organization that conceived of this and makes it happen. Certainly, other organizations — notably WRFL-FM and LFCUG Parks and Rec — are to be mentioned, too.

But it's funny — this "dancing Thriller" concept has become oddly widespread and is done all over the place: in prison, even. For that matter, some enterprising, promotionally-minded people even opted this year to try for a Guinness Book world record by coordinating Thriller dancers around the world through a web site. And yes, Lexington dancers participated in this event, called Thrill the World.

But that felt odd to me, and here's why I feel the need to shout out to the Mecca peeps, especially Mel, TT, and Jeff. I feel an inner certainty saying this, but can't prove it: I think they did it first. If they didn't do it first, they did it nearly first. And I want to say "we" instead of "they," because the Mecca peeps are some of the most dedicated community artists that I ever expect to know; but still I want them to get credit. Ironically, even more than they want credit, I might venture.

So even if I can't prove it, I wanted to say it: Thanks to Mecca for such a cool thing. It's great fun that people are doing this all over the place. It's community art, pure and simple. There's no admission, no big commercial sponsorship, nothing but everyday people who want to learn a great dance and get out and put on a show watched by thousands. How cool is that?

Thank you, Mecca. For your humble and friendly greatness.

Video of this year's Thriller is starting to appear. There's already this one. And this one. And there are more video cameras and photographers downtown every year. So while you're waiting for more youtube and flickr posts, go see what a great thing we've got going on by looking at past years.

Previous videos: 2005, 2002 and 2006. Some of my pix from previous years 2006 and 2005.

I'm working on editing the new pix and will put them up soon.

PS: This also shouldn't go without saying: Thanks to Michael Jackson, John Landis, Vincent Price and all the fantastic dancers and production people that have amazingly cemented Thriller into our collective memory.

smalltown officing

Latest office
Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
Out on the road with Lucy today, in Mt. Sterling, Ky. This is a neat way to do business. She goes on sales calls, I find a hot spot. Failing all else (coffee shops, lawyers stoops) there's usually the public library. Mt. Sterling is a funny little dollhouse town. Meaning, it's full of fastidiously maintained early 20th century colonials. Otherwise, there seems to be an abundance of bars for such a little place. And the rest is antique stores and tanning places.* Also: it's the home of our dipshit governor who will be voted out of office with godspeed a week from today.

*'tanning places' remark was completely uncalled-for, possibly even false. As a peace offering, I would like to point out that their library has a surprisingly large collection of Gore Vidal novels.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Eulogy for Black Betty

Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
We lost Betty today.

Betty was a wonderful, cantankerous, glaring long-haired cat that Lucy has had since years before we met and of whom I was very fond. She was first and foremost a hunter. I initially became enamored with Betty over her behavior at Lucy's place on 6th Street. Betty loved the outdoors; and while she did include cat food in her diet, she generally would only consent to come indoors for an interim snack. Dead of Winter or heat of Summer, Betty preferred to be outside at nearly all hours.

One of my favorite memories of Betty concerns the large glass door that opened onto Lucy's back yard; Betty would often sit there on the outside and stare inside. Early on in our relationship (with Lucy or Betty, take your pick), I would open the door, thinking she was wanting in. She would turn and bolt away. I gradually learned that Betty only wanted to observe us caged creatures. She vastly preferred the wilds.

I don't think I've ever lost an animal like we lost Betty. In the past, they've gotten hit, or ran away or some other form of, um, absentee death. We think Betty had a stroke or thrown clot. We came home to find her semi-crouched in the kitchen, occupying a single spot. This wasn't exactly unusual behavior for Betty— one of my favorite eccentricities about this soft black cat was her habit of staking out some random spot — and then occupying it vehemently, sometimes for days. Frequently, you would just have to walk around her, depending on the spot. One time, the spot was my pillow, but that was one of the few times that she was unseated by me. Repeatedly, I must add.

This evening was clearly different and we took her immediately to the animal hospital; after some compassionate consultation from the Vet, I sat with Betty and stroked her soft furry black head while she was put to sleep.

I've cried a lot tonight over Betty because I loved her. I loved her absolute disdain for the trappings of comfort and domesticity. While she lived with humans, she never particularly deigned to be much other than a prowler. I respected that. Betty would come in, but mostly she was going out. She liked to be OUT, and as a token of respect, we will bury her somewhere out. In The Wilds.

Black BettyI didn't know we were going to lose Betty today. I keep thinking this. I don't know why. I don't think I could have changed it, I don't feel guilty, I just puzzle in the crevices and chasms of grief and how it works.

I didn't know this morning after a welcome few hours of sleep recovering from the Mountain Workshops.

I didn't know during an unusually cheerful visit to KET.

I didn't know during a delightful trip with Lucy to Winchester.

And I didn't know while we crashed the pool at the Marriott. I didn't know that such a wonderful day would end in tears. And it's okay, really— It'll be okay. I just didn't know. I 'm reminded that we cannot really predict or prepare for these things. I just want to be present when they happen. I think these are some of the most important times in Life.

Epilogue: Betty, I'm told, was properly called "Black Betty Bam-Ba-Lam," after an old blues song. To this day, I'm not sure that I know it. But I knew Betty. We understood each other, and while she was a remarkable crank, she was also a delight to me and I will miss her, as will Lucy and the rest of our household.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


MOUNTAIN WORKSHOPS 2007 is kicking my ass. But it's been a good ass-kicking. I trust that I'll be able to profit at least a little from the presence of several National Geographic shooters as well as a couple Pulitzer prize winners and a host of world-class newspaper photojournalists. But ouch! Critique hurts!

The support staff here is hard at work doing all manner of things, only some of which I understand, some of which have to do with extremely new Macs, and some of which have to do with the website. The full site isn't up yet; Last year's MW site was up until about a week ago, and now I see why— the site is a testament to the work that is currently being done and it is contantly evolving.

That having been said, click the link above and wait for a picture to load. After it does, hit "reload" and another will load. And that's what's going on here at Mountain Workshops 2007. Yay.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Getting that excited-but-can't-breathe feeling again as I prepare to embark upon my second hardcore photojournalism camp experience: It's the 2007 MOUNTAIN WORKSHOP!

I've very excited, possibly even concerned; I guess my fear is that this expedition isn't going to have the same warm-fuzzy feeling of the Maine Workshops.

But I'm hoping…

There was some kind of magic in Rockport that absolutely moved me to a level of focus and concentration that I rarely experience. And while, in my heart, I expect the same out of Mountain Workshop and hope that it's not modivated by merciless critiques. I didn't go to art school. I think if I had, I might handle critiques better. But wow, I'm sensitive. I hope I can get over that, regardless.

It's a great workshop, by all accounts. One of the odd things, though, for me is that it's in Danville this year, barely an hour away, which is pretty different from the pilgrimage I made to the Maine Workshops a couple of months ago. Still— people are coming from all over the country, including a few of my heroes from Maine.

Strangely, I also feel like I'm making up for a 25-year-old faux pas: When I was about 14, I got to go to Western Kentucky University's Yearbook and Newspaper camp for high school students. I went as a photographer and was coming from the perspective of being photo editor of both publications several years running at my school. What happened kind of still bothers me; basically, I was cocky as shit. And I was surprised and unnerved to find out that there were better—and younger and more experienced—photographers there than me. Easily. It rattled me and I ended up not paying the kind of attention that I could have and thus not learning too much. As odd as it might sound, I'd like to make up for that at Mountain Workshop. Why Mountain Workshop, you might wonder? Well, because it's put on by … Western Kentucky University.

Maybe I can lay this old demon to rest.

Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize for climate campaign - Times Online

Does it seem weird to anybody else that Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize
is getting so little press coverage here in the US? How disappointing. What an amazing achievement in these times.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007


Oscar loves to bark. Barking is usually preceded by growling, indicating an imminent intention of barking. Generally, I discourage excessive barking. But sometimes it is encouraged.

This is one of those times. (click on the picture for authentic barking action)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sufing game

Sufing game
Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
A weird and popular "surfing game" at lexington's oktoberfest

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A few new pix from The Indigo performance

Rachel portrait
Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
I realized that I had neglected to post about a dozen pix of interest with my set from Mecca's show featuring The Indigo. Probably, I got sidetracked making classic cocktails for the girls. Anyway I've added about a dozen to The Indigo Set on my Flickr page.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
Lexington got a great treat in the form of a visit by The Indigo from San Francisco. Yay, Rachel, Mardi, and Zoe! The show was, of course, the handiwork of the ever-fabulous Mecca Live Studio, responsible for so many fun things here in Lexington. Thanks, Mecca!

Here are my photos.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Before your time, kid…"

A little while ago, I was beleagering a younger friend about her supposed love of early Rush, which I noisily decried to be "too long ago" for her to know about. Or appreciate?

It's funny—the same accusation would totally rile me.

In fact it did once, a few years ago. I was at the State Fair, gaping over the bitchery and pomp heralded by the many horse shows. I think I was paying witness to a particularly fruity Saddlebred Horse Show, which featured a cavalcade of jaunty tunes played on a colossal organ, live, everybody! Anyway, I was fascinated and sought out the organ player, who was sequestered in a corner of the showring seats, alone at his organ. I kind of hung around and watched him do his gig. He was not a jaunty man—in fact, he ended up being more of a vituperative, bitter grump. I know this because at one point he started playing "Cherish," by The Association—a song that I knew but couldn't place at that moment. So I asked him about it and he spit back this bile: "Ah, it's before your time…" The guy was positively sour. And I there I was, trying to connect with him.

I wanted to say: "Oh, dude—you so don't know of that which you speak."

Because that's a funny thing about music fandom: Loving music is a timeless habit. I happen to be a big fan of The Association, despite having been barely born during their heydey; Similarly, some of my 22-year-old noise-rock friends probably know more about John Cage than some scholars; And it's possible—entirely possible—that my friend-in-question might love Rush's "Fly By Night" as much as somebody significantly older than her.

Anyway, I guess the reminder for me is: watch it with the "it's before your time" thing. When it comes to a love of music, it often a bad idea to judge a fan based on age.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Jill and Joe's Wedding!

The reception
Originally uploaded by mrtoastey
Massive big fun was had by past and former Kentuckians and their North Country hosts for Jill and Joe's nupts in sublime Minneapolis-St. Paul. What a great time, y'all!

The set of pix is here!

saturday morning thoughts

For the first time in recent memory, I don't feel overwhelmed waking up in the AM. I've spent months now feeling the need to jump out of bed and start running as fast as possible until the inevitable bedtime, when I would rest so that I could do it again. That is not healthy, I am quite aware. And in fact, this has been the busiest craziest summer ever, from a mostly work standpoint, but also just in general. And lots of that has been really cool and some not so much and plenty just kind of in the middle. Mostly my issue has been with volume of stuff.

And I'm really happy to momentarily report that it's cooling off. And that refers to volume of stuff (VOS) and even just plain tempurature. The thing I wanted to announce is really quite simple: I'm wearing my hoodie. It's Saturday morning, things are quiet, I hear the hissing of the sprinkler watering my tomotoes and I'm wearing my favorite hoodie.

Last night, through a wonderful "friend connection," I worked at photographer at this benign horse farm party where The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played. Everybody was nice and reasonable, and cheerful, nobody got wasted or belligerent (including me – ha), I was nicely paid and I might get to do it again. This is calming.

Just came back from Minneapolis, from Jill's wedding (pictures coming) and that was a great trip in many ways. And? I'm glad to be home with not too much on the horizon. Except Mountain Workshop, which has me a little heebie-jeebie, I admit. But mostly in a really excited way. Besides that's a few weeks from now.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to sort through some pictures, keep the clients under control and help Lucy here and there with her new job.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

hammer time

hammer time
Originally uploaded by brian arnett
Hammer Schlager: I have got some shit to say about this North Country oddity.


Originally uploaded by brian arnett
me and "the bride," puttin' the hurt on a reception.


Originally uploaded by brian arnett
jill's wedding reception, near Minneapolis. Land of the 1-liter beer. Gawd. What fun!

Jill's wedding!

Originally uploaded by brian arnett
Just came back from Minneapolis and Jill's wedding. Lucy give it the thumb up! (me, too.)

Mother - Daughter Reunion

Two Simmons, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

My friend Merrill and one of the compelling portraits that she has around her place of her mom. I was secretly delighted to get this picture even though I was acting like I was not paying attention to such things while Merrill was standing there. ;-)

Maine Workshop Memories

Kate's Cottage, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

I've been meaning to post this set of some casual snapshots that I took around the campus of The Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine. My time there was so precious. And so busy. When I got around to taking these pictures, one of my last days there, it felt … so weird to be taking snapshots. After spending the week shooting shooting shooting in the field. I felt funny walking around like a tourist taking these pix. But I wanted to share them.

Mingle Freely dot com!

I've owned the domain for quite some time, but I only just now got around to plugging it in.

So! The good news is, my blog can now be reached from the web address! Much easier to remember, right?

Joe Zawinul RIP

Just saw this morning that Zawinul died. And that requires a brief eulogy. Because Joe Zawinul and Weather Report grooved me through my early 30's, years that I remember fondly for the house parties on Kentucky Avenue often helmed by Lexington's great jazz-rock party band Lily Pons. So many of us had such a great time in the presence of our friends/incredible musicians. And there was no doubt that they took cues of inspiration from "Black Market-" era Weather Report.

Those were great times. In fact, just the other day, having dinner with some friends, I noticed a copy of Black Market on top of the stereo and couldn't resist putting it on. That music can still summon memories of some of my most carefree years. I never got to see Weather Report with Zawinul, which is a bit saddening, but not too much because I would have really liked to have seen them in the late 70's, well before I could have actually appreciated them.

A final thought: One of my favorite albums of all time, Brian Eno's "Another Green World," includes an austere instrumental interlude called Zawinul/Lava: Many musicians were inspired by Joe Zawinul. Many people delighted in his music.

Monday, September 03, 2007

RUSH! Riverbend 2007

Saturday night, saw an amazing show by the heros of my youth, Rush. The show tickledlme in every way and I am just so delighted that I didn't feel somehow too old to go see the patron saints of my teenage years. Here's my phone cam pictures

They're kinda psychedelic.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Chicken rotisseries

Chicken rotisseries, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

The rectangles. Seriously! The orangish rectangles are chicken rotisseries.. It's a joke apparently about how they no longer need big huge amps like in the old days; so Geddy had a row of institutional chicken rotisserie machines. Last tour, it was washer/drier units. My cam-phone pic pretty much sucks, but here's a better photo.


Rush!, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Gourmet chili

Gourmet chili, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

I went in search of authentic cinci style chili. A random guy that I hollered at from my car tried to send me to Skyline but when I balked, suggested Dixie Chili in Newport. While I tried to got there, I instead accidentally wound up at this place down the street. Gourmet Chili 'n' More, I think it was called, on Monmouth Street in Newport. Perfect. Also, chili (mostly) fits my phase 1 SBD.


Awesome!, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

The absolutely nutz bldg by Daniel Libeskind in covington (in progress). Libeskind said ""This building, while modern in design, is based on shapes that reflect the history, traditions and landscape of Greater Cincinnati." Um, clearly? Regardless, the guy is incredible, is a former faculty member of the UK College of Architecture and we're very lucky to have one of his buildings here in Kentucky. There's more about the project here and here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Invisible Airwaves!"


I'm 41 years old and I'm going to see Rush on Saturday. That should be depressing but I'm so excited. It's been more than 25 years since I sat in my best friend Tim Haney's basement and boggled over the mystery of Cygnus X-1, a song that ends "to be continued…" Whoa. Tim had filched older brother Jaye's copy of A Farewell to Kings and it was just one of the most intriguing things either of us had ever seen or heard. What would I have thought if I'd known that I'd be going to see Rush so many years later?

There's something about Rush that fires the furnace inside of teenage boys in a way that cannot be denied. I barreled through my teens listening to "Tom Sawyer" and "Red Barchetta" thinking that there was nothing in the world that I couldn't do if I really wanted to. The music of Rush assured me that I had an important place in the universe —that in fact, we all did should we chose to accept such a mantle. Does that sound breathlessly grandiose? Of course it does! That's what Rush is about somehow.

What really excites me is that I'm going to see Rush with some of my oldest friends and, while our friendships are somewhat disparate and we don't always spend a lot of time together these days, we still have Rush. And while we listen to all manner of music (I am an ultra-hip-on-the-newest thing college radio deejay, I must belabor), obscure, mainstream, in a variety of genres, we still have Rush.

So why is it then that Rush inspires a kind of timid or reluctant endorsement as we get older? There's almost "the Rush smirk," the sideways look you know you're gonna get if you bring up Rush among those who claim any degree of modern music fandom or scholarship. It's as if my briefcase (if I had one) fell open and was full of Tinker Toys or Legos.

And what's funny is that this attitude will frequently be adopted by people who quite possibly loved Rush when they were younger. Almost as if we're saying I'm so much more sophisticated now, but when I was a kid… sure! Maybe it has something to do with that delicious burning with which we once felt those Objectivism-inspired Neil Peart lyrics (who among Rush fans wouldn't have given anything to have dinner with our teenage intellectual god? if only to say "Neil, what should I do with my life?") coupled with the oft-repeated — and so inaccurate — labeling of Rush as a 'metal band.' Please. Nothing really against metal for the purposes of this point; it' s just so wrongheaded as to miss the entire point. Which is: There really isn't any other Rush. What's weird is that so few bands ever even come out into the light with their Rush inspiration. (The Smashing Pumpkins used to do "Limelight" in their encore, and Mixmaster Mike of the Beastie Boys does this great "Tom Sawyer" cut-up prior to Beasties shows). Recently, Chuck Klosterman, epic and hilarous rock writer that he is, wrote a fantastic essay on "The Spirit of Radio" for Esquire magazine.

So where am I going with this? Maybe it's this: Rush is just like Star Wars for me. That elemental. And just as I don't tend to watch Star Wars very often these days, neither do I tend to listen to Rush. But they both resonate to this day. They've both lost little of their sway over me and the way my brain works and really the values that I hold.

Recently, I've been reading, for the first time, The Lord of the Rings. I have always felt that not having read the Tolkien tome was an oversight by any supposedly well-read person. And one of the treats of this reading is seeing some of Rush's own influences. "Rivendell" is obvious, and even somewhat hamfisted, one must admit. But "The Trees" shines still, in both word and music.

The point really is what Rush introduced me to: Rush introduced me to literature. Rush introduced me to intellectualism. Rush songs aren't about girls, they're not about partying, they're not about drugs (okay, okay except A Passage to Bangkok), they're not about being depressed. They're about ideas and dreams, and the epic nature of the world around us. And for a band to inspire unshakeable starry-eyed optimism in teenage boys, well, there are worse things.

I learned so much from Rush, and I can't wait to see them for the 3rd and probably last time. I doubt that I'll need to see them again, honestly; this is kind of a "touching base" with my roots. It's less a testament to any continued adulation, than it is a celebration of who I am in my 40's. This person—this person who takes pride in a renaissance attitude, in a continuing zeal of discovery—owes plenty of that attitude to Rush.

And I don't expect them to be the same band that I loved (although I of course can't help but want them to be), but that's mostly because Rush taught me not to expect that. "Changes aren't permanent, but change is," was just one of the many little life lessons that peek through those overwrought lyrics. This from a band that has, unbelievably by any measure, had the same roster for over 30 years. Almost no other band can claim that. Name one band. By and large they've always been married guys who have shunned the spotlight outside of touring (okay, Alex did get arrested with his son awhile back). I remember hearing, many many years ago, when they played Rupp Arena that they were seen playing tennis at the Hyatt. I've always held the funniest mental image of boney gargoyle-like Geddy Lee in tennis whites with a headband on. (And thanks to the Internet, here it is)

Rush just carries on. They are the essence of what one might call progressive rock. They just keep progressing and kids keep graduating from the school of Rush. It's not like they ever sold out. It's not like they've ever had a bigger hit than "Tom Sawyer." But they have made million-selling record after record and have a die-hard audience of — guess who?— teenage boys full of fire, ambition, and what might be called intellectual angst, I'm guessing.

The funny thing about Rush, is that despite having "outgrown them," I've always trusted them. How does a band inspire trust? I'm not really sure. I have just always felt that Rush wanted me to be the very best person that I was brave enough to be. In Rush's music, the message was always Go! Do! Be! whether in my personal odysseys or even in relationships.

I'm still trying to do that, and I will always love Rush for their unflagging encouragement.

Last note on "The Starman," the longstanding emblem of Rush. Neil Peart says: "All it means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Final Edit

blow drying, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

Here it is. This is what I shot over a thousand pictures to get down to. Seems crazy, right? It was an amazing experience. I came to understand how a good (in the care of my teacher, great) photo editor can look at dozens —even hundreds— of pictures … and see a story. Here's mine, edited and laid out by National Geographic Senior Projects Editor Bill Douthitt. What you see here is what was shown a the Big Friday Night show at the Maine Media Workshops, along with the work of the rest of our class, and also the rest of the week's participants. It was a really great time for me and I was very very smiley. Note: It wasn't all girls, actually; but the slightly-extended story, which I'm still working on really concerns the girls and how 4-H figures into their lives. Plus I love the phrase Beltie Girls (although "Beltie Kids" is okay, too). Click here to see The Final Edit.

Rock-A-Fire Hacker

Here's the apex of western civilization: Videos featuring the reprogramming of the Chuck E. Cheese Showbiz Pizza Rock-A-Fire Explosion animatronic band to perform a variety of … other inappropriate songs.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Maine sunset

Maine sunset, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.


Monday, August 20, 2007

The 40

heidi, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

I've posted a flickr gallery of The 40, the shots that I culled down from around a thousand, which were then culled further down to six with the guidance of National Geographic Senior Projects Editor Bill Douthitt. It was one of the most thrilling experiences that I've ever had sitting in a chair.

The gallery is here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Belted Galloways are among the most curious and gentle bovines that I've ever experienced. Apparently, the bulls are regarded as even gentler still. From my first day at Aldermere, I found out how relaxing it was to be close to a pen full of "Belties," if not actually in the pen, as the 4H kids were on MWF.

On my first day, I got there just as the kids' work was winding down, and then it started raining. The Belties really aren't any more fond of rain than these girls and everybody was in the freshly-sawdusted pen. Notice the girl who's actually lying on top of a cow. This scene lasted nearly half an hour, as I recall. If the cows got close enough to be annoying, the girls would slap-slap-slap! them in the snout or just push them away.

I had a different experience, just as I became convinced of the total serenity of the situation. One of the Belties who'd been kind of eyeing me with a bit of defiance, suddenly took a couple of steps towards me and butted me in the side a couple of times. It was a little disconcerting, especially, since she kept her eye on me and kind of followed me as I stepped away. Then she head-butted me again. I kind of quietly made my way out of the pen and over to where the kids were doing some other work and had this exchange:
  • me: "So, um, have you guys ever been head-butted by any of the cows?"
  • 4H girl: "Oh, yeah, all the time." (with blasé)
  • me: "Oh."
  • me: "So, um, what does it mean?" (translation: "Am I being attacked?")
  • 4H girl: "It means 'get out of my way.'"
  • me: "Oh."
  • Another 4H girl: "Sometimes they're sorta bossy."
  • me: "I guess that explains about when I saw you slapping that one cow on the nose a bunch."
  • 4H girl: "Yeah. It's the best way to get their attention."
That was my only questionable moment with the Belties all week long. I loved showing up in the morning and going around and smartly smacking them between the eyes repeatedly, sort of like you do to a cat's tail end. They are just sooo sweet.

One more Beltie story: I was spending some time in a new pasture they are clearing on the back of the farm. It's an amzing piece of land and basically rolls down a hill right to the ocean, with only a grove of trees in the middle. At the top of the hill is a Beltie pen and they have free reign of the in-progress pasture, which on this day was being de-boulderized by a backhoe/frontloader. You know, a big yellow piece of classic construction equipment. A real life Tonka Toy.

The cows stayed pretty much away from the backhoe while the farmhand was digging — I don't know if that was because of volume (the thin's pretty loud) or just because everybody should stay away from backhoes. But after he called it a day and left, I hung around and the funniest thing happened. The cows — about a dozen or so — were under their shelter, standing, lying, staring at me. After a long while—half hour or so—one of them sauntered towards the gate, and slowly they all followed. The lazed their way down the hill, stopping here and there to chomp some grass, before eventually making their way to … the backhoe. And they all congragated around it, and sniffed and licked it for at least 15 minutes before continuing down the hill. It was one of the brightest moments of my day, literally, because it had been cloudy and the sun had now come gloriously through. If you don't believe me, see for yourself. I love them Belties.

I keep thinking about sooo many things… right?

The other day, a fellow workshopper and I were talking about the amazing cross-section of people that are here, in terms of geography. Easily, folks from all over the US as well as places like Iceland, Burmuda and Europe. We were thinking about funny colloquialisms having both had experience with the oft-misunderstood NY'ism, the habit of saying "rightrightright!" or "yeahyeahyeah!" to indicate that you are "following" what a person is saying. But it's frequently misunderstood as an expression of "hurry up." It's (usually) not.

Anyway, I learned how the San Francisco version of "yeahyeahyeah…" is a lethargic-sounding "yeahhhhhhh…" with a slightly glazed-over moment of contemplation. They mean the same thing: "I understand what yr. saying and I'm following you."

Here, I've heard this funny colloquialism that I'm not sure is regional or generational. It's the use of the interrogative: "Right?" It comes after a momentary pause, at the end of a sentence and doesn't really beg an answer. It basically seems to be similar to the above.

Example dialog:
Dude A: "Dag, this party is off the hook!"
Dude B: "I know! ..........right?"

No further comments on the topic of party-off-the-hookness are required at this point and conversants may now move on to the next topic.

PS: This picture also did not make the final cut. It is, however, a shining example of my attempts to emulate the fill-flash style of my teacher, National Geographic stalwart Karen Kasmauski. The idea is to use a strobe as fill-in lighting in a somewhat dark spaces, while simultaneously preserving the "ambient light." Oh, and the ideal is that it not be apparent that a flash is being used at all. This is one of my better executions. Quite a great lesson.

Pal/cottage-mate Jenna

Pal/cottage-mate Jenna, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

jenna's lookin' all contemplative but really she's couch chillin. Also jenna's a swell photographer of tattooed love boys.

The class bldg

The class bldg, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

Or at least my class bldg

Kate's Cottage

Kate's Cottage, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

My home. Not on the web map for some reason. It's on the south end of "thw homestead."

Watching The Workshops go 'Bye

Photo_08, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

I've been sitting in the dining tent for hours. After a crazy night of post-workshop jubilation—it's always strange and exciting to go to parties where people don't really know each other that well—I dragged my somewhat-slightly-dazed ass out of bed at 8am and shambled to the tent in hopes of a greasy breakfast. This wasn't easy for other reasons, too, namely, it was pouring down rain for the first time all week and I was all done. That makes for a pretty convinding case for staying in bed, no?

But I didn't want to. I love this place and the people that are here with me, and I just want to drink it in some more. Today is a day of teary goodbye's for most, and I've just kind of camped out since breakfast, through lunch, talking, laughing, sharing photos, and really having my eyese well up with tears more often then I would admit.

Every conversation seems to yield new things. I've even made new friends among people who were on their way to the airport in moments. I can't wait to talk to Molly some more about Holga. I've talked endlessly to various people about the contagious exhuberance of Bob Sacha, who I'll be revisiting in a month at the Mountain Workshop, along with a few others from here. And I've delighted in the shared wonder of nearly every person here at The Workshops.

My class is over, and this week is pretty much closing down. I'm alone in the dining tent, and the industrious kitchen staff swabs the deck, the rain relents, the sun comes out on a glorious Maine day, and the staff falls back and prepares to do it all again for tomorrow's incoming students.

It's not a wrap for me yet, though I now kind of move into a different mode. I'm staying to cover the Union Fair and my "Beltie Girls" as they show their cows for ribbons. And delightfully, I've made arrangements to stay exactly where I am until Tuesday, my room in Kate's Cottage (the students here are scattered around in a variety of dorms and motels and houses; Kate's Cottage is kind of ideal in terms of being "right down the road" from the campus.) and I even get to keep my "eatin' priv'leges." So I'll be kind of a lurker, but will get to visit with a few of my fave peeps who are staying for yet another workshop.

It is so great here. I've got tears again.

Beltie Girl

Beltie Girl, originally uploaded by mrtoastey.

One of my "Beltie Girls," 4H kids who take care of and show Belted Galloway cows at world-famous Aldermere Farm, in Rockport, Maine.

Documenting them was my photo project.

I made over 900 images, that were then culled by me to 80, Wednesday night into Thursday morning. I can barely explain what a strange and intense experience this was. From the 80, my pal Casey, our diligent TA, helped get me down to our instructor's mandate of 40 images.

The next thing that happened was one of the most amazing and hard-to-describe experiences of my life: sitting next to National Geographic Senior Graphics Editor Bill Douthitt (my teacher!) as he edited my photos down to … six. I was very, um, concerned about this. I don't know how to express how I felt. I felt nervous, I was kind of afraid that he'd say "Mick, there's really not quite enough to work with here. I want you to go shoot some more."

But Bill and his wife, Nikon Legend Karen Kasmauski (also my teacher) were among the strongest "the carrot not the stick" proponents I have ever met. I sat with Bill, and he consoled me by saying: "Just wait a minute, Mick. You're going to be amazed at what's about to happen."

So from 900 to 80 to 40 to 6. I'll put the show up soon.

Holy cow. It was presented last night at the Big Show (all the collected work of the Workshops this week) and there have been a stream of people complimenting me on them since then.

Which feels so great.

(By the way, this picture did NOT make the final cut!)