Sunday, April 23, 2017

Street photography and all its joys and pains

Grammarly has changed my life.

OK, that's hyperbole, but Grammarly has given me relief in spades. It's an extension you add to your browser, which checks for typos and grammar mistakes as you type. No matter where you're typing, Facebook, Twitter, comment responses on Disqus, wherever you're typing, it puts a red line underneath a typo or grammar mistake.

I've been surprised at how well it offers corrections, too. It is eerily correct in its offerings even when I'm writing cultural idioms or abbreviations. For example, I typed ASAIK and it knew I meant AFAIK (As Far As I Know). The corrections far outstrip even MS Word.

You can ignore any corrections you don't want or don't agree with. A little red circle at the bottom keeps track of how many words need fixing, and if you want, you can click it to see how many have already been corrected. I dare not look.

Grammarly is free, though that doesn't stop its creators from frequently reminding you that you're "missing out" on features and offers deals on upgrades. But these reminders are not intrusive. They're contained in a correction, once in a while.

Hey, I don't need an upgrade, I just need my typos corrected. They are getting so bad. I wrote a three-word response on Facebook this morning and mistyped two of the words. You see what I mean about how valuable this extension is.

I've been interested in street photography of late. I love photography. I noticed a book called The Birth of Graffiti by Jon Naar at the Second Time Around store a while back and bought it. He took his pics of graffiti in NYC in the 1970's, a low point for the city and its denizens.

Naar is an accomplished portrait photographer, photographer of art and architecture and more. In his 90's now, he is still active. Wikipedia says Naar has had a multifaceted career as an intelligence officer in World War II; a globe-trotting executive during the postwar years; and an environmentalist, with nine published books to date. Major publications like The New York Times, The Saturday Evening Post, Vogue, Fortune, Elle, and Schöner Wohnen have featured Naar. The NY Times Magazine's very first use of color for an interior was commissioned by them of Naar.

I love-hate graffiti, it is a blight but it's also art. Art blight. Blighted art. I dunno. Overall I'm just fascinated by it. I also like gritty city pictures, tattered handbills, signs, doorways, subways...Naar's photos were all stupendous and so evocative. Yes, he takes shots of just graffiti, but he took many of his shots with people in them. Kids playing basketball against a backdrop of a heavily graffitied wall...a mom and toddler walking by a profane graffiti mural...and so on.

I didn't know it at the time but his style of photo is called "Street Photography." It is defined:
Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places.
I've always loved candid photography, especially of kids. I am grateful I've often had the chance to legitimately take photos of kids, either through being a journalist and covering school things and sports or as a school employee asked to chronicle events on campus for the yearbook or the official Facebook page. Kids are fun to take pics of because they're unpredictable, emotive, and a challenge to get in the frame. They're also cute!

Kids enjoy having their picture taken, unlike adults. Adults are suspicious, guarded, and can deck you if they get mad that you're in their face. Hence the relief in being around kids with my camera.

But I also enjoy gritty cityscapes. Or even in my rural town, gritty, industrial things. Like these pics:














Many of my photos were of the same theme with the same interest in same topics as Naar's. Like these of his:







If I'd like to concentrate on street photography, as good as it is to be on the same track as someone like Naar in terms of interest in these kinds of scenes, it's the execution that matters. I need to improve my composition, framing, and bravery in getting close to the moment. In Naar's scene of the police car, what makes it good is that the cop is in the car. When you look closely, you see his arm in the window. This brings life to the scene. The handbills, not only colorful and framed well, but his decision to take it with the bold clenched fist above them gives the picture a foreign feel, and vaguely threatening. The new & used tires, the inclusion of the graffiti and the loneliness of both displays of the tires makes one ask, which are new and which are used? They all look tattered.

Where I fail is getting people in the picture. Getting people in the picture is key. People energize the photo. Their activity mystifies, perplexes, shocks, or comforts. It's the people who bring emotion to it, mystery, and story.

So, then there are the stupendous pics of Naar's like this one, my favorite. Click to enlarge. It's absolutely tremendous-



It's subway and graffiti. OK, so the grit is there. The lighting is great, the warm glow of the interior of the car contrasted with the steel of the exterior. The light, joy, and movement of the people through the window to the left and the right. The yellow strip which mirrors the rush and zoom of the car itself when it arrives and departs.

And then...there is one sole, still woman. One part of the entire photo where nothing is moving. There is no joy. Her face is stoic, devoid of the same lightheartedness the rest of the people display. The grittiness of her surroundings is contrasted with her obvious wealth. Her perfectly coiffed matronly hairdo. Her poised, ladylike feet in expensive shoes. Her fur around the collar.

Since every photo should tell a story - or begin one, we ask, why, if she is so obviously of means, does she take the subway?

Most incongruously of all, is her butler and the hatbox. Pink, no less.

It's an amazing photo.

There are many street photographers out there. This web page explains 10 principles of street photography and then lists many good street photographers.

Candid photography is interesting and challenging, just the way I like it. I'll keep trying. Meanwhile the link above has a wonderfully long list of good photographers and pictures to be inspired by!


Monday, April 10, 2017

New living room

The neighbors on the other side of the house moved out. They had moved up here from South GA and landed in the rental on the other side of this duplex so they could look around for a house in which to settle more permanently. They finally did find a suitable house and moved st weekend. They were nice neighbors, here for 8 months.

The couple decided to sell some of their stuff at a very good price. I've been living on a futon and a shabby (not chic) chair for 11 years and even before that in Maine before I moved to GA. I longed for more adult and solid pieces of furniture. But price locks me out of buying new, and I'm extremely hesitant to buy used. I can't smell, so leave it to me to purchase a used upholstered furniture that stinks and I would not know it. Sheldon is me and I am Sheldon-

30 seconds in, Sheldon discovers something terrible about Penny's chair...


And now Amy discovers something worse!


So, when the neighbors decided to sell some stuff I jumped on it. They offered me a very good price and I bought the couch and the chair, and they threw in a mattress and box spring. Mine were an 11 year old 5-year life span mattress. Needless to say, the bed was uncomfortable, the futon was uncomfortable, and the chair was uncomfortable. I was really tired of being uncomfortable.

I'd sold the futon and chair already, and since the apartment was pretty empty I decided to do some spring cleaning. I lifted the rugs and washed the floors underneath. I moved around the rugs to refresh my eye. I put the blue rug instead of the brown one in the kitchen and it brightens up the kitchen considerably. I cleaned out the book cases of dust and straightened up and rearranged the books. I wiped all the baseboards. I dragged out the old mattress and box spring and cleaned the bed frame, slats, and rails. Also vacuumed underneath the bed into the back corner. Also cleaned the bedroom's baseboards. Oh, my aching back! But it's so worth it to know everything is clean.

And here is the Big Reveal!

The lump at the far side next to the pillows is Murray. Both he and Bert had a rough day with all the moving and stomping through and being locked in the bathroom for the time the front door was propped open to move furniture in and out.

The mattress & box spring are very high. It's a true princess bed now. All I need is a pea. The height does justice to the four posts and headboard. The bed frame (and matching desk and bureau) are 117 years old. True antiques. (Antique starts at 100 years old, vintage at around 50).


It is a cozy bedroom.

The kitchen seems brighter with the blue and white rug in it instead of the brown one.

Plaid chair. It's not as high as a wing chair which I like. I don't need height in a small apartment. But it's deep, and comfy!!

Red couch. The nice neighbors threw in the couch pillows too. AND they delivered it. I am beyond grateful. I bought the art hanging above the couch at the 2nd Time Around store for $20. It's a reprint of an 1800s Botanical, with a bit of red, pewter, and light sage green. It matches the couch. And the frame is really lovely. I hadn't moved the art around in ten years or so, with the exception of having bought the Jennie Brownscombe to the right of the couch.


As you can see, I like lamps. The metal awnings over the windows tend to darken the room during the day, and at night, I like both atmosphere, and proper light to read. I just like lamps, too, for themselves. I have 6 lamps in two rooms and I love each and everyone of them.

I'm very happy and very grateful.


Sunday, April 09, 2017

Craft Day: results

Anticipating Spring Break is so great. We have a full work week off, plus the two weekends on either side, for an amazing 9 days. It's not like I'm paid for time off. I work 190 days per year and I am paid 190 days per year. The educator's salary is just stretched out evenly through the year over the intermittent breaks and over the summer, but it's based on time worked.

But ten years ago when I went back into educating, I decided I wanted the time and not the money. Of course, money is great, but if I pursued a high salary job I'd be busier than I wanted to be and the stress levels go up also. No, my needs and wants are few, and I'm content with being able to use the time as I wish.

In the time coming up to a Break, I plan all sorts of things. "I'll take two online classes!" I'll read a bunch of books!" I'll make a thousand crafts!"

Sadly, my "eyes" are bigger than my stomach and there never seems to be enough time to do all the things I'd planned. A week off is great but it's not long enough to do everything!

As I got to Friday I realized the week was almost over, and I hadn't broken out the crafts yet! So I dedicated Friday to "Craft Day."

I work so hard at making things. I soooo want to make beautiful things, but I just can't. I never could. My High School Art teacher gave me a grade of C-- out of pity because she just couldn't bring herself to give me a D. But I deserved it. I tried so hard, coming in early and staying late, and starting over, and over, and over. Nothing I ever made with my hands ever worked out. She took pity on me and gave me the extra tenth of a point for effort and desire.

In the 1990s I took many art classes for bookbinding at the local Museum and libraries. In 1999 I went to the Paper and Book Intensive at Haystack Mountain. I read books on paper crafts and bookbinding. Even with all the education and tutoring, my projects were clumsy and amateur. More times than not I didn't finish as the instructor had to move on and help other students.

In the 2000-teens I try the same at home, with just as much fervor and interest and desire, but not the skill. There is a disconnect between my brain and my hand that makes creating things with hand-eye coordination well-nigh impossible for me.

But that doesn't stop me! All this to say that I know my projects are incomplete looking and with a third grader's skill level. I keep hoping someday I'll get better :)

Here's what I did on Friday. First, the background papers. These are papers I'd prepared, or partially prepared, by practicing some techniques, and then plan to use them as background papers in other projects.

In this one I tried using the stencil UNDER the paper, and rubbing with oil pastel crayon over it. I like the technique, but the choice of oil pastel was bad because it clumps. I should use a regular crayon, on its side, like the lady in the tutorial did.

Same technique as above but I used a lighter touch. I did this one in my Fabriano Art Journal because it is larger & taller than the Strathmore.

Then I used a raindrop stencil over the tree rubbing and used a baby wipe to do some smearing. Again, practice. I had never heard of using baby wipes before and I like the idea of using them both for the creation of a piece and the clean up afterward, lol!


I had bought an old Spanish book of some kind at a jumble sale. Keep your eyes open for all manner of ephemera at any location. Even receipts, tickets, entry pamphlets, can all be used at some point in collage. The Spanish book pages are brittle and browned at the edges. The Spanish words, and penciled-in notes someone had made in the book make the pages exotic-looking and good ephemera. This one has a stencil of clocks and gears laid over the page, with distress ink sprayed over the stencil.
Large format tree stencil, pounced using acrylic paint. I'd used a cosmetic sponge for the pouncing. I have a few pages of 12X12 papers, and I selected black because I knew the lighter color paint would make a nice contrast. I liked the berries along the edge not just for their contrasting color but I liked the idea of bare branches on the tree but fruit along the edge.


Below, Strathmore Visual Journal, two pages of collage. I tried various techniques, including layering paint for the background, rub-ons, etc. Still looks unfinished, but I give this a D+ instead of my usual F.

I like things on a smaller scale. These are art tags. I can use them as cards, or attached to gifts for a personal touch.

This is Strathmore visual journal again. The painted background is something I'd done a while back. I used this page to stencil the sun, bird, and thinking woman on top of the block squares of paint underneath.

This is a file folder card. The birds on the front are very light. This is because the paper I'd stenciled it on is cloth-like and soaks up the paint massively. Good to know. It's why I try different techniques.

Card inside. The doily thing will hold the message I decide to write.

So that's it! Something else I did do is clean out one more drawer in my bureau that holds stuff. BTW, the pillow bungee corded to the air conditioner is because a Carolina wren makes a nest every year under the AC in the sill. (The AC unit stays in the window all year). The thin accordion slats weren't enough to keep Murray from trying to get through and attack the five babies that enticingly cheep, perhaps to their doom. So I thumb-tacked a piece of cardboard over it and put the pillow there to prevent Wild Kingdom Birdie Apocalypse from happening in my living room.

The bureau's 9 drawers come in very hand in this two-room apartment with one closet! On the far right the drawers contain-


1. Junk, tools, nails
2. Stationery, office supplies
3. Extension cords, this will be cleaned out also, for the ever growing craft supplies

The middle holds

1. paper, stencils
2. art journals, cardstock
3. ephemera, partially completed projects.

The far left bank of drawers holds:

1. empty. I plan to better organize the paper I've got. I have a lot of paper.
2. magazines, laminating pockets, some crafting tools, sponges
3. wet- inks, paints, ink pads, brushes

So that's it. Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Craft day

I've had such a busy week that I realized this afternoon that I had not even done any arts and crafts! I did a bit this PM and I decided tomorrow will be all-day, all-out crafting. Maybe in my pajamas, lol.

Here is the bit I did this afternoon, while sipping pomegranate tea from my china cup and watching Bake Off: Creme de la Creme.


Origami bookmarks, file folder card, tags


You put these bookmarks over the corner of the pages.
It won't fall down.


A couple of tags. I really love the bird stencil.
Till tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Severe weather outbreak upcoming

I've lived here 11 years and thankfully I haven't had too many run-ins with severe weather. No bad tornadoes and thankfully not even many severe thunderstorms. Once I hid in a closet where an EF-0 tornado went by a mile or so up the road. That was the only incident. The last few springs have been downright quiet on the storm front.

But they are predicting a very severe outbreak tomorrow all day. They're saying thunder, strong winds, golf-to-baseball sized hail, tree and limb damage, flash floods, and long-track tornadoes. That last one does put the fear into me. I'm used to blizzards, not tornadoes. I hate the buggers.

Weather preparation includes all the above, wearing sturdy shoes and a helmet is also recommended. Charge up your electronic devices, and draw water. Stay off the roads.

If a storm approaches, go to the lowest level of the building you're in, hopefully a study well-built one and not a mobile home. They are saying to go to a hotel or friends' tomorrow if you live in a mobile home. If you do not have a lowest level to your home, put as many walls between you and the exterior as possible. A closet or bathroom in the most interior section of your house is the best option in that case. If you're driving and a storm approaches, pull over ASAP and park out of traffic. Stay IN THE CAR, with your seat belt on. Put your head below the windows, and in all scenarios, protect your head and neck with a cushion, blanket, coat, and your arms. Do NOT park under an overpass. If you're walking when a tornado hits, find the lowest spot around and lay flat, again with something over your head.

I stocked my weather radio with fresh batteries, cleared out the tub and placed large cushions and a blanket in there because it's my tornado closet, brought in the lawn furniture and garbage can, and put the car in the garage. If you have unsecured things outside, secure them now. All there is to do now is wait and pray. They're saying power outages likely, so if there is no essay tomorrow on The End Time, that's why. Stay safe everyone in the South!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Enjoying the first day of Spring Break

The long awaited Spring Break is here. I went to bed last night after a very busy day at school and after school, and at home...tired, bleary, tapped out and running on vaporous reserves. I woke up this morning after 9 hours' great sleep to a glowingly gorgeous morning of birdsong, bright sun, and beautiful flowers. Cant be better, right?

It does get even better! Read on for more.

I had to go into Athens Friday late afternoon, and I wasn't looking forward to it. Though in my youth I drove all over the place without being fazed, as I age, my reflexes are slowing and my 'startle-reaction' is more sensitive. For example, people changing lanes suddenly in front of me startles me more than is used to, and the momentary fright lasts longer. I'm more skittish about cars around me. Too much sensory input while on the highway at high speed is burdensome to my brain and eyes, where it bothered me much less in my 30s.  After a long week and a very long day with the kids at school, I was exhausted and wanting to go home.

Their weekly sale included a pint of blackberries for $1.88, and tofu., s I scooped both those up.I found some GREAT deals on the markdown tables. There was a packet of two slices of chocolate frosted cake, and on the fish aisle, a little more than half a pound of smoked salmon for $3!!

Frugal shopping on the fly means that when you see tofu for sale, you get veggies for a stir fry. When you see smoked salmon, you get cream cheese.

Well, eventually, of course, I did get home. As I parked in the garage and opened my trunk to extract the groceries, a moving van pulled up. The tenants on the other side of the house had moved out a day or two ago, and it seemed that the landlord had quickly found new people to take their place. We all spoke in the driveway for a while, they are super nice. I know that since the economy had settled down after the crash of 2008, fewer houses are being foreclosed, fewer people are moving and the occupancy rates for various cities and counties are reaching maximum. In other words, people are staying put. So rents are hard to find, or so I'm told.In any case, I'm glad this family found a nice place to live.

Have you ever considered what a service to the community being a landlord is? Providing housing to people, maintaining a nice place for them to raise their kids, dealing with tenants fairly and honestly? It's a really good thing.

At Kroger it was nuts, so many cars gridlocked getting gas and the grocery store itself, while not overcrowded, was busier that I'd seen it. Must be the Spring Break thing.

I got home, unloaded groceries, fed the cats, straightened up, watched a few videos, and went to sleep. Blessed unconsciousness, no sensory input, and perfect bodily comfort with the bed clothes and covers.


The next morning, I awoke to this. Sun! Birds! Blue Sky! Flowers! Yay!


These baby birdies are in a nest the mama had made in the windowsill of the window that has the air conditioner. Their peeps are so cute!



New neighbor's cactus

I've been wondering where the male cardinals have gone. I know they're still around, but I used to see them closer to the house, feeding on worms near my front door, even. This guy was about 150 feet away from me, halfway up a tall tree.



Pretty dogwood tree, my favorite in the whole yard. Blooming in the sun on a spring morning. Ahhh




For breakfast, I used some of the smoked salmon to make a pate that included cream cheese (softened), lemon juice and instead of capers, minced olives. I spread the salmon pate on toasted multi-grain artisan bread (another Kroger marked down item). The blackberries went on my plate of course, as did a yellow gold potato I'd roasted in the crock pot a few days ago. It sounds fancy, and it probably is, but it was done on a budget.



Today is supposed to be in the upper 70s and I plan to stand at my potter's table and clean out my pots and refresh my outside plants that made it through the winter. In another few weeks the threat of frost will have passed and I will get some plants to put in the pots. I sure do love flowers. And birds. And warm sunny mornings. And life!