Thursday, November 27, 2008


When you're a 35 point underdog on the road against the no. 2 team in the country, trailing only 714-0 in the second quarter while facing 4th-and-1 deep in enemy territory... Opting to kick the field goal instead of going for the touchdown means--by definition--that you don't deserve the win. Playing not to get shut out is not a winning strategy.

I'm just saying.

We will speak no more of this.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Quagmire of Solace

Okay, so I go to see the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. In a nutshell, I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as some of Roger Moore's worst efforts, but after the greatness that was Casino Royale, it's more than a little disappointing.

First up, why the hell can't the producers come up with a decent title song anymore? "Another Way to Die" by Alicia Keys and Jack White has got to be the most atonal, atrocious trainwreck ever to plague a Bond film. And yes, I'm including the disastrous "Die Another Day" techno misstep by Madonna. Bond themes used to be uniformly great, or if not great, then at least gloriously schmaltzy. What happened?

The movie itself I'd have liked better if I could've told what was happening during the action sequences. The endless quick cuts and shaky cam were so baffling I actually found myself looking forward to the talky interludes so I could have the actors explain what just happened. Not a fan of hyperkinetic chaos, I.

I also had a big problem with the big wrapup of the Dominic Greene/Quantum storyline. Bond's chasing Greene to learn about this mysterious Quantum (aka S.P.E.C.T.R.E.) group. When Bond finally wins said information, it happens off-screen, so the audience remains in the dark! Now, you might says "The movie was a character study--the Quantum information was irrelevant." Well, hell. Even in The Maltese Falcon they at least let you see the mcguffin, rather than keep it hidden. If Quantum is going to be the modern equivalent to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (because of legal entanglements preventing use of that organization, Blofeld and the like) then the filmmakers better by-god deliver on the promise that this is a modern-day S.P.E.C.T.R.E! This, they did not.

I did like the character arc Bond went through on this film, although I don't think it entirely necessary. Had they ended Casino Royale the way the book ended, the arc there is complete--Bond has become Bond. However, they didn't so they need this movie, filler as it were, for him to reach that point. Bond's driven by revenge the whole movie, leaving a significant bodycount in his wake, but when he finally reaches his goal, he doesn't kill his target, but instead hand him over to M. he's reined himself in and finally become the agent we know. Following up with the iconic gun barrel sequence was a nice touch at that point, and punctuated the movie in a way that made a lot of sense for me. Until that point, it really, really didn't feel like a James Bond movie--except for the brief run with Agent Strawberry Fields. When she was on-screen, it felt very much like the heyday of Connery's Bond films, with snippets of Brosnan's Bond as well. But once she was out of the picture, it went back to being a generic action flick.

Interestingly enough, it reminds me of two previous Bond films: On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Man With the Golden Gun. The former, although a very different film, had a Bond that was motivated by emotion much of the time, rather than duty. Quantum shares that element. OHMSS also shares abysmal fight scenes, with footage sped up in a misguided attempt to increase the excitement--the 1960s equivalent of relentless quick-cuts, I suppose. The Golden Gun comparisons come strictly through the gratuitous and nonsensical introduction of an exploding secret villain HQ in the finale of both movies. Both were utterly pointless and contrived, and didn't fit in with the story that had gone before. They'd simply come to the point where "it's time to blow stuff up" in a Bond film, and so they did so.

After the excellent job the filmmakers had done on adapting Casino Royale I suppose I'd hoped they'd go back and make faithful adaptations of Fleming's work, or, if not Fleming's, then at least John Gardner's. That's not to be, apparently. Quantum of Solace isn't a bad film. It's merely an okay action flick, but misguided as a Bond movie. I'd hope they realize this and bring the next film back closer to the course set out by Casino Royale.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Well, even if I don't have the time or inspiration to contribute meaningful commentary to my blogs during the week, at least there's always Friday Night Videos, eh?

By now you've probably seen the dazzling movie trailer for the new J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek reboot. From what I've seen online, it looks pretty good, but I'm withholding final judgment until I see the final cut in the theaters. That's pretty much how I feel about The Watchmen--hopeful, yet skeptical. So in observance of the new bit of Trek frenzy sweeping the interwebs, today's video is "Banditos" by The Refreshments, which has a good little recurring shout-out to Trekkies near and far, although the captain isn't Kirk.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Gipsy Kings.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Battle of the Paddle

Ever since the great flood of 1998 which canceled the football game between Texas State and Nicholls State, the meeting between the two schools has been known as the "Battle of the Paddle." The paddle, of course, being a canoe paddle, symbolizing the high water, etc. The Bobcats and Colonels met again Saturday, and the Bobcats really came out firing on all cylinders, thumping the Colonels 34-10. Once again I was on the sidelines, shooting away. Here are some of the less awful images I came away with.











I'm starting to think I could totally do this whole sports photography thing. Not well, mind you. But with the volume of shots I take, the law of averages works in my favor...

Now Playing: Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Okay, after a somewhat rough week at this end, I figure what's called for is something light and uplifting. Buoyant even. Right then, the Gispy Kings it is, doing their cover of "I've Got No Strings" from the soundtrack of Disney's Pinocchio. Seriously. The Gipsy Kings make everything sound awesome.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Cameo.

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I should know better

The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is one of my favorite novels of all time. So I've been dubious of this new film adaptation by the director of 300. The "look" in the first trailer struck me as all wrong--it should be noirish rather than hyper-stylized--and the music selection for the trailer was awful. I did not hold out much hope, although it looked pretty.

But great googaly moogaly, this latest trailer has me--dare I say it?--looking forward to this film. Yes, the music still sucks, and I cringed when Nite Owl referred to the heroes as "The Watchmen" (the name being more of a metaphor in the comic rather than the actual name of a super-team). But wow. Oh, wow. They had me at Rorschach, and really, that's what matters most, isn't it?

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Scouting locations

Hot on the heels of last night's model shoot, I've got another session scheduled with another model for Saturday. I'm shooting the Texas State football game that afternoon to garner a bit more sports experience, so we're meeting a couple of hours beforehand. Which means I have to have some idea of where we're going to go in order to maximize our limited time.

So today I went to a children's playground in San Marcos that I've taken my kids to in the past. Lots of good potential there, which I expected. But holy moly! That playground is actually--it turns out--part of the much larger Rio Vista Park complex. I hadn't realized Rio Vista extended well past the dam/rapids, but apparently it does. I discovered a nifty hollow tree with a cavity large enough for my model to tuck herself into, as well as a very photo-friendly cypress island with enormous old trees with massive, sprawling root systems. Photo opportunities abound. Naturally, I'll post pics once I have something to share.

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Photo shoot with model

Tonight I had my first real photo shoot with a real, live model. At least, a model I wasn't immediately related to. Laura, a classmate in 2D Design agreed to help me out with a few of my "New Braunfels After Dark" shots, since I've found they work better with people in them than without. This was for my black & white film photography class, but midway through our pell-mell dash from one site to another, I pulled out my digital camera to take some test shots to find the best angle and framing for a picture on San Antonio Street in downtown New Braunfels. I wasn't expecting any of these to turn out well, but I was pleasantly surprise with this:


Yes, it's a little soft, but it's not at all bad considering I shot using only available light. Laura's easy-going and the camera likes her, so I hope we're able to get together and do something else in the future.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Photo excursion

The semester is more than half over with now, believe it or not, and in my two photography classes we're hard at work on our final projects. Well, I am, at least. For photojournalism, we had to come up with a photo story we could work over an extended period of time, ultimately turning in a package of 6-8 shots. I chose to do the forensic research center at Texas State, since I'd worked with the director, Jerry Melbye, in the course of my regular work at the university and he agreed to let me shoot. The only restrictions he had for me was 1) that I not photograph any decomposing human bodies at the facility and B) they get copies of everything I shoot. Fine by me.

So I took almost 200 shots at the forensic research compound's ribbon-cutting back in October. I got some decent shots, but nothing spectacular--a decomposed pig carcass and a TV reporter doing intros from a shallow grave were about as exciting as it got. I needed more, so I asked if there were any upcoming photo opportunities for me.

Little did I know.

Friday I got up at dark-thirty and drove up to DPS headquarters in Austin. The forensics program was taking a dozen grad students to a cold case site in Falls County, and the Texas Rangers gave the okay for me to tag along. I tell you folks, I did not expect anything like this when I first made my proposal. It was an enlightening experience that included Texas Rangers armed with chainsaws, the DPS Dive Recovery Team, the Falls County Sheriff's Office, a bulldozer and a bunch of attractive, ambitious and focused coed grad students. I am in awe of the dedication and knowledge these students possess. This isn't the glamorized CSI or Bones version of forensic science, it's the real deal. And yes, they recovered human remains, hopefully contributing valuable evidence which may someday solve this crime.

And yes, Texas Rangers (the law enforcement kind--not the crappy baseball team) are every bit as awesome as legend has it. Doubly so when wielding chainsaws.

And I got pictures of it all. Some of them are even good. I'll post some eventually, but probably not until my final project is completed.


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Monday, November 10, 2008

Fast Ships, Black Sails -- The Video!

You know you've been waiting for this.

Available now wherever fine books are sold. Or keelhauled. Whichever comes first.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Tonight we have Cameo's video for "Word Up." Say what you like, but I find it a fun, funky song. As a bonus treat for the geeks in the audience, check out a pre-Star Trek Levar Burton in the role of the police inspector.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... John Fogerty.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Stay Classy Texas: Election Edition

Just as you thought it was safe to come out on election day without having to carry an umbrella to avoid streams of bilious spew coming from some wingnut or other, up steps Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar to fill the void with her insightful and well-reasoned thoughts on Barak Obama:
AUSTIN — State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors the board, released a public statement on Monday asking Dunbar to retract the statement.

"I don't have anything in there that would be retractable," said Dunbar, R-Richmond. "Those are my personal opinions and I don't think the language is questionable."

For those of you slow on the uptake, my previous reference to "insightful and well-reasoned thoughts" was sarcasm seasoned with a heavy dose of cynicism. Dunbar, you might know, is a member of Governor Rick Perry's posse. As a member of the powerful State Board of Education, she wants to teach Texas school children that the dinosaurs all drowned when they couldn't fit on Noah's Ark. With folks like her filling this state's high offices, how can Texas not blaze a glorious trail into the 19th century?

I suppose it's too much to hope that Dunbar and Michele Bachmann eventually end up as unemployed drinking buddies, huh?

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Two more

I found a cache of images on my memory card that didn't download the other night. Most are junk, but there were a couple that jumped out as decent.



That helmet in the last image has seen some hard action...

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sports photog

I went to the Texas State vs. Northwestern State football game today and took pictures. Like, for real. On the sideline. I had a photo pass and everything.

Although my background is in journalism and I've covered hundreds of football games from high school through college and NFL, this was the first time I've ever tried to shoot one, photographically speaking. It was just for myself, for practice. Remember that newfound photography obsession of mine? There you have it. I knew it'd be tough, but geeze Louise! I took several hundred shots and promptly threw away half. Of the remainder, these five are the only ones that come close to being decent enough to share.






No. 5 is my favorite, although I screwed up and framed it about two feet too far to the right. Obviously.

My screw-ups are many, but it was a learning experience. I was shooting with my old EF 75-300mm. No image stabilization on 18-year-old lenses. It's old and slow. I also bungled my camera settings, cleverly shooting shutter priority all day set at 500 to stop the action. Well, that worked fine, except that much of the time the camera set the aperture between 8 and 11, so I got almost no background blur. Next time I'll have to go manual I suppose. Still, it wasn't a complete waste for my first time out. If I'd been working for a paper, I'd be able to turn these in without shame (we were forced to run far worse some Friday nights with deadline looming. Ah, I remember it well).

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