7 Pictures + 1000 Words

7 Pictures + 1000 Words

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013 and I would love it if you would participate in my 1000 Words + a Picture challenge. If a picture is worth 1000 words, how much more is a picture and 1000 words worth?

It is both a photo and a blogging challenge. Choose to use one, two, or all three of the prompts listed at 1000 Words + a Picture for each full week of the month.

For each prompt, create a blog post containing one new, original image (it can be a photo, a sketch, or a painting – anything visual – so long as it is your own work and contained in an image posted on your blog) and write 1000 words to accompany it. Tell your story, your way. What do the prompts mean – to you? There are no rules – interpret each one as you see fit, and communicate your vision. Each prompt should be covered in its own post, not a combined post covering two or more prompts. If you don’t already have a blog, it’s easy to start a free one. I suggest one of the following platforms: Glipho.com, WordPress.com, or Blogger.com.

Each time you post, return to 1000 Words + a Picture and Add your link, using the widget.

Seven Ways of Seeing the Same Thing

This image is actually on the theme of “Labor & Rest.” I took it from the inside of ground floor of the office parking garage, after a long day at work. I was at rest, finally; my car would soon be doing the real work of carrying my tired carcass home. The headlights, as you can see, have just come on, illuminating the lower left corner. The office represents work. The grass, too, is working – to grow. Around the edges, it is brown and dying – at rest.

906-1000-work-restIn this first view, the photo is pretty much un-retouched; I’ve straightened it on the vertical line of the concrete support in front of me, and enhanced – only slightly – the color, contrast, and brightness. It’s true to life, just slightly less washed out, with unnecessary edge details cropped out. What I like about this photo is the clean lines, the geometric shapes, the diverging angles, as well as the play of light and shadow. It has a slightly depressing, industrial feel to it – there’s nothing particularly attractive here, but the strong lines and flat planes are interesting. Only the red valves, the green grass, and the golden glow of the headlights on concrete add any color to it.

906-1000-work-rest2aAll I’ve done here is to apply one of PaintShop Pro’s built-in filters – Charcoal Medium. Certainly brightens things up! It also leaves everything looking softer, overexposed, washed out. Washed up. Maybe there’s a metaphor in there, but it’s too depressing to contemplate for long.

It always surprises me how much detail can be pulled out of an underexposed photo. There’s not much to work with in one that’s overexposed. There’s probably a metaphor in that, too. So what happens if we remove all trace of color? Aside from being more stark, still…

906-1000-work-rest2bNothing changes, really. This could be any building in the last three or four decades of the modern industrial era. When you look at old photos, black and white photos, do you imagine a past that was actually devoid of color? Where people lived in a grayscale world?

This version definitely brings out the contrast of light and shadow in this photo. That’s all there is, though – light and shadow in a grayscale world. It’s dreary. Makes it look run-down, maybe even abandoned. Like a relic of the past, rather than the site of a thriving, bustling high tech company.

906-1000-work-rest2cI like bringing out one spot of color – one bright sign of life. I wonder, though, if this little patch of grass, trapped between gray walls, cement, and steel has enough life in it to evoke any emotional response.

Looking at this, though – then back at the previous version – you can see that this is even more black and white. The previous version is slightly warmer. It only looks warmer when contrasted with this, though, doesn’t it?

At this point, I had an urge to turn this into something more moody. Sinister, maybe. I wanted to add something to it, to make it more dynamic. I remembered the first photomanipulation project I did – my “Insurance Agent’s Nightmare,” where I used PaintShop Pro’s “Arithmetic” function to merge two completely unrelated photos to make it look as if my house had been built under a waterfall, which had flooded my yard. Aside from creating almost accidental art, I have no idea what the Arithmetic function is supposed to do.

906-work-rest-artisticI chose one of last week’s cloud photos for the merge. And suddenly, the dismal parking garage is a haven of normalcy while a bizarrely blue, miniature thunderstorm rages in that tiny space outside the chain link fence!

I think that because of its starkness, this photo lends itself to a bright, surreal, almost hallucinatory treatment.

My next attempt involved a cross between color splashes, vibrant decay, and a texture suggestive of something growing on the concrete wall:

906-1000-work-rest-artistic2 The only other major alterations here are a change to color and hue on some of the elements in the outer spaces.

Still, something seems to be missing. Not otherworldly enough, yet.

I began to play with lighting effects, both inside and out.

906-1000-work-rest-artistic3I may have gone  right past “otherworldly” into “post-apocalyptic”! In order to constrain the purple lighting to the “un-graffitied” walls and ceiling, I selected them – this protected everything else. I turned off all but one light, colored it purple, and aimed it up from the bottom right.

Next, I selected just the outdoor area, and created two lights shining down from the upper right corner to the lower left: one gold, one red. I added another from the lower left to midpoint – a true blue.

So, which is your favorite version, or do you despise them all? I’m not sure – but I’m not going to suggest an answer, here, either, by telling you which I think my favorite would be, if pressed to choose one.

7 Simple Ingredients

7 Simple Ingredients

According to Cooking Light, “When you make your ingredients count, there’s no need to go higher than seven.” I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013 and I didn’t realize what a “thing” this was until after I scrambled my brains for a photo that fit both the theme of “seven” and my 1000 Words + a Picture challenge theme of “seven.” Yes, I was desperate enough to take a picture of my sandwich. What an Internet cliché I’ve become. Aren’t you lucky?

In between meetings, I ran down to the on-site cafe that provides custom-made sandwiches on artisanal breads. I wonder, though, if any commercially prepared and packaged bread could truly be called “artisanal,” as opposed to “artisanal style”? Another word co-opted by the folks in advertising and marketing – pretty soon, it’s going to mean any sort of sliced white bread that has maybe been touched by some human’s grubby hand. I’m pretty sure that this is a debate that would only get blank looks from the lady behind the lunch counter, and exasperated sighs should any coworkers be standing behind me in line.

Seriously, though, the sandwich was tasty – soft ciabatta bread, savory sliced turkey, smoked gouda cheese – all toasted together – garnished with ripe red tomatoes, fresh baby spinach, red onion, and tangy yellow mustard. That’s seven. Never mind the dill pickle spears and spicy banana peppers on the side, you get the idea. And it was yummy. But it’s hardly enough to bring this post to 1000 words, even with all those delectable adjectives, now, is it?

7 The Magic Number

And then I remembered breakfast (I’ll spare you the photo): frozen banana, orange juice, baby arugula, baby spinach, ground chia seeds, Kellogg’s All Bran buds, and the juice of a fresh lime. I didn’t plan that one.

So I did a bit of searching and found lots of posts touting the virtues of recipes with “7 ingredients or less” and figured simplicity’s a good thing. I’m still wondering how they arrived at the notion that seven was the magic number, but there’s a great deal of Google search result evidence to suggest that it is.

Your Lucky Number: 7 Ingredients or Less from Cooking Light

7 Ingredient (or Less) Suppers from Parents

7-Ingredient Dinner Recipes from Diabetic Living

7 Ingredients or Less, a free cookbook from The Minimalist Baker

Some ingredients are better than others. Here are 7 Ingredients That Make Any Dish Healthier. Oooh, look – chia seeds! That reminds me – I’m out; need to add some things to the grocery list.

Two places to find the best ingredients would be the World’s Healthiest Foods List and NutritionData.com. There, it’s less about calorie count and more about the nutrients in the foods we choose to eat.

When Buffaloes Fly

I can’t mention food without sharing the humor of last night’s dinner out at Buffalo Wild Wings. They have a new menu item which they are bravely calling “Poutine.” I say “bravely,” because I’m envisioning a large party of Canadians ordering this and proceeding to explain to the staff all the ways in which this is so wrong – and so not poutine. It was their regular fries, topped with battered, deep-fried cheddar nuggets, a paltry amount of gravy, bacon, and pico de gallo.

We ordered the hot dog slammers with chili and cheese, the veggie basket, and the poutine. I could tell by our waitress’s expression that she wasn’t processing the word “poutine” at all, even when my husband also pointed at each item on the menu while ordering. We got the hot dog slammers and the veggies, but no poutine. We asked the guy who delivered it, and he pretended to check – “Oh, it’s coming!”

I smiled and made a bet with my husband. “It’s not coming, and not only that, she has no idea what poutine is – you might’ve had better luck calling it poo-tine instead of poo-teen.”

And a while later, our waitress came back to take our dinner order.

“What about the poutine?” my husband asked.

“The what?” she responded, looking confused.

“The poutine we ordered.”

“I don’t even know what that is.”

We showed her on the menu – again. “What is that? Poo-tine?” she asked.

“Called it,” I said, smirking.

She got the last laugh. It was not anything like Canadian poutine.

The wings, of course, were excellent. Hard to go wrong with BW3’s Mango Habanero wings, extra crispy. If you’re like me, and hate limp, greasy chicken skin under otherwise sublime sauce, be sure to say “extra crispy.” Perfection!

Right behind our table was one of those electronic arcade games – something like “Big Game Hunter.” A young couple stood behind us while we ate – he played while she offered helpful suggestions from behind the butt of his play rifle. “Oh my God, look at that big one–” I glanced over my shoulder to see the most intense look on the woman’s face. “You missed it! How could you miss that?”

“Caveman’s not bringing venison tonight – bet he’s got to sleep out on the cave ledge in the rain,” I whispered into my husband’s ear. He smiled. “Oooooh, baby, I wanna buck!!” I whispered. He wisely pretended to ignore me. Fortunately, our food arrived.

Where Do They Find and Train These Kids??

Our waitress was a sweet girl. She kept returning to the table. Often. “Do you want a refill on your drink? Would you like for me to clear this? How about this? This too? And this? Would you like the check? Can I get you more napkins?” All the things she pointed to were empty; we had begun piling them in the center of the table, segregating them from drinks. We were wiping our fingers on wet-naps. We were clearly done.

“Does she need me to write a manual for her? A numbered task list, perhaps?” I whispered in my husband’s ear. I think he was getting a little tired of me whispering in his ear, but he smiled. We agreed that perhaps it wasn’t entirely her fault; after all, what restaurant adds odd new menu items like poutine and forgets to give their servers the orientation tour? Makes sure they can pronounce those strange, foreign words for things? Or maybe just slaps a sticky label over it and changes the name to Fried Cheese Balls on Shoestring Taters with Bacon Bits and Pico” – or would that be too much like admitting they have no idea who’s going to order this so they’ll just go with the shotgun method of marketing? Maybe management ought to give all servers a taste, so they can make informed recommendations? Even Girl Scouts get to sample what they’re selling, ahead of time. Most of the wait staff is like that, and we never did get our appetizer last time we were there, though the manager apologized and took it off our bill. That’s why we refused to order wings before the appetizers came, last night.

I suppose a truly informed recommendation on the poutine would have required the poor girl to travel to Canada, because she still has no clue what it is – no matter how many baskets of that stuff she eats.

The pico de gallo was pretty good, though.

 

Seven Great Ways to Waste Time

Seven Great Ways to Waste Time

Play word games. I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013, and this post was inspired by two things: my inability to think of anything to write about on the theme of “seven” and a Facebook request in Disney’s Words of Wonder.

  • Do a crossword puzzle.
  • Skim the dictionary, learn five new words, and use each of them in a sentence.
  • Write a sonnet.

Create art. Use whatever you have on hand.

  • Using paper, glue, and seeds, nut shells, and spices, make a picture.
  • With nothing but water, flour, old newspapers, and a balloon (or some aluminum foil you’ve molded into a shape), try your hand at papier mache.
  • Draw something.

Communicate Creatively. Keep a journal, start a blog.

  • Decorate a plain white envelope and mail it to a friend.
  • Take a picture with your cell phone’s camera. Using any free photo editing app, add some cool effects. Share it.
  • Write a note about a happy childhood memory. Mail it to whoever lives at that address now.

Get hooked on a TV series, but watch it online – in bed. Here are a few addictive ones to get you started (all are available, mostly for free, through Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Streaming Video):

  • Fringe.
  • Sherlock.
  • Downton Abbey.
  • The Tudors.
  • The Borgias.

Read. Okay, by now, you’ve caught on, surely – none of these things are a “waste” of time!

Cook something fun. That’s right – fun. Fun and frivolous and it doesn’t matter if it turns out edible or not. The point is to try something new. I made caramels, the other day; they never really set, and these tiny little bugs came out of nowhere and ate them before I had a chance to try one! But now I think I know how to make them. The bugs are still a problem – they’ve not been seen before or since! So I’m a little wary of making caramels, now…

Go outside and lay in the grass. Look up. What do you see?

  • Do you see shapes in the clouds?
  • Can you identify the constellations? (Use an app and your cell phone if you need help!)
  • If you lay very still and watch long enough, you may spot a satellite. Try it.
  • Make a wish. Shooting star or no.

 

 

Seven Things I Want My Kids to Know

Seven Things I Want My Kids to Know

“Seven things I want my kids to know”? Surely there are millions… but maybe those millions are just variations on a theme.

Marry your best friend. Or don’t marry. But know this: Sex and marriage don’t ruin friendship. Why would you vow to spend your life with anyone you loved less?

Only have children if, and when, you very much want to be a parent. Being a parent is awesome, but so is being a loving aunt, an uncle, or a family friend who doesn’t bear the lifelong, 24-hour-a-day responsibility of guiding a nascent human being through infancy, childhood, and well into adulthood. Do not feel obligated to “give me grandchildren.” I will love them, if you do – and enjoy the right of every grandparent to spoil them rotten and send them home to you all hyped on sugar. But make no mistake: I will be sending them back home to you.

Whatever you believe or don’t believe about the origins of Man, the concept of a soul, or what comes after death – if anything – this is the only life you are guaranteed to have. Live it fully, making a conscious effort not to deprive anyone else of the right and ability to do the same. Again, before you marry, make sure that you and your chosen partner have similar visions of how to enjoy life – and make a vow not to hold each other back, where they diverge. Nowhere in the marriage vows do you agree to be surgically joined at the hip, and your dreams have as much value as anyone else’s, whether they want to share the actual experience of those same dreams or not. I’ve never dreamed of space travel, but if your father got a chance to go, I not only wouldn’t hold him back, I’d be thrilled for him. I’d wish him a safe and amazing journey. Insist on the same, and be prepared to give it.

Choose wisely; choose joy. There’s misery enough in the world without your adding to it. Happiness and a positive attitude are something we can choose to embrace, even in the worst of times. Especially in the worst of times. Frown, cry, kick the dog, bemoan the unfairness of it all – and people who might relieve your misery or make it easier to bear will run faster than light to escape your orbit. Smile, laugh, insist on finding the good in everything – and people will be drawn to you like a magnet. It’s entirely your choice, and every passing minute offers you another chance to make a better choice.

Never stop learning. Read. Often, and broadly. Read newspapers, blogs, ancient philosophers, great literature, trashy novels, technology mags – let your mind synthesize bits and pieces from a wide variety of topics. Focus on the ones that resonate within, energizing and inspiring you to learn more and to act. The main thing you should have learned in school, by now, is that there is a great, huge body of knowledge and human experience, largely documented in books and stored within our DNA, and that you will never, ever “know it all.” But you should have the ability to question, to find answers, and to weigh evidence critically – to know that facts sometimes change with new discoveries and are rarely written in indelible ink, but also that some sources of information are more credible than others at any given point in history. Be open minded, but not so open minded that your brains fall out.

Know that I love you – fiercely, ferociously, and forever. And that unless you do choose to have children, some day, you cannot possibly know the depth and quality of that love – but that that’s okay. If you choose not to have children, this love is not something you’re “missing out on” – it’s just vastly different from other kinds of love. For a small glimpse into this, see the video that’s gone viral this week of a father in Syria, reunited with his child whom he thought had been killed in a chemical attack.

Do something good in the world. At the very least, be kind. Don’t let others’ selfishness or lack of kindness be your excuse for bitterness, mean-spiritedness, and disconnectedness. Because odds are good, that’s how they got that way, too. Break that cycle. Be more like Mother Theresa, whose quiet courage and determination – whose actions, which should not have been “heroic” in the fist place, but merely the compassionate and right thing to do, inspired nations, leaders, and generations. Earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, and made her a candidate for sainthood. No – I’m not suggesting you give up all your worldly possessions, move to India, and touch the untouchables – but that you value and reach for ideals that ensure human rights and human dignity, protect the environment, and increase the happiness of your little corner of the world. If that sounds lofty and insurmountable, it’s because not enough people have joined together, yet. I only ask you to do your little part and inspire at least one other person – not to try to compensate for everyone who won’t.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013, and the theme is “seven.” There are so many more things I want my kids to know, but these seven encompass most of them.

My Top 7 Parody Videos

My Top 7 Parody Videos

My Top 7 parody videos – because the theme is seven, not eight.

Some of these videos contain humor that may be offensive and/or inappropriate for younger readers. I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013, and the theme is “seven.” But when have you ever known me to follow directions exactly?

 

Popular Music

Too bad the VMA Awards didn’t issue that warning before broadcasting Miley’s twerking into space… watch Captain Kirk and the rest of the crew react to her performance:

Always over-the-top, Lady Gaga really pushed the envelope with “Telephone,” and I think we all wondered how she got Beyoncé to go along with all that nonsense. Catchy tune, weird video. Well, now we know:

Movies & TV

Here’s a charming plea from Anne Hathaway’s double to award her the Oscar for her performance in Les Misérables:

Seriously, who isn’t hooked on Game of Thrones? And not just for all the sex and nudity. (Hey, I like dragons. And Puff wasn’t about drugs. And, anyway…) Unfortunately, some of us don’t get HBO and have to wait for it on DVD.

Prophetic Parodies

A lot of folks didn’t understand this song any better than they understood Twitter. A lot of folks still don’t.

Which begs the question…

Classics

But this is one of my all time favorites – I mean, how often does someone parody one of the hits of the 1790s?

And just as a bonus, because I went and dragged MySpace into this, making it feel unfinished if there’s nothing to round out the list and make it a “Top 8” – here’s a link to one of my favorite YouTube channels:   The Tom Lehrer Wisdom Channel.

Enjoy!