Monthly Archives: June 2012

Cell Phone Photography: An Exposé

I have lately become interested in cell phone photography.  Cell phone cameras have become astonishingly good, and it is now quite possible to make some amazing and professional work with just your phone.  Like this.  Or this.  Or this.

In fact, when my DSLR was stolen when my apartment in Bologna was broken into, my iPhone became my primary camera for a while, including during the long weekend I spent road tripping through Belgium.  The results were surprisingly impressive.

In Bruges

St Bernardus sign in Watou

Watou

Amy Beach in Blankenberge

That type of work is not what this post is about.  Cell phone photography primarily interests me because in this day and age of (relatively) affordable DSLRs, cell phone photography seems to be the new medium for the quintessential snapshot.  Almost everyone in this country has a cell phone now.  Almost all of the cell phones have cameras, and many of those cameras are fairly good.  Many of the people I know use their cell phone cameras fairly regularly and casually.  Additionally, while phone cameras are not cameras intended for serious image-making, they are intended for serious photo sharing.  Cell phone photography is incredibly social (and even has an official social network of its own with Instagram, which remains as yet uncharted territory for me [for an interesting article about Instagram’s impact on “serious” photography, look here]).

With that in mind, I have made a study of the photographs stored on my own cell phone.  There were photos snapped casually to record something I wanted to remember, to share with a friend or family member, or that I wanted accessible at any time—to reference in conversations or look back upon myself in a modern twist on traditional wallet photos.  Here are a few of the best and most revealing photographs always in my pocket.

Cherokee Street, St. Louis

Construction Site, Washington University

Whispers Café, Washington University

Benji and Claude

Wanna Banana?

Tattoo

In a Grocery Store in Göttingen, Germany

The Gator

Pi Pie

Karate + Guns + Tanning = America

I still haven’t come to appreciate iPad photography however.  There’s just no way to make a picture with an iPad without looking extremely foolish.

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How to Place a Customer Service Call

  1. Begin by saying “yeessss” in a drawn-out and ominous way.
  2. Proceed to explain your problem as longwindedly as possible, preferably without pauses that would allow the customer service representative to begin helping you.
  3. Repeat.
  4. Refuse to provide any information that the representative asks for.  They may say that they want to help answer your question, but you know that they’re really out to steal your identity.
  5. Respond to continued requests with anger and/or confusion.
  6. Do not have paper, a pen, or anything like an order number.
  7. Pause for long periods of time and mumble to yourself as you continue to contemplate your problem, but by no means let the representative hang up.
  8. Remember, no problem is too small to make a big fuss about.
  9. Pause for a bit to chat about your grandchildren and/or take a call on another line.
  10. Resume fussing about your problem, and remember that there was actually something else you had been meaning to ask about too.
  11. Realize that there either was no problem or it was really all your fault to begin with, and hang up without saying goodbye.
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This friend project has so much potential

One of the first feelings I was overwhelmingly hit with upon returning to Saint Louis after my whirlwind post-graduation trip to Maine and the subsequent drive back, (well, OK, one of the first feelings post-hibernation week, during which I think I fell asleep at seven almost every night and wasn’t feeling much of anything other than exhaustion), was missing all of my friends who have moved away.

Over my four years at Wash U, I was fortunate enough to make a wonderful group of close friends.  I had been away from them before, for summers and semesters abroad, but there was always the sense that we would all be reunited.  When I arrived back in Saint Louis and felt their absence this time, I also felt its permanence.  I know I will see my friends again, most likely in wonderfully strange and unexpected situations and places.  However, I also know that the probability of all of us being in the same place at the same time again is slim to none, and that even if such a miraculous event were to occur the dynamic will never be the same.  So, I had a mild breakdown.

Fortunately I have a wonderful boyfriend who has had (rather too much) practice getting me to stop crying and a mother with much sage advice to offer, so I was able to get my act back together and approach the whole “making friends” thing with a clearer head.

Naturally, being me, the first thing I did was make a list—aided by internet searches—of places and activities in the Saint Louis area that might allow me to meet people (preferably people reasonably close to my age with an interest or two in common), like $1 beer nights at the Contemporary Art Museum, which fortunately not only exist, but occur monthly.

I also found the Saint Louis Stammtisch, a weekly meet-up for German speakers in the city.  It turns out that the next meeting was going to be happening at the rooftop bar over the Moonrise Hotel only a few blocks from where I live.  So, thinking fondly back on the adorably awkward weekly Stammtisch in Göttingen, I decided to take the plunge.  Or rather, the elevator.

It took me forty minutes (and a reminder to myself that if I didn’t go I would have nothing to write about other than my shameful cowardice) to work up the courage to actually get on my bike and ride over to the Moonrise.  When I arrived, I realized I had not the faintest idea of what the group would look like.  So, naturally, I lurked uncomfortably close to every table I passed until I overheard a few words of German.  Then I went up to the bar the get a drink.

Armed and ready, I stepped back over to the table.

“S-s-seid ihr hier für…das deutsche Meetup?”

All five people at the table looked over at me, and for a brief moment I was convinced that I had made 1) a terrible mistake and 2) a fool of myself.  Fortunately the feeling didn’t last long.  The five or six people at the table welcomed me and made space while I pulled over a chair.

The conversation was slow at times (speaking a foreign language with people several decades your senior tends to have that effect), but after a bit I settled in and started to have fun.  I didn’t think it would happen, but three beers and one vodka soda later I was one of the last to leave.

Moral of the story?  This friend project has so much potential.

PS:  Yes, I know.  The title is (almost) straight from an Of Montreal song.  But given that I hear this internally whenever I think about having to make new friends, I don’t feel too bad about borrowing it.  Think of it as a shout out.  And go listen to The Past is a Grotesque Animal.”  Now.

PPS:  I still profoundly miss everyone who is not here.  I hope you know how irreplaceable you all are.

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How to be a Grown-Up

Now that I’ve graduated from college, my life has become instantly more ordered and sophisticated.

Not.

So I feel eminently qualified to present:

How to live like a college student even when you’re not in 8 easy steps:

Step 1.  Come home from work carrying a bottle of “Irish Cream” that you picked up on the way to the Metro.  You know, because it was way cheaper than the Bailey’s.

Step 2. Lie in bed and read a British crime novel for several hours in your underwear.  You know, since air conditioning is expensive and none of the windows seal completely.

Step 3.  Put some clothes on to go downstairs and grab the last of the leftover pasta.  You know, since you’re hungry but not enough to bother to cook something (and have six male roommates so walking around in your underwear isn’t really an option).

Step 4.  Eat the aforementioned pasta in bed while continuing to read the aforementioned crime novel.

Step 5.  Pull out the laptop mysteriously entrusted to you by your place of work and obsess over organizational tips on Pinterest.  You know, about how not to have a kitchen with have a perpetual pile of dirty dishes in the sink and a floor so dirty that it’s frightening to cook barefoot.

Step 6.  Eat an egg sandwich with jam and goat cheese on a kitchen stool because a roommate has spread Biology textbooks and papers all over the table.   You know, because you’re not a college student anymore.

Step 7.  (Re-)open that miniature box of wine from that time you went to see Shakespeare in the park a few weeks ago and drink it from a travel mug while continuing to look at Pinterest.  You know, since you don’t have wine glasses (other than that one Chi Omega champagne flute left by some past resident of the house).

Step 8. Retreat back to bed (wine mug in hand) and decide that all of this will be acceptable once blogged about.  You know, since then your haphazard living situation becomes entertainment for the masses and can therefore no longer be slightly sad.

So, done.  Check.  Remember, I’m just doing this for you, and totally not because the only grown-up part about my life since graduation has been a sudden inability to stay awake past 11pm (…on a weekend).

Yeah….right.

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What’s that? It’s a blooming artichoke!

It’s also some sort of metaphor.  As a recent college grad attempting to figure out “the rest of my life” (or at least what is acceptable to wear to work and where on earth one of my six roommates hid the ¾ cup measure), I like the idea of having someplace (read: this blog) to store my thoughts, which will ideally turn into something to look back upon and laugh at once I have figured out this whole “gainful employment” thing.

Hence, the artichoke.  “What’s that?” you may be thinking, “why an artichoke of all things?”  Well, the answer would be that it’s just something that popped into my head late one night (read: before midnight but still long after what has become my bedtime).  Artichokes are kind of ugly, and prickly.  Sometimes the prickles get caught in your mouth when you’re trying to eat an artichoke, especially when you get down near the heart of it.  But artichokes are also kind of beautiful, albeit in a unique, thistly sort of way, if you just let them alone and allow them to continue to grow and bloom.  I know all this because I’m a master gardener (read: I have managed to keep the plants Alexis left me alive for almost a month and one has even produced new leaves).

In other words, a blooming artichoke is sort of like life.  It can be tough at times, and just when you’ve almost figured it out something unexpected pops up just to keep you on your toes.  But it’s also a wonderful, surprising thing, and fascinating to watch unfold.  A little bit silly, too.  Just like a blooming artichoke.

So relax, grab some melted butter, and bear with me as I let my thoughts unfold here.  I promise to pepper it with book recommendations and pie recipes to make it worth your while.

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