Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day 101/365 - The Raveonettes at the Black Cat

Tonight Pia and I caught The Raveonettes concert at the Black Cat. The Raveonettes are a ? four-piece band (three women and one man) who play moody, slightly dangerous-sounding rock and roll with an early 1960s vibe to it. I love the distinctly unpolished, decidedly unglamorous nature of the Black Cat. It looks exactly like what it is – a no frills rock and roll club. Pia had never been there before and she said when we went inside that it didn’t even seem like we were in DC anymore. She said it felt more like Philly in there.

The crowd was mostly 30 and 40 year-olds and took a while to trickle in. Pia and I got there when the doors opened, so we were able to snag a seat at one of the very few tables at the back of the room. It was a good thing too because it took forever for The Raveonettes to come onstage. The opening act was a band called Nickel Eye, which took me a while to figure out was probably done to sound like “Nikolai.” They were so-so. They had some good numbers and some mediocre numbers and had a bit of an 80s feel to their sound.

When The Raveonettes finally came onstage Pia and I moved down to the floor to get closer to the action. They played a great set, very lively and earnest with the kind of thumping rock you can feel in your chest. It was a rather short gig, though, and Pia was bummed they didn’t play her favorite song of theirs. Oh well, maybe they’ll play it the next time they come to town.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 100/365 - Brrrrrr!

No more grumbling from me about it not feeling like winter ‘round these parts. It was flat out cold this morning as I was walking to the Metro station, especially with the wind blowing the way it was. It’s the kind of winter weather that will turn your ears into ice cubes in a few minutes if you aren’t wearing earmuffs.

Now if it would just snow.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 99/365 - Curious Case, Great Movie

Tonight I met up with my friend Adriana and we went to the movie theater in Chinatown to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." It was excellent. Although it's a fairly long movie (2:47), it never seemed long and didn't drag at all. The story kept moving and kept you interested in learning what was going to happen next.

In case you are unfamiliar with the plot, the movie concerns a guy who is born backwards in time -- he starts out as an old man with arthritis and cataracts and then grows younger as he 'ages.' It's based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and although it's a bit of a "high concept" premise, the movie never feels contrived. It's engrossing, adventurous, dramatic, romantic, melancholy, and -- in quite a few spots -- flat out funny.

The performances were good. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett did a nice job with their parts, but the movie was absolutely stolen by the actress who played Pitt's adoptive mother. The actor who portrays the tugboat captain did quite a good job as well. They also did an amazing job with the make-up and computer animation, so that it never looked fakey as the characters either aged or got younger.

The movie definitely has echoes of "Forest Gump" in that it deals with a boy growing up with the stigma of being 'different' who is very close to his protective mother, who comes of age traveling the world and serving in wartime, who has a star-crossed romance with a woman he's known since childhood, and who fears that any child of his will suffer from his condition. Despite that, though, it doesn't feel like a retread or a knock-off of any other film.

Two things to look out for if you decide to go see this movie -- the guy who pops up occasionally to discuss being struck by lightning and the moment every woman in the theater sighs simultaneously. Here's a hint, it features Pitt riding a motorcycle and seemed to have a pretty universal effect on the distaff portion of the audience (including Adriana). The guys were less impressed. It was a cool motorcycle, though.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 98/365 - Make-Believe Champion

This is the view I have from my desk at work. There are no windows in my office, so I make do with an enlargement of a photo of mine that I like and the sad vestiges of geeky loser glory -- in this case, fantasy sports championship banners and pennants.

Each year my brother, a few of my nephews, and I compete against each other in fantasy baseball, football, and basketball leagues on It costs about 25 bucks and if you win your league, they send you a championship banner. Or at least they used to, anyhow. Now you just get a cheap, crappy pennant. The banners were much cooler.

So far I've won fantasy baseball twice (2001 & 2008), basketball once (2008), and football once (2005). We were playing in a free fantasy football league the year I won so I didn't get a banner for that one. Bummer. Since I don't have a banner for it, my brother argues that one doesn't count. Of course, he'd take just the opposite position if he had won that year.

He's won baseball three years in a row (and then boasted about his 'dynasty' to no end) and football once. Neither of us did that well in football this year, although he did make the playoffs at least. So far we're both struggling in this year's fantasy basketball season as well, but there's still time to turn it around. Hopefully.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 97/365 - Rockin' Out

This next sentence will sound like it's written by a fourteen year-old rather than a forty year-old. My friend Chris got Rock Band 2 for Christmas for his Wii, so last night I went over to his house and we played it for a couple of hours. It's more fun than the first Rock Band game for Wii was. In this version you can make your own band member and customize their appearance, plus it has more of a story to it. You start out a struggling band with no fans and no money playing seedy little clubs, but as you play more gigs you gain in money, fame, and fans and move up to traveling in jets, wearing elaborate costumes, playing flashy instruments, and performing in huge arenas.

It's pretty awesome. I can't remember exactly what the name of our band was. It's something-something Tree Frog, I think. Chris is on guitar and I'm on drums, which is a bit of challenge given my general lack of rhthym and coordination. Chris' wife Des was our vocalist for the first Rock Band game, but she was out running errands and tending to business last night so we made do with a computer-generated singer. We tried to rope our friend Adriana into taking over the microphone, but she wasn't up for making a fool of herself like we were.


(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 96/365 - Tools of the Trade

These are my current flames – a Nikon D80 and a Nikon Coolpix S200. I didn’t set out to become a Nikonist, it just sort of happened that way. My first camera was a cheap little snapshot camera that used 110 film. I don’t even remember the manufacturer. The first camera I clearly remember owning was the Polaroid One Shot instant camera I got for Christmas when I was in the sixth grade. At first I had the old school flashbulb strip for it, but later I got the battery operated flash module.

The Polaroid was kind of inconvenient, despite the fact that you got instant prints. It was a bit big and clunky and you wound up having to walk around with a pocketful of photos. After I got tired of the Polaroid I don’t remember owning a camera for a while. I think I just borrowed whatever my parents happened to have at the time. Then in my senior year of high school I took a photography class and had to get my first SLR.

I decided on a Pentax K-1000 because it was cheap and I could get it at the Sears down the road from my house. It was a primitive chunk of metal but I grew to love that camera and took some pretty good pictures with it. In some ways, I think I took better photos with it than I have with any of my subsequent cameras. It had the most basic light meter imaginable – a scale at the side of the viewfinder with a plus at the top, a minus at the bottom, a notch in the middle and a needle that drifted up and down. I had that camera for years until it was stolen from my Jeep while I was in the Navy. After that, I used a crappy little Kodak 35mm point and shoot until I bought a used K-1000 off eBay when I moved up to DC after law school.

It was during a trip to Montreal that I decided maybe it was time to try an automatic SLR. I was sitting beside a trail in Mount Royal Park with some peanuts cupped in my palm as a quartet of squirrels would take turns creeping up and eating out of my hand. That was when I made the brilliant realization that trying to focus a manual SLR one-handed wasn’t easy. I kept leaning forward and backward to try and get the squirrels in focus, with mixed results. I went through a roll and a half of film and got six or seven decent shots. So later after I got home I bought a Nikon N65. I never did get the hang of that camera and I didn’t take very good photos with it. It was a tough camera to warm up to. I only got a Nikon because that was the brand of camera photographers on tv and in the movies were always using.

My first digital camera was a Canon SuperShot 400. It was only 4 megapixels, but it was easy to use and took good pictures. It was too fat to fit easily in my pocket though, so that was annoying. After getting exposed to digital photography I decided to take the plunge and get a digital SLR. I opted for the Nikon D80 because I could still use the flash and zoom lens from my N65 with it. I wonder sometimes if I’d been better off if I’d started down the Canon path instead. They seem more intuitive and user-friendly, but once you pick one and start buying accessories it’s hard to switch to the other and see your investment fall by the wayside. I’m certainly more comfortable with the D80 than I was with the N65 (which I promptly boxed up and mailed off to my youngest niece so she could use it for her photography class) and I think I’ve gotten some pretty good shots with it.

When the memory card door on my SuperShot 400 broke off, I decided to get myself a new point and shoot. I opted for the Nikon Coolpix S200 not through any diehard devotion to Nikon, but because it was really thin and would fit in my pocket more easily than the other cameras at Best Buy. Plus it came in red and I really wanted a red camera. It’s a rather silly reason on which to base a camera buying decision, but still. I took dreadful pictures with it at first and was really frustrated with it. I came close to chucking it and getting different point and shoot, but I kept working with it and I’m finally at the point now that I’m fairly comfortable with using it. It’s a good thing I have it because otherwise I wouldn’t be doing a 365 Project. There’s no way I’d lug my D80 around with me everywhere I go, but with the S200 I can just slip it in my pocket or bag and I’m always ready to shoot.

As for future flames, I’ve been really mulling over the idea of getting a D300. They work well in low light situations and also are good at handling shooting environments that are a mix of shadows and bright light. The D80 definitely has troubles in those situations. Just take a look at Sunday’s 365 entry for evidence of that. My jeans are fine, but the view out the window is overexposed and burned up. There’s no guarantee that shot would have come out better with a D300, but the thought that it might is what keeps lurking in my mind.

I hate missing a shot.

(Taken with both my Nikon D80 and Coolpix S200)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - The Sea Inside

This week's bonus photo from my archives is a shot I took at the aquarium in Chicago when I went there to see the Nats play the Cubs in May 2006 (they lost, go figure). Chicago is a terrific city and a place I wouldn't mind living (although, granted, I've never been there during wintertime).

In this shot, I liked the way the aquarium pool verged on Lake Michigan with (seemingly) only the glass wall to separate them.

(Taken with my old Canon SuperShot 400)

Day 95/365 - Another Naptastic Sunday

For this week's self-portrait we have my legs and feet (and laziness). There are few simple pleasures in life that are better than stretching out on the couch on a Sunday afternoon to take a nap with a football or baseball game playing in the background.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)