Musing the Fourth: It's All Good

The last week probably should have been really challenging and annoying. On Thursday I was laid off from my job of six and a half years. On Friday night my car snapped an alternator belt somewhere between San Francisco and LA, in the middle of nowhere on I-5. On Sunday I had a flat tire. Sunday night I had a hotel fiasco that involved someone else's luggage in my room when I arrived, having to change rooms at 2:30 a.m. due to a loud transformer hum coming through the wall, and a stray 6 a.m. wakeup call.
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Many people would have gotten cranky, bitchy, stressed out, or otherwise unhappy and unpleasant about most of these things. I'll admit that I was less than cheerful when I was standing at the front desk at 2-something in the morning, but that's primarily because I was exhausted. Other than that, I've been pretty cheerful and pleasant about all of it.

A while ago I was talking to an extremely-good high stakes poker player, and we were chatting about Full Tilt. I asked him how much money he had on the site, and he responded that it was in the neighborhood of a million dollars. "If I get it back, that's great. If not, that's OK too." He shrugged. "It's all good." That's really stuck with me. Sure, he's taken millions of dollars out of online poker, but I don't think I know anyone for whom a million dollars isn't a large sum of money. That he could be so unfazed by possibly having that much money stolen from him was truly impressive.

So yeah. I lost my job, my car broke down in the middle of nowhere, I had a flat tire, and I lost half a night's sleep over a hotel fiasco. It's all good.

A vignette from a suburban shopping mall

This afternoon I bought a tool chest at Sears, parked my car by the merchandise pickup door, and headed in. Just as I reached for the door, a bunch of kids drove by in a minivan and started honking and screaming out the windows at me. I couldn't make out much of what they were saying, but "love the hair!" drifted above it.

I smiled and waved, then walked in and scanned my receipt. The fresh-faced employee politely asked me what they were saying. "Hard to tell, but they liked my hair."

"Does this happen to you often?" I told him it did, but usually without quite so much rowdiness.

"Teenagers", he said, shaking his head. "I mean, I *am* a teenager, but I don't act like that."

I looked him over. White, middle-class, suburban, probably got a mix of A's and B's in school. He wasn't a jock or a geek, didn't seem artsy, and probably belonged to a club like the Future Business Leaders of America or the German club or maybe the yearbook staff. It was easy to see him in 20 years with two kids, a minivan of his own, a wife that's bored with him, and a middle management job.

Part of me was happy that there are still good kids around, but I really wanted to find a way to let him know that there's an exciting world out there just past his comfort zone. Instead, I picked up my package, exchanged pleasantries, and headed for my car.

I'm not dumb enough to use these passwords

As you may or may not know, there's currently a large botnet attack on WordPress sites. I have one self-hosted WordPress site, PattiB Photography. It may not look like a blog, but it uses WordPress.

I decided to start logging failed password attempts on that site, just to see what the hackers are up to. I'm only getting hit to the tune of 30-40 attempts per hour, which isn't all that bad. Here are the passwords that have been tried for my admin account:
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Musing the third

I've been working on a photo series for about a year, but I've been blocked because something didn't feel right about it. One day I realized that I didn't want to put the image in traditional mats and frames. Instead, I wanted to mount them in custom-painted shadowbox frames. I found the right boxes in Japantown. They're approximately six inches square, and two and a half inches deep, and they already have mounting hooks installed. Perfect!

I thought that some of them should be decorated with hand-painted images drawn from the series. Line drawings were fine, but there was one small problem-- I can't draw for shit. I'm really bad at it. I got a sketch pad and some pencils and spent a weekend or so on my couch, in coffee shops, and a few other places just attempting to draw simple things. I eventually got three or four things that sort of work and that I can reproduce with some degree of competence. It took a lot of experimenting and a lot of trial and error, though.

I wanted other boxes to look like houses with the fronts being window frames, so that you got the impression that you were peeking into someone's window and seeing something. This seemed sort of doable, even for someone who doesn't know how to paint.

And then, four different art show deadlines came up in fairly rapid succession. I wanted to submit this work to all four, so I needed a couple of prototype frames. I did one in black with very simple line drawings, and another painted like a brick house with pale pink interior walls. I used those for the submissions and identified them as sample frames with each individual piece being uniquely hand-painted, then crossed my fingers.

It was with both delight and dread that I got two acceptance notices. (The other two shows notify in a few weeks.) "They like me! They really like me! Oh crap... now I have to produce actual frames." You know how I said I can't draw? Well... I also don't know jack shit about painting. The high point of my career as a painter was in first grade, when we were still using finger paints.

I got a bunch of paint and brushes. I got some scrap balsa wood and started screwing around. I scribbled with paint. I mixed colors. I painted colors over colors. I made thin lines and thick ones, big swaths of color and tiny little dabs. I tried painting shapes. Last Friday I picked up a book on painting, a small easel, and a big stack of tiny little canvas boards and started experimenting in earnest. I painted gradients. I painted solid colors then painted over them with dabs of similar colors. I painted a brick wall with off-kilter bricks and really crappy shutters, but that was wnough to show me how it could work. I made something that looks vaguely like granite if you don't look too closely.

The whole weekend was get an idea, experiment, refine, experiment, refine, then get another idea and repeat the process. My first experiments were pretty crappy. I feel good about the ones that I did tonight, and though I wouldn't call myself a painter I'm reasonably confident that I can get my frames done without embarrassing myself.

I love being curious. I love experimenting. Pretty much everything that I've learned as an adult has come from throwing things against the wall, seeing what stuck, and then refining it until I got it right. I learned photography by looking at my results and creating experiments that would help me understand things. Some of my favorite photos are from the Flower Experiments series-- I just got a bunch of flowers and started screwing around with lights until I got results I loved.

Curiosity is good. I never want to stop being curious and trying to figure out how to do things.

Photography news!

Five of my photos have been selected for the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival, being held April 5-6 in Rochester, NY. Three of them are brand new works from my series-in-progress, Glimpse, and two are previously-unseen photos from Rope:Burn. The Rope:Burn works will be part of a special Society for Women in Erotic Art Today showcase that is part of REAF.

One of my works from the Glimpse series will be part of the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day show at Rayko's gallery in San Francisco. The opening reception is April 28, and the show will run through May 25. This is a large show and it always features lots of interesting photography.

I've submitted Glimpse photos to two other juried shows, but won't hear from them for a few weeks.

I'm particularly tickled by two different things about this. One is that the Rayko show is not an erotic art show-- it's a general pinhole photography exhibit. There are kids through the gallery regularly, including one full class of teenagers that's in the facility every weekend. I picked out images for them that were more on the suggestive side and didn't have any explicit naughty-bits, and I also showed the gallery director a sample or two to see if they'd be too explicit for that gallery. I'm happy to be in that show, since it's highly competitive and filled with photography from around the country and I believe even some from overseas.

The second amusing thing is that one of the photos that's going to Rochester is of... me. About 99% of me has no problem with it, and thinks it's actually pretty cool. Besides, it's soft-focus and sort of dreamy and is in no way recognizable as me, so what's the big deal? The other 1% is saying, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?! Some stranger might buy a dirty photo of me and hang it on their wall?" Unlike in the rest of the world, though, the 1% has no power in my head.

I haven't published the Glimpse series on PattiB Photography, but I will do so within the next few weeks. Some of you may have seen some of them already, since I posted a few samples here a few months ago.

Musing The Second

Many years ago, I fell in love with a wonderful woman. We dated for about a year and a half before we went our separate ways, but I learned a lot from her about different ways to see the world and particularly to see other people. She was a pro domme by trade, but was also quite active in the local leather community. She tended to make community happen around her, in a way that I have rarely seen anyone do before or since. This is about one of her other superpowers.

One day we were at a kink party together, though we spent some time making the social rounds separately and playing with other people. There was a guy at the party, someone who we both knew through online interactions but had never met in person. I spent about ten minutes talking to him, and pretty much wrote him off as a needy, annoying prat. I was more than a bit surprised when I walked through the dungeon later and saw that she had him strapped to a table and seemed to be having a good time playing with him. We talked about it on the way home. "Oh, hon, he was so CUTE! He wanted it so much, and he was so happy every time the whip touched him. His whole body just quivered."

She would often tell me about her clients. "That boy was so sweet. All he really wanted to do was play fetch, so I spent an hour throwing things across the room, and he'd scamper across the room wiggling his little butt in the air, and it was just the cutest thing you ever saw." Another time, "He was so shy that he could barely get the words out to tell me what he wanted. Once he did, though, he just completely came alive." Another, "He was so hungry for it that he could barely contain himself, and his face nearly split in half the first time he called me 'Mistress'".

It seemed like no matter who she met, she could find something good and wonderful about them. Often it was the very things that annoyed me about a person that she would find lovely and intriguing. I would see, "all he did was talk about X for hours", and she would see it as being so caught up by his excitement that he just couldn't stop telling us about it.

I wish I could be the person who saw something cool in everyone she met. I'm not that person, and I'm pretty sure I never will be, but that doesn't stop me from working to be better at that.

Musings The First

For the last several months I've found myself toying with a few general themes about life, who I want to be, and the sorts of people that I want in my life. I'm not really sure why these particular themes are haunting me but they are, and they seem to be important.

I'm not really sure how to write about any of these things in a cohesive way, but I feel compelled to start throwing out words. So I shall, even if the thoughts are scattered.

One of my coworkers recently had a baby, and a few days ago he and his wife posted photos on Facebook illustrating how useful the baby was. One photo showed the baby laying on mom's lap, and on top the baby was a plate holding a sandwich. The caption was "Place mat." Other photos showed the baby serving as vase (with a flower tucked between his arm and his torso), a door stop, a paperweight, and a hat rack. I laughed so hard at this that I nearly cried, both because of the humor and the brilliant creativity of it.

Last week I had dinner at Alinea, which is unquestionably one of the very best restaurants in the whole world. The atmosphere is refined and elegant, the service is top-notch, and the food is all exquisitely prepared. There are lots of restaurants in the world that meet those criteria, though. What makes Alinea special is the artistry and creativity with which the food is prepared and presented. One of our dishes was served floating atop a cylinder filled with water and orchids. Another was served over river rocks. We were served helium balloons made out of taffy, and for the final course the owner of the restaurant drew a beautiful, edible piece of modern art directly onto our table.

People like this inspire me to be creative, and creativity is important to me. I love letting ideas ferment until I'm inspired to do something unique, interesting, or unexpected, and once that inspiration strikes I'm often driven to complete the idea. I've been working on a photo series for a while, but something about it felt... not quite right. I knew that the basic idea was good, but something was holding me back from making progress. A few weeks ago I understood what was blocking me, and what I should do with the images in order to go where I wanted to go. This requires me to hand-paint custom frames for each and every one of the photos, and I have no particular talent for painting or drawing, but I've spent hours with a sketch pad working out designs and figuring out exactly how everything should play together.

I love the creative act of giving people gifts... thinking about exactly what the right thing would be for a specific person, and sometimes creating the gifts from scratch. I don't always manage to find the perfect gift, and occasionally I will fall back on something like a gift certificate, but I always feel like I've failed when I do that... it's like I was too lazy to make the effort to find an excellent gift.

Some of my coworkers have an "idea board" in the office. When one of us gets a brilliant, goofy, or silly idea then we talk about it for a while and it eventually winds up being added to the list on the idea board. Last week someone decided that jugstep should be a thing-- dubstep music played on a jug. "Oh, but it would have to be a slide jug so that we could get those sounds." We spent a few minutes talking about the problems of doing this, especially the way that tone and volume interplay, and decided that it would have to be an electric slide jug. "Electric jugstep" wound up on the idea board, and we all went back to work. Half an hour later, one of the guys bounded over and announced, "I've figured out how to build an electric slide jug!" He then explained his design and how it worked, while gesturing with great animation and enthusiasm. (At this point, I feel compelled to add a brief disclaimer: I have no particular love of dubstep, and I wouldn't be heartbroken if I never heard it again.)

In a nutshell: creativity is important in my life. I love creating things, and I love being around creative people. Playing with ideas makes me happy.

(There will be more of these musings in the future.)

I'm a Resolutionist this year

I don't normally make New Years resolutions. I think most people make them with the best of intentions, but they're also driven by social pressure and calendar-driven obligation. "It's that time of the year again, so I have to make some resolutions. Let's see. I'll go the gym five times a week. I'll pay off all my credit cards. I'll lose ten pounds, no, make it twenty. I'll quit smoking." Resolutions made, people sail off into the new year with high hopes. They join a gym, and even go for a few weeks. They quit smoking until one day they're feeling stressed out or sad and just can't resist the urge to have "just one". They're nicer to their mother-in-law for a few weeks. Once the shine of a January new beginning wears off, though, they go right back to their old habits.

I used to be one of those people proclaiming grand new starts every year, but I eventually came to my senses. If I wanted to change something in my life I could do it on July 16, or November 3, or January 26 or any other day of the year-- being a slave to the calendar really didn't work for me.

This year I'm making a New Years resolution. I'll tell you about it in a little bit.

The other day I was meeting someone at a theater in Union Square. To be precise, it was the Saturday before christmas, and I was supposed to be there at 6 p.m. Union Square is the downtown shopping district of San Francisco, so I expected it to be a bit chaotic, especially in the rain. I left an hour early, which I was sure would give me plenty of time to spare. When I got there, the garage I usually park in was full. So was the next one, and the one after that. The streets were swarming with pedestrians dashing through the rain. There was no chance in hell that I was going to find a parking space anywhere near the theater. It sucked.

I eventually got out of the chaos, crossed Market, and started looking for a place to park. (The Metreon and Westfield Center were no help in this regard.) The first space I found was at 2nd and Folsom, about a mile from my destination. IT was 5:50 p.m. as I climbed out of the car. Ten minutes? Not a chance. I started walking, while keeping my eyes out for a cab.

About a block later, I was in the back seat of a big yellow box explaining to the driver where I was going and that I was supposed to be there by 6. "Gonna be tough since it's a zoo over there, but I'll get there as fast as I can." And so he did, talking to himself as he took a circuitous but carefully-considered route around the worst of the traffic, treated stoplights as suggestions, dodged slow-moving vehicles, and squeezed the cab through impossibly-tiny gaps. He got me there by 6:05, and the fare was about $7.50. I tossed him a twenty and told him to keep the change since I was impressed with his heroic effort. "Really? You sure? Thanks! You just made my night." He was grinning from ear to ear as he drove off into the clusterfuck of holiday traffic.

This afternoon I found myself at a suburban shopping mall in search of a jacket that I'd seen a few weeks earlier but didn't buy at the time. If you know me you understand that I'm not a fan of malls or suburbia. I'm also not terribly inclined to enjoy the after-christmas shopping rush at said suburban malls, since crowds are full of stupid people and stupid people annoy the fuck out of me. I wanted that blazer, though, and I was willing to brave the mall to get it.

Mission accomplished! While I was there, I took advantage of the post-holiday sales and added several lovely things to my wardrobe. As I was leaving, an older gentleman was heading for the door just as I was heading out so I stopped and held the door for him. He looked surprised, smiled, and thanked me cheerily. "Happy new year!"

On the walk from the store to my car I made my first New Years resolution in ages. "Every day I will try to make at least one complete stranger's life just a little bit brighter." Sometimes that will just mean being cheerful and patient with the overworked cashier, and then telling her that she's doing a fabulous job. Sometimes it will mean that I stop someone on the street to compliment them on their shirt. Sometimes I'll pay the bridge toll for the car behind me, or buy someone else's ice cream. I'm sure it will come in lots of ways that I haven't even thought about, but I'm going to do my best to do this every day. Being around happy people is infinitely more fun than being around grumpy people, and maybe in a small way I'll make the whole world slightly more fun.

The flip side of this means that I should try my darnedest not to make peoples lives worse. I won't bitch at the cashier, even when he makes a mistake. Yelling at the guy on the customer service line doesn't do anything to solve my problem, but it also makes his life worse.

On my way home, I did some special shopping. I bought a dozen each of:

- socks
- toothbrushes
- bars of soap
- combs
- bottles of hand sanitizer
- razors
- washcloths

along with a big box of ziploc bags. (Yes, I forgot the toothpaste. I'll get it later.) I'm turning all of this stuff into individual care packages for the homeless people that I run into in my daily life. I'll probably also add a couple of oranges as I give them out, since oranges make everything seem cheerier.

And there you have it-- my first resolution in many years, and one that I'm extremely happy to be making.

List of shows I've seen in London

On the plane home yesterday I started trying to recreate a list of all the shows I've seen in London. I'm certain this isn't a complete list, but it's most of them.

39 Steps
All That Fall
Beautiful Game
Billy Elliott
Blood Brothers
Bog of Cats (the Holly Hunter Irish thing)
Broken Glass
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged
Crazy For You
Driving Miss Daisy
Full Monty
Glorious (Florence Foster Jenkins show)
Guys and Dolls
Jerry Springer the Opera
Love Never Dies
Mamma Mia
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Rocky Horror Show
Saturday Night Fever
Starlight Express
Streetcar Named Desire
Sweeney Todd
Swimming With Sharks
Tell Me On a Sunday
Twelfth Night
Uncle Vanya
Waiting For Godot
War Horse
We Will Rock You
Whistle Down the Wind
Witches of Eastwick
Woman In White

London Theatre Recap

Magistrate starting John Lithgow. Technically this was still in previews, and it showed it. It's a delightful farce, but farces require exquisite timing and rock-solid delivery. This one was a bit rough in places. Still, it was a delightful show. I somehow managed to get one of the very best seats in the house at the last minute, even though the show was basically sold out.

Constellations was a weird piece. It's quirky and unique, and I wanted to like it more than I did. This review describes the show better than I can. I think the biggest stumbling block for me is that the character who was a researcher in quantum cosmology came across as ditzy.

Twelfth Night starring Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance was an absolute delight! It's being done with an all-male cast, per tradition. It's an exceptionally good production, but the best part of it was that we had on-stage seats. Each side of the stage had a two-story seating box with two rows of eight seats on each level, so that part of the audience was at eye level and only a few feet (or sometimes less) from the action. Before the show, the woman in front of us was handed a prop by one of the cast members, and instructed to hand it to him during the show at a specific time. I can't speak highly enough of the show, or of seeing it from that perspective.

Uncle Vanya was a very good production of the show, but I was sleepy and dozed off intermittently.

All That Fall is a Beckett play that was written as a radio drama. Apparently the Beckett estate has refused to allow it to be staged, but Trevor Nunn talked them into it by staging it as though the actors were performing a radio drama. Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon were both fabulous in their leading roles.

Loserville is the last show that I saw. I wanted to add a big splashy musical to the lineup, and this was what I chose. The reviews weren't the most flattering, so my expectations were low, but it was a fun and energetic show, if an eminently cliche-laden and unmemorable one. It was definitely a big splashy musical, though.