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Tuesday
Apr032012

Grocers, Photos, & Orchard Mix. 













See, it's not even that interesting.

-Lucas
Thursday
Feb022012

Where a self-examination blog is written in a notebook at a train station, then a train.



















And then THIS came on, which did not help my mood.
Saturday
Jan212012

Adventures In Melbourne

I know, I know, this is long overdue. I mean, we went to Melbourne in November, for Pete's sake. It was also just after I got Evernote for the first time, so I have lots of little out-of-context observations I made then that I'm struggling to remember now. Example? The first thing I put in Evernote upon touching down in Melbourne?

"Frig-Mobile. HI LARIOUS"

(I know now it was due to a refrigerated truck passing by on an overpass. But that took some remembering.)

So yeah. I also scribbled down hard-copy thoughts from the plane:

 

  • "Walking past the business class seats. Don't see what all the fuss is about. Then I see how tiny the economy seats asre. I start to get snippy, then remember I am not actually fat, so it doesn't matter."
  • "Announcement: 'You can put devices like iPods in the seat pocket in front of you.' Lady, I left an EGM Magazine in the seat pocket of an airplane when I was 12. I am still mad about a $9 magazine with an attached guide to Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game on Sega Saturn. I'm not going to try it with my freaking iPad."
  • "Hey look! Qantas has finnaly got individual touch screens in every seat with video-on-demand content. Great! They've Finally caught up to British Airways of 2002."
  • "And the screens have a game service! The title screen shows a Galaga-style schmup! Cool. Let's look at the choices: Minesweeper. Solitaire. Backgammon. Tic-tac-toe. Be still my gamer heart."
  • "And there's a free interseat IM service! For spontaneous conversations! Except you both need to enable it before you can send. And the UI is ponderous. And the keyboard is tiny and nonresponsive. But still! Progress! Sort of."
  • "Announcement: 'We know you understand how to operate a seatbelt, but here are a few pointers.' ...You know someone must have complained.
  • "The Emergency Exit gesture has become a bit half-assed, it seems. More of 'They're over thereish. You'll see 'em.' Ooh! That flight attendant just did the sign language for 'Fuck you, fuck the lot of yez.'" 
  • "All of the airline's advertising seems to show people having coffee in slow motion (to convey a relaxed, calm journey) while showing the rest of the airport in fast-motion time-lapse (to convey that they are still fast and efficient)."
  • "Announcement from the pilot: 'As we take off, you will be able to see Brighton Le Sands, and the Novatel building.' Me: 'And the bogans drunkenly tumbling off. "Wot , ye think ye're some kinda fackinAAAAAAAAAAAAH."'"
  • "Announcement from the pilot: 'We'll be taxiing down the 'So-Called Third Runway'." Was this in dispute? Is there Third Runway, and then Original Third Runway? Famous Third Runway? Original Famous Third Runway?"
  • "I always love the very first and very last parts of a flight, where you can see the city and the cars, and everything looks like Micro Machines except I never had Mirco Machines because they were stupid and weren't nearly as cool as Transformers Micromasters which could transform, and had bases that could interlock with ramps and turn into vehicles."

Tanja's sister Susie picks us up at the airport. She's quite pregnant, though less pregnant than she is now. She expounds upon the pain of buying children's clothes, as all the girl clothes are pink frilly dresses, and all the boy's clothes look, well...

"All the little boys clothes are like Lucas Clothes... Only tiny!"

 Tanja finds this hilarious. I scowl out the window. I do get my own back, when Susie gets indignant at little girls who you see "out on the weekend, wearing dress-up tutus instead of proper clothes! Boys don't do that!" I rebut with the sheer numbers of little boys you see out and about in Spider-man outfits and Batman capes. Advantage: Brown.

We stop off at the Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder (which is run by Stephanie Alexander, she of the door-stopper Cook's Companion), marvel at the cheese room, lament that the beers are for sale, not service, and devour one hell of a postmodern steak sandwich.

 

After a lesson on how they print cup sizes in braille on maternity bras ("I think I'm a 14D... *grope* No wait, C." ), Susie drops us off at our hotel, next to the Regent Plaza Theatre.

The hotel, while adequate and located right downtown, suffers from being not as awesome as our previous one. Little niggles, like our window facing the alley, there being no coffee plunger, and the HDMI ports on the TV being located way the fuck up the back. These things are important.

I'll also mention that I spent the entire Melbourne trip with a killer head cold. So that evening, I wasn't up for much more than a walk (though Chinatown), a beer (supplied by the Elephant & Castle), and a laksa (provided by Laksa Me, which is situation right at the base of the building we usually stay in).

Also, through no fault of my own and a stop at one of Melbourne's many awesome little bottle shops, I ended up with this beer line-up:

Niiice.

That evening, I sent Ted (former bassist of They Came & Ate Us: The Musical, barrista, ex-sydneysider, current Melbournian and all-around hoopy frood) a message, asking for good coffee around where were were. He rattled off a few places, but only one was within walking distance. So the next morning I headed off to Captains of Industry, after takeaway coffee.

I was so baffled by the place (in a good way) that I nearly forgot to order coffee. By the time I got back to the room, Tanja was not happy with me (having taken 30 minutes to get coffee). We wandered out into the hot sun, off to a shoe store that I have the sneaking suspicion Tanja planned the entire trip to visit again, but when we found it, it was not open for a further 20 minutes. We were flummoxed, until we spotted a sign:

Okay, then. We entered Little Cupcakes.

We made our choices, and wandered out to Federation Square, sat in the sun, ate our cupcakes, tweeted on our phones, and life was good.

Then Tanja got shoes. The same two girls were working at the shop the last time we were in Melbourne (we bonded over talk of Razorlight).

Then it was off to Victoria Markets to meet Tanja's sister.

Later in the trip, Susie took us up to Bruswick, where I saw many 3-dimensional signs:

...and many other signs that just caught my eye:

There's more stuff, including a whirlwind adventure among cafes, instantaneous birthday parties, watching an academic start off saying she didn't get Instagram and then on to how modern students can't tell the difference between a blog and a literary source, then then disappear up her own ass completely, and my attempting to tell someone who has spent most of his adult life studying towards his vocation that I don't want to invest a year of part time study to change my career. But now it's dinnertime, and I have to go cook. Until later! 

 

Wednesday
Jan112012

Beach Burrito Company, Newtown

Tanja let me choose where to have dinner in Newtown this evening. I chose the newish Beach Burrito Company (located where Wedgetail used to be, next to the Hub).



Already in love with authentic Mexican thanks to Guzman Y Gomez, our favourite taco shop up the road, we went in with high hopes.

The decor is very cool, with rough-painted walls, Day of the Dead portaits, and half the movie poster from the Cheech and Chong sequel that no one saw, Nice Dreams.


















We ordered, after perusing the long and detailed menu (they were clearly expecting lots of questions, so laid it all out for you). I got a Green Chilli Pig Burrito (pulled pork), Fajita style (on a plate with fajita salsa, guacamole & corn chips, though how that makes it a fajita I have no idea) and Tanja a Chilli Lime & Prawn Quesadilla. I faithfully ordered a Dos Equis, and Tanja a frozen margarita (which, worringly, I was asked if I wanted vodka or tequila with. Umm, really? It's not a margarita without tequila! If anything, it's just a slushy caipiroska). I tasted the margarita, but only got the barest hint of lime before the reek of cheap tequila hit me.

We sat outside in the cool Newtown breeze, which quickly became a gale, blowing away napkin holder and menus. We retreated inside.

Our food arrived and it was... alright. I suppose. My pork was well-cooked, but mushy & blandish, and I only tasted the chilli on one or two bites. The "salsa" was a very blended thin sauce poured overtop, and the scoop of guacamole was ice cold. There was about 8 corn chips, and a few of those were chewy and stale.

We finished our meal, and both agreed that while it wasn't bad, per se, it was certainly a step down from Guzman y Gomez, or even MadMex. It's strange, because the place is clearly set up to be a sit-down meal establishment, yet we still saw food in takeaway-style paper baskets, and it didn't have the sit-down Mexican dishes you'd expect, like a Chicken Mole. Meal and drinks came to $52 (my burrito went from 13.95 to 17.95 with the addition of the less-than-stellar sauce).

Guzman y Gomez does not need to worry. They are still the Mexican Kings of Newtown. I think, though, that they've spoiled us to expect that "Wow, this is awesome" response from all Mexican restaurants. I'd happily pay higher prices for GyG, but would probably want to pay less for this food.

Maybe they could work out an exchange program, where GyG food is served in the Beach Burrito premesis.

Could work.
Monday
Jan092012

Cameras, moons, lenses, webs, thoughts.

My first digital camera was not my own.

It belonged to my father, who had been given it by his work in 1998. It was an Olympus C2500-L.

He had previously encouraged my photography bug by bringing me film, which I would mail to him when he was away working & he would get developed, claiming it on his expenses. I also was given a very small (for the time) Canon Elph camera with an optical zoom (that was 2x & made a cool whirring noise), and the at-the-time-revolutionary Advantix APS Advanced Photo System (anyone remember this? It had drop-in film cartridges, and a switch on the camera that let you pick three picture sizes, including a double-sized panorama). The little camera worked great until 3 years later one of the films got stuck mid-rewind, and the person at the shop admitted they had no fucking idea how it worked so no one could fix it.

The act of my dad paying for the development (at the cost of a few weeks wait) meant that I started becoming more experimental with my photos. I wasn't paying, so why not have a go? I set up still-lifes. I shot landscapes. Cloudy skies. Trees. Interesting cars. Meanwhile, using the APS film I paid for myself, I was slightly more cautious (and took advantage of the fact that the developing place let you look at the photos first, and you didn't pay for the ones you didn't want).

Anyhow. Digital. He brought the camera back with him, and I spent half the night taking macro shots of Transformers, making light trails by setting it on 2" delay, curtain flashes, and the whole thing.

Then he went back to work, leaving me with my 2 suddenly inadequate-feeling film cameras. I got to use the Olympus a few times more, when he was home, and used it to take portrait sets of friends (and once, a girl I had a crush on).

Later the next year when my birthday rolled around, Dad and I were in Costco, and I was eyeballing the digital cameras. I spotted a cheapie, shaped like a brick with only digital zoom, a tiny screen, and about 3 centimetres thick. He put me on the spot and asked me if I wanted a digital camera. I, in the headlights, said yes. He bought it for me, then magnanimously opined, "That's your birthday present, you know." Gee, thanks Dad. What a surprise. *eyeroll*

I soldiered on with the brick, though, throughout University (despite getting to use the Olympus when he was in town), and began my tradition of taking off with a camera and snapping whatever caught my eye. Buildings. Streetlights. Snow. I was building a library of photos and honing my skills.

About 5 months into my First year in Australia, he sent me the Olympus (missing its remote, and with the viewfinder chipped because he had dropped it and didn't like using the neck strap). I was overjoyed. Suddenly I was taking photos in glorious 800x600, using all 2.5 megapixels, on the often-fragmenting 128-megabyte CompactFlash cards (which retailed for $80 a pop), and loving it. My pictures per year climbed over a thousand. Then three thousand.

The nice thing about the chunky, nearly-a-kilo-with-batteries Olympus was that it looked more serious than, say, a little Cybershot. That meant people took it more seriously when I would turn up to a gig or an event to take photos. However, the battery life (powered by 4xAAs!) began to decline, even with new batteries. It weighed a ton, which necessitated a separate bag to carry it, and making candid snaps extremely difficult (it was a proper DSLR, so no image preview on the screen before taking, though I got very good at snapping without looking).

These negatives were pushed aside the moment I got a mobile phone with a whopping 2 megapixel camera. First a Motorola Razr V3X, then a Nokia 6120. Suddenly I didn't need the paperweight to take photos. I learned later that the CCD chip in the camera meant for more depth & clarity, but I was wowed by convenience. An upgrade to an 8-megapixel Samsung Ultra Touch only exacerbated the grain, and after only 12 months of struggling with the Samsung filing system, I gave up, and got an iPhone4.

By that point, my photo taking had exploded to several thousand per month. The iPhone's suite of photo apps expanded my range, and I began to experiment more and more with effects, inspired by people like DocPop. It also brought me to Instagram, which I've talked about before, and I was able to interact with full-on proper photographers like Katrucia, Ellendisaster & Diana (formerly Artemis/Dee from the WD).

But this post is about cameras, not phones.

At my workplace, they had an art competition. I was the first to enter, offering up 6 photographs I'd taken with my iPhone, two of which I only had the Instagram versions of, which grained out quite a bit. Unlike the only other art competition I entered (where I placed 2nd), I didn't even make the top 5 (though I think that was down to A) then putting all 6 photos as separate entries and leaving other multiple entries as a single number to vote for, and B) the fact that I didn't tell anyone to vote for me, leaving the work to speak for itself).

It was shortly after that that I decided that a better digital still camera was needed, having not had a new one in 12 years or so. I'll spare you guys the story of my bargain hunting and stalking past counters once I decided that I wanted the NEX-5N. I wanted something with some serious grunt & control, but I would be buggered if I was going to lug around something as big as the Olympus again. I convinced Tanja, and it was going to be a Christmas present.

Then work asked me to take photos & portraits at the Christmas party, based on the fact that "you do, like, photos, right?" I got it into my head that "portraits" meant "lug your tripod to parramatta & take posed shots", and wheedled Tanja that I could do that with an iPhone, so I got the NEX early. Of course, that night was mostly me running around taking candid snaps because there was no room for my tripod, but I digress.

I love my NEX. I love all the extra modes I've discovered, like the high-contrast black-and-white, the high-speed continuous mode that can catch raindrops in the air, the rapid-snapping twilight mode (or paparazzi mode, as it was dubbed at a party), I love the fact that I can take photos of people on the sidewalk from a moving car, I love the interchangeable lenses and the ability to get more specialized ones, I love the whole package.

Since getting it, I've actually met a few of the people mentioned, such as EllenDisaster (who photographed Tanja & I in our bedroom with legit film) & Katrucia (who took me along on a camera adventure in Erskineville & intimidated me with the size of her DSLR).

So last night I was walking home from the train, and I spotted the moon, hanging like a mango just over the roofs of the houses bright as a streetlight. I tried to snap it once with my iPhone, then ran home, grabbed my camera and ran back out. But despite all my trying, I couldn't get anything but a bright disc of light from the moon. I chronicled my attempts on Instagram:



Diana was extremely helpful, offering up advice to use 1/100th of a second, F16 & ISO100. I grabbed my tripod & set up in the backyard & tried everything. No joy. The NEX was automated enough that in order to get F16, it'd shift to 10". Try as I might I couldn't get it to work.



I felt despair looming, as this was the first time in a month that my camera had let me down. Was I kidding myself that I had proper equipment, that I was a proper photographer?

But then I noticed something.

In the dark, stretched from out mailbox across to the palm tree, was this:






I snapped a few in twilight mode, then angled down and capture this beauty, in the dark:



I then felt so much better about myself that I had to write this rambling incoherent blog about the cameras I've owned.

A side note: shortly after I got my NEX, I was outside in the backyard during magic hour taking photos of my plants to test the macro. I was trying really hard to focus on an extended green sprout off of a climbing vine, but couldn't get it. I gave up, bringing the camera inside to review the photos on my iPad. It was then I noticed that though I couldn't get the sprouting leaves, the camera had focused incredibly sharply on the join between the sprout and the stem. I cropped the photo there, and love the result (the Instagram version doesn't quite do it justice).



I want to say something Confucian & profound about how one should not strain for the focus one thinks one wants, but to look for where the focus is, be in that moment, and let that be your picture, but I probably can't get the tone right.