27 September 2010

Not for the Faint of Heart - Vagina Talk

Okay, how about something a little unorthodox... Can you handle a whole day of talk about VAGINAS?

Dr. Virginia Braun, Psychology Dept, Univ of Auckland, New Zealand

Sunday was a most interesting day for me. Model, Samantha invited me to a women's conference on Sunday at UNLV called, "Framing the Vulva: Genital Cosmetic Surgery and Genital Diversity". Sam and I have had extensive discussions on the matter and she thought I might be interested in attending this conference. It was put on by UNLV and the New View Campaign, who has a slogan that says: Challenging the Medicalization of Sex.

The goal of the New View Campaign is to expose biased research and promotional methods that serve corporate profit rather than people's pleasure and satisfaction. The Campaign challenges all views that reduce sexual experience to genital biology and thereby ignore the many dimensions of real life.

Morning plenary session, 150 attendee
I gotta tell you it was quite enlightening. Over the years, I've had situations where several models have confided in me about horrid stories regarding the way they look "down there". The conferences main focus this weekend was addressing the negative perception women have about their vaginas that lead them to undergo cosmetic surgery called labiaplasty which is the surgical removal or trimming of the labia minora. I won't go into detail here, but I could share with you a myriad of stories of women as young girls who were traumatized either throughout their childhood or at least at some point in their lives for having labia that hangs out or extends past the vulva more than what some women might deem as being normal. In addition to these experiences, I've had sex classes in college both from a sociological perspective and psychological. So these topics of discussion were not new to me, but it was still interesting to see some of the more recent empirical research and data on this topic.

Dr. Marta Meana, Prof of Psychology, UNLV. Afternoon workshop
"Ewww Factor" Workshop, Dr. Meana, UNLV

2nd Afternoon Workshop "Empowerment Through
Vulva Photography"
The main reason this conference was held was actually as a COUNTER-conference to the Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery Conference that was held this weekend at the Venetian Hotel and Casino which hosted people in the medical profession that promote labiaplasty and other cosmetic surgery of the genitals. This organization points out that there is more commercialization of these procedures as opposed to actual treatment with the individual in mind. They DO NOT like Dr. David Matlock, who you may have seen on Dr. 90210 and the View. He's even got new procedures now that give you a Brazilian Butt. One procedure that was new to me was a means of restoring the pink color back to the labia. We were also presented with lots of great input on why women do this, but the primary focus has been on the societal pressure to appear as the women you see in print media for the pornography industry where depictions of the vagina are on constant display however the trend is for the "clean and neat" vaginas which mean the inner lips are small and are not as visible. Some of the research I didn't totally agree with and some could have been better, but for the most part, they were informative. Discussions during the first half of the day included, Embracing Genital Diversity, Pleasure and Sex Ed, Art Activism, "Retail Medicine", and a critical view of the conference at the Venetian.

Photographer/Sexologist and "Petals" author, Nick Karras,
along with Carolina Ramos and Sayaka Adachi

Sexologist, Sayaka Adachi of San Diego during the
Vulva Photography Afternoon Workshop
For me, the more interesting part of the day was the afternoon sessions where we broke up into separate workshops of which we could select 2 of the 6 activism workshops available. My first session was the "Eww Factor: Clinical Reflections on the Role of Vulva Dissatisfaction/Disgust" done by Dr. Marta Meana, Professor of Psychology, UNLV. My second workshop was "Empowerment through Vulva Photography" which focused on the artwork of photographer/sexologist, Nick Karras who authored, "Petals". Nick was accompanied by Carolina Ramos, Program Director, Latino Services, San Diego LGBT Community Center. Also leading this workshop was Sayaka Adachi, clinical sexologist and orgasm coach also in San Diego. About 150 people attended the conference. It was also a different twist when one of the participants gave some excellent points with reference to how Christians might look at this issue. There is really just too much information that I'm almost tempted to get into, but I think the basics will suffice rather than breaking down the details of each class, topic, and bullet points. Anybody with more interest can visit some of the sites and links or just contact me for more details. Thanks Sam for the invite.

23 September 2010

Dave's Visit and the Sara Ziff Documentary

"We might need to see you without your bra, he told me. I was 14... I didn't even have breasts yet." 
~ Sara Ziff, supermodel

This is not Sara Ziff
I know I wanted to keep Tara, The Organic Sister's post up for a spell, but I didn't mean for it to be this long before I posted again. I've got a couple projects I'm working on and am behind, actually, so that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.


Got to chill out with the incomparable Dave Rudin last week. That's was cool. I took him around some of my stomping grounds near Red Rock to scout out some locations for a shoot, which didn't happen. That was still okay. It just didn't work out timing-wise with the model who was traveling through Vegas. Dave still got to shoot another local girl while he was here. Breakfast, as always was at The Original Pancake House and I had my same old French Toast. We also got to head out to Valley of Fire since Dave hadn't been there in a long time. I thought I was going to have to take it easy on the guy, but hell, not only did he keep up, but he was out-pacing me at times! It was good to see him again. I guess its my turn to head back to New York for a change. Let me just go book a ticket right now...

Hysterically, I just popped over to Dave's Blog. He's basically already done yesterday the same thing I'm doing today only he's posting shots of me and also regales his adventures while here. I just wanted to point out that it was by mere coincidence that we are at the movies both wearing red shirts. Just thought I'd clear that up. COINCIDENCE!

Dave must have forgotten that he can't be a Vulcan.
All Vulcan's names begin with a letter "S".
(I apologize for knowing that.)

I'm hoping to find the new autobiographical documentary by supermodel, Sara Ziff called, "Picture Me: A Model's Diary". What started out as personal videos has turned into a full on feature length movie where she gives some insight into the darker side of the modeling industry. This following is an exerpt from Sheila Marikar's article, "As Fashion Week Trots On, New Documentary Exposes Exploitation Behind the Scenes", 16Sept2010

"Picture Me" follows Sara Ziff, a New Yorker who started modeling at age 14, over five years of falling in and out of love with the fashion industry. She struts for Calvin Klein, Chanel and Marc Jacobs; she poses in London, Paris and Milan. But backstage footage of Ziff and her friends (shot by Ziff and her then-boyfriend, filmmaker Ole Schell) reveals realities of the job that few outsiders ever see: models crying as shameless photographers snap them semi-nude, stylists pulling at scalps and tugging at limbs as if their subjects were Barbie dolls." 

Dave Rudin, just messin' around
I found this 2009 interview by Louise France, for The Observer to be most intriguing. Its like she's a whistle-blower on the entire industry and is leaving no one without guilt, though she doesn't name names. I'm imagining that the more this documentary is publicized, the more investigative work that will be done and then those names will be revealed. Some type of federal intervention will ensue, maybe some prosecutions (because she details sexual assault), and then possibly a congressional oversight committee will be established to create some rules called the Sara Ziff Laws under which the Fashion Models Guild will be created to unionize the business. So there's plenty of controversy regarding Sara's documentary and the motives that cause her to shine the light on an industry that has made her wealthy and internationally known. When I do get to see it, I'll be sure to review it here, on PHOTO ANTHEMS BLOG, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is another Sara Ziff interview done by Mother Jones.

On a much more solemn note, I wish to express my condolences to the family of photo peer, Scott Leighty who died last weekend of a massive heart attack or a stroke. He was a member of a photo society I help run and also worked at my favorite camera store here in Las Vegas, B&C Camera

Picture Me Trailer from Blake on Vimeo.

13 September 2010

Your Attention, Please! I Give You...The Organic Sister

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." 
~ Helen Keller

"Tara Shines", photo by Sara Janssen
Every now and again, you run into somebody that who truly epitomizes the human spirit. I initially wanted to describe that as the American spirit, but I gotta say this person goes a little bit beyond that. This isn't so much about national pride as it is about simply a good and responsible human being. I like Tara on 4 different levels. First, I was attracted to her head. She a pretty girl and all, but she's got dreads that make for a good picture. So, yeah, I'm thinking like a photographer first. She used to be a member of a photo society I belong to and I could never lock down a commitment to shoot her. Now she's not here. Everything else I learned about her came after she left. So secondly, I gotta say I admire her boldness to go forth on the road and experience life as she and her family saw fit. Screw normality. She's making her own rules. Third, she's someone who sincerely cares about our planet. I dig that. And fourthly, (if that's really a word), she's a damn good photographer. You can read about her journey and adventures on her blog, The Organic Sister.

So please help me welcome TARA WAGNER to the show.....**APLAUSE**

"The Open Road", © Tara Wagner
Hello Tara. Give me a little bit on who you are and why you're on the road.
     My name is Tara Wagner. I'm married to Justin and mama to an 11 year old son, Zeb. We currently travel full-time in a "vintage" (my alternative to the word "old") Winnebago [...that would be Benny] converted to run on waste veggie oil and solar power. We made the transition to full-time travel after Justin found out he was facing a layoff last year in Las Vegas. Our goal is to eventually find a new home to "settle back down" and just enjoy the hell out of life while we can. 

As it pertains to your 2 goals, how will you know when you find home and what have you absorbed on the road so far? 
     We have a list of criteria in finding a new home, most of it pertaining to our dream of building an off-grid home. So things like rainfall minimums, flexible building requirements and fertile soil are high on the list. We also care deeply about great homeschool laws, local communities and resources, low taxes, etc. But ultimately, I think we'll just "know".

"Good Morning Anne" © Tara Wagner

As for what we've absorbed, it's impossible to describe. We've learned so much about ourselves and each other, things you just can't learn without ample free time and new scenarios and subcultures pushing you outside your comfort zone. A big part for me has been the understanding that my sense of security has nothing to do with my surroundings; it's an inner sense of comfort and home that I think we've all begun to tap into. 

"Red Barn Windows" © Tara Wagner
How long have you been on the road now and how long do you think you'll continue to do this? 
     We left Las Vegas March 5th of this year with the understanding that we'd give this one year before making any permanent decisions. The last 6 months have been amazing and although we still plan to reevaluate this lifestyle next March, I think we're all gravitating toward continuing some form of travel to some extent long-term. Whether that means staying on the road full-time for several years, or being "snow-birds", we're not yet sure. Mostly we're just really enjoying living in this moment. 

Where exactly do you think you'll be in 5 years? 15? 
     You know, we used to have a 5 year plan, determined down to the month! We're now really enjoying being unplanned; it's a pretty new thing for us. I'd like to see us continue traveling for as long as that feels right and then settling down into an off-grid home or eco-community of some sort when the timing works out. 

"Sunset" © Tara Wagner

What's been your most memorable moment so far? And one you'd like to forget? 
     So. Many. Moments. I think some of my favorite moments have been just driving down the road. There is something magical about having your feet on the dash, listening to Free Bird and watching the world flash by the window. It's liberating to feel the sense of timelessness and endless possibilities.
As for the ones we'd like to forget, we have a few Events Which Shall Not Be Named. Most of them involve rain, a fairly new phenomenon to those of us from Vegas. 

I remember when you were in our photo group in Vegas, you had the Un-rules thing. Explain Un-schoolers.

"Sunset Cruiser" © Tara Wagner
     Unschooling is based on a philosophy of trust, respect, unconditional love and a passionate pursuit of one's interest. It tends to explain an educational philosophy that says coerced learning isn't real learning and that true education happens through self-teaching or "autodidactism". As unschoolers, we trust the natural curiosity of children and their interests to lead them to every "subject" they will need to thrive in their life. We haven't found a need for things like textbooks and test scores; we've seen that learning happens naturally as a by-product of living an interesting life.

We consider ourselves Whole Life Unschoolers, mainly for lack of a better term. This means everything we do is filtered through those principles of trust, respect, love and passion and is applied to every aspect of our life, from "work", to our health and relationships. 



  [aw-toh-dahy-dakt, -dahy-dakt] –noun  a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of teacher or formal education; a self-taught person. 
- Dictionary.com]

So what have you been doing lately with photography? Do you have any fave artists? 
     Having fun. :) I always kinda felt in order to make money as a photographer I had to a) shoot portraits and b) be professional. But neither of those appeal to me. So instead I'm goofing off. I'm climbing on trains or shooting from the hip. I'm learning and stumbling and surprising myself. It feels pretty damn amazing to be a self-taught photographer with my photographs hanging internationally.

As for my favorite artists, I tend to enjoy the everyday people the most. It's the mamas and papas and kids just doing their thing, capturing the common and the absolute and the magical bits of life. 

"Tara Toes - Railway Edition"
© Tara Wagner
How does Zeb like it on the road? 
     Zeb loves the new things we've discovered like Jr Ranger Badges and meeting new friends. He likes visiting family we rarely get to see and visiting zoos and museums. He likes chilling out with a game or book too. And he's met some amazing people who have inspired him to do some amazing things. But sometimes it's hard to find kids to connect with and he misses his friends in Vegas, as we all do. Some days he's ready to settle back down and some days he can't imagine ever stopping. We'll see what next March brings. :) 

What was your childhood like socially and academically? 
     I was a pretty quirky, independent kid. Mismatched socks and a serious sense of that I could rule the country if they'd only vote for a 10 year old. Academically, I loved to learned (and still do) but got bored easily. Thankfully my mom supported my decision to leave school and learn on my own, although we hadn't heard about unschooling and didn't have much support. It was a very empowering decision, however, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity . 

Do your and Justin's folks like what you guys are doing? 
     I hope so! :) All of our family has been incredibly supportive. They all brought up legitimate concerns for us to consider but overall have been very supportive and encouraging. 

I have a Pontiac Grand Am. Could Justin convert it to WVO? How's Benny? 
"My Version of a Turkey Shoot" © Tara Wagner
     Justin can convert almost any diesel engine to run on waste veggie oil (WVO); some diesel engines don't take well to the conversion. Benny loves his conversion! He actually runs better on veg than diesel. Overall, for such an old engine and for how long it sat unused, we've been amazingly blessed. He is a bit leaky, but then so are many 28 year olds. ;) 

What is "beyond green"? 
     I tend to see "green" as the trendy stuff, the stuff that should be an obvious, like recycled paper or organic foods. It's the stuff that's easy to greenwash. Beyond green is not just what is "environmentally-friendly", it's also what is sustainable; what can last generations to come without worrying about dwindling resources or environmental impact. Things like permaculture instead of agriculture, solar and wind instead of nuclear or so-called "clean coal," relocalizing communities instead of globalization. 

Helen Keller. What does her quote you use mean to you and how does she inspire you? 
     I love quotes. And I love Helen Keller's story of beating the odds, doing more than people expected of her, living an amazing life against what other people would call "the odds". Her quote, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing," is a reminder to myself to beat my own odds, to live brave and to do the things I will later regret not doing. I don't think I'm here to sit quietly, to work a job I hate, to live a life without purpose. Like Emile Zola said, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: "I am here to live out loud” 

Who else are your present day people you admire and are inspired by? 
     I'm inspired by the people who push their own boundaries; the people who question and rethink the norm and consciously choose their own answers (whether they choose the norm or not). I'm inspired by people who inspire themselves, who live their dreams and don't settle. I've met so many amazing people on the road, people who deserve to have their stories told, and do what they do regardless of a lack of recognition simply because it's what they love. I'm inspired by the people who give with conditions, both to others and themselves; people who are doing amazing things just because they know they can; people who genuinely want others to do the same. That's the kind of person I want to be. 

"One Side of Benny" © Tara Wagner
You sure have a lot of followers. What do you think they expect from you? 
     I hope they expect me to be authentic, because that's what I am regardless. My blog is my creative outlet, my personal journey and my way of connecting to some really amazing people. I love that! And I love that it inspires those people just as much as I've been inspired by other bloggers. I love blogging; it's a truly amazing form of connection. 

What other links do we need to know about? 
     You can find me on my Facebook Fan Page 
My Twitter Page
Follow my blog, The Organic Sister
And check out my photography site: http://www.redbubble.com/people/tarawagner/art
By the end of this month or next I'll have a brand new site up and running devoted completely to green living and sustainability! [Check back often. Be sure to see her blog for Unschooling Coaching and Mentorship as well as some of the other Mobile Services they provide.]

What's next for you and your family? 
     Life! It's pretty exciting. :) 

How can we help? 
     Subscribe to my blog! Buy my photography! Send me love notes! Tell us about some cool place we should visit! Invite us to dinner! We'd never turn down foot rubs and gluten-free cookies either. ;)

"Benny on the Road Getting Towed" © Tara Wagner

So that's Tara, folks. Although she might not say it, I'm going to let you know how else you can also help.  DONATIONS!  As you can see from her latest blog post, old Benny broke down (and in the pic above) there was no calling a regular tow truck to come help. That's the more expensive kind. So maybe you can help with repairs for Benny. She's got a Paypal button on the sidebar of her blog. You may have to scroll a bit, or you can just click *HERE*. So help a Sista out. This is a hippie-chick with purpose and she's on a mission that benefits you too! At the very least, send her a note and let her know you support her. Show yo' love folks.

Thanks Tara for the interview. Say hi to Justin, Zeb, and Benny!

All photos related to his post are copyrighted by Tara Wagoner or Sara Janssen (Tara's Portrait), so please respect their copyrights.

08 September 2010

From a Recent Conversation

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." 
-- Dave Rudin quoting Albert Einstein to me this past week.

Lissa...she may have been the first grandmother
 I ever worked with
This post could actually be titled "Observations of Self, Part II", now that I see what I've written. I had something else in mind to write about, but this came up instead. A model, that I hadn't shot in a while, and I were talking recently and she suggested that I'm an entirely different photographer. Though miles and miles separate us now, she feels she'd like to shoot with me again just to experience this difference first hand. I hadn't worked with her since I my film days and she brought up some of our conversations that I certainly didn't remember, but can't deny because I knew my line of thought back then. She asked why I had changed so much and said that it bordered on the radical. I countered with a premise suggesting that the change is more due to an evolutionary trend in my work, but she still disagreed. I guess I can see her point, as she began to elegantly make her case.

Point 1: I shoot digital instead of film now and there is much more "added" to my photos than just the shot as is.

This is indeed a big change for a photog. The to different mediums are opposite in many ways. One is analog and the other is not. You shoot entirely different in digital when you expose for light. In film, more info was in the shadows whereas digital the majority of the greater info is towards the right side of the histogram. Well, I don't need to give you a lecture on the differences of digital vs. film. For me the biggest change was in my post work, the editing. I went from an intimate knowledge of film processing back to square one with having to learn new edit techniques using Photoshop. At some point, I guess, I had expressed my distaste for digital work, mainly because of my love for the darkroom. At this point in time, I am beginning to get into my groove with darkroom manipulations, following some of the examples of Jerry Ulesmann, but also some of my own original ideas, playing with textures, double exposures, and sandwiched negatives. I was using fabrics, translucent gels, chemical tones, paint, and other materials to vary  up some of my designs. Doing this via a computer just seemed like cheating and took away the craftsmanship. I argued that if Michaelangelo had used computers to design and carve out his statue of David, he'd be considered a renowned engineer, not an artist.

This is a darkroom manipulation, done with a distressed fabric
overlay fitted in the enlarger and chemical toning. Model, Elizabeth
I guess, I've seen the light now and have begun to pick up where I left off from the darkroom. Now I use layers and masks to do the same thing in Photoshop with the help of a few other key plug-ins. There is still a measure of craftsmanship that is lost, I think, because I am not doing this with my hands anymore, but then again, there's so much more that I am doing that I couldn't do before. I love using layers and textured backgrounds. I particularly have a penchant for distressed papers or parchments that I can overlay an image on, add another texture at varying opacities, and then border it with a vignette or something. I'm limited only by my ability to imagine and envision a project. I can always find a way to create it, even if it takes me all day. I've worked for more than 12 hours straight on a particular effect that just wasn't coming out right which is the same as I'd do in a darkroom, only I'd be going through a box of paper and chemicals in the process. I can't tell you how many times I've had to refresh exhausted developers and fixers on a single image just for a desired effect.

Point 2: I've got models in much more bold poses than I ever did before.

A bold Lissa
This is definitely another true point. This model mentioned how, at the time of our sessions, I'd strongly reconsider working with a model if she was clean-shaven, meaning no pubic hair whatsoever. Now, I have some women showing all their pride and glory. The first part of that statement is not totally accurate. I did sort of start out that way, but quickly realized that since many models were shaved clean, I could  accept it or quit it. I shot many shaved models with film. I can't deny the latter part of her point. Rarely did I do a shot that was too bold in the beginning. I might be a grown man, but hey...my Mama still sees this stuff! I'm in my forties now, and I still got a call at 2am when she discovered one of my shots. This was just earlier this year! No, my goal isn't to start doing porn, but in many of my sessions, I take what the model gives me. I still place the model and direct her as needed, but I like to let her do her thing. Some are simply more bold than others and they may pose more explicitly than someone else who is a little more reserved. Samantha immediately comes to mind. We did recent work in which she doesn't mind everything being out there, but you don't see her doing anything  suggestive.

More conservative, Melanie
A model once told me quite censoring myself and shoot the nude and quit omitting parts of the nude. Its all or nothing. Well, I am sure there are varying opinions of that notion. Many well respected models shoot nudes and never give you a hint of what lies beneath. Others with just as equal respect have no problem with it. I got a comment from one woman who thought showing a woman's secret was disgusting. Other women applauded me. At the very least, I don't mind doing shots like this if I can take the element of sex out of it. Impossible, you say? Maybe...but many see sex in a shot of bare breasts. It's all in the way you present it. I'd rather one see the art behind it, more so than experience a need for a release. If anything, I'm illustrating the model's expression of her saying, "This is me...deal with it." I don't want to deliver an image by which the model is trying to seduce you. With that said, I do want to sometime present an erotic series at some point, but again, heavy on the art, light on the sexual emphasis. I shoot life. Sex is a part of life...an essential part, actually, but as of yet, I don't think I have the ability just yet to illustrate sex in art without it becoming pornographic. So despite some of the more explicit poses I shoot, I still draw a line.

Point 3: My Model Choices

Model, Lissa
Now this is one point, I know I can disagree with. The model's initial suggestion was that I only shot girls that were glamorous, but in a non-glamor fashion. What she meant was that I shot women who were perfect 10s only I didn't add in the make-up, hair, and other adornments. Now she sees the older women and women of various sizes. Well, I did shoot petite and well-developed women but I never restricted myself to women like that. I think she missed the large woman with the tattoos that I worked with and she didn't know about the couple in their 50s that I shot on their back wood estate as a commission. She likes the recent work I've done with Joanie, but I had to correct her in that one of my first pieces that I considered great was of another woman similar to Joanie. (I only have mounted prints of that model with no scans). She saw that I now have Black women in my portfolio...few, but still some. Again, I did shoot one Black woman early on in my film days. Shooting the Sistas ain't easy. Its HARD to get a black woman to pose nude. I thought being a Black photog, it would be a cinch! Ahh, no... That's a hard sell. Well, its at least been so with me. Most attribute it to upbringing, but I am sure there are other reasons why as well, but this blog post is already getting lengthy.

Model, Lissa
I like intriguing women of all various shapes and sizes. I won't say I can shoot anybody, but my range is pretty wide. I weigh my selection of models by what's on the inside of them just as well as what they look like on the outside, if not more so. Attitude goes a long way. In my art, my concentration is on form and shape and what I might be able to do with it using light and shadow, as well as how it interacts or balances with the surrounding area. I can get shapes out of most any model by positioning them, using angles, and in how they are lit. I actually shy away from most glamor shots. Its not my thing. As natural as possible is the way I like to shoot. Exceptions about here and there, but that's primarily it. I gravitate toward the imperfections. Scars, tats...I can work with that. Some of my first models had perfect bodies, but its not anything I needed and I think that's a contributing factor of why potential models are more comfortable with me. They can see themselves in my work more so than they can a photog who's port is filled with glamor and fashion.

So I know I've changed and I've blogged on this before. I still see it as more of an evolution than becoming a totally different photographer. This model whom you've probably never seen before, is someone I'd love another crack at. You haven't seen her because I have a standing agreement that no images can be on the web. It was one of my first agreements like that, before I had a blog, website, or any online profiles. I can exhibit her prints in a contest or gallery, but the web is a no-go. I no longer make those agreements! Also, I thought I'd throw in another "How It Should Have Ended" short clip. This one parodies, "Inception".

02 September 2010

Observations of Self

“Optimist only sees doughnut. Pessimist sees hole.”

- Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)

I think I'll make this an on-going series. I did my first Observations of Self a year ago and I thought it went really nice. I liked it better than when I interviewed myself. I came to close to risking dissociative identity disorder while doing that. (Feel free to check it out again.) But just a general review of simple observations can't really hurt. They will always start with something I observe but then the series mixes up a little after that and will reflect something I thought was interesting or otherwise noteworthy. I at least want it to reflect somebody I meet, something I read, or someplace I went. Sooo....

Something I Observed
I was on my way to a dinner the other night and figured I'd stop at the nearby Whole Food's Market to pick up a bottle of wine as requested. The parking lot is full of automobiles that are of much better quality than mine. Most of the people who shop here are of a tab bit high social status than myself. In addition, I've got the dustiest car within a mile radius. I spend too much time out in the wilderness to be washing my car that much. But after I observed this, I next saw an elderly gentleman, walking slowly up the row of cars looking disoriented. I could also see that he held is car remote down to his side and was pressing it repeatedly. I knew that meant that he had lost his car, but I never know how anybody's going to respond to me asking them if they need help. As a large black man in an exclusive white environment, I tend to tread lightly in those situations. Some of you might think I'm over-reacting playing the overbearing and tired old race card, but I'd have to frankly say kiss my ass. I've been in the same situation where a woman screamed her head off and pleaded with me not to hurt her. This was only a few years ago and she was stranded on the side of the road. I could see if I was rollin' up in a old Cutlass, Impala, or a low-riding Chevy Caprice, but I was in a white minivan, dressed in a 3-piece suit, getting off of work at the bank. Everybody isn't as progressive as some others and you never know what a person might come to believe in times of stress and duress. So since they don't carry a sign that says, "I may be frightened by Black people", I approach carefully. Or I could just ignore people in need, I guess.

Model Clarissa

Now back to my story. Where was I...oh, yes...I kept my distance from the man and asked if he had lost his car. He was hard of hearing, so I approached a little closer and repeated myself more loudly. He affirmed that he had indeed misplaced himself. He considered that the car may have been stolen because he was absolutely certain that he parked right up front where we were. After about 10 mins, this parking lot was getting hot, but I still could not find his car. The thought occurred to me that he could have been disoriented with respect to how far he may have walked to the car, so from the place he thought he had parked, I just went back to the far end of the lot. Sure enough, it was there...his silver Camry. He begged to differ and insisted that it was not his. I had to run back out there get the licence and verify with him again. It was his. He couldn't believe that he had walked that far from his car to the store. Lesson: I've seen this quite often. Pay attention to the elderly people in the parking lots and see if they need help.

Someone I Met
Alex. Alex is an Argentinian Christian who was wondering the park looking to pray for people or tell people about Christ. This happened this past Sunday, late afternoon as I was visiting with a client that I'll be doing some work for shortly. She and I had just walked all over Sunset Park here in Vegas and had stopped for a spell and sat down on one of the covered picnic tables. There was a large Mexican family about 50 feet next to us. Part of their group, about 4 men, were kicking a soccer ball back and forth to our front. It was getting late at this point, when Alex and another guy who's name escapes me, approached us and said hello. I thought he was just passing through and that would be it, but then he started in on how wonderful a day it was. I noticed the Bible in his hand and his peer had one too. My first guess was that he was Jehovah's Witness, but I also had to take into consideration that he may have been someone dishonest like a swindler or pickpocket...nothing dangerous, but someone who might try to distract you and take your belongings.

Fortunately, Alex was on the up and up. He talked to us for a bit. We conversed back. When he asked to pray for us, I figured, "...who can say they are well enough that they need no more prayer in their life". So Alex prayed, said his good-byes and God bless, then he was on his way to the next family. I didn't close my eyes during the prayer, but I still received it. Who can turn down prayer? But at the same time, you can't be too cautious. Anyway, Thanks Alex from Argentina.

Something I Read
I know this might seem a little off-beat, but it sure surprised the hell out of me. I mean, maybe you all knew the deal and I was just behind the times or just merely among the ignorant. Yesterday, I just now found out that Charlie Chan wasn't even Chinese! I'm not talking about Jackie Chan...(granted, that would probably be a bigger surprise if we found out Jackie Chan was really Canadian.) I'm talking Charlie Chan from way back in the 1920's and 30's. Okay, some of you may have no idea who I am referring to. You don't see much of his work running in syndication right now, but when I was coming up, it was still a big late night or Saturday morning gig. Charlie Chan was the Asian Sherlock Holmes. He and his "Number One Son" would go around solving crimes. He was a Honolulu police detective, but he also took his show on the road internationally. There are more than 40 feature films that were made, and the more popular ones were done by actor Warner Oland. He's the only Charlie Chan I know although there may have been about 6, (none of them Chinese). Now who knows of any Chinese guy named WARNER much less OLAND. He's Swedish and attributes his success to his mongoloid features. He did not speak any Chinese (Mandarin or any other dialect). His linguistics consisted of only English and the tongue of his homeland. Nevertheless, he was still popular in China. I don't know if they knew of his origins, but maybe they did. You have to remember both Blacks people and Asians are still trying to find their place in Hollywood cinema that didn't include the negative stereotypical connotations that saddled them during this time.

"Interpretations of Chan by critics are split, especially as relates to his ethnicity. Positive interpretations of Chan argue that he is portrayed as intelligent, benevolent, and honorable, in contrast to most depictions of Chinese at the time the character was created. Others argue that Chan, despite his good qualities, reinforces Chinese stereotypes such as poor English grammar, and is overly subservient in nature." 
- Wikipedia
One last thing I want to draw your attention to is the new link on the right, "The Organic Sister" which is the blog of a friend of mine who decided to hit the road with her family in a big RV. How do you describe her? Well, I guess, just like her blog title says...straight up organic, but she's a sistTER, not a sisTA. She's really big on growing her own stuff, though not necessarily in her RV. She had a garden here in Vegas. She a green girl through and through, some may say hippie-ish, but I like hippies. She's got a beautiful head. We were never quite able to lock down a portrait session together, but I really wanted to capture her head...really nice dreads on a beautiful face. I don't think her hubby will mind me saying that. But the biggest thing is that she's become an incredible photographer! I'll be doing an interview with her soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, go visit her link...Here it is again, in case you just don't feel like scrolling up a few lines for the previous link. The Organic Sister.

Hope you enjoy the pics of Clarissa from a few years ago. I thought I'd also include this video parody my favorite, "The Lord of the Rings". Its titled, "The Lord of the Rings: How it Should Have Ended" (Click the link if you can't see the vid.) Its only a couple of minutes long, but funny.