SPORTS and Head Injuries.

Riots on Broad Street tonight? I hope so. Photo update tomorrow from last nights tom-foolery.


I walked into an iron towel hook on Saturday afternoon and split my head open. I had my roommate look at my head - it was bleeding. Being the queasy man he was, he couldn't tell if it needed stitches. Being Red Cross trained by also concussed, I assumed it was didn't. I then went for a photo walk in the rain with a vintage briefcase, setting up the attaché in front of various scenery and snapping photographs. I should have known then that I needed some hospital attention, but first I went to CVS and spent upwards of $30 on crap I didn't need, including an $11.59 moisturizing cream (they make that?) and 9 volt batteries.

Then I went to Jefferson Hospital after mistakenly walking to a rehab clinic down the street from my house, which looked curiously like a hospital. I got there and went to check it, and was greeted at the Registration desk with, "Hello, thank you for choosing Jefferson. How can I help you today."

"My head's bleeding."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Can I have you social security number?"

Well, yeah, I guess you can. I've never had such a corporate experience at a medical facility, nor been treated with such incompetence. Three different medical professionals looked at me before a charming but rather condescending doctor who identified himself as a Senior Doctor on the Emergency Care Ware locked eyes with me and held his face about three inches of mine to tell me "everything would be okay." I had a hard time not laughing in his face. On someone elses body, I can tell if something needs stiches no problem. Yet, Jefferson Hospital needs a senior doc to tell me my boo-boo is gonna be just fine. Cripes.

Capitalism + Medical Care = Wierd.
Today I saw a tour-bus commandeered for use as a t-shirt delivery vehicle. A man with a microphone shouted the praises of the 76ers (seriously? Heard of the World Series?) and volunteers on top threw t-shirts overboard. Grown men and women - professionals, from their dress, pushed each other out of the way, jostling to get what ended up being a pretty disappointing shirt. This is what our culture has come to - a made grab to get whatever we can? I would hope not, but the mob mentality was out in force today, and it pains me to see that our efforts at civilization may not be as iron clad as we pretend they are.

Missed Connections = Art

Craigslist is either a font of wisdom or a presentation of the magical farce that can often be human existence.

A simple scroll through any of the dating sections - missed connections, especially - reveals such a strange medley of facts about human nature that one could take it for a life lesson. Yet, it also reveals that life is such a strange and mostly absurd wander that you can't help but chuckle. It's funny, it's enlightening - it might even be a masterpiece.

There's something about the way people quest for each other, the strange mix of hope and helplessness that missed connections evokes, that inspires and cracks up. On one hand, you've got anonymous love-struck birds with nothing to do to soothe themselves but twitter their song into the ether of the internet. On the other hand, you've got seriously distraught posts about ex-loves, the ache of existence, etc. It's true in it's depth and realism but absurd it's public forum. But then, also, is life, as we strut about the stage toward a unhurried yet never timely death.


Oh also, this:

1. Amazing center-fielder. How many outs did he make? At least four in the last two innings.
2. WOLRD SERIES WOW. Never thought that'd happen.
3. Philly was a very loud, happy city last night, and that was heart-warming.
4. It feels really good to see the Phillies do this. It makes me feel proud to be part of this city.
5. I'm sitting outside of the games with a radio and waiting for the riots, camera in hand. Expect photographs.

See, proving my own point. Distractions, kids.

p.s. Journalists keep calling Victorino a Hawaiian-American. Are they unaware that we annexed Hawaii in '59? I can imagine that conversation with the editor.

Go Go Gadget Existentialism

Define the American Dream.

A house in the suburbs for all your hard work, perhaps, or the chance to make dinero hand over the fists of your subordinates, or the opportunity to follow one's heart into the great wilderness and be praised as a hero? It's a strange combination of individualistic Puritanism, but it has one glaring - epic, even - flaw.

Nothing is or ever will be perfect. You can do all the pushing, all the inventing and all the sojourning you'd like, but for all your work, chances are that you'll still feel all roiled up inside. No amount of American Dreamer-ism can free us from the human condition, from the constant to-and-fro in our guts. It cannot free us from strife, worry, pain, neurosis, or fear. We are bound by these things as we are bound by our skin. Selling ten thousand cars won't cure this, exploring the Rockies won't cure this, rearing two less-screwed-up-than-usual children won't cure this. It may be trite, but we cannot escape who we are.

So why do we bother, then? Why do we do the things we do, why do we feel ambition, hope, ecstasy? Because we are and always will be dreamers, as a people, race, and species. We have the stars in our eyes and our feet on the ground, and are forever trying to bring the great chasm between them to a close.

And it's right that we should do this, because we need something to distract us from our watery insides or we will surely drown in them. Without the quest, without even the surface meaning of trying, we would be paralyzed, forever doom and gloom. We need to move forward even if that movement is illusionary, even if the great existential crises will never be resolved.

Do not mistake this as hopelessness. Without our daily tasks, we would have almost no meaning to our existence. Am I saying all of human history is one great diversion, one great trick to try and keep the stomach settled and the mind at ease? Well, yes. And why not? What other reason motivates us? God is just as absurd, as is some innate need to create and provide. We are always driven by desire, says the 8 Fold Path, and we are always in pain because of it. Our desire is motivated by our pain, I say - we do things to block out what we don't want to feel, to distract.

But this does mean that, because we cannot reach inner peace, we should stop trying. It's all about the pursuit. But when one accepts the final truth that things will never be perfect, that enlightenment is a myth and nothing will make you feel complete for longer than a few months, that is when the final freedom is reached. If you are no longer questing for perfection, no longer hunting for the right woman, man, job, or mission, you may find that the things around you take on a greater significance, a larger importance and a higher beauty. The small things may now be satisfying, and the things that grated on you before may now be bearable.

So what then, lower your standards to keep yourself happy? No. Or only sort of. Lower you standards to quell some of the internal sloshing and make it easier to do, create, and live. Otherwise, we simply might die as frustrated as we were born, crying out for anything to save us.

Now for something completely different: the Dow rising!

Despite my spiffy Obama pin/shirt combo, I will not be voting for Barack. No, despite the fact that it is Baracktober, despite the fact that I would love to Barack the vote, and despite the fact that I do, absolutely, smell what Barack is cooking, I will not be voting for him.

But I will still be voting NoCain. But with the Libertarian party instead.

Wha?! But you live in Phiwwie!

I know, quell your riotous impulses. But Barack has a 14 point lead in this state, and a bajillion point lead in Philadelphia. Did you see the maddness on Broad Street, or hear the boos at the flyers game as Sarah Sixpack Palin dropped the puck? No, I will not gild this political lily. Instead, I'm going to cast my vote to support a third party.

But why? And what animal will they be?

They will be a giraffe, because its proportions are pleasing yet ridiculous, much like the Libertarians. As to the why: there is so little difference between the two major parties, and variety is the spice of life as well as the political process. It's good for your country, young patriot, as well as your mental health; I am so sick of hearing about only two major parties. I demand more interesting news!

So I encourage a limited number of Philadelphians to do the same. But only a few! Or I'll spoil the election.

Probama Rally

I'm fresh from the trenches, as it might be, on Broad Street today. Hundreds of Senator Obama's supporters turned out today to rally against Sara Palin, who was staying at the Bellvue Hotel in Center City. Despite the fact that she was not seen by or heard from, the crowd kept a high level of energy all afternoon, chanting slogans and encouraging passing motorists to honk. In attendance was a 82-year-old woman giving the "peace" sign, a couple in shirts that read "Sara Palin is a Cunt," (get yours here), the Veterans Against McCain, who waved an American Flag with the three-pronged symbol for "peace" on the field, and a pair of teenagers who held hockey sticks reading, together, "Fuck Palin." Although at first I just thought they said "Fuck." Which was amusing and confusing.

It dawned on me, as I stood in the massive crowd on the Broad Street median, that this could be one of the more signifigantly historical moments of my life. Will I tell my brother's children about this election? Will I show off my aged Obama button, or my tattered Palin is a Cunt shirt? I would hope so. Out there on the median, it felt significant, meaningful, like we were all part of something bigger than ourselves. And while I'm less prObama and more NoCain, I still couldn't resist yelling along with the crowd. It's hard not to protest Palin's idiocy.

Here's hoping that we won't have four more years of the same, though I wish I could do more than hope. With a government in power that's this corrupt, it's hard to tell if voting will matter at all.

(No fly list?)

Non-Representative Democracy

Last night, I filmed a debate between two surrogates of Obama and McCain. The showdown was hosted by the Philadelphia Architectural Committee, and the subject was how the presidential candidates would treat urban areas during their prospective terms.

It's an extremely relevant topic, but also an extremely dry one. Most infrastructure issues, I learned, involve complex negotiations over federal funding, allocation, and pork-barrel lobbying. It's not as if someone says, "We need a railroad here," and the railroad will soon be. Rather, the idea passes through dozens of committees and revisions. By the time it emerges, it's usually voted down. And while I would love someone to say, "We need a national rail system that's affordable and functional," projects like that are generally viewed as money holes by the current administration and face tidal waves of opposition, especially given the currently financial state of our country. Yet, I can't help but think, if we have enough money to bail out banks, why can't we update our country's crumbling infrastructure?

Furthermore, the debate was attended almost exclusively by rich, white UPenn students. The debate focused on mass transit and infrastructure, issues that affect those who are bound to the city for life and don't make a lot of money. In a minority-majority city, there were two African-Americans in the attendance, and one was serving drinks.

This seems to send a pretty clear image of our country's political climate. It's no secret that white males still have almost all the power in the country, but it's so disheartening to see that even the democratic tradition of debate is still restricted to members of one race. Those in attendance were likely to never be affected by the issues presented: most will move to the suburbs, and I cannot imagine that any of them will be forced to rely on public transportation as their only means to get around the city. Yet those who are forced to rely and those who are deeply affected by the issues were not in attendance. It's virtually maddening.

When I went to argue my case before SEPTA last year during the possible budget collapse, I was one of the few white people in the audience, and that made sense to me; I'm usually one of the few white people on the subway. The audience reflected the ridership, and the community that was affected. But yesterday, there was no sort of representation like that. Instead, we all chatted over white wine and catered edibles. It was as if we were putting on a show for ourselves to show that we were concerned public citizens who cared about the well-being of the poor riff-raff beneath, and it made me vaguely ill.

Something is rotten in Denmark when those who are the most affected are not even invited to the table.

The Self is a Land Mine

Creating a self-portrait is deceptively complicated. While putting your own face in a photograph is a simple enough task - timer, tripod, go - there are so many underlying issues to creating meaningful self portraits that it seems like more a philosophical exercise than a physiological one.

The problem is this: if a self-portrait is an expression of the self, you need to know yourself very well in order to create a meaningful image. Otherwise, its simply your face in a photograph. As a college student working on creating a self-portrait that plunges to the depths of the self, I've realized that my definition of who I am is not that tightly bound. At times, it seems defined simply by whom I'm around. At other times, it seems so deeply buried that ten shovels and and earth moving equipment couldn't shake a clear image from my skull. Then, at other times, it seems so vast and complex that it could never be represented in a single image, or a series of images.

So what have I done? A lot of soul searching, obviously. Big questions come up frequently, like what it means to know the self and have a consciousness. Another problem is the naturally flawed glass one looks through when plumbing one's own depths. It common to distort or misrepresent, or to project an image of what you want to see rather than what you are. Such projection reduces an honest, powerful image to a somewhat embarrassing and fellatious fake.

My musings here are uninteresting and vague, but I've discovered that its a fools game to think that something so inherently ambiguous as the concept of the "self" could be represented succinctly and sufficiently in a photograph. The best one can do is capture an element of it in and hope that that element is true enough to be meaningful. If enough of these elements are collected, they begin to come together to form a meaningful whole.

That said, here a few images I've been working on over the last week. Hopefully I've connected to myself on a deep enough level that the viewer can see some of what makes me in them. After all, we're all made of the same fuzzy atoms. Click for full resolution.

(This is my back, which is riddled with acne scars.)

MVC Dance Party?

Sitting in the plastic bucket seat at the MVC (the hell-hole previously known as the DMV), something odd struck me. In the middle of a over-landscaped office park, surrounded by men in suits and old folks from the suburbs, hearing the lazy call from the public address system for number 54, I realized that this would be a great place for a dance party.

But not just any dance party. A strange, unexpected event of a dance party. What I'm imagining is this. A man, myself, dressed non descriptly, walks in to the agency. He is carrying, predictably, a boombox. He waits for a few minutes for his number to be called, and then presses play on the machine. There, in the middle on of the sacred halls of banality that dot modern existence, where no fun is ever allowed under any circumstances, he will beginning dancing. Horribly, joyously. And he will try to dance with everyone else. And if it goes well, everyone will have a fairly decent time getting their boating license renewed, and a good story to tell.

My favorite part about this performance art/social experiment is its ability to point out that there is no reason for certain places to be what I'm going to call "dead zones." In this world, we have places where nothing good can happen, where tacit rules prohibit enjoyment: banks, offices, government agencies, hotel lobbies, subways. These faceless places exist everywhere, and no one wants to go to them. Yet, we fulfil our tasks to be good citizens of this society by refusing to do anything to make it more enjoyable. Essentially, we choose to live in the dead zones when we need to. The sad thing is we don't have to do this, and no one seems to realize it.

It's the same principle as a flash mob - a group of people appear out of nowhere to create a momentary event, like a silly string fight on an escalator, and then disappear into the crowd. It's beautiful, spontaneous fun that everyone likes but few people are willing to participate in. But why stand around and let the fun parts of life walk by when you can actually participate in them, temorarily changing the mostly unspoken rules and regulations that govern our lives? Why live a hollow life?

So if you see a man with a stereo sit down in the MVC, get ready to boogie.