Monday, June 15, 2009

More Snippets

More disconnected rambling:

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Granny's doctor said that there was no damage to her heart (very good news) and that her heartbeat had remained regular long enough to allow her to check out of the hospital on Saturday. By all accounts, she's been enjoying relaxing in the comforts of home.

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My "self-portrait challenge" is still on-going-- though in extended pause mode-- but I'm already declaring it a success. I may not have taught myself many (or any) new and incredible tricks with the camera, but I think I have been learning how to get a halfway decent photograph of myself.

Here are some of the things I've discovered as I've gone along:

* The most difficult aspect of self-portraiture (imho) is getting the focus just right. Thank goodness for digital photography! You may have to take ten or twenty photos to get one with the focus in the right spot-- and everything else just the way you want it-- but with digital cameras, that's no problem. The ability to instantly check your composition, focus, etc. in the preview screen and adjust your pose and camera settings accordingly really helps, too.

* The second most difficult aspect of self-portraiture is making the decision the take a photo of yourself. It's not always a pleasant prospect if you're already sensitive about your appearance or if you've come to dread looking at photos of yourself. If nothing else, after this project I'm definitely no longer "afraid" to point the camera in my own direction. I can weed out the bad ones and produce a presentable self-portrait. No-one else need ever see the embarrassing photos-- and I hardly have to look at them, myself, with my finger poised over "delete". ;o) (Technically, I guess I've always known these things, but experience has proven it and made me realize that it's nowhere near as painful a process as I once thought.)

* Photoshop is your very good friend. (g) Thank you, whoever invented the clone tool and the spot healing brush tool (among others in the Photoshop arsenal)!! And don't worry-- no, it's not cheating to use a photo-editing tool to remove a blemish here or smooth a wrinkle there. People have been retouching (or even "doctoring") photos for practically as long as photography's been around-- only these days it's so much easier (not to mention faster and cheaper) that anyone can do it. If you're the sort who feels that every pimple, scar, and crease must be preserved for an honest portrait, that's fine, but I have a feeling most of us can live with a few white lies in most of our self-portraits.

* I wear a lot of turquoise/teal tops around the house, these days. (g) Or at least I have just happened to be wearing that color in most of my self-portraits, so far. This is less a sign of my personal tastes than it is a sign of what colors designers have recently deemed best for low-priced fitted tees. (Though I do like teal.)

* I tend to like certain angles of myself better than others, and that is clearly reflected in the photos I choose to process and share. I guess all that stuff about people having a "good side" for photographing might be true, after all. ;o) My preferred angles seem to be those that make me look more slender-- and those that emphasize my eyes. The same is probably true for 99% of people. (I think I read somewhere, once, that most women name their eyes as their best physical feature.)

* Self-portraiture is actually fun and addictive. Previously, I hadn't taken many portraits of any kind-- beyond dog photos, I guess, if you count those as portraits-- so this is fairly new for me. There's lots of territory to explore. I think I'd be even more interested if it were easier to get the focus right, but that only makes it that much more exciting when you get a good one. I'm not sure how many photos I'll take before the end of this challenge-- or how many of them will be particularly good self-portraits-- but I think I can safely say that I'll continue experimenting with self-portraiture long after the challenge is over, and I think that qualifies this "project" as a definite triumph.

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I heard through the grapevine that someone was wondering where to find the photos of Donald up on the roof (to accompany the story, here in this blog). Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to take a photo at that time, but I did take a snap of Donald painting lumber for our patio project. (No, it's still not finished. But we're getting close! The bulk of it is done.) I doubt he'll be very fond of this photo, what with his 'round-the-yard painting clothes and messy hair. (g) But the demands of our public must be met! ;o)

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After reading a bit at a time for a long while, I finally finished the "new" L.M. Montgomery biography by Mary Rubio. I added that fact to my list of topics to blog about, a week or however long ago it is that I started compiling this entry, but now I find that I can't remember what I wanted to say about it.

The book was an interesting read, though I was familiar with the general "story", having read the published journals and a handful of other LMM biographies and related texts. It's been years since I learned that her life wasn't always the rosy, joy-filled thing that one might have expected or hoped for the woman who wrote Anne of Green Gables. The blame of it (if blame is to be assigned) falls partly on fate, partly on certain people in her life, and partly on herself-- her own choices and traits-- as is usually the case. There were a few things I didn't particularly like in the book, and because the endnotes were reportedly cut back to suit the publisher, there were times where I wondered what evidence Rubio had used to form some of her conclusions. Overall, however, I enjoyed reading the book and discovering the many new bits and pieces of information presented. This despite the fact that it was at times a sad story. Rubio did a good job balancing some of Maud's more tragic periods (as presented in the journals) with the existing records of her doings and the memories of those who knew her personally. LMM herself acknowledged that her journals were her vent-- and anyone who has ever kept a journal knows that a diary never presents life as it truly is-- but it was still good to read that, even during her darker years, her life "went on".

Just before the biography came out, LMM's granddaughter published an article revealing that Maud's youngest son (Stuart, who died in the 1980s) had believed and told his children that his famous mother committed suicide. Some fans were shocked; others admitted that they'd always assumed as much. Her final published journal entries, scanty and brief in the last years of her life, do indicate that she was suffering mental anguish, as well as physical problems, but I'd always taken for granted that her reported cause of death was legitimate.

Rubio's account suggests that LMM might have accidentally taken an overdose of her medications, which were possibly poisonous and mind-altering. (Back when I first read the journals, I was struck by the many different medicines she mentions by name-- most of them unfamiliar to me. I find it very plausible that she and her husband Ewan may have suffered adverse effects, both mental and physical, from an unfortunate combination of powerful drugs.) Certainly Rubio calls into doubt the idea that the page Stuart found was really a suicide note. I tend to agree that, if nothing else, it was not originally intended to be/written as a suicide note, but as a commentary on the now missing pages of her journal notes.

I'd like to believe that Maud's death was accidental, but either way, her writing has given joy to generations and will likely continue to do so for many years to come.

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Over the weekend, I heard for the first time about this story. Apparently, nearly 400 miniature Eskies (American Eskimo Dogs) were rescued from a puppy mill in Washington State. Some of them were living in shocking conditions, such as makeshift cages created by placing a sheet of plywood over shopping carts. It's hard for me to even imagine 400 Eskies in one place... I'm not a fanatic when it comes to so-called "backyard breeders". I don't think it's wrong for a family to breed a pet, so long as they are committed to either finding good homes for or keeping the resultant pups-- but I don't see how anyone could run a real puppy mill. They simply mustn't look at dogs as valued pets, but as some sort of commodity. I would feel guilty keeping "food animals" in those kinds of conditions, nevermind a cat or dog.

I was surprised to see a story about an Eskie puppy mill, because in my experience, Eskies aren't that common-- at least, not around here. The only reason I found the story to begin with was that I was trying to find out if the dog I glimpsed in a movie trailer (The Proposal) was an Eskie. I think it is, which is also surprising, since-- well, again, Eskies just haven't been that common, in recent years. Maybe this movie will help bring them back into the public eye. (They were very popular during certain periods of history.) Some will say that no good can come of popularity, but I wouldn't mind seeing more of them around-- and it's not like this is Disney's 101 American Eskimo Dogs or something on that level. (g)