June 13, 2018

Render


The diamond firebird—ashes he stirs.

Hear me keening for understanding,
my love? Wait, not yet, while I paint
another sequined scrim of myself.


My first book of poetry, Render, will be available from Brighten Press in paperback, Kindle, and iBook editions on July 12, 2018.

To say I'm excited about this would be an incredible understatement.

I'm calling these "poems of manifestation" because they include themes of creativity, creation, self-actualization, and identity, as well as summoning love into one's life.

These poems span nearly 30 years of writing.

I hope they will be as meaningful to you as they are to me.

Please check out genehult.com or brightenpress.com for more information.


May 15, 2018

New Memes for Bernie's Best Jokes!





With Brighten Press updating Bernie's Best Jokes cover and title in a new edition, I figured it was time to try a new style of joke memes. Get ready to laugh!

The punchlines in this book are perfect for kids 6-12 and the whole family. Buy Bernie's Best Jokes by J. E. Bright now on in paperback, Kindle, or iBook editions now, or ask for it at your favorite bookseller!

Or visit jebright.com for more info, free sample pages and jokes, and chic merch!

Bernie's Best Jokes Bowling: J. E. Bright



Is a snail faster without his shell?


When is it time to go to the dentist?

jebright.com



Which is the king of school supplies?

May 01, 2018

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Minister of Propaganda

Like so many of my friends, I've gotten incensed about the attacks on Michelle Wolf for her White House Correspondents Association comedy routine. No, she didn't say anything negative about Sarah Huckabee Sanders's appearance. She certainly didn't bully this woman who is one of the most powerful and crooked people in this country with the biggest bully pulpit in the nation. But she absolutely called her out for being a liar. And Wolf called out the complicit press for creating Trump in the first place, or at least allowing him to infect us nationally, because he's good for their bottom line. So much of the media is a disgrace, allowing greedy liars to manipulate their stories with their propaganda messaging because they're afraid of losing their overpaid presenter jobs on the TV. Or worse, actively helping these terrible, hateful, destructive people to consolidate their power and the wealth in America.

If you're not fighting this evil administration tooth and nail, you're helping them with the most dangerous fascistic, racist, gun-sucking, anti-environmental, and avaricious movement in American history. The media are meant to be a bulwark against such oppression and ravenous gluttony. Instead these media mercenaries are welcoming their overlords and repeating their insidious lies.

 Republicans and complicit WHCA media types acting so shocked over Michelle Wolf calling them out: Yeah, you're not doing a good job hiding your lies. We've noticed. From the first time you opened your mouths. We know you're not telling the truth about your agenda, about our fight, about who you really are, and the treasonous, racist, greedy, and anti-human crimes you've committed.

These wealthy, spoiled, virulent puppet masters calling Michelle Wolf elitist is . . . rich. And another awful lie.

We know you're lying and we will rise up against your evil duplicity.

LIARS.


April 21, 2018

My 10 Most Influential Albums

Citysqwirl in 1988
Me in 1988, when I was listening to most of this list.
So I did that 10-day "post covers of your most influential albums" challenge on Facebook, and as I rather like how it came out, I thought I'd share it here, too, all collected together.

It was fascinating to trace back to the roots of my musical interests, and piece together which begat what. Much of my taste was influenced by the Second British Invasion of the 1980s, especially post-Punk New Wave technopop and Gothic or Shoegaze dreampop. I was never a Goth myself -- I was styled as inconspicuously casual as I am now -- but I certainly hung around the Goth and Punk kids, because they were interesting, accepting, artistic, and they smoked.

The main subject of my life is the English language, so these genres further fed my Anglophilia. Which may be genetic, as I just found out from a DNA test this Christmas that I'm 40% British, and which also may explain why I looked like Harry Potter most of my life, round glasses and all. I spent 1989, my junior year abroad, in Lancaster, UK, which certainly didn't lessen my interest in their culture or music. Anyway, fully half the records on this list are albums by British musicians.

My heart aches for those I left out, like Michael Jackson, The Cars, Sinead O'Connor, The Cure, Violent Femmes, the Human League, and Madonna, but 10 is 10 and life is full of tough choices, innit?


#1: The Queen Is Dead, The Smiths (1986)


Because, yeah.

The Smiths The Queen Is Dead
I received two copies of this vinyl LP from separate friends for my 16th birthday in 1986. It took some determination back then to gain entry into the music, as I didn't really understand the subtleties of guitar. I'd only really listened to harder guitar music like Van Halen and AC/DC, and while they're virtuosic, they ain't subtle. Something about The Queen Is Dead seemed so old-fashioned at first, with big band, Beatles,  doo-wop, girl-group, and folk influences that all felt like a throwback to when Rock could be a thing on its own. I didn't know the Velvet Underground or the New York Dolls yet, so I didn't recognize their influences.

My persistence in slowly learning this album came with a lifetime of rewards once I began to decipher the lyrics, and the hooks dug into my soul. Holy shit, I thought, here's someone who not only understands, but is perhaps worse off that I am! And he's honest and funny and miserable about it, and isn't afraid to be poetic and romantic and angry and tormented if that's what he's feeling. Could he also be . . . gay? Is this camp? Is this what I've been waiting for forever?

That's when I joined the Cult of Morrissey, admiring his voice and attitude and heart and hair from afar, although there have been plenty of times in the past decade when I wish he would shut up.

The more I listened to the music, analyzing its composition, the more I was surprised by the shades of meaning and tonality, the intelligent, creative improvisational musical commentary on the lyrics, that Johnny Marr managed to write on this record. It's gorgeous in spots, and unspeakably sad, and jiggy and funky and soft and delicate and swooping and head-banging and shimmying. It's Rock. It rocks.

So The Queen Is Dead taught me to love guitar music, to be brave enough to express myself in poetry, and to delight in the fine lines between misery and hilarity, love and violence, sensitivity and aggression, and subterfuge and coming out. Many lyricists have tried, but nobody has come close, especially matched with the melodic genius of this music, although I've never stopped looking and I suppose I never will.


#2: Technique, New Order (1989)


Unlike almost every other record that I played to death in my youth, this album still sounds good to me, and it's so layered that I still find new things in it, almost 30 years later.

New Order Technique album coverIt's not my first New Wave technopop or Britpop album, or my even my first New Order album (that was Low-Life), but Technique is my favorite.

There's a rhetorical simplicity in the lyrics, a distillation of complex subjects into basic, direct language, that I greatly admire as a children's writer, with meanings that arise stealthily over the years in delayed and indelible hooks.

Lovely Bernard's voice is not exactly powerful, but it's got heart and attitude and I'm able to sing along. The music builds great glass cathedrals in my mind, drenched in Ibiza sunshine, while moving my feet and body to the acid house rhythms, especially that iconic bass. The beat sounds like my own personal internal syncopation, and the twinkling, intricate sounds of the guitar and synth harmonize with the electrical sharpness of my own thoughts.

To me, it is the most immersive music in the world, the soundtrack to my life, and the music I'm most likely to synchronize with as I walk around the world, so often reaching an ecstatic state in which the movement of everything around syncs up, too, in a communal dance of connection, and I become one with it all. It's the music of my spheres.

So, yeah, Technique.


#3: The Wall, Pink Floyd (1979)


I was in 3rd Grade when this came out, and I remember going over the lyric sheets with friends in the cafeteria, explaining the words to them, particularly what "dark sarcasm" meant. Because we all had "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" stuck in our heads.

Pink Floyd The Wall
It wasn't until high school that I really sat down and listened to the whole album through, and then over and over again with chunky headphones on, poring over the lyric sheets, flipping the LPs, memorizing the gorgeous poetry, getting lost in the imagery, tripping in the music, putting together the whole story.

More like reading a novel than any other album I've ever heard, The Wall is one of the most complete experiences in any media, with musical genres ranging from marches to gorgeously melodic laments to funky sex binges to dreamy odes to psychological self-laceration to horror ballads to furious hell-raising rock rip-'em-ups.

I never understood why it was considered a stoner album, really. It's not mellow in any way. It's one of the angriest and most existentially disconnected cycles of songs ever written, about the intrinsic conflict between people on micro and macro levels, relationships and war, about external and internal fascism, about the pain of creative endeavor, and how our unresolved histories can undermine our moments of triumph, and ultimately about how earnest expression and revelation may be the only thing that can save us.

It's influential in that I'm always seeking something to compare it to in scope and darkness, but nothing ever comes close.


#4: Living My Life, Grace Jones (1982)


I first heard Grace Jones's Living My Life in the early '80s at my Aunt Pat's apartment on 9th and Broadway. She had the LP, and I copied it on cassette, and have listened to it continuously since. (Obviously not on cassette anymore.)

Grace Jones Living My Life
There's not a bad song on this album, but the one that first got me was "The Apple Stretching," a song about early morning NYC that I deeply recognized. (It was written by Melvin Van Peebles for his 1982 play Waltz of the Stork!) At the time, I related to the song from going to school in the morning, but I also knew that it was about a blissful walk of no shame coming home at dawn from a club, which was extremely aspirational to me, and which I've now experienced and loved countless times. There's something about NYC when you've been up all night and the city kicks into gear around you that is always inspiring.

I can't go through every song, because this would be a major essay, but this album has some of the funkiest, raunchiest, coolest tracks ever produced. It's post-Punk, post-Rock, post-Disco, Warholian club music, harder than New Wave, and thrillingly dangerous. Grace's attitude initiates so much of the best of current American culture, from the gender-bending to women's empowerment to global consciousness. Her own influences range from The Velvet Underground to Donna Summer to Edith Piaf to the New York Dolls, connecting it all with her own ferocious fierceness that places her as a precursor to nearly every dance goddess since.

This album both shakes and kicks ass.


#5: Really Rosie, Carol King and Maurice Sendak (1975)



It was between this and Free to Be You and Me, but I went with this one because I still listen to it. Frequently. Like, I have "Alligators All Around" on my phone now. Sometimes I sing it in my head when I can't fall asleep.

Really Rosie Maurice Sendak Carole King Album Cover
This is like my personal supergroup. Like Roxette! Except, you know, awesome. Yeah, Tapestry is a better album, and Where the Wild Things Are is a better book, but this is kind of the Ur-album for a children's book writer. It also led me into folk music, '50s and '60s girl-group pop, and Broadway showtunes.

Plus it has this stanza, from the title track:

I can sing, "Tea for two and two for tea."
I can act, "To be or not to be."
I can tap across the Tappan Zee.
Hey can't you see . . .
I'm terrific at everything.
No star shines so bright as me.
Rosie!
Believe me!

Although that last line has some Trumpian connotations nowadays, this song is like the ode to creative confidence, and really, confidence is the key to everything.

Also, Pierre says, "I don't care," which is also sometimes the key to everything.


#6: Some Great Reward, Depeche Mode (1984)


I rarely listen to Depeche Mode's Some Great Reward anymore (the songs from Violator seem to have aged better), but I'd be lying if I didn't mention this album as a major influence. It was really the first New Wave technopop album that I went out and bought, and it kicked off a lifetime of melodic electronica.

Depeche Mode Some Great RewardIt sounds adolescent to me now, but I'm not sure if that's because I listened to it endlessly during my adolescence, because I memorized every note and syllable and leached them of surprise, or because its twinkly, proto-Industrial, Goth-lite earnestness didn't stand the test of time.

Whichever -- this was my teen sulking headphone music, my dance when nobody's watching album, the record of my hopeful, pining gay gloom, and it set an initial blueprint for my musical tastes that would be ridiculous to deny.




#7: On the Radio Greatest Hits, Donna Summer (1979)


I can't really remember a time before Donna Summer. I mean, "Love to Love You Baby" came out when I was 6. My younger aunts and uncles danced to her in my grandmother's house, and she was making everyone move on TV. I loved Disco. I loved Giorgio Moroder, who I realize now was the link from early harsher, minimalist electronica like Kraftwork, making it irresistible for dancing, building the foundation, after Punk, for what would become New Wave. Donna's Disco sounded space-age, and fast, and dirty, and sometimes even ethereal. If there's one culprit for my abiding love of New Wave electronica trance, dance, and pop, it's this album. (Although there are a couple other major influences for that coming up.)

Donna Summer On the Radio Greatest Hits
Then there was Donna's voice. She was sultry and sleazy and sure and strong, but also sometimes sweet and sad. I didn't realize how amazing she was until decades later, when I realized how unparalleled her power and range and rhythm were, how insistently she sang. She overpowered Barbra Streisand, even, singing with such smooth groove in their duet that she made Babs sound like she had a stick up her butt.

This album, the greatest hits 2-record collection On the Radio, we had both on vinyl and 8-track. (Some of the songs I still remember with a loud KA-THUNK noise in the middle when the 8-track abruptly changed tracks mid-song.) My brother and I would spin around the living room to it like whirling dervishes. It's a terrific album, with "On the Radio," "Love to Love You Baby," "Heaven Knows," "Last Dance," "MacArthur Park," "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," "Dim All the Lights," and "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)." But most importantly, it has "I Feel Love," which is a strong contender for my favorite song of all time.

I still listen to the songs on this Donna Summer album regularly, although now most of them are from the greatest hits collection Endless Summer, which includes the later '80s hits.

I miss her.


#8: The Best of Blondie, Blondie (1981) 


This was the first Blondie album I bought, but that wasn't until college, on cassette. They had just been in the air before that, unavoidably, always on the radio, at parties, on MTV, in stores, everywhere. Like for Whitney Houston, there was no need to buy an album, because all you had to do was sit up and listen and there they were.

Best of Blondie album cover
As a kid, I loved "Call Me," which made me think of a mixture of naked Richard Gere and Debbie Harry's awesome guest spot on The Muppet Show. Of course, it's Giorgio Moroder producing again, who really is the progenitor of my most frequent music.

Then, "The Tide Is High" was at all my 6th Grade graduation parties, and was one of the earliest songs I couldn't stop singing to myself, my first adult earworm.

"One Way or Another" doesn't even sound like it was written by anyone, like it's some anonymous rock tune from the classic American songbook. It's perfect and eternal and scary.

"Heart of Glass" is one of my favorite songs ever, a moment when Disco melds into ethereal druggy trance.

And "Rapture." This was really the one I always stopped to listen to, on MTV, and on the radio in my room, around the same time I started to leave the radio on all night while I slept so I could hear and absorb the music in my dreams.

Chris Stein and Debbie are a major nexus for so much of what followed, jumping genres from Disco to Rock to girl-group to Reggae to Funk to Punk to Hip-Hop to New Wave, bringing it all to the mainstream. "Rapture" was the first number one song in America to feature rap vocals. How insanely influential is that?

Plus Debbie's gorgeous and instantly recognizable voice growls low and soars high. She's the quintessence of cool.

A good case could be made for Blondie being the most influential group in modern American popular music.


#9: Behavior, Pet Shop Boys (1990)



I had liked, even loved, the Pet Shop Boys from their first song, "West End Girls," and through the first three albums from 1986-1988. I'd always deeply dug their poppy New Wave dance melodies and rhythms, the catchy, clever lyrics, the Disco and Jazz influences, Neil Tennant's rebellious, sometimes disaffected choirboy voice, and the barely-hidden gay subtext. They wouldn't come out officially until 1994, but before that, in 1990, Behavior came out, and I'll forever compare every other album afterward to it.

Pet Shop Boys Behavior album cover
I can't tell you how many times I've listened to this album, but it regularly ranks at #1 in my most played at Last.fm, only beaten by Donna Summer on occasion. (And Sufjan Stevens, but he doesn't count as an influence: he is the influenced.)

Produced by Harold Faltermeyer, Behavior takes PSB's dancey technopop and softens and deepens it, adds vulnerability and heartache and a kind of earnest cynicism which informs the sensibility of my entire life. It also adds pop guitar, performed by The Smiths' Johnny Marr, as well as a historical lyricism along with the interpersonal introspection, all of which they fight against as much as embrace.

I love the music that Chris Lowe makes, which seems to stream out of him in concert like he's at the center of a vibrant kaleidoscope, but that in combination with Neil's intelligence and plaintive voice became inimitable on this album, unmatched until perhaps Radiohead and Sufjan came along.

This album is a primer for my whole worldview, and my entire matrix of behavior.


#10: Saturday Night Fever, soundtrack (Bee Gees, etc.) (1977)


Here it is, the major root of the tree of my musical tastes, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. It's the bestselling soundtrack of all time, and the 7th bestselling album overall, with about 45 million units sold. I have it memorized, inside and out, and if you put a gun to my head and demanded to know my favorite song, I might name "How Deep Is Your Love?," which is also my favorite slow dance song.

Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
I like a lot of the other songs on it, like "A Fifth of Beethoven," and "Boogie Shoes," but it's the Bee Gees tunes that get me. Sure, they're a little ridiculous, and so very '70s discotheque. But it's their folk rock foundation and harmonies tied to the electric guitar and early synth, funk bass, and newly-invented drum loops of dance music that make this the most influential album of my life. It shimmers and scintillates and demands dance.

Plus the singing. Something about that upper-upper register resonates with me across all my musical tastes, and Barry Gibb may have the best falsetto of all time, with an odd masculine and feminine power to it. It can sound otherworldly, alien, but also emotional and heartfelt, while his brothers give him a solid base of harmonies so it can soar while they keep him grounded.

I wouldn't say the Brothers Gibb are underrated as songwriters, because they are responsible for some of the biggest hits in music history and have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, but it's worth mentioning how well constructed the songs are. Their list of hits for other singers is mind-blowing, from Al Green's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," to Dolly and Kenny's "Islands in the Stream," to Frankie Valli's "Grease," to "Emotion" by Samantha Sang (and Destiny's Child), to Barbra Streisand's "Woman in Love," to Diane Warwick's "Heartbreaker," to Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You," etc. But I love the Bee Gees versions even better, because of their strange and eerie voices.

Then there's John Travolta's stank all over this thing. He was like a cartoon of Italian/Irish male sexuality, and man, could he dance. Barry Gibb was ridiculous looking himself, and so cheesy in retrospect, but in 1977 my little mind was blown by how hot he was, to the point where I was afraid and embarrassed to look at him.

Y'all know how influential this album is to all dance and electronica music and MOR Top 40 that came after. Really, it's the other limb on the pop tree alongside rock-and-roll.

In their biggest hit, I'm reminded of a section from William Carlos Williams's long poem, "Spring and All":

     What the hell do you know about it?

     AXIOM

     Don't get killed.

     Careful Crossing Campaign
     Cross Crossings Cautiously

Yeah, perhaps the greatest priority in life is to keep staying alive.

March 25, 2018

Bernie's Best Jokes Memes


Give your kids the giggles!

Kooky clean jokes for kids!

(Or for your inner child!)

I'm going to try to keep making these little ads on a regular basis, as memes seem to be the unit of transmission on the internet these days.

Anyway, these were made for the express purpose of letting people know that the book Bernie's Best Jokes exists, as well as introducing the types of jokes involved in it, along with a taste of the goofy pictures inside, too.

Click any of the memes to go to the free sample jokes page on jebright.com, or sometimes to the purchase page on Amazon.


What did the cat cry when he spent all his money?

Why did the chicken cross the road?

What kind of dinosaur crashes his car?

What do a dog and a phone have in common?

Why did the Easter Bunny need a psychiatrist?

What did the mama cow say to her calf?

Where do down-and-out octopuses live?

Where are okay things made?

What should you do if you see a spaceman?

Why did the fly fly away?

How does a teacher comfort children who fail their coloring test?

What animal entered the tiger's den and survived?



Get your paperback or Kindle edition now!

March 22, 2018

Bernie's Best Jokes!

Bernie's Best Jokes by J. E. Bright
I just finished pulling together a book of my favorite jokes! I'm thrilled to announce that Bernie's Best Jokes by J. E. Bright is now available on Amazon and hopefully everywhere else soon!


It's dedicated to my beloved cat Bernie, who also stars in a bunch of photographs inside. I'm particularly proud of this joke book, as it's the first interior I ever designed all my myself. (My brother helped me with the cover.) Along with the funny photos of Bernie, the inside is illustrated with lots of cool drawings and silhouettes that I collected.

Of course, you've got to wonder . . . are the jokes inside any good?

Yes!

They're the BEST!

 Like:

Why do cats always win video games?
They get nine lives!

Or:

Why did the owl invite more owls over?
He didn't want to be owl by himself!

HAHAHAHAHA!

Well . . . every single joke inside made me laugh, anyway.

I know this book will make you and your children or grandchildren laugh, too. Or at least guffaw!

 It's available on Amazon in both a Kindle edition and paperback version!

December 16, 2017

Just Another Winter's TaleMy short story "The Most Beautiful Boy in the World" has been included in this Kindle anthology of Christmas stories called Just Another Winter's Tale!

I absolutely love the cover, and I love that this anthology also features such terrific writers such as Matthew Bright (who also put this lovely collection together),‎ my college friend and British astrological twin‎ Paul Magrs,‎ Nicholas M. Campbell,‎ Roy Gill,‎ 'Nathan Burgoine, and Michael Thomas Ford! All their stories are excellent, and I'm very pleased to be in their company.

This story of mine was written for a collection I was calling The Betty Stories, all of which surrounded a woman called Betty, but always written from an outsider's perspective, never from her POV. I didn't finish writing the collection, which I had started in college, and I sort of outgrew the style of many of the stories in it, but I always had a fondness for "The Most Beautiful Boy in the World" and I'm thrilled that it has found a home in this Christmas collection.

Many of the stories in this anthology, including mine, have an LGBTQ bent, which makes them all the more fascinating in relation to traditional holiday tales. Too often the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer folk get lost in the deep straight Christmas snow, so this is great way of making sure we don't turn blue from being left out in the cold!

If you're feeling festive this holiday season, why not pick up a copy for your Kindle or your free Kindle app at Amazon and join our Christmas kiki? The ebook also makes a great gift that you can send long distances without physically mailing anything.

Merry Christmas to you, and have a wonderful 2018.

Thank you! Happy reading!



November 25, 2017

Darling Christmas Gifts -- Everything Under $20, Perfect for Secret Santa!

 Secret Santa Gifts under $20Last week I was searching for inexpensive Christmas gifts on Amazon.com, like I've done every year for the past decade. There are a lot of little gifts I need to get every holiday season, token presents in many cases, or cute, funny gifts for Secret Santa or White Elephant exchanges, but also relatively affordable gifts for cousins and uncles and aunts and friends and coworkers and neighbors. Plus stocking stuffers for my immediate family, my mother, father, brothers, sisters-in-law, niece and nephew . . . and I don't forget my dog and cats!

 I started wishing there was a site that combed Amazon.com for me, pulling out adorable, humorous, clever, cool presents all in my cheapo gift-giving range.

This year, I decided to make that site myself!

So here it is, my Secret Santa site, perfect for little gifts for all your loved ones and not-so-loved ones, everyone you need to get a gift for this Christmas season! Best of all, every gift on the site was under $20 on Amazon.com when I added it!

Good shopping, happy holidays, and Merry Christmas to you all!

 Secret Santa Gifts under $20

New Camera -- a Nikon 1 J5!


Droid Turbo 2I'd really been hitting the limits of what my Droid Turbo 2 camera phone could handle, with its lack of physical zoom and limited setting adjustments. It certainly had served me well, and it's great that it's always in my pocket, but I've been selling more and more pictures on Getty Images, and it was time to jump up to the next level camera.

Of course I'd been researching digital cameras casually for months, even years, but my parents agreed to subsidize a camera with me for my birthday this year, and really diving into the churning depths of the different options for digital cameras got me caught in a maelstrom of a learning vortex indeed.

There are so many different kinds of digital cameras. The big, hardcore, professional DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) cameras are enticing, but extremely expensive, and too big for my needs. I wanted something I could take with me everywhere, particularly walking the dog, without resenting its weight or bulk. Preferably under $450.

So then there are point-and-shoot cameras, also known as standard compact cameras, zoom compact cameras, adventure cameras, and mirrorless system cameras. I knew I wanted to aim higher than point-and-shoot, which isn't much different than a smartphone's camera, and I don't need the rugged and/or waterproof body of an adventure camera.

The super-zoom compact cameras were interesting, though. Some offer up to 60x optical zoom, with automatic lenses that retract completely, giving the cameras a very slim and portable profile. Those were a possibility.

I learned about the current limits of resolution, and how the size of the sensor chip in the digital camera makes a big difference in image quality, and the relative merits of interchangeable lenses vs. fixed lenses, and a little bit about aperture f-stops and exposure ISO and flashes and hot shoes and manual and semi-manual and automatic modes and RAW vs. JPG file types and shutter speeds and types of zooms and viewfinders and mirrors and shutters and white balance and bokeh and all the other terms I needed to know before making this decision.
 Fujifilm X100F
First I fell in love with the Fujifilm X100F. It has gorgeous retro styling, and amazing reviews, and the sample pictures I saw online are just fantastic.

However, it has a fixed lens, no optical zoom, and most damning, it's difficult to find new online for less than $1,000, although refurbished ones exist in the $700-$800 range. That was too rich for my blood, so I had to move on.

PANASONIC LUMIX DC-ZS70SThen I zeroed in on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50S. It's a super-zoom compact point-and-shoot, but it has terrific features, 30x optical zoom, and a very slim profile, perfect for a pocket. The styling is nicely retro, too, not unlike the Fujifilm X100F. It has a digital viewfinder, which is pretty cool. It's also very affordable, often listed for around $350.

However, I kept thinking that I might want to get a camera with interchangeable lenses, so it could grow with me as I learned more about photography, scaling with my skills and experience.

 Nikon 1 J5So when I found the Nikon 1 J5, it seemed to push all my buttons. It has the lovely retro styling I love, the option to exchange lenses (it comes with a 10-30 mm lens standard, with 3.5 - 5.6 aperture f-stop settings, equivalent to a 3x optical zoom, with medium aperture settings, which are a little too basic for distance or bokeh special effects or portraiture, but decent for normal street, home, and nature photos), a good mirrorless sensor chip size, and a relatively slim profile. It's actually a tiny little camera, but the lenses bulk it up considerably. It also has the flash, movie settings, wi-fi, and most of the professional settings of the big DSLR cameras. The reviews were superb across the board. And it listed for less than $350 on many sites.

For a couple of weeks, I bounced back and forth between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 and the Nikon 1 J5. Panasonic's 30x optical zoom and the fact that it would fit in my pocket were huge pluses. Nikon seemed like a more serious step up into photography and would grow with me. Nikon's sensor was supposedly a bit better. Panasonic had a touch LCD screen and a viewfinder, while Nikon had no viewfinder, although its touch LCD screen flipped up for selfies and angled shots. They both had 20-ish megapixels.

I guess eventually the slightly cheaper price, the slightly better styling, and the interchangeable lenses tipped me in favor of the Nikon. The Nikon name didn't hurt either.

 Citysqwirl Instagram
While I'm still very much a beginner with this Nikon, I love it so far. It takes lovely crisp pictures, and even the 3x zoom gets me in much closer. Next I want their chunky 30-110 mm lens for much greater optical zoom, and the little 18.5mm f/1.8 lens to allow more creative focus techniques. The controls are nice and responsive, it's very light, although I hated the neck strap and got a wrist strap instead. I'm really looking forward to learning all it can do!

If you want to check out some of my images on Getty, my portfolio is here, although now it's a mixture of pictures I took with the Nikon and those I took with my Droid Turbo 2.

You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram to see my daily pictures.

Happy photography to you all!

October 24, 2017

The Graduate

Henry graduated his beginner dog training course at PetSmart!

He loved the class, the three other students, and the instructor, who always had her pockets filled with treats. He loves PetSmart anyway, as it's one of the few stores he's allowed to enter with me, and he has good associations with choosing his own toys and treats from the shelves. The store is a 5-minute walk away, and he used to pull the whole time we're heading in that direction (we just learned Don't Pull). Sometimes I wish they weren't so much more expensive than Amazon . . . but they are. Often I find a 40-50% markup on most items.

But dog training class was a great deal. $116 for 6 weeks of classes, one hour a week. We went every Sunday at 3PM, and the three other families with their dogs made it through all 6 classes, too.

The instructor was upbeat and positive, calling negative dog behaviors "silly," and appearing to really be enjoying herself throughout.

Over the six weeks, Henry learned:


  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Down (Lie down)
  • Leave It
  • Watch Me (Calm down and look into my eyes)
  • Drop
  • Paw (Shake)
  • Don't Pull
  • Yes (Approval of an action, apart from "Good boy!" which is used more for affection)


We worked at home on each week's lesson, but it was easy to incorporate the training into daily routine. Sit before going outside. Sit before greeting people. Watch Me when too excited. Sit, Down, and Paw before a treat. Stay and Come took more work, but Henry was thrilled to be doing these activities, and really responded to the boundaries and commands.

Leave It turned out to be one of the most useful things we learned. It's a command of pulling focus, which can be used with squirrels and other dogs and garbage on the street, when before he would obsess detrimentally.

For the final class, each dog was tested on his training. (Although graduation was guaranteed regardless.) Henry followed all the commands correctly -- except Down, which he doesn't like to do on cold floors, and the polished concrete of PetSmart definitely qualifies as cold. He's pretty bald on his underside, so I get that one. He's got Down down on a carpet, grass, or warm sidewalk.

So we got a diploma and this picture, which I love. The mortarboard hat and tassel are adorable, of course, but I'm constantly tickled by the look of yearning toward the future captured in Henry's expression. The instructor was holding a treat, but still that hopeful expectancy and promise in his eyes makes me feel uplifted and inspired every time I see it in the picture, which is hanging on the hutch of my writing desk.

Congratulations, Henry. You're a great canine citizen. The future is yours.

Yes!

Good boy.

May 01, 2017

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

The President thinks that Andrew Jackson, who died in 1845, could have used his superior negotiation skills to avoid the Civil War, which started in 1861.

It figures El Douche would choose an authoritarian, lying, populist, racist, querulous, controversial, patronage-political, violent, genocidal, slave-owning Presidential role model. 

Says #45, "He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart."

More info on President Jackson's Indian genocide here

More info on President Andrew Jackson's shifting reputation here.

Transcript of President Donald Trump's interview here

November 18, 2016

Cabinet of Horrors


It seems as though Donald Trump is picking the worst possible people for his Presidential Cabinet. It's like an open call for the most evil human pieces of garbage in America.

November 07, 2016

Please Vote for Hillary Clinton

Hello, American Voter:

I realize that if you're visiting my page, chances are that you're already a supporter of hers, but since this election is so close and so important, I thought I’d write this to ask if you would please consider voting for Hillary Clinton for President tomorrow.

If you're decided to vote for her opponent, or are leaning toward voting for him, I'm sure you have good personal reasons, but I strongly and honestly believe Hillary is the better candidate. She’s greatly experienced, tested, and vetted in the government and abroad, and I admire her policies on education, healthcare, immigration, civil rights, gun violence control, women’s health, foreign policy, the environment, and the economy. I believe that the attacks against her have turned up nothing of importance other than the willingness of the opposition to lie to defame her and her strength in the face of false attacks. She’s pro-science and rationality, although she has an integral set of moral values, a strong religious background, and uplifting belief in kindness, humanity, and our interconnectivity. Hillary cares about all of us.

 Meanwhile, her opponent is deeply inexperienced and has said horrifyingly insulting things about his fellow humans, especially women and minorities. His plans are half-baked at best, self-serving at worst, and dangerous for our country’s future at home and on the world stage. He’s angry, belligerent, racist, rude, mean, greedy, and thin-skinned, which are not qualities we need in a leader. He lies and bullies without a second thought. All of the issues on which I agree with Hillary listed above, he professes to support the opposite position, entirely to our detriment. He champions policies that discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, sex, and religion. He even insulted the Pope!

I fully understand that it’s incredibly difficult to change anyone’s mind once it is made up. But I hope you will take a moment to wonder if Hillary Clinton might be much better for our planet, as I firmly believe. I doubt my recommendation will have any influence, but it seemed important to try.

Thank you for reading.

October 09, 2016

Review: Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me by Bernard Sumner

Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me by Bernard Sumner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As Bernard Sumner is the singer and lyricist of one of my top three lifetime favorite bands, New Order, I was particularly predisposed to enjoy his autobiography.

It was cool learning about the fundamentals of his life, and I was never bored, but his writing has the same clear, direct, opaque quality as his lyrics. He's always talking right to us, but he's a master of using simple language to mask and obfuscate his particulars, even if we know basically what he's talking about. So we follow through his rather sweet, sad, and rascally childhood in Salford, a borough of Manchester, with painful but handled family pain, his mild rebellions and growth in music, the formation and implosion of Joy Division, the rebuilding into New Order and global hits, the Hacienda and the dissolution of his contentious partnership with Peter Hook, and continuing touring and recording with New Order. It's all rendered sketchily, point to point, and emotions are expressed, but I don't know if it's his stiff upper lip or just the tonal evenness of his fundamental personality, but it's all quite factual and dispassionate, elided, skirted, and hinted at in coy ways, while still not shying away from actual events.

For instance, there are drugs and partying and late late nights and club life and overdosing and out of control abuse he describes offhandedly while barely copping to being involved with any of it at all, even as he admits that substances took him to very dark places. It's all so strangely disassociated.

The same goes for his fights with Peter Hook. They were friends and musical partners since grade school. Really, they're the kernel of the whole band, with Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis joining later, and then Gillian Gilbert being hired after Ian's death. So it's amazing how little Bernard actually focuses on Hooky. Their relationship is mentioned but never described. We have no idea how it functions, which grows increasingly odd as the cipher of a partnership strains and comes apart because of Hook's supposed jealousy. This is Bernard's take, of course, but it almost feels like Hook was never significant at all. It's true of so many of the relationships here; they're present but unfelt. The emotions are hidden elsewhere. In the music.

Quite bizarre, really, how he manages to tell us everything while still saying so little. Really, if you've listened to New Order's lyrics, you already know exactly how this dichotomy works. Yes, the lyrics are meaningful, yes, they stick with me and I sing bits in appropriate moments that suit the happenstances of my own life, but sometimes the words are detached and weightless, too. I wouldn't say empty, even as that's how they sound. I'd say sublimated.

But then, of course, the songs have all that gorgeous music, the antagonistic but precise layering of melodies, the pull and push of the guitar and synths and bass, which emotionally and visually develop the words, explaining them sometimes, commenting, emphasizing, or sometimes just building castles and cathedrals and other sonic landscapes around the lyrics.

Maybe that's what's missing from this book. The music. Bernard tells us his about his love for music, and he repeats that it's everything to him, but he can't explain it. He's a kind of savant. He lives the music and expresses it and that's enough for him.

Meanwhile, the included pictures reminded me how much I based decades of attraction on his beautiful youthful appearance. He was my idol. Thank you, Bernard.

September 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton Memes

I'm an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Presidential election.

Horrified by the lying, racist asshole running against her, I didn't know what to do to help, so I've been making these little meme posters and spreading them around. I realize they're not brilliant slogans or anything, and the designs are pretty basic, but they reflect how I honestly feel about Hillary Clinton. I want her to be President of the United States. I think she's smart and strong, progressive and caring, and will be terrific for this country.

Her opponent is a terrible human being.

I'll be adding more memes to this collection as I make them.

Please share.

Thanks!

Hillary Clinton for President 2016: Integrity

Hillary Clinton for President 2016: Like and Trust

Hillary Clinton for President 2016: Be Proud

Hillary Clinton for President 2016: Good Choice

Hillary Clinton for President 2016: Champion