The Other Side of Halloween

All Saints’ Day. Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos.

I love Halloween and this time of year. Frankly, it goes downhill after daylight savings time until Spring rolls around again, what with the cold and lack of undead peeps about.

The people who we love that pass on never really leave us. I talk to them daily. And today, we remembered those who aren’t physically among us anymore.
Tim Cookson

From Tim

Tim Cookson

LaLa and Pop in Panama


  • Where the Wild Things Are (the Dorans).
  • Mix tape made for me by Tim Cookson, who died in the service of our country.
  • Photos of Tim – one shows him playing drums while recording one of the two songs we wrote together as “the Infected. “
  • My favorite photo of my grandfather and father together in Panama.


I love you and miss you.

Three Little Pigs

The girls went out today to adopt new pets – a pair of lady Guinea pigs. The previous owner insisted that the third member of the family come home, too, and donated him to the cause.  Soooooo, it seems I have a Guinea pig of my very own.  It will be good to have another fella around the house.

As an added bonus, he looks kind of like a goat.


The trouble is, I’m having a heck of a time choosing a name for him. “Olaf” immediately came to mind, followed by “Cravistan,” “Magritte,” and “Sri Sumbhajee.” He really looks like a “Sri Sumbhajee.” Leezle wants me to name him “WordPress.” So many good names! Picasso, Bartok, Lentil, Dumbledore, Goat, Bantha, Hoss, Chewbacca, Pablo, Drummer, Pecker, Larry. See what I mean? I can’t decide.

Anyway – he’s boss.

Dead Man’s Party

Dead Man's Party, Oingo Boingo

Okay. Life is weird.

I was working on Abby two nights ago, and thinking of what to call it.

“Ringwald” kept popping into my head.

Ringwald? Why?

I thought of Ms. Molly Ringwald, which made me think of John Hughes. Which made me think of Weird Science, which is my favorite teen high school romp movie, in no small part due to Oingo Boingo, which was introduced to me by my high school pal Evan Gaffney, who used Rapidograph pens and drew (even then) like a genius. Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party features their best song, No One Lives Forever and the best album cover of all time. If that’s not enough, Neil and I listened to Dead Man’s Party on the roof of my house and became lifelong buddies.

Ringwald? “No,” I said. It’s Abby. The next day, I heard the John Hughes passed away. Weird and sad.

Which is why I’m writing tonight, with some good news. For the past few months, I’ve been quietly working on my new endeavor:

the Land of the Dead

I’m announcing it tonight, to honor Mr. Hughes, Oingo Boingo and old friends.  Please have a listen to the song that planted some interesting seeds in my psyche on a roof many years ago:

Life is weird. Death will be weirder.  I’ll visit with you in The Land of the Dead, very soon, dear friends.

A Short, Much Needed Break

We escaped to the beach for a week! We had the best beach weather ever and the pets came with us!

Before we left, I updated the software on my iPhone. Suddenly, I love it love it love it.  I finally got the WordPress app to work correctly, and now that I can copy and paste, it’s like holding the web in my hands. Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, e-mail, calendar, photos,maps, life. Awesome.  I was just “in like” with it before the copy and paste.

I’ve started using tumblr for sharing random, non-essential  stuff, like pictures from my iPhone, links to videos and interesting articles. I like that I can quickly post things right from my phone and also that I can share stuff without cluttering up this site.  They have a super simple interface, slick and easy to use. Yeah..one more thing to keep track of –  so far, so good.

And now, some highlights from our trip:

Hedwig is my co-pilot


Whale lice. Yep.


Skin mask.




How to get rid of Edward for good.


A key coincidence.


The hog.



My lovely Coco.


Leezle digging for clams.


Me, hunting water towers for a change.


Fancy Pinhole Camera

There is a huge photo processing lab two doors down from my office. It was established decades ago within my department and once employed about 30 people (dunno if that number is completely accurate, but it’s certainly big enough to have done so).  I mentioned to my friends there that my daughter and I are interested in pinhole photography.

One of my colleagues loaned me a very nice pinhole camera. It’s reliable and has given me the chance to work examine exposure times with a particular aperture. Here’s the first round of results. I’m still figuring this out, which is a lot of fun.

The Camera

the Fancy Camera

My Studio

my studio

In the backyard


Sitting with my daughter sketching


Sitting alone sketching


Self Portrait

Self Portrait, again



Godzilla in the Garden

Godzilla in the Garden

Godzilla in the Garden

Godzilla Two

Godzilla in the Garden – if you look at the picture below, you can see he moved his hand from high to low…

One High, one low

The Monster Rebellion (click for larger)

Monter Rebellion

More soon.

The Visionary Pinhole Birthday

On Saturday, I had one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. That of my daughter.

We spent the day at the American Visionary Art Museum learning about pinhole photography and camera obscura. The workshop was co-lead by Guillaume Pallat and Chris Peregoy, who were both generous with their experience and satisfyingly different in their approaches.

Christopher Peregoy and Guillaume Pallat
Our hosts, Chris and Guillaume

From Wikipedia: A pinhole camera is a very simple camera with no lens and a single very small aperture. Simply explained, it is a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box. Cameras using small apertures, and the human eye in bright light both act like a pinhole camera.

We spent the morning working in the studio constructing various cameras.  A pinhole camera can be made from just about anything – an oatmeal container, cigar box, old cans, paper bags, refrigerators – even books.  Here’s the birthday  girl working with Guillaume to transform an old  denim covered  pencil box into a camera (she’ll tell you how it worked on on her blog).


The book cameras  actually work really well.  Here, Ms. Felice is creating a chamber in the center of a book. The pages then get glued together, and the inside has to be painted with a matte black finish to prevent any light reflection inside the camera.

The wonderful Ms. Felice

A finished book camera.

Book Camera

Someone made a camera from a cooler:


A small cardboard film box, which worked really well because the inside is already black:

Kodak Box

Chis made a camera from a manky old soccer ball:



The Suitcase Camera

Suitcases make great cameras. Who knew?

Step one:  drill the crap out of it and paint the inside black.

Step one: drill the crap out of it.



Step two: Create an aperture from four razor blades.

Razor sharp hole

Step three: Take a picture.

Say cheese.

Coco, Chris and I sat outside AVAM and talked for about 13 minutes – that’s how long it took to get the exposure. Guillaume guessed that the  suitcase would be light tight once closed.  We should have taped the seam, though, as there was “light leak” which you can see in the photo below.  Lesson learned. Tape everything.

Relaxing for 13 minutes

The Tea Can Camera

My favorite is this Twinnings tea can, which was my first camera.  Step one was to make it dark (not shiny).

Can this work?

I used  a piece of pie tin for the aperture. Soda cans work well, too.


I placed my camera in the garden wall at AVAM.

Camera in the garden

We stood  still for 5 minutes, while other art viewers wandered casually in and out of our photo. Here’s the wonderful ghostly result –  a portrait of my 11 year old daughter and me on her birthday:

Jim and Coco

This was an amazing workshop and a wonderful day. Thanks to Coco for going with me, Felice at AVAM for being so cool to Coco and I, and to Chris & Guillaume for sharing so many ideas with us.

Happy birthday, Coco! I love you.