Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Hipster Life from a Dan of Steely

I know I've said this before but I need to say it again - my family raised me right.

Thanks to my parents and grandparents, I grew up learning and appreciating many genres of music: jazz, classical, rock, blues, gospel, you name it. Thanks to them, I can pretty much listen to anything without cringing (there are some genres I won't mention that make my eyes tighten up like eating lemons, though!)

One band I grew up listening to was Steely Dan - that awesome blend of rock, jazz, blues, country and anything else depending upon the song. Thanks to me playing my mom's records over and over again, I knew the words to "Josie", "Green Earrings", "Hey Nineteen" and so on without batting an eye. While other kids were listening to the latest whatever, I listened to Steely Dan and thought I was cool . . . or really geeky. Okay, both.

When Steely Dan announced that they were coming to Memphis several years ago, I jumped at the chance to see them. As I sat at the Mud Island Amphitheater on a nice Summer night, I heard and saw Donald Fagen sing those songs that made such an impact on my life. Now, years later, I decided to check out his book, Eminent Hipsters, so that I could read more of what influenced his life and music.

Let me just say right off the bat that this is not your ordinary autobiography; although he does talk about his life growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey in the 60s, he also talks about the influences of his life, the "hipsters" who showed him the outside world of cool and what it took to be cool. From the jazzy soundtracks of Henry Mancini to jazzy singer and polio stricken Connie Boswell, from visiting Haight Ashbury at its birth to the college years at Bard and meeting his later musical partner Walter Becker, Fagen tells it all in the slim yet ultra groovy book. Eminent Hipsters is a must read for anyone who is fan of Steely Dan (of course), as well as anyone who grew up in the 60s no matter the location in the United States. You also get to read fragments of his diary that he kept during his tour with the band Dukes of September Rhythm Revue - a mix of chaos, panic attacks, anxiety, hotel ratings and swimming pool etiquette.

I devoured this book in one day (several hours to be exact) and now, all I wanna do is steal my mom's Steely Dan records and play them at home. I think now, after reading Eminent Hipsters, the songs will take on a whole new meaning for me.

So, go to your library or bookstore and get this book - you will not be disappointed!

To wrap up this review, here's one of my favourite Donald Fagen songs that is NOT Steely Dan. If I posted all my favourite Steely Dan songs, this blog post would be way too long. So, here ya go!

This song is titled The Night Belongs to Mona ~ 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Vampires, Trolls and Faeries . . . OH MY!

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm terrible when it comes to reading books in a series in a timely manner. However, sometimes, the wait is worth it. Especially when you're dealing with two vampires that are not your average vampires. My friend, the talented author John G. Hartness, wow'ed me with his book, Hard Day's Knight, in which I was introduced to geeky yet still kick ass vampires Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood. After literally devouring the first book, I knew I had to continue reading the series, of which took me about a year or so to do, mostly because I wanted to buy them from John himself.

Like I said before - the wait is worth it!

Back in Black, the second in the Black Knight Chronicles, sees the return of Jimmy and Greg as they investigate a brutal attack on the nephew of Detective Sabrina Law, who is also Jimmy's "possibly . . yeah, a really good chance" love interest. However, all is not what it appears to be as the trio must make a visit to Faerie, fight trolls in cage matches and make allies in the most unlikely of sources. Thanks to Hartness, I now know that troll blood looks and smells like. Ewww. Hartness is a master of storytelling - he had already won me over with his Bubba the Monster Hunter stories (you NEED to read them!) - and the gift is still very apparent with the Black Knight Chronicles. His words are direct with no fluff that still weave a tale that makes you feel as though you are receiving every punch to the head, every blow to the gut and every drop of blood savoured from the neck of a willing victim.

The Charlotte vampires are BACK! Thank you, John!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Of Life and Death - A Photojournalist's World

After three days (so far!) of being at home with lower back muscle spasms, it is quite safe to say that I'm getting cabin fever. Thank goodness for Spongebob and the books I checked out at the library before my injury. One of the books was the awesome and engaging It's What I Do by photojournalist Lynsey Addario

The book starts off with Addario telling about her life growing up in Connecticut with parents who owned a hair salon and lived an eccentric lifestyle. From there, we the readers are then strapped in tightly to the seat in the helicopter as we witness her transformation from a young woman intent on making her mark in the world to an award winning and highly respected photojournalist who shows no fear. Within the book are not only her stark and clear words retelling her many, many moments of life and death being separated by a single thread, but also photos of war, famine, death and disease and the people who were affected by it. Hidden Afghan women. African children slowly dying of malnutrition. American solders gasping for breath with horrible wounds - welcome to the life of a photojournalist. Addario's words transport you to other parts of the world as she races to handle the next assignment from the New York Times all the while trying to balance relationships and a "normal" life when the latest assignment was over. 

Although I have only been a professional photographer for two years, I feel as though I become a member of an organization whose members seek a different way of life. Photographers, in my opinion, see the world so differently than everyone else. According to an article in Lifehack, photographers see beauty in everything, even the things that terrify humans the most. As photographer in residence for Elmwood Cemetery, I see much beauty there, causing many a person to ask me how I can overlook so much Death. I see that everything, be it alive or dead, friend or foe, has a place in the world and therein lies the beauty. I have learned that all it takes is that one photo out of twenty or a hundred that will completely portray what it is that we see. That one shot can speak so many words; sometimes those words are hard to say yet we photographers need only "speak" with our equipment. Addario is a master of such a talent.

 I recently read that It's What I Do will be made into a film; as much as I enjoyed the book, I know I will go see the film, yet I still have the images in my mind that will refuse to go away for some time. 

Thank you, Lynsey, for being such an inspiration. It's simply what you do. 


Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Mad Ones Photo Project: First Act

Let's face it: vintage is cool.

Since my granddad raised me on a steady diet of jazz music, I grew up to appreciate the cooler things in life: vinyl, jazz music, black and white photography and just a general sense of hipness. After my granddad died several years ago, I steadily inherited his jazz vinyl collection with the dream of hosting a party where everyone would be required to wear black and listen to my granddad's records. However, it wasn't until today that, while visiting my grandma, I got the most wonderful idea. I asked her several questions and she said yes and soon, I had a box with five vintage cameras and a large plastic bag of matchbooks. With the combination of my jazz vinyl, a new photo project was born: The Mad Ones.

What exactly do I mean by The Mad Ones? I'm glad you asked. Jack Kerouac (Ti Jean), in his book On The Road, talked about the mad ones: those who lived freely and wildly. Those who didn't give a damn. The Mad Ones is also a slight hint at one of my favourite shows, Mad Men, and the world it represented, both good and bad. The Mad Ones, in my world today, represent a sense of coolness, long but not forgotten styles and tastes, with a dash of gritty noir-eqsue that made it both dangerous and intoxicating to witness and partake.

So, I will posting new and updated photos to not only my blog but also my other social media profiles and I hope that those who view my work will want to join in. The photos will be a mixture of cameras, matchbooks, vinyl and maybe other things just for fun.

Without further ado, may I present to you The Mad Ones Photo Project: First Act.

Friday, April 10, 2015

regrets: flash story

Although Spring is finally here, the cool winds of Winter still burn my nose and chap my lips. The walk to work is somewhat painful yet I continue to do it every day because I know of nothing else. The time for daydreaming and thinking outside of the box has passed me by like a cup full of ambrosia. I wanted to take a sip but I was too scared to do so. Once upon a time, I used to be carefree and colourful, wandering in places that others would have deemed to be too dangerous. I, however, feared no one and no thing and because of that simple fact, I was unharmed. Even when danger stared at me in the face and its warm and fetid breath caused my eyebrows to wilt and turn grey then white, I held my own and refused to back away. Now, I am quite the opposite and I still don’t know what happened. How did I lose the way? What drove me from the path that was so carefully laid out for me before my birth? My back is hunched over now and my eyes are constantly downcast: my new posture towards the dregs of Life. I thrive in fear and anxiety because it comforts me like a sickly wet nurse whose nipples only offer rancid milk. I no longer know the names of colours because I shut that part of my mind down when the change occurred. I have no one to blame but myself. My eyes still flash a glimmer of anger in response to what I have become. This is not how I used to be, I thought, then drearily returned to my menial tasks for the day. This is all I have now, I said to myself repeatedly as a mantra for an opium soaked deity that wasted away to a mere slice of belief. This is all I have now. 

(Dreaming of a Former Life: Elmwood Cemetery. Photo by Kimberly B. Richardson. Copyright 2015)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

colder: flash story

 I wanted to forgive him and yet the words were not in my mouth. In fact, they had yet to be created in my stomach. All I could do was just stare at him as he pleaded with me, repeating himself to make the next lie even stronger. Deep down, I knew he had lied to me from the very beginning and yet I still loved him. In some way, he made me feel special, giving me attention when he knew I lacked it. He told me that he loved me every day and I believed it. Back then, I never wondered if his words held a modicum of truth or not; all I knew was that a man loved me. He stood there, trying to get some sort of a reaction from me, hoping like hell I would take him back. All I could do was tighten my grip on the gun pointed at his heart. 
Finally, I could smile. 

 (Shhh - photo by Kimberly B. Richardson; models - Jean Marie Sheridan and Tommy Hancock - copyright 2014)