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Happy Birthday, America!

One of the things I love about photographing kids is how honest they are. Every little thing they are thinking or feeling is right there out in the open. This shot is from the kids' 4th of July parade in Del Mar. Clearly, she's having a good time.

Not a Post About the San Diego Comic-Con

Comic-Con is this weekend, and being the nerdy kind of guy I am, I feel like I ought to write about that. Maybe something about how despite living in San Diego for five years, I still haven't been. Or something about the opportunity to take interesting pictures of cosplayers. Or at least some local's grumbling about 100,000 extra tourists clogging the roads.

I'm not going to write about that, though. No, today I want to write about The Little Mermaid.

I've seen The Little Mermaid--or parts of it--at least thirty times over the past year. This would be considered odd for a normal, rational adult, but since a toddler is the one calling the shots with respect to the DVD player these days, I don't really have the luxury of being a normal, rational adult. Instead, I get to go days on end with "Part of Your World" stuck in my head. (It happens to be right in my vocal range, too, which used to entertain Jason and now causes him to shout "NO SINGING, DADDY!" Which is both hilarious and a little heartbreaking for me. But I digress.)

Anyway, you can't watch The Little Mermaid thirty times without noticing certain interesting little tidbits. Well, you can't if you're me. (I may also be playing a little fast and loose with the word "interesting.") If you're me, you start thinking about plot holes and imposing an actual adult perspective on the characters.

For example, when Sebastian discovers that Ariel has been turned into a human and decides to go back and tell the Sea King all about it, saying:

I'm gonna march meself home and tell him right this minute  and don't you shake your head at me, young lady! Maybe there's still time. If we could get that witch to give you back your voice, you could go home with all the normal fish and just be... just be... just be miserable for the rest of your life.

I find myself turning to Juliette and saying, "No she wouldn't. She's sixteen. Realistically, she'd be mooning all over some other mer-teen before she turned seventeen."

Or, when King Triton, discovering that his daughter has made a Bad Deal with Ursula, tries to remedy the situation by shooting the contract with his trident, I recently wondered why he didn't just shoot Ursula instead. I mean, it's clear that the contract would be undone by the Sea Witch's death, which we see not ten minutes later when Prince Eric kills her by stabbing her with a sunken ship. And that's after she's become a gigantic sea-goddess, having stolen Triton's power. Presumably she would have been even more vulnerable at the point when she was face-to-face with Triton.

But, no, it doesn't even occur to Triton to shoot the witch. He shoots the scroll, instead, which is impervious to his might. Which brings me to an interesting observation: in the entire course of the movie, only two characters are ever seen killing anyone. Ursula, of course; she not only accidentally fries her two pet eels, but also pops a live shrimp-looking creature into her mouth as a snack in her first scene. The other is Eric, who, as mentioned, kills Ursula in the climactic scene.

Looking a little closer, we see that two other characters attempt to kill: the shark that chases Flounder and Ariel around the sunken ship, and Louis, the French chef who tries to cook Sebastian. They don't succeed, but not for lack of trying. So we have a sum total of four characters who attempt fatal violence toward other characters.

It's interesting that three of them are bad guys. We have the shark, which is less a real character than a sort of embodiment of mindless, chaotic evil. Then there's Ursula, the calculating, power-hungry schemer. And finally Louis, who while only really there for comic relief, is nonetheless cast in a villainous (if mildly so) role. What, then, does it say about Eric that he's in the same company as the other three?

This is a pretty recurrent theme in our cultural mythology about heroic figures, actually. We are presented with the two central male figures in a girl's life: the father and the husband. (To be clear, I'm describing the mythology here, not the way I think it is, must be, or should be in real life.) Both appear powerful, but the former is ultimately shown to be impotent, while the latter conquers his foes. And it's the latter who eventually carries off the girl. These are the kinds of stories we tell ourselves. And that we tell our kids, I guess.

OK, OK, yes, I did just spend over 400 words examining cultural mythologies and archetypes as presented in a Disney movie. I know. But you watch the same kid's movie thirty times and see what happens to you.

Jason's New Kitchen

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Jason got a new toy from his Grandma for his birthday: a kitchen set. He loves it, and has been super excited to play with it ever since it magically appeared by the dining table one morning. This is him on that morning, putting two cups, a salt shaker, and two bowls into the oven. He's not doing that anymore, but for whatever reason, he thinks the phone goes in the microwave, and his wind-up dolphin toy ("MY NEW DOLPHIN!") goes in the fridge. He refuses to entertain any notions to the contrary.

Ultimately, This Is a Post About Poop

I went into this with the best of intentions.

I remember watching an episode of Six Feet Under with Juliette once, in which one of the characters responds to his brother's morning greeting with a detailed description of his baby daughter's feces. Not in complaint, mind you, or for gross-out value. No, no, this guy was proud of his daughter's poop. This poop was an accomplishment. The best, most interesting poop ever. This is what new (-ish) parents do to their siblings over morning coffee, I guess. Talk about poop.

"Oh God," I said to Juliette with a roll of my eyes. "Is that going to be me some day?"

"If you don't want to be that way, then just don't be that way," she replied.

"I'm not going to be that guy. Please don't let me be that guy."

People, I am that guy.

This morning after breakfast, I was in the middle of composing an email when Jason walked back into the kitchen, his mother having just finished dressing him.

"Owie!" he yelled. I looked over, and he was bent over and holding his crotch.

"Does your penis hurt?" I asked.

"Yeah," he replied. This is not unexpected. He complains about his penis a lot. He also laughs about it a lot. Let's just admit it: the kid likes to talk about his penis. I would normally dismiss this with a kind word and a hug, but it dawns on me that the little step he's doing looks a lot like a pee-pee dance.

"Do you have to go pee pee?" I asked. "Do you want to sit on the potty?"

"Yeah!" he whined back, and ran for the bathroom.

We've been doing this for several weeks now. Jason claims to have to pee, we take him to the bathroom and let him sit on the potty, shortly after which--nothing having happened down below--he declares "All done!" and then wants to go play in the living room. I might have expected this time to play out the same way, but there was a certain, shall we say, urgency to his body language that made me think this might be the time.

It took some coaxing. He was ready to give up early again. I convinced him to sit a little longer, to let the pee out. That's what I actually said to him. "Let the pee pee out, Jason. Push." I honestly never thought I would say those words to anybody. I mean, I guess if you'd asked me, I might have shrugged and said "Yeah, I guess," but it just never crossed my mind. Some day I will be telling someone, in all earnestness, to let the pee pee out.

A little grunting and a look of concentration came and passed. "I did it!" Jason declared.

"Really?" I asked, not quite sure if I believed him. (Jason's idea of truth is a little flexible, you see.)

"Yeah!" he said.

"OK then," I said. "Now stand up, and we'll look and see what you... Whoa, that's not pee pee!" Staring me back at me from the little basin my son just stood up from is a little pile of poop.

And here's the thing: it didn't even occur to me to be grossed out. Quite the contrary; I cheered. "Yay Jason!" I shouted. "You pooped in the potty! What a big boy! I'm so proud of you! Yay!"

If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever be elated to witness someone defecating, I would have wrinkled my nose. Sure, I understood that you have to make a big deal out of successes when you're potty training a child, you have to act like you're excited about it. But surely that's all it would be: a show of positive emotion, masking the underlying truth that I had just had to watch another human take a dump.

Nope. I really was as excited as I sounded. So excited, in fact, that I had to tell you all about it.

Yep, I'm definitely that guy now.

Cliches

The self-portraiture phase is kind of a big cliché for photographers, I know. I have to get it out of my system eventually, though, right?

I figured as long as I'm engaging in clichés, I might as well really dive in, hence the "here's half of my face" composition, the faux-Andrzej Dragan texture and tone, and the boring expression.

Maybe I'll remember to shave before the next one.

5 Reasons I Shouldn't Buy a Nikon D700

1.) I don't have a spare $2,500 just lying around. Even if I did, that would only get me the camera body, and none of my current lenses work well with full-frame cameras.

2.) Even if I did have money burning a hole in my pocket, that money would be better spent on things like lights, light stands, gels, lens filters, and so on.

3.) I haven't reached the limits of what my current camera can do. I take some decent photos, but I'm still getting a feel for exposure, dynamic range, and so on. The limitation on my photos right now is me, not my D40.

4.) I just got two new lenses for my birthday, neither of which work with the D700. I really should spend more time with what I have before I move on to something new.

5.) A better camera won't make my pictures better. What makes a great photograph is composition, subject, and lighting, not gear.

I've been repeating this list to myself for the last several weeks. It's going to stick one of these days.

Flying

Flying

I like lifting Jason over my head and making noises at him. He likes it, too. Sunday, in the park, I wanted to see if I could still pick him up with one hand. Turns out I can. For now.

Sunday Concert in the Park

"You didn't bring your camera? I'm shocked! Why not?"

"Well, I didn't want to be obnoxious."

"Then why are you taking so many pictures?"

"Because you gave me a camera."

*

The band kicks off an uptempo, swinging number. Juliette and I admire a couple of Lindy Hoppers from our picnic blanket.

"Up, up!" demands Jason. I scoop him up, both of us laughing, and we bop along to the rhythm. I get a twinkle in my eye, and toss him in the air; he shrieks with joy. Here's someone I can do all of those cool swing lifts and tosses with, where my wimpy arms fail me with someone my own age. Jason loves it.

The song ends. Jason claps. "Yay!"

*

"What do you think about me singing in a swing band for my next hobby?"

"I think you should do it! Ha!"

"I don't know, I think maybe you should stick with this photography thing a little longer."

*

Stopped at a light on the way home, waiting to turn onto the on-ramp:

"The thing I don't get about these photographers I follow is that they all seem to be married, and yet they never seem to be home, and certainly never around dinnerti... Whoa. Now that would make a good picture."

"It's definitely a picture. Wow."

Ahead of us is a steel blue Cadillac convertible with fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror. The driver and passenger have leaned toward each other for a passionate kiss, their sun-kissed blond hair fluttering as a slight breeze picks up. The sun is just about to duck behind the hill behind us, the last golden light of the day making the two of them glow.

*

Pulling onto the freeway, the sunlight smacks Jason in the face. He yelps and claps his hands over his eyes. A few seconds pass before he lifts his hand slightly, peeking out from underneath. The sun is still there, still bright; back goes the hand. But he keeps peeking, his features taking on an expression that almost dares the sun to still be there. The sun gives up and hides behind a hill.

Clown Mouth

Clown Mouth

Jason likes cake. Can you tell?

Blue Horizons Birdwoman

Blue Horizons Birdwoman

I know that when you go to SeaWorld you're supposed to take pictures of dolphins and orcas, and I did. All of those ones came out boring, though, and this one--one of the performers in the new "Blue Horizons" show--was one of the few interesting shots I got all day.