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Terry E. Christian
21 June 2015 @ 02:50 pm
When it rains, it pours.
As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago we had to get our central AC unit replaced, which also led to our having to get our electrical disconnect box for it replaced and our furnace overhauled because the original installer was negligent and rigged around his mistake instead of solving it.
Well, a few days ago our hot water heater (a gas Ruud 40-gallon) started leaking, so we decided to replace it with a gas tankless (a Rinnai RUC98i). As it turns out we had little choice since codes have changed, making our old water heater a dinosaur that couldn't be installed the same way today. It's costing roughly the same about of our HVAC expenditure recently, but we're hoping the energy savings and peace of mind will be worth it.
 
 
Terry E. Christian
16 June 2015 @ 06:24 am
A continuation to my earlier post:

4. I've also begun "homebrewing" my own photographic developers from their component chemicals by following recipes. I've already done this with B&W developers to great success, and a less overall cost, since so many B&W developers share some of the same components. Now I've moved on to C-41 color bleach, and I'm happy to report that's working, too. I might tackle more ambitious formulas like Mytol or Rodinal next.
 
 
Terry E. Christian
15 June 2015 @ 08:21 pm
Some updates about recent matters:

1. About a week and a half ago, our central AC unit failed. Earlier this season, while dealing with a minor repair to Mom's AC unit, we discovered a reputable repair service we could trust, as opposed to our former one. The new service found that in addition to the AC repair, the exterior electrical disconnect box really needed replacement, and that the former repair service had screwed up the installation of our furnace on multiple levels (it's a long story, believe me). So we had this new service definitively fix everything. Doing this cost us a few thousand dollars, but we should be in good shape for decades to come. Some of the existing work had probably not been updated since the house was built. Now everything is so much more efficient, as they also replaced the old paper and fiberglass duct insulation as well. We'll see over the coming months how sharply our usage dips, but already it seems the unit isn't kicking on as often, and the airflow is sufficiently greater as to cause the metal return grates to "sing."

2. So, Memphis' last photo store is no more, after being a family business for 109 years. I honestly don't see how they stayed in business, but I'm not going to openly question their business decisions or suggest how they might have done things differently. That's not my prerogative. I visited them a few times over the last couple of weeks and cleaned them out of what I felt I could use that was still within my budget somewhat. Some of the highlights included two Leica MR shoemount meters (one of which I've just paid a bundle to have refurbished, as it matches my M3); their film changing darkbox; a densitometer; their film sleeving machine; some Kodak, Nikon, and Leica signs, books, and other "swag"; and one of their tables, which is just the right size for my mat cutter.

3. I'm still available for customers who need developing and scanning: 35mm, medium format, or 4x5; B&W or C-41 (no E-6). I've just started playing last week with some Kodak Vision 500T motion picture film I bought from a local photo buddy. It worked out rather well, except much more blue (from the tungsten balance) than I thought it would be. So I have the requisite correction filter on order already and I'll see what that yields.
 
 
Terry E. Christian
29 December 2014 @ 08:51 pm
Here's my 2014 annual best-of music post.

BEST PROG ALBUM:

Magenta, 'The Twenty-Seven Club'
Bands with female lead singers are rare in prog-rock. Magenta is one of them, and they knocked it out of the park with this one. At times they sound reminiscent of Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd. Christina Booth's vocals are always tasteful and emotional. 'The Twenty-Seven Club' is a concept album written about various rock musicians who have famously died at age 27.

RUNNERS-UP:

IQ, 'The Road of Bones'
Moodier than most, 'Bones' sees the UK's IQ shifting into less dynamic but haunting music.

Transatlantic, 'Kaleidoscope'
Modern prog's most infamous supergroup (consisting of members from Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, Flower Kings, and Marillion) returns for their fourth outing and pull through with a collection that, while often predictable, never disappoints.

SHORT AND SWEET:

Haken, 'Restoration' EP
Haken had gone relatively uncelebrated until their third album, 'The Mountain,' released them last year from the cocoon of their early work. While they work on their fourth proper album, they have released 'Restoration,' a reworking of three songs from their demo tapes. The newly polished songs have been honed to perfection, among them the Tool-like ballad "Earthlings" and the instant classic "Crystallised."

NON-PROG:

Chicago, 'Now: Chicago XXXVI'
We had all thought the jazz-rock ensemble Chicago had slowly declined into greatest-hits limbo after the 1980s. Hints of a new spark came with 'Chicago XXX' a few years ago, but NOW worthily displays their talents so strongly and freshly that one could almost completely forget those cheesy Peter Cetera ballad years. Fans can imagine that it's 1978 again and that they've just regrouped after losing Terry Kath.

a0594554670_10
 
 
Terry E. Christian
This is a tale of three houses. One can refer to them by the last two digits of their street addresses: 68, 67, and 77. The house my husband Danny and I live in is 68.

A few years ago, we bought 67, the house directly across the street. We think of it as “the crazy catlady house,” since we bought it from the son of the owner, a crazy cat lady who unfortunately died of severe health problems brought on by the dozens of cats and quite a few dogs who lived in it with her. Because the son lives in a faraway state, and probably also because of the stench of the place, he had no interest in the property and decided to sell it. The house has a working furnace, but only one small window A/C unit in the master bedroom, and no central air. We had to completely gut the kitchen, so it is in a state of severe disrepair. Currently, because of its window unit and adjoining half bath, I have my photographic darkroom in the master bedroom.

My mother is in her mid-70s and lives with my sister (who actually isn't my sister by blood, but that’s another story) and my sister’s husband. Because they were living in an expensive apartment that was about to have its rent jacked up with a new lease, they expressed interest in renting 67. We agreed, but ultimately my sister’s husband found out that his employer needed him to be there and would fire him if he moved here and tried to commute. So that killed that idea.

In the meantime, the owners of 77, who had only lived there a few years, moved out suddenly when it seemed they were about to be foreclosed upon. The house went up for sale, finally, and we decided that we’d make an offer in my name. That way, if I got the house, I could never lose it, unlike our own house in Danny’s name, due to the abysmal state of same-sex civil rights in Tennessee. As it turned out, the offer was accepted and I closed on the house in late March 2013. Compared to 67, 77 was in nearly perfect shape: two bedrooms, one bath, working furnace and central A/C.

I immediately started painting the house in preparation for its being a destination for family and friends to stay instead of renting a hotel room if they came to visit for a few days. Because we couldn’t exactly have two houses we called “the house across the street,” we needed another informal name. I decided upon Jonny McGovern’s “The Gayboy Mansion,” which is an intentional misnomer since 77 is a rather small house! We changed two of the rooms. The original dining room we decided to use as a combination breakfast room and bar. Another room was originally a family room or den with a separate exterior door, but it was much too small to actually use in that way, so it became the dining room.

We had both spent our childhoods in rooms with mostly white walls, so we wanted this house to have more color. It took me a long time working by myself, but I first painted the ceilings, interior doors, and molding stark white, and then nearly every room a different but coordinating color.

When Danny’s mother passed away several years ago, he put the most treasured family furniture in storage to safeguard it. Upon buying the Mansion, we were able to take it out of storage. The family was lower middle-class, so the furniture is beautiful, mostly solid mahogany, antique but not ornate. The dining room suite is easily the most grand of it, but not by far; it is in the Federal style, a Duncan Phyfe revival set. Two other pieces, a rough-hewn washstand and a darkly varnished serpentine-front dresser, are sufficiently primitive and imprecise that we believe them to be either handmade or hand-assembled, and date back from the 1890s to the early 1900s.
 
 
 
Terry E. Christian
10 March 2013 @ 10:46 am
2013-03-09-005

Gundlach Korona 5x7 with 4x5 back, Graphex Optar 135mm/4.7, Shanghai 100, Rodinal 1+100 stand, f/4.7 @ 2 secs.
 
 
Current Music: The Original 7ven - Cadillac | Powered by Last.fm
 
 
Terry E. Christian
04 January 2013 @ 05:37 pm
Sheesh! The last time I posted it was late August, I was flashing a bit of chest fur, and I'd just gotten my braces off. So here's an overview of my fall, in pictures.

Not long after I got my braces off, I did something I'd been meaning to do for some time: I made some all-new, digital self-portraits.

DSC_4172.jpgDSC_4199.jpgDSC_4166.jpg

Now from this point onward, everything you'll see is on FILM, in various formats, shot and processed myself.

I did some poking around dodgy areas in my neighborhood, shooting neglected areas, mostly an closed-down and abandoned apartment complex that I couldn't resist.

2012-09-28-0132012-09-28-0192012-09-28-0212012-10-01-0182012-10-01-0222012-09-28-0222012-10-23B-0172012-09-24-0292012-09-28-018

And then in October, my husband Danny and I drove to his hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, for the second half of his 50th anniversary college reunion at Furman University, which was timed to coincide with their Homecoming weekend. Furman seems to be a tiny liberal-leaning bastion in upstate South Carolina, and the alumni staff and students were extremely welcoming, accepting, and congenial to us. One alumni staffer related to us the story of a student there who'd had all kinds of self-esteem problems related to coming out, and she said she told him about us (after meeting us last spring, at the first half of the reunion) so that he could derive some hope from growing up in that part of the country. We were very touched. In the couple of decades prior to Danny's attending Furman, they had merged what had been small, separate men's and women's colleges, and Danny's graduating class was the first to attend all four of its years in what was then a completely newly built campus. This year was Danny's first time back at Furman since graduation, and he was in awe of how well the campus layout and landscaping plans, brand new then, had blossomed into one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. The tree saplings he remembered being planted were now a long tunnel of overhanging boughs welcoming him back.

2012-10-23D-0202012-10-23-0092012-10-25A-0042012-10-23C-010

And while we were in town, I stopped by an old camera store (which was supposed to be closing last time we were there, but hadn't), and picked up bulk-size jugs of C-41 process chemicals. Look on any commercially available roll of color negative film you can buy, and it'll say "PROCESS C-41." Processing C-41 at home isn't difficult, but the chemistry is more specialized than regular B&W; and for no good apparent reason, no one makes C-41 chemicals available individually in a reasonable size. Either they're packaged together in kits, or just in bulk jugs like minilabs use. So I bit the bullet and bought them in bulk, and they worked rather well. I was quite pleased with myself that I'd done the proper research and didn't fuck anything up!

The last big news is that in late November, for my birthday and to commemorate the end of my years-long adventure to mitigate my birth defect, I finally got the leg tattoo that my late friend and club brother, John Hubstenberger, had had commissioned for me, based on the bas-relief sculpture of St. Michael the Archangel at Coventry Cathedral in the U.K. Below are pictures of the original sculpture, the tattoo in B&W, and then after coloring two weeks later. Personally I kinda liked it better as B&W, but other people seem to like it better in color.

Epstein's St Michael, Coventry Cathedral,Coventry Cathedral 24-07-09 IMGP1877St. Michael the Archangel tattooSt. Michael the Archangel tattoo

I'll shoot another photo of it soon, since it has healed some and the color has calmed down a bit.

I've also recently put a strain on my credit card by buying a Zone VI (rebranded Tachihara) 4x5 field camera, but it was in excellent condition and came with two lenses and all the trimmings for an incredible price. I'm hoping to really give it a workout as soon as the weather clears and gets a bit warmer. Between winter weather, having a seasonal cold, and just plain lack of inspiration, I've been about to go stir-crazy with my photography. I'm hoping to break out of that soon. And in a few months, my mother, my little sister (actually she's my first cousin, but that's another long story), and her husband are going to be moving across the street from us, into the house in which I currently have my darkroom, so that's another adventure. I hope to start taking my sister photo-walking to give her something interesting to do, and I gave her three film cameras for Christmas so she can get a feel for them and take her pick!

I trust you all have had a very happy and blessed Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) season. I'll try to update in a more timely fashion this year!
 
 
Terry E. Christian
31 August 2012 @ 02:12 pm
After three years of having orthodontic braces on to help correct my hemifacial microsomia (a birth defect), they're off; and to paraphrase RuPaul, I'm looking good, feeling gorgeous... er, handsome. I go back in a week to pick up the retainer I'll have to constantly wear for a few weeks and then tapering off to only sporadically at night. In other words, this angsty process is complete and those inner demons I wrote about so fervently way back when are pretty much slain. Everyone who's seen how I looked before and how I look now agree that it's a night and day change. My self-esteem is going through the the roof at the moment... so much that I think I'll post a FYFF:



[Edit: And here's the official after shot that's been posted to my orthodontist's Facebook page:]



Also, just over a week ago we returned from our annual vacation to Wisconsin, as I mentioned in my previous post. A muscular daddy I shot two years ago wanted a repeat photo shoot, so I shot that, and a power-player SM couple who have been attending the run for a few years wanted me to shoot two SM scenes of theirs. I think they turned out quite well. Also, I shot around ten rolls of film, both B&W and color, which I processed myself; and the best of those have been uploaded, too. Be sure to check out the final color pics in the set, as they were shot on Kodak Ektar and have a very saturated, nearly Kodachrome type look to them that jumps off the screen. Ektar isn't good for everything, like portraits, but for "things" and landscapes it's fantastic. Camera, film, and development details are posted with each film image.
Most everything is in the "Wisconsin 2012" set, the muscular daddy is "EC," and "The Ken Dolls" is the SM couple. (For privacy reasons, I don't post any NSFW images, sorry.)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/otterdaemmerung/sets/
 
 
Current Mood: accomplished
 
 
Terry E. Christian
13 August 2012 @ 09:01 pm
Yes, I know it's been months since I last posted, and I'm making a mad dash to post before we go on vacation tomorrow for a week.

We'll be going up to Wisconsin for the Argonauts/Castaways joint run, which we've been attending for years. Each year we also bring up real Memphis barbeque (via Central BBQ) for those poor, pitiful cheeseheads who have no real food and have to survive on beer, brats, and cheese curds. Bless their pea-pickin' hearts. ;-) Our sightseeing adventure during the trip will be to make a return visit to Door County, the splinter of Wisconsin that juts into Lake Michigan; the city of Green Bay is at the juncture where this splinter joins the rest of the state. Door County seems to be known for its cherry harvests and its lighthouses. Last time we visited there, we drove all the way to Death's Door, the tip. This year we plan to park there and catch the ferry over to Washington Island, just off the coast. Of course, I'm bringing my camera arsenal to capture as much as I can, mostly on film, including my 4x5 Graflex Crown Graphic.

I'm also very near the end of my tenure in braces now. Next month I will have been in them for three years. It's a pity my orthodontist couldn't have seen fit to take them off before my vacation, since my next appointment (when he just might remove them) is only two days after we get back! Oh, well, it'll be worth it, whenever it occurs. As long as I've been them, I might as well be patient in finishing them out.

There's nothing else major to report. The heat of summer has kept me from doing as much photography and darkroom printing as I would have liked -- pretty much none, really -- so I'm really going to try to make the most of this cooler fall, and of course the mild Wisconsin weather while we're up there! Everything's packed, and as soon as I can get off work tomorrow, we leave for the Badger State. I'll post links to my photoset from the trip as soon as I'm home and have started processing, developing, and scanning everything.
 
 
Current Mood: chipperchipper
 
 
Terry E. Christian
15 April 2012 @ 03:19 pm
Okay, I haven't updated in quite a while and I think it's time I ditch the video posts, at least for now, and write seriously about what's been going on in my life over the winter. It has been one big long emotional stress ball, but things are looking up.

If one thing has been ever-present in my life this winter, death has been it. Last fall, an old friend of Danny's passed away, and we drove to Montgomery, AL, to attend the funeral. It was held in a modernistic but ugly church, with bad music, and I felt rather out of place. Other than having a weekend away with Danny, I enjoyed nothing about being there.

I ended up not having the jaw surgery that was scheduled for December. I have a birth defect, hemifacial microsomia, that amounts to prenatal underdevelopment of one side of the face. Mine is relatively mild as far as that defect goes and could have been much worse, but it's always been a problem for me. A few years ago I started taking care of my neglected teeth and the oral surgeon who removed my wisdom teeth started me on the track to getting orthodontic braces and had an eye on doing surgery to fix my slightly malformed right jaw. In doing the needed measurements for the surgery, he found that the kind of surgery he wanted to do to straighten out my bite was not possible, and the only surgery that would actually have a chance of helping would be an extensive procedure, an overhaul of my jaw. However, the extensive surgery would risk making my jaw non-functional, so it was a basically all or nothing proposition. We ultimately decided that at my age it would be best to leave well enough alone and not do any surgery. I must admit I was excited about having the surgery, but not looking forward to the lengthy recovery or facing the risks. In my view, it was bittersweet. At present, my orthodontist is doing some final tweaking of my braces to maximize some things non-surgically, and I'm nearly done.

After the death of his Danny's friend, both of us started pondering our own mortality and in February Danny made an appointment for us to visit a local funeral home to start making our final arrangements. It is something he'd always meant to do, but his friend's passing away had spurred him to act. In the meantime, though, we got the sudden news in our dear friend and club brother, J., whom we had only known a couple of years, committed suicide. He had attempted it last year, and at the time that put us through the wringer emotionally, but this devastated us. He left no note and no explanation, but from piecing together clues from his other friends it seems he'd had a history of depression; in the past few years he'd had some minor health issues that may have negatively affected his finances; and the week before, after more than a year of stressing about it, he'd officially lost his job. He was an incredibly sweet and loving man, but he was an exceedingly private person. Most of his family lives in a state far away and other than getting his body and arranging for his car, they had little interest in taking over the dissemination of his belongings, so that task has fallen to his closest confidant. We're sorry she was saddled with the responsibility, but we were able to take some of his things, including his club colors. He had also enormously helped our roommate John to get his small business, John's Pantry, off the ground in its first few months, so two baker's racks from J.'s kitchen are now there. And I'm glad that a few plants that J. had given us -- some rainlilies (Zephyranthes) and a red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) -- are growing well and getting ready to bloom. It's a damn shame J. chose to end his life in the dreariest days of winter, because everyone's mood seems to lift in these beautiful days of spring when in our part of the world everything is growing and Nature is blushing into joyful color. Getting those few things of J.'s from his house, and the beauty of springtime and Easter, have been invaluable for us in helping us to turn the page and close the book on grieving over him.

Ultimately, as difficult as it was, Danny and I kept our appointment and made our arrangements. Doing it while still raw from J.'s death ironically made the process easier; I think we were just that much more numb from it all. As morbid as it seems, it's a comforting thought that Danny and I will be together when our lives are over. And a neat thing about it is that we'll be buried together (double deep in the same plot) in a new, military-only section of the cemetery. That's progress in action, folks.

My photographic mojo has suffered from all this, but I've been using the opportunity to sharpen my darkroom printing skills and round out my kit. I had thought about modestly celebrating the end of my term in braces by buying myself either a Leica rangefinder (the Rolls Royce of cameras), or, more reasonably, a "clone": one of the non-Leica cameras that conform to the Leica specifications and take the same lenses, not notably by fellow German company Voigtländer, or by any one of the few camera companies in the former Soviet Union. Completely by chance, I got a fantastic deal on one of the latter, a FED-2b, with two lenses included. I think I've got a pinhole light leak in one of the shutter curtains, but it's not serious and I'm trying to track it down. Fantastic camera otherwise and it satisfies my "I deserve a Leica" hankering. Danny usually opposes my gear geekery, but he actually spurred me on recently to buy a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, a Bakelite pseudo-TLR box camera from the 1950s. Very cute! With spring and more sunlight returning, I think I'm getting some of that mojo back, and feeling better. I'm already working on setting up an online shop to offer some of my handmade silver halide photographs for sale.

One more thing I'll be doing as soon as my braces come off is getting a tattoo. Our deceased friend J. had thoughtfully commissioned a local tattoo artist to draw up a design for me, based on my idea: a tattoo of St. Michael the Archangel, as depicted by Sir Jacob Epstein's bronze sculpture at Coventry Cathedral, symbolizing my personal victory over the "demons" of insecurity, low self-esteem, and dysfunction due to my birth defect. It will be on the outside of my left shin, mostly in monochrome, with some color highlighting.

At the urging of a friend, this week I'll be seeing a dermatologist to see about getting a large, bumpy mole removed that I have near my left ear. Maybe he can remove a couple of prominent smaller ones from my back, too. It makes no sense for an ugly mole to spoil what would otherwise be my faaaaaabulous new looks when the braces are done! ;-)

Since I've turned 40 last fall, I seem to have settled into what may be my mode of thinking for this decade: working on putting my impulsive younger days behind me, and slowly getting my life affairs settled in preparation for my more mature years.
 
 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative