Prairie Thunderhead

POSTED IN | 11:10 PM

Full Moon


Moon shadow.

White Wonder



Brace Face-Less!

POSTED IN | 11:49 AM

Now you see them.

Now you DO NOT!

Mouth full of Metal: a haiku
April '05 Plight
Bracketed Loserdom Life
A good day this is

1976 meets 2006

POSTED IN | 12:57 PM

Amazing what 30 years will do for technology. The old school AE-1 is what I learned on. A great camera. None of this point-and-shoot business back in the day. It was all manual all the time: focus, aperture, shutter speed. You kinda had to know what you were doing. Nowadays there seems to be less general knowledge of the finer points of photography. Tis sad...


Happy 26, sis!




Deathly Hallows gifting.


Each summer OU does a thing called Camp Crimson for incoming freshmen. Perhaps some of you have attended this yourselves, but it's basically a get-to-know-others-and-have-fun-in-a-college-type-setting thing. One of the events for the camp is a hypnotist presentation. My friend Mike asked me to take some pics alongside him for the yearbook, so I obliged and tagged along for the Thursday evening show.

As a side note, it was good to be back in the photojournalism saddle. Roaming around, snapping pics, getting people's names and identifying info for photo captions (i.e. name, major, classification — freshman in this case). I miss taking pictures like this. And I think I'll definitely miss shooting football games come fall. Alas, no more free sideline passes for the OU-Texas game. Sigh...

But I'm not sure what I think about hypnotism. It seems like you have to want to be hypnotized for it to work. I think I would be too stubborn to succumb. But it's entertaining to watch others do wacky things. I had a fun evening snapping pics and absorbing the frosh excitement. I remembered back to my incoming freshman days. Good times.

And it makes for some good photo opps. Here are some I got:

Falling asleep.

When the hypnotist played certain music this girl acted like a giant bird was attacking her.

This guy thought he was celebrating his fifth birthday. He had some difficulty inflating his balloon.

This guy thought he was Shania Twain and sang along to the tune Man! I Feel Like a Woman. I will say this was very amusing. Notice my friend Mike in the bottom of the pic. He got ground-level shots. I played sniper in the balcony with the telephoto. I love this lens. I would buy one if I had $1,200 laying around without a purpose.

Backyard 'Burban Bounty

POSTED IN | 12:30 AM

Becoming Okie Again

POSTED IN | 10:40 PM
Tired of the blatant consumerism, flippant urban sprawl and outrageous monthly petrol expenditures ($600/mo.!), my brother finally sold his house of cards and said farewell to the Dallas/Fort Worth concrete jungle.

It's been a good four years in Ft. Worth for him and his branch of the Stuart clan, but from all observations it seems they are looking forward to the commodities that a hometown return affords (namely two sets of overly willing baby-watching grandparents, a fifteen minute driving interval to almost anywhere in town, and a personally-initiated eviction from the Lone Star State — beautiful)

So these are interesting times of change in the Stuart family at large. True to our gypsy ways (see my family in the 70s and 80s), we are a fam in motion at present. Here's the skinny:

Sib No. 1: Aaron, 31, aka "The Fatman" — moved to Ft. Worth, Texas with fam in summer '03. Now moving back to Norman this week.

Sib No. 2: Dinah, 28, aka "Chubby Dinah" — continuing to live in Edmond, Okla. Boo. Boring. Where's the gypsy wanderings?

Sib No. 3: Laura, 26, aka "The Chubby Giant" — moved with hubby, Sam (aka "The Tiny Pet") from Norman to Ft. Worth, Texas two weeks ago.

Sib No. 4: Me, 23, aka "Chub Chub" — moving to San Jose, Costa Rica in August '07 (and after that maybe Colorado?).

So, effectively my parents are losing two children and regaining one in the mobilizations. And I suspect with the advent of grandkids in the immediate geographic area that they'll forget about us out-of-state people with a kind of blissful ease.

"Didn't there used to be a few more of you kids?" they'll ask innocently and with passing ambiguity at the dinner table of local family-member gatherings.

"Hmm...seems like there were a few others at one time...hmmm...well, no matter...pass the mashed potatoes this way."

But enough of this bamboozling. Time to kill the fatted calf and light the celebration torches. Welcome back, brother!

Some shots from moving day in Texas:

My bro's fam.

Nephew Joshy working on his Calvin Klein head-shot poses.

Joshy bearing the burden of moving day. And he still calls me "Sam" after my bro-in-law. Lame. I guess we're both tallish, skinnyish dudes who aren't his dad, so it's hard to distinguish us apart. Perhaps we can work on this in the next few weeks. "Uncle JOHN, Joshy." "It's UN-CLE JOH-N."

Nephew Carson blazing down the ramp. I remember doing this exact same thing. One of the best things about moving day, really. You can't beat a good bike ramp.

Carson helping dad.

Old School Shot


Backyard bouncing. Me, my amigo Daniel and my sisters (Dinah left and Laura right) circa 1992 in Norman.

Kicking the Habit


Success! I finally quit chewing my fingernails as a life practice. Based on a passing dare at Summer Conference in May, I decided then that I'm done with this neurotic sillyness. And I'm a better man for it, I think. So far I've been clean for about eight weeks now. My support group has been very helpful and encouraging. Oh, I quit popping my knuckles too. Figured that wasn't helping me either.

So here's to kicking a 23-year-old bad habit. Maybe I'll focus next on my scab-picking tendencies...

Tour of Duty

Well, the army band tour is all but complete. We're back at our Oklahoma City headquarters, and basically all I have left to do is take a Physical Training Test in the morning at 0630 hours. There's an outside chance that I could muster the wherewithal to max the points on the test, but we'll see how I feel when the sun comes up. The max score for my age group (22-26) requires 70 pushups and 80 situps (both in 2 minute intervals) and a 13 minute (or less) two-mile run. Sounds like a hoot, right? Well, great!, you can come along with me in the morning and we can do it together. I'll loan you a spare army PT uniform.

But it's been a good few days on the road with the bandees. I forget how when a group of musicians is amassed how truly eclectic the people tend to be in the group. Or at least it's been this way in my experiences. Whether you're in middle school, high school, college or the army, you're gonna get people of all flavors. And when you're spending all day with these people for a week, you notice things about them. Some good things. Some less than enjoyable things.

And there always seem to be a few individuals who earn their keep as the band's unlikeables. Or sometimes they're just nerdier or more annoying than everyone else so they end up squarely at the butt end of the jokes. And it's a sad thing for sure, but you'll notice that I said these people EARN their way into this omega wolf position.

And how do you earn your way into it? Well, as one of these omega wolves does, you could start by talking about yourself all the time. You take every chance to talk about your own personal experiences, you begin every sentence with "me" or "I" and you have little regard for social conversive norms. Then you talk on your cell for 1.5 hrs in the van from St. Louis to Eureka Springs about your cat, specifically the organic cat nip you plan on purchasing for it in the near future.

Or, you could take the route of another omega wolf, who because of her fantastically spacy ways ended up in Tennessee instead of Oklahoma City on her way to drill one month. She called in to tell the 1st Sergeant she'd be late. Oh dear. I'm convinced she lives in a parallel universe and that life gets lost in translation across the space-time rift.

But all told it's remarkable that people from such diverse backgrounds can come together and more or less get along and play music together. And though there are rocky times, a general feeling of gentility usually permeates the band and comaraderie is high. I like that at any given time someone can pop in a classical CD in the van and instead of audible moans of distaste someone will pipe up in the back with "is this Bernstein or Copland?"

At times I wonder what it would be like if the band got deployed (which has never happened in the history of the 95th division). At most we would pull security for our division general inside a cushy compound. But WOW, that would be interesting. Or crazy. Either works.

(more serious content below. skip to pictures farther down if bored)

This week four years ago I graduated from basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. A lovely place if you've not been (though I'd avoid the tear gas chamber if I were you. it kinda burns), and among other things, home of the army's field artillery training center. And sometimes I think about my fellow platoon mates who have real jobs in the army. I wonder what they're doing, how they're doing. It's quite possible that some of them are dead. Though I hope not.

Recently I got back in touch with a guy from basic training (courtesy of Facebook). He was a medic and just finished his four years of active duty. He's back at home in Cali and counts the army as one of the greatest experiences of his life. He was a good friend at basic training and we talked a good amount over the nine week cycle.

I think about who I was going in to basic training, a white 19-year-old mid-western boy among a slew of INTERESTING characters from asundry places. And the advent of living around my five immediate bunk mates (all of whom were African American) was a truly unique and enriching experience. Both for my increased understanding and appreciation of black culture (they bought me a dorag at the post general store) and for my enhanced vocabulary (though I didn't start swearing till AFTER basic training). It remains one of my most stretching and enjoyable life experiences to date.

But alas, the text grows lengthy. On to the pics.

Arkansas terrain.

Dennis displaying a loaded hand signal. A fellow bone player, he works at a prison and could literally break me in two. But it's interesting when he talks on the phone about teletubbies and barney in a cute daddy voice to his daughters.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Silly green-friendly treehuggers. This one was particulary remorseful about the state of environmental conservation and degradation.

American pride embodied in a bench.

"Snickers," a Tea-Cup Poodle.

Trombone quartet. I'm currently riding the pine because of my braces. Fortunately there are five of us. But the braces come off next week!

Band peeps.

Here's Nathan. Can you guess what he plays? He's the brightest Arkansas native I've met though his Natural State twang would tell you otherwise. We talked theology around the pool one night at Eureka Springs.

Thorncrown Chapel near Eureka Springs. One of the top 20 American architectual structures of the 20th century.

Rednecks. Spc. Kimmel and I purchased some Bass Pro Shop hats and choice t-shirts to wear while canoeing the Arkansas River. He got a WORLD'S GREATEST GRANDPA shirt. I went with the Arkansas Razorbacks one, of course. We had names too. He was Rusty Shackleford. I was affectionately Kit Axlerod. Good times in Arkansas.

Branson, Missouri: sprawling land of touristdom. I'm not a big fan of the place. Too gimmicky. Though I remember Silver Dollar City was fun as a kid.

Arkansas landscape. I forget how pretty it is.

Kimmel launching over the chair in a round of pool games. My shins are a bit worse for wear after scraping across the seat on a low dive. But it's good clean fun for everyone.

St. Louis

POSTED IN | 11:27 PM

Chilling near the old state capitol with the arch in the background.

We played for a decent crowd at a nifty pavilion on the banks of the swollen Missouri River.

My roomie, Specialist Kimmel, surveying the city. Notice the Cardinals' stadium in the distance. It's certainly worth the 10 bones to get to the top of the arch. A college dropout designed the elevator system and the arch only sways nine inches at most at the top (in 150 mph winds).

St. Louis Union Station. A fantastically beautiful old edifice. I think about remarkable old buildings like this and wonder where the architectural aesthetics have gone in our modern age. It's depressing to observe your average cityscape these days. Holy bleak sprawling franchise nightmare, Batman! I guarantee people won't be blogging positively about strip malls in 100 years.

Kids playing in the fountain.

I felt obligated to go for a dip myself. I daresay I exposed more upper thigh than ere I have in public before. Ghast! But the cool water felt good in the steamy afternoon sun.

The arch. 630 feet of picturesque, stainless-steel covered concrete. A remarkable structure.

Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln...and Kimmel.

Looking down on the arch mall.