Monday, May 11, 2020

I've Left

Back in the day, Blogger was IT. The place to be. I managed to join during the height of the blogging craze. Those were the glory days.

But like many, many bloggers I've deserted this wonderful free platform for one of the flashy new ones, the kind that promise you a hundred shiny templates and your own domain name.

For anyone still stumbling across the ghost town of this site, please be sure to follow me to my new and improved, upgraded and nearly as neglected digital portfolio of a website at

Friday, June 19, 2015

Accidental Photoshop Practice

Right now there is a cat sleeping under my desk. Every time I stretch out my foot I kick something warm and furry and, occasionally, moist.

Last week at the beach I took some photos. That is a slight understatement. I took a lot of photos. But a good deal of them did not turn out, and a good deal of those were on a card that was tragically wiped accidentally at the last minute.

A happier accident is that some of the beach photos survived. Much to my surprise, I shot them in raw, a format which I should be using but (#storyofmylife) I am afraid to do much with. While mourning the loss of my other, safe, jpeg photos I came across these and decided to make them look nice in Photoshop (which I also barely know how to use) and post them on the internet. As you can see, my coloring still needs some work.

I played around with framing a lot last week. I'm trying to move beyond my amateur point-and-shoot mindset to find tighter, sharper, and more interesting angles. As you go through them, though, you can see patterns where I tried the same idea over and over again. The following pictures aren't my most confident work. More like a sample of my work-in-progress.

"Stop! Don't move! Let me take your picture!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sam and Hadley are Married

My latest attempt at wedding videography. This was shot on four different cameras between three different people. The full wedding video has the largest amount of footage I've worked with to date. Nesting is saving my life right now.

This is before I discovered nesting.
It's still less work than the short film I made because this is all about cutting between one continuous shot. It takes discernment and rhythm but it's not as hands-on. I have less creative control. But it's good work, good practice, and I'm happy to do it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Guest Post: Pint-Sized Piety

Leslie Conzatti from the Upstream Writer sent me this guest post a while back and I have been forgetting to post if for far too long. Here is Leslie's take on the "pure" role models that you may have experienced in your childhood reading. Though I confess I still love the melodramatic Anne Shirley I appreciate the flaws Leslie points out in that series. Even nostalgia should not be immune to criticism, especially when books like these can shape your thinking in subtle and sometimes harmful ways. Give this post a read and be sure to share your opinion on fictional role models for girls -- and whether you've noticed characters who are not quite as good as we've been led to believe.

Elsie Dinsmore... Anne Shirley... Polly Pepper... Mary Rode...

These are heroines of Christian juvenile literature, the books thrust into little Christian girls’ hands so they wouldn’t fill their head with magic and wizards and all sorts of witchcraft that could be so damaging to little minds. These were the prescribed role models; if we can get our girls to admire these characters, to behave like these characters... well, they might not be totally perfect themselves, but at least we could look forward to punishing them less often, and convincing them to obey us without question, right? 

Just do what these people do, and our lives will turn out just like theirs. When people start treating us unfairly or wrong, we just whisper a quick prayer—or better yet, one of the King James Bible verses—and the one doing the tormenting will immediately be convicted in their soul because of our behavior and ask us about God—at which time we will eloquently give a list of verses strung all together like stanzas of a poem, and they will have such respect for our vast knowledge that they will never bother us again. According to these books, even girls as young as eight years old have the capacity for complete docility and total restraint of their temper; is it really too much to expect—nay, demand—from one’s own children?

It’s Christian chick lit for little girls... and I think, for as much as I read, and as much as young girls in Christian families are encouraged (among other things) to read—and read these books, in particular—these books just about ruined my discernment, my faith, my perspective, and my life. Bear with me as I take at least four books from my early formative literary years, and unpack the deplorable fallacies in each—ones that we might not notice, for all the nice, shiny, “Sunday Best” these present on the outside.

Elsie Dinsmore

Basic Storyline: The motherless daughter of a rich Southern family comes to live with her father’s family while she waits for him to come home from abroad (since he had abandoned her mother while she was pregnant, under duress from his family—but now that the mother is dead, he can raise the child). She is dutiful, docile, incredibly saintly, and draws the admiration of everyone around her (except her own father, till the very end when she almost dies) for her spectacular character. In ensuing installments, she marries the very good friend of her father’s (which the age difference is rather suspiciously ignored and never mentioned) who of course dies and leaves her a widow—but Elsie handles it all with such purity of heart that we could never hope to achieve.

Why did we read this? Elsie is heralded as “A Christ-like role model” for little girls. There are presentations of the gospel to skeptical relatives, Bible verses illustrated, and young Elsie is the perfect example of the child every parent dreams of having: one who is devoted to the Bible, obedient in absolutely every instance, and so completely guileless that they would never be known to lie or disobey without immediate confession.

A Closer Look: This book, bluntly stated, fostered a deep discontent with my lot in life. Elsie had a big house, a rich family, and nothing but leisure outside of studies—which she never seemed to actually fail at, as the book constantly reiterated her meticulous attention to sums and lessons. I wanted people to dote on me like Elsie’s family doted on her. I wanted people to see my righteous responses and penitent tears as the pious demonstrations of a “Christ-like role model” and reward me for it. When someone teased me and I begged them to stop, I wanted them to be so ashamed of themselves that they would go above and beyond to try to make it up to me. Basically, I was a selfish little girl who would rather live in a fantasy world, and felt entirely justified in it, because Elsie was a “Christian role model” whom I was allowed to idolize and envy, because of the “excellent moral teaching” it contained.

Five Little Peppers And How They Grew

Basic Storyline: A poor, rural family of six (a widowed mother raising five children under the age of 13) always manages to be happy and contented in spite of their circumstances. A chance encounter with a very rich boy brings the family into acquaintance with neighbors who are so pleased to have this poor family as friends that they become quite close—only to discover that the long-lost father of one unit in that family is the Peppers’ uncle, and so they’re not so poor after all!

Why do we read this? Five Little Peppers serves as a treatise on the importance of industry and deistic humanism (the Peppers refer to faith in God, but largely all of the difficulties are surmounted by self-effort and miraculous coincidence) served up in simple vocabulary for the early reader. Phrases like “’To Help Mother’ was the great ambition of all the children, older and younger” so cunningly emphasized, stand out to the reader’s eye, so that any child transitioning past the age of unconditional delight and into the realm of expectations and parental approval contingent on familial obligations will seize upon this opportunity and look to the lively Peppers for ideas by which they could improve their lot and take the fictional ambition as their own.

A Closer Look: It’s a family of five and the oldest is eleven years old, and everyone is just as hard-working and painstakingly pleasant as you would never believe. I read this book like the fiction it was; industry of this quiet, placid sort was not common in my world, and we certainly were never so poor that we’d go skipping around the house as a family to herald the delivery of a new stove when one arrived as a gift. Granted, it’s not as intensely tear-sodden as a certain rich young heiress... but the “family that everyone envied because they had such good times together” has little bearing on the art of actually telling a story to someone older than ten years old and home-schooled—oh, and should I also point out that there’s little about the Gospel, really, in this book... at least I wasn’t overburdened with verses in King James English, but it really felt more like a younger version of Little Women as far as a deistic, moral, poor family went—and, frankly, I prefer the Marches. They were more like my own family, and I felt I understood better how to interact with my family from reading those.

Anne of Green Gables

Basic Storyline: A Canadian couple on the small island province of Prince Edward Island send out for a boy to help the elderly man with the chores around the farm. What they get is a spunky red-headed girl who changes their life and the community of the island forever. Eight books span her life from her arrival at Green Gables, through marriage, raising seven children, two wars, and finally, seeing every one of her children happily married. (Those who survived the War, that is...)

Why do we read this? This book is popular for the nostalgia factor, maybe. Your mom grew up reading it, and it’s clean enough (prodigious and quite precocious use of the expression “Gee whiz” or some variant), and the romance is the “petty,” Hallmark variety—and there’s no divorce or really devastating severances or really illicit affairs, so everything is on the up-and-up... even if it’s miles away from the straight-and-narrow.

A Closer Look: What part of Anne’s total irreverence, her penchant for chasing after boys, lying, and her glib shallowness was ever considered a good idea for little girls to read? If Elsie Dinsmore drew me into the fantasy world of stately houses and pretty things and indolent lifestyles, Anne of Green Gables got me further in by tempting me with so many good-looking gentlemen and too-good-to-be-true coincidences and overly-forgiving authorities. (Somehow, fitting an apology into a funny story of how the mistake came about still did not get me the reaction she always managed to receive...)

Anne was disobedient, sassy, and foolish, but she was so amazing at it that everyone still loved her. I wanted that. It led me down the path of thinking that any boy who teased me secretly liked me—and did I like him too? Maybe... I mean, he is “Awf’lly handsome!” and that’s what counts, right?

A Basket of Flowers

Basic Storyline: There was an elderly basket-weaver who served his country well and saved the life of a Count who rewarded him richly. Being a devout man, however, he accepts but a little garden cottage, reasonably furnished, in which to raise his young daughter, Mary. She grows up in the company of the young Countess, their benefactor’s daughter, who is so enthralled with Mary’s skill and industry that she invites her to the castle and heaps gifts on her, which inevitably invites the resentment of her greedy, selfish lady-in-waiting, who forthwith does all within her power to discredit and frame Mary to get her first imprisoned and then banished. Together, the two make their way into the wide world where they are taken in by a kind farmer, and are able to do lots of wonderful and useful things for the farmer, and everybody is happy. By and by, the father is taken ill and dies, leaving Mary destitute and immediately afterward, she is turned out of the house by the farmer’s daughter-in-law, a prideful, shrewish woman. Mary is rediscovered by the Countess, who has by that time discovered the injustice that had separated them, and furthermore, as Mary is reunited with the people that loved her, she is able to see justice served on the cruel farmer’s wife, bestow deathbed forgiveness to the waiting-woman who wronged her, and falls in love with the judge’s son, who is both noble and exceedingly handsome, and thus the book ends with its heroine happily married.

Why do we read this? Perhaps it is to entertain the notion that life + Bible verses = eventual riches and recognition in high places. The main message seems to be something like, “No one ever says No to the Bible!” It’s a nice quiet book with lots of pithy observations, and heady theological concepts ostensibly condensed into easy object lessons for the “young reader” to understand. The evil, selfish, liar is punished; the evil, prideful tormentor ends up making a fool of herself; and the poor, oppressed heroine is eventually elevated to a place high above them all. What’s not to admire and ultimately want to have in one’s own life?

A Closer Look: Take out the bible verses, and you basically have Cinderella, Version 2. That’s all this is, a fairy tale with Bible verses thrown in. But it’s the Bible verses that make it “good Christian literature” isn’t it?

No; I’ve learned this in my own writing. Just because you have characters spouting reams of Scripture and “preach-ifying” every time they open their mouths doesn’t discount the fact that this is nothing more than a heady sermon thrust into a fairy tale with a liberal heaping of King James verses that is less a “tale for the young” and more of a sweet pat on the spiritual ego for the parent who doesn’t let their kid read C. S. Lewis “because of the Talking Animals.” (Two words: BEATRIX POTTER...)

The reality that these books do not address is that there will be people who will say “no” to the Bible... and do so very convincingly. There will be times that do not have a pithy verse we can carefully incise from its context and apply like a round peg to the “square hole” of our circumstances, completely verbatim and preferably in the “original” King James...for effect. It might be easy to dwell in the hypotheses of modest dresses, eligible and handsome bachelors just waiting for that saintly little angel to catch their eye, at which point they will follow them home or search the village like Prince Charming bearing only the “glass slipper” of her “shining countenance” as an identifier, of a family whose highest form of ideal amusement is sheer industry—something they will gladly spend themselves to death at the age of ten for! But what does this do for the reader in regards to their life outside the covers of the book?

One of the most poignant quotes I ever read put it this way: “Good writers touch life often...” Some people consider fiction to be merely a form of escaping ones reality, serving only to increase the disorientation upon reentry, because the “holiday” is over and the world had gone on spinning without you, and now you must play “catch-up.”

But this is not true... or rather, the “escape literature” should not be regarded as the good stuff, nor even as a reasonable sample of all fiction. Good fiction, according to the quote above, is grounded in something that the reader can relate to, ten or even fifty years down the road from when the book was published. It’s penned with a solid understanding of what life is, not one isolated Sunday-school spinster’s imagination of what life ought to be.

That is not to say that all Christian literature is bad; the rare author who decides to break the mold and go ahead with telling their own kind of story that reverences God and His Word, whether or not it actually references it—all the while keeping with the truth of the quote above (which, by the way, is from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451—the first “secular” novel I read of my own volition after being so jaded by the sorry state of Postmodern American Literature in my last semester of college!) and touching life often enough that the reader—far from being disoriented by the real world—is emboldened to seize the opportunities presented to her. She is inspired to appreciate her world a little more, by the way the writer presents the real-world elements of the fictional world. She is enriched in her logic and vocabulary by the quality of the amount of literature she is reading, not affixed within rigid buffers that really narrow all of literature to one or two genres because most Christian authors don’t seem to know how to fit the Gospel into anything but a romance or a children’s book. 

Most of all, she is empowered to do more than just sit at home and sew and wait for her prince to knock on the door—she lives her life and engages her world because of what she has learned about it from the books she reads.


Leslie Conzatti has two great passions in life: God and literature (in that order). She has been writing stories since before she could read, typically of the fantasy or sci-fi genre.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, she can usually be found on one of two blogs: her personal blog, The Upstream Writer—an entertaining source for her more literary side; and Emily Ecrivaine Reviews, where she lets her inner geek out for some much-needed airing of nerdy parodies and highly studious TV show reviews. When Leslie is not pursuing her latest fanfiction adventure or working on her novella which will potentially be one of five to be published in an anthology late next year, she also works as a second-grade classroom assistant in a local elementary school.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Before You Share That Article...

... think twice!

Should I share this article? 

This is a question that, unfortunately, does not get asked enough in the world of social media. It's easy to just click share without thinking about the wider consequences. In all of our online sharing we need to be discerning, especially on social media where an untrue or unhelpful article can spread quickly. I've written out some questions that I ask myself before sharing something in the hope that these ideas will be helpful to you as well.

The Clickbait

Does the title of this article contain the following phrases, or phrases that are similar: "Made my day, my jaw hit the floor, everyone was shocked, you won't believe what happened next, etc."?
If YES then ask yourself
Did this really make my day? Did my jaw literally hit the floor? Was everyone truly shocked? Am I still having a hard time believing what actually happened next?

If you must, do so with an apology, or see if you can find the source article or video. As a general rule, try not to direct traffic to clickbait sites. They often repost other people's work without crediting, or use dishonest and sensational titles to generate clicks. They should not be supported.

The Pseudoscience

Does this article link to every study that it mentions (especially if it uses the phrase 'studies have shown that __ causes cancer')?
If YES then take a moment to click through the links and make sure they're from a reputable source, even if you don't understand a word.


If you must, you're going to have to do the research yourself and post links along with the article. There's no way around it. You shouldn't trust claims made without proof, and you shouldn't pass them on to your friends either. When the subject matter is medical an article that makes false claims can quite literally be harmful to anyone who follows its incorrect advice.

The Sensational

Does this article sound almost too good or too horrible to be true?
If YES, then ask yourself
Does this article come from The Onion, or another parody news site? 

If NO be sure to ask:
Does this article have a corresponding page on

If you have already shared the article, don't post a retraction that says "this is false, but my point still stands." Just don't do that to yourself. Check before you post or own up afterwards. If you fail, admit it, but don't continue using a soapbox that just collapsed.

The Political

Does this political article unfairly attack the opposing side by referring to them with hateful or slang terms, by using angry and bitter speech, by spreading lies and disinformation, by making unfounded assumptions, by generalization, or by promoting slander and gossip? 
IF YES then it goes without saying. DO NOT SHARE THE ARTICLE. It does not matter how wrong you believe your political opponents to be. Always be the better man.

IF NO then ask yourself
What are my motives in posting this article? Am I sharing it with selfish motives, e.g. to attack another friend who has the opposite opinion, or because I feel a great deal of hurt and hatred toward people who hold the opposite opinion? Do I have friends who may get offended by this article, and am I sharing this expressly to offend them?

IF NO and you can honestly say that you are sharing this article because it expresses your opinion on a certain political subject well, then go ahead and post it. Remember that there are some things not worth ending a friendship over, and many political topics fit into this category. I'm not saying you should always be silent, just that you should always be gracious.

The Downer

Was I going to share this article with the following caption, or a similar caption: "What is this world coming to? What is happening to our country? This is why the world will end soon. What is wrong with people? I don't even want to live on this planet anymore."
If NO then you're all good. Just checking.

If YES then it's seriously time to get off of Facebook or Twitter. Get up out of your chair, go hug your closest loved one, get outside and go for a walk, eat some chocolate, take a deep breath. Acknowledge the fact that you have no control over the events of history. Make peace with it. God is in control. It's going to be all right. I promise.

So let's commit to being wise and discerning curators of information on social media. We've been given a lot of power and we must use it responsibly. Here's to less of these articles in the future, and more good articles and great discussions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I'm Upgrading to a Canon Rebel t5i

This beautiful little camera has been mine since Saturday and I love it. I've taken it all around, shooting random video of inanimate objects, people's faces, cats. Mainly cats.

This is the first DSLR I've ever owned so it still feels a bit like alien technology. I've been making do with cast-off camcorders for so long that having a DSLR feels like an incredible luxury. My Rebel t5i came in a bundle with two lenses. It has a stabilization feature on the lens. It has adjustable focus. It has a touchscreen. Honestly, it almost feels like too much.

But the video I've been getting is the crispest, sharpest, and clearest of any camera I've ever had my hands on and it is so exciting. Even though I'm a complete stranger to things like iso and aperture. YouTube has been very helpful so far and will continue to be my personal film school over the coming weeks.

I never thought still photography was very interesting but I've been (attempting) to take some pictures and it's actually more fun than I imagined. I've been using it to experiment with composition (and take cat pictures, of course.)

Pictured: the only two cameras I've ever bought.
The above picture will give you an idea of how big of an upgrade the Canon Rebel is for me. Of course I've had a variety of camcorders, ranging from Sony to Everio to the Canon I borrowed from Daniel Wilson to film Rachel and Steven's wedding. But the Flip is the only one that I've actually been able to call mine, and I stopped using that as a primary camera a little less than a year ago. The Flip video camera line has been discontinued for about three years, in part thanks to the improvement of iPhone video quality.

Notice the lack of options on the Flip camera? The big red button is for recording (in case you missed the subtlety of that feature) and that's about the extent of the camera options. The Canon Rebel on the other hand is a bit overwhelming in comparison. But it's going to be a lot more fun.

The Flip camera and I have had a good run, but now we're parting ways. It's going away to a good home where it will be put to good use.

Never mind, I'll find someone like you.....
I can't wait to shoot a video with my DSLR. I'm hoping to do some music videos for some musician friends of mine at some point. Music videos and commercials are two things I've always wanted to try. Music videos have so much potential for storytelling. I've started a Favorite Music Videos playlist to get a feel for what I like and what I want to emulate. 

Beyond that I may try to do some more sketches or short films, and I'll probably end up with some event videos whether I like it or not. It would be interesting to shoot another wedding with my better equipment and increased experience.

Also I can now take better cat pictures than ever before so that's a bonus. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Achievement unlocked: model status.

Want to see video mode in action? I've put together a video of some of the shots I've been taking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Contra Dancing is Awesome and This is Why

I don't only do event videography but this seems to be a lot of what I film and edit these days (huge thanks to Ruth for doing 99% of the filming.) This was a costume party/dance/fundraiser that I organized for the Oregon City-based Hope 360 pregnancy resource clinic.

The majority of the dancing was contra dancing, or folk dancing as some people call it. We also had some swing dancing but unfortunately didn't capture it on video.

While I was organizing the dance I watched a lot of contra dancing videos on YouTube in order to find some new songs to dance to. Because the videos I found were so helpful I decided to film this dance to help anyone else looking to organize a contra dance.

If you're new to contra dancing (or only think of it as a slow, boring, and awkward pastime enjoyed by people in the late 18th-century) this website is a decent introduction. Honestly, contra dance can be a slow, boring, and awkward pastime, but if you're looking for a dance where you don't have to know all the moves (or any moves) then this a great place to start. If you can count to eight, clap, skip, spin, and run, then you can contra dance. When its done with enthusiasm (and the right music!) contra dancing can be incredibly fun (and an intense workout.)

Using modern music helps a lot. I'm really excited about how a lot of newer pop songs incorporate EDM music into their choruses or throughout their songs. EDM is dance music, and if you get one with the right beat it makes for some really epic contra dancing (this is technically called something like "techno-contra.")

My biggest goal for organizing and promoting these dances is to make it fun and exciting for all the kids that come. Contra dancing was a big thing at my church when I was their age, but it kind of faded out after a while. I'm hoping to bring it back in a big way while changing a few things that I'd always thought could use improvement (this is the beauty of volunteering, guys.)  I've changed it for the group of kids that are growing up going to these dances, and I can't wait to see how they'll change it when they're old enough to take over. It's a great tradition, and at its heart, contra dancing is a simple but fun activity that has more form and substance than the freestyle dances that are typical today. And it is awesome.

Just like Ruth's "Matchmaker from Mulan" costume.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rachel and Steven are Married (and I shot the wedding)

I'd never really thought about getting into wedding videography, because I didn't actually know wedding videos were a thing until earlier this year. Now I've just finished filming Rachel and Steven's wedding, which brings my wedding video count to a grand total of two. Here is Rachel and Steven's short wedding film.

Since I am new at this, it's all been a learning experience for me (and a good one.) In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts.
  • Event videography is an interesting challenge because you can't pause events and make them happen again. You have to be constantly on the alert, like a hunter or a barehanded fisher. This was very exhausting for me in my post-accident post-concussive state but it was also very thrilling in an adrenaline-fueled way. 
  • It's also a good exercise in learning how to tell a story by identifying the pieces of an event that make up scenes, or snippets of dialogues. Life is a series of significant moments with lots of boring stuff in between, and video storytelling is about catching those moments. Like being a fisherman, a fisher of moments.
  • I'm still not very good at being bold and getting in close with the camera when I need to. I feel very conspicuous and like I shouldn't be there. I tried to avoid this feeling by wearing something dark and neutral and trying to insinuate myself into the scene. This kind of thing will hopefully come with practice and experience, but I'm still working on trying to find that balance between getting a good shot of the moment without ruining the moment.
  • It's hard to find good royalty-free music on the internet. But not impossible.
  • I had three cameras running during the ceremony and I was the only one running them so it was a bit of a juggling act. I'm very grateful for my tripod and my monopod, without which I could not have made it happen. Of course I should have asked my intrepid friend Ruth for help but for some reason completely forgot. I'm still new at this.
  • Speaking of things I forgot, I've twice made the mistake of forgetting to ask the couple if there are any special songs they want in the wedding video, and having to ask them post-wedding. Awkward.
  • Editing is work. Videography doesn't always feel like work, but editing is just plain labor. However, editing is the rewarding part.
  • If something is too good to be true, I've probably done something wrong and will have to go back and put in another hour of work to fix it.
This is me coming off a day's worth of editing to make the above "highlights" film. I'll finish putting together the hour long ceremony video this week in my (ha) spare time. I currently have three camera's worth and about five hours of footage to look through. But I'm not complaining.
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