Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hiring a wedding photographer

Last year I had to hire a wedding photographer.  You know, to photograph my wedding.  (It has been a long time since I've written here.)  But anyway, I can say now that the contracts that wedding photographers want you to sign all pretty uniformly suck, and you should definitely read them carefully before signing and before agreeing to anything.  Here are the non-obvious things that I suggest that you look out for when reading the contract:
  • What happens if they don't deliver?  Wedding photographer contracts are designed to protect the photographer, not you.  Some of them actually say that they're not responsible in any way if they deliver no photos to you at all!  Make sure that you get it in writing that you are owed at the very least a refund of everything you have paid them if they fail to deliver a certain number of photos of the event, by a certain date.
  • Watermarking:  Make sure you get it in the contract that the final images you receive aren't watermarked in any way.  Otherwise you might get an embarrassing logo on every photo, and it's $500 more to get the photos without it.
  • Model release:  Basically all photographers will require that you sign a model release allowing them to use your photos to promote their business.  But a surprising majority of them want you to sign a model release allowing them to use your photos for any commercial purposes whatsoever.  So read the fine print—if you agreed to it, that would include selling your wedding photos as stock photos for use by businesses in advertisements!  It sounds crazy, but it turns out that most of the contracts I saw included that right, whether or not they ever intended to utilize it, and we had to drop one photographer because they were unwilling to budge on it.
  • Electronic distribution and print rights:  Make sure that you get the rights to distribute the photos electronically and make prints.  Some contracts only allow for one or the other.
  • Copyrights:  Very few professional photographers will offer to transfer copyright of the images to you—the copyright will still belong to them.  You'll just get the aforementioned print and distribution rights.  You generally won't receive the original RAW (digital negative) images, and you won't be allowed to make any modifications to the images before printing or uploading them (Instagram filters, for example), as doing so might cause harm to the photographer's reputation.  It's great if you can get the copyrights and/or RAW images, but don't expect them, at least not for extraordinary extra cost.

Time, time

Oh.  Hello there.  Yes, it's been a while.  I've been busy.  Haven't really had the time to write much.

I've been sharing my thoughts privately lately.  I don't know if I'll get back to this thing or not.  I'd really like to go through and organize it and clean things up and kind of turn it into a memoir-in-progress.  But there are an awful lot of things I'd love to do that I never have the time to do.  Time, time, never enough time.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Because rams are Satanic

I was a Riley Raider in the single-digit years of my life.  Eventually enough parents complained that naming an elementary school after pillagers and rapists was somewhat inappropriate, and we became the Riley Rams.  Parents immediately objected to that because rams are Satanic, and we then became the Riley Superstars.  Now the internet tells me that they're the Rams again.  Parents are fickle, it seems.

One of my favorite parts of being a Raider was music class.  I liked getting to sing in school, I liked getting to play with drums and xylophones and the utterly fascinating autoharp, and I just liked having a part of the day devoted to music.  My teacher, whose name I can't quite recall—Mrs. Anderson, maybe—was a tall, kindhearted white lady who I'd guess was about 40.  She walked the fine line between letting us get into our rendition of "Jimmy Crack Corn" and enjoy life, and letting us goof off so much that we devolved into Lord of the Flies chaos.  But the one rule that she strictly enforced was that everyone had to try their best to stay on pitch.  She was the music teacher, after all.  Seems reasonable.

I recall her specifically instructing us more than once that while it was okay to sing like the people on the radio at home, in her class we had to sing correctly: one pitch per syllable, except the "Gloria" in "Gloria in Excelsis Deo."  What "correctly" meant was, to bluntly approximate, "not like black people."  I didn't understand that at the time.  I didn't actually have much exposure to pop music other than rock until middle school, and given that it was the 80s, I suppose that pop music on the radio would have been pretty dominated by white people anyway.  My recollection of middle school is that it was actually rather diverse, maybe only a bit more than half white.  Middle school art class in the early 90s was probably the first time that I heard non-rock pop music for any length of time.  And then, certainly, I heard a lot of "incorrect" singing and soulful R&B voices, with two or even three pitches per syllable.  But elementary school, despite being only a few blocks away, was not like that at all.  I'd go so far as to describe it as almost all-white.  (According to the website, the staff is also exclusively white at the time I'm writing this.)

I didn't wonder until recently what kind of subtle impact those lessons might have had.  What does a white child learn when they're taught for five hundred hours across six years that the way that they hear white people sing is correct, and the way that they hear black people sing is incorrect?  (That may not be nearly as true today as it was a few decades ago, but I would argue that you could still guess a vocalist's race today with somewhat-reasonable accuracy based on their manner of singing.)  Even without my teacher ever explicitly mentioning race in the class, that seems like a lot of subtle subconscious reinforcement; our brains are good at putting together patterns like those.  And furthermore, how does it feel for the one or two black kids who already have limited exposure to people they can relate to at school?

I don't mean to call my elementary school music teacher an awful racist.  But looking back, I do think that she could have done better to help encourage her students to embrace a wider variety of musical styles, by playing genres of popular music in class that we might not have been familiar with, and allowing kids to emulate the artists that they knew and loved even if they sang in a style that she wasn't familiar enough with to teach.

Really, I suppose it's not terribly worse than an elementary school music teacher of 2016 who told their students that music produced on computers or samplers is inferior to acoustic music, which would be absurd and harmful, without bringing race into it at all.  Art classes for children can teach ideas and techniques and stimulate creativity and broaden horizons—they shouldn't be used to tell kids that the very things that excite them about art are incorrect.

That is, unless the child is starting to show an interest in country music.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Conquering Australia

I don't discuss politics often.  It's not a topic I care for all that much, and despite already being in the fourth season of House of Cards, it's not something I'm terribly qualified to talk about at depth.  But one thing that I've been thinking about a lot over the past few months has been those people who support Bernie but wouldn't vote for Hillary if she were the eventual nominee.  Some say that they wouldn't vote at all, or they'd vote for a third-party candidate (which is of course equivalent), or occasionally they say that they hate her so much that they'd rather vote for Trump, even though by all accounts their ideals and beliefs align much more closely with Hillary than Trump.

We live in something at least vaguely resembling a democracy—wait, a republic—well, at least we don't have a king.  We're each entrusted a vote, allowing us each a tiny say in how our country is run, and who should run it. It's a wonderful, sacred thing, and we shouldn't waste it on people we don't truly believe in.

Except, of course, no, it's nothing like that.  It's not sacred at all.  It's a minuscule tool that we're given as a part of a well-defined and completely absurd process that was designed by people who aren't us.  Hopefully that doesn't sound terribly paranoid, but I don't think it's very controversial to state that gerrymandering exists or that the electoral college is insane or that our systems of assigning primary delegates are maddeningly overcomplicated.

But anyway, people take it as this matter of personal pride that they refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils.  And I think that's madness.  Voting for a president is not choosing a godfather for your child, you're not taking them home to meet your parents, and they're not putting your name down as a reference for a job application.  You're not vouching for their character, and you don't even have to like them.  You don't have to like the process either.  In fact it's not about you at all: it's just a formal dance that our country goes through every four years, and trying to make it about you and your own romantic statement that you're making into the void and at no one in particular is counterproductive and irresponsible.

You did not write the rules to this game.  You can and should feel bad that it's a terrible system, and it's awesome if you want to help try to change it.  It would be wonderful if, in my lifetime, we actually fixed our election system and there were more than two real political parties.  But you should feel no more remorse voting for the lesser of two evils than you would for conquering Australia in a game of Risk.  That's just the way this game works.  You have all the other days of the year to work toward fixing things and raising awareness and convincing people that someday it would be really cool if we weren't controlled by the incredibly rich—but on election day the only thing you're doing is filling in an oval next to the name of the least terrible of two people.  Stop pretending that it's something that it's not.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Genghis Khan

Lately I've picked up a bunch of new albums from artists I like, and it's been pretty nice.

Basement Jaxx—Junto: 6/10
Highs: Never Say Never, Galactical
Some delightfully wacky house music, but spread a little too thin.  Don't bother springing for the deluxe edition.

Florence and the Machine—How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful: 8/10
Highs: Delilah, Queen of Peace, Third Eye
Beautiful, powerful, energetic, and interesting.  Delilah is pretty much what I want from rock-and-roll.

Foxy Shazam—The Church of Rock and Roll: 6/10
Highs: I Like It, The Streets, (It's) Too Late Baby
Modern-classic rock from Hipster Freddie Mercury.  I don't really want to listen to a whole album of it at once, but a few tracks now and then can be just right.

Sia—This Is Acting: 8/10
Highs: Bird Set Free, Alive, Cheap Thrills
It's like Sia covers the top pop hits of the past five years, except they're not covers at all.

Rihanna—ANTI: 6/10
Highs: Desperado, Same Ol' Mistakes, Love on the Brain
Some good tracks, and a few that just don't work work work work work work.  Mostly forgettable.

Miike Snow—iii: 7/10
Highs: Genghis Khan, The Heart of Me, My Trigger
A delightfully wacky foreign pop adventure starring Genghis Khan, easily the best song I've heard in months, with a fun video to go along.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis—This Unruly Mess I've Made: 7/10
Highs: Downtown, Light Tunnels, Brad Pitt's Cousin
Ventures a bit too far into pretentiousness from time to time, but still far more varied and interesting in subject matter and sound than the majority of rap music being cranked out.  Downtown is what you get when you mix nostalgia and showtunes and rap in a blender, and both the song and video are completely insane but work so very perfectly.

Random singles I recommend:
Dolly Parton—Jolene: Yes it's from 1974 and yes it's country, but it's still fantastic.
Kimbra—Goldmine: Rest of her second album is meh, but this one's solid.

Trent Reznor—Gone Girl: Good soundtrack for the movie, but uninteresting on its own.
Britney Spears—Femme Fatale: Actually liked it, but I couldn't see myself wanting to hear these songs very often... maybe if it's cheap
Rae Sremmurd—SremmLife: Awful pop-rap performed by children! Joy!