October, 2012 Archives

Attack Of The Killer Ads

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October 28th, 2012

Frank and Mary come to us courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. If you don’t want tax increases, excessive government intrusion in your lives, Constitutionally mandated soul replacements and yet even more tax increases, vote for Proposal Z. Tell the politicians YOU want to decide whether or not jeggings are a crime. A vote for this candidate […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcCandidates.jpgFrank and Mary come to us courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If you don’t want tax increases, excessive government intrusion in your lives, Constitutionally mandated soul replacements and yet even more tax increases, vote for Proposal Z. Tell the politicians YOU want to decide whether or not jeggings are a crime. A vote for this candidate is a vote for Satan.

Look, I know the political season is a boon to our economy, but I just can’t wait until November 7th when all the attack ads crawl back into the holes from which they were spawned. The money being spent on TV, radio and ink-on-paper mailers is astounding. But remind me in four years to set up shop as a printer or television station so I can get in on the insane cashflow. I’d need earplugs though, or blinders.

Same thing with phone calls. We’re on the National Do Not Call Registry, which I think alerts all the campaigns and special interests that we really do, in fact, want to be bothered several times a day. Sometimes I answer their queries; sometimes they offend me. Once I was even hung up on when I told them I was voting for Candidate B over Candidate A.

We’ve received mailings — on the same topic from different sides — showing a politician in a lion’s den, then that same politician as a demon in a slasher movie. Please forgive me if I wanted the lions to eat that candidate. Maybe it’s because our own Detroit Lions aren’t doing so hot. Our Tigers either, but that’s a whole other debacle.

I know there are more important things to be upset about; Syria, Iran, Frankenstorm. But when politics get personal — and by personal I mean when they bother me on the phone, in the mail and on TV — then I find myself becoming ornery. I think most people have decided who to vote for. I also think negative advertising, this late in the game, isn’t helping anyone.

I’ve come to believe, after careful, sound reasoning, that on Michigan’s ballot proposals, any advertising that disagrees with the position I’m taking is all just a pack of lies. I’ve researched each proposal thoroughly and know, deep down, that my opinion is far more valid than the opposition’s.

So it is with childlike euphoria that I await the evenings, snuggled in front of Modern Family, with nary a phone, television or mailbox interuption to disturb my reverie.

But what’s this I see just now? Christmas ads are already on the television and shouting out at me in chain stores a week before Halloween even falls? Oh goody, more advertising to complain about.

If Santa robocalls me at home asking for my vote …

Welcome To The Mountain

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October 19th, 2012

Led by team leader Mick Cochran, my group examines pages we’ve edited and designed for the end-of-workshop book. We’re a photo flash mob. We’ve done this every year for the past 37 Octobers. Our founder, Mike Morse, began this endeavor back in the 70s by photographing one-room schoolhouses. They slept in chicken coops and ate […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWorkshopPano.jpgLed by team leader Mick Cochran, my group examines pages we’ve edited and designed for the end-of-workshop book.

We’re a photo flash mob.

We’ve done this every year for the past 37 Octobers.

Our founder, Mike Morse, began this endeavor back in the 70s by photographing one-room schoolhouses. They slept in chicken coops and ate baloney sandwiches. Nowadays, we rest at the Sleep Inn and eat smoked pork butt, specially made for us by a fabulous volunteer chef. Those Workshoppers from long ago would be turning over in their graves — if they were dead, that is.

They’re mostly alive, and hopefully we will be too after this week. Long, caffeine-soaked hours will propel us, if recent history serves as an indicator. More than a hundred of us journalists, educators, students — and those of us who are all or neither — have invaded lovely Henderson, Kentucky for this year’s Mountain Workshops.

In less than a week, we’ll produce a book about the town, chock full of stories. We’ll also create a slew of multimedia presentations documenting the people who call Henderson home. There will be a permanent gallery and website as well. But now we’re just showing off!

There’s learning to be had here. And it’s not just in the form of wide-eyed students, standing nervously among the giants of the photojournalism industry. Even the Pulitzer Prize winners on our staff –- and there are many to be found around here — find tiny bits of advancement and major bytes of growth. The name “Workshop” may imply one-way learning, masters teaching disciples. That is as much a misnomer as naming it the Mountain Workshops, as it’s been pointed out time and again that the closest thing to a mountain around here is the gradual berm this lovely campus sits upon.

Yeah, we didn’t like that previous sentence either. Most of us are photographers who think we can write.

Networking happens here too, literally – wired and wireless. There is also the type of networking that builds friendships and mentorships that last decades.

We are the Burning Man of the journalism world, leaving nothing but incredible images in our wake, if we stay awake.

Like flash mobs, we started out quiet, subtle, but now gain strength as we grow.

Unlike flash mobs, there’s not a lot of spontaneous dancing.

Yet.

It’s still early; anything can happen.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcWorkshopLoomis.jpgPulitzer Prize winner Rick Loomis critiques the photos of Workshop participants.

On The Campaign Trail

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October 16th, 2012

It’s crunch time in political campaigns across the country. Numbers are crunched; time crunches, as does the pavement beneath the feet of poll workers. I’ve always enjoyed this season, especially so every four years. This year, I got to participate in the process by following around two extraordinarily hard-working campaigners down in Ohio. Two guys […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcObamapoorchpooch.jpg

It’s crunch time in political campaigns across the country. Numbers are crunched; time crunches, as does the pavement beneath the feet of poll workers. I’ve always enjoyed this season, especially so every four years.

This year, I got to participate in the process by following around two extraordinarily hard-working campaigners down in Ohio. Two guys in their mid-50s — recently unemployed —  decided to work for their candidate by traveling cross-country from their sunny California homes and settle in Dayton, of all places.

Keith Turner took the job back in June, when the city was sweltering hot. He recalls wanting to quit after his first day of stomping through some of the cities rougher, crime-filled areas. The people he met brought him back. He got his cousin Dean involved and now the pair scour a precisely delineated precinct, putting up signs, contacting voters, assuring everyone their ballot matters.

Now it’s GO time, GO TV time. I thought it was some sort of television show before they explained it to me; GO TV means Get Out The Vote.

And yet, during all the frenzy, they still took a few minutes to squire me around town. We drove through the historic area where their grandmother was raised. We stopped and photographed the house where their grandfather was born. Nearby was the cool, crazy college where both their sets of parents learned their socio-political ways. We took pictures there too, mimicking an old family photo of their grandfather with his twin daughters, their mothers.

I remember that photo as well.

It’s been in my family for 60 years. I don’t have a copy of it with me, but maybe my mom or my aunt do. After all, it was them in the picture.

Their sons — my brother and cousin — have continued on their parent’s and grandparent’s proud social and politically active ways.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcObamaKeithphone.jpghttp://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcObamaComposite.jpg

Anticlimactic

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October 12th, 2012

Click the cover to learn more about my new book. My publishers promise that it will go on sale in early November—perfect for holiday shopping.I shouldn’t have been all jittery. I shouldn’t have avoided it for so long. I shouldn’t have made such a big, damn deal about it. But I did. It’s been exactly […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-1016_A_Cute_Leukemia_cover.jpgClick the cover to learn more about my new book. My publishers promise that it will go on sale in early November—perfect for holiday shopping.I shouldn’t have been all jittery.

I shouldn’t have avoided it for so long.

I shouldn’t have made such a big, damn deal about it.

But I did.

It’s been exactly two years since I was incarcerated on the tenth floor at Karmanos Cancer Institute, where they took a small vial of my brother’s blood, extracted his stem cells and gave them to me.

During my stay there, I hit some of the lowest points I’ve ever witnessed in my life. They did that to me on purpose; they wanted to — as one doctor put it — “dangle me over the abyss, then just as I am about to drop off, yank me back with borrowed bone marrow.”

So you can kind of understand if I didn’t feel too much like taking a stroll down Marrow Lane. Yeah, I’ve been going back to that address for the past two years to get checkups and adjustments to my medication. But that happens in the clinic downstairs. Upstairs is where the magic happened. And the fears remained.

“This is silly,” I told myself. I need to go visit, say hi and see if any of the patients could use a pep talk from someone who went through it and lived to tell the tale.

It wasn’t so hard; the elevator still worked the way most elevators do. Pressing the #10 button, though, seemed impossibly difficult.

Whooshing to the top floor, I stepped out and saw familiar sights; patients walking laps with their IVs like I did, doctors and nurses going from room to room for daily chats, and the dry erase board with patient-to-patient notes.

And then there was the zany nurse who I could never quite get a handle on. Her hair was dyed now and she had no recollection of who I was. Thank goodness, because I think I cursed her under my breath more than once when she’d waken me early and say — when I wouldn’t get out of bed soon enough to suit her — “do you think I’m doing this for my health?”

$#@% I would mumble.

But something started to happen. I began realizing that there was no conceivable way they would abduct me and make me a patient again. Furthermore, I realized in a stunning, jaw-dropping moment, that it was exactly that scenario that I was worried about. Huh?

Those are things that happen in weird anti-rooms during strange, mostly forgotten dreams. Those types of twists of fate are fears from nursery school, where I’d be certain I’d never get to go home again. I needed to stop being a baby.

Then there she was, my sweet and caring nurse Melissa. There she was, walking down the hall with arms wide-stretched for a hug and a smile as warm as the one that caressed me back during my darkest days when I sobbed in her arms, barely able to sit up. Melissa, whom I’ve written about and whom I’m eternally grateful for. Not only did she buy me Pizzapapalis back when things were easier during my stay, but she cradled me like a newborn — for indeed I was, with the new blood type and stem cells — when things were rotten.

Now, two years later, we laughed, talked about life (hers, this time too) and passed a few moments together in health and happiness. Nope, nobody needed my kind words today, she said. Everything was going great for the patients. I told her my book A ‘Cute’ Leukemia was due very, very soon and she was one of the featured chapters.

Then, a million pounds lighter than I arrived, I took my leave. But not before another nurse on the floor said, “hey, I read your blog all the time.” Joking that she, me and my mom made the three sole readers, I floated toward the elevator.

I wanted to make my exit before, you know, they changed their minds and re-admitted me.