Mar 31 2011

urban explorers [day 308]

I love exploring abandoned houses and buildings.  A friend sent me a link to an article about “urban explorers” on howstuffworks.com.  This explained my attraction to these old, and sometimes dangerous places.  I learned a few things from this article, but mostly, it explained a lot.

“Urban exploration purists advocate only trespassing — not breaking and entering.  This forces explorers to get creative when finding an entry point into a structure.”

This is true, I have been creative on ‘entering’ some of these places.  If they’re locked up tight, then I enjoy the outside.  If the no trespassing signs are visible and well posted, I leave it alone.

“It should be said that UE is an extremely dangerous and illegal pastime. By nature, old abandoned buildings are unsafe.”

This is true, as I’ve fallen through several rotted floors.  Being careful is good, but being aware and preparing for a UE trip are necessary.

“Some appreciate the old architecture and ancient machinery. For other people, it’s the thrill of just standing still in a silent, untraveled place. Others find beauty in the type of decay that can be found only in neglected buildings.”

I do find beauty, but I’m also fascinated by the personal effects people leave behind.  I’ve found many things in abandoned houses, everything from photographs to electronics.  One house had the whole backside blown out by a storm, the closet full of clothes and the vacuum cleaner from 20+ years prior, sitting there as if the people ran out quickly, never looking back.  I can’t help but wonder why people leave stuff behind, what situation made them leave and how they determined what they did take.

“Whatever his or her motive, an urban explorer finds adventure in these abandoned sites. There’s a peacefulness in these empty, concrete caves that isn’t like the solitude found in the woods. It’s an experience opposite of nature; instead of finding reassurance in the renewal of the seasons, the urban explorer finds kinship with the past.”

This is so true, it’s a peacefulness, but very different than what’s found in nature.  It’s a serene feeling, laden with curiosity and wonder.

“These explorers usually take photos of the places they visit.”

Here’s some photographs I’ve taken in abandoned places, mostly houses.  I photograph these as a hobby, but I just can’t get past the fact that people throw away buildings, houses and cars as if they have no value.  Some of these places are structurally good and it just makes no sense that they’re thrown away.  Continue reading


Dec 28 2010

my kids are okay with it [day 215]

Here’s the answer to the big question, “Were your kids okay with this no retail shopping Christmas?

Yes.

I’m very proud of them.  I’m imposing some of my challenge on them, but just by the stuff I get for them.  They both work for their allowance and they are allowed to spend it retail if they choose to.  My 11 year old could care less about money or buying anything.  My 10 year old, who likes money and shopping, has had $150 in his wallet for over 2 months now.  He’s had several opportunities to spend it, and has not.

When it came to Christmas, my kids didn’t really want much.  As a matter of fact, I got a text from their dad saying he had no idea what to get them for Christmas, as every time he asked, they didn’t really give him an answer.  The one thing they both showed an interest in was an iPad.  After ignoring that for the first 20 times they said it, I thought about it.  I told them they would have to share it, but I would put some money toward it if their dad and grandma would too.  Grandma agreed, dad did not.  It was a bit of a relief, as I really didn’t want to give them a lot of money.  It would be better than them having a bunch of small stuff that will be used for about a week, then end up at the thrift store.  Anyway, no iPad in the Wissing house.

So what did my kids want?  Books.  The Bones series and some of the Pokemon series.  We shopped together on amazon.com and got everything they wanted… used.  I got a book too, Journal Junkies.  I also got them each a gift card from Gamestop, as they have used games, fitting that into my no retail plan.

When they came home from their dad’s house, where they didn’t get anything extravagant for Christmas, they were excited to come home and have Christmas at our house.  Driving home, I was thinking how disappointed they’ll be, as their friends got electronics and lots of toys, and all they’ll get is some books.  I didn’t even wrap anything, the mailer envelopes under the tree, displaying my lack of Christmas consumerism.  We got home, they opened their gifts, and guess what?  They were happy.  They spent the next hour reading, and it would have been longer if I hadn’t made them go to bed.

I don’t know if what I’m doing is good for them, but I’m doing it for the right reasons and I’m sensitive to their reactions to it.  I’m not sure what I would have done if they were disappointed, but I know I would have tried something to make it good, yet still doing what I feel is the right thing.  After seeing from my mom right before Christmas, and hearing how “ridiculous” I am for the no retail shopping challenge and for recycling, because after I’m gone, nobody will care and there won’t be any less trash in the world, I felt okay.  I’m encouraging my kids and I’m not shoving this down their throats.  Christmas will never be good for me, but hopefully it won’t be bad for my children.


Nov 17 2010

get out of the trees [day 173]

My video is finally done and available!  Click here to watch it. :)

This stop motion video project was created for a contest that AT&T is doing through zooppa.com.  Here’s the concept, as posted on AT&T’s site.

The AT&T Simplify Your Life video contest is a chance for you to make your own video about AT&T’s Online Services, such as Paperless Billing, Account Management, AutoPay, and Online Support. Each of these services can help to make life simpler.

The concept is to stay out of the trees, meaning the phone trees and paper trees, and to use the AT&T online services.  To see a blog post on how it was made, check out digitalfondue.org.

I decided to do this contest because I liked the theme, simplify your life.  In trash society world, that means be green, have less stuff and utilize our resources.  It was easy to make a video about that!  And I’ve always wanted to use my old phones in a stop motion video.  No new paper was harmed in the making of this video.  As for the junk mail…

Rethink possible.  :)


Nov 2 2010

a college degree in zombies and lady gaga? [day 159]

Zombies 101: Okay, this is for real.   The University of Baltimore is offering a new class, a class on zombies.  The class will study America’s fascination with zombie movies and pop culture.  The class will watch 16 classic zombie films, read zombie comics and their final project is to create their ideal zombie flick.

The University of Baltimore is not the first to have this type of class.  A college in Illinois and one in Iowa did something similar.  I’m all about studying pop culture, as I do it, I just don’t have a college credit for it.

Lady Gaga Intermediate: Yep, she’s now the focal point of a college course at the University of South Carolina.  The only point.  A class fully dedicated to the study of Lady Gaga.  The professor starting this wants to explore what makes a person famous and what superstardom means in today’s culture.  Here’s the course description: “The central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga.”

Again, it’s good to study pop culture, and I’m not opposed to the study of specific people or groups, but I think we should expand our realm of analyzation.  Instead of one case study, why not look at 5 or 6 of them?  Make it more of a pop culture class versus studying one situation.  That would be like ditching psychology classes and having a class only on Pavlov or Phineas Gage.  There’s a lot to be learned from them, but a whole semester?

Cultural Issues Class: Now this is a class where all of this could fall under a logical heading and allow the study of culture.  Some say we are still in the post modern era but I think it’s time for a new era.  I have no idea what to call it or how to even identify all of the details of what that might look like.  The closest I can come is a word I made up.

Excessable: [ex-ses-uh-buhl]  The materialism excess in our current culture and how readily accessible it is. [see the art collection excessable]

Finding and Photographing Creepy Dolls: Yes, I’m starting my own class.  It is the study of our cultural obsession with plastic, lifeless beings that we love as children and abandon as grown ups.  We will concentrate on where these dolls live, how to find them, strange displays and how to photograph them in their own abandoned environments.  Here are some of the photographs we will look at and analyze.  Classes will begin in December and you must have your own camera and transportation.

Jody Wissing is a professor of doll and mannequin creepology in the Dallas area and has extensive experience locating and photographing these plastic inanimate creations.

Continue reading


Aug 22 2010

at the mall??!!? [day 88]

I went to the mall… yeah, but it was to eat lunch with a friend.  We ate at Potbelly’s, which is really good!  It made me happy because they recycle there.  I must have a thing for trash since we chose to sit next to the trash area…

There’s separate bins for plastic bottles and cans.  They have my business!

When we were walking out, my friend Ryan thought it would be funny to take my photo looking in the window at the Armani store.  I’m sure he was just tired of listening to me gripe about malls.  LOL

I’m quite sure this was my first time looking in, and being in, an Armani store.

Continue reading