Jan 31, 2010

Pictures At A Dog Show

Now, I'm no dog show veteran, not by a long shot.  We've been showing dogs only for a few years now, and lightly at that.  Our local AKC club president has been a member of the local club for two decades now, and likely has been showing for far longer.  Some of the judges at our show this weekend were so old I'm sure they've forgotten more about showing dogs than I know.

Still and all, I saw and was taught some neat things this weekend while helping our local club put on the annual AKC show, and I want to share, limited experience notwithstanding.

I think the first thing I learned is that a dog show is a lot more fun when you're not showing a dog there.  *lol*  The fight for a place to set up, the constant worrying about time and preparation and grooming, all that is gone, not to mention the worries about showing well, placing, so on and so forth, so you can really enjoy everyone else suffering.  You get to wander around freely and critique other dogs.  Since I was working as part of my club I was expected to be there until the very end, so I got to watch the Best In Show, which we never stuck around for when we attend show events ourselves since it's usually late in the evening and after a day of stressing over a hot dog all you want to do is go back to the hotel room, order room service and turn in.

Our club also sponsored an Obedience event.  Now, don't expect me to get into the minutae of Obedience because I can't.  Won't even try, but what I saw was an astounding amount of training, patience and skill in these dogs.  All sorts of breeds--herding dogs, a Papillon, a tiny black poodle, Labs, Dobermans, the works took part.  The requirements were astonishing--the dogs were required to follow a regime as rigorous as any military drill--sitting beside their owner at attention, 'heeling' at varying paces, doing tasks like jumping over hurdles and fetching back little plastic dumbells at a single command, no more, all off leash, all that was something to watch, but then it got serious.  After a bit the dogs were expected to find just one dumbell out of a whole pile of them, then bring it back to their master.  The only indicator that this one out of ten was the right one?  The owner handled it.  No more.

When I watched all the dogs sit and the owners not only cross the ring but leave the arena for a full five minutes, THEN I was flabbergasted.  To watch a Doberman sit like a black and tan concrete statue for five full minutes waiting for his master to re-enter the room was something else.  To watch a whole line of dogs do it was a whole new level.

There was the tiny little girl, a wisp of a thing who might have been all of eight handling a full grown Poodle was a treat as well.  A standard Poodle is one seriously big dog, clown-like haircut notwithstanding.  When this tiny waif would kneel down to place the dog's enormous feet she'd literally disappear behind her charge, and it would take both of her hands to move the feet into place.  The judge was enormously patient while the ant hustled the elephant.

Naturally on the flip side there was the inevitably, tragically comic sight of a near-apoplectic, sweaty-faced four hundred pound man laboriously waddling around the ring holding a leash that looked like three rayon threads woven together, at the end of which was a tiny Chihuahua.  The dog couldn't have weighed more than three pound in toto, attitude included.  I'm betting the corpulent owner could have eaten the thing on a bagel in one bite.  Watching that pair mince around the ring was worth gales of giggles.

The neat thing I got to see was the braces.  It's rare but you can show two dogs at once, in a brace.  A single leash with a "Y" at the end and two collars, and in those collars a pair of dogs, preferably as closely matched in size, colour, stride and cholera as possible.  The first contender was a brace of Beagles, two smallish gold and white critters who seesawed back and forth around each other like they were in orbit together.  The truly neat brace was of Bulldogs.  Two perfectly matched white and brindle behemoths, thick and swarthy, walking in near-perfect precision.  They walked so closely that at times your eyes were confused into believing that their legs were synchronized. 

I spoke to the owner/handler later--come to find out the two were a VERY rare creature indeed--a set of twins.  They'd been raised together, never separated, and now they make a visually identical pair who move like one dog, circling, stopping, everything performed like they were sharing one brain.  Which they may have been.  Still, it was a very interesting thing to watch, and they deserved the awards and lauds they received.

Entirely off the dog path but equally neat to me was getting to use "The Governor's Room."  We'd set up the hospitality suite for the judges there, lunch and drinks and so forth, but the neat thing to me was the rows and rows of photographs and drawings of every governor of Louisiana.  I'm betting we've got just about everyone else beat in that department--the first governor's likenesses were drawings, and the governor's reign was dated 1699.  A French nobleman if there ever was one, and the next thirty or so followed that French lineage--gorgeous finery giving way to Napoleonic uniforms to armour to finery again, finally seguing into suits and ties.  Very neat display indeed.

There was more, naturally.  There always is.  Getting to visit with the judge whose memories ran all the way back to when he was eight, working his first job as car-wash boy at his father' Esso station, when gasoline was 11 cents a gallon.  Meeting the raw food diet folks who had a gorgeous pair of red Dobermans; the male was named Remington, and they called him "Remy" just like we call our Remington.  Funnier yet, they were from Houma, LA--my birthplace.  Helping to sell catalogs was fun; meeting people, talking briefly, telling them with sure enthusiasm that I hoped they enjoyed the show--pride in the fact that I wasn't an employee of some company.  No, this was our club's show, and therefore MY show, so the enthusiasm and the wishes were as authentic as it can be.  Selling raffle tickets for the 50/50 raffle, helping make the club another few dollars.  Getting to make a few short announcements on the truly massive coliseum loudspeaker system.  It all added up to a truly entertaining weekend.

The best part, tho, wasn't the group "Whoooooo!" at the end but the fact that I kept getting texts all day today--the Missus was in McKinney, TX with Sheba and Belle.  Sheba earned her QC ("Qualified Courser") title and ran her first lure coursing trials, placing third out of a group of eight Borzoi.  The best news, however, came from Belle.  Our dear sweet fat Belle, our Swedish Dumpling carrying ten pounds or so of post-partum weight and minus most of her lovely hair coursed to a win -- Best In Breed, a four point major!  Now all she has to do is win a few more points, all of which can be minor events and she'll have earned her Field Championship and she'll be a "DC," a Dual Champion, our goal from the very beginning.  I was more excited about that than today's Best In Show!

And now I cannot WAIT for next year's show.

Jan 16, 2010

Honking My Own PreProduction Plastic Resin Pellet

This could also be posted, within reason, on my trainspotting blog which is pretty much dead in the water right now (or Dead On Law) but I'm gonna put it here since this was my first love.

Nurdles.  Plastic pellets.  Tracy and I were walking the rails at Lake Buhlow many years ago now.  The spotting was going nowhere, not a train in sight so we were looking at and photographing the grafitti on the boxcars.  There was a whole line of those ubiquitous pale grey hoppers standing at rest on one of the spurs, and down a ways from a line of these hoppers there was a big pile of...something.  At a distance it was pearly white, finely textured, and covered an oval several feet across and was pressed up against one of the rails.  Closer inspection revealed it to be a spill of tiny round plastic beads, a whole mound of off-white, semi-translucent nodules.

Naturally I was interested. They were neat, and they might make an interesting photo. I had Tracy scoop up a bunch in her cupped hands, and I snapped a photo.

Plastic Pellets -

I was just beginning to think in terms of my "Blowing Things Out of Your Hands" theme so I had her blow them out of her hands really hard, too. The lighting was weird but I got what I wanted--a shower of these little plastic thingies flying.

Pellets In Action

She dropped them, we went on.  Soon we found one hopper with a cap off and sure enough, more plastic pellets. Mystery solved.  They fell out of an 'empy' train car.  I went home that evening, uploaded a few of that day's photos to Flickr and forgot about it. 

It's funny, looking back, how the smallest thing can begin rolling, snowballing as it were. 

Months and months later I got an email from a stranger.  I found out later he was an editor for Wikipedia, working on an article for something called "nurdles."  Pre-production plastic pellets.  It seems that those tiny white beads are the foundation material for all things manufactured out of plastic, be it your car's dashboard or the bottle that holds your bleach.  Plastic things come from nurdles, and he wanted to use the image.  I said "Sure!" thinking that it'd be kind of cool to have a tiny piece of the internet staked out with my name on it, and that little bit of virtual real estate had nothing to do with an epic fail or pr0n or anything.  Nice.

Time passed.

Another email came.  This time it came from The Sierra Club, and the use of that image both online and in a print version of the Sierra Club Magazine netted me $30 or so, and some print copies of the magazine to add to my portfolio, which I still need help from someone in designing.  I was thrilled!  Appearing in print!  And I found out that those little plastic dealies are a major pollutant in watersheds.  Fish see them as food (fish eggs, likely enough) and eat them.  They can't digest them, naturally, so they stay in the fish's stomach forever.  Fish fill up on them and die of starvation.

Then it kept rolling.

The BSU Beachwatchers asked to use it for a brochure, which sadly I never got a copy of.  Come on you guys, get with it!

Then the coup, which has a funny twist to it.  A very pleasant representative of the Indiana Railroad contacted me to use that same photo for their 2010 calendar.  May, to be exact, an inset over a photo of a train of hoppers carrying nurdles to a production plant.  From use in an environmental awareness magazine to use by the folks who transport them every day and night.  The twist?  A railroad worker's carelessness lead to me finding them in the first place.  Full circle, anyone?  I asked for a calendar or two in exchange for use of the photo.  The representative from the IRR went me one better: that little photo paid off in some very nice swag, most all of it in Indiana Railroad red, and thanks again guys!

I just got another email yesterday, this time from someone in the Great White North.  PNW actually, a researcher working for the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre Redesign Project in Canada.   They're redesigning and modernizing the Pacific Rim NPR at Wickaninnish Beach and...wait for it...they need some photos.  I'm betting this one will be used to highlight some of the pollutants that no doubt show up on their beaches just as it shows up on beaches all over the world.

Naturally I said yes.  I'm thinking about asking for a big scoop of sand in exchange.

The image is online under a Creative Commons Attribution License.  That means anyone who wants to use the image can use it, just so long as they attribute it to me.  Sadly the internets is not a nice place--type "nurdles" into any search engine set to "image" and you'll find that picture in many places, without my name attached and without anyone caring enough to drop me an email and say "Hey dude, can we use your picture?"  I mean, it's not like I'd say "NO!" or demand money.  *shrug*  It's easier to steal, naturally.

I'm not angry or hurt over this, interestingly.  I figure this little photo is not my Mona Lisa, is not my defining piece of work.  It's a snapshot, taken on a whim.  I just didn't know it would be so in demand.  I actually like the attention, and who wouldn't?  I can point (as I just did) to several places where my work has some worth to someone.  Oh sure, I could ask for money for it, but what would that get me?  Nothing.  No money, and no exposure.  No one is going to pay for a photo of a handful of plastic when they can steal it elsewhere.  At least this way my name is attached to, oh, maybe a quarter of its use.

And anyway, fame!  Wikifame!  What better feeling could you get from snapping a picture of a pile of plastic bits?