Monday, March 16, 2009

"Bob? Looks like we're gonna need a bigger crane..."

"Bob?  Looks like we're gonna need a bigger crane..."

The FDNY poises itself against the horizon of the Edge building and Northside Piers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Two prime examples of the leftover (and hollow) excesses from the real-estate boom of North Brooklyn.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

My Sebaceous Cyst reaches landmark 50,000 views online

In 2005, I had a benign clump of tissue that was situated square in the middle of my back removed by a dermatologist. The process was fairly straightforward, but I wanted to document the cyst with my camera so I asked the nurse if I could take it home and they obliged. Using my Canon Powershot mounted with a macro lens attachment, I took several pictures of it as well as they stitched in my back and posted them on Flickr. Views came in slowly but steadily and at this point, I average 100 views a day. There's a reason for this: if you go into Google or Yahoo images and type in the word "sebaceous cyst," guess who shows up right at the top of the page?

My Sebaceous Cyst...

Well, I guess a lot of people are trying to self-diagnose cysts out there because it is undoubtedly my highest viewed picture in my photo stream on the site. In October of last year, someone wrote to me from Vice magazine for an online feature about "gross stuff." The interview is included below...

How did you first notice it?
I noticed it in 2002 when I felt a bump on my back between my shoulder blades. I thought it was a pimple at first or an ingrown hair and so spent a lot of time putting pressure on it and trying to squeeze it out. I also had my girlfriend give it a go, with no success.

Were you worried about removing it?
I was only worried about removing it myself, which is why, once I had health insurance, I went to the dermatologist and had them check it out. They explained it was a cyst and could be surgically removed without too much fuss.

Did it hurt when you had it removed?
No, they shot in a local anesthetic and then went about carving a hole in my back while i lay on my stomach. I remember the doctor saying at one point, "Wow, this is more blood than I expected," which is exactly what you don't want to hear as they're cutting into you, but they got it under control and it was over soon enough. After stitching me up and putting my shirt back on, I asked the nurse if I could see it. She looked at me blankly and opened the trash can and pulled out a little bloody tissue holding the small nub of flesh that was my cyst. "Would it be possible to take it home with me?" I asked her, and after laughing about it, she fetched a small vial and placed the extirpated cyst in it with some formaldehyde, advising me not to drink this as it would make me sick.

Where do you keep it?
I kept the vial in a small jewel box located on my coffee table. It sat there for a month or two when I finally got around to taking pictures of it with my macro lens. I then popped it back in the vial and returned it to its sacred box.

Why do you keep it?
I keep it as a reminder of that which is foreign that emerges from within. I'm actually a fairly squeamish person, but I can be obsessed with infectious diseases, skin conditions and/or malformations of the body. I have surgically removed skin tags from my scrotum using a Swiss army knife pair of scissors, but they are not nearly as photogenic as a sebaceous cyst. I also keep a pin cushion filled with cat whiskers that my kitties shed that I find laying around the apartment.

OK, truthfully, I did embellish my answer about "keeping it" etc as I tossed it in the garbage a short time after I got my picts of it. I mean, after all, what sort of things can I expect from the cyst in the future?

Well, in honor of my cyst's enormous success online, I am posting a picture of a raw tooth nerve that I had removed earlier today during a root canal. Funny timing, huh?

My root canal

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Capsule reviews... 3.2.09

DEATH PROOF - Quentin Tarantino continues to work within his familiar love of violent exploitational cinema, but no one does it quite as well and as effortlessly as Tarantino.

CARS - Exceeded expectations both as a story and a technical accomplishment, and I'm not too much of a fan of those CGI animated features so that says something.

THE HAPPENING - My hope for some sort of M. Night Shyamalan redemption was quickly dashed within the first 15 minutes of this environmental hoo-ha starring an uncomfortably miscast Mark Wahlberg. I still maintain that Mr. Shyamalan is a talented filmmaker, but a talented storyteller? Not so much.

ROB ZOMBIE'S HALLOWEEN - In a sign of truly desperate times, they've attempted to reboot the Halloween franchise by having Rob Zombie pick up the reigns. As a serious fan of the original two Halloween films, I found this very difficult to sit through. I don't want or need to know the Michael Meyer's backstory, and Zombie's over-reliance on graphic violence for shock and horror is repellent.

SOUTHLAND TALES - OK I liked this, but then again I sort of expect to do so after everyone said they hated it. It's undeniably a bit of an incoherent all-star mess, but I always appreciate it when a film is willing to take some risks and go off the deep end a bit.

THE BANK JOB - I'm Jason Statham, and today is the day... I rob a bank... with sideburns. I actually quite enjoyed this loosely-based account of a real bank heist in swinging seventies London with all the twists and turns we've come to expect from films of this genre.

REDS - There are times in REDS that feel so Academy Award approval-seeking, it hurts, but that might just be because it's a masterfully directed and acted epic film, the likes of which we don't see anymore.

ALICE SWEET ALICE - I feel shame that I hadn't seen this before. It's really quite awesomely creepy and twisted! It's also most definitely an American lifted giallo, but when the results are this effective, I'm not one to complain.

KUNG FU PANDA - Again with the CG animation films that exceed expectations! This was (of course) beautifully animated and well voiced, but the filmmakers also exhibit a great understanding of the action genre which makes this an exciting, not to mention hilarious, movie to watch.

KILL BILL - Both volumes, taken in tandem, have their merits. I was aware of this the first time around, but the second time, on bluray, I could enjoy everything without wondering how it was all going to play out. I think there's some weak spots and to call Tarantino "indulgent" is a bit obvious, but on the whole, the two are extremely entertaining and a lot of fun.

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE - Spike Lee doesn't pull any punches against the Bush government for their dismal and incompetent response after Katrina hit, but are we surprised? This certainly hits home just what a travesty the response was and puts a very real face on the tragedy through the locals who survived the hurricane. Having said that, it goes without saying that this one is a bit of a downer.

WANTED - If you enjoy seeing slow motion bullets defying the laws of physics and logic through the magic of modern CGI, then you'll LOVE Wanted. But for those of us that feel exhausted of the CGI action fantasy bullshit that Hollywood churns out these days, who cares...

HELLBOY II - Definitely better than Hellboy 1. Guillermo Del Toro is clearly a film maker who has grown more confident in his voice as a visionary director, and we are all the better off for it.

TROPIC THUNDER - It's disappointing that a movie so desperate to deconstruct Hollwood cliches and racist stereotypes manages to undermine its efforts through some lazy screenwriting. Watching some of the supplemental material, you would think that the actors and people involved were making the most hilarious film ever made. This is not it.

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