Friday, January 24, 2014

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Ben Franklin

In a stunning turn of events, I didn't use song lyrics as a title. Mostly because I can't find a song disjointed enough to describe my week.

Monday I got a filling. Back at my regular appointment in December, my dentist noticed that one of my teeth had cracked or chipped or something, so he decided it needed fixed. I was escorted into some dentist-operation room. He told me that it wasn't deep enough for me to need numbed, so he just started drilling. It was really weird, because I knew I was supposed to be feeling something but I didn't. Nevertheless, that's done and over with.

Tuesday I learned sports reporter extraordinaire Bob Pompeani (this only makes sense if you are from Pittsburgh and watch KDKA) was coming to honor one of my friends, Conor Richardson, with the Extra Effort Award. I learned that he would be coming the next day, and it was an auditorium event, so it was on Carlynton Tech turf. We were able to set the stage (major props to my brother/sound guy Matt for putting up with my annoying nagging about sound checks) and the event went on without a hitch.

I ran lights, and when I am at the helm, I am hyper-sensitive about the entire auditorium's lighting. When an outside door opened, I was about to go down to shut it before thinking "oh, that's just our auditorium adviser" before realizing that that wasn't Mr. Pedersen, but instead Bob Pompeani. Conor was honored (which you can see the feature here: and it was great.

I helped tear down our setup and ran into Mr. Pompeani in the process. He was an amazingly nice guy, and complimented our stage work. I didn't introduce myself except as "Marie Popichak's nephew" but he recognized me from twitter, so that in and of itself was pretty cool.

Remember how I said this week was disjointed?  Yeah, I wasn't kidding. So is my thought process....

Tomorrow I go to the station (weather permitting, because it is looking like January 7th temperatures all week...) and square away some things with Reimagination 2014. Insanity. Plus there are 12,920 pageviews to this site, so within the next few weeks I'll break 13,000. I don't think I can fathom that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

There’s an Endless Road to Re-Discover.

So it's Wednesday. I don't post on Wednesdays. But this has been an interesting week of exceptions so far, and I have a story to tell.

On January 14, 2014 I took my driving road skills test and passed. I have a license to drive cars (and anything under like 26,000 pounds if I'm not mistaken).

So this adventure all started after school that day, when my mother had arranged to pick me up outside of school and take me down to the DMV. There are a wide variety of people who are in the DMV at any given day (I've been there a few times before, for Photo ID's and some other things) and Tuesday was no exception. I sat in the corner and waited for the gentleman to call my name.

He took me out, and we went through all of the standard in-park operating-your-vehicle things. Then off to parallel parking world. Now I'll be honest, I practiced with my mother a good 20 times parallel parking. It became one of those things like when you're a little kid, and you've just learned to do something, and then you ask every cat, dog, fish, and bird if they've seen you do it. I did it over and over, and parallel parked a little bit of everywhere.

So I went to the spot, and parked. He said I had three adjustments, and when I geared in to drive to adjust, he stopped me and said "you're in the spot, works for me." Not good for my OCD, but hey, he's the examiner. Then I went out onto the road. I'll spare you the details except potholes. At the end, I was nervous beyond anything, and my (terrible) parking job reflected that when he said flatly "Well, you passed." What followed was a back-and-forth "should I straighten out the car in the spot" "no".

From there it was a whirlwind: I sat in a new section of the DMV, they called my name to get a picture (which someone named Alexandra heard as her name, so that was fun). I signed up to be an Organ Donor, and then continued until I was red-flagged for not having my parent approve that. Irrelevant. Bottom line, I was handed my Driver's license and promptly freaked out.

I'm walking out of the DMV with my mother talking about what happens next (insurance, driving timeshares, etc) and I tell her where I parked. We go over there, and make it to the row before our car. And for some bizarre reason we both stop and watch this guy pull out of a parking spot, pull back into it, and then back out and forward. What followed I still don't know what to say about. It's one of those bizarre things that will live forever in my mind.

He went forward and CRUNCH. Right into the back bumper of the tank. At which point I notice three things: 1) this guy was taking his driving test 2) he had the same examiner and the kicker 3) THIS IS THE THIRD TIME IN THREE MONTHS THAT SOMETHING BIZARRE HAS HAPPENED TO THE CAR. Like, first the Baltimore accident, then a deer (I didn't blog about it because it was pretty anti-climatic) and now this.

I don't understand it. Originally I blamed my poor parking job, but then the examiner informed us that he had told the dude taking the test that he was going to hit our car and he still proceeded forward. I felt bad for the guy taking the test, I know how nerve-wracking it was. Nevertheless, I had just got my license and just started laughing at this point.

But seriously, I think I'm drawn to bizarre car adventures. It's never our fault (this is probably the freakiest of the three incidents), but I'm always there. It seems like when I'm near the car, bizarre things are drawn to me. Exhibit A: The goats.

So that's it: I have a license, there was a freak accident at the DMV, and goats. Oh well. I will probably post again Friday, but this was just too strange to wait. Here, have two pictures:

Friday, January 10, 2014

But Hold on to What you Believe in the Light

Earlier today I was in my fifth period study hall reading through old post titles. It struck me just how much over the past year I've titled posts with music lyrics. Just a thought.

A note before the post starts: This is the week before midterms. I don't think I'm sane, but then again, when I am like this I can sometimes do my best work.

What I want to talk about is two things that may or may not be words: hypotheticality and intentions. Take that, for example. I wrote that non-word (my editor is giving me the magic red squiggles) in my weekly planner as a potential blog post. It seems anymore that we need something to strive for, or to have some path in place before we justify a destination.

It seems to me that spontaneity has gone from a desirable trait to something construed as irresponsible. Why does it seem this way to me? I live in a relatively self-contained bubble: my goals are set forth by some mythical curriculum committee of wizards or whatever for me to figure out in a calculated way. I understand how you arrive at an answer or destination or milestone or what have you is important. But does it lose its importance when it's carefully plotted out? When everything is expected, when everything is painstakingly explained, or planned?

I think it does. I think above the destination and above the specific route one takes to wherever they're going is what happens to stop that route.

I have four favorite photographers (they may argue with me, but I call them photographers) as of now who are: Dan Winter (Winner of ReimagiNATION 2013's Art Division), Brad Knabel (Carlynton Marching Band Resident Photographer), Dave DiCello (Pittsburgh Photographer; master of HDR) and Kate Kinley (really hard to describe. She does a lot of conceptual photography, and has a flickr and blog, both of which you should check out). The common thread between all four of them is that they take pictures of spontaneous life.

Life consists of those moments that aren't posed, that aren't the ones that you want to put in a resume, or on a college application. It's the stories of how you heard about that scholarship, or the parking ticket you got outside of that school, or that girl whose books you helped pick up in the hallway on the way to some class that make life move. I've never been fond of portrait photographers for this reason exactly. Life is more like an instagram picture than a school portrait.

I ask people (mainly at school, but elsewhere too) all the time what it is they plan on doing, where they are going, and more often than not do I get the response "someplace else". This troubles me a bit because they appear to think they have explored everything that is here (here being Pittsburgh). And I don't think that's true either. I want to explore things, and when I can't, I want to reexamine what I already know. I don't know, random thoughts.

If you are interested in checking out any of the photographers I mentioned above, here you go:

If you are one of the people I mentioned above and want me to delete the link, please let me know, like now. I don't want you to sue me or whatever, just email me at alex dot popichak at gmail dot com.

Oh, and the Spring Standards are playing Mr. Smalls (of Tally Hall adventure fame) April First. This is not a drill.

Friday, January 3, 2014

I'm Gonna Make it Through This Year if it Kills Me

Those are lyrics from a song called "This Year" by the Mountain Goats. A bit more dismal than how I feel right now (and it has nothing to do with the bulk of this post), but it's a fantastic song. You should go listen to it sometime.

I returned to school Thursday, and we immediately dove into new stuff. More specifically, in English class we are going to study the work(s) of Stephen Crane. Our English teacher usually adds some sort of contextual end to it [in this case to Red Badge of Courage] , but only after introducing some of the author's other works. In this case, we read Crane poetry. And I couldn't stop reading, which is really weird for me. I cannot poetry, end of sotry.

So when we got home, I googled Stephen Crane, and read through the intro to Red Badge, and found some interesting bits about him:

  • He was the son of a [Methodist] preacher
  • He worked in journalism for a while, and connected through some articles what war was like. Namely, the American Civil War.
The poetry is something I could've written (not in the average "oooh, I don't understand art" way but in the "I identify with this person" sort of way). Read this, for example:
A Man Said to the Universe
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!"
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
Since I read this, I've been thinking about how true it is. In essence, the universe picks and chooses what is notable, much like society. It sort of reminds me of that scene in The Polar Express where Santa Claus tells that know-it-all kid that a bit of humility could do him good. Humility can do us all good.

One should not be judged on anything but the merit of his/her deeds, the motives for those deeds, and how they reacted in the face of it. Arrogance is not a virtue, it is annoying.

After pondering all this, my hallucinating mind came to the startling conclusion: I am Stephen Crane. The evidence is (not) concrete:
  • I am the son of a[n Orthodox] priest
  • I am considering photojournalism as a career path
  • I am a docent at the Espy Post: a museum dedicated to the Civil War vets
  • His style reminds me of what I perceive as my own style (wacky, disjointed, yet metaphorical in its meandering to the point where I can understand it)
This proves quite concerning, considering he died at age 29 and never married, but past that I can probably deal with being Stephen Crane, except, you know, tuberculosis. See what English class does to me?