Becoming Hirsute and Bad Pictures of Tennis

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Well, the last few days have been a weird circus of nearly surreal events. I’ll tell you a little about it as I go along.

First, I’ll tell you a story about a family dealing with an all too familiar tragedy, a child with a serious health problem. This came to my attention when my son sent me an email about the Brand family. Hans tells the story better than I could:

Thought you might get a kick out of the attached. Some friends of mine at church, the Brand family, have a son, Caleb, who has leukemia. On sort of a spur of the moment thing, I announced to my co-workers that for $50 a month donated to MacKids (the MacMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation) on his behalf (it’s where he is receiving treatment) I would allow my hair to grow uncut until the money stopped coming, and for another $50 a month I’d do the same for the beard. Apparently my co-workers want to work with a guy who looks like a crazy homeless person, because $400 in donations later I now find myself committed to at least six months of no hair cuts and two months of beard growth, and I expect that more money will be ponied up when the expiry date for the beard arrives.

I decided to try to take a photo of myself every morning as long as the money is flowing, so that I could have a record of it. The attached is the result so far.

And here is the animated image: (I could not figure out how to prevent its constant repetition, so don’t stare at it too long.)

Hans Messersmith becoming hirsuit

Those of you who do not know my son will not appreciate the humour. Hans is as stable and dependable as the Rock of Gibraltar. There has been nary a hint of bother from him since he was born. He does, however, break occasionally into the mode of spontaneous goofiness, usually in a good cause. While being exceedingly proper, he exhibits a profound suspicion of up-tight propriety. This foray into the wacky world of on-the-edge symbiosis of in your face humour and sober consideration of  social responsibility is just what I have always expected of him. I like to think that he got just the right mix of genes from his parents.

If you would like to read more try The Brand Family blog.

My depression has worsened, something which I expect is probably temporary. The whole seemingly endless mood is clearly reaction depression and I’m sure that it will remain variable. I know this, because the worse things get, the worse I feel. To lighten things up a bit I went to the Madang Country Club last evening to watch the tennis semi-finals. I know nearly all of the people on the teams. Some of them have been close friends for decades. I had intentions of taking some great action shots. I failed miserably. So, I’ll take great pleasure in showing you some really bad images of rather good tennis players and tell you where I went wrong. Here is Trevor Hattersley serving (no comment):

If you look carefully you can see the yellow tennis ball blasting its way off the racket. You’ll find it by following the trunk of the coconut tree.

I’ve pledged myself to avoid anti-depressants if I possibly can. I will get though this, given time. When I work my way up to full, healthy functionality I don’t want to find myself dependent on pills to keep me level. That would mean that I have simply replaced one problem with another.

While there are several reasons for my current setback, some of them I cannot discuss, because it would be an infringement on the privacy of others. I’ll leave that alone and simply say that we’ve had yet another fresh onslaught in the area of health. If you need to know, you already do. If you are the praying kind, our little mob of survivors could certainly use some non-specific petitions for our welfare.

My photographic problem was twofold. Neither had a solution. First, there was not enough light. Then there was the problem of a relatively inexpensive camera. If you care to spend enough, light is not a problem. You will undoubtedly note that the pictures are motion blurred:

That is a motion-blurred Pancal Michon dodging a sizzling return.

If you have enough bread for a full-frame sensor camera (a few thousand bucks), you’ll get a huge area to catch the photons. ISO numbers can run up into the thousands. The most I can squeeze out of my Canon G11 is about 800. With the light level which I had, that worked out to a shutter speed of about 1/40 of a second. That’s way too slow to stop tennis action.

Have a look at the extreme motion blur in this shot of Trevor. The image is useful only for illustrating how not to do it:

In that image we have the double curse of motion of the subject and motion of the camera itself, which shows up most clearly in the streaked surface of the court.

An extremely annoying beast having to do with the sale of my house back in Indiana  popped up its gnarly head today. Do to a miss-addressed email presenting me with an important document which I had to sign and return as an original, I had to do some serious juggling. It seems that the rest of the world has these magical things called, Over-Night and Two Day delivery options. Well, that is just not going to happen from Papua New Guinea. If you are flying your own body by commercial air from Madang to Indianapolis it takes the better part of three days. That’s with good connections.

So, at the last minute, as I was getting ready to go to DHL and spend a small fortune in the hope that the document would arrive before the closing date, I remembered that a friend was flying to the USA today and I had already given her one document to mail for me when she arrives so that it would get there on time. I don’t know what corner my brain was hiding it, but there wasn’t much light there. I do have some hope now that the closing will go off as planned and I will start out 2011 with one less piece of excess baggage.

What do you do with a totally useless image?  Turn it into art:

Massaging it with the Photoshop Poster Edges filter makes it slightly less nauseous.

I know that my responses to unfavourable developments seem to be over-reactions. I get comments, sometimes a little hurtful. I know that I’ve always been a drama queen. It’s in my blood. There is absolutely nothing I can do about that and I’ve learned to live with it. But I have  had a grand piano dropped on my head from a great height. I expect to be ultra-sensitive and more than a little paranoid. I think that I have some reason to be so. The sequence of events over the last few months is simply too outrageous to allow me to be calm and collected.

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19 Responses to “Becoming Hirsute and Bad Pictures of Tennis”

  1. Hans Says:

    Hi Dad:

    Latest version of the animation will always be here:

  2. kristy Says:

    Way to go Hans!
    Keep moving forward, Jan! Many are praying for you.
    When someone says something hurtful, be sure to let them know in as kind a way as possible. Many times, people do not realize that what they are saying is hurtful – especially when dealing with grief. Our modern society has somehow forgotten how to deal with death and bad fortune.

    Your Euphillia ancora pic is way prettier than the ones that came up when I did a google search!

  3. DogsDontPurr Says:

    ((Big Hugs)) You and yours are in my prayers. I can definitely relate to what you are going through. The depression sucks big time. But it will go away. It always does. The trick is making yourself believe that it will go. I wish I had some helpful answers, but depression is a mysterious thing. It’s sort of like having a box with a million keys in it. Only one of those keys will open the door. You have to sort through the box and try every key. Finally one will work and unlock the door. (I hope that’s not too much psycho~babble!)

    The only other thing I can think of is to take care of yourself. Make sure you eat well, even if you don’t feel like it. And make sure you get some exercise that is not related to work or chores. I know these sound like basic boring things, but trust me, they are vital and will help to carry you through. Pamper yourself. And know it’s OK to indulge in your own pity party once in a while. It is part of the healing process.

    My heart goes out to you. Know that I will be praying. ((Hugs))

  4. Mike Mullis Says:

    Hi mate. Have been reading your blog for over a year now. Hang in there life does improve. I’ve also had to deal with the loss of my wife also 6 years ago. Try to enjoy yourself and keep doing the things you like to do even though it is hard. I will be comming back to Madang in January to see my good friends at DWU especially Chandana. I’d love to catchup with you for a beer!

    I really enjoy the pictures in your blogs they help to brighten my day each morning even though at the moment and am reminded of my past wife.

    God bless

  5. MadDog Says:

    Thanks for that, son. The smile in the last frame – is that part of another slow-mo sequence?

  6. MadDog Says:

    Hi, Mike. If you’ve been reading for a year then my experience probably has some uncomfortable parallels with yours. It is so strange that the things which once brought pleasure turn sour, eh? I blame it on grief and depression. Maybe there’s a component of self-punishment also; I don’t know. Too much self-analysis isn’t helping me any. We will definitely commiserate over a few beers which you get to Madang.

    I can’t imagine how I’m brightening anybody’s day recently, but I appreciate the kind words. See you anon.

  7. MadDog Says:

    Hey, DogsDontPurr. I haven’t seen you for a while. You should post to your blog more often. I found it interesting.

    “Depression Sucks!” Ain’t that the truth. It’s been an occasional companion for most of my life, but I’ve managed to stay off pills so far. I’m still determined to keep it that way. Time will tell. I can’t afford to become incapacitated. I do believe that it will subside as the causative events become more distant. That has been my experience in the past. It’s just going to take longer this time. When I get away from Madang for two or three months next year, I think I will find some relief. Hopefully, I’ll then be able to return a more competent person. The psycho-blabber is probably appropriate. However, I reckon that there are probably multiple keys.

    I am feeding myself, exercising and socialising as much as I can stand. The problem is, of course, that there is little joy in any of it. I think that too will pass with time. I have no problem at all feeling sorry for myself. I’ve always been very good at that.

    Thanks for the virtual hugs and kind thoughts.

  8. MadDog Says:

    Kristy, isn’t my boy something? I’ve always been so proud of him. He’s the man I might have been if I’d been born with a brain.

    I am moving forward in baby steps, stumbling now and then, but getting back on my feet. It just takes so long!. Prayers never hurt, that’s for sure. It amazes me that so many people I have never met show a concern about my welfare. It’s a little embarrassing.

    I really try to keep in mind that no remarks which hurt me are meant to. Nobody is trying to be mean. People have different styles of expressing themselves.

  9. Susie Duffy Says:

    Hello my Lovely
    You are in our thoughts and I’ve been meaning to send you a ‘Hundred Thousand Angles’ since I heard about Eunie:
    I cannot imagine how you are feeling and so sorry to hear that unkind things have been said about a wonderful man with a heart of gold. I hope the song gives you ….. something … X

  10. David Lile Says:

    I know that our friendship is new found, but you now, both a friend, an unbelievable photographer (Except for the tennis pics!!!…We all have our bad pic days!!!!!) and brother in Christ to me. My wife Kathy and I will be praying for you, as you continue your journey of life, step by rocky step. Do take care Jan.

  11. Mike Mullis Says:

    Thanks for the reply. I actually got in touch with Chandana about a year ago from reading about him on your blog. I love your diving photos especially around Pig Island which is one of my favourite places to spend the day. You know reading about your current trials does take me back to 6 years ago but I can now see just how far I’ve come from those dark days of depression that I thought I would never be able to escape from. I’ll never foget my wife but we can in time move on and enjoy life again. Looking forward to those beers in the new year and meeting you.

  12. MadDog Says:

    Hello, Soozie, my dear. I still miss you! That angles song is very quiet and peaceful. Thanks. Nobody means to be unkind. Most people are falling all over themselves to be comforting and supportive. It’s just that sometimes my paranoia and seemingly excessive reactions catch people off guard and remarks are made which are not well thought out. Nice to hear from you, babe.

  13. MadDog Says:

    Good to see you here, David. My dad began teaching me photography before I was ten. I had a darkroom in the basement by the time I was eleven. If you do anything that long and care about the technical aspects enough to learn them you are bound to get reasonably good at it. I love to experiment. That helps also. Thanks for the kind thoughts and prayers from you and your wife. Maybe we can hook up while I’m in Indiana sometime in May.

  14. Jill Says:

    Surprisingly for you maybe is that your son is a beautiful reflection of you both – Eunice AND you! Thanks to Hans for what he is doing. So many people did similar things for Eric when we were on that journey – some I know some I’ll never know – but the impact on our life was certainly there and I’m forever grateful!

    I spend a lot of time each day praying for each of you there…especially with each email received with the additional hits you all are taking. Your recent carpentry work can’t possibly be helping your sadness so praying some more on that one!

    I’m on nights again tonight so may you take some small comfort that throughout this night God will be hearing from me…and your name is bound to come up in that conversation!

  15. kristy Says:

    Jill, I really liked your comment! How did your journey with Eric turn out? I certainly hope it ended well.

  16. MadDog Says:

    Mike, I’ve spent more happy hours at Pig Island than any other island spot here. It’s got it all. I look forward to meeting in Madang.

  17. MadDog Says:

    Jill, we have a shared experience that helps us to understand one another, though the circumstances are very different.

    Hans has always seemed to me a remarkable person. I know that I’m biased. He got his best traits from Eunie. What I gave him adds just the right touch of the unpredictable.

    Unfortunately, we had another coffin-building experience last week. It looks as if our other two serious health issues will have good outcomes. I’m praying that we’ve reached a turn-around point.

  18. Hans Says:

    You can see where the smile led by clicking the link again. Click it on Friday evening (Ontario time) and you’ll see even more!

  19. MadDog Says:

    Hans, the smile came out great. It’s interesting that so few frames can carry it off. Persistence of vision, eh?