Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning After

Dear Barry,

So you will be my new president in a couple of months.

Congratulations and may God be with you. 

I think you will quickly find getting elected is the easy part. You ran a brilliant, disciplined, scientific race. You positioned yourself in a way that allowed a broad spectrum of the voters to project their own needs/wishes/values/dreams upon you while holding your own close to your vest. You have risen from the most unlikely of origins to the most powerful office in history. You slew the Clinton dragon. Whodathunk that!?!?!

But now you must begin staking out what an Obama administration means. 

Overnight, the gravity of your words has increased a thousandfold. Prudence and wisdom must be your script.

Now you have the power, and the Congress, to effect change. May the long-term interests of this great country be your guide.

Unfortunately, your Congress is led by Nancy and Harry - quite possibly the two most shallow souls to ever hold those positions. The demonstrated cynical incompetence of this gang-who-couldn't-shoot-straight will likely become your biggest domestic headache. I'd start praying for a Capitol Hill coup, like yesterday.

Unfortunately, your Veep is Joe Biden - the political equivalent of Fredo Corleone. Maybe we can all just ignore him, OK?

The Pandoras of our world are loose and feeling frisky. You must be strong. You must be clear. You must make the difficult choices. Forget about your legacy, forget about French opinion polls. Instead, remember Reagan & Thatcher & Churchill & Truman. They made the tough calls, said the unspeakable, and ultimately left the world a far better place. Do the Right Thing and history will be kind. Following the Carter or Chamberlain models will cost us all dearly. Clarity is your friend.

Lastly, the Race Card in America is now officially dead. Thank God. No more excuses. No more whining. No more Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton shakedowns. I hope.

You have an unprecedented opportunity to now achieve great things. I hope and pray you do. We'll all be watching, we'll all be ready to help, we'll all be ready to give you the critical feedback you will need. Of that you can be sure.

Now, get out there, keep the ball moving, box out, use your elbows, and keep your eye on the shot clock.


Citizen Clem The Photographer

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Just posted a new portfolio to the website.

Youth Football.

Watching these kids move from inexperienced trepidation to hit-seeking missiles is a remarkable experience. I helped with coaching my kids teams for a few years and that helped me gain intimacy that would have been impossible otherwise. But it is very difficult to coach with a camera dangling from your shoulder so I had to pick my spots carefully.

The action itself did not interest me as much as the mood and light of the subject. Indoor sports have perpetually bland light but football always gives you something to work with. I found myself still concentrating on faces - something of a trend with me - and how they looked just before and after the action.

Sometimes I had to be a full time coach (nobody else showed up) and wrangle 25 boys thru their paces, drills, and scrimmages.

It was a blast. I highly recommend it.

Coaching Horror Story:
Flag football practice. 9 year olds. It's late. We are all tired. The sunlight is fading fast, no lights on a YMCA practice field.  Trying to have the boys execute a reverse. Our two speedster wide-outs collide head-to-head in the backfield at full speed. No helmets.

Sickest. Sound. Ever.

For a long moment, they are both on the ground motionless and I am certain I have just killed two boys.

They came out OK. Giant goose eggs. 10 minutes later they are cutting up with friends like nothing happened.

Ah, youth!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years

Seven years since that beautiful Tuesday morning.

Seven years since history took a sharp left turn away from peace and prosperity and towards war and woe.

Any student of history knows that 9/11's roots go back to the feckless anti-terror efforts of the 90's, the unintended consequences of the 80's, the unaddressed  aggressions of the 70's, the miscalculations of the 60's, and even back to the arbitrary map-drawing of the post- WWI Middle East.

An Iranian taxi driver told me last year that it goes back 2,500 years to Cyrus the Great's imprudent kindness to the Jews.


It goes back to the eternal conflict of good vs. evil and the perpetual efforts of evil men to seize and hold power by hijacking religions and exploiting innate prejudices. Fear and its offspring, Hate, taken to their worst possible conclusion.

Within nine months after 9/11, I visited all three sites. Those sights, sounds, and smells will never leave me. I have watched friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors enter and return from the front lines. I have watched a brother struggle within the intelligence community to keep our country safe. 

Seven years and we have not been attacked again here. That's really something. That was unimaginable in the fall of 2001. That is a testament to the valiant and often unsung efforts of our fellow citizens who have taken an oath to protect us and to our elected leaders who have had to make the most difficult and unrewarding decisions.

I know our domestic safety could be shattered at any moment by a single lucky terrorists. It is something I dread. But I also believe it is important to give credit where credit is due. 

Thank you all. Thank you to every single woman and man who has given of themselves to preserve our freedom. I grieve for every single American and Allied soldier and every innocent civilian killed or wounded by this epic and confounding struggle to bring more peace, stability, safety, and accountability to our mortal world. 

God bless you all.

This is a slide show I made about my visits to the 9/11 sites.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tying Shoelaces

One moment you are teaching your child how to tie their own shoelaces, the next moment you watch them tying their shoelaces on their shiny tuxedo shoes as they get ready for the prom.

How did that happen so fast? Where was I when this was all taking place?

Children: Just when you're ready to sell them to a medical research facility, they go and blow your mind and humble you.

And they don't even realize it.

Or do they? We're talking about teenagers after all....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dear Competition,

Dear Competition,

Stuff I've always wanted to know but have  been too terrified to ask you:

1) Have you ever thought about killing a client? 
No, really. I mean like a genuine homicide. With blood and everything.  And you meet with somebody you found on Craig's list at a scary bar, to work out details? And then they turn out to be an undercover cop? And it makes you pause and ask yourself if it was really worthwhile to get this worked up about a last-second cancellation? And you find out that sometimes it is not good PR to make the front page?

2) Have you ever felt like you are the stupidest person in the world? 
Like everyone else is ten million years ahead of you? Like you just made the biggest turd sandwich of your career? Like you're pretty sure everyone knows what a complete Gomer you are? 

No? Nah, me neither. 

3) Have you ever completely blown it and then lied your ass off to cover it?
I'm just asking. In a hypothetical sense.

4) Have you ever faked that you were busy?
When you were actually just getting your oil changed? And the service dude screws it up by yelling "You want new wiper blades too?" 

Bonus points if you had to take a call while you were naked. For any reason.

Well, except THAT reason.

5) Have you ever had to pretend that you did not care? 
If the other guy landed that killer assignment? But inside you were screaming "I hate them all! Fools! Can they not see how right I am for this! I hope the rental car explodes and kills them all!"

Bonus points if fortune suddenly turns back your way and you get the gig and you are certain that the other guy is now cursing you.

6) Do you ever feel like quitting? 
And going into insurance like your Dad told you to 30 years ago but you were too stupid and dreamy and stubborn and stupid to listen to sound advise? 

Really?! What a coincidence....

7) Does it ever bug the hell out of you?
That even after all this time, after all these winning jobs you've nailed, after all the other competitors you've outlasted,  even after all that you still have to market your ass off? That the youngsters out there don't know who you are and that all the rules have changed and that you were just getting the hang of things and then Boom!

Not that your getting old or anything.

I'm just saying....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Farewell Mr. Heston

I had the privilege to photograph him in Indianapolis for Eli Lillly and the ultra cool folks at Creative Street. We shot at a mansion rented for the occasion.

We had a shot with him on a stairway, slowly walking down as he spoke to the camera.  It was a long narrative from the script, requiring him to pause, gesture, and inflect just the right way at just the right times. First shot of the day, first take of the scene. He absolutely nailed it on the first take. Perfect. The director kind of squeaked "Uhm, OK. Let's get one more take, just for back up." He then told us that he was relieved because his knees were completely shot from a lifetime of playing tennis.

He regaled us with stories about Cecil B. DeMille, Orson Welles, and other serious Names from his career. We learned about his marching with MLK when that was a very risky thing to do. He said he still grieved for MLK and the lost promise of a life too short.

While he was casually visiting with the client, in-between takes, I moved in to get some candids. When he became aware of my shooting, he stopped in mid-story and turned to me. Very calmly and politely he said "Sir, I would ask that you kindly refrain from photographing me right now while I am visiting with these fine people. After we are done here, I will be more than happy to pose for you." But he said this in his natural Moses voice. It was all I could to squeak "Yes sir."

He could read a recipe and give it gravitas.

It so happened that we rode to the Indy airport together. It was so cool to watch the sky cap and everyone else just freeze in awe when they recognized him. He was unfailingly polite and respectful to all.

I will always remember him as a man of dignity and grace. We have lost a real class act.

My portrait of him, autographed by him, is one of my most prized artifacts of my career.

Monday, February 18, 2008


OK. So now everyone is blasting their opinions on every subject to everyone else on the planet.

As if the rest of us care.

And that very sentiment calls into question the basic point of this blog which is, for those of you who are slow on the uptake, a bunch of crap. Which calls into question the wisdom of this blog's audience.

So I am going to state right here, for the first time anywhere, for the record, that in my opinion, Jo Jo the Monkey Boy (right) is a very attractive person/mammal.

So there.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Photo Assistants: Vital or Expendable?

I think assistants should be treated like gaffer tape - just use what you need, tear it with your teeth, slap it into place, throw it away when you're done. 

IOW, camera fodder.

When things get slow on the set, it's especially fun to make your assistant cry in front of the client. 

Just for the sport of it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spalding 2007 Annual Report

Spalding Chronicles 2007 1.0

As told by Larry King

Show me the law that sez holiday cards must be mailed during the Holidays….St. Nick smothered us in electronica….Dennis Kucinich is underrated as a beautiful man….Belt sanders come in more than one size…Farewell to Scooter Rizutto….You have to take your shoes off for a pedicure….Katie sold her first painting at our garage sale…These days you have to look closely at your kid before you yell at them because their blasted iPod earbuds cut off all parental audio. Except for words like “cookies” or “allowance.”….Yelling louder works too. Sometimes…My pens simply evaporate off my home office desk. No one knows why…There’s no such thing as too much ice cream…”Don’t tase me, Bro!” Gotta love it…..Aardvarks are terrible dancers….Ten gallon aquariums can and DO break….Have you ever noticed that everything is better with coffee?….Switzerland has no navy. What’s up with that?…Our garbage disposal is growing obese….One more online password and I’m going postal….Nick is building and launching rockets. And getting grades for it!….Had no idea that terrorists deserve better treatment than their victims….DO NOT buy expensive carpets for your dining room…Picky eaters drive the chef nuts….You just can’t buy your wife’s clothes. Nor wear them….Barry Bonds: Maybe he IS lying……Shrimp Paesano is to die for….Loved the squirrel catapult….Slam-dancing on the trampoline is NOT a good idea…I hate it when my suspenders break and snap into my face. On the air….This World Wide Web thing – it just might last…Alex is driving his truck everywhere. You have been warned….Pickles are not weapons. Usually….Film Of The Year: Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai….Want to buy some acorns? Finest quality, Sahib…Dennis Miller for President!…Move over Patriots, here come the Cowboys…Teresa has discovered that work is, uhm, well, work!…..Doing our best to consume as many hydrocarbons as possible….Airports are not cool anymore….Towel-snapping is listed nowhere in Wikipedia….Toothbrushes can and DO clog the drain….Gravity is overrated as a romance-enhancer….Band Of The Year: King Pelican!….Does Drudge ever sleep?….Tim Duncan has all the tools….Glue can’t fix everything…..There’s no such thing as too much time at the beach….It’s called Fishing, not Catching….Do NOT let your children write the chore list….Reality TV is a crime against humanity….Who’s in the mood for some blue Earl Weaver?

Miami Beach, February 8, 1973

Spalding Chronicles 2007 2.0

Overall, good year. More highs than lows. Emergency services never summoned.

10 year-old 4th grader. Budding visual artist and singer. Compulsive jewelry maker. Knows no fear. Full of great questions. Hits her second wind every school night at 9:00 PM. Singular yet infallible fashion sense. Anything that moves or grows is her friend. Keeps the peace around the house. Or she’ll punch your lights out.

12 year-old 6th grader. A Renaissance Man. Defensive End-Violist-Scholar-Skateboarder-Serious Gamer. Attends a magnet school built around science/technology, mainly as related to rocketry. Does wicked impressions of virtually any character from The Simpsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Monty Python. Likes tattoos and fast women. That last sentence is not true. Texts with the best of them.

16 year-old 11th grader. The Year Of The Truck. The living reenactment of his parents’ teen years. Only different, better. (We deny everything!) National Honor Society, varsity swimmer, extraordinary big brother. Expert at texting, IM-ing, MySpacing, cell phoning, and homeworking. Simultaneously. 2008 will be the Year My ¶*©ΓΈ∆! Braces Come Off!

(Age/Grade withheld.) A big year of transition. Graduated in May. Passed her state test and got her license in July. Full time Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) in September. Still World’s Greatest Full Time Mom. (Ain’t no such thing as a part time Mom.) Not a big fan of health care couture. (Who picked THESE colors anyway?) Has not yet died from Clem’s cooking. Justifiably concerned about family’s sanity. Tells range-of-motion jokes.

(Name withheld)
(Age/Grade withheld) Finally has a website that is not embarrassing: Well, less embarrassing anyway. Retired from Cubmastering, YMCA coaching, and ASMP boarding. Said farewell to friend and mentor, Jim Zintgraff. Playing more and more in the video world. Stay tuned. Family Food Czar. Nobody appreciates my Chicken Bubonica Messina. Still trotting the globe in service of God and Client.

Jack The Dog
Refuses to participate “ such a self-indulgent and sophomoric affair.”