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A flibbertygibbet and his iPad: Taking St. Paddy's parade photos -- and not taking 'Broke-ology' ones

Last Friday, I joined a small throng of people outside the Uptown Apple store to purchase the new iPad. The wait lasted about an hour, and the store made sure to keep us constantly informed, sending a pleasant young man running down the line every 15 minutes to tell us that, for instance, they had sold out of the AT&T model, or that the orange iPad covers were now out of stock. At one point, a hipster in chunky black glasses passed and, in a low voice, peppered us with abuse. "You're all sheep," he said. "You're all idiots."

Perhaps so. I had my reasons for buying the iPad, but reason is always suspect when you're in a line on a chilly March evening to purchase a non-essential that has been heavily hyped. Nonetheless, I knew how I would make use of my iPad, and I knew I would make a lot of use of it. You see, I do not own a laptop nor a cell phone, which means that, prior to last Friday, I was only connected to the web when I sat down in front of my 11-year-old desktop, or when I was in a Wi-Fi hotspot with my iPod. But nowadays I find myself constantly on the move, with my home becoming just some place to warehouse my art and myself when I am unconscious, and that was no longer enough.


Additionally, what this new model offers, and the last model lacked, was a camera. Two, in fact, one facing forward, so you can film whatever is in front of you, and one facing backward, so you can film yourself. And the cameras take video, and Apple offers a simplified, inexpensive version of their iMovie software, which lets you edit the video wherever you happen to be. I used it, and a $1 filter, to make the old-timey Irish Dance Association I posted on Wednesday. I edited the video at the event and uploaded it as the event was still going on.

By comparison, on Thursday, I posted a video I had made of comedian Stevie Ray teaching me how to do an Irish accent. I filmed him using a digital camera, and then imported the film into the iMovie program on my desktop. This took about 15 minutes. Once it was edited, I exported it to my desktop. Another 10 minutes. Then I uploaded the video to YouTube. Another 20 minutes. It was a laborious process, while doing the same on the iPad skipped a number of these steps, and offered the distinct advantage of being able to do this on the fly.

The St. Paul St. Patrick's Day parade as seen through the iPad.
MinnPost photo by Max Sparber
The St. Paul St. Patrick's Day parade as seen through the iPad.

Additionally, I often take photos to accompany my stories, which involves the same process of moving the photos from my camera to my desktop and then resizing them for the web. But with the iPad, I can just mail my images directly to MinnPost. The image definition isn't as good, but, then, I publish to the web, where images are quite small. Yesterday at the St. Paul St. Patrick's Day Parade, I experimented with a filter on the iPad that is becoming as ubiquitous as it is despised, called Hipstamatic. The program duplicates the look of a number of antique toy analogue cameras and ancient rolls of film, producing images that are washed out, or have strange light streaks, or are dramatically cross-processed, and typically in a square format. It's a bit unusual to have a program that, in essence, ruins your shot for you, but, then, there are reasons for preferring a ruined shot to a perfect one. In fact, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times photographer Damon Winter chose to use Hipstamatic when taking a series of photos of soldiers in Afghanistan.

The photos went on to come in as third-place prize winners in the Pictures of the Year International award, which generated some complaints. After all, was it really photojournalism when he used a program that automatically transformed his photos, generating something quite different than what his eye saw? He responded quite simply: Of course it is. The Hipstamatic is as valid a choice as if he had used the original toy cameras the program emulates, and it didn't change the images any more than had he chosen to photograph in black and white, or used lab-based photo processing to tweak the image, which photojournalists do all the time. As long as he doesn't add or take away any factual information in the photograph, it is still photojournalism. Further, he is of the opinion that the reaction to Hipstamatic is mostly snobbery. "Some consider the use of the phone camera as a gimmick or as a way to aestheticize news photos," he wrote. "Those are fair arguments, but they have nothing to do with the content of the photos."

Below, you'll find a gallery of the photos I took at the St. Pat's parade, using a variety of simulated film stocks and lenses. There's no denying they give the photos an immediately recognizable aesthetic. For some people, that aesthetic is going to be quite appealing — you can still buy modern versions of these old toy cameras at places like Urban Outfitter, and this offers the same look, for less price and hassle, right on your iPhone or iPad. I will probably continue to play with it, and other photo filtering apps, because I am a flibbertygibbet and forever in search of novelty.

Note: The Flickr slideshow was giving me some trouble when I posted it. If the slide show above is not working for you, it's temporary, but until it starts working again, you can view the photos here.

Wednesday night found me at the Pillsbury House Theatre for their production of "Broke-ology," and afterwards I chatted with three of the cast members, James Craven, Mikell Sapp, and Darius Doitch. After our conversation, I realized I had forgotten to take any photos of them — I'm still getting used to having this iPad and had quite literally forgotten that snapping a photo was an option.

Oh well. As to the play: Well, you don't need me to tell you to go see it — pretty much every critic in town has already made that case. So I will instead discuss a unique aspect of this show.

"Broke-ology" at the Pillsbury House Theatre
Courtesy of the Pillsbury House Theatre
"Broke-ology" at the Pillsbury House Theatre

Most theaters offer, and badly advertise, one production that is "pay what you can." Thanks to a grant from the Legacy Amendment, every single production of "Broke-ology" is pay what you can, which seems appropriate for a play that so expertly explores how poverty can limit people's options. This means there is literally no reason not to see the show, and it's a must-see.

James Craven has always been one of the Twin Cities' best actors, and here he produces an extraordinary portrait of a father who has suddenly found himself dependent on his sons as a result of multiple sclerosis, and knows how much it weighs on them. I know my descriptions of the show have made it sound like a bit of a downer, and it is, but not exclusively. Craven maintains an unexpected daffiness, and the play's two brothers have a believably contentious relationship that is nonetheless rooted in mutual affection and a frequent refusal to be serious. There's a great deal of humor in this play, and of course there is. Humor is inexpensive.

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