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The Psychology of Shopping: What’s Your Retail Personality?

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For me (and my ancestors before me), the day after Thanksgiving has always meant jumbo turkey sandwich, nap, movie, repeat. More ambitious Americans evidently embrace the busiest shopping day of the year, when sale prices are killer but so might be the crowded superstore.  Black Friday has always struck me as the kind of activity that slightly neurotic, type-A morning people pursue.

Whether you passed on Black Friday or not, the busiest shopping season of the year is upon us and Mary Ellen Brown, personal shopper (via her service The Witch and The Wardrobe), counsels us to reassess our long-standing shopping tendencies, reevaluate strategies, and exchange bad spending habits for smart ones, to become grounded and thoughtful consumers.

Habits can be hard to break. For me, the words Black and Friday serve mostly as a bleak reminder I’ve failed to begin my Christmas shopping entirely, and won’t for another two weeks. Why do I wait so late year after year? Well, thinking about shopping for everyone on my list is stressful enough. I want to buy my sister’s four kids totally surprising and ingenious expressions of my love, to make up for almost never seeing them. Instead, I freak out, freeze up, and don’t begin. My lame gift solution is often iTunes certificates for all family members under 60.

At least I’m not alone. Psychotherapist Mikita Brottman says America’s relationship with holiday shopping is downright “anxious, stressful, complicated, ambivalent, and tied up with all kinds of complicated emotions going back to childhood.”

Shopping Personality Types

According to Brown, typical shoppers are either mindful and mature or basically fearful: Some* are post-Turkey-Day early-bird Bargain Hunters who make the money-saving most of Black Friday’s markdowns (of course, if you prefer to shop online, you can roll out of bed today and shop Cyber Monday deals in your PJs); some are Finders who pace themselves and buy precious/thoughtful/glowing gifts all year long, when the right inspiration strikes them; others, like my people, are Procrastinators, pure and simple. Procrastinators may become Binge Shoppers as well. Depending upon our budgets, Bingers will last minute load up on random clearance items (e.g. an extra large neon green hoodie, recipient to be decided) or expensive jewelry or electronics intended mainly to impress, rather than express our heart’s least selfish wishes.

Good-Shop/Bad-Shop

When we Procrastinators prepare to buy a gift for someone we care about, we feel a mixture of excitement and intimidation, not to mention pressure. “We [feel pressure] because the identity of the giver is totally bound up with the gift,” Brottman says. “This gives it a kind of magic power that compels the recipient to return the favor. What we’re really giving is part of ourselves, so we don’t want it to seem cheap or cheesy.”

We may also feel pressured by the salesperson waiting on us.

If you’re of the Procrastinator variety, pressure rules your mind. But Brottman confirms there’s a second sort of unhealthy/anxious shopper type to add to the list, the Addict — the person for whom anxiety prompts purchase (on location and online) of so many unneeded goods on a regular basis that he or she can’t be certain what lies in wait in the closet. When it comes to holiday shopping, chaos ensues. (The Addict a close cousin to the less regular Binge Shopper.)

“You should be worried if you go shopping as a way to self-medicate, as a response to anger or stress — when you find yourself with closets full of unopened and unworn merchandise, when you buy multiple copies of the same item, when you find yourself fantasizing about shopping, planning your next opportunity to go shopping…feeling guilty or ashamed of your shopping behavior, feeling anxious if you haven’t shopped in a while,” Brottman explains. (The chick in L.A. with the pepper spray, who had to get her discounted-Xbox fix, just might fit the profile.)

Encouragingly, Brown says everyone can learn to morph into the mindful, well-paced Finder, who buys thoughtfully and creatively for herself and others, whether or not childhood baggage weighs down her shopping sacks. Brown, who serves as personal shopper to some of the busiest people in Baltimore, believes it’s easiest to learn how to shop well under the guidance of a pro for hire. But since many of us can’t afford the luxury, she hands over an early present now, a smart, doable checklist for becoming our most effective shopping selves. Read, memorize, shop.

Make Lists of Things You Need and People for Whom You Intend to Buy

When you shop for yourself, make a careful list of what’s missing from your closet and, like a marksman, take aim. “With Christmas shopping, make a list of who you’re buying for. Names alone will conjure up enough ideas when you’re in the stores.” Look at each friend’s name, reminisce and free associate about the person as you browse.

Leave Enough Time to Shop and Shop Again

“Set aside a whole day and know that you can go another time. This way, if you don’t find it, you don’t buy it.”

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Meaningful Items All Year Round

“A lot of the good stuff is gone by December, the stuff that reflects your personality. Be out there and let the stuff find you! I have a friend who buys for her boys in summer.” Another tip: If you’re traveling for business or pleasure, window-shop with the holidays in mind, no matter what time of year it is. In a new city, your eye will be especially alert, and you might find the rare gift of a lifetime.

 

Be a Finder Who Braves The Sales

“In the department stores, a lot of merchandise will go down in the first markdown by 40 percent. You hit Saks at 8 a.m., you can get some great stuff that might be gone by the afternoon. Two and three weeks later, it’s down another 20 percent, but by then you’ll be left with items nobody wanted.”

Broaden Your Shopping Horizons; Strategize New Locations According to Budget

Look beyond the mall, beyond the department stores. “Go to great alternative places, shop the locally owned boutiques.”

Work Out/Eat Breakfast Before You Shop

When you’ve had breakfast you think clearer; when you’ve worked out, you feel better about your body, in case you spy something you need that you’d like to try on. Which is A-okay any time of year.

Buy for Yourself at the Holidays Guilt-Free

“Yes, it’s really okay! If you rarely shop for yourself, kill two birds with one stone. If you’ve got nice black velvet pants, buy a new blouse. Don’t feel guilty. It’s good time management.”

Listen to Your Inner Voice, Not the Salesperson

“It’s a real mental game. Don’t trust the salesperson — don’t buy something if you feel uncomfortable or don’t like it.”

Remember: Every Gift is a Personal Expression

“When you open something it says a lot about the person who gave it to you,” Brown says. And while she does occasionally purchase gifts for clients to give their friends and family, she draws the line at ultra-personal presents. “I don’t like buying for [clients’] husbands at the holidays. I won’t. It’s too personal.”

To Become a Self-Actualized Shopper, Replace Retail Therapy with Real Therapy

Brottman adds, “It’s so easy to click on a button and send someone an automatic gift rather than taking the time to write a letter, make something by hand or actually to go and help somebody out. Buying a new dress or getting a new haircut is a quick fix, but a poor substitute for actually making real, lasting changes to your life. Objects seem more concrete, more real than ‘inner’ changes that might be far more substantial but can’t be seen to the outside observer or in the mirror.”

(*Shopper type nicknames were devised by reporter not professional shopper.)

Miracle of the Loaves and the Side Dishes at MD Food Bank (How to Help without Leaving the House)

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With Thanksgiving a week away, amid contemplating how to cram sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and cheesy scalloped potatoes in the same tiny oven at the same time, we found ourselves remembering that many Marylanders have far more serious problems concerning food, like not enough of it. That got us thinking about the amazing Maryland Food Bank, which procures food and distributes meals to 600 small and large partners, like emergency shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries — including the CARES Food Pantry in Govans and the Helping Up Mission in Baltimore.

The Food Bank feeds thousands upon thousands of people, not just on Turkey Day, but every single day of the year!

“More than 460,000 Maryland residents are ‘hungry,’ in our service area, which is the entire state except Prince Georges and Montgomery County,” explains Amanda Knittle, interim communications manager at the MD Food Bank. “Unique to Maryland: 45 percent deemed hungry are not eligible for federal food assistance programs; their incomes are considered too high.”

While your first generous thought might be to bag up canned goods for the organization, that’s actually not the most efficient approach. The Food Bank receives regular donations in bulk, from the M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park, Oakcrest and Charlestown retirement communities — the latter donate 400 pounds of food weekly. Capital Grille shares 100 pounds of food twice a week. The organization also receives good grub from McCormick and Schmick’s.

“Our drivers go out and pick up these donated items,” Knittle explains. “To make it worth the investment of drivers and gas, it’s more efficient to have a larger donation.”

Ongoing support is essential! You can enhance the Food Banks phenomenal efforts this Thanksgiving season and beyond by merely going online to give.

“Our business is to procure food — we have people who are food sourcers. They find the best food at the best prices. Somebody’s dollar can go much further through us,” Knittle says.

So, check out the virtual food drive.

Give money. Every dollar means serious nourishment.

Are you a Ravens’ fan? For every $10 worth of food that you donate through the Ravens Online Food Drive, you’ll be entered to win two tickets to a Ravens vs. Colts home game in December.  $10 = one entry, $20 = two entries, $100 = 10 entries! Deadline for entry is November 20.

You can even help on Thanksgiving weekend, when Mr. Rain’s Funhouse the restaurant at the AVAM will collect funds to benefit the MD Food Bank.

Heartwarming end note: More than 9600 Thanksgiving “End Hunger” holiday boxes have already been assembled, through the MD Food Bank, containing kale, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, mac and cheese, and pumpkin pie fixings. Each feeds 10. They will be distributed with a turkey, too. (Orioles’ wives sponsored a fundraiser this summer. Other donors include: C&S, Shoprite, Giant, WYPR/Eddie’s.)

Go online and help the Maryland Food Bank multiply modest money into miraculously nourishing meals. You’ll have a happier holiday for it!

Jennifer Bishop: 30 Years of Dynamic Photos

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Jennifer Bishop snapped her first photo in 1965, when she was eight, using a Kodak Instamatic she’d received for her birthday – a shot of her doll, housed protectively in the mailbox during an Ohio snowstorm. Though I’ve not seen this early image, the child’s-game composition seems distantly to foretell Jennifer’s trademark documentary style — quirky and deeply humanistic — her compassionate knack for capturing people, often moms and children, in character- and circumstance-revealing moments. Take “South Baltimore,” for instance, the photo on our main page, in which a serious-looking little girl wearing dark nail polish presents her baby doll to the camera, as if it’s a real child, a small boy two steps behind clutches a toy pistol, and a grown woman seen through the banister looks on expressively, holding her own real live baby.

I’ve been a fan of Jennifer’s photography since I discovered it a few years ago, but of course she’s been working as a photojournalist in Baltimore since 1975.

One of several Hopkins students who started Baltimore’s City Paper, she published a weekly stand alone photo in every issue for 17 years (1977-1994).  These photos were comprised of “small, revelatory moments that define the strangeness of everyday life…and seek to chronicle the soul of Baltimore,” wrote Glenn McNatt in The Baltimore Sun. She also worked as a staff photographer for The News American, and since 1981 has freelanced, shooting pictures for a variety of magazines, agencies, and institutions all over the world. In 2006, she started Maryland’s first Heart Gallery, a photo exhibit to promote the adoption of children with special needs. Recently, she has focused on projects that advocate for better lives for people with disabilities, such as the award-winning “What’s Possible.”

Photographer Henry Horenstein notes, “Jennifer Bishop’s beautifully crafted photographs manage to blend sympathy, optimism, and even humor while describing everyday events and critical conditions. She is one of my favorite photographers.”

Tour 27 of Jennifer’s favorite images up close and personal starting this week. From November 14 through January 6, “30 Years of Photographs by Jennifer Bishop” hangs at the Chesapeake Gallery at Harford Community College in Bel Air. Don’t miss the reception and talk (including Powerpoint presentation) this Wednesday, November 16, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

We talked to the artist about her photo show, her philosophy, and what’s she working on lately.

 


Fells Pt. Mother, 1981

 

How would you describe your eye, your best strength?

I’m good at spotting unlikely beauty and moments that have some element of quiet drama or suspense, but I can’t conceptualize or make those things up. I look for them in real, ordinary life, documentary style. I love pictures that make you want to look twice, because they’re more than the sum of their parts. Sometimes there’s a little uneasiness to the scene. I often don’t know if I captured that until later when I have more time to look at what I got. I’m working in the realm of photos that are journalistic, not fantastic or surreal or digitally manipulated.

What made you want to keep taking photos after your age-eight doll composition?

Well, I’ve long since lost the doll, but I still have her photo. And nosiness drives me. I’d like to see everything, especially the things I’m not invited to. My camera is my ticket to many sights, and it can shield me and help me endure scenes that are intense, and let me hold onto moments, places and people I love. So how could I not keep taking photos? Specifically the street photos are so fun for me. On a hot summer’s day, there is a lot of life to be seen out on a Baltimore street. I love driving around not knowing what I’ll find.

 

Teenaged Mother, 1992

 

Which are some favorite images from each of the three decades you’ve been working?

In the early 80’s I took a picture of a mother dangling her baby across her lap which I affectionately refer to as the Fell’s Point Pieta. The look on the mother’s face, the turned away man, the half-hidden sibling, and the stain on the wall…all hint at a darker side to a sacred kind of love. As do two other similar images from the next two decades: a teenaged mother lying on her bed in an embrace that almost crushes her son…and a Remington “Pieta” from 2011, of a mother holding her daughter in a wading pool. I like the intricate mother/child dynamic in each of these.

How has your POV or way of making photos changed over time, if at all?

Always, I’ve felt affection for my subjects, but I think my earlier photos were more cynical, funny one-liners, and now they are warmer, sadder and/or more hopeful. The older I get, the more I see people as complicated and sympathetic.

What is the most challenging thing about being a photographer, technically and emotionally?
 
Technically: There are endless mistakes to be made, and I’m still discovering new ones. I refuse to carry heavy equipment, so my photos are never as perfect as they might be. Emotionally: Behind the camera, I get to be a silent, detached witness. But getting in the habit of splitting consciousness that way, I miss being fully present. I can shoot it, or I can experience it, but I can’t do both at the same time. For that reason, it’s most challenging to photograph my own children.

What are you shooting now?

Incongruous, man-made Baltimore landscapes for www.whoweam.com.

 

Remington Pool, 2011

Sidewalk to Nowhere? N. Charles St. Saga Continues

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Last week, in response to our Charles Street repave-take-two report, a reader wrote, “Would love to know the story behind the sidewalk to nowhere that sits alongside the new bridge at Charles Street and the Beltway…” She’s talking about the incomplete sidewalk at Charles at Bellona, and we appreciate her astute infrastructure question. A phone call to super-personable Valerie Burnette Edgar, director of communications for the Maryland State Highway Administration, solved the mystery. We asked Burnette Edgar a pile of concrete questions: Is this a sidewalk constructed by Historic Byway money? If not, where do funds come from? What is the purpose of pouring one here? When will the project be complete?

An engineer on top of the sidewalk job emailed the following, “The project is constructing continuous sidewalk along both sides of Charles Street from Kenilworth Avenue, which has existing sidewalk, to Bellona Avenue, and then along both sides of Bellona to the east of Charles Street to Orchard Hills Park at Othoridge Road and along the north side of Bellona west of Charles, to provide pedestrian access to the businesses. Note, not all construction is complete yet. Funding was not from Historic Byway money, but was provided from the federal and state transportation funds as part of the interchange reconstruction.” The work will be finished by summer 2012.

Is this a walkway you will use? Got an infrastructure puzzler? Please post below!

American Buffalo: Way Realer than Real Housewives of Beverly Hills!

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Ready for a fresh plot? Turn off the TV. Go out and see American Buffalo at Centerstage — running now through December 11. It just might make you want to turn back on the TV and experience some of Mamet’s satisfying screenwriting.

Seasoned actors William Hill (Don), Rusty Ross (Bob), and Jordan Lage (Teach) rock a Mamet script that zigs and zags in stunningly unpredictable directions, even for Mamet, from whom we’ve come to expect twists both organic and blindsiding. Without giving anything away: The three men–Don, a junk shop owner, Bob, his dim protege, and Teach, Don’s misanthropic “friend”–conspire to steal a coin collection from a wealthy guy. Their hungry planning and anxious manipulation rule each scene, and because the performers deliver the (no-doubt-difficult-to-memorize) dialogue so effectively, we’re reminded how thrillingly well Mamet writes his talk. Gritty vernacular + rhythmic poetry = language that sounds realer than reality. As you may know, the playwright invented his speak cribbing notes from daily life in Chicago, day and night.

As Kellie Mecleary, production dramaturg, explains in Centerstage Magazine, “…Mamet spent his time wandering around the city with a spiral notebook, recording bits of conversation in ramshackle bars, gyms, old Jewish bathhouses, and junk shops. One junk shop on the North Side he frequented…the location for an ongoing poker game… The players distrusted Mamet at first…until they discovered a mutual connection: the Pontiac Correctional Center, where Mamet taught and many of the men had served time. This earned him a spot at the table and the nickname Teach. The shop and its hardscrabble clientele provided inspiration for American Buffalo.”

Director Liesl Tommy, making her Centerstage debut, does an inventive job with a play that, despite its nuanced narrative, keeps its cast rooted in one setting the entire time–Don’s resale shop on Chicago’s North Side.

While each actor impresses, Hill (kind-hearted Don) is hard not to favor. During the intermission, he emerges from backstage to sweep his shop in the shadows, sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup and waiting impatiently for the night’s darkest action to unfold. He makes us want to urge dawdlers back to their seats.

So, anyway, we say go see the fine production, then explore more Mamet classics (five stars to the forgotten film House of Cards) or review your favorites, but don’t feel bad if you can’t ever divine the final scene.

“Anyone can write five people trapped in a snowstorm,” the playwright said. “The question is how you get them into the snowstorm. It’s hard to write a good play because it’s hard to structure a plot. If you can think of it off the top of your head, so can the audience. To think of a plot that is, as Aristotle says, surprising and yet inevitable, is a lot, lot, lot of work.”

Traffic D

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Taking the scenic drive up Charles Street–with serious bottlenecking between Northern Parkway and Bellona–can make you feel like you’re living in the movie Groundhog Day, repeating the same Men-at-Work scene every single day lately. You’ve probably noticed that construction on this portion of the pretty road seems to be set on not-so-instant replay. We’ve been so frustrated, and flat out confused, by the current re-repaving of this road that we could have sworn got similarly repaved last June that we decided to call up Adrienne Barnes, spokesperson for the Baltimore City Department of Transportation. Barnes confirmed that this repave redo is not a product of our imaginations, but in fact fact: City engineers deemed the contractor M. Luis’ initial asphalt attempt “substandard” and unacceptable and required him to undertake the same repair operation again 100 percent free of charge.

M. Luis was legally obligated to fix the work without charging Baltimore or Maryland a penny, of course. Barnes explained further that funding for the company’s first botched job came from federal and local funds–while Sarbanes’ office clarified that no part of that spending is attached to a federal stimulus package. Said Ruxton road work (the sequel) began during the second week of October and will end the second week of November. 

How often does it happen that a road undergoes two copycat construction processes, due to unsatisfactory outcome? “Very rarely,” Barnes said. Though it certainly does happen. On an action-movie scale, too. Case in point: In late October, crews began essential repairs to the supports of three bridges over the Intercounty Connector or ICC (which carries a price tag of $2.6 billion, incidentally). The parts designer agreed to accept full financial responsibility, but the public must accept déjà vuinspiring delays due to lane closings. Consider it more time to think.

Ciclovia: Baltimore Cycles into the Future

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Biking wins. It’s stylish — Bill Cunningham, beloved 80-year-old fashion photographer at The New York Times shoots from his cycle, his sartorial subjects frequently snappy dressers on bikes themselves. It’s environmentally sound and free of charge — thanks to The Atlantic, we know that bike commuting is on the rise in Baltimore, and around the country. It’s rock ‘n’ roll. And globally adored. In Baltimore-native David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, we learned that many international cities — Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Manila, New York — are quite bicycle-friendly. And better enjoyed (and more closely observed) on two wheels, the breeze in your hair.

Unfortunately, biking’s still dangerous, even when you’re coasting in the designated bike lane. Earlier this year, 20-year-old Nathan Krasnopoler was struck on University Parkway — he later died. We were glad to read at least that police in Anne Arundel County have recently begun cracking down more strictly on motorists who threaten cyclists’ safety. (We hope to see more much-needed safety lanes painted for cyclists in years to come, as well as stronger laws to protect them.)

But did you know? Biking’s also very Roland Park. R.P. boasts the oldest, safest, and most picturesque biking paths in the city, and has four years running hosted Ciclovia, a bike movement that began in Bogota, Colombia, where the majority of citizens do not own cars and instead cycle to work. (See video on our homepage.)

Yesterday’s local Ciclovia brought several hundred cyclists–kids and adults–and walkers and runners, too, many with gleeful dogs on leashes, everybody moving together along the southbound side of Roland Avenue, between Cold Spring and Northern Parkway, which was officially closed to motorists between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Easy tunes were provided by Mambo Combo and Teachers for Sale, the latter consisting of actual instructors from area schools. (Teachers drew a healthy crowd of listeners, who may or may not have exercised beyond swaying their hips.) Cute how both bands stationed their gigs in front of the library. Another charmer: Joe’s Bikes was on hand filling tires free of charge.

Neighborhood volunteer Maria Salvato told us she saw more training wheels in motion this year than in years past. She said the only overall snag involved some frustration by drivers trying to reach a lacrosse clinic at Roland Park Country School, and having to make a long detour. “We cost 50 drivers 20 minutes each,” Salvato said. “I do wish they’d been able to U-turn.”

Here’s hoping nobody’s too put out by the very cool event, and that Ciclovia rolls many years to come. May those cyclists-in-training continue to teach our town to share the road and aim to save the planet.

100 Survivors: Breast Cancer Boldly Self-Documented

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Interdisciplinary artist Julia Kim Smith struck up a fast friendship with fellow artist Francesca Danieli, a celebrated collage-maker in 2002, when the women, who both had pre-first-grade daughters at Bryn Mawr, met at their girls’ soccer game and realized they were both professional creatives building life and work in Baltimore. They began attending each other’s shows. In 2004, Julia, a Baltimore Fishbowl resident artist, invited Francesca, and writer David Beaudouin, to collaborate on a video called “One Nice Thing,” shot at that year’s Democratic National Convention — Julia says it posed the plucky question, “Can one party say one nice thing about the opposition and really mean it?” The film screened at White Box in New York as part of the “Six Feet Under: Make Nice” exhibition.

That same year Francesca’s breast cancer returned for the third time. Two years later, she died at 52. Though their close friendship was tragically short-lived, Franscesca and Julia’s most emotionally daring collaboration endures today. An evolution of Francesca’s photography exhibition—displayed at MICA and the Creative Alliance, and posthumously at Centerstage—which documented 10 women with metastatic breast cancer, 100 Survivors invites women with breast cancer to photograph and write about themselves according to an itemized list of “tags”–starting with a close photo of the face–in an empowering and expressive gesture that speaks less of happy endings than complex and truthful present-tense resolve. (Please scroll down to see the photos.)

We talked to Julia about the conceptual series that lives on.

Tell me what moves you most about 100 Survivors — and how did the idea emerge/expand out of your two-person collaboration?

Francesca and I hoped the project would give her and all the women in the project some power and control over what was going on… Many of the photos appear mundane on the surface but function on a deeper, metaphoric or symbolic level when paired with the writing. I think that’s what makes the work powerful and moving.

Are the women who submit photos non-artist civilians for the most part — where the creative project is concerned, what tends to be the most significant challenge for them?

A few of the women are artists (Francesca, Carole Jean, Ilene, Charlotte) but most aren’t. The biggest challenge, for the non-artist, is to not obsess over creating “Art” with a capital “A” and to simply document their own lives at time when they are vulnerable. Photograph and write about what they know.

What did you and Francesca expect would be the most important outcome (or emotional payoff) of each woman’s self-portrait shoot?

The first tag, 1. my face (daily), is probably the hardest to shoot and the one most women flinch at.  Facing one’s own face, literally facing one’s own face, is just hard!  Women tend to be critical of their own faces and bodies.  We hoped the tag would lead women to really look at themselves with an unflinching gaze and accept.  Many did.

You currently have 31 photographer participants, correct? When you reach 100 will you begin again?

It’s 30 — we are checking on one woman’s release form.  I can’t even contemplate reaching 100 women. Francesca and I almost randomly came up with a title for the project, 100 Survivors.  It doesn’t matter if we get there.  What matters is the women and what they choose to document.  Hope that makes sense.  I work with all the women — I can’t think of them as numbers.

Any advice to breast cancer survivors who want to participate but feel timid?

Most of the women who start the project begin by announcing they aren’t very good at photography. I encourage them to shoot a lot and edit later — digital cameras, cell phone cameras have made photography more accessible.

What has feedback been like from women with cancer?

We’ve heard from women who either have been to the exhibitions or visited the website that 100 Survivors fills a void; it is what they need to get through the night.

Have you seen other artists work in response to illness, in ways that inspire you?

Writers inspire me: Barbara Ehrenreich and Peggy Orenstein. In Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, Ehrenreich recounts her own experience with breast cancer. “Breast cancer, I can now report, did not make me prettier or stronger, more feminine or spiritual,” writes Ehrenreich. “What it gave me, if you want to call this a ‘gift,’ was a very personal, agonizing encounter with an ideological force in American culture that I had not been aware of before — one that encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate.” Orenstein, the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, today writes about body image issues — in one piece, she critiques and questions the sexualization of breast cancer awareness movements. In the late 90s, she published in The New York Times a straightforward journal detailing her experience dealing with breast cancer at 35.”

Rapture Officially Delayed: The End Isn’t Here!

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If you’re reading this, you are alive, and therefore, the Rapture has probably been delayed (again). Another close call for Maryland, and the entire planet. Let’s take a moment to breathe a collective sigh of relief. (Hope you didn’t quit your job.) Let’s also take a moment to vent in the name of poor life-or-death planning!

As you’re no doubt aware, professional rapture-revelator Harold Camping (who looks like a patriarchal granddaddy character on “Big Love,” with ears bigger than Harry Dean Stanton’s), after mistakenly announcing that the world would end last May 21st, revised his prediction date to October 21st, which happens to be today. Camping, 90, who now resides in a nursing home, is the host of Family Radio, a Bible-centered podcast.  On a show earlier this month he noted, “I do believe we’re getting very near the very end. Oct. 21, that’s coming very shortly, that looks like it will be, at this point, it will be the final end of everything.”

Camping added that this very end’s going to come very, very quietly, by the way, with Gawker winking that the prophet seemed to be hedging his bets — maybe the Rapture’s curtain will fall so silently, we won’t even notice he got it right this time!

Interesting to note that, in 1992, Camping warned that the world would for sure end in 1994.

We do wish the aged sage would make up his mind once and for all. If God’s listening to Camping’s podcast, maybe he’ll coordinate his closeout plans accordingly. Last May, many frightened families said goodbye to their homes and took to the streets to warn citizens of the 5/21 finale. They’ve had about five months to regroup and plan for the 10/21 departure, and we’re betting they’re pretty steamed right about now.

On the bright, we’re-still-alive side, now that you’ve got some days to kill, what do you plan to do with your precious extra time on the planet? Please let us know below!

Got a Good Fish Story? Win Aquarium Lecture Tix!

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Submit a fish or fishbowl-related story to win two tickets to Henry Horenstein’s Aquatics lecture at the National Aquarium this Thursday night! Please interpret our challenge creatively. (My fish story, for example: When I was a little kid visiting my grandfather in Arkansas, my dad, grandpa and I went river fishing early one morning; we sat there quietly for hours and didn’t catch a thing, but at one point, two police officers showed up, looking for a wanted murderer. In the backseat of their cop car: the second arrested suspect waited, captured, his forehead red with blood. When my dad soon after finally caught a catfish, as I watched it struggle wildly, I begged him to pull the thing off the hook and put it back in the water. Dad killed it quick, and we all ventured back to my grandfather’s house to eat it. Every step of the way I think we expected to meet the wanted criminal. But we didn’t. That fish tasted good. We’d had a long morning.)

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What makes a great photographer like Henry Horenstein tick? Or how does he click such astonishingly beautiful and often highly abstract images of animals and sea life? The esteemed artist and RISD prof shares pro secrets this Thursday night at the Aquarium.

During his talk, he’ll discuss the making of photo books Aquatics (2001) and Animalia (2008), and more.

Of Aquatics, The Boston Globe noted: “[Horenstein’s] carp and jellyfish are weightless and oddly graceful, suspended in warm and diffuse atmospheres.” Of Animalia, writer Owen Edwards raved, “Though most photographers are driven to find a new vision, even the best fail more often than they succeed. In [these images], Horenstein has succeeded to a dazzling degree, evading the abundant clichés of animal photography at every turn.”

Event Details

This Thurs Oct 20th
6–7 p.m. Wine and cheese reception

7–9 p.m. Lecture National Aquarium’s Meyerhoff Auditorium

Cost: $5 for members, $5 for students, $10 for non-members or free with book purchase

Reservations are required; call 410-727-FISH (3474) to reserve

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Guides