Friday, April 27, 2012

Spotting the Space Shuttle Enterprise over NYC

Spotting the Space Shuttle Enterprise Flying over NYC Area

This morning I joined others eager to see the space shuttle Enterprise on its last flight home. It was a windy, cloudy morning, with the sun peeking through the clouds on and off, just to confuse the camera. Yes, I did bring my camera with me, long lens and all. I took a few shots, some of which I'd like to share here, with you.
Close-up of Space Shuttle Enterprise Coming to NYC. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Close-up of Space Shuttle Enterprise Coming to NYC. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Space Shuttle Enterprise over Verrazano Bridge, on its last flight home to NYC. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Space Shuttle Enterprise over Verrazano Bridge, on its last flight home to NYC. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Space Shuttle Enterprise over Liberty State Park, on its last flight home to NYC. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Space Shuttle Enterprise over Liberty State Park, on its last flight home to NYC. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Space Shuttle Enterprise preparing to land at JFK Airport. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Space Shuttle Enterprise preparing to land at JFK Airport. Copyright 2012 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.




 I'm glad I got a glimpse of it. Thanks for reading and wish you all a wonderful weekend!
Alina Oswald

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sketches of Open Mics: Random Thoughts on Open Mics and the Neighborhood Bookstores Hosting These Artsy Events

Sketches of Open Mics: Random Thoughts on Open Mics and the Neighborhood Bookstores Hosting These Artsy Events



Have to confess, I love open mics. I sometimes go to these events to perform, cheer other performers, other times I organize these artsy events.

It all started by my visiting and attending Open Mic events offered by the likes of Barnes & Noble . Then I discovered smaller neighborhood places like Symposia Bookstore, in Hoboken, NJ, and I got hooked.

I love Symposia and all it has to offer:

* a space where one can get lost in the world of arts and books, and, in the process, find moments of bliss

* friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff, there to answer any questions

* a fabulous manager who knows and does everything; Carmen Rusu is the heart and soul of Symposia; and the bookstore (the well-being of the bookstore and everything and everybody connected to it is her passion and purpose in life, and she's good--no, she's great--at it); Symposia's manager is also a certified yoga instructor; hence, the bookstore offers FREE weekly yoga classes (check out Symposia's website to find out more about its schedule, including yoga and meditation classes, book events and much much more).

To sum it up, Symposia Bookstore is a safe heaven, a place where one can escape, if only for a moment, from the torment and stress of the day. Symposia is a peaceful home away from home, where one can reconnect with the soul within. The bookstore has had a vital role in the lives of many local artists. Hopefully, for the sake of today's and future artists, hopefully, Symposia will remain a fixture in our lives.


Yours Truly Reading at Open Mic. Sketch by Jack Atkinson.
While some writers/readers (performers?) bring photographers and videographers to capture their... performances in front of the mic, I bring with me my own... visual artist (so to speak).

Indeed, I organize open mic events with Jack Atkinson, a fantastic visual artist showing his artwork in galleries across the country, including in Manhattan's own Chelsea Artist District. To learn more about Jack Atkinson's art and the art world in general, and to keep up with the latest happenings, check out Jack's popular blog on ARTSnFOOD

I'd like to share here a sketch Jack drew of me, during one of our own open mic events, while I was reading from a very early, prior-to-publication version of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS

To learn more about Journeys Through Darkness, you can download a PR kit (including a short free excerpt from the book). I'd be glad to answer any questions about Journeys.



As always, thanks for stopping by!
Alina Oswald
www.alina-arts.com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Imaginary Eyes: A Few More Images from Chashama Harlem Gallery

More Images from the opening night of Imaginary Eyes, an art exhibit curated by Wolfgang Busch, hosted by Chashama Harlem Gallery



Imaginary Eyes art exhibit. Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald
Davey & Wolfgang Busch at Imaginary Eyes Exhibit.
Wolfgang Busch is an artist and activist of many talents. Using artistic venues of many kinds, he's been a constant and vital voice in the LGBT community.Wolfgang Busch (Art from the Heart Productions) produced documentaries like How Do I Look? (featuring the ball community) and A Flow Affair (offering a brief history of flow arts, including flagging and fanning).

Imaginary Eyes art exhibit at Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald
A few words from curator Wolfgang Busch. Imaginary Eyes art exhibit at Chashama Harlem Gallery.
Wolfgang Busch is also the curator of Imaginary Eyes, an art exhibit hosted by Chashama Harlem Gallery, in New York City. I had the privilege to attend and photograph the performances and artwork on the show's opening night.

Here are a few more images from the fantastic Imaginary Eyes art exhibit. Hope you'll enjoy them.
Artwork at the opening of Imaginary Eyes art exhibit. Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Artwork at the opening of Imaginary Eyes art exhibit. Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Imaginary Eyes art exhibit opening night at Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald
Imaginary Eyes art exhibit opening night at Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald

Matthias Matthew Imaginary Eyes artist, Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald
Matthias Matthew with his artwork at Imaginary Eyes art exhibit. Chashama Harlem Gallery.



As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS
All photos by Alina Oswald. 







Thursday, April 19, 2012

Imaginary Eyes: An art show curated by Wolfgang Busch

Imaginary Eyes: Abstract HomoErotic Fashion Fantasy

This is a photo blog, featuring a fantastic art event curated by Wolfgang Busch and hosted by Chashama Gallery in Harlem, NYC. Here are a few images from Imaginary Eyes opening reception.

Hope you'll enjoy the images.

As always, thanks for stopping by,
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS


Mark flagging at Imaginary Eyes opening. Chashama Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald
Mark flagging at Imaginary Eyes opening. Chashama Gallery

Mark flagging at Chashama Harlem Gallery. Imaginary Eyes opening reception. Photo by Alina Oswald
Mark flagging at Chashama Harlem Gallery. Imaginary Eyes opening reception

Mykel performing at the opening reception of Imaginary Eyes. Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald
Mykel performing at the opening reception of Imaginary Eyes. Chashama Harlem Gallery


Artwork at Imaginary Eyes opening reception. Chashama Harlem Gallery. Photo by Alina Oswald
Artwork at Imaginary Eyes opening reception. Chashama Harlem Gallery


Artist Matthias Matthew and Curator Wolfgang Busch. Photo by Alina Oswald
Artist Matthias Matthew and Curator Wolfgang Busch at the opening reception of Imaginary Eyes. Chashama Gallery



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review of Patchwork of Me, another outstanding read from Gregory G. Allen

Review of Patchwork of Me, another outstanding read from Gregory G. Allen



What's a patchwork? ...the word brings to mind the AIDS Quilt, the whole AIDS Quilt that tells a certain story of the pandemic. But AIDS is only one layer of our existence. In the larger picture, it may be only a minuscule piece in life's complex patchwork.

Life and our journeys of self-discovery take front stage in Gregory G. Allen's new novel, Patchwork of Me, offering a new facet of this author of many talents. Here's a short review I wrote for Patchwork of Me.

Appreciate the privilege.
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness


Patchwork of Me
by Gregory G. Allen


In his new novel, Patchwork of Me, Gregory G. Allen uses his storytelling talents to patch together an intriguing story of self-discovery, unafraid to tackle unconventional and unusual territories.

Patchwork reminds me of Dolly Parton's song, "Coat of Many Colors," which tells a story from Parton's childhood about her mother patching together a coat from different rags, explaining the biblical significance of the coat--wearing it helps the daughter discover who she really is and what is important in her life.

The heroine in Gregory G. Allen's new novel also has the chance to discover what's important in her life and, with that, her full identity. Proving once again that he's a writer of many talents, Allen flawlessly patches together his main character's life and, with that, the lives of a diverse range of characters whose journeys of self-discovery invite us, the audience, to tag along. In return, we get a lifetime opportunity to peer into our own life experiences and the patchworks defining them. As a result, we earn the chance to come to terms with our own truths and accept who we are, as individuals. In return, we get a lifetime opportunity to peer into our own journeys through life and the patchwork defining them. As a result, we earn the chance to come to terms with our own truths and accept who we are, as individuals.

Allen's Patchwork of Me is a daring story not only of self-discovery, but also of survival, a tale of love and trust, of friendship, mystery, and also hope. As we've learned to expect from this author, we also anticipate a hint of darkness, of unconventional and maybe even taboo elements. And Allen does not disappoint. He's once again fearless in choosing his characters and their stories in order to tackle unsafe topics and territories. In that sense Patchwork of Me tells the entangled and controversial story of Sara Butler as she tries to patch together the complex, multi-layered structure defining her life, with a little help from her devoted friends, straight and gay.

Allen's new novel offers yet another outstanding read from a favorite author. Patchwork of Me is a personal, intimate story, capturing a reflection of its characters' reality and, with it, a possible peek into our own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Environmental Portraits: How to Photograph People in Tight or Crowded Public Places

Environmental Portraits: How to Photograph People in Tight or Crowded Public Places


What do you do when you have to photograph someone, say a business owner in her shop or a dentist and his staff in a dentist office? I’ve done both and more—took pictures of the owner of a frame shop and also of the oral surgeon and his staff in their office and/or operating room. As much as I enjoy doing these kinds of assignments, they always come with a potential problem—space, or lack of, thereof.

While these spaces are not quite public—not a mall, not a park—they are…open to the public. That is, people come into the store to have their artwork framed or the dentist’s office to have their teeth repaired.

As a photographer, while I try to schedule a photo shoot when traffic is slow, or slower than usual, there’s really no chance for having the space and client only to myself. Therefore, at all times during the photo shoot, I have to be aware of my (and the client's) surroundings, of the constant flow of potentially moving people and objects. I mention this because usually there are lots of…things, objects, spread all around the place, mostly objects that cannot be removed during the photo shoot—for a framing store examples can be shelves with frames, artwork waiting to be matted and framed, tools, to name only a few; for a dentist’s office, the dentist chair right in the middle of the room, tools and equipment that myself, as a photographer, would/should not necessarily want to touch or come in any contact with at any time before, during or after the photo shoot.

What do you do when you have to use (set up) lighting gear? If you have lighting gear to set up, first ask permission from your client. That’s a given. If you can do the job using on/off camera flash and reflector, even better. A low-light lens does help, too. Take your flash off the camera and place it somewhere in the room, elevated, if possible (say, on a shelf). This way, you don't have to use a stand and take up more space. Or hold your flash in your hand.




Sometime last year I worked with author T.J. Banks on a photography project for Banks’ latest book, Sketch People. I drove several states north to her place, but once there, she chauffeured me around the area, taking me to all the photo shoot places. We ended up in a very cozy and neat framing store, sparkling with a wide variety of frames of all sorts, and, of course, surrounded by artwork. I was supposed to photograph the owner for Sketch People. She’s a fantastic person and businesswoman, and also an artist, herself.

Friendly and welcoming, her beautiful eyes begged being photographed, Joanne was more than willing to play the game and pose for me. She asked where I wanted her to sit or stand or what to do and her question got me thinking…

I looked around, and realized that there was no room for a tripod. I usually move around a lot while shooting on location, and do not use a tripod (unless I have to). Also, I wanted to show her surrounded by her work and artwork, doing something, not just standing idle.

As if on demand, a nice lady, a customer, entered the store. She needed the wire on the back of her picture to be readjusted and its ends re-glued.
I ended up photographing Joanne repairing the artwork for her client. After that, I took a few more images—headshots of Joanne. Then we decided to play with the frames, so I photographed the shop’s owner…framed.
 
One image made it on the cover of Sketch People, the other one, inside the book. Joanne’s story is inspiring and comes to life through T.J. Banks’ words, themselves a product of the author’s remarkable ability to truly connect with her subjects and tell their stories in a unique, enlightening and moving way.


For daily inspiring stories, check out Joanne’s photos and, especially, Sketch People her story. For more delightful reads, check out the rest of the Sketch People stories and, if that’s not enough, visit the blog with the same name.


As always, thanks so much for stopping by!

Alina Oswald
Writer/Photographer/Author


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Leftovers: Revisiting Women’s Rights. A rendering based on a new novel by Arthur Wooten

Leftovers: Reason for Revisiting Women’s Rights
A rendering based on a new novel by Arthur Wooten


Lately, GOP candidates and their supporters have placed the women’s rights issue center stage, spilled an unflattering light on it and declared war. As stunning and impossible as it may seem to some individuals, the 2012 GOP candidates’ desire to win votes is overwhelming, so much that they are ready to take this country—its women, at least—on a forced journey back in time, to a destination mirroring that of dictatorial regimes that lack the most basic women reproductive rights and women rights, in general. 

For those willing to take a trip back in time without getting stuck there and maybe revisit the delicate topic of women's rights, there’s an easier, funnier, more inspiring, enlightening, entertaining, moving, eye opening and, yes, thought provoking way...  I’m talking, of course, about the fictional journey offered by Arthur Wooten in his latest novel, Leftovers.

Vivian Lawson Hayes, the Leftovers protagonist, captures a personification of the evolution of women's rights while covering a wide spectrum—from women as their men’s shadows to women as independent individuals capable of blending their successful professions with their family lives. With Vivian’s story, Wooten re/introduces us [introduces some of the readers while reintroduces others] to the black-and-white world of the fifties, while using his signature storytelling talent to add color—contemporary colors that is—through which to expose this world’s many possibilities.

And one more thing… if you question the title, you are not alone. Just start reading and you’ll find the answers.

As always, thanks for visiting!
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS

NOTE/Confession: I confess, I thoroughly enjoy Arthur Wooten's novels.  As a result, I started reading Leftovers first because I'm a fan of Wooten's books, of his writing in general; second, because I do love leftovers (the food). So, you see, I kinda started reading Leftovers, the Novel, without knowing exactly what I was getting myself into... well, I was in for a trip. And the more I was reading the adventures of Vivian Lawson Hayes, the more I was forgetting everything around me (yes, that's what happens when you read Wooten's books). In the process it came to me that Leftovers can very well be not only a timely subject, but also a timeless one. Let me explain... As much as I hope that, sometime in the (hopefully) near future we'll reach peace and allow women to have their rights as any other free individual, a novel like Leftovers offers that timeless aspect to the topic, a reminder of where and how we used to stand and the brave and bold journeys we've had to take, as women, to reach our full potential as successful, passionate professionals, lovers, mothers and, most importantly, free individuals able to decide on own personal lives. In that aspect, Leftovers' Vivian Lawson Hayes is the model to follow. And that's only because of yet another delightful read by Arthur Wooten, an author of many talents. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sketch People: Stories Along the Way--A Review of T.J. Banks' Latest Book




"... along the way" Photo by Alina Oswald. (Maui, Hawaii)
To start with, I'd want to say that I’m truly beyond-words and speechless honored to be featured in T.J. Banks’ latest book, Sketch People. Yes, I kinda knew about the possibility of the upcoming book, mostly I was hoping that T.J.' blog, Sketch People would turn into a book. And it did! Still, nothing prepared me for the feeling I had when I held the actual book in my hands for the first time, and then rediscovered it on Kindle, Nook and other e-book readers. 

It’s always an amazing feeling, which, then evolves once you start the Stories Along the Way. And it's all  possible because of T.J’s writing, of her ability to connect with her subjects at the deepest levels and extract the soul of their stories in tales that, in turn, connect with our own selves.

The stories of Sketch People are of individuals with names we may not recognize, whose causes we may not be familiar with... just yet. That’s because the real life characters of Sketch People are just that… people like us, using their artistry, creativity and passions to do their part in making our world a better one. 

Each story holds a seed of hope, of new beginnings and possibilities, of inspiration. If life were a box of chocolates then it might as well be a collection of Sketch People's Stories Along the Way. You may never know what or where you’re gonna get upon starting reading any of these stories, but you’ll end the read feeling more empowered, enlightened, and also inspired, with a deeper understanding of life and the universe in which you live. After all, sometimes it is all about the journey and not the destination.

Sketch People is a read for any day or season, for any occasion, offering soul-searching, powerful stories of self-discovery, remarkable tales to keep us company along our journeys through life. T.J. Banks' latest book is a gift we can offer ourselves and to anyone we care about.

As always, always appreciate you stopping by!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The AIDS Alphabet: X, Y, Z

The AIDS Alphabet: X, Y, Z

Now that we've almost reached the end of the AIDS alphabet, let's review all its letters. This is only a snapshot of the larger, more comprehensive AIDS Alphabet, the subject of my upcoming book with the same name.

A is for AIDS, AZT, Atripla, ARV, (AIDS) awareness, abstinence, ART [AntiRetroviral Therapy] (see HAART), amfAR, ADAP, ACT-UP, AIDS museum
www.aidsmuseum.org
AIDS Museum Opening. Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, 2006. Photo by Alina Oswald

B is for Bactrim, Buffalo hump, (AIDS related) Blindness, (AIDS) Bracelet

C is for Candidiasis, Cidofovir, crypto, cocktail, CD4, CMV (Cytomegalovirus), Crixivan (see PIs), (AIDS) complacency, (AIDS) Conspiracy theory, (AIDS) Cure

D is for ddI, d4T, (AIDS) Dementia, Drug interaction, Death, Duality of AIDS, December 1st (See World AIDS Day), (AIDS) Denialism

E is for Entry Inhibitors, AIDS education, epidemic, ELISA 

F is for Foscarnet, Fuzeon (see Entry Inhibitors), the Face of AIDS, FDA

G is for Ganciclovir, GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency), gay cancer, AIDS-related Gingivitis

H is for HIV, HAART (see ART) [Highly Active AntiRetroviral Therapy], Dr. Ho, Hope

I is for Immunomodulators, Immune System, Infection

J is for (pneumonia) Jiroveci (see PCP)

K is for Kaposi's sarcoma (KS)

L is for (AIDS) Lymphoma, Lazarus effect

M is for (HIV) Mirror test, Mono-therapy, MCV, Maraviroc, Molluscum Contagiosum Virus

N is for NNRTIs, NRTs, Norvir, Neuropathy

O is for Opportunistic Infections (OIs), ozone therapy, Orasure, (AIDS) Origins

P is for PCP [Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia], (AIDS) Pneumonia, PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) line, Protease Inhibitors (PIs), Pentamidine, (AIDS) pandemic, (AIDS) prevention

Q is for (AIDS) Quilt

R is for Ryan White CARE Act, Reverse transcriptase, (CMV) Retinitis, Retrovirus, (AIDS Red) Ribbon

S is for SIV, SIDA, Sustiva, symptoms, side-effects, Syndrome, skin cancer, survivor, sunken cheek syndrome, safer sex, SLIM

T is for T-cell, T-cell count, T20 (see Fuzeon), (AIDS) Treatment, Therapy

U is for Until There's A Cure, Urine therapy, Undetectable (VL)

V is for Viral Load (VL), Visual AIDS

Empire State Building in red lights for December 1st, World AIDS Day
Empire State Red Lights on World AIDS Day
W is for (AIDS) Warrior, (AIDS) Walk, Western Blot Test, World AIDS Day


Y is for Yeast infection, (AIDS early) Years and 30 Years of AIDS

X is for X-ray

Z is for Zerit

Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS bookmark
Here are a few excerpts from Journeys Through Darkness:A Biography of AIDS, which reflect the last three letters of the AIDS alphabet:

X is for X-ray

By 1991 the number of AIDS-related deaths skyrocketed. Many of Kurt’s friends and people he knew in his community became infected with HIV. But Kurt didn’t really worry. He had been feeling fine and hadn’t been sick at all, so there hadn’t been any reason for him to go to the doctor for his annual physical.  As a matter of fact, Kurt hadn’t been to a doctor in over a decade. He’d been healthy… at least up until the end of October 1991, when he started coughing. It was a persistent cough, exhausting, draining him of energy.
    Not knowing what to make of it, Kurt tried to self-diagnose, thinking he had an allergy. So, he decided to put to good use the health insurance he had through his work and flipped through the provider books with their endless lists of physicians, searching for an allergist. He found one and called his office to make an appointment. A few days later the doctor gave Kurt several shots of different allergens under his skin to determine just what he was allergic to, and then sent him home, advising him to return in a few days.
    Once at home, Kurt started feeling much worse. He went to bed only to wake up in the middle of the night soaked in his own sweat. That’s when he realized that something was seriously wrong with him and it wasn’t allergies. He started to think that whatever was wrong had something to do with HIV. 
    Only a week earlier Kurt had taken his date to a gay bar, where he first noticed an AIDS magazine. He picked it up and flipped through its pages and he came upon a list of various opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. One of them was Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, or PCP, otherwise known as “the AIDS pneumonia.” Kurt mentioned his suspicion regarding his HIV status, but the other guy brushed him away, saying that Kurt was probably overreacting.
    But after waking up several nights covered in sweat and feeling sicker and weaker by the minute, Kurt decided to call a doctor—a general practitioner this time—and make an appointment. He got in a few days later and by then he was coughing constantly and had mild fever.
    The doctor X-rayed Kurt’s lungs and drew blood to send out for fast testing. It turned out that the photographer had pneumonia, but the doctor needed more time to determine what kind of pneumonia it was.
    Kurt’s blood test results were back in no time. The physician studied them and noticed that his patient’s white cell count was way out of the normal range. That was reason enough to ask permission to perform an HIV test. Permission granted, the doctor drew more blood from Kurt’s arm and sent it out for more testing, and then he sent his patient home with a prescription for antibiotics to treat his pneumonia. Kurt was to return in a week for a follow-up visit.
    During the following days, despite the doctor’s treatment, he started feeling even worse and by the end of the week Kurt became certain of his HIV status. When it was time for him to return to the doctor’s office, his sister insisted on going with him. “You can’t go in there without some emotional support,” she said and drove him and stood by his side as he received the news.
    According to the new blood test results, Kurt not only had HIV. He had AIDS. He was also experiencing his first bout of PCP—two more were to follow in less than a year. His T cell count was fifteen. [In comparison, the T cell count for a healthy person is approximately one thousand or more, measured per unit of blood.]
    Being a general practitioner, the physician thought it was time to turn his patient to an HIV specialist, and so he sent Kurt immediately to the hospital. There, although doctors didn’t tell Kurt much else at the time, they told the photographer’s mother that her son might not make it through the night.


A PICC line, or Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter line, is a thin flexible silicone tube that medical professionals insert into patient’s vein and through which they administer intravenous medications, transfusions or chemotherapy for long periods of time. This way, the patient doesn’t have to make frequent hospital visits to receive necessary treatment or to be given multiple injections. For optimal results, the PICC line has to reach the large veins in the patient’s chest. This allows medical professionals to administer large amounts of medication directly into the bloodstream. Therefore, the medications can work fast and most efficiently.
    Nurses are usually the ones to start the PICC line. They can insert the tubing straight in the patient’s chest using general or local anesthetic. In this case they call the line a central line. Nurses can also insert the tubing in the patient’s arm, usually near the bend of the elbow, and in this case the line is called a peripheral inserted central catheter line, or PICC line. After starting the PICC line, nurses then use an X-ray machine to help them guide the tubing all the way up into the patient’s large veins in order to make sure it is in the right position (close to the heart). Only then can they begin administering the medication through the PICC line. The entire procedure requires only local anesthesia of the skin where the line is inserted and it generally takes about thirty to forty minutes.