Monday, April 03, 2006


There's a new promotional ad running in one of our papers this week. The ad showcases many of our fine columnists, and I'm proud to be included in the mix. There, in a neat box, are all of our photos, grouped together like mug shots with our names and specialties. I'm listed as "off-beat humor." (Personally, as a moonlighting club DJ, I like to consider myself always ON the beat, thanks.)

Here's my problem: I'm sitting and looking at the faces of my fellow columnists. They're all smiling. They're all vibrant. They all look their best. And then there's me. I'm the only "humor" columnist in the bunch, yet in my official photo, I look like my puppy just died. There's not a trace of humor in my face. In fact, I look downright despondent. If I'm the FUNNY one, I'd hate to see a picture of the person here in charge of obituaries.

What do you guys think of the photo that's used with my column? Sure, I look morose. And, yeah, my friend Tien was right -- the unfortunate tan/black shirt layering of the day DOES make me look a bit like a Jedi in training. But I've always kind of liked that picture, and I'll tell you why: In it, I do not look like a serial killer. That fact alone makes the photo better than 98% of the photos I've ever starred in.

Exactly just what IS it that makes a person photogenic? And, more to the point, where can I buy some? See, I don't just take bad pictures; I take the art of bad-picture-taking to exciting and heretofore unexplored terrain. I have a LEGACY of horrifying photos out there, just waiting to be mocked by friends and family. The camera is not my friend. In fact, I worry that I may have, at one time or another, made a disparaging joke against the camera's mother. The camera, I've discovered, has a grudge against me.

I know what you're thinking: Here he goes again, more self-deprecation. This kid's got the worst self-esteem EVER. But this isn't just me being hard on myself. I have photo after photo as hard proof. I know what I look like in a mirror, and I know what I look like in a photo, and never the twain shall meet.

When captured on film, my face often does things that modern science simply can't explain. My chin grows a double, and yes, occasionally a triple. My right eye becomes jealous of my left and grows to a bigger size, while both of them simultaneously decide to recede into my skull (perfect for that captivating zombie look that's all the rage with the kids.) Zits previously undetected pop out to say hello, as though unseen forces have just claimed my left cheek for the nation of Pimplonia.

Smiling is easy, one would think. The best part about life is that there's ALWAYS something or someone doing something stupid, ergo I tend to smile a lot. Yet, the second someone decides to point a camera at my face, this instinctive skill leaves my repertoire. In its place, I find myself attempting to analytically smile, issuing mental commands like, "Okay, first THIS muscle needs to move up, then THIS muscle..." The end result looks like a cross between The Joker and Bobcat Goldthwait, and appears decidedly evil.

Once, at a sales job, we took a group photo of the team for marketing to use. Our smiling faces adorned a banner that read, "Call our friendly telesales team!" Then there's me in the back, looking like a zombie AND smiling demonically. Call our friendly telesales team... and the guy who's going to follow them home later and eat their brains.

The other nifty trick I've learned is that as soon as I even SEE a camera, my head compulsively tilts to a 20 degree angle. I have NEVER understood this. Regardless, there are scores of family photos out there where everyone looks normal except me, now looking like (a) a zombie, (b) with a deranged smile, and (c) with my head cocked like a curious puppy. Needless to say, I expect the folks at G.Q. to call any day now.

I wasn't always this idiotic. My mom has a slew of pictures of me from my youth, and in all of them, I look shockingly NORMAL. A real smile, no sunken eyes, and no cocked head. So what happened? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm trying to figure out a way to blame the Reagan Administration.

So what do you guys think? Should I make a stab at a new pic to accompany the column, knowing the risk of Cocked & Deranged Zombie Syndrome? Or do I leave well enough alone and keep the Jedi pose? If enough people e-mail and demand it, I'll talk to the bosses about scheduling a new photo session. Otherwise, I'm leaving it alone and you'll have to get your off-beat humor with a slice of despondency.


WindingHills said...

Well at least you have a good picture for your obituary:)

nicole said...

i think you look delicious. good enough to eat...brains. call me sometime, i'll drive out there to go to mcdonalds and the liquor store with you.

Wendy said...

so, whatever happened with the picture vote? are you going to forever remain a jedi?