What Photography Means to Me

“The more personal you make it, the more universal it becomes.” -Steve Simon in The Passionate Photographer

I haven’t figured out exactly what I am passionate about in photography because there are still too many things I like to shoot, but this mindset has changed the way I approach photography.  For the past few years, I have been so obsessed with doing things “the right way,” and there are so many conflicting opinions on what that actually is, that I’ve almost become paralyzed in my photography.  I have also watched as photography has lost most of its real value in the changing landscape of modern media.  As an amateur photographer with no intentions of pursuing a full-time career in photography, I am part of the reason why photography is changing, but at the same time I have been trying to prevent it from doing so.  This past month, I learned that it’s not my fault, and it’s not my responsibility.  I am only responsible for growing, learning, and improving in my own photographic journey, and it really doesn’t matter what impact I may or may not be having on the world of photography as a whole.  I need to shoot for myself because let’s be honest, I’m really not getting paid to shoot much, if at all.

One of the greatest influences on my skills and perspective as a photographer, is my background in photojournalism.  I often hesitate to even call it that because I don’t think I deserve to be truly called a photojournalist, but my work for the Diamondback student newspaper at Maryland is way more photojournalism experience than most photographers have and really shaped the way I approach the craft.  Also, the Diamondback is awesome, and it’s terribly under-appreciated and taken for granted by most of the students at UMD, so for me to say it wasn’t legit experience would be a mistake.  The Diamondback is more than just a student newspaper, it is a professional organization with a long history of excellence both in the quality of the content it generates and in the training it provides for future media professionals, which is well-recognized in the journalistic community.  It also wins awards.  I don’t think I can talk about photography in my life, without mentioning the Diamondback.  Also, as a life-long fan of MD sports, nothing beats the access you get as a photographer.

While working for the Diamondback, I tried to learn and absorb as much as I could about journalism and photojournalism, but it wasn’t easy.  Since I wasn’t a journalism student, I didn’t have the same technical foundation, and MD doesn’t have a dedicated photojournalism program so educational and mentorship opportunities were pretty limited.  Between my pre-med coursework and my work for the paper, I didn’t have much time for a real internship in photography either.  As a result, I gleaned what I could in terms of the basic rules, but was left to my own for the most part when it came to technique and application.  (Maybe I’ll find a way to help teach some of the newer photogs at some point to give back.) I was comfortable completing assignments, coming up with images that effectively illustrated the story, and working on tight deadlines, but where I felt lost was in coming up with my own photo essays or stories.  I have always loved documentary photography, and I spent a lot of time looking at the work of the masters of the genre of reportage and documentary photography, but I didn’t know where story ideas came from or what was actually involved in putting the stories together.  I thought photographers went out with a clear idea of what they wanted to shoot, selectively shot only those images in a week or so, maybe a month for a long project, and came back with these fantastic stories.  I don’t know where that idea came from, but I figured I’d never really have that kind of talent, so I basically gave up on ever being able to shoot that type of work.

Since I’m not super into shooting family portraits or high school sports or any of the more entry-level options in photography, I didn’t really know what or why I would be taking pictures, so I seriously considered giving up serious photography.

My experiences last month at the Gulf Photo Plus 2014 photography conference in Dubai, UAE really transformed everything for me.  First, I got to meet and spend time in person with some of the most incredibly talented photographers on the planet, and discovered that while I’m in no way on their level, I’m not headed in completely the wrong direction.  Also, I learned that documentary photography is not magic.  The stories take time and lots of work to discover, and it’s not as easy as I thought it was, which made me feel a whole lot better about my prospects.  These were just a couple of the insights among the many hundreds that I received over the course of that week, but most importantly, I realized that as long as I was passionate about photography, and as long as I enjoyed taking pictures, that was enough for me to continue to shoot.

One question that people ask me a lot is, “Why are you carrying such a heavy camera?” and I really had no answer.  I mean obviously it’s because it’s more responsive and I’m used to shooting with it, but beyond that, why do I really need to produce quality photos if I’m not shooting for a publication or a client? Also, the other question I often get asked is, “Why are you taking pictures of (x)?” The response to this was much more difficult to find, but an easy answer I learned was just to reply to both questions that I’m a photography student looking to document things I experience in life and the people I meet along the way.  This is an answer that will always be true regardless of my occupation, position, or stage in life, and one that actually answers quite well why I take pictures anyways.

So to end this, since I feel like I’ve stuffed enough in here for now, photography to me is just a way for me to capture the world around me and share the stories with others.  I’ll always be a student, because I’ll never stop learning, but hopefully eventually I’ll start teaching.  What am I going to take pictures of?  Whatever I want to capture, but almost always people.  I think I’ll always prefer to shoot with a dSLR, even though some of the newer mirrorless camera technologies are quite exciting, and I think I’ll stick to the rules of photojournalism for the most part, and in terms of technique, I’ll probably stick to shooting mostly available light or simpler light setups, though it is fun occasionally to mess around with a bunch of studio lights.  I have a few story ideas floating around that I’ll be working on in the near future, and hopefully I have something to share with the world when I’m done.

And here are a few pictures from my class with Steve Simon in Dubai:


GPP 2014 Shootout

This video was released about a week ago, but while I get my thoughts together about my experiences at Gulf Photo Plus 2014, I figured I’d post the latest version of the event that first introduced me to Gulf Photo Plus, and one of the big reasons I wanted to go. It’s the closing event of the week-long conference, and it was even better in person.

First post of 2014

It’s been a busy past couple of years, and an even busier past few months, with a lot of uncertainty, but no shortage of adventures.  I’m happy to say that I can officially call myself a medical student, as received my acceptance to Des Moines University’s class of 2018 while I was in India, and submitted my accepted the offer while I was in Dubai.  I think that pretty much sums up how my year has been so far.  So for the next few years I’ll be in Des Moines, Iowa, and if you’ve ever wanted to see what the middle of the country looks like, feel free to come visit me.  I guess I’ll take this opportunity to thank everyone who encouraged me, believed in me, supported me, helped me study, and helped me realize what medicine means to me so that I could be in the position I am now.  It’s been a fantastic journey, and one that I would never have even guessed I would have embarked on just a few years ago.

In terms of my photography stuff, I have learned a ton so far this year, and grown immensely as a person in terms of my understanding of what photography means to me.  Hopefully that means I’ll be shooting more and better work, and if everything works out I should have some stuff I’m able to share with the world.  I spent an absolutely life-changing week in Dubai at the Gulf Photo Plus 2014 conference, and had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people who were extremely generous with their time, knowledge, and energy.  I can’t wait until the next opportunity I have to meet up with any of the wonderful people I met that week.  It’ll take more than one post to share all of the insights I gained that week.

My trip as a whole through India, Lebanon, the UAE, and Italy via Milan helped to continue to shape my worldview, and my understanding of my place in the world.  It’s easy to hear about things in the news, and read about the incredible people and places out there, but it’s a completely different thing to experience it in person. Every place I visited had its faults, there was no place I would describe as perfect, but there was beauty everywhere.  I got to knock off some real bucket list locations including Beirut and Varanasi, which I’ve talked about visiting at some point in my life, and I can say the real difficulty about places like those is that you cannot fully appreciate everything they have to offer in so short a trip.

So, to keep this post short so that I have some motivation to post again, I’ll share a few of my experiences in India, in photo form: ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Is Chris Bosh a center?

Seriously, what position would you consider him?  I say he’s a center, but Elliott says he’s a power forward.  I know the Heat have been playing a lot of some weird position-less system, but in my opinion, he counts as a center, even though he loves those midrange jumpers and has been trying to add a 3pt shot to his game.  Kind of a pointless random post, but I thought I’d throw it out there anyways.

In other news, my year at Georgetown is almost over, my birthday is coming up in a few days, I need to find a job for next year, and I had a blast this past weekend celebrating with my best friend, Nate Liptak, as he married a wonderful woman, Meagan.  Quick photo story, for whatever reason, I don’t actually own an ETTL flash, which will change shortly, so I usually just rent one when I feel like using one.  It would be much more cost effective for me to just buy one use it and resell it when I’m done, but because I never plan far enough ahead, I usually just grab one from the local Penn camera (now Calumet DC).  This time, I put the flash on the camera, and half of it just fell off.  I panicked realizing I was going to probably have to pay for it, and on top of that I wouldn’t even get to use it, but after I got over the initial shock, I inspected it a bit closer and realized that it was missing the screws that hold it together and seemed to have been glued together at some point.  Basically someone else broke it, and glued it back together hoping the rental shop wouldn’t notice, which in this case they clearly didn’t.  Long story short, I returned it today, and they made good, not charging me for the damage, which was clearly not my fault since I emailed them what happened earlier and the glue residue was obvious, and they also refunded me for the rental, which was only fair, but still not something every business would have done.  So if you ever want to try out a lens for a weekend before you buy one, or need some big equipment for a shoot, their prices are very reasonable, and their customer service is excellent.  I borrowed a 24L as well this weekend, which is what almost all of my shots were taken with, and I learned that I don’t really love it, especially on my 5d, but also on my 1d’s. It’s a gorgeous lens, but I’d rather have a 35L (or now the Sigma 35mm because it’s better) because the focal length just works better for me.  I like to get close to the action, and while the 24L really lets you do that, I didn’t like having to watch out for distortion.  I’m glad I got to mess around with one though.

I know I have people waiting on photos from me, so I’m gonna try to clear my backlog this week, and then move on to getting some inventory set up for my leather shop, SMRT.  Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard, I did finally come up with a name for my leather shop, and this video should help you with the origin of the name:

There is no deep meaning behind it, it’s just one of my all time favorite clips from one of my favorite episodes, and it was actually a mistake made in real life by Dan Castellaneta when they were recording the dialogue, and they decided to keep it in.  Also, it was the last episode solely written by Conan O’Brien.

First post of 2013, time to start blogging.

As readers of my blog know, I am pretty passionate about MD basketball, and there have been many significant events over the past couple years: the retirement of Gary Williams, the hiring of Mark Turgeon, the signing of several recruits, the loss of a few others, the transfer of a few players from last year, the Harrison twins decision to go to UK, the decision to join the Big Ten conference, the successful recruitment of key local DMV players, the rapid development of the current team, etc.  In light of these significant events, I thought I might start off this year, sharing some of my thoughts on some of these events, and how I see them affecting our program in the future.

I know for casual fans, they’re not sure whether some of these events are good or bad, or if there is any significance to them as well.  Also, there is a lot of sentimental value associated with some of them, such as Gary Williams retirement and leaving the ACC, so it’s hard to separate personal feelings from an objective understanding of the events.  As a fan who is also emotionally invested, I can appreciate where a lot of people are coming from, and I thought I might help elucidate a few of the important facts, while not completely removing the “fan perspective,” since I’m not a professional journalist.

Before I get into any of the headier, more complex topics, I’ll start out with a brief discussion of Pe’Shon Howard, Maryland Junior Starting PG.  (Photo credit: myself)ImageSo, in some circles of the internet, notably Testudo Times, there has been some discussion about whether or not Freshman guard and potent offensive threat Seth Allen has shown enough to supplant Howard as the starter at the point guard position.  There are a number of factors to consider, including the type of offense we run, the qualities each player brings to the team, the future potential and benefit to future rosters of starting either player, and the opposing lineups, and the argument from an “eye test” perspective is very close.  Seth Allen is an intriguing player with incredible athleticism, including a 40″ vertical, and is a threat to take it straight to the basket on every possession.  He is also a dangerous shooter from long range, and opens up a lot of opportunities on the court.  I saw him play for the first time last spring, and I was immediately sold, I knew he would have a bright future here at MD.

Pe’Shon Howard, on the other hand, is recovering from a broken foot that caused him to miss the first 9 games last season, and a torn ACL in February that caused him to miss the remainder of the season.  He showed potential his freshman year, and was pegged to be the starting point guard last season, but when he was actually able to play, he looked a step slower, and seemed to have lost some of his confidence and decision making ability, forcing passes at times and holding the ball too long at others. His shooting was down a significant margin as well, and rather than showing growth between his freshman and sophomore years, he seemed to have regressed.

Entering this season, Pe’Shon had just gotten healthy enough to practice full speed just in time for the beginning of the official practice schedule, and while most presumed he would be healthy enough to play, no one could predict what his game would look like.  Would he return to his pre-injury level of play, or would the additional time off only hurt his game, taking away any of the athleticism he demonstrated at times in his freshman season and in the Goodman league the summer following, and causing him to further second guess his play and make him an offensive liability?  As fans, we could only hope for the best and trust in Turgeon’s ability to put the best five players on the court to give us the best chance to win.  When he came out onto the floor to start the season against the University of Kentucky at the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY in October, we finally got a chance to evaluate his play.

Suffice to say, the reviews early in the season were mixed.  He was shooting the ball poorly, going 1-8 from the field against Kentucky, and hesitating to shoot in the games following.  When he did shoot, his shot looked slow and he seemed to lack confidence, never a good thing for a shooter.  Additionally, he seemed to have lost a step or two since his injuries, and questions arose as to whether or not he would be able to keep up on either side of the court against high level competition in the ACC and in March.  On the plus side, his decision making was as sharp as ever, finding ways to squeeze balls to teammates through some improbably tight windows, and dishing assists at an all-ACC rate.  His turnovers were kept to a bare minimum, and he did show some glimpses of why Turgeon trusted him with running the offense.  His free throws were another bright spot, bringing consistency to the weakest aspect of MD’s offensive game.

Just in the interest of full disclosure, I have always been enamored with the point guard position, perhaps because it is one spot on the floor where a smarter player can outplay his athletic ability, and with my own lack of athletic ability, I admired those who were able to overcome their own limitations.  From the moment I first saw Steve Blake step onto the court as a Terp, I knew he would have a successful NBA career because I believed his skillset transferred best to the professional game.  I can’t say that I’m a great talent scout or know a lot about the game, but I happened to be right about that one.  I am also a big fan of Pe’Shon Howard, somewhat irrationally so, and I will always argue against any criticism of his play or perceived weaknesses, so when this discussion first came up, I already knew which side of the aisle I was on.

This post is not really about those arguments though, because in my mind it’s already been settled, unless you were already convinced of the opposite, in which case I will probably never convince you otherwise, and Pe’Shon Howard will be the starter barring any unfortunate circumstances for the rest of the season.  What I did want to discuss, which I felt was getting lost in the discussion is the actual level of play Pe’Shon Howard is exhibiting.  With the anticipated arrival of Roddy Peters next year, a highly touted, highly ranked guard recruit, people are wondering what Pe’Shon’s role will be next year, especially on a team that intends to go deep into the NCAA tournament.

Pe’Shon Howard is actually having one of the best seasons of all time for a Maryland junior true point guard, and his numbers bear this out.  On a whim, I compared Pe’Shon’s stats to a few of our past guards’ junior years. Currently, he is averaging 25 min/gm, but he played 30 min against Virginia Tech this past Saturday, and as he sat out much of the second half against our weaker opponents when we were carrying large double-digit leads, he should continue to see about that much time from here on out.  If you average out his numbers to date based on that new 30 min/game of playing time you get:

PPG: 4.9
FG%: 30.4
TrueFG%: 50.0
3pt%: 32
FT%: 91.3
APG: 6.9
A/TO: 3
RPG: 3.5

In comparison, Steve Blake his junior year (2001-2002) averaged 32 min/gm and had these numbers:
PPG: 8
FG%: 38.2
TrueFG%: 52.5
3pt%: 34.4
FT%: 82.4
APG: 7.9
A/TO: 2.5
RPG: 3.8

The reality is that Howard’s numbers may not continue at that rate given increased playing time, especially since the level of competition will be higher than they have been early in the season as Maryland has played one of the softest early season schedules in all of the NBA, but just for the sake of comparison, it is an interesting set of numbers.  Pe’Shon Howard should improve his shooting numbers as the law of large numbers comes into play considering how abysmal his shooting was to start the season.  His FT% gives you a glimpse of what his shooting ability really is, as there are no high-level free throw shooters in basketball who are also poor shooters from other spots on the floor, as far as I know.  (Please educate me if you know of any, as I would be interested to know.)  If his numbers do continue at this rate, I think there could be some serious discussion in March as to whether or not Maryland could potential be a final four caliber team, because while MD is a deep team with a regular 10-man rotation, it is not an experienced team, and a veteran floor general leading the team from the point guard position would have an immense effect on the rest of the players on the court.  It changes MD’s ability to play in close games, and his free throw shooting ability gives them the ability to close out close games from the charity stripe with their primary ball handler.  There is nothing a team wants more than to be able to force teams to foul their best free throw shooter at the end of a hard fought game, and in tight situations there is no one you want handling the ball more than your best ball handler.  Having one man play both roles means opposing teams are placed in a difficult spot: you must press him or foul him to prevent the team from running time off the clock, but fouling him is almost like giving MD guaranteed points, and trapping him forces a double team on the best passer in the team who can then find his open teammate for an easy score.

What do I see for Pe’Shon Howard the rest of the season?  Here are my predictions, I may be wrong, and people can feel free to bring this back up at the end of the season to torment me, but to be honest, I’m not really gonna make any bold predictions: Pe’Shon Howard will end up averaging closer to 30 min per game as MD has to fight through some close games and run time off the clock at the end of games.  If he can handle it from a stamina perspective, he should continue to average around 6 assists per game, but his turnovers may go up a bit and his assist to turnover ratio will probably be around 2.5/1 by the end of the season, still an elite level for a point guard playing significant minutes.  I think his rebounding rate might actually improve because there have been a number of balls that have just barely gone past him or been picked off by another MD player before he grabbed it, and in tight games, I anticipate his aggressiveness on both sides of the ball to increase.  He should finish the season with around 3.6-3.8 per game.  His free throw shooting will continue to hover around 90%, it might dip a bit, but the way he’s looked so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went a little higher either; it’s just hard at that level to maintain a % that high as one miss hurts your percentage significantly. His field goal percentage should improve to be above 40% by the end of the season, and his 3pt % should be around 36-38% by the end of the season, which should put him around 3rd or 4th on the team and somewhere in the top 150 in the NCAA.  Not bad for a guy with a reputation as being a poor shooter.  His points per game should increase from around 4 where it is now to something closer to 7, largely due to his free throw shooting ability and playing in tighter games.  If teams start playing off of him because he is struggling shooting, he may get a few games where he scores as many as 15 or so, but I believe he will also have a few games during the season where he really struggles offensively.  He doesn’t look for his own shot very often, but if he ever decides to his, scoring could go up even more, but with the number of offensive weapons MD has in its arsenal, I don’t see that as very likely.

From a physical perspective, he is already starting to look quicker both offensively and defensively since the start of the season, and that is probably due to a combination of continuing to recover from injury and gaining more confidence in his lower body as well.  As anyone who has ever recovered from a major injury knows, it takes a little while before you really trust your body again.  Also, his new focus this past off-season has been on lightening the load on his legs by reducing some of the bulk in his upper body, while it was mostly lean muscle, the reduced mass seems to have been a positive change for him.  He has shown glimpses of his potential athleticism throughout his career, and he can contort his body and hang in the air in impressive fashion at times.  His teammates need to remember to keep moving and staying active and alert on offense, especially when Howard drives, as he has shown a penchant for making last second no-look dishes to open shooters on the wings, trailing players on the break, or big men clearing out space in the paint if he sees the players closing in on him as he nears the basket.  He has looked very nice driving to the basket the past few games, finishing on fast breaks and drawing fouls, and he may end up as our best on-ball defender by the end of the season, showing the ability to stifle and confuse lesser guards, and slowing (as much as anyone can) Erick Green this past Saturday.

His shooting stroke has also remained consistent.  Unlike Nick Faust, who struggled last season shooting and retooled his stroke in the offseason, something he seems to still be working on, Howard’s shooting stroke has looked consistent this season, despite his struggles.  He has never been a quick shooter, and his seems to take just a hair too long bringing the ball up to a shooting position and releasing the ball, which will limit some of his opportunities, but the consistency of his stroke suggests that he can trust his muscle memory and be much more consistent than he has been.  Pure shooters like Aronhalt are “unconscious” in that they shoot the ball exactly the same way with seemingly no memory of whether they made or missed their last shot, while still retaining the ability to “get hot” and hit multiple long jumpers in a row.  Aronhalt also has a very quick release and gets the ball from his shooting pocket to the release point smoothly and effortlessly.  While Pe’Shon is an adept decision maker, that ability hurts him a bit as a shooter, as he is often making reads of the defense, like a QB before the snap, when he should just be squaring up and releasing the open jumper.  In Division I college basketball, those open opportunities don’t last long, and players quickly close out the space between him and the defender, taking away the open shot.  As he as not yet demonstrated a real willingness to drive consistently to the basket, preferring to stay within the context of Turgeon’s offense, defenders can close out the space without too much fear of him driving past them, but we’ll see how long that lasts.  I believe he is more of an offensive threat than he has yet demonstrated, and as the season progresses we will see to what extent he is able to improve upon the weaker points in his game.

Ultimately, I’d rather see him throw more assists, than take shots, but as long as the team is playing unselfishly, and he is not forcing opportunities, there should still be a few chances each game for him to get his points.  I could be wrong, and I could be misreading Turgeon, but I don’t think there is any real fear of him losing his job, and if he does continue to grow as a basketball player and as a leader on this team, MD will be a viable threat in the post-season and Pe’Shon Howard may end up with one of the best seasons for a MD point guard in recent history.  He won’t be the best point guard in the ACC with Erick Green of Virginia Tech playing at a completely out of this world level as the best player by far on a shallower team compared to MD, but I would be disappointed if he isn’t recognized at the end of the season as one of the top guards in the ACC.  Considering Duke and UNC are still around, it’s highly unlikely that he will get any official recognition though.

This is a long post, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg.  Hardly anyone will make it this far, but I felt that if I was going to present an argument for the level of Howard’s play this season, I should put it all in one place and give just due to both sides of the argument.  I didn’t point out any flaws in Allen’s game because that was not my intention in this post, and while he does have some areas to work on, he is a freshman, so some erratic play is warranted, and he is a very different type of guard than the more cerebral Howard, so it is actually difficult to compare the two.  They actually complement each other quite well on the floor.  These are just my personal thoughts, and I have no formal basketball training beyond playing lots of NBA Jam and NBA Hangtime growing up.  I wish team fire was a real thing.

Update on Guy Fieri

So just as a quick follow up, it appears Guy Fieri has come out and publicly responded to Pete Wells review. To sum up his defense it’s essentially that the restaurant is new and still working out the kinks, the restaurant is big so QC is not good, and Pete Wells has an agenda (unspecified but probably meaning he’s out to get Guy Fieri to try to become famous). So basically all his excuses are lame, and I won’t even go into refuting them, but if Guy Fieri was a real chef or food industry person or someone with Google, he would know who Pete Wells is already and realize how foolish he sounds. Maybe Guy should go in with the lead singer of the Rascal Flatts and buy hair gel in bulk so he can save some money and be able to afford internet access.

It takes great sacrifice to create something truly legendary

The interwebs are blowing up with discussions about NYT restaurant critic Pete Wells’ brilliantly sardonic lampooning of Food Network personality Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant.  I won’t rehash any of the info already posted on other sites, such as this nice roundup on the Huffington Post, but I will say that having never been a fan of Fieri, I get a twisted sense of pleasure from this whole debacle.  Regardless of how you feel about Guy or whether the critic was too harsh or not, I don’t think anyone can deny that this review will probably go down in history, and should be remembered as a really impressive piece of writing.  From the start of the review down to the notes at the end, Wells uses sarcasm and irony to elevate what would otherwise have been an unreadable review of a terrible but forgettable restaurant to great success, and I applaud him for taking the enormous risk of putting that piece together, and his editor for publishing it.

Now what is it about Guy that I dislike so much?  For me it’s complicated, but I really love food, and I enjoy the process of making it, the flavors, the techniques and truly understanding where food comes from.  I’m not a locavore or an organic food nazi or anything really because I like my McDonald’s, enjoy eating unsustainable fish/meat/produce, but I do believe in knowing what it takes to create the food you enjoy, and not being ignorant of the processes.  Are there issues with the meatpacking industry and chemicals in food and whatnot?  Yes, but I just think there are bigger issues in the world than that.  So for me, I like to learn about where stuff is grown, what seasons to buy certain types of fruits and vegetables in your local megamart (a little Alton Brown reference), how to store food products properly to maintain maximum freshness and flavor, etc, and I like to touch my meat, understand what parts of what animals I am eating, and learn to utilize as many parts of the animal as possible, but I am also a realist, and somewhat lazy so I will sacrifice for convenience most of the time.

So that had very little to do with Guy Fieri, but I’m getting there.  I am a fan of Food Network (despite how much Anthony Bourdain hates on them), but I am starting to dislike the direction the network is going.  It’s full of winners of “Next Food Network Star” and what not, and they don’t bring much to the table.  Are they capable of putting together tasty dishes?  Sure, but I don’t want to watch a cook (if Rachael Ray won’t call herself a chef, none of these people deserve to) do something in the kitchen that “any home cook can do.”  It worked to an extent when there were a spattering of these shows, but now that seems like all there is other than absurd cooking competitions.  Maybe I’m becoming a snob, and I just need to give it up, but to me, Guy Fieri (and Sandra Lee) are exactly what’s wrong with the Food Network.  His show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is so close to being great in that it exemplifies what cooking should be about, which is just taking real ingredients and making simply delicious food steeped in tradition and emotion, but it misses the mark in that he gets more caught up in using ridiculous catch phrases and adjectives to describe the food rather than focus on letting the food speak for itself.  He seems to get in the way of the show more often than not.  The more I think about, I think it’s primarily a personality thing, and maybe I’m just not his target audience.  I’m not gonna get into his cooking show or any of that other stuff because I could go on forever, but I will say any Italian man who says the “r” in his name should be pronounced like a “d” should be forced to change his name.  I understand Americans can’t roll their R’s, but come on, have some dignity.  This is coming from the guy who thinks Bourdain should be pronounced the French way, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.  Anyways, I’m just happy that other people hate Guy Fieri as much as I do.