A Quiet Genius: Miguel Marin-Padilla

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to get some pictures of Miguel Marin-Padilla, a retired Dartmouth professor still living in Hanover, NH with a full research lab set up in his basement. I’d never heard of the professor before, but learning more about his lifelong passion for painstakingly uncovering the secrets of the brain was fascinating, and meeting him in person was a delight.

padilla_2Marin-Padilla has made some spectacular breakthroughs in some of the most complex studies of the inner workings of the brain — and yet, he is largely unknown and ignored by all but a few of his peers.

Read Susan Green’s full story of Miguel Marin-Padilla on the website of the Geisel School of Medicine — and learn about one of the unsung heroes of modern science.


A Trip Down an Albanian Memory Lane

Fifteen years ago I strung together a handful of assignments for relief organizations and newspapers and got myself to the border between Kosovo and Albania just as the Serbian ethnic cleansing of Kosovo got underway and the first refugees started arriving.

The desolate town of Kukes in Northern Albania was a sad, lawless place for these poor folks to seek shelter, but it was better than nothing.

A request for options for a book cover on international health sent me back to the archives, and I came across this shot that I still really like.

© Lars Blackmore/Ameridane Press 1999

Carson on Africa

Johnnie Carson, Former US Ambassador and retired Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, answers a question from a visiting Fellow taking part in the Young African Leaders Initiative at a dinner at Dartmouth College in July 2014. (1/200s f3.5 @ 2000 ISO)

Young African Leaders at Dartmouth

yali_dartmouth_nowThe editors at Dartmouth’s in-house magazine, Dartmouth Now, made good use of shots I took of the first group of Washington Fellows participating in the Young African Leaders Initiative.

A great bunch of amazing individuals, they were fun to tag along with while they did team building adventures at Oak Hill in Hanover, NH.

I look forward to covering the rest of their activities as fellows at Dartmouth College.

Full story here.

In the Kitchen with Geisel’s Med Students

UntitledFun little piece I got to shoot a while back.

No, this is not “Dartmouth does Breaking Bad” — Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth does a crazy cool gourmet cooking elective, ostensibly to keep their wicked busy students from going completely nuts with anatomy and biology and lessons in bedside manners.

I couldn’t stay to sample the results, but it looked and smelled completely amazing. Read Susan Green’s full story here.

Which Part of “Do Not Call” is Not Registering?

helloI have a really simple policy when it comes to telemarketers of any sort: if you call my house to sell your junk, then I’m not buying, even if it’s a cure for cancer or a unicorn that shits gold bricks.

I’ve got all our phone numbers on the official “do not call” lists, and that takes care of the bulk of the more pedestrian stuff. If you haven’t done it, then go do it, right now (cell phones, too).

But of course, I still get the hilarious calls from that poor schmuck in Bangalore who claims to work at the Microsoft’s Tech Support Center and has found a virus on my PC (even though my caller ID says it’s Diane Smith from Minnesota – hers being the most recent phone number the crafty scam artists have reversed engineered to cover their tracks), but I put those down to cheap entertainment, so they don’t really count.

No, the ones that really grind my gears are the non-profits that for some reason have been given an exemption from the “do not call” registries. That’s why I still hear from the Association of Chiefs of Police about their raffle a couple of times a year, and various other groups that somehow have managed to beg, borrow, buy or steal a list with my name and number on it. Earlier today I got a call from a woman who introduced herself as a paid fundraiser for the American Breast Cancer Foundation (or Society or Fellowship or some such thing — same difference, really).

No exemptions in my book, so as I said: if you call me at home, then I’m not giving. Ever again. Worthy cause or not, you simply do not get away with this intrusive shit. Infest my mailbox if you must, my email too – those I at least check at my own convenience and it’s no biggie to ditch your sales pitch along with the rest of the crap. But calling me in the middle of dinner to launch into your carefully scripted sob story intended to make me pay up out of sheer annoyance? So. Not. Okay.

I’ve worked for enough non-profit to know how the game looks from that side of the table: it sucks to be you, trying to meet your fundraising goals for the month/quarter/year. While you’re struggling to come up with something that hasn’t been done to death before, you come across the countless crafty con artists (a k a consultants) offering new and exciting ways to reach a target audience with an increased conversion rate and guaranteed results.

I’ve had the tedious debate more than once with directors of development who couldn’t see a problem in adding telemarketing to the mix in the hopes that it might deliver a little extra. I think it’s a terrible idea, because your innocent little exercise in home invasion may backfire, leaving people like myself holding your intrusive behavior against you and your cause for the foreseeable future. Then it’s not just a dud that’ll bring down your overall kill ratio, it’s a distinct liability that’s actively costing you goodwill and jeopardizing donations you might have gotten elsewhere at a future date.

So, please: don’t be that development douchebag and think that just because you’re doing it for “a good cause” it’s suddenly okay to violate common sense rules of decency. Nobody is sitting around waiting for your call, we’ve all got infinitely better things to do – even if it’s watching paint dry.

If you’re so desperate that telemarketing is beginning to sound like an appealing way to raise funds for your organization, then you may need to rethink your vision, your mission and your very reason for being.

Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg

A legend after 35 years of boldly going where no white musician had ever gone before, Johnny Clegg spent  a long weekend at Dartmouth College as a visiting Montgomery Fellow.

More than just an epic performer, Clegg has a true passion for and profound theoretical understanding of South African culture, politics and traditions. He spent a couple of hours in an intimate discussion with a small group of Dartmouth students discussing gender, power, oral tradition and the concept of physical space, while also demonstrating his mastery of Zulu language and dance.

Above all else, he is an incredibly warm and compassionate human being; close to 60 years old, but still has a youthful, mischievous twinkle in his eye as he recounts stories of his years as an activist and groundbreaking musician and dancer in South Africa.

I was fortunate enough to see Clegg live in Cape Town in the late nineties, and again in 2013 at a concert in Hanover. But it was a real privilege to hear him explain some of the cultural factors underpinning his intricate and mesmerizing art.

Madeleine Albright


Had the distinct pleasure to cover the visit of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College.

She is one incredibly smart woman who does not miss a beat, and appears to be enjoying her autumn years to the fullest with teaching, consulting and countless other opportunities to share her decades of experience in the world of diplomacy.

Random Rants from a Vermont Writer & Photographer