This New York Times article has been shared on a number of forums already, but I thought I would add it here for anyone who might have missed it. Further discussion of the pros and cons of our “selfie society” is pointless and tiresome, but as photographers the history, as well as the ideas, in this story have special meaning. If we take the time and spend the money to go to a special place, let’s be sure to look at and take pictures of that place, and not just take pictures of ourselves!
“I keep thinking of what it might be like if we all took the time to photograph such commonplace miracles. What it would be like if all the people with cameras in their pockets transformed themselves into documentary photographers — like Dorothea Lange, like Baldwin Lee — to make a collective record of a truth about the world that most people haven’t yet troubled themselves to see?”
We had dinner with neighbors last night, and during our conversation we talked about the past year. My comment was that “my weight went up, my investments went down. Let’s hope that trend reverses in 2023.
Best wishes, good health and safe travels to all. Happy New Year!
Everywhere we go, people are in a hurry. They blast down the highway like they are a doctor late for a baby delivery (probably not), they slam down the first drink to get to the next (possibly precipitating the previous?), rush through dinner to get off to something else (with indigestion). But for what? To just rush on to the next thing? Sheesh! How about taking the time to enjoy each experience, each moment?
Kathy & I recently came across this article that was shared by a local writer. ‘and then?’ references someone wanting to watch a movie or listen to a podcast at 2X speed because it was “too slow.” Apparently listening to music at 2X speed is a thing on TikTok. I especially liked the statement that “The whole attitude seems to be: Let me get through this thing I don’t especially enjoy so I can do another thing just like it, which I won’t enjoy either.” That doesn’t seem like much of a way to live, if you ask me.
Just this morning I was looking at the New York Times website and saw a link that said “The Year In Pictures – 3 Minute Read” I thought, wow, only 3 minutes? It is nearly 150 pictures (I counted but lost my place once or twice – distracted by the photos). Paging through the article without even slowing down to look at the pictures took almost 3 minutes! And yes I understand that the “3 Minutes” was probably automagically calculated based on the amount of text in the article, likely not counting the photo captions, but still. I haven’t gone back through it yet but expect that it might take me 30 minutes.
When we travel, Kathy & I enjoy taking back roads, even if it adds an hour or two to the trip. Coming home from our recent trip to Florida, we could have made it home in a freeway-filled 9 hours, but instead chose to break it up into two days, 6 hours the first and about 5 the second. All but the last 100 or so miles were on roads that pass through small towns, past interesting scenery and occasionally a new “roadside find.” Once we got onto I-77 in Columbia, it was like stepping into a cement mixer! It was nice to get home, but I often equate the freeway experience to a cross section of society. Most people go along doing their own thing, but there are always those few who either aren’t completely involved with the task of driving or are convinced that there is a prize for getting somewhere at light speed. We made it home safely, and mostly relaxed, which was the most important thing!
We were sitting at breakfast one morning, waiting for our food. I was looking up at the dining room ceiling and decided to take a few pictures. A really nice man at the table next to me turned and asked, “could I see what you were taking pictures of?” I showed him the screen on my camera, and I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like “fascinating” or “interesting” or “excuse me I need to go now.” Just kidding about the last one. 😉
Sometimes I just read a line that resonates with me. I came across these two over the last day:
From The Online Photographer: It’s one of the cool things about getting older…sooner or later you live in the future.
From Douglas Adams (Hitchiker’s Guide) via Terence Eden via Om Malik:
– Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
– Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
– Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Its interesting when you think about it. My grandmother, born in 1908, always talked about how her mother would be amazed with the microwave oven, invented, according to the Wikimonster, in 1955. Today we can’t imagine a home without one. Now, I imagine describing to my dad some of the technology we currently use. He was a “shade tree” automotive mechanic, aspiring electronic tinkerer and auto racing fan, among other things, so today’s electronic everything would be his microwave. But it seems like we have a lot more of those things today than we did 50-ish years ago. Maybe it just seems like more magic.
“Knowing your latitude and longitude is not the same as knowing where you are.” From The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
I loved this statement as a stand-alone quote, but it is also interesting in the context in which it appears.
I just finished reading this fascinating book by Jennifer Egan. It is the second of hers I’ve read, the first being “A Visit From The Goon Squad.” As “alternative world/dystopian future/reality-fantasy” (my definition, strange as it is) it is outside my usual crime fiction subject matter but something I’ve been exploring more lately. It’s a lot better to me than non-fiction gloom and doom stories about failed and/or corrupt politicians, end of the world climate change or crappy economic news!
The premise of the book is a society where a huge social media corporation run by a super tech demi-god whose name everyone knows (sound familiar?) has developed a technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others. Think about that. Of course not everyone chooses to participate, and whole companies are formed, both to promote and profit from and also avoid this (over)sharing of information.
Egan’s writing style can be a little hard for me to follow, as she changes characters, points of view and subject matter seemingly at random. I found it to be a good exercise of my reading and comprehension skills, as its important to pay attention to the story lines as they bob and weave.
Fun stuff, for anyone interested in this kind of writing!
A quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain but likely incorrectly, according to quoteinvestigator.com. Also the title of a book published in 1995.
I had an opportunity this past week to attend a day of The President’s Cup, a golf tournament here in Charlotte at the Quail Hollow Club. My brother, his son and a long-time family friend came to town from Ohio for the tournament and invited me to come along. I welcomed the opportunity to hang out with my brother for a few hours.
I don’t consider golf to be much of an in-person spectator sport, as it is difficult to really stay involved in the action on an 18-hole golf course. You either have to camp out at one hole and watch the players come by (which is a lot like watching a Formula One race where you can only see one corner of a 2-mile track) or you have to pick a group or groups to follow around the course. The advantage of the first option is that if you get to a good spot early you can stay there all day. The downside of moving around is that you have to either watch the less popular players or be prepared to look from the back of a crowd of people who were there before you. Neither choice is ideal.
I played some golf years ago but gave it up because (a) I stunk at it and (b) it can get pretty expensive. Buying the equipment just gets you the gear, but then you have to pay every time you play (unless you live near where I grew up in Sharon, PA where they have what at one time was the only free golf course in the country.) A decent set of clubs can cost more than a good camera, and I know that it is possible to spend as much on one club as a good tripod and ball head. The choice is pretty clear to me, and I’ve managed to make more decent photographs than I ever made good golf shots!
Quail Hollow is a beautiful golf course, and I was fortunate enough to have volunteered there during the early days of the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Championship, which was before the sport became as commercialized as it is today. In the early days, the tournament course was largely as it normally exists, with a few grandstands and hospitality areas. But for the most part the course was still the course, with lots of green grass, long views and a chance to sit in the shade and watch the players go by with little difficulty. It was a completely different story this time. There were huge grandstands, big hospitality structures where people could watch the tournament on television in air conditioned comfort, all with a great tax deduction for the corporate hosts. To even catch a glimpse of the first tee you had to be in the grandstand there or watching with binoculars from well down the fairway. And that assumes you had gotten there early enough to be able to see the fairway!
My cost of admission, which was not cheap, just got me in the gate. If I wanted to sit in any of the “premium” locations I needed to cough up even more money. There were a few “free” grandstands that were full long before we got there. And when I wanted something to eat, sheesh! I know it is usual at any sporting event, but $3 bottled water, $10 wraps and $11 beers can add up quick. And that doesn’t include the souvenirs. Shirts were selling for $80 and up, hats for $35 and up, and on and on.
There aren’t many things about golf that appeal to me any more, but what I always enjoyed most was the quiet solitude of a beautiful course early in the morning. A little dew on the grass, the sound of sprinklers and mowers in the distance and the occasional bird chirp. Instead, there was the chanting of team support of USA…USA…USA, strange outbursts of things like “mashed potatoes” and other sounds. It was kind of like plunking an amusement park down in the middle of a wildlife refuge! Add to that the (to me) exorbitant cost of attendance, the huge crowds and the 95 degree day with tropical humidity, and it was a good thing I went with people I enjoyed being with!
Yesterday our 6 1/2 year old grandson Edison visited, along with his dad Scott, our oldest son. Prior to their arrival I had been outside cleaning the patio – the usual chores, scrubbing cushions, washing off the grill and hosing off a summer’s worth of rain and environmental residue.
Edison came outside as I was hosing off the floor, and asked me if he could help. Why of course, why not? I let him wield the floor brush, then the hose, then the broom ( I really need to buy a squeegee!) and we both had a blast – him giggling all the way and me just generally enjoying the company. Of course I had to go back and “touch up” a few spots. At some point Scott commented that the job was going to take twice as long with Edison’s “help.” Kathy told him she didn’t think either of us minded, and she was right!
As I thought about it later, and Kathy & I talked about it, I came to realize that a little respect, a sense of belonging, a feeling of contributing, and sometimes a whole lot of fun, is all we really look for. Whether we’re six or sixty-something, our needs are really pretty simple.
We all had periods of laughter and fun throughout the day, interrupted occasionally with Edison’s “grumbellies” and 6-year old orneriness, but overall it was just a few people who love each other enjoying a gorgeous almost-fall day and life in general. After they left, Kathy & I took a nap. Sometimes we need that too!
In earlier posts I have referenced comments by a local beverage store manager in his weekly “Boozeletters,” where it talks about special events and new arrivals at the store, along with interesting recipes. He ends each newsletter with an “After Rant.” where he opines on random things he has thought about during the week. Sometimes they are simply rants, other times they are very philosophical. I thought this week’s was especially good, and excellent advice for us all. It’s quite long (sorry) but rather that end up quoting most of it, I am pasting it below. I hope you enjoy it.
THE EPILOGUE: “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU”
So my whole life, for as long as I can remember, I have been made to feel like an alien or a weirdo. You can pick whatever name you want to put on it. At a certain point you stop arguing and just kind of roll with it. Say you are odd before they do! “Oh yeah I like to reheat my pizza in the oven, because you know me, I am an oddball.” I like to wear socks that match I like to wear mismatched socks. I like things to be neat, I like things to be messy. I skip the ends of songs, I eat dessert first, I walk around with the pebble in my shoe for hours before taking it out.
YOU”RE NOT WEIRD! Maybe no one ever told you this before, certainly no one has told me this, but it came to me like a lightning bolt right when I was in the middle of apologizing for the way I like to eat a meal. I eat the worst thing on the plate first and finish with the best. I realized that there was in fact nothing wrong with this or me at all. It greatly increases my enjoyment of the meal and effects zero other people except for one ex that took notes “doesn’t like my green beans”. It is just a totally harmless ritual that gives me the most pleasure and I have no reason to apologize or explain it to anyone. You have your own set of idiosyncrasies, and they came not from some broken part of your brain but from trial and error. This concept of normal, this concept of the right way, these are outdated nonsense ideas that are only impeding your joy. When I was a young man I was making a sandwich and adding more and more things because it was disgusting my father. And even though I didn’t really like the creation I ate it all because it was more important to bother him. But what I took from that and it has been a great life lesson is that even at five I knew that I was going to find the thing, whatever it was. I knew that there must be some untried combination that was yummy and boring adults had not tried it because they were so boring. I have spent decades explaining and defending myself because I assumed that they there right. I was only enjoying these ghastly creations because I am a weirdo, an outcast, a nerd, a geek, or a freak. When in fact, the addition of crispy potato chips inside my sandwich elevates the meal because of the additional crunch, that is now in EVERY bite.
There is a huge part of the population that is walking around and very aggressively trying to maintain the “norms”. Raising their kids that way, interrupting peers, and even strangers to guide folks back to the straight and boring. They hold on to the “rules” like they were a life preserver. When they see you walking your own path they get jealous and defensive. They long ago gave up on living the kind of life they actually wanted and are now committed to ruining your good time because YOU are doing it wrong? Kick rocks! Playing it safe got you to a place to where you want to bother folks that are having a good time doing it their own way? This is your victory? This is your mountain top? When I see the person skipping down the path singing songs in their head, that is the person that inspires me. Not the person who has a cinder block land on their toe and says “unfortunate” as they limp off into the night.
The spiritual guide for The Boozeletter, is one Hunter S Thompson and he championed the doomed. He said let your freak flag fly! But as much as I love him, he was wrong in a way. We are not in fact freaks. That is the name given to us for knowing what we actually like. Figuring out what you actually like is one of life’s most important challenges and you can only arrive there by actually trying things out. You can only get there by trying lots of things and figuring out where you want to be. They said you should be aloof and cynical but you heart tells you to get involved and to celebrate joyously. They said Billy Joel is out, but you love Keeping the Faith. “you know the good ole days weren’t always good and tomorrow isn’t as bad as it seems”. You love reality tv and pizza rolls and have no desire to see the Opera. My friend Adam puts peanut butter on his burger, it’s a family tradition! His addition of peanut butter has diminished zero of my burgers. It has no impact on them at all. I tried it once, didn’t really love it and moved right along. Didn’t need to label him and his whole family freaks to make me feel better about my condiment choices. I love peat, i love smoke, I love funky rums, it doesn’t make me weird and you are not weird for not liking them. What would be wrong, is if you just kept buying Laphroaig and Adrbeg and Hampden Rum and Mezcal after Mezcal just hating it all but drinking it because they said they were cool and advanced or whatever.
Why is there an unending line of people telling us we are doing it wrong? Like there is some kind of fool proof guide book to live a happy life. You finally got to Paris and found out the city was dirty. The Mona Lisa is actually a quite small painting, and now that you finally tried it, you like Makers better than Van Winkle. Oh we cannot say these things aloud! We must protect our thoughts that fall outside of the agreed upon or else we shall be shamed once again! Well I am done with all of that! I will drink what I want, eat what i want, watch what I want, and do them all how I like it best. I will quit a movie in the middle because it is not going to get better, I will dump my unsatisfying drink down the drain, I will stop eating when I am full, and the revolution can start with me. No one has to follow me, we can’t defeat the volume of the “normies” but we can find our spaces to shine and be free, and your brain needs to be one of those spaces. Although, putting crispy chips in your sandwich because that is magic is something worth trying. You can do it all the way you like it and stop apologizing for it instantly.
All of those people that have been calling you out for all of this your entire life were dead wrong. Jealous, insecure, closed off jerk faces that saw your joy and freedom and wanted to ruin it for no good reason. You were happily putting sesame chicken on top of plain spaghetti noodles and they said “you can’t do that!” What do you mean I can’t? I did and I like it. “Because it is wrong!” “It is wrong for me to enjoy something?” “Yes it is wrong and you are weird.” So you believe them because they are older and seem wiser and oh boy are there a lot of them. Family members, romantic partners, teachers, coworkers, RANDOM strangers! They are everywhere they are one hundred percent certain you are doing it wrong and that you are abby normal!
Perhaps our greatest gift is that we are these unique people struggling through all of life’s same situations. That the individual and the universal coincide harmoniously. That you like a mocha but she likes plain coffee but when it falls off of the roof of the car spilling before even one sip has been taken, well you have done that as well. You know that pain and frustation. Do you go back for more? Do you go home and quit? Do you suffer through your now certainly ruined day? So even though you like to get warm coffee and let it sit until it is room temperature, and she takes her ice coffee and puts it in the freezer to make it even colder, it still stinks when it spills! If you dress like a fashion runway model or you are just trying to pass through without being noticed, neither of you wants red wine to spill on your clothes. We see people doing a thing that we don’t do or maybe that we don’t enjoy doing it and part of us just wants to label them as crazy, odd, misguided or flat out wrong. But why? I mean someone out there likes soggy fries and that is just fine! People love Basil Hayden and I have never owned a bottle of it and I never will but dammit, enjoy it if you do! Do I think you should just keep buying it over and over and over until death? No I do not. I think there is a whole world out there to be explored and if what is preventing you from exploring it is fear then that is not being in your happy place.
I am talking about the results of exploration. You tried the crispy fries because that’s what everyone said was the best. But you just don’t like them. You tried all of those cask strength bourbons but you just don’t like them. You want soft and mellow. Great, enjoy it! The real test in life is to just be the best verison of you that you can be. That’s all. You may not get to change the world, but you can still drop your friend off at the airport. You might not learn another language but when someone from another country is trying to figure it out you can patiently help them. They said “Citizen Kane” is better than “The Big Lebowksi” but you dozed off to the one and have seen the other one hundred times. You don’t owe them anything. Their rules are arbitrary and based on who knows what! Every single hundred point wine is not meant to be had today. They are meant age, so you can grab a Page Mill Cabernet and wipe the floor with Silver Oak or any other Wine Spectator anointed wine. You are an adult and you have hopefully figured out who you are and what you enjoy. So go and do those things and do them proudly.
I have a friend in the business that does Midori shots. Midori is way too sweet for me, but it gives him great joy, so he is not wrong, and neither am I. Because there is no absolute. Scotch tasted rotten to me when I was 21 and now it tastes like magic. I wasn’t wrong then and I am not wrong now. So the next time you are about to bring out the speech about “well I know that people say I am weird because I like to put ranch dressing on my steak, but it just tastes good to me.” Skip it, pour the ranch on and enjoy YOUR steak. I tell customers all of the time “I am not taking confessions today” and the reason I say that is because the only part I care about is did you enjoy it? If you enjoyed it, you won! And you can say that you don’t like Blue Label, that you thought Silver Oak was too oaky, that Clase Azul is too sweet, that you don’t enjoy Marvel movies etc because the reverse is true as well. You don’t HAVE to like something because they told you it was great.
Boil it down to this folks. We are all wrong about so many things on a daily basis. They thought the sun revolved around the earth. What we are NOT wrong about, is preferring Chicago style pizza over New York. We are not wrong about unpacking our suitcase the moment we get into the hotel. We are not wrong about cake being better than pie. We are only wrong when we take the pie out of someone else’s hands and shout “let them eat cake!” You worry about you, and let them worry about them, and if someone prefers pie over cake that’s great! You do not belong on the island of misfit toys because you watch the entire credits at the end of the movie. I am sorry if no one has ever told you this.