Looking Back

Visiting friends and sitting in a coffee shop while they study.... Nothing to do but read and look at photos. So I'm reading about photos. Two birds, one stone, etc.

I'm revisiting my Human Nature project, looking at my work a couple years later and actually being pretty happy with it. Still seeing ways to improve and all that, but generally pleased. One thing strikes me as amusing:

I try so hard to make boring photographs.

[update 12.29.2013: I was at a wedding yesterday, and the pastor quoted Andre Gide thus, "Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better." Looking at my boring images through that glass, I feel much better.]



Got a new camera, finally.



I just had a thought about books––that the thing that I think might attract me, subconsciously, most of all to books, is that for every book written there is a person who has all of those words. I don't think I've ever had enough words, enough thoughts, about anything to write more than a mildly-amusing pamphlet. The pamphlet would educate the reader, certainly: they would learn all about my ignorance and ill-fitting brainparts.

Perhaps it's a matter of focus, of dedication to a subject. Some people may think "as the crow flies," I suppose. My mind seems to prefer the butterfly approach. I really, deeply, appreciate your single-mindedness, writers. I love your brain, your life, your way. Keep going!

...and then, LIBRARIES!


Family Outing

Well, this is by far the best thing that's happened at work lately.


The Problem

I have determined the problem with my life:

I cannot imagine any practical way to live in a houseboat in the Colorado mountains.
Nor live in Hawaii and Alaska simultaneously.
Nor stay at home and travel the world.
Nor visit Canada and South America, nor Russia and New Zealand, nor....


World's Most Overrated Thing

...the s'more.

Seriously, they're good, but they're not that good. Everybody gets so excited about bonfires, but for the wrong reasons. Everybody says, "A bonfire! That means s'mooooooores!" But does anybody eat a s'more and want another some more? Gross. All three components are better by themselves.


Winning hand:

What if we tried playing our best cards
      instead of avoiding our worst?


Coffee-fasting and Weird Sandwiches

Provolone, Dill, and Candied Smoked Sockeye Salmon on a Well-Buttered Cinnamon Raisin Bagel.I've been longing passionately for one of Tom + Chee's freaky-weird grilled-cheese donuts for a couple days. Desperate times, desperate measures. This was definitely not as good, but it was actually kinda edible, so I'll just go with it. Still, pekoe tea was a nice respite from all them flavors bashin' around in my mouth.

---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

On a somewhat-whim, I decided to somewhat-observe lent by abstaining from coffee. So, how is that?
I went from at least four cups daily (my most was 11 cups, but I cut back) to zero with no weaning period, so I thought it would be pretty horrible. It's not (plus, I've still got my tea). I feel great, and I didn't even know I didn't feel great before. Maybe I just feel greater. Interestingly, I had no withdrawal symptoms, other than be more tired and feeling a little slow the first several days. 

I've also noticed less ramp-up and -down in my energy levels. I'm at 100% energy much faster after waking up than I was when I relied on coffee, and perhaps more importantly, my brain shuts down incredibly faster when it's time to sleep. No more tossing and turning, I'm out in just a few minutes. It's like falling off a cliff rather than walking down a hill. 

I really love coffee. I love the taste. I love making it. I used to love the energy. But I'm kind of dreading drinking it again, or at least afraid I'll feel compelled to drink way too much of it again... I don't miss that "too much coffee" feeling in my brain and stomach. Fortunately, my current preferred brewing processes don't lend themselves to making vast quantities, and my taste is refined enough that I won't waste my one or two daily cups on cheap swill. Temperance, Jimmy!


Car-place Waiting Room Limbo

I'm sitting here in the waiting room as my car's steering system is checked out. This is always stranger than a doctor's waiting room, because there's no escape without my car. There are no sidewalks here, although I could wander over a couple parking lots to get a taco if I really needed to. I'm in some strange car-less limbo, trapped without wheels in a landscape/infrastructure designed solely for cars.

It's true, in the past I've run across the five-lane highway to take photos of abandoned buildings, or walked a half-mile behind the guardrail to a strip-mall to get some shopping done... but I still can't get very far without my car. So now I'm sitting here devouring Wikipedia entries on highways, induced demand, vehicular fatalities, the environmental impact of roads, suburbia, etc., trying to figure out how we can continue to justify such widespread use and reliance on automobiles. Meanwhile, fun phrases like "off-road excursions" butt up against "fixed-object collision" and "Cat's eyes or Botts dots" makes me wonder if the people in charge of devising lane-marking devices enjoy children's poetry more than they should.

Living near highways often leads to elevated blood-pressure, simply to due to noise levels, while a roadway can slice animal populations into tiny, isolated gene pools prone to genetic drift and inbreeding. In 2007, there were 1,230,000 traffic-related fatalities world-wide––that's 20.8 people out of every 100,000, and doesn't mention injuries. 260,000 deaths every year, and about 10 million injuries... in children alone. But it couldn't happen to me!

I sure hope they can fix my tie-rods!

Here are some photos I took a little bit ago, lest we forget that we're really not that good at cars:



Today was full of problems; everybody on set had their own set of mini- and maxi-crises to deal with. I won't list all of them, but I think mine were (happily) the loudest and most colorful, like some exotic birds-of-problem-paradise:

a) An explosion. Twenty minutes into the day, the bulb in my bay's 12K straight-up 'sploded. The sound hurt my ears, and I wasn't even on set when it happened––it was like cannon fire. The blast shattered the fresnel ($$$!) and pretty-well smashed the reflector, and when we opened the poor thing up there was no glass left on the bulb, just the socket and weirdly-oxidized filament. To paraphrase one of the other techs that helped replace the unit, "I put up with everyday work, but these problems, this is what I love." And it's true. I can click buttons and check focus all day, but nothing gets my blood flowing like a catastrophic failure and putting on heat-resistant gloves to get things back to normal.

b) Camera/software glitches. I love 'em. Look at the above images. These two came into Capture One exactly wrong. Sure, we had to restart the camera and take a few more shots, but they're just beautiful. I'm not sure why I like them so much... maybe it's because they're impossible to get on demand––only in the malfunction (the disobedience!) of our beloved technologies are we able to see such bizarre things––or maybe it's because they illuminate in some way the invisible processes that take place inside our electronic machines, which are otherwise incomprehensible and intangible. We can basically understand a car if we take it apart and look at it. A digital camera? Beyond the basic optical elements, it's all microscopic or electrical magic, 1s and 0s pretending to represent a men's dress shirt on sale for $60. And just as a failing muffler educates us about it's proper function, perhaps by observing these technicolor monstrosities I can learn about the mojo of our digital world.



All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world,
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of a master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.

-D.H. Lawrence


Identical Content

Joachim Schmid:
"No new photographs until the old ones have been used up!"
Yes. A longtime favorite motto of mine to ignore. It's no news that our modern interneted world is over-saturated with visual information... (but I'm not sure there's anything we can do about it. I've heard speculation about the feasibility of putting advertising on huge satellites, the face of the moon, etc. Does anybody actually think that's a good idea?)

"The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already in the ages before us."
This is a problem for the artist, especially the Christian artist who knows that the creative impulse is reflection of God's own character, yet is also concerned with communicating Truth. Truth is not new, truth cannot be created. It's timeless and outside of our control, we cannot do anything about it but align ourselves to it. Nothing creative about Truth. Is this why Christian art is, as a rule, completely terrible?

One of my "Notebooks of Brilliance" from several years back:
"I write and write, then stop writing. Derivative! Derivative! There is nothing new under the sun, but is there, even more so, nothing new under the Son? Isn't there one unique Christian thought for me to think?"
I have a tendency to feel unconcerned with the "gospel message." It is, of course, of the utmost importance, and cannot be ignored. A good deal of the Bible is devoted toward it, and it is real and true and difficult and wonderful. But... aren't there enough great minds living and dead that have dedicated every brain cell to understanding and communicating it? Am I wrong to focus my efforts on other aspects of God's creation? Isn't there more to God than his relationship with us? Aren't we a little self-centered if, having realized the truth of the gospel as it related to our salvation, and entering into a real relationship with God, the God (just think about that, what that really means!) we are never moved to praise Him for anything but that He loves us and has saved us from our unworthiness and corruption?

If Christian artists could move themselves to praise God for all of His attributes, for all of His being (even if we can only see the most minute tip of His infinite iceberg), perhaps we would make truly good art. Perhaps we could again Create. But we are stuck on painting diluted crucifixes (would we hang a realistic scene of Christ on the cross in our church foyer?) and singing about God's love for us in the most romantic and shallow ways. He is greater than that. Have we loved the gift more than the Giver? I want to enjoy God because He Is, not only because He has assured my salvation, not only because He patiently works in me toward perfection for His glory.

Well! That's not what I meant to write about, but it is something that's been mixing in my brain for a while, so maybe putting it into words will help me sort it out. Here's what I wanted to write about: I took a photo at Luxembourg Palace while in Paris last summer. Here it is:
It's not an uncommon scene there in the gardens. It seems you visit Luxembourg to do one of two things: Doze in the the sun with Le Monde or jog along the tree-shaded paths with a dog. It's not an unusual sight then, the man in my photo, but I like it pretty well, especially in the context of my project, which was focusing on the relationship between sight-seeing, the act of photographing, and living-in-the-moment.
And then this crazy dude (I don't know him and he's probably not really crazy) Craig Cutler comes along and also finds somebody relaxing in a chair at the palace is interesting. So he takes this photo:
These are two very different photographs. The moods are different, the compositions are different, Craig includes one of the many statues of French royal women found there, mine's better, etc.. Yet there is enough overlap to be frustrating. At their very core, the subject matter is identical. As single images, they are practically redundant. (A search for images of the gardens will result in a lot of similar photos.) These images only have value within the context of whatever series of photographs they are a part of. Still, that's not very much value compared to the amount of time and energy we have devoted to taking these photos. Isn't one enough? Anyone other than the photographer would be pleased with pretty much whichever well-made photograph of the subject they could get their hands on, because for anyone but the photographer, the main purpose of a photograph is to describe something otherwise inaccessible.