Extremes, Day and Night

I prefer shooting photographs with something approximating an actual camera. I realize phones have become marvelous recording devices, but they just don’t feel like cameras, so I shy away from them, using them only when I have no other option.

Occasionally, I get some half-way decent results.  For instance, an early morning walk with my dog:

Yes, it’s been tweaked. Hard to pass up a good sky, though I do like to have something else in the frame to contrast it to.

Then:

Sitting at a stoplight on my way home from work during one of our first snow showers of the year.  Yes, I dislike snow, but it does make for drama in an image.

Anyway, enjoy.

November 8th

I am still sorting through my feelings about election day. A couple of things, not new.  Election Day should be made a national holiday. There is no excuse, unless the parties are determined to prevent people of opposing or “unreliable” groups voting. 

Another thing, I think we should stop talking about impeachment. It would blow up in all our faces if the House moved to impeach.  Not that I wouldn’t like to see him removed, but right now the downside might be worse than just letting him lose the next election. Impeach him and lose, which would happen with a loaded Senate, and he’d be a martyr of sorts. There is more than enough work to be done and right now enough momentum to see through a change in occupant in 2020. Let’s let the process work.

We have made colossal fools of ourselves this time around, through our divisions, our indifference, our fear. Watching the exchange with Jim Acosta the other day I half expected him to get down and try to punch a reporter, which would have been delicious.

But enough. We know that if elections are free and open we can repair this. We know because we’re still witnessing attempts at gimmicking local elections and in many cases it still did not work. 

We have to trust that we can do this.  The machinery is not broken but it must be used in order to function properly.  To all those out there who still sat on the sidelines, you are helping no one. 

Anyway, the chief problem right now is that certain people are playing the oldest political game in the book—they are making us afraid and then pointing out targets. So I ask, in all honesty—

Just what are we afraid of? 

And make no mistake, some folks will claim they aren’t afraid, just angry, but when they take action and lay blame, we know otherwise. They’re afraid. 

Of what?

It would be easy to mess this up by allowing distractions and pettiness.

But enough.  Let me leave you with an image.  There’s a lot in it, and can be interpreted in many ways, but the truth is mainly that I think it’s a cool photograph.

Have a good day.

Mild Mannered Bookseller From a Great Metropolitan City

I’ve never really had the nerve to do this. Not since I was about eleven and I trick-or-treated as Superman with one of those old, too-big, sparkle-spattered costumes that tied up the back like a hospital gown.

But what the hell.  This year, some friends suggested I try the superhero motif for Halloween.  I thought I had the bits and pieces to do Captain America.  But I never got around to ordering the helmet and almost at the last minute I considered not bothering.

So I compromised.  I cobbled this together and decided, screw it, I might just pull this off.  So I showed up at work like this.

When asked “Who are you supposed to be?”

“Clark.”

Some folks got it.  

Anyway, I may never look like this again. But, folks, this is what 64 looks like. For me, anyway.

Simply Stated

Let me for a few minutes be clear.  We bandy politics and philosophy daily, there is a give and take which makes us who we are, and the vast majority of it—at work, at school, on weekends, among friends—is good. The free exchange of ideas is the very basis of who we wish to see ourselves as a country.

Comes a point, though, when the belief that all ideas are somehow equal and equally valuable must be challenged and disposed of. This is a toxic notion, a slow poison, and in its later stages results in an inability to discern reason from fear, truth from propaganda, morality from tribalism.

If someone tells you that you should be afraid of  some superficially-defined Other, that person is not your friend.

If someone tells you that if not for Them, all our problems would be solved, that person is a liar.

If someone tells you that you are more valuable than someone else because you look one way and They look another, that person is using you.

There are those—politicians, all, whether they serve in political capacities or not—who benefit from the rest of us being afraid.  They categorize, sort, and judge and tell you to do the same on the basis of traits that are at their simplest none of your business and at the most complex entire fabrications that resemble fact but are nothing but fantasy.  All they want is the power you will give them by accepting their version of reality.

It could not be clearer that  none of this is theoretical. The cage doors have been flung open and the jackals are loose. We have always had the hatefilled, the small-minded, the stunted souls, the corrupted among us, but they stay usually in their rooms because—usually—the rest of us refuse to allow them valence. That changed. They received day passes.

Shooting up a synagogue, a church, a school, a nightclub, a concert because the shooter is so blindly afraid does not happen in a void.  Someone stoked that fire, then stood back, counted the votes from the newly-frightened, and judged it a win.

This is not who we once thought we were. There are those implying that this is somehow insurmountable and to deal with it we have to go farther down the road of disowning our dreams and our decency and, by the way, keep Certain People “in line.” 

They aren’t hiding anymore and the argument that both sides are equally at fault has worn into threads.  Stop listening to the fear mongers.  More, take away their pulpit.

We should not allow ourselves to be defined by body count.

64

I turned 64 over the Archon 42 weekend. I have never been wished happy birthday to my face so many times. It was gratifying, amusing, and a little unnerving. I generally feel no one pays much attention to me. Not in a bad way, just that “normal” for me is pleasant indifference, quiet oversight. 

Archon 42—the jokes are too obvious to repeat. If I’m an answer to anything, I am unaware of it and would be most surprised.

What do I think of being 64? At one time, I would be ten to fifteen years past  average mortality. I’m still healthy, though. I still work out. I still work. I still create. And, with certain provisions, I still look forward to each day.

I have carved out a patch. Sometimes I imagine friends finding me dead at the keyboard, the last paragraph of some timeless piece of prose unfinished on the screen.

But I know better. I don’t write timeless prose. I try to tell a good yarn. I try to write what will not bore, what may bring a smile or a quiet “Ooh, that’s not bad” to the reader. I write largely to please myself and I still think that’s good advice, but I have learned as well that I don’t often know what will please me, so it’s all an exploration. And occasionally the undergrowth is just too thick to get through.

This past year I finally turned me photo site into a purchase site. You can, if you wish, go there and buy some work, which I also hope will cause smiles and appreciations.

I’ve read a bunch of books, as usual, but I’ve also read a number I might never have gotten to were it not for my job. The reading group I host at Left Bank Books has become a rather satisfying gig and I’ve expanded it in a few ways that I hope will make it even more interesting.

Not all is perfect and some things are thoroughly not good, but overall it’s fine. I have good friends, especially Donna, and that is something I find more and more important over time.

So, yeah. I’m 64. Fuck it. Just a number. 

Meantime, you can often fine me here—which is not where it appears to be.

Be well. Check back from time to time. Read a book. Buy a photograph. Be kind.

Later, folks.

Poll-Less

Here’s a thought. November 6th is fast approaching.  It could be argued that we have not seen a more important mid-term in decades. I can’t think of one, other than all those that people stayed home in droves from and allowed a minority to vote a broken congress into power.  We have a chance this time to start fixing some of that.

My suggestion—stop paying attention to polls. They have nothing to say to you personally.

Seriously, polls are like click-bait on the internet. They track trends among certain demographics and are often so targeted that they leave most people out entirely.  Even the good ones have in-built flaws. For the most part, they’re annoying and often harmless, but sometimes…sometimes…

Part of what went off the rails in 2016 is an artifact of polls. All but a couple told us there was no way the election would go the way it did.

And a lot of people took them at face value, said “I don’t have to worry about it” and did something else that day.

Before anyone jumps all over this and suggests I’m blaming this on one thing, I said “part of what went off the rails.”  The polls added to a number of problems.  But I believe that voting according to polls—or, worse, not

The only poll that matters is the election.

I would suggest everyone stop answering those irritating cold calls “We’re conducting a poll” robo-things that use what we say in who knows what manner to derive reports that may have no real utility in terms to making rational choices On The Day.

Everyone believed the polls that said this guy would lose by double-digits.

Stop it. Look at the candidates, look at their records, look at what they say, then look at your own situation and try to see how what they say, have done, or promise to do will impact your life.  We’re hiring staff to run the country on our behalf. Does an employer check a poll on how popular a candidate for a job is or what people think of him or her as opposed to someone else? No. Resumes, past performance, conduct during the interview, can this person do the job.

A great number of incumbents have said and done things of late that are, in my opinion, simply unacceptable. The track record of this congress in terms of how I want my country run has been simply execrable. That’s the only poll that matters until November 6th, when the one that counts happens.

Polls, I suspect, make some people complacent. Don’t do that. Vote like you have no idea who will win. Vote for what matters, not what the spread suggests. Stop listening to the distractions.

And please—vote.



Clueless

Some people think if they throw enough words of the “what if” or “but then” variety, anything can be twisted out of shape enough to render even the most toxic subject harmless.

Take sexual harassment.

The presumption on the part of some men that a woman is there for their entertainment underlies the casual fecklessness of the entire frat-boy mentality.  They excuse themselves with all manner of absurdity. “She was there to party” “her clothes” “she didn’t say no” “she laughed.”

That last one gets me every time.

I worked with a man for nine years who used that as his justification for a level of “flirtation” that bordered on intimidation. Every attractive woman who came into the store could be a target for his brand of locker room humor and he excused himself from charges of harassment by saying “But they laughed.” Which to him signaled they were having a good time and what he was doing was acceptable.

He seemed tone deaf to nervous laughter. He was oblivious to the rictus of “I can’t believe you just said that.”

Gradually, they stopped coming. We lost business. One good friend complained to me about it and I advised her to call him on it. She did. Immediately afterward, his comment was “I had no idea she was such a bitch.”

“She’s not,” I said. “You’re just such an asshole.”

He looked genuinely hurt. I patiently tried to explain what he was doing that was wrong. Maybe he didn’t want to get it, but I still believe that he was so steeped in the culture of the Fifties and Sixties that he just couldn’t accommodate the idea that what he had been doing all his adult life was fundamentally wrong.  Disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating.  “But they laugh.”

This is who he saw himself as and he thought it was cool.  He thought I was being a whiney liberal. 

But we lost almost all our female customers of a certain age and physical description.

Now he did ask one question that got me thinking. “If I say the same things at a party, I don’t drive anyone away.”

Well, I had to question that a bit, but—

The difference between a social occasion where everyone is perfectly free to walk away and a business environment wherein the parties are trapped by a set of necessities which do not allow easy egress. In order for them to walk away they have to be willing to break a business arrangement. They have to find another source for what they need. They have to start over to build a relationship.

None of this has a damn thing to do with making yuk-yuk over sexual innuendos and flirtation.  There are costs involved.

Of course, there are always costs involved, just that some of them are not so immediate or monetary. Loss of respect, at minimum.  Actual fear. Women who may realize that they’re quite glad never to be alone with you. The easy intimacy of friendship lost.

Not to mention just adding to the general toxicity of a culture that takes as given, usually unstated but always there, that women are there for a man’s pleasure.

And those who reject that?

The oblivion of being recategorized and cast out.  At best. Punished at worst. Punished by assault, but actions based on the assumption “Oh, she really wants it even if she’s saying she doesn’t.”

Underlined by ridicule.

But it was all in fun! After all, the boys were laughing.

Demon Mask

This last two weeks have been stunning in the extremes of experience and emotion. Between the unexpected trip to Los Angeles at the invitation of Susan Ellison to attend the memorial gathering for Harlan to the circus in congress to the second annual BookFest in the Central West End to a significant amount of personal matters, I have rarely had such a ride.  I should write about these things in separate posts, but just now I lack the energy and the coherence of thought to deal with it.

So bear with me as I sort and shuffle. 

Meanwhile, an image. While in L.A. we went to the La Brea Tar Pits. An amazing place, with an amazing history extending back 30 or 40 thousand years. Of the photographs taken, I reworked this one after seeing a rather impressive version done by Marty Bast, a mutual friend of Harlan’s, who has a unique eye. Alas, Marty has no online gallery, but posts from time to time on FaceBook. (You really should cobble a gallery together, Marty.)

I worked my version through other changes. A fossil face (I forget the species at this remove).  Done as a demon. 

Use this as a placeholder and reminded that I am not gone. But you might see this as a subtle indication of my state of mind. Maybe.  I wouldn’t take me too seriously about that. 

On the other hand…

Doors, Handles, Other Things

Some controversy has erupted around the Hugo Awards. Again.

I have two memories that relate.  One was an early memory of one of the Oscar presentations wherein someone—an actor—took the opportunity to make statements of a controversial nature.  I was young, I didn’t entirely understand why all the adults around became so…resentful.

Yes, that’s the word.  They resented the intrusion of controversial matter into what they seemed to feel was something meant for them.  It was on their television, it was supposed to be there to entertain them, it was not supposed to make them think about things outside the movie that was being honored.

“That’s not the appropriate place for that,” was a phrase I first heard then and later heard a great deal in situations like this.

The second memory involves a concert wherein the performer took a few minutes to say something about oppressed people and political will and so forth.  Its matters less here what he said than the reaction of some of my acquaintances.  “I hate it when they do that.  They shouldn’t put politics in the show. It’s not the proper place for that shit.”

Well, that struck me wrong at the time.  It was rock, which in my mind had till then always been political. Remember the Counter Culture?  Hippies? The Free Speech Movement?  Vietnam?  Country Joe and the Fish?  Rock had a history of being political, so this seemed…revisionist?

 

 

Not the proper place.  Not the appropriate venue. The wrong stage.

Well what is?  And by what criteria?

And who exactly is breaking any kind of contract here?

Nora Jemisin won her third Best Novel Hugo in a row.  Her brief, pointed acceptance speech spoke to the work she had to do and some of the barriers she had to overcome to get to this point.  It is, or should be, no secret that her being on that stage has been a matter of some consternation to some people who have not exactly been circumspect about their feelings.

Some folks thought it was “inappropriate” for her to interject comments aimed at those who have quite vocally wished her ill.

“Not the proper place.”

Well, frankly, fuck that.  If not at your own award ceremony, when? Some time and place where the easily offended won’t hear it?  At a place and occasion where it won’t be noticed?  When she does not have such a platform and can say these things without anyone having to be confronted by it?

Art is complicated.  And damned hard.  A lot of factors come together to keep the artist from any kind of success.  Life is difficult enough without the mediocrities of the world ganging up on someone toiling in the mines of self-expression.  We all know most of us do not get paid enough for the work and all too often the work gets ignored—the vagaries of the marketplace—and all the other noise and bother that goes into trying to be an artist that to then be told to shut up about the human experience, in all its forms, is neither reasonable nor decent.

For some people, there is no “appropriate time and place” to hear truth from someone who will tell them things about the world they live in that they would rather ignore.

But it doesn’t matter.  Her award, her night, her time, her place.  You have a problem with it, be aware—it’s your problem.

And just in case anyone is wondering—the award?  She earned it.