Friday, July 31, 2020
The greatness of things can be determined through relativity.
The superiority of things can also be determined through relativity.
But in the end relativity will wash out everything.
My case in point:
After I take my hundreds of daily photos I upload them to my computer and subject them to the star system.
Blurry and mistaken photos are given no stars. But so too are lesser versions of similar photos and bland photos of subjects I have heavily photographed like lilies or bees.
Poor photos of something mildly unique, a strange bug or my first blue jay, are given one star.
Pretty but run-of-the-mill pictures with sometimes perhaps better versions, or the likely possibility of better versions, are given two stars.
Striking, clear, interesting, and well composed pictures are given three stars.
And finally something really vivid and arresting, dynamic or unusual, or the complete expression of what I was attempting is given four stars. (If I'm lucky this initial four star rating will happen once or twice a day).
Then I go back through the three star pictures and if among them something really stands out I bump it up to four stars. Also if there's a group of really similar three star pictures I often choose the best of them and add that fourth star to it.
Then I go back and try my hardest to delete all or nearly all of the no star, one star, and two star pictures. I look over the three star pictures one more time just in case something wants to pop out at me. And then I look at all the four star pictures.
I choose the very best four star picture to be what I call "The pick of the day"
Then I tidy everything up, close all my editing and polishing tabs, and delete everything on my camera.
Then I go back in and take a look at my pick of the day, sitting there on my computer, all by its lonesome self and I think:
Eh, I guess it's okay.
These are as random as I could make them.
A no star deleted photo (the focus is all wrong and I have many better versions):
A one star photo (I have heard the summer crickets and wanted to find one and take a picture. I think this is one. This is my first, underwhelming picture of it and none of the others were any better):
A two star photo (I like it but have a clearly better version of it):
A three star photo (this is almost all the way there, but next to some other flower pictures it was taken with... not quite):
A four star photo (I have no complaints. The marbled paper background for once works just as it should because the three-fold balance of the flower is very classic against the contrived background):
Pick of the day (there's a lot of very, very, good luck in this photo, but if I want to get critical, I can):
Thursday, July 30, 2020
This post is entitled "Learning and purging".
I won't be learning anything. I'm just here for the purging.
I told a version of this story before, but more delicately. I did not get the expiation I sought, and the story has remained, churning up the earth inside me. So I'm trying to plant in it again.
My source for this story was at the job interview for the final three candidates for the position of Library Director for my library system.
The first candidate was forceful and autocratic. He had ideas on how things should run, and he was quite clear he would insist upon them.
He would be a terrible hire because all power is nuclear power: At its absolute best it is possible to harness it for some good, but only if it is treated as an unmitigated, relentlessly dangerous poison whose by-products will be a treacherous and toxic waste.
The second candidate was well-spoken, polite, and very interested. She came from the field of marketing, but was keen to learn from the library community.
She would be a terrible hire because as lies are incompatible with truth, all marketing is incompatible with libraries. Any worthwhile library must seek to be the fact of itself without glamour. It must flatly be what it is, for its only virtues are inherent.
She would also be a terrible hire because a person without ideas of their own is not equipped to manage or evaluate the ideas of others.
The third candidate was louche. He was relaxed and unconcerned. He did not care. He seemed to say: Hire me if you will. What's it to me. It's a library, not rocket science.
My source, my Buddhist friend should have known this last candidate was the best choice. Would he have been good? Probably not. But let us circle back briefly to the discussion over candidate one:
When assigning a position of power always choose the one who wants it least.
Blaise Pascal said:
Most of man's trouble comes from his inability to be still.
One of the great and melancholic surprises of this world is how often nothing can be better than something.
Well, maybe I learned a little.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Early in the Pandemic era, let's say starting somewhere in March, I began regularly going out on photography forays several times a week. Now here, at the tail end of July, I experienced the single best photography day I have ever had.
At dawn it rained, leaving glistening flower petals, magical water droplets, and tiny pools cradled in the foliage of flower beds, reflecting a brilliant blue sky salted with vivid puffs of white clouds. If I didn't like the natural light, just wait five seconds and a softening shadow would arrive. If I liked that original light? Just wait a moment and it would all come back, better than ever. The morning air was fresh and cool to keep my comfort at a maximum. And there was nary a breeze to disturb even the most delicately poised of flowers, perched on their long, thin stems. Birds cavorted, and then, importantly, rested a bit. Bunnies snacked in the lawns and were curious rather than disturbed by my strange endeavors. All manner of interesting small flying things danced about among the profusion of flowers. Oh and the flowers! Never have there been so many flowers! Flowers are everywhere, in the sidewalk cracks and among the lawns, in the roadside dirt strips and crammed along the alleyways. But most of all there are the flowers in the gardens, teeming and flourishing, peach and flames, cool blue and purples, black and whites as colors, at a peak of Summer opulence, with the old flowers growing mysteriously larger and more deeply colored, and the new flowers blooming in illuminating abundance.
So how did my pictures turn out?
I don't know. I haven't looked yet.
And what, among florid bees, exquisite flowers, adorable bunnies, and vivid birds did I take pictures of?
Yes, the ubiquitous Midwestern generic foliage, the hosta. Easy to grow, green and imperturbable. Available to photograph April through October. Not sensitive to wind. Always there. And on the whole indifferent to good photography days or bad ones, so really there was no point. But
Just... Hosta leaves.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Today at my library the bane of my existence died; curbside pick up is no more. It was poorly designed, labor intensive, and exhausting. Involving two phone calls, long searches for requested items while patrons sat patiently on hold (usually), a dedicated "runner" to take things to a table outside, and the incessant, INCESSANT, ringing of unanswered phones, curbside pick up was brutal. Your correspondent was deeply unhappy. He was miserable.
Hi. I'm your correspondent. And today curbside pick up ended.
Oh pinch me.
In a system I devised, campaigned for, manipulated, and prodded into existence, patrons now come into the library (maximum five at a time), get their holds, use self check out, and leave. That's it.
In the design and run up to this plan I have weathered specious delays, the skepticism of (a minority of) my co-workers, and the occasionally extraordinarily obtuse misunderstandings of managers whose wrench-in-the-works random implementations have had to be deftly, delicately, and discretely undone, or sometimes stoically borne (not my strong suit).
What are we left with?
Freedom, a little.
A touch more quiet.
Less relentless, grinding work.
And it's actually very nice to see the patrons again, at a distance of six feet, masked, and opposite a sheet of plexiglass.
There is a perhaps over-quoted bit of wisdom popularized by Spider-Man:
With great power comes great responsibility.
But think about it, who the fuck of us has great power? Not many of us, that's for sure. We cobble together our moments. We work through proxies and craft, tirades, hints, and careful, tactful begging. Most of my co-workers will think this new system is just something that happened, almost on its own. And in the trenches, if I'm lucky there may be a brief thanks or two. But no rewards come our way. No power. No triumphant march. No day off. I will not be promoted, commended, protected, or given extra consideration the next time I think something desperately needs to happen.
Curbside pick up is no more.
I piss on its grave.
Monday, July 27, 2020
Warning: This post includes PG-13 pictures of bugs. Or possibly NC-17 pictures of bugs, depending on your feelings on the matter of
Warning: The next phrase of this sentence will be PG-13 or possibly G-rated depending on your personal views of nature and the unsparing details of how it works.
Most of the pictures coming up though will be the most innocent possible nature pictures. Of course this depends upon how you feel about bugs and alarmingly up close views of the natural world.
So while I have never given an MPAA Rating to one of my posts before, today I am assigning this one a G to NC-17 rating, depending on your proclivities, for:
1. Animal procreation
2. Possibly frightening images of bugs just hanging out harming no one.
3. Weird eyes.
I'm just saying, one of my co-workers told me she couldn't sleep so looked at my blog and was freaked out by a squirrel staring right into her soul! This could be the kind of thing that could happen to you today!
But it probably won't. Alas.
Shall we begin?
We have recently discussed my historical wariness as regard to bees.
And in it we advanced the idea that photographing them has made me more comfortable around them. I pester them with my photographing until they get slightly irritated at which point I apologize profusely and all is forgiven.
This system works surprisingly well for me, and modestly well for the bees. They told me so.
Something similar is happening with bugs.
Historically I can be a little averse to bugs. And if some wee, innocent (or not particularly innocent creature) lands on me I have been known to leap into swatting, cavorting, gesticulating, brushing, gyrating action. Generally the bug leaves the area and everything in a seven foot radius around me is destroyed.
But now, in my journeys, I go looking for bugs. I don't have the luxury of destroying the world around me. It would ruin my pictures. Sometimes even mosquitoes land on me and I don't whack them; I am in the middle of photographing and can't be disturbed.
I have a few more mosquito bites than normal for this time of year.
A few days ago a gorgeous, radiant blue dragonfly landed on my hand on my camera when I was on the bluff over the Mississippi River. Instead of flinging my hand out and hurling my camera in alarm I just thought:
"Wow, this is lovely. But how will I photograph it?"
I did not figure out the answer to this. But here are a few pictures of the black and white dragonfly that I see a lot in the library swamp:
I really love the almost rough wing decorations.
I suppose dragonflies and butterflies and even bees would be the low hanging fruit of slightly bug-phobic insect photography. It would be hard for even a person such as myself to get the willies from a picture of a moth wing like this:
Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on what MPAA rating applied to you in the preamble warning section of this essay), I have progressed further along than the exotic beauties of the flying insect kingdom.
I don't know if I'll ever dare to photograph a spider. And I saw an earwig the other day that after a brief moment of consideration I decided to take a pass on (have you ever seen a mass of earwigs spill out of something?). But while I started photographing with only the uniquely colorful beetle miscellaneous type bugs, I have since become open to almost anything:
Like this brown and black slightly spiky sort of fellow:
Or this complicated two-layered construction:
Fairly speaking, this one below has a touch of the rainbow to him, but he is also quite... buggy, if you know what I mean.
I think you know what I mean.
This one below is also a bit in the colorful category, but maybe it makes my point a little; up close they all get pretty interesting anyway, colorful or not, though a lot of the time even the not colorful ones are full of interesting colors, and the colorful ones are still... insects.
This fascinating character is more patterns and strangeness than any notable color.
This, coming up, outside of the lovely backdrop color, is more or less completely colorless, but it's hard to imagine it alarming even someone vastly more bug phobic than myself.
Although admittedly it is always hard to fully imagine and understand the depth of the phobias of others.
It is a dragonfly, and the so picturesque and often dazzling dragonfly does have its horrifying elements from the right perspective. While this one below does not particularly disturb me, I can at least easily see how it would:
So as we approach our last picture what I'm saying is that in all these photographs I've been taking of insects, when I really look, and tap into all my fears and wonder, my love and hate, my itchiness and freedom, I think there are a lot of places where I can see something in two ways:
Beautiful and ugly.
When there's a choice, a real choice, I'm trying to choose beautiful.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Yet another of my photography experiments, these are what I think of as paintings in the wild. Maybe they're self explanatory. We'll have a real little gallery for you today.
I'm probably ready to get more talkative soon, but first... pictures!
Many of these pictures will not be super blurry. This should not be seen as indicative of the standard of my work which I find to be much more consistently blurry. I've chosen carefully so as to look like a more impressive photographer. I'm keeping the pictures a little smaller than usual to make their flaws less noticeable. It's a work in progress.
I'll start with the one I like best:
The thing I really like about this above is how it shows the brilliance of Van Gogh. The verisimilitude of his flowers are only more apparent against real ones.
I like the little and big of all this I guess.
This might be too much, with all the framing.
I didn't pick these flowers. I was hiking on the river and found them piled on a rock outcrop over the river. It felt like they'd been killed just for me!
Maybe this one should be larger because it's a bit hard to see.
I really wish this one turned out better. I may try again.
Saturday, July 25, 2020
Here it the answer to all your problems.
I was out at front desk of the library with a youngish colleague, one who is somewhat new and more or less temporary. We were handling the relentless barrage of calls for our curbside pickup routine. She was having problems because her phone was so loud and the people blaring into her ear were driving her crazy. She wanted to know how to turn down the volume on the phone.
"You can do what I did." I said helpfully.
"Just wait 25 years and your hearing will start to go."
She said something else to that, but I didn't quite catch it.
Friday, July 24, 2020
In accordance with my attempt at a low key week of blog writing, I would like to share a picture or two. But it's not regular pictures of flowers or bugs or bunnies that I have so readily been showing you lately. Rather, it's from a game!
I'm not sure what I know, but... totally!
It's not really a "game" per se. It's more like a little city building toy I have been playing with on my computer. It's called "Townscaper". It's not hard to make lovely little European Cities in the Sea.
I like it. So here's what it looks like:
And here's one that's a little more intimate and Venice like:
And then with butterflies?
And then, finally, the more realistic versions: