Sunday, June 28, 2015
Saturday, June 27, 2015
IN THE TORONTO AIRPORT on our way to Lisbon... Here's what I'm thinking:
Down the road in the USA in New York State Margaret and I lived for awhile when I was headmaster of The Darrow School. The time is 8:45 p.m... almost July here and there is rain... a slow, cold, drizzle that breaks out into real rain every now and then, something we don't see often in San Diego. I'm wondering about the escaped bad man in the New York forest huddled among trees and rocks hoping not to be found, or perhaps hoping he will be spotted soon and it will all be over soon. His partner is dead already.
Asi es la vida.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Hey, it happened again today. I’ve kept my eyes open for shoes on Ulric Street, and sure enough, finally there it is… one flip-flop showed up at the edge of the bicycle lane, a quarter of a mile up the street from where Fashion Hills Boulevard runs into Ulric. The flip-flop is white, probably a woman’s, and it’s for the left foot. There is only one. You can see it has been worn.
For a couple of months a man’s shoe stayed near the middle of the street a few hundred yards south of where Fashion Hills ends at Ulric. My theory is that somebody is playing with my head… and everybody else’s head who is paying attention to such things. Maybe I’m the only one who notices. Anyway… there is was today! One shoe… not two. In the past couple of years this is the fourth single shoe in the stretch of street from Friar’s Road up to the place where Ulric crosses Linda Vista Road… never a pair. If the pattern holds, this “shoe” will stay in the same place for a couple months, as many as six or eight months, and then it will suddenly have moved one day to be somewhere else on the road where it “will live” for awhile. Then it will disappear altogether. After it is gone, another shoe will appear somewhere else on the mile-long stretch of road.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Wood with pigment, ca. early 18th Century
San Diego Museum of Art
The friend whom I described briefly in my BLOG writing yesterday died this morning at 3:54 a.m. At 3:54 in the morning is as good a time as any to go... and to my thinking one of the best times. I like that time of night... almost day but still quiet and peaceful and not yet turned on to the hummmm and Crankkkk of day.
I can’t think of anything better to say about Aileen than what Alexis de Tocqueville said about American women in Democracy in America:
“If I were asked… to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of (the Americans) ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women.”
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
I’ve learned that a close friend has decided to take herself off medications that are keeping her alive. She is “sick and tire of being sick and tired.” She has been in hospital for many months. She wants PEACE, so she has decided that she will do nothing to keep herself going. I understand.
My friend is someone who was born in the state where I was born; so from the day we first met, I’ve looked for and found in her the special quality that I want other people to find in me. That quality has been easy to see in her. She knows that life is good, a celebration; and she knows that when the time for celebration is over, she doesn’t want to hang around any longer. She has told her husband and her doctors about her decision; they understand. She may live a couple of days or a couple of weeks. I am celebrating her life today and tomorrow and the next day. Margaret and I are heading out of town on Saturday. My friend probably won’t be here when I get back.
I am determined that every day I will wake up and will remember that my friend’s life has been a constant reminder that LIFE IS GOOD.
Monday, June 22, 2015
WHAT I INTEND TO DO ABOUT DYLANN ROOF…
…I expect this to be the last time I build a BLOG post around his name.
I’ve reread the manifesto that the young man has been credited with writing, have recognized what the excerpts have indicated… that much of the text has been lifted from American white supremacist, racist WEB sites… have seen the boy in those pictures… have been filled with regret and ultimate sadness that the boy dropped out of high school when he was in ninth grade apparently without parental or other guidance that he should have received growing up in America… that he could with little personal effort have got his hands on the guns he displays in his pictures… and that he could walk into a public meeting in a church without having caused alarm on the part of anybody… and that he has managed to raise a Storm of media attention, not just in America but all over the world… and that he has become an icon representing ignorant racism (and ignorance generally) in the United States of America and in a world where other sad, sad pictures of persons will soon displace his as representatives of that ignorance. Whatever he hoped to accomplish by his action will be lost, along with the lives of the nine people he killed. That’s all I think I should say about DYLANN STRONG ROOF
Now… going on to another matter: the President’s dropping the word nigger in a radio interview. All over America since his use of the “N” word, politicians (especially those who have declared that they are running for his job in 2016), preachers, civil rights leaders,racists, non-racists and all kinds of “ordingary” citizens have weighed in on his saying nigger.
Give me a break. We all know the background. I am among those people who avoid the use of the word for the same reasons the President avoids using the N-word… BUT to make the word unsayable under any circumstances is a huge mistake. I don’t say it for the same reason that I never say, “I wish those goddamn gun-loving motherfuckers who sell drugs and guns and … the list goes on… especially to young kids like you know who would drop dead in their tracks and never be heard of again on this earth anywhere. I don’t say such things.
I’ll focus my attention on important symbols like the Confederate flag, which continues to fly in South Carolina’s Capital Plaza and which continues to be used in other areas with approval and at the direction of misguided politicians who insist that forbidding the use of that flag infringes on “the people’s” private civil rights expression. What a lot of b.s. that is.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
TAKING UP WHERE I LEFT OFF YESTERDAY…
The young man, Dylann Roof, the kid who killed nine people in South Carolina last week is one of the most pitiful, pitiable individuals I’ve come across in print and on Television in a very long time. It’s hard to work up a strong emotional response to the pictures of him peering out at the world over dark glasses, pistol dangling at his crotch, and the Confederate Flag held loosely at his left shoulder. Tomorrow I think I will give the situation more thought. Tonight… after reading the L.A. Times accounts of the killings at the church and the “stuff” that has been dug up about Dylann Roof’s sad Internet droppings, I can feel only… sadness… and regret… so…
…I took another picture of a favorite Melaleuca tree. It changes day by day. If I go back to the same spot after I come back from Europe in a couple of weeks, I will find it changed completely. The tree will transform itself. What will Dylaan Roof have become by this time next month?
Saturday, June 20, 2015
The authors of an L.A. Times report about Dylann Roof begins, “…seemed to be wandering through this small suburb (of Charleston, S.C) with a set of racist views and little else: no school, no friends, no clique with which to associate.”
When I read the piece in this morning’s paper, It occurred to me that millions of names of Americans, and undoubtedly of many other people in the world, could have been placed accurately at the beginning of that opening sentence. All of us are solitary loners striving for connection with a group or at least with one other individual. Regardless of what went wrong with Dylann Roof, the fact that we are all loners is a place to start with our questions about what went wrong with him… and what can go wrong with people. A place to start is with an understanding of the most basic human condition. I was once a teacher, a teacher of English to high school students. I had the good fortune to discover early in my career something very important to know about the great literature of the world. What I discovered made me a teacher, not just someone who could stand in front of adolescents and entertain them with good stories. Most stories and poems that become important in any human culture, and especially those that find their way onto the reading lists and part of school curricula, are primarily about the “aloneness” dilemma of persons. I taught for two years then I went back to graduate school for two years and during that time I supported myself and my family by working as a correctional officer/guard at the most notorious prison in California. Nothing I learned in academic settings changed my teaching and my life as much as those two years of nights at San Quentin Prison. In cell blocks overcrowded with inmates, alone in prison towers and on prison wall posts, in the kitchen area and library and chapel I learned what Shakespeare and Mark Twain were getting at in Hamlet and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and what Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations was really about. I learned that my job was not just to tell a bunch of kids that the language police don’t want them to end a sentence with a preposition like “about,” but that the novels and poems and plays are much more than entertaining stories. We can identify with the stories, they grab us, because we too are alone.
Watching a man die alone in the Gas Chamber of San Quentin Prison after he had been brought from a holding cell at eleven o’clock in the morning, an hour later than the scheduled execution during which time attempts were made with the Governor to stop the killing, and strapped by two Lieutenants into one of two special chairs in a lonely light green room, I got it. In a “chamber” surrounded by the Warden, two doctors, the Attorney General, at least twelve citizens, members of the immediate family of the victim, and at least one Correctional Officer for every official witness, I watched the execution. I watched him die alone as the colorless cyanide gas that none of us could see filled the space. Richard Harmon, age 27, died alone in the light green room. I had not been to sleep since early in the evening before the execution; but before I went home, I found a corrections captain to tell him that I would quit my job before I would accept another assignment that involved anything at all to do with an execution. My name never again was on one of the lists of guards assigned to be present at the death of a condemned man.
Almost twenty years after I had left my job at San Quentin and while I was Headmaster of The Potomac School near Washington, D.C., the majority of the citizens of California declared their support for the death penalty even after the State Legislature voted to abolish it. Thirty-six of the United States still have the death penalty on their books. California with 746 condemned men and women has the most people waiting for execution. Thirteen people have been executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978.
But this writing is not about the death penalty. Of course, I am opposed to the barbaric practice of deliberately killing any person; but that is not what is on my mind as I write this BLOG post. What is on my mind is that Dylan Roof, when he sat for an hour in a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston before he opened his satchel and took out a gun and killed nine people, Dylan Roof was alone in the church. He was surrounded by a clutch of people, but he was alone, and he acted by himself. What is more important to know is that we are all ultimately, finally, when as they say in my native Arkansas dialect, “you get right down to it,” we are all alone. A preacher may stand in front of a room full of people at a prayer meeting or at a crowded sunday service, but if she/he fails to see them as individuals, as people alone, the message of the occasion fails. Nothing is more important than knowing what it means to be inside whatever body we inhabit than that we are there all by ourselves.
Friday, June 19, 2015
LOOKING AT REALITY IN A DIFFENT WAY
Pope Francis ended his encyclical with the following words: “We do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.” He warns throughout his letter of the unsustainable culture of consumption. He calls for immediate changes in human behavior to fight global warming, which he says science has shown clearly is caused by us. “We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes”
We shall see if Catholic Republicans and other Christian leaders pay attention.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
EUCALYPTUS... If trees could talk, I wonder what this one would say (or ask) about what is going on below. This is the tree immediately west of the bridge that goes from the Rose/Cactus Garden to the major fountain in Balboa Park. A group of "Christians" have set up a table, women at one end of the plaza and men at the other end with signs that declare "What the Bible Really Says About..." Often the declaration ends with whatever subject the Museum of Natural History headlines for the month. A contingent of homeless people have settled into the area with their bedrolls by the time I'm finishing my volunteer work at MOPA.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Two of my closest friends are Clyde and Dave Yoshida… In the spirit of friendship we meet every Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. for coffee and a visit… We share stuff that friends are known to share… like this morning after Dave had gone to work and Royden and and Dave H. had come and gone on to Wednesday business, I dropped off something at Dave’s and Clyde’s house before they made their way up Interstate 5 to a Niece’s graduation… and I enjoyed finding Orange Cat on their doorstep, sound asleep. I tiptoed with my camera, the way I sneaked up on the lizard yesterday, and got a picture of Orange Cat just as he opened his eyes. He recognized me and knew there was no need for alarm. I could have got a picture of the stretching, purring and nuzzling that followed, but the best time of all was the moment of recognition. In the next few days I’m going to explore the idea that great art and especially photography that rises to the level of art calls attention to the moment before something happens… It doesn’t have to wait to grab an image from whatever follows.
A few years ago I got a picture of two zebras. I don't remember what happened after I took the picture. It doesn't matter.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
BALBOA PARK COMMON LIZARD
... Sunning him/herself on dead root of an Australian Tea Tree...the photograph is definitely NOT a work of art. I got close to the lizard with my camera by approaching slowly.
I used the SONY RX100, so I didn't have a long lens.
ONLY IN AMERICA
If you ever see my daily post on the BLOG or on FACEBOOK, you’ll have noticed that until today I’ve been posting only one photograph each day since I “came down” with a stroke on May 4th. I’m a very lucky person. Since January 1, 1987, I had used cameras to “take” pictures, at least one photograph every day, and I chose one to be the picture for the day, the photo du jour. Since New Year's Day, 1987, I've missed two days, May 4 and 5 of this year.
Six weeks later, I’m back to normal, whatever normal means/is for an old guy who is pushing close to his 80th birthday. I’ve been dismissed by the neurologist, the neuro-ophthalmologist and the physical therapist. By dismissed, I don’t mean they are no longer paying attention to me, but they have said there is nothing wrong with me that time won’t fix. Without the prism (almost invisible plastic film affixed to the left lens of my spectacles) I’m still seeing double, but that’s a small problem which is fixing itself. Margaret and I are getting ready for a short trip to Europe… two weeks in Portugal and Spain beginning at the end of this month.
In the meantime, in spite of Donald Trump’s squeezing himself into the clown car today, I am going to do some serious writing this morning… not a rant.
I was asked a couple of days ago what I consider to be “art” in the practice of photography. I went to bed last night thinking about it. My answer is that I often don’t know, or can’t see, the difference between art and craft in photography; so I began by asking myself which photographers I consider to be “real” artists and which I consider masters of the craft of photography. Of course, in my mind I flipped through the photographs and the photographers that come to my mind when I consider the question: Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter, of course…; but do their photographs rise to the level of ART because they are beautiful… astoundingly beautiful… memorably beautiful? Adam’s photographs of Yosemite seem even more beautiful than the places where they were made. Porter’s pictures of wilderness… Wow! I recall one of his, black and white, that is mostly wilderness green with a couple of stones just a little to the right of the center of the image... or Judy Dater's Imogene and Twinka at Yosemite... or any of Imogene Cunningham's self portraits... or that portrait Manuel Alvarez Bravo got of a girl , he called it El Ensueno (daydreaming) in Mexico City in the early 1930s... or Alfred Stieglitz's The Flat Iron Building which he got in the first decade of the last century... or Garry Winograd's Orangutan, which he got around the middle of that century. I say any of those are art, I just don't know why. Last night as I lay quietly before dropping off to sleep, I noticed that most of those photographs leave something to happen later, something that we don't know...
…but the pictures by photographers with extraordinary cameras bringing into daily view in newspapers, magazines, and on television unusually spectacular images… all those photographs, however beautiful, can’t rise to the level of art. So what do I consider art… from among the millions of good pictures released every week?
The pictures that come to my mind, when I think about those that are “stuck” there… the images that don’t go away… are the pictures of people like Henri Cartier-Bresson… the image(s) of the guy in the middle of a puddle jump in Paris or his Greek Island’s picture of the girl running, about to disappear, up the steps of plain buildings. Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) was a photo-journalist. He waded into crowds with his small Leica Carrera capturing spontaneous moments. Strong shadows didn’t bother him. Shadows brought his focus sharply to what he considered the important part of an image. Dorothea Lange’s “Man jumping off a Cable Car”… or Edward Weston’s “Pepper #30 suggest something other than what you see in the image. The most memorable photographic images are those that are interruptions of the moment.
The San Diego Museum of Art includes a Cartier-Bresson print in one of the contemporary exhibits. Srinigar, Kashmir, Silver gelatin print from 1948: “Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of Muslim women in Kashmir echoes, if serendipitously, the rhythm of veiled figures in Eugene Delacroix’s painting, Les Femmes d’Alger. The women, waiting for the dawn prayer, face Mecca as the sun rises, some crouched, some standing.
I apologize for the shadows in my photograph of Cartier-Bresson’s print. The shadows are from the lights in the museum.
I apologize for the shadows in my photograph of Cartier-Bresson’s print. The shadows are from the lights in the museum.