Yesterday on FaceBook I saw a photo of a huge full moon rising on an ocean horizon. The shore in the foreground is rocky and moonlit in places. It had some 89,000 “Likes”. To my pleasant surprise, there were MANY comments calling it what it is, including mine: “Go outdoors. Look at the moon. Look at the ocean. Look at a tree. Photoshop is fun, but reality can be quite beautiful. This photo is so over-edited that it’s ugly, in my opinion.”

In previous times, the camera was never a liar. It could force us to look at realities we might otherwise avoid. Film was primarily a truth-teller, even though we burned and dodged in the darkroom.

Photoshop is a great tool. It’s fun to use, it can “rescue” a less than perfect shot (sometimes). I use it – along with every other serious photog – on almost every picture I take, but this world is becoming more and more dystopic, and people are getting further and further removed from Nature. We need to see the natural world as it is, not as one more thing for man or photog to manipulate.


What’s So Funny?


Does anyone remember the “Chuckles the Clown” episode on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show?” She goes to the funeral of a beloved circus clown, and in the middle of the eulogy Mary gets the giggles. She tries to stifle it, but – to the horror of those around her – one little snicker leads to another and finally to outright hysterical, totally inappropriate guffawing. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on television.

How about Sweeney Todd or Fried Green Tomatoes? Don’t you just love the idea that people you don’t like could be made into meat pies or chili? The abusive husband, the annoying customer: Whack! Chop! Grind! Sauté! End of problem!

In the family values department, I prefer Addams family values, and I want a houseplant like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors. Since seeing Fargo, I can’t help smiling whenever I watch someone feed stuff into a wood shredder.

And guess what: I was recently discharged from psychiatric care. My analyst decided that one of us had had enough, or maybe she secretly agrees with my view of the world.

What Would Elvis Do?

Monday, October 09, 2006

I saw Elvis today. He was changing a tire in the WalMart parking lot. I tried not to stare because that is such a dumb thing to do when you see a celebrity, but it was hard to turn away, so I didn’t, and when he returned my gaze, I spoke. It’s not every day you get to talk with The King, and besides, he’s a southern boy, and I’ve been wishing for someone to explain what people from down in those Red States are thinking.

I started with some chit-chat, hoping to break the ice in a friendly sort of way. “How’ve you been?” I asked. Elvis sneered a little, but it was a kindly sort of sneer, then he told me how hard it’s been to find a decent job. He’s worked the fast-food places and now WalMart (where his part-time shift had just ended). The problem was health insurance and retirement, but he said he prays it’ll all work out and he buys lottery tickets, and it is nice to work with other retirees who are also trying to make ends meet. Anyway, he thought we all should have to sacrifice when the country’s at war.

Emboldened, I asked what he thought about that war. “I’m all shook up,” he replied, “but we gotta take the war to the tarists or they’ll take it to us.” I handed him a lug nut. “Are you worried about North Korea testing a nuke?” I questioned. “Are they near Iraq?” he responded.

There was a bit of dust on his blue suede shoes, and his hip seemed to swivel half a turn as he stood up, sun glinting off his flag belt buckle. My focus shaken, I fumbled for words but finally blurted out, “Why’d you stop singing?” He stared me in the eye, this time the sneer a bit more menacing. “I’ve got family values now,” he snarled. “What do you think would happen if I got up in front of people today and did the moves I used to do? Gays’d be all over me. My mama didn’t raise up no fool. A-wella-wella-wella what would Jesus do? I’ll tell you: he’d get a job at WalMart and he’d be sayin’ God bless America.”

And with that, Elvis turned and got into his Chevy. He’d have roared away, but he forgot to lower the jack.

Criminal Intent


This morning I awoke and looked out the window at a pretty amazing pink and orange sunrise sky, said “Wow!” and then “Damn” because you have to be an earlier bird than I to get the photographic worm. It then occurred to me that being a photographer is a bit like being a criminal: you need motive (the love of taking a good picture), weapon (decent camera), and opportunity (created by Wizards who get their asses out of bed early).

Coyote Call


I’ve lived in the North Country for thirty years, and during that time the howling of coyotes has become one of the common night sounds – a chorus of varying voices. It wasn’t always so, and in fact it was such a thrilling novelty back in the 1980s that one winter evening we hosted a potluck supper and invited John Green, biologist and coyote expert, to give a short lecture to the assemblage and then take us out into the woods on a “coyote call.”

John brought tape recordings and explained the different voices the animals use to communicate. We listened intently and several of us took turns doing vocal imitations before donning parkas, hats, mittens and boots and setting out for the hilltop (which seemed an appropriate howling location). Surely Sherman’s army was stealthier than we, and if Wiley had been anywhere in the vicinity, he wouldn’t have stuck around to find out what this gaggle of wise-cracking, flashlight-bearing, two-legged amateur naturalists was up to. Although it was a rip-snorting good time, no canines returned our calls that night.

In the years since, I’ve occasionally made efforts to commune with the coyotes. Sometimes I’ll try to initiate something by stepping onto the cold, open back porch and howling into the stillness of the night; other times I attempt to join in a conversation of nearby wails and yips that’s in progress. In the first case, sometimes my neighbor (who attended the potluck…) howls back; in the second, the woods immediately go silent.

I can only guess at how my efforts might translate, but it’s probably something like the time the sheep got into the carrots. I was staying with friends in Costa Rica and early one morning discovered the small herd munching happily on garden produce. Not knowing quite what to do, I grabbed a half-eaten carrot (because I didn’t know how to say “carrot” in Spanish) and ran to the kitchen waving it and yelling, “Las viejas!!!” The cook gave me a very baffled look… and then began to laugh heartily. I had informed her that “the old ladies” (viejas) – not the sheep (ovejas) – were into the carrots! And so it must be with the coyotes: I think I’m yelling, “Hey! How are you? Gather ‘round here!” and they hear, “Ich bin King Kong!! Run for your lives!!” Like the cook, Wiley has probably had a few laughs. He has never answered my calls.

Last night, in the heat of a passionate rendezvous, my mate emitted several fairly loud erotic moans. There was a “beat” of silence, and then suddenly through the open windows came a deafening and enthusiastic chorus of canine wails, barks and yips. Passion gave way to uncontrollable laughter as we realized we had finally communicated something our wolf-like neighbors could understand.

Is it not possible that all animals may share a language of passion, of fear, of need; of hunger or joy or anger – a language that transcends syntax? Humans have simply lost the ability to understand it. The coyote love song may not be very different than our own, and “calling” to them from a warm bed is much more pleasant than those old back porch efforts. John Green probably knew this, but he didn’t tell us.

Fashion Rant


Once there was a time when you could buy blue jeans from LLBean and they were tough and would wear for a couple of years of what I do every day. My jeans have been pee’d on by a turtle, jumped into a swamp to rescue my elderly dog, collected seven pick-up truck loads of stones from a local quarry, built several buildings and they’ve been in messes that required a respirator for their occupant. They get scraped by hay bales, garden dirt gets ground into them, stove-wood tears them, sparks occasionally burn holes in them. They are on a first-name basis with horse manure, and they play with a four-year-old. You could accurately say that all of my clothes are “distressed.”

These days – if you are a woman – you try to buy a pair of LLBean jeans, and they want to know what kind of “wash” you want: stone wash, acid rinse, steep for twelve years in goat urine, or just given a gentle dragging behind an environmentally friendly hybrid car for six weeks. Needless to say, these damned things don’t last hole-free for more than two turns in the wash. It seems that consumers want to look like they do actual physical WORK!

What’s a wizard to do? Well, maybe I’ll go over to Doris’ Fashion Nook in Amish country just outside of Rennselaer Falls. That’s where the lumberjacks shop, because that’s where you can get Carhartts and work boots. But do they have size 6 petite? I repeat: what’s a wizard to do?

Git ‘R Done

Imgp4572 Git R Done 33pct


I don’t know how that saying caught on, much less why it annoys me. Possibly it is just so redneck that I associate it with the hordes of bible-thumpin’, NASCAR-lovin’ fools who (with the help of their bosom buddies the Very Very Rich and Greedy) put Bush in office and – with flag waving – also want to Git ‘Raq Done. It’s emblazened on T-shirts and caps and demolition derby cars, not so subtly implying that the rest of us couldn’t possibly Git ‘R Done even if we knew what ‘R is and why it needs to be.

Last week I saw another saying that essentially means the same thing: You can’t leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps. Now that one I like. It puts the hay down where the goats can get it, and it doesn’t smack of stupid.