Performance Art

Interesting article in the Times magazine about two teenagers running the Twitter account of a 2020 Presidential hopeful. Kind of.

I’m not sure what I think of any of this anymore. For the last decade or so, via social media, we’ve all moved more towards performing our lives, and that absolutely includes public figures. So why not also this? I think they all three have some good ideas that are worth getting air time. And the kids did say one thing that I whole-heartedly agree with:

“Capitalism works perfectly, right? It serves exactly who it’s supposed to.”

Belief and Love

 I came across a Twitter thread this morning about how pushing the limits can occasionally lead to disaster. It specifically cites the two Space Shuttle disasters, as well as some more common place examples, and ties in to personal mental health issues at the end, trying to make the point that it’s not always just the little things, but more how we get to the point, even in our daily lives, where those little things turn catastrophic.

The thread was shared by an author who has written fiction about the space program, and has done her best to get the details right, but when I shared the shared thread with a friend who is an actual engineer, he was critical of the engineering examples. “Sorry: neat idea, but terrible argument.” I didn’t spend any time in discussion with my friend, because I know he knows more than I do on this subject.

I believe that the person who wrote the original tweets was acting with good intentions and trying to make some points about fundamental truths, as she or he sees them. The post has been shared 3.8k times, and has a thousand likes. There’s nothing incredible about those numbers, but it’s clear that what they’re saying has struck a chord with people, who (like me) want to share it with others.

Now imagine what deliberate bad actors are doing, purposely crafting content and making comments to inflame our emotions, and not caring one iota whether or not what they’re saying is true.

I believe that our present culture is promoting two things that are very dangerous in combination: a disregard for truth, and a desire to feel right above anything else. It’s present in the way we receive news and facts, and in the way we interact with each other, particularly via social media. We’re turning into a world that is incredibly, amazingly connected, increasingly educated, and all we seem to want to do is yell at each other about things that we likely don’t even know much about. What’s the point of that?

I believe that our way forward is with humility and love. I do not and cannot know everything, and even things that seem logical and feel correct to me often are not, in ways large and small. When I interact with people, I will make a conscious decision to find common ground instead of making a destructive comment. I believe that nearly all of us (there are always outliers) have so much more in common than we do apart, and that building our strengths together can accomplish goals that are richer and more complex because disparate people decided that our common ground was more important than being ‘right’ about our differences.

It’s not the easy path. Being destructive, and snarky, and superior is a seductive feeling. But it doesn’t grow anything. Let’s make a world that grows together, because it’s the right thing to do.

I still think in social.

I was editing photos earlier today, and my first thought when I got to this one was: ‘cover photo’. It’s a hard habit to break. (I did test it – it would look great.)

Still working through some older photos, although I have no timeline or agenda for completion whatsoever. 🙂

The Things We Remember

My grandfather once told me a joke when I was younger. I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly when, but let’s say it was 20 years ago or more now. I don’t remember anything of the joke at all except the punchline:

Pardon me, Roy. Is that the cat that chewed your new shoes?

Obviously it was a groaner, although if you’re younger than 40 you may not understand.

This line pops into my head with some frequency, still, all these years later. I don’t know why, but it does remind me that my grandfather was a wonderful, gentle man, and that’s not bad at all.

Proper Value

Russell Davies, writing for Wired UK, notes that we need an internet of unmonetisable enthusiasms.

I agree that we need to do things without the desire to monetize them. The problem is that, if something is popular enough, *someone* will find a way to monetize it. It’s playing out on social media, where “content aggregators” steal artists’ work, and make money off of the massive amount of views/followers they build.

The problem, as I see it, is that we fail to value art properly (and this is not a new issue), and that we continue to fetishize money, and people who make money. In addition, we continue to tie personal self-identity, and self-respect, to a fetishized idea of ‘work’. If you look back at essays from the dawn of the Industrial Age, you’ll see thoughts that we could be on the verge of moving ‘beyond’ work… and somehow we couldn’t handle that. The problem I personally have, is that I’ll never hustle and sell enough art to make enough money to live. So I need a day job, which drastically reduces the time and energy I have to produce art. Which sucks, because honestly I’m pretty damn good at it.

Universal Income would level the bottom of the playing field. Universal Health Care would make us all feel human and valued. The top end could still play their “let’s invent more ways to make money” games to procure their slice of marginally less decadent opulence. We don’t do it because we (the everyone else who isn’t super rich) let ourselves be divided by everything else. I’d love to know that everyone I see on the street is above the poverty line, has access to free health care, and can do whatever they damn well please with their lives… even if their choice is: “absolutely nothing”. But we’d all be valued humans, together.

It’s a pipe dream. Made worse for the fact that it could be easily accomplished by a society that wanted to.

Sunday on the Bridge

The weather has finally turned gorgeous in Minnesota, and people turned out in force on the Stone Arch Bridge on Sunday. The Mississippi River is as high as I’ve ever seen it. Fun to be out and about with everyone in a good mood.

Real Life Wednesday

Thank you for this, Urban Meyer.

“It’s a topic that is very taboo not just for football players but for young men and men in general,” Landers says. “The way [Greenfield] approached it was fun and loose, but it was real. It was something everybody could relate to. You saw some guys who were going through some things that you’d have never thought [would be struggling] because on the surface you couldn’t tell.”

It’s wonderful that such a high-profile coach is willing to state that he’s much more interested in helping his players through life than he is in making it ‘all football, all the time’… while still obviously coaching them well enough to win a whole bunch of football games. This is the kind of balance that we all need. All of us.

I also like this quote from one of the assistant coaches:

“But that is the real world. You don’t want to not understand where they’re coming from, but part of the problem is they don’t understand the real world. I think it’s my job [to let the players know] ‘O.K., I know it’s hard, but we’re not apologizing for that. We’re not going to make it easy and soft because you’re dealing with something.’ The one thing you realize is that everybody is dealing with something. Everybody.”

It’s also ok that things are hard. It’s ok to be challenged by life. And it’s ok to admit it if that overwhelms you, and get some help with it.

Mill City

I haven’t ever done much blue hour, or night photography, but I’ve always liked the way it looks with light trails from cars. I’m trying to figure out how it works, and I’m fairly pleased with my first attempt.

Old School Drones

This is truly amazing.

I mean seriously, think about it. If I asked you to imagine what a film camera looked like in 1907, then imagine trying to attach one to a pigeon so it could fly around and take photos… there’s no way it could work, right? I know we’re now used to visuals like this from the abundance of people posting drone shots, but these had to be amazing 110 years ago. I suppose you could have managed something similar with a kite or a balloon, but that’s totally not as cool.

And honestly… I really just want to be friends with that pigeon in the header photo. Seems like a cool bird to hang out with.

Coloring All The Things

This is an article that Jasper Fforde would definitely appreciate.

I don’t know that I’d ever really stopped to think too much about how we color things that don’t naturally have color. This is a longer read, but I found it genuinely fascinating.

“The world lacks a great all-around red. Always has. We’ve made do with alternatives that could be toxic or plain gross. The gladiators smeared their faces with mercury-based vermilion. Titian painted with an arsenic-based mineral called realgar. The British army’s red coats were infused with crushed cochineal beetles. For decades, red Lego bricks contained cadmium, a carcinogen.”

This is also a great time to announce, yet again, that everyone should read Jasper Fforde’s novel Shades of Grey… just ignore the unfortunate title comparisons, it’s good.


Interesting article in The Atlantic about how the image of America that’s portrayed in the media perhaps doesn’t represent the full truth about the direction the country is headed. Honestly, I can believe it. If you’ve watched any news broadcast at all in the last thirty years, you know that negativity, conflict, and fear is what sells.

The whole thing is definitely worth a read, but I’ll highlight one section in particular:

But suppose you accept the idea that America is remaking itself except at the national level. What difference would that make? Here are three areas in which our reporting has changed my mind about what really matters.

First is improving connections, both conceptual and operational. Across the country, millions of people in thousands of organizations are working toward common goals, generally without being aware of how many other people and organizations are striving toward the same end.

The more we traveled, the more parallels and resonances we saw. This public-art project in southern Arizona was like that other one in Maine. This library program in Oregon was like that one in Ohio. This creative public school in California was like that one in Georgia. This conservation effort in Montana resembled others in California, and Louisiana, and Idaho. This “civic tech” project we heard about in Massachusetts was like the ones we learned about in Indiana and in Southern California. Every place had its local features, but together those efforts formed a pattern whose sweep and power can be hard to discern from any single instance.

Recognizing that these emerging networks exist in parallel is important in practical terms, so that people can share examples of success, plus increase the networks’ collective leverage. It matters at least as much in outlook. It’s one thing to work in what you imagine to be a lonely outpost, defending yourself against decline all around. It’s different and more exhilarating to know that you are part of something bigger, and that you are going down a path others have helped blaze.

I think this kind of mindset is beneficial. It’s NOT futile to get out there and do things to try and better your community, or your friends, or yourself. It’s NOT futile to have conversations with people who disagree with you about these hot button national topics. (And if that means you have to AVOID those topics, that’s ok too.) Dan Rather is doing similar work in concert with promotion of his book “What Unites Us”.

I don’t say this to absolve us of the need to confront the problems that we do have. We MUST continue to have those conversations as well, but they don’t NEED to be couched as a zero-sum game, no matter what the political coverage would have you believe. We can build each other up while we go through the messy business of figuring out the compromises needed to actually run a country. We do NOT need to dominate the people who disagree with us in order to keep making the best version of America that we can.

How to Keep Going

I found this talk by Austin Kleon very interesting. He makes good points throughout, but the ones that resonate most with me come under his point “make gifts”.

He talks about how our friends and family now react to the art of creation by suggesting it’s good enough to be monetized. “Oh, you could sell that on Etsy.” OR “You could run a food truck!” We’ve let ourselves fall into the culture of ‘side hustle’, with the implication that if something is good enough, it’s easy money, and why wouldn’t you do it?

Let me tell you, friends. It’s not easy money. If you want to make money off your passion, it’s hard work unless you are exceptionally lucky. This is just like everything else in this life, in this country. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but creative types tend not to be the stable, extroverted, salesperson personalities, and there’s a good chance that you’re really fucking with their heads by implying that they should be making money off of this thing that they’re probably just doing because it’s enjoyable.

Or if you’d prefer that I take it out of the hypothetical, it fucked with my head. I’m decently good at photography. I’m very good at ultimate (frisbee) photography. I don’t enjoy the process of negotiating deals, and I can’t even get people to pay me an insulting rate to come take great photos of their team/tournament/whatever. For me, it’s not worth it, and especially not when I see those photos stolen and used on social media at will afterwards.

So I’m back to doing what I want, when I want to, for me. It was nice to see “make gifts” as a legitimate option. I’ve made a few recently, and it feels really nice. I feel like I am, in fact, going to keep going… and that wasn’t a sure thing at all over the last six months to a year.

All Of Us

I happened to catch the singing of the Canadian anthem prior to the Bruins/Leafs game on Saturday night, and was taken aback when the singer substituted the line ‘all of us’ for ‘all thy sons’.

As it turns out, this is a recent change to the anthem, and having a few days to think about it, I’m all in favor. We can all be more inclusive, in all facets of our lives.

So good work, Canada. We can talk about the line that starts with ‘God’ some other time.

Invented by Oops

“Oh hey look at that…”

Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles.

Obviously there’s some pretty major legwork still to be done before it’s large scale operational… but talk about the kind of thing that could help change the world.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

Fifty Years Later

Interesting visual storytelling by Ariel Aberg-Riger on The Kerner Report of 1968, about the Summer of 1967 riots. I can’t say it’s surprising that the things the report predicted have come to pass, or that the troubles of 1968 sound an awful lot like the troubles of 2018, but it is certainly sad.

If you want to extrapolate back even further, as this long article does, and suggest that the underlying causes of the US Civil War are still being struggled with today, I’m not sure I’d argue.

And while it’s tempting to want to wring our collective hands over the situation in our country, I believe there’s hope. Check out this exchange from a recent ESPN interview with soon-to-be NFL quarterback Josh Rosen:

But you’re expressing these opinions in an age when some people want athletes to shut up and dribble.
That minority will go away — not completely, but I’m sorry, you’re not winning this one. You won’t successfully get people to stop caring for other people. Not happening.

I honestly think this is what we need. More people need to come together and decide to care for others, putting aside everything else but base humanity. So maybe before you post that snarky Facebook meme trashing dumb Trump voters, decide to do something else that produces actual good instead. It’ll add up.


David Foster Wallace, in a radio interview more than twenty years ago, promoting the release of Infinite Jest, talks about whether or not the Internet will be the cure for what has ailed the television generation.

“If you’ve still got a nation of people sitting of front of screens, pretending, interacting with images rather than each other, feeling lonely and so needing more and more images you’re going to have the same basic problem. And the better the images get, the more tempting it’s going to be to interact with images rather than other people. And I think the emptier it’s going to get.”


Also I don’t think I knew he was such a polished speaker.

Author David Joy writes about gun culture

Phenomenal essay. Read it.

“Unlike a lot of those who carry, I don’t buy into that only-way-to-stop-a-bad-guy-with-a-gun-is-a-good-guy-with-a-gun bravado. I have no visions of being a hero. Instead, I find myself looking for where I’d run, asking myself what I would get behind. The gun is the last resort. It’s the final option when all else is exhausted.”

There aren’t any great answers here, but I believe it’s conversation like this that will be critical in getting the discussion moved forward.


“While the two of us sat there sipping coffee, there were kids on the television in the background, high school survivors who were willing to say what we are not, and I was ashamed.”

This willingness to show some vulnerability (and previously in the essay he referenced seeing a therapist), while clearly not giving up an overall macho/manly attitude… the two things are not mutually exclusive, men.

A Pair of Photography Links

Took a short an unplanned break from blogging while letting what was intended to be a longer-form post brew in my mind. In the end it simmered too long and mostly evaporated (although the idea seed may eventually make a comeback). Lesson: write more when the idea happens, and then edit until it’s good (or deleted).

This story about photographer Garry Winograd (with references to a few others) is an interesting look into how artists’ production can wax and wane over the course of their lives, which is a topic that is certainly of personal interest to me.

In happier related news, this post from my incredibly talented friend Emily is amazing. Go check out her work.

Gaming the Lottery

I actually haven’t even finished reading this story yet, but it’s been interesting enough that I’ll post it, conclusion unseen.

It’s interesting that the main protagonist even touched on whether or not gaming a system (once he’d figured it out) was ethical or not. But either way, the initial cost needed to do so does nothing to counter the argument that lotteries are a tax on the poor.

I may post an edit after I finish reading. (But probably not.)