Monday, November 28, 2016

Not Handling It

Three weeks ago, the people of the United States of America chose to elect an idiot monster to the highest office in the land.

I've been trying so hard to assimilate this information.  To keep calm, accept the fact, and make a plan for moving forward.

I have had zero success in this effort. 

Our President-elect is a psychotic, entitled egocentric with the impulse control of a five-year-old.  With enough money to buy the silence--or silencing--of anyone who might even appear to oppose him. 

We are SO screwed. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

I'm Back

First there was the election.  Then I had to drag the shattered pieces of  myself up out of the pit of despair and glue them back together so I could go on a vacation that had been arranged before we even realized it was going to take place the weekend after the election (and of course, before we realized--because we never could have conceived of it--that Cheeto Jesus was going to win the election.)  Once I actually applied myself to the vacation, it seemed...easier?  wiser? just shove the whole mess into the back of my mind and deal with it after we got home.   Net result being, among other things, that I have fallen seriously behind on my challenge to reach 1300 posts by the end of the year.

But never fear, invisible audience!  I'm back, and ready to make it happen. 

This morning, a Facebook friend linked to this New York Times article; which, given the undeniable culpability of the mainstream media in the "surprise" triumph of Donald Trump, struck a nerve with me:


In it, the Times goes about putting together a fine little bit of investigative journalism, in true Monday-morning-quarterbacking tradition, in which it follows the genesis of a tidbit of "fake news" from the account of a twitter user with forty followers, to a re-tweeted, linked-to and overblown erroneous report seized upon by right-wing outlets and blasted across the internet.  It seemed typical that a venerable MSM outlet like the Times would prefer to scapegoat "citizen journalists" for the insane explosion of false news stories surrounding the candidates of our late presidential election,  racing around the globe at the speed of light.  So much easier than shining the light of culpability on their own weak, erratic and blatantly partial performance.  And I indicated as much to my friend.    

So rather than try to keep my sleepy eyes open long enough to turn the following comment thread into a decent essay, I'm going to reproduce said thread here, verbatim.    

Me:  It's interesting that the Times chose to perform this little bit of (highly unusual for these days) investigative reporting based on a private citizen's erroneous tweet.

I get that fake news burning across social media like wildfire is a problem. But perhaps the Times might also write an expose on how live reporting on major stories by mainstream media outlets like the Times itself becomes perverted and jumbled by this "need for speed" that seems to be the main priority in 21st-century journalism. Reports on breaking news have become an agonizing process of "react and retract."

I remember being frustrated as hell trying to glean the actual stories from the 24-hour garbage stream generated by the media during events like the Boston Marathon bombing and Newtown. In both those cases, the lives of innocent men were nearly ruined when the MSM circulated erroneous identifications of possible suspects based on...what?

The point I'm trying to make (badly) is that the mainstream media are every bit as culpable as what they condescendingly refer to as "the blogosphere" for the genesis and spread of "fake news." They simply prefer to scapegoat the non-professionals rather than address their own sins.

Friend:  There's a very significant difference between professional news organizations which try to live up to their long-standing reputations for reliable reporting (and sometimes fail), and bullshit purveyors. The NY Times and Washington Post have had to publicly apologize for such failures, but I would not compare them with the likes of Breitbart, Infowars, AddictingInfo and Occupy Democrats, to name a few of the worst.

Me:  I disagree. I no longer see a SIGNIFICANT difference between "professional" news organizations and what you call "bullshit purveyors." If the difference was black and white, we wouldn't need an agency like snopes to discern what is real and what is false. There would be such an obvious difference between truth and bullshit that we could simply turn to our favorite news organizations with their "long-standing reputations" to get the real story. You and I both know this is no longer the case.

The model of careful, well-researched factual reporting has been completely scrapped by the 21st-century MSM. In video journalism, because news is no longer public service information, it is entertainment; and in print media because they have bowed to the immediacy of the internet. Most daily newspapers are no longer any more than human interest magazines. They don't report the news, because by the time a newspaper can research and print a story, it's no longer "news." And when a story is so huge they are compelled to report--such as Newtown or Boston--they fall into the same trap of hurry-up hearsay as the citizen bloggers and bullshit rags. Sure, the reputable news agencies might go back and retract misinformation, but the problem is, in this day of tweet and retweet, link and re-link, it's impossible to unring the bell of bad reporting. As this NYT article aptly demonstrated.

Perhaps the debacle of this election cycle can regenerate a market for "slow," factual news. Perhaps we are learning that REAL reporting takes time, and we can...we MUST...refine the art of PATIENCE while waiting for the truth.

Friend:  You don't see much of a difference. We will have to disagree on that. Even my local papers are more reliable than many of the websites that end up in my FB newsfeed. In this post-truth era, with a President-elect who is infamous for making stuff up and for re-tweeting nonsense with no basis in fact, we are going to need reliable news sources, and a healthy dose of skepticism is going to be required too - even when reading the NY Times. And we all need to pause before we pass along what could be fake news to our FB friends. When a bell cannot be un-rung, it is important not to ring it in error.

Me:   I think the difference between you and me on this question lies in location, location, location. You basically live in New of the largest and most diverse cities in the world. I live in the sticks. And yet, even out here in the sticks, we USED to have decent news. Both the Oregonian and the Eugene Register Guard were award-winning newspapers in their heyday. Both have been reduced to what amounts to daily versions of "Parade" magazine. They don't even bother reporting on national or international news to any extent at all. Newspapers all over the country have suffered the same fate. Possibly NYC is one of the last bastions of worthwhile print reporting...I don't know. I don't live there. I could subscribe to the New York Times...but I'm of the opinion that even that venerable paper has succumbed to the realities of 21st-century media, and relies more on its reputation than on any actual prize-winning reporting being done today.

And, trust me, I'm not defending the crap websites like Occupy Democrats or AddictingInfo. I realized a long time ago that they were simply left-wing versions of shit like Breitbart or the Free Republic. They are no less guilty of the crime against humanity that IS the election of DJT to the Presidency than the alt-rightest of "news" outlets. My general method is to discount anything that is obvious incitement, and fact check the rest. Can't say I was never guilty of "sharing" bullshit during this past election cycle...but I will be MUCH more cautious in future.

I feel strongly that the media played a H.U.G.E. role in the national tragedy unfolding before our eyes this sad November.   Social media and the blogosphere were a disaster, yes.  But the mainstream media completely bungled everything about this election, from soup to nuts.  Their new mission statement of news media as entertainment rather than information has served the American people a great big shit sandwich.  If we can't figure out how to drag the news media back to truth and public service, kicking and screaming though that will surely be, we will not only continue to be stuck with the political monstrosity we now have, but it will get much, much worse.  Hard to know how much farther down there is to go...but if we don't make some drastic changes NOW, we're going to find out. 

Rise Up, Sisters

Thursday, November 10, 2016

This Is What I'm Talking About

THIS is what I was referring to in my last photography post:   the kind of encounter/photograph I live for. 

This little owl (only little in comparison to the burly GHO's I usually come upon) was sitting in a branch on a tree about twelve feet above the road.  Pretty much right out there in front of god and everybody.  And (s)he just sat and calmly posed for several minutes while I performed all kinds of gyrations inside my van, trying to get decent pictures through the windshield. When I inched the car forward and rolled down the passenger side window so I could get some shots NOT through the glass (and it's amazing how much clearer those shots turned out), she just tilted her head a little, quizzically, as if to say, "Whatcha doin'?"  and continued to show me all her best angles.

Our encounter lasted several the end, she stayed and I drove away from her.  Totally geeked out and thanking the Universe all the way...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Election Day 2016

Universe:  You know, all this turmoil is just a very small ripple in a very small bucket compared to All There Is..

Me:  I know.  But our very small bucket desperately needs some calm and stability.  Please?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let Me Out!

I absolutely love being outdoors this time of year.  It seems like I can't get enough of it.  Contrary me, as always--since most people are starting to chafe from the restrictions of rain, chill and early darkness. But when has it ever been my way to love what everyone else loves, or do what everyone else does?

Mornings on my "coffee deck" are my special delight.  I rummage around in the greenhouse and collect seeds, nuts, mealworms and other treats to spread around for the birds, then I sit back and watch the garden come to life.  Anyone who thinks fall and winter are when everything slows down and goes dormant just isn't looking. 

This year the draw to be outdoors seems stronger than ever.  I have no patience for laundry or dishes or vacuuming or scrubbing floors.  I want to be outside with the leaves and the sprinkles and the slanting sun.  I want to experiment with different foods and shelters for the birds and the wildlife.  I want to be right out there in the middle of things when my yard hosts a new or different guest or two.

Two mornings in a row last week, my maple tree--from which two seed feeders and a suet feeder dangle--hosted a flock of what I call, because of their stacatto nasal chattering, "eck-eck birds."  I also call them parking lot birds, because they are most often spotted waddling around parking lots, picking bugs and other tidbits off car grills and blacktop.

Blackbirds.  I've never had them come to the yard before, mainly because I just don't seem to put out what they like to eat.  To have this large group of blackbirds come down and fill the tree--"eck-eck-ing" the entire time--was certainly unusual.  For it to happen while I was sitting out there not ten feet away from them was remarkable indeed. 

Of course, I had to consult my reference book to see what a visit from blackbird might portend.  What I read made immediate sense.

"If blackbird shows up, it means:  an archangel is with you, watching out for you and helping you connect with Nature and the Nature spirits.
"Call on blackbird when you feel overwhelmed with city life and you want to connect with Nature."

Okay.  I get that.  And it sounds perfect to me.         

Friday, November 4, 2016

Photography Issues

Still tossing around the idea of the 600mm lens... 

When I’m out in the field, trudging around through woods, sand and rocks, the big lens doesn’t seem like a great idea.  I’m not as sure-footed as I once was, and it’s all I can do sometimes to keep myself from going ass over teakettle over a fallen log or a loose stone.  The bifocals make all this even more of a challenge.  The brain tends to block out what is out of focus, so you can’t just count on walking in unfamiliar territory with your eyes trained on the road ahead…you have to LOOK DOWN to see the small obstacles over which you will trip and kill yourself.  Prowling through the woods staring at my feet is not really conducive to spotting the wildlife which is the entire reason I’m in the woods to begin with.  Having to juggle and protect $2.5k worth of camera equipment that weighs ten pounds complicates the situation to the point of “why bother?”

I’ve been trying to formulate an honest judgment about the lens by paying attention to the way I take pictures…gauging whether a tripod and 600mm lens would really result in pictures so much greater than the ones I get now that it would be worth the investment and the hassle.  There have been a few times in the past couple of days where a better telephoto would have come in handy…but only one instance I can think of where I might have had time to set up the whole rig, tripod and all, and snap off several shots without spooking the subject.  I’m leaning toward the conclusion that the big lens would be more of a frustration and a burden than an asset. 

This morning, I had somewhat of an epiphany when looking at pictures posted on the “Oregon Wildlife Photographers” page:   Some obviously photo-shopped shots taken from very far away.  Well, yeah…I see birds that are really far away, too.  But a large part of the fascination for ME is becoming part of the environment.  It’s not just about getting pictures, it’s about the thrill of getting close enough to get good pictures with the rig I already own. 

Right now, I think I'll be better served by investing in a really nice tripod…I’m ready to concede that my skills at hand-held photography have deteriorated to the point where I need to be able to steady the camera with more than just my own body.  Well-placed fence posts and tree trunks come in handy, but they’re not always where you want them when you need them.  The trick is to find a nice light-weight unit that won’t be a hideous burden to carry around, but will still be sturdy enough to do the job.  Off to the internet to do some research (since I know asking the advice of readers will only result in a depressing chorus of crickets…)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Be Careful What You Wish For

Back when I was a first-grader in Catholic school, our reading primer presented little morality plays designed to teach us more than just how to read.  One story was about a little boy who chanted “Rain, rain, go away…” when he wanted to play outside and the weather wouldn’t cooperate.  The rain went away, alright…for months and months.  The crops withered, the stock died, his family’s well dried up.  Pretty heavy shit for a six-year-old…obviously it left an impression on ME. 

Be careful what you wish for.

Sister Vianney was the principal at our grade school;  a grumpy old nun, a brilliant woman who didn’t much connect with the students.  We feared her more because of her stern visage and haughty detachment than because of anything she actually did.  Knowing the transitory nature of nuns’ assignments, we all wished very hard that she would go away…soon.  Finally, when I was in about fifth grade, Sister Vianney was reassigned.  Par-ty!!  Then, in stormed Sister Paul Marie.  Taller, louder and way more animated than Sister Vianney.  She connected with the kids plenty—with a wooden paddle. 

Be careful what you wish for.

I’m reminded of this every time I think about this year’s election.  Between 2000 and 2008, we lefties hated on George W. Bush something fierce.  And there was plenty to hate:  the politicization of 9/11, an illegal war, torture, the Patriot Act, inappropriate Supreme Court nominations, the tanking of the economy.  Bush himself was a compliant political puppet of the guys with the money.  We dubbed him “The Shrub,” called for him to be arrested for war crimes, mocked him mercilessly for his tendency toward verbal gaffes.  Safe to say we thought him utterly unworthy of our respect, so we very loudly and publicly showed him none.        

There are times, these days,  that I almost prostrate myself before the Creator to beg forgiveness for the abuse we heaped upon George Bush.  Because waiting in the wings to take his place is the unmitigated universal disaster that is Donald Trump. 

Be careful what you wish for. 



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It All Comes Down To One. Last. Game.

To all the great players who never played a world series game, who never even got close, and all the fans, young and old, for whom hope has sprung eternal...

...this one's for you!