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?...to
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.
never fear, invisible audience!I'm back,
and ready to make it happen.
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:
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.
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,
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
York...one 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.
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
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 minutes...in the end, she stayed and I drove away from her. Totally geeked out and thanking the Universe all the way...
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?
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.
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."
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…)
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
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.
I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him. --Abraham Lincoln
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Where I'm From
I am from station wagons, from kool-aid and turf-builder.
I am from the three bedroom, one bath ticky-tacky box
with the swath of weedy lawn; from lightning bugs,
June bugs, and mosquitoes the size of small birds.
From nights near as hot as the days,
spread-eagled on sticky sheets
crickets creaking, horns honking,
trains rumbling and whistling in the distance…
I am from snow to the eaves, jewel-studded ice storms
and green-black thunderstorms with sideways rain.
I am from bright red tulips, honeysuckle berries,
and worms on the driveway after a cloudburst;
from daisies, tiny wild strawberries, “Queen Anne’s Lace”
and crashing the kite into power lines.
I am from “Look what followed me home from school”
and never having too many animals. From Taffy and Rusty
and Sunny, the yellow headed parakeet, who could say
“Happy Birthday” but only when he thought
no one was listening…
I am from the women who shuttle the carpool,
punch the clock, scrub the toilet,
then climb into the bottle, the herb
or the fantasy to quiet the noise in their heads
and the men they choose to rescue
or who choose to rescue them.
From “When you meet the right one, you’ll just know”
and “Your dad was a virgin when we were married…”
I am from the dutiful eldest daughter who paired off
home made and pro-created at the appointed time,
and the other four who didn’t.
I am from the tearful Catholic and the stoic agnostic;
the rope stretched taut between belief and unbelief,
pulled one direction, then the other…
the eternal tug of war never won.
I’m from pioneers of urban exile; before the country clubs and the soccer and the Rolls Royces.
I’m from the first McDonald’s and the last Tastee Freez.
I am from the great moldering box in the upstairs closet;
roaring twenties sepias stacked on
shiny square instamatic shots, discoloring with age.
I am from the five stair-steps, the Christmas trees, the campfires,
and the blurred mountains captured from a moving car.
I am from the unlikely union of a country boy and a city girl,
brought together by Hitler and Hirohito;
and the neighborhood of compromise
that kept them both sane…almost.
On Where We're Destined to Go...
As for life, I'm humbled, I'm without words sufficient to say
how it has been hard as flint, and soft as a spring pond,both of these and over and over,
and long pale afternoons besides, and so many mysteries beautiful as eggs in a nest, still unhatched though warm and watched over by something I have never seen -a tree angel, perhaps,or a ghost of holiness.
Every day I walk out into the world to be dazzled, then to be reflective. It suffices, it is all comfort - along with human love,
dog love, water love, little-serpent love,sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about
stopping, and lying down at last to the long afterlife, to the tenderness yet to come, when time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,
and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death, I can't wait to be the hummingbird, can you?
"Sometimes I go around feeling sorry for myself; and all the while I am being carried by the wind across the sky." --Chippewa saying.