Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Through the Lens and Under the Scope

Mixed media has infiltrated our lives for over one hundred years in various forms. Whether it is newspaper, movies, photographs, internet or the almost forgotten realm of radio, media is a constant source of our daily lives. Almost everyone I know has a cell phone that takes pictures and videos that can instantly upload the information to the blue nowhere. All the while, in the corners of their houses sit video cameras, 35 mm cameras and digital cameras collecting dust. Newspapers accumulate in fire pits still housed in their weather protective plastic bags, forgotten and rotting slowly away to nothing. Books sit on shelves while their owners sit on couches with modern e-readers skimming through the latest best seller. In coffee shops around the world baskets which used to house loaner books have now been replaced by trash cans while the patrons open their laptops and surf the news websites for the latest disaster pictures which have been uploaded to the site not by paid professionals but by armatures who refused to leave the disaster zone under mandatory evacuation orders.

Am I guilty of this? Yes, I am to a certain extent.

I’ve been a videographer, photographer and to a certain extent a biographer over the years. Just like you and your friends have. But recently, well, as of a few years ago, I’ve slowly stopped photographing a lot of what goes on in my life. Instead I try to live in the moment and absorb what I am experiencing without having the barrier of a lens in front of me. An intentional immersion into what I am experiencing and the people with whom I am sharing the moment with. My senses got into automatic overload at my command, flooding me with more information then my brain can handle. I love it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still take photos and I still upload them to my computer and sometimes to my facebook, twitter and google+ page but not like I used to. I try, and this is tricky, I really try to NOT record in any format what it is I am experiencing so that later, when I am alone on my porch, at my desk or even driving to work I can drag those memories kicking and screaming into my consciousness. Yes, sometimes these memories carry embarrassment, regret, the woulda's the shoulda's the coulda's but most of the time they carry smiles, laughter and a warmth that starts as a spark in my soul and passes through the rest of my body like a wildfire in a drought ridden forrest .

I can’t say as I’ve ever felt a true need to photograph my life in its entirety or even partially. I do remember when I purchased my first camera, it was a Cannon 35 mm and cost me $200.00 in the ships store onboard the USS Austin. I took a lot of pictures of foreign ports, sites and shipmates with that camera. I even trusted the development of the photos to the vendors in whatever port my ship happened to be in. It was an odd way of doing business, what a sailor or marine would do is go up to an authorized vendor, fill out a form with all pertinent information on it and give the film, form and money to the vendor. Then, when the ship hit the next port, your photos would be waiting for you there. I never really understood how this system worked but it did and everyone was cool with it. I am sure now, looking back, we broke all sorts of security protocols and I am also sure there is no system like this in place today.

When I gaze back in my history at the times when I was looking through the lens of my camera I have to admit, I was not fully living in the moment. I was concentrating more on the photograph and the subject of the photograph I was about to take. I was never fully “in the moment." My mind was unable to absorb the sounds, smells, chaos and order of daily life simply because I was concentrating on a particular feature through the microscopic lens of my camera. I missed stuff and I don’t know what it is that I missed. There are gaps in my memories because of these events. Words not remembered, laughter not heard, actions not observed, simply because I was living my moment in a plastic, metal and glass box.

Do I regret those lost moments? No, I mourn them but as a consolation I have photos to help remind me of what I thought was important then. Those help.

Where is this leading? Good question. I suppose in the name of complete exposure I should let you know that while over the past few years I have brought a camera with me to certain events, I never even thought about pulling it out and recording the moments of history in which I am an active observer and sometimes participant in. Instead I find myself sitting back and enjoying life as it comes to me. Just being a casual observer, and when I do find myself in the midst of the fracas and fray we call life, someone usually ends up recording me. This is a new experience, normally when I am involved in something I am the recorder not a contributor. All of which is a new experience for me, I’ve tried to not have photos taken of me and have attempted to maintain a low profile but now I am not so sure this was a course of action I should have pursued but it is one that has served me well in my past. It is also something I will endeavor to continue.

I’m not a fan of being in front of cameras, I’m more comfortable behind them, but when a friend wants their photo taken with me I gladly oblige. When a person wants to talk to me, I make a concerted effort to meet them on common verbal ground. Being under the scope of interest is fascinating and I’ve experienced it simply due to my fortunate career at the museum. And, while talking about trains, railroad history and toys is pleasurable it has taught me to actually live in the moment with the people I am with and I know will have me enjoying its memories for years to come.

Have a great week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The End of an Era

Last week it was announced that one of the online forums I am a member of is being shut down. And if you don’t know what an online forum is, I am truly sorry about this fact and you should probably stop reading right now and do a google search on online forums. This news would normally not affect me since there are so many other forums out in the great blue nowhere to access, but this particular one was not related to trains, toy trains, or how to repair toy trains. Nope this one was strictly for my amusement, and helped nurture a particular interest of mine that just could not be filled by some of the other online message boards. If you’re wondering what the message board was about I’ll gladly tell you… it was mainly about books.

But it was also about so much more…

This was the first forum I found where I met like minded folks who shared in the joy of horror literature, movies, music and underground press. People from all walks of life were on there and all of them were as accepting and open about their lives as a person could be. I made a lot of friends who introduced me to some amazing writers and musicians and for that I will forever be grateful. I met people who opened their homes and hearts to other folks in distress and help complete strangers through some of the toughest times in their lives. People who may look mean, dirty, ornery and nasty on the outside but with some of the biggest hearts I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

I know in the future we will still keep in touch, it is the way things are amongst us, but it will not lessen the blow we all feel with the closing of the doors to the home where we met. It’s been a fun two years for me on the forum with all my fellow F.U.K.U’s and I look forward to seeing them in the future whether in person, on twitter, facebook or even google plus.

One last note, I’d like to thank my old shipmate and salty dog Brian for giving us a meeting place to have fun.

Have a great week everybody.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

American Dream?

I know, I know. I should have had a new blog ready days ago and in my own defense, I did have one written. I just never posted it. And I probably will never post it. Why? I don’t know, there is no real answer for that question. But then again, I have a bunch of blogs, finished and unfinished on my hard drive. Some good, some not. This seems to be the way of things.

You see my dear reader, lately I’ve taken stock of my writings, both fictional and non-fictional and I am at a loss of time to be able to both effectively. It sucks.

My work schedule seems to be demanding more and more of my time and when I get home in the late hours of the day I am so wrecked I can’t even see straight let alone think coherent thoughts long enough to write down the drivel I’ve had coursing through my brain all day. Oh, in case you don’t know; I work approximately 64 hours a week between two jobs. Both jobs require my brain to be pretty active which, if I were 10 years younger wouldn’t be such a problem. As for my days off? Well, lets just say I don’t get 48 hours off in a row a week. I survive at a maximum of 24 and in those hours I like to spend time with my family or just sitting on my porch watching the world float by on four wheeled exhaust spewing machines and listening to the sounds of my neighbors live the life of the American Dream.

American Dream… that’s funny…

What is the American Dream in this new century of ours? You see, if we look back 100 years and take a snapshot of life in America in 1911 we would see the birth of air travel, there was no interstate commerce. Nor was there internet, cell phones, electricity in most houses was unheard of. Toy trains had just started to become a fad. No World War I or World War II. No Nazi’s or Al Quieda. No bottled water or decent plumbing. Life was lived at 25 miles per hour and people could keep up with the daily activities that consumed them. Hell, we were still on speaking terms with Cuba. Germany was still one country and as far as nuclear war, no one even knew what plutonium was.

Most Americans, at least from my research, just wanted peace and quiet and the ability to live their lives in the land of freedom and hope. People traveled by trains to get from one state to the next and usually spent their vacations with family for over 2 weeks. (I don’t think I want very many members of my family staying that long at my house but it worked for 20th century families.)

In the art world, there was no Piccaso or Warhol or Pollack. In the music world, the Blues and Jazz had yet to take its stranglehold on the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, John Coletrain and Billy Boy Arnold. As a matter of fact record players were not even in most homes nor were radios or televisions.

People went to work, school or stayed home and took care of the little things that built this country into what it was to become. If you wanted the news, you read the newspaper.

Today? Hmm, everyone wants the latest and greatest gadget on the electronic market; news is fed to you through the screaming fools on television and the internet. If you want facts you either google it or check Wikipedia and everyone accepts it for what it is. Cars race by with people in them at 70 miles an hour and no one has time to form coherent thoughts or sentences.

And maybe that is what we are becoming… mindless electronic addicted zombies who don’t even know our neighbors names. Friendships that were once based on the place you were born are now based on who you talk to online and when you see the latest pop movie at the multiplex. Real connections to folks are done through 140 characters or less. The American Dream of 1911 died with the advancement of technology and its innate ability to shrink the earth to a community the size of a small town in rural America where everyone knows everyone’s name.

I’m having a tough time with this right now; I’m trying to find my American Dream and I can’t seem to figure out what those two words mean. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Book Review

Ok, so I don’t normally do reviews for books or movies or even television shows. I have a simple reason as to why I don’t. It’s because everyone has their own preference and taste in what entertains them. And, I hate it when I read a review of a particular entertainment media that is negative or even positive and then I go and experience the shenanigans for myself and I walk away with a differing opinion. But I have to make an exception here. Simply because I really dig this story and the master of prose who wrote it, so if you don’t want to read a book review by yours truly, feel free to skip over this blog and continue on with your life. But… If you really want to hear about a crazy read filled with amazing characters… By all means…

Read on.

Sampson and Denial by Robert (Bob) Ford

This story takes place in Philadelphia and the characters that Bob has created in the less then genteel world of economic struggle are unapologetic in their raw grittiness of humanity. Or in some cases, their lack of humanity as the fight for survival in a world that is shrinking faster than the fall of Presidential G.W. Bush’s approval ratings in his last year in office. I’d like to be able to pinpoint this tale into one particular genre, but I can’t. It’s filled with suspense, love, horror, crime, supernatural and self discovery. The 128 page novella never seems to give the reader a chance to catch their breath as they become engrossed in the tapestry that resides inside the mind of the main character and his quest to save himself from certain doom. As the hero traverses in and out of crime ridden areas of a city where the only way to survive is to become top rat in a world of cutthroat villains, I found myself looking over my shoulder just to make sure I was in a safe environment.

The manner in which the tale unfolds, told through first person with a nice blend of flashbacks to fill in the reader of the hero’s motives is seamless. Only to bring you back to the modern day futile struggles of a man seeking to do good in a world that wants him to be bad. This gives the reader a chance to connect with the protagonist as he slips ever deeper into mindset of revenge and rage on his quest for a more redemptive life. There seems to be something for everyone in this story and I hope that you go out and get yourself a copy.

Oh, I almost forgot, the book will be available from ThunderstormBooks.com

P.S. I’ve read this book twice and I am going to do it again… real soon!