May 17

Mors Ab Alto

I remember the 1970s. Not in realtime, because I was too young and my memory is too sketchy. But I remember the 1970s much better after the fact, because the 1970s did not end on December 31st, no. And they didn’t end, entirely, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. No. The 1970s were a decade that wanted to hold on —
because the Boomers couldn’t acknowledge the idea that the Sixties were even farther away, I suppose — and that’s how I have most of my memories of the 1970s.

Take the game of death from above. Yes, we had a lawn dart set. The Regent Jarts, as I recall. The packaging looked like this. We had those things long after every other neighbor was concerned for their kids safety. I don’t remember them being played much really, probably for safety reasons, but I do remember them being in the basement.

They’d been banned before, but that was somehow overturned in court. And then the lawn dart manufacturing special interests lucked out and found a huge hit on their hands in the 1980s. But there were injuries, too many injuries, thousands of them when people started looking at the data, and at least one death. A grieving father worked tirelessly to get the things banned and, just before the issue was to be considered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, another child was put into a coma following a lawn dart accident.

So in 1988, just before Christmas, the things were banned in the United States. Soon after, Canada followed. Today, you can buy replacement parts, new metal points or the plastic fletching. But you can’t purchase the finished product.

You can, however, pick this up at Kroger:


I remember the 1970s. Back then, outdoor toys didn’t always use the word “fitness” as a marketing toy. That started in the 1990s.

Apr 17

What day is it?

I skimmed through Twitter before I sat down to write this, as I sometimes do. And I had three intelligent tweets in a row. That’s worth pointing out:

Elsewhere, another day at the office. We’ve wrapped up all of the shows, except for one final shoot tomorrow. There are oral histories being booked and recorded. Classes are winding down. Parties and end-of-the-school-year meetings are being held. I attended two of the former and one of the latter. I got a nice thank you card.

And I thought I might start going through some old videos. I had this idea last week while I was working on new video graphics. (I have three new opening and closing videos after spending some quality time with After Effects.) So here is something I shot in Belgium in 2015:

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a Roman Catholic church in the heart of Brussels. Beautiful church. Worship here is thought to date back to the ninth century. The current structure was built between the 13th and 16th centuries. The stained glass windows and confessionals go back that far. The pulpit was added in the 17th century and the carillon, heard here, was installed in 1975. During 20th century restorations the remains of a Romanesque church and a Romanesque crypt were discovered.

And now I want another Belgian waffle.

Apr 17

Quick notes on the road

Out the door this afternoon and headed for the road. A usual song, but one I sing less these days, of course. Anyway, loaded up the car, opened the door, looked down:

Perhaps this is the week, then. Maybe it happened so gradually and suddenly that no one really noticed:

You know the “Remove all the pegs but one” game. The triangle shape of wood with 13 holes and the 12 tees. You take the tees off the board one by one, jumping to empty spots, jumping over tees as you would in checkers. The goal is to leave just one.

I have had a copy of this game for years, a long ago Christmas gift from my grandparents. As a kid, of course, I developed a sequence to leave one peg. I worked a good while on that. And it turns out that being able to do that took all of the fun out of the game. But I was the kid that figured out how to open safety gates rather than climb over them. I understood when Egon said, in Ghostbusters 2, that he had a Slinky once, but he straightened it. So, anyway, I have to try to remember to forget those steps to the peg game.

There’s another, unconventional, goal to the game. In this version you try to leave a tee in each corner. I don’t know if I’ve ever achieved that, mostly because by the time I had heard someone mentioned it I had learned not to create a series for it. I only play the game when it is on the table at a restaurant, anyway, which it was tonight. When I did this:

Leave five and you’re an “egg-no-ra-moose.” Leave six and you’re just no count, I suppose.

Tomorrow: Our actual drive, and other stuff.

Mar 17

Nothing special, except what is

As a shutterbug, and nothing more, I take a few thousand photographs a year. Not a lot compared to photographers, but enough to have a little volume to it. Put another way, enough to make it impressive that I remember the circumstances or least the location of many of them, but not so many photographs that knowing any background is a lost cause. And I’ve done this for … a lot of years now. Sometimes you take more, sometimes you take less, of course. Sometimes you’re holding a real camera, sometimes it is just your phone. Sometimes you’re studying the moment trying to get it just so. Other times, you’re just shooting from the hip, as it were. Nothing special.

Sort of like this:

I was walking from here to there in Franklin Hall, walking south I suppose because this is the late afternoon and that’s the sun beaming in from Presidents Hall, which must be to the west, relative to my position here, of course. And if there is anything I’ve learned in the thousands of photos I take every year over the course of many years now I’ve learned that I seem to like shots of repetition and that I like those dramatic times when the sun breaks through into the moment. Also, I’ve learned that that moment is fleeting. I took five shots of the above, for example, and two of them gave me that big burst of sun. There’s nothing special about that.

Well, there’s a big ball of fusion out there and we are at a happy and safe distance that allows for the magic to happen here on earth so that animals could grow and then other things could happen and our ancestors discovered tools and ate the right things and then languages were formed and more, better tools were built and then storytelling became a thing which led to larger aspirations which meant exploration and experimentation and then domesticated plants and animals and societies and boats and the new world and electricity and this building and you, and me, here, today. So that part is spectacular, sure. But of this picture itself, there’s not much special, really.

But it did remind me of a similar picture I took in another school building about 20 years ago. Looking west, sun exploding in, overwhelming the settings and the sensor and throwing everything in silhouette. I wonder how far in my giant box of old print photographs I’ve have to dig to find that. It is a giant box, organized in no particular fashion. But as soon as I rounded the corner and saw the sun coming through the Franklin Hall windows and then through the glass in the doors of Presidents Hall I thought of that other photograph. Probably hadn’t in years. But it was right there, in my mind, another empty hall, another silly reason to take a photograph, another thing to file away. Nothing special to it.

You wonder what becomes of all of the things you file away in your mind, but then they sometimes comes right back. Maybe that’s the most special thing of all.

Shooting a talk show tonight:

The topic was helicopter parents of student-athletes. They should have brought in specialists and experts.

Mar 17

Alone in the woods, with sunglasses and soup

Each day I make use of at least one weather app, the smart thermostat which is still patiently trying to convenience me it somehow knows what is going on outside and a variety of windows which display both front and back yards. I do all of this at night and again in the morning, before I put a single thing in my pockets to leave. And then I put the things I carry in my pockets, so many things. And then I go to the garage, because that is where I park my car.

I open the garage door, because that is easier than driving through it and replacing it every week. And then I settle into my car, crank it and undertake the normal procedures one uses. I put my foot on the brake, select reverse and then throw my arm over the other seat and look backward because that’s how everyone did it when I was growing up and that’s still the coolest move in a car. I snicker at the idea of a backup camera. No, seriously, every day, that makes me chuckle. And then I move the car, each time I am amazed by my good fortune of avoiding hitting things with the passenger-side mirror. And then I am in the driveway, and I back up about 15 more feet and I’m in the road.

Only, today, I was confronted by this thing that I knew from both ancient DNA and my own dim, distant memory.

That’s actually overselling it. Of course it was the sun. I was pleased to see the sun. “This is,” I thought to myself, “a sign of things to come.” That thought was immediately followed by “My, but that’s bright!”

Don’t I own some device that was designed to aid in the filtering of the bright and magical UV rays which are now descending on me for the first time since, oh, November? However long ago it was I had to really struggle to remember — and this part is legitimate — where I store my sunglasses in my car. But I used them today. So pleased was I that, in the parking lot at work I had to find a sunny spot for this picture:

I used to use this article in writing classes. It is about a man who stayed a true hermit, in the woods of Maine, for 27 years before police picked him up on a series of cabin break-ins. One reporter, the author of that piece, was the only person the guy talked to. (Turns out, I just learned, that story has become one of GQ’s most-read pieces ever. I’d give students that article on a Monday and would ask them to discuss it the following Monday. The few that would actually talk about it thought it creepy. At 20 pages of intriguing brilliance, most just thought it too long and admitted they gave up on it. Their loss.)

Anyway, the story appears again, by the same talented reporter, Michael Finkel, who has now written about it in The Guardian. And now he’s got a book on the story, released earlier this month. Read the GQ version, it is worth the time.

Tonight I learned that Allie likes minestrone:

She likes it a lot. Licked the bowl clean. Worked hard at getting the edges. I’ll have to leave her a bit of the broth next time.