Curated events in the life of an individual

From the files of fortuitous happenstance.

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On the lives of pixels.

Image
I am in front of my computer yet again. I’ve had so many hours delineated by 1440 X 900 pixels. I have stared at them for so long that I have come to know them by name; (752,400) is Joe, and lest I forget, Richard lives nearly alone in the corner at (3,5). Richard (3,5) spends most of his life in a grey #B0B0B0, tantalizingly close to an embossed Apple he’ll never take a bite of. He gets so jealous of Joe, whose central real estate gives him so many options. Richard (3,5) sneers from his tiny corner when Joe (752,400) suddenly swings from #000000 to #FFFFFF, sometimes pausing at skin-pink #FF9999 when there’s porn, or sky-blue #87CEEB as nearby pixels Matthew (759,399) and Isabel (755,406) bring tropical birds to life in deep-red #FF0000.

The only excitement for Richard (3,5) comes when he’s suddenly thrust into a fullscreen video. He’s excited at this, but then again, his only chance to shine isn’t exactly “shining”. He just goes from grey #B0B0B0 to the darkest black #000000. Two shades, black or grey. So tiresome. So few options. Sure, there are a lot of other pixels in his lot that share his same fate, but Richard doesn’t care. He doesn’t have the notoriety of Rebecca at (0,0) or the far-flung address of Julie at (1439,0). They live on the edge, so far from the reaches of my eyes that they can at least live their lives in peace. They don’t have to be looked at in their plainness, ridiculed for their static states. But Richard does. Because Richard will always be black or grey, and never anything in between.

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Crab Fishing In Pacifica

Pier

Well over a hundred fisherfolk came out for crab on Tuesday morning.

With all of the hub-bub about a lack of commercially available Dungeness crab due to price disputes between wholesale buyers and fishermen, Californians from at least as far afield as Sacramento were out and about in Pacifica on Tuesday hoping to catch their own. On the Pacifica Pier, around a hundred intrepid fisherfolk ranging in age from eight to over eighty were plying the waters in search of the sometimes elusive fall catch. Armed with both crab baskets and pole-cast snares, they patiently waited for their potential meal tickets, chatting amongst each other in languages ranging from English to Spanish, Vietnamese to Mandarin.

After chatting with a couple of people fishing, I started talking with Stephen Piña of Livermore, one of those fishing on the pier. He’d brought out his daughter Jorlynn and her friend Kelly McKinney to do some crab fishing, but as of that moment had come up short. As luck would have it, Jorlynn decided to check her trap right as was chatting with her father, and she struck gold. Smiles alighted as they pulled in the trap. Not only was it a crab, but it was a big one. Jorlynn had caught a nine inch crab, and considering the legal size limit is five and three quarters, that is quite a beauty. A bystander said that a crab like that would fetch twenty dollars at market prices, not a bad return on some sardines and a little patience. Passersby were amazed at the crab she had caught, some saying it was the largest they’d seen.

The young woman created quite a buzz with her catch. People from all over the pier came to check out the monstrous crab that she’d caught. Most were impressed with the fact that a young woman caught what may well have been the largest crab of the day, and that she was poised for more. In the midst of this, I came to a realization.

The incredible diversity of the crab fisherfolk is one of the most heartening parts of the Pacifica experience. Few places in modern America have such a diverse assembly of different races, backgrounds, and ethnic groups not only occupying the same space, but actually positively interacting with each other in a place where the frequently divisive issues of race were cast aside in favor of shared experience and camaraderie. Instead of mutual suspicion, there was mutual laughter, with people cracking jokes with each other about how many crabs they’d caught and who was giving someone else some away for free. I talked with one man who said that though he was disabled and unemployed, the pier at Pacifica gave him the opportunity to stay happy every day, and a chance to escape the “riff-raff” of where he lived. Brought together with catching crabs, the Pacifica pier is a place where the idea of the American melting pot still lives, even if the pot is also full of crabs.

The Day Has Finally Come

Marchers in San Francisco on October 15th, 2011

For the past decade, I waited. Waited for the fires of the Twin Towers to finally smolder into ashes, for the psychopomps to carry the last of the dead to their final rest. I waited for Americans to finish their grieving, to allow time to heal the wounds of the shocked and awed.

The wait is over.

What started as a simple call to arms by a few Canadian activists and overtly theatrical internet agitators finally manifested itself on September 17, 2011. At first, only a few decided that this was their calling, their time to show the world what they really thought about the way it was headed. Others heard their call. After just over a month, the Occupy Wall Street movement grew from a hashtag on Twitter into a physical occupation of well over a thousand cities worldwide in as far-flung places as New Zealand and Japan to as close to home as Sacramento, California and Providence, Rhode Island. For the first time in many of their lives, people long accustomed to merely venting their frustrations among friends, on their blogs or by deep sighs late in the night are taking to the streets; not to rally behind a savior in the form of a new hope, but to take a stand and attempt to wrest control of our world from those that would destroy it.

They call themselves many things: Occupiers, The 99%, The People. Their protest signs tally the grievances: overt monetary control of the political process, gross income inequality, bailouts for banks on the taxpayer’s tab. Their power comes from the variety of their beliefs, their own personal axes to grind. By not beseeching supplication from elected “leaders,” the Occupiers are taking a hint from a famous idea put forth by Albert Einstein: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” That powerful idea is what motivates me to join this movement.

After 28 years of careful observation of the world in which we live, it has come to my attention that in order for the great experiment known as civilization to continue its path toward the edification of humanity above that of a simple beast, we must choose, together, right now, as a species. We can choose to continue to see what happens with our current structures and worldviews, hoping that we get lucky in the eleventh hour just as the combined weight of environmental destruction, resource depletion, and bellicose individualism come to a head. We might come through that, as a species, but only through much loss and bloodshed as we unwind the last gifts of this great earth in a consumptive death spiral. We could just as easily end it all in searing fireballs and watch 10,000 years of effort be obliterated within a month’s time. The future of our species is not something I am willing to gamble with due to a simple lack of imagination and desperate clinging to outmoded patterns of thought.

I propose a different solution.

Standing at the cusp of our potential oblivion, we can choose to work together for the common dreams of humanity. We can choose to stop letting the sellers of fear get within our ears and tell us it cannot be done. We can choose to abandon the promise of quarterly profits for the promise of a future as a species. We can choose to let the whispers of our hearts drown out the doubts in our minds.

We can choose to have compassion.

Each mind that makes that choice has the power to re-create the world. Each mind that makes that choice silences those that would seek to scoff at compassion as the stuff of dreamers. Each mind that stops believing in the phantom power of those in the revolving-door gambling houses makes them less and less relevant.

Those that are afraid of this power that we all hold might try and keep themselves at bay, saying things like “That’s the way the world works,” or “You can’t get rid of all of the problems.” I don’t expect that we can get rid of all of the problems. What I propose is that we might, as a species, decide that we wish to cast aside our ancient tribal questions of us and them as an experiment to see where we can go. Replace the currently directionless Leviathan of our world with one that enshrines the rights of all to thrive. A world where our imaginations are allowed to flourish, where we no longer must bow to the dictates of simple survival and can all exist as equal players in a game of joy and wonder.

I finally decided to wake up from the nightmare. I can only hope that others will too.

The Unkown Vengeance Weapon

Contrary to popular belief, the V2 was not the last of Hitler's somewhat successful "Vergeltungswaffen" or Vengeance Weapons. The "Flugkörperburrito" was successfully used to score great deals at Harrods well into the 1960's.

Hitler Didn't Find What He Wanted at Harrods

Contrary to popular belief, the V2 was not the last of Hitler’s somewhat successful “Vergeltungswaffen” or Vengeance Weapons. The “Flugkörperburrito” was successfully used to score great deals at Harrods well into the 1960’s.

I watched you in the headlights

We were at the show, I arrived separately from you
Things seemed OK, but underlying
Tension showed up in your face in fleeting
Expressions of discontent.
You got on stage, sang a song, felt better,
My shutter clicked the whole time.
It ended, unwound, we left together.
Stopped on the curb, our cars at antipodes.
Stared into each other’s eyes, I looked for meaning.
I knew you wanted me to follow,
Part of me rebelled.
We played this tit for tat for a while.
You would try to smile, first one side then the other,
Your face half-lit by the street lamps under the shadow of your hat.
Eyes wished to see some return from my half.
You started to shiver in that blue dress you loved,
Worn a year before to the day.
Misty drizzle and cold, I told you I had to build something.
You walked away to your car, told me you’d be alright.
I couldn’t move, so I just stared until startled by your headlights.
I walked away slowly, not sure at what I had done.
Then got into my car.

Spreading Cheer

 

A Happy Pedestrian on Broadway

In the middle of December, I was visited by Kelley, the owner of the condo in which I currently reside. Deciding to make her visit memorable, I took her out for a falafel and we went for a walk down Broadway. Turning the corner from 2nd Avenue on to Broadway, a short walk brought something fascinating into my view: someone dressed as Santa Claus was spreading good cheer through the streets of Nashville. As a photographer, this proved an irresistible opportunity, as it is not everyday that one is able to wander the streets with a passable facsimile of St. Nick. Catching up to the man, I asked him if I could follow him around for a while as he walked around.
“You can come for a little while if you want,” was his response, and so I did.

His effect on the throngs queuing up for the honky-tonks and bars was impressive. People smiled, cheered and reached for high-fives:

High Five For Santa

As we walked, I got to talking to “Santa.” It turns out his name is James, and his motive for doing this was one of self-preservation. He explained to me that for years he had been a bit of a “humbug” around Christmas, and that he had been sad due to the death of his father a number of years ago and the death of his mother in 2007. After years of being depressed during the holidays, James decided to go out into the world and spread good cheer. He would no longer allow his sadness to control him. He wanted to make the world a better place, in his own way. Read the rest of this page »

This Is What An Endangered Species Looks Like

 

An Endangered Species of Crayfish

Cambarus pristinus, an endangered species of crayfish

During a recent hike at Burgess Falls State Park, I came across this little fellow in the hands of a curious fellow hiker. I talked with the young man for a second, and made sure that this little guy made it safely into my hands. There was something striking about its blue colored claws, so after a bit of searching on the internet it turns out that it is an example of Cambarus pristinus, the pristine crayfish. Although listed by the ICUN Redlist (a list of the world’s endangered and threatened species) as “Data Deficient,” more localized sources say that this is an endangered species.  Native to the Caney Fork and other rivers, it is threatened by the silting caused by the cutting down of trees for lumber. When trees are felled near rivers, the soils and sediments that their roots once held are free to wash into waterways, often choking them. Like so many species, its continued survival is dependent on human actions that are seemingly unrelated to its habitat.

Strangely enough, Tennessee is a biodiversity hot-spot for crayfish with 78 species, more than any other state in the country. By random chance, my encounter with this little guy parallels the recent discovery of a new species of crayfish in Tennessee. Idenification was made using the key found here.

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