31 May 2009

Newly-scanned black and whites up on my Flickr

I just stashed a whole bunch of black and white photos from my college years on my Flickr page . I've decided over the past few days since getting my fancypants new camera that I really miss photography. I dunno if it'll ever be the same though....

I started taking pictures probably around sixth grade but always loved any opportunity to futz around with a camera for as far back as I can remember. In high school I took graphic arts classes and had access to a darkroom so I took a lot of photographs, but I took many of my best photos in college. The Iron Heritage set is a product of that.

The set contains black and white photographs of objects steeped in history but largely forgotten except for the odd tourist in Athens, GA. All the objects photographed in the set were forged in the Athens iron and machineworks, now nonexistent, and are so integrated into the landscape of Athens as to be difficult to really appreciate. My favourite of them all is the Iron Horse, found off a highway just outside of Athens, literally mere meters away from the centre of Nowhere. The horse is so majestic and powerful, even in its abstracted form, you can't help but pause even if you're driving by, slowing down just a little to try to take it in. Go ahead and slow down, there's nobody behind you for miles. It's easy to pass though, going 60mph down the road. I stopped and had a closer look. The horse struck me as painfully lonely, not only because of its isolation but because of its origin. It was a sculpture created by one of the art school faculty that was so hated by the rest of the campus that it was defaced nearly constantly and had to be removed from campus permanently so as not to cause a riot. So unappreciated and so solemn, it just seems very alone in that field.

The double-barreled cannon, not yet uploaded as of this blog, is another favourite, if only because it's such a ridiculous story. The double-barreled cannon, conceived in the times of the Civil War—or, as it is known in the South, The War of Northern Aggression—was invented by two Athenians for the war effort. The idea was that two cannon balls could be linked with a chain and loaded into the barrels, with the chain presumably hanging down in a loop in front. This would create a pants-shittingly terrifying projectile that would mow the enemy down. Its only recorded victim, who died during the first test-firing, was a cow far far away from the intended trajectory. What the brilliant inventors had forgotten to consider is that cannon loads are inconsistent at best, and even two fuses can't be guaranteed to burn down at the same speed, so one barrel fired noticeably earlier than the other, causing that cannonball to swing in an arc towards the other barrel, which fired soon thereafter, breaking the chain. One cannonball was the harbinger of a cow's demise and the other was never seen nor heard from ever again. Presumably during this test phrases like "Lawd a'merceh!" and "I do declare!" were heard. What gets me is the sheer chutzpah Athens has for proudly displaying this example of engineering gone horribly wrong; it's right in front of City Hall where everyone can see it.

The arches and fence around the main UGA quad are also pretty fascinating. They're a landmark, so much so that they're incorporated into Athens's official city seal. The city is absolutely flooded with photos of them that all look exactly the same. Every other wedding photograph taken in Athens is the happy couple posing on the Broad Street side of the arches, on the steps, with the camera facing through the arches towards the quad. It's understandable, I guess; the quad, being all green and filled with trees and classical greek architecture, is pretty photogenic. I get it. I just didn't want my photo of the arches to be typical, so I shot it at night from the quad looking out through the bushes onto Broad Street. What resulted is, I think, a more honest take on the arches, as I portrayed them as real things existing in a real city, not existing in some fairyland.

I'll upload some more tomorrow, as well as some old photographs from my grandfather (including some of middle school me... I probably won't be publishing those). Enjoy, space cadets!

19 May 2009

Thoughts of the Bay and my father.

I've been in the bay area for the past week and change, and I'm leaving tomorrow. I make it a point not to give into the temptation to change the time zone on my computer unless I move permanently somewhere, so my clock says "3.01am" right now; this is the time my body is supposed to think it is I guess. Last week's jetlag is a distant memory now so I'm wide awake, yet again. So maybe I can blog myself to sleep tonight.

I met an amazing pool player at the Jury Room in Santa Cruz earlier. He was very drunk but still somehow managed to mop the floor with me and my two companions, as well as the guy who played before us. He'd lost his father, age 85, to pancreatic cancer recently. I related, since I lost mine five years ago to colon cancer (five years exactly this past cinco de mayo). I felt for him, since there's no reason to believe that losing a parent when you're 60 should be that much easier than losing one when you're 20. Cancer, truly, has earned its place on my shit list.

I bring this up not just because of this chance meeting, but because earlier in the week I attended my first baseball game ever without my dad. I've never been into sports really, and baseball particularly is an acquired taste I think, but I have the fondest memories of those games we'd attended together. One in particular stands out. It was my dad's night for custody of me—my parents having been divorced since I was in 4th grade or so—and he was very, very late picking me up from school. I was in 8th grade and already in a shitty mood just existing at that point, so my dad's tardiness wasn't a welcome addition to the scene. I was pretty pissed, sitting around outside my middle school which, by the way, was in the absolute middle of nowhere.

Anyways my dad rolls up and asks if I want to go see a ball game in Atlanta. A new team had recently been created, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they were playing against the Braves at Turner Field. The game itself wasn't memorable enough to stick in my mind but for one embarrassing moment. The Diamondbacks, as I said, were still a new team, and they lacked cohesion still. They didn't have that vital unspoken coordination, when a pop fly ball is headed for the empty space between two outfielders and the shortstop, to instantly decide who should catch it. Apparently, they also had great focus and were keeping their eyes on the ball only, because all three players collided, got beaned with the ball, and let an easy out turn into a double base hit as they fell over, dusted themselves off, then threw the ball back infield. In my extremely limited experience of the sport, it was the most hilarious baseball moment I have ever witnessed to this day.

I remember my evil bitch of a stepmom saying that my dad watched sports so he'd have something to talk about with people, because he was so great at relating to people unlike him, but that was pure horseshit. My dad loved baseball enough to have books on the topic, enough to have signed photographs of a pre-steroids Roger Clemens and a pretty solid collection of baseball cards. He loved baseball enough to yell at me when I wasn't paying enough attention at games. My dad didn't bother to instill in me love for any sport except baseball.

I can't help but imagine that baseball is a very different thing than it was when he was a wee lad. Turner Field's construction was really the turning point for the Braves where they became just the Yankees of the South, overpaid babies who weren't even from Georgia anyway. So what's the point? The Cubs aren't all from Chicago, you know. The very idea that an entire baseball franchise could transplant to another city is just antithetical to the entire purpose of the game, and, furthermore, the purpose behind being a fan. If the Cubs moved to another city could anyone in Chicago still be a fan? Or would we all have to become (god forbid!!!) Sox fans?

I'm too rational about these things though, because I'm not a sports fan anyway. I can relate to a more basic love of the game like my dad had, though, because I'm really not that dissimilar to him at all (I see him every time I look in the mirror).

Every cinco de mayo I feel like I should write something, say something, do something to remember him, but I remember him all the time, in little conversations and little anecdotes like that one, memories I have always in my back pocket ready for easy reference. It's not that simple though. You can't just schedule all your grief for two days a year (the other: 8 July, his birthday). I have to wait for a moment I can bring it all back and make it all make sense, like the first baseball game I've been to without him.

I realized that, but I didn't feel sad at the game at all. Rather, I just had a great time with my friends, drinking beer, smoking really excellent ganja, eating cheap hot dogs, drinking more beer, shooting the proverbial shit, making fun of Coale 'cause the Royals were getting shellacked something fierce by the A's, and thinking to myself that I understand what my father dug so much about baseball. There really is nothing like it, and no other sport compares. So just like ever I hope my father would be proud of me and what I'm doing. At the very least I think he'd be happy I can still enjoy a ball game without him, and even happier that I was thinking of him in the process.

Sleep tight, space cadets.

12 May 2009

The saddest thing you'll read today

I don't remember how but I recently (today) got to reading Conservapedia and, more specifically, articles on other sites about Conservapedia. For those not in the know, Conservapedia is an attempt by far right-wing nutjobs to create their own alternative reality where Darwin's theory of natural selection is contentiously debated in the scientific community (spoiler alert: it's not, and is supported by an abundance of fossil and geological evidence as well as decades upon decades of good research) and where, apparently, homosexuality is an incredibly important subject. I'm not even joking. There are scores of articles just on homosexuality as it regards to nearly everything else (including smoking habits... yeah I don't get it either).

The saddest thing you'll read all day though is the talk page for a now-deleted article on the Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus. For those who don't know, the Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus was an internet prank from the olden days, back in the late 90s. I vaguely remember fooling some friends of mine with it then. This in itself wouldn't be particularly noteworthy, as apparently Conservapedia is vandalized often enough one single incident could barely be worth noting, but for the fact that it stayed on Conservapedia for some time.

Now, of course, Wikipedia gets vandalized too. Constantly. But those edits get cleared in minutes, not months. Same with Conservapedia; for the most part it looks like when people vandalize articles they get reverted promptly. The PNAO article didn't go away though. At this point they could have said they just didn't notice it, and with 20,000 or so pages on the site it's totally possible they didn't. But no. Instead, there is that talk page, where Andy Schlafly (Aschlafly) tries to play it off like it was a joke that totally fooled all the bloggers that were making fun of them for it.

So... what's the joke? If the joke is that we (the liberal-biased reality around them) thought it was a real article, then I don't get it. If Conservapedia is supposed to be "The trustworthy encyclopedia" then why would it have joke entries at all, however hilarious they might be? If instead it is meant to be a parody of environmentalism, then I still don't get it. As environmentalism satire it falls terribly flat, particularly since the joke isn't even original (as mentioned before, it appeared in 1998). He says "I can't deny being amused by thousands of liberal bloggers trying to ridicule Conservapedia based on a joke about themselves" but how is this a joke about Conservapedia, unless the joke really is that Conservapedia's editors are too stupid to notice that there's no such thing as a Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus and the very notion of one's existence is ludicrous? 'Cause if that's the joke, then I think it's pretty hilarious, but I don't think Andy Schlafly should really be the one laughing.

My advice to Andy would be to listen to Dpbsmith up top there. The better reaction would be to just claim you never got around to deleting it before, not to try to play it off like it's some joke the entire rest of the Internet failed to "get" when really it's obvious that you're the one with the egg on your face. Nice try, but you fail. Miserably.

Stay smart, space cadets.