Subway Shadows and Tinker Creek

20140523-01-LearnPhotoFifty years ago I became hypnotized by the world of photography. My then wife was taking a photography course at the university and since we were an impoverished student couple, we saved our pennies, denied ourselves garlic bread at Mario’s, wore out-of-date clothes because they still fit, and still couldn’t afford a decent camera.

Ten years later, on the other side of the country, I loaded a camera bag with all the goodies I could buy, including a modern SLR camera, and surprised my new girlfriend while celebrating her birthday at the local drive-in theater. She loved it; I used it.

What I found myself doing was lugging a heavy bag of extra lenses, beaucoup de film, tripod, filters, flash, and handy instructional pamphlets around New York City in search of the perfect shot. What I got in the end was a sore shoulder and a few pictures of the shadows on a subway grating. Being a self-appointed purist, I used only Black and White film. I also scanned the magazine advertisements constantly for the ideal enlarger and the tools and chemicals I would need to convert my single-purpose bathroom into a state-of-the-art darkroom with a red warning light outside the door.

Continue reading

The Pertinacity of the Asp

imgres.jpgGalileo, complaining about those people who refused to look through a telescope to see those things, such as the moons of Jupiter or sunspots moving across the face of the sun, referred to them as being “replete with the pertinacity of the asp.” Everyone knew that the sun revolved around the earth: it was proven scriptural science.

I recently read William T. Vollmann’s treatise, Uncentering the Earth: Copernicus and The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. In general it is a very readable presentation of some rather difficult concepts, both astronomical and mathematical. But truly it is far easier to understand and accept the unnecessary complexities of the scriptural world view than it is to accept that the world obeys the insights of scripture and not of science.

Continue reading

Virginia Woolf: How to Fight Fascism

can-you-learn-about-happiness-from-virginia-woolf-featuredOn Tuesday, Feb. 26, 1935, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary that after “a very fine skyblue day,” she was “plagued by the sudden wish to write an Anti fascist Pamphlet.” She talked it over with her husband Leonard, who “was extremely reasonable & adorable, & told me I should have to take into account of the economic question.” …

For Woolf, the origins of fascism are inextricably tied to the patriarchy. A quotation she read in the newspaper from a man who claimed that women who work emasculate men by relieving them of their duty as provider seemed to crystallize the issue for her. “There we have in embryo the creature, Dictator as we call him when he is Italian or German, who believes he has the right, whether given by God, Nature, sex or race is immaterial, to dictate to other human beings how they shall live; what they shall do.”

Continue reading

Under Fire

images.jpg

After watching a unit of Moroccan soldiers pass by—black Africans who will cut off a man’s head in combat—Henri Barbusse writes:

‘No doubt they’re a different race from us .. In fact, they’re real soldiers.”

“We are not soldiers, … we’re men.”

They are men, good fellows of all kinds, rudely torn away from the joy of life. Like any other men whom you take in the mass, they are ignorant and of narrow outloook, full of a sound common sense—which some-times gets off the rails—disposed to be led and to do as they are bid, enduring uder hardships, long suffering.

They are simple men further simplified, in whom the merely primitive instincts have been accentuated by the force of circumstances—the instinct of self-preservation, the hard-gripped hope of living through, the joy of food, of drink, and of sleep. And at intervals they are cries and dark shudders of humanity that issue from the silence and the shadows of their great hearts.

Continue reading