Photography Writing

It’s not a doorway but…

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I have been reading about the snowstorm in New England, and hearing about snowfalls of several feet, which can take forever to recover from in cities; especially Boston with its narrow streets and parked cars. However, Boston is only three miles long and unless you’re heading across the river to Harvard, you can walk to work. In a couple of hours or so.

The snowstorm that struck the Midwest and the Northeast passed us by and we’ve had mild temperatures. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before we get hit, but we’ll take the mild weather and the beautiful sunsets for now.

However, we can’t have snow without a little poetry, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow agrees with me:

Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.



Easier to find poetry about snow than about sunsets, as I found when I looked about. Other than:

Red sky in the morning,
sailor take warning.
Red sky at night,
sailor’s delight.

I think its because sunsets have their own beauty and anything to do with them – poetry, painting, or photography – is a given and a bit of a cheat. But I’ll take the cheat for now.


Of course, the sunset figures prominently into our fiction, particularly westerns. Cowboys would always ride off into the sunset when they’ve saved the day, which I thought was stupid.

I mean think about it: they ride in, get shot up, go against the bad guys 2 to 1, overcome against all odds, and just when the farmer’s daughter cries out, “My hero”, and we presume is feeling mighty grateful, the idiots ride off into the sunset.

I bet the horse had more sex. No wonder there’s no poetry about sunsets.


That’s not completely true, there are poems about sunsets. Emily Dickinson wrote a couple – she wrote on everything it seems – and I rather liked, “The Sunset Stopped on Cottages”:

The Sunset stopped on Cottages
Where Sunset hence must be
For treason not of His, but Life’s,
Gone Westerly, Today –

The Sunset stopped on Cottages
Where Morning just begun –
What difference, after all, Thou mak’st
Thou supercilious Sun?


Tired of sunsets yet? Just be glad I didn’t publish the other ten photos I took tonight, because the sky did put on a lovely show. I grabbed my camera and ran down outside, fighting my cat at the door – me out, her in – before standing out on the deck in bare feet snapping pictures.

The neighbors are used to it: they think I’m nuts, and maybe I am. Am I of age to be eccentric yet?

Oh who cares. I spend too much time worrying about what people think of me when they see me puttering about, and most likely they don’t think of me at all (which is very liberating, let me say).


The sky is pretty and so are the trees, but yes I do need new subjects, which means I’ll have to go look for them. New things to write about, too. Good.

And on that note, I’ll end with JRR Tolkien:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.



December 7th, one of so many days in infamy

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the start of World War II for the United States. When I was younger, I used to get this day mixed up with my father’s birthday, which was yesterday, the 6th.

“No dear,” my Dad would say. “I was born on the 6th, war started on the 7th.”

Point of fact, my Dad turned 93 years old yesterday, and he spent his birthday 62 years ago working as a railway engineer on a train somewhere in the Northwest. The next day when he heard about Pearl Harbor, he got off at the next city that had a military recruiter and signed up in the Army. Eventually he ended up in the 82nd Airborne, spending much of his time in Europe, with a few side trips into Northern Africa.

He had achieved the rank of Captain by the time the war was over, all through battlefield promotions. This means his leaders weren’t as lucky or perhaps as watchful as Dad. Or perhaps it means that Dad’s leaders would put themselves at risk rather than their men.

Dad spent some time in London, where he picked up his love of ‘good tea’. I have suspicions that he did more than drink tea and jump out of planes, because among his memorabilia (that ended up lost during one move), there was a photo of a beautiful woman in uniform who I’d ask Dad about, but he’d never respond with anything other than saying softly she was a ‘…woman he knew in London.”

Dad planned on staying in the Army after the war until he realized that he wouldn’t have much of a career in the military because of his age – he was in his 30’s. So he quit and eventually ended up a Washington State Trooper, which is lucky because otherwise he wouldn’t have met my mother, a beautiful, frustrated 19 year old, in 1951. Then there was Mike, and then me, and then divorce.

Eventually Dad also spent time in Vietnam, a place he said we didn’t belong. While he was there, we were invited to meet him during our summer vacation and we were given the choice of Hawaii or Japan. Being kids, we picked Hawaii, which I don’t regret, though I wish now I’d picked Japan.

When we were in Hawaii, we spent time at the USS Arizona Memorial, which just didn’t mean that much to me and my brother. We were more interested in going swimming.

Dad’s a good conservative, and Republican, but he doesn’t think we have any business in Iraq. Doesn’t think much of Dubya, but liked his Dad. He’ll still vote for Bush though, rather than that “big mouth” from the north.

This is my Dad through the years, and who he is now. But first there was a man riding a train hearing the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and listening to the words about the …event that will live in infamy.

(National Geographic has an excellent Flash Presentation on the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor.)


The seductiveness of books

Mike Golby and I have known each other online for such a long time – I can’t even remember when I first read him, and he first read me. The similarities we share make a piquant counter-point to the differences.

We don’t always agree, but among the many topics we do agree on is our love of books, and the importance of access to them. Mike recently talked about Blog Africa and this organizations efforts to increase Internet access across Africa, something to be applauded. But both he and I would rather see more of a global effort to provide open and adequate libraries than free email:

Many will tell you Africa needs books a damned side more than it needs a Net unable to do more than carry e-mail. Our libraries, where they exist (and this is locally), are under funded. Their budgets are non-existent. New books? Fuggedaboudit. In countries where books – of any kind – are considered a luxury, what chance connectivity? The cost of books is my chief expense for spending so much on being linked to the Web.

It’s in the nature of our new global economy that we foster illiteracy and ignorance. In a world run by technology, the less people know of the cause of their poverty, the better. Institutional economics is, by nature, a conservative discipline. Managed and promoted by conservative ideologues, it’s better served by people incapable of thinking for themselves. Books and the education they give are known for the trouble they bring.

I wrote in comments at Mike’s that if everyone had access to an open and well stocked library and the ability to read, most of the world’s problems would go away. But then I look at my own stack of books that I’ve gathered together to spend December reading (or re-reading in the case of “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”):

  • “Unless”, by Carol Sheilds, recommended by Yule Heibel
  • “Moral politics : what conservatives know that liberals don’t “, by George Lakoff, recommended in comments
  • “Metaphors we Live By”, also by George Lakoff, mentioned by Joe Duemer
  • “The Floating Girl”, by Sujata Massey, mentioned at a weblog (can’t remember where)
  • “The Dark Valley: A Panorma of the 1930’s” by Brendon Piers, mentioned in a weblog posting by Jonathon Delacour
  • “Stranger Shores” and “White Writing” by J.M. Coetzee, author recommended by Farrago and Mike Golby
  • “Let us Now Praise Famous Men”, James Agee and Walker Evans, recommended by Jonathon, as well as Sheila Lennon
  • “The Secret Life of Bees”, by Sue Monk Kidd, recommended by Elaine, I believe
  • “Barran Ground” and “The Woman Within”, by Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow, pointed out by link in an email.

My reading for the last year has been someone mentioning a book and me using my Library’s online system to have it pulled from whatever branch and sent to mine. And if I can’t find a book in the city library system, I also have a card for the County library system, and all of these libraries have inter-library loan access to other systems. I have free and easy access to virtually most books I could ever want to read.

(Except for Dorothea Brande’s, Becoming a Writer. I’ve been looking for this in library systems for months.)

Now let’s look at some of the dates these books were last checked out. Oh, not the popular current ones such as “Unless”, “Secret Life of Bees”, and “The Floating Girl” – but the less famous ones, the quiet ones.

The last time “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” was checked out was December of last year. I was the person who checked it out. “The Dark Valley”? That goes back to May of 2002. Now Coetzee just won the Nobel Prize in Literature and you would think his work would be in demand, but “White Writing” was last checked out in 2001, and “Stranger Shores”, had never been checked out by anyone until me.

A well stocked library won’t make a bit of difference if people don’t or won’t take the time to read. According to Dave Rogers even if they did, it may not make a difference. Daring to “poke the dog” by quoting him:

Never before have we had the ready, easy access to the thoughts of great minds that we do today. Presumably, people even read it! Yet we still bicker about the “anger industry” and mock the people we disagree with, and justify ourselves and demonize our opponents. If all we needed to do was “read” to “learn,” shouldn’t we be living in Utopia about now? Why are there so many different self-help books out there?

I absolutely and unequivocally despise self-help books, so I can’t answer Dave’s question, but me thinks it’s rhetorical anyway.

Having access to libraries and reading important books by great writers is not going to result in change in our society if all we do is ‘read’ and then not respond differently in how we live our life, based on that reading. Consuming all those books on my list won’t do me a bit of good other than to perhaps impress people with how ‘well-read’ I am, unless I come away from the reading a different, hopefully better, person and act accordingly.

Good writing entertains, enlightens, enriches us, and brings us closer to (pick one) a) God, b) ourselves, c) our significant others, d) our foes, or or e) all of the above. But great writing in the hands of an open mind partnered with an active spirit, well, it’s better than a kick in the butt.

If I’ve read Dave correctly, we have to act on what we read; we have to work to make the world better, we can’t just read about it and congratulate ourselves on our literary achievements. Additionally, we can’t depend on technology to make the difference for us, either:

My point is, by focusing any attention on technology as some means of facilitating learning, or “changing everything” as some answer to anything, simply continues to obscure the real goddamn point. It’s as if we seem to think that once we have achieved the right technology, somehow our minds will be liberated and we’ll be able to “know” all these great things. When it has absolutely, positively, without question, NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with TECHNOLOGY. You need exactly NO technology to start asking yourself the kinds of questions you need to be asking yourself.

WHEN, in God’s name, are you going to start? When you’ve perfected your technology? When you’ve read enough weblogs? When your bandwidth is wider? When gender bias goes away? When a democrat is back in the White House? When you’ve “simplified” your life? What life? You think you’re alive? How do you friggin’ well know?

I could be flippant and say I know I’m alive because I wouldn’t dream up this sore mouth, but Dave’s point is extremely well made – we could wait for external events to happen from now until the dawn of time, and read every book written, and make sure everyone in the world has a blog and an RSS feed – but change begins within.

Trust me, I know these things.

(And now I’ve managed to bring the views of three passionate writers into one essay. This page will self-destruct in a ball of fire in five minutes.)


All thinking Americans

I’m not much into link and commenting, but a New York Times editorial by Nicholas Kristof caught my eye, and not only because I love the name.

As Kristof writes:

Many Democrats so despise President Bush that they don’t appreciate what a strong candidate he will be in November, and they don’t grasp how poorly Mr. Dean is likely to fare in battleground states.

He then goes on to list the reasons why Dean will most likely not fare well against Bush, and there’s not a point he raises that I haven’t also raised, and worried about. As he notes, outside of Kennedy, the only Democrats who have ever won an election are those from the “Battlefield states”, and this does not bode well for someone who does tend to reek of Eastern Elitism and New England pugnaciousness. As Kristof writes:

You get the feeling that if Mr. Dean and Mr. Bush were stuck together in a small Missouri town, Mr. Dean would lecture farmers about Thomas Paine’s writings, while Mr. Bush would have the cafe crowd in stitches by doing impersonations of Mr. Dean.

I’m not being disloyal to write this, but I don’t see Dean playing well in Missouri, or any area of the country that is a little bit of Missouri at heart.

I must assume that Kristof is trying to generate interest in Clark, but if Dean won’t fly in the South, I don’t see Clark flying in the North. To be blunt, I think Clark would be a lousy President. But then, we already have a lousy President.

This is going to be a long year.


Blogger strike

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I woke up this morning and the side of my mouth looks like the Goodyear Blimp is now residing there. You might think this would put me in a poor mood, but the sun was out and there were these two little finches on my window sill, trying to get warm and chattering away, which can’t help but cheer even the most dedicated Grinch.

No, I’m not in a poor mood, but I am in a disappointed mood when I saw blogger after blogger who was nominated link to the Wizbang Awards with cries of “It’s all fun!” and “Vote for me!”, as if we haven’t learned a damn thing about all our discussions of popularity contests, A-Lists, and Power Laws this last year. At first when I didn’t see such links I thought the group as a whole would not perpetuate the same old shit, but after the last couple of days, I can see it’s business as usual.

Someone wrote me yesterday about their nomination and I won’t say who, it’s up to them to identify themselves, and asked me about these awards. Is this a link pimping thing? Well, yes, I said, but it’s a good thing if quality writing like yours gets some attention (though I find it unlikely people will look beyond the usual suspects). However, don’t feed the link pimping I wrote, meaning don’t link to the award.

However, the top cream, the A-Listers, they don’t have any such problem with fulfilling what only gives them more air, so I feel pretty stupid for my advice.

David Weinberger wrote on this, facetiously I do believe, or I don’t know my Joho:

And good news! They let a woman onto the list of best overall blogs! Congratulations, Megnut! To be fair (i.e., to try something new), there is a category for Best Female Authored Blog. No, there isn’t one for Best Male Authored Blog, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, I’m darn proud of Joho’s humiliating showing.

David should be proud of his humiliating showing – would he rather be Little Green Football and win? It would seem that in blogging, David, bigotry outs over gentle wisdom and openess when it comes to popularity. Bigotry or arrogance, one or the other.

And there’s two women in the top list, Meg and Michele over at A Small Victory. And you’re not last anymore, David, so you’ve lost that distinction.

Yes I was rather pleased at the explanations for why there was a Female Blogger category because there was no chance a woman can win, which I guess goes to show women webloggers how much our writing matters. It’s good to get reaffirmation like that. More, there was additional confirmation of this when I see the people link to Douglas Bowman “Who/Where are the Women” posting, who wouldn’t link to the same questions of women and writing when raised by women such as myself, or, or Maki, or Netwoman or, well, I could go on.

As I wrote in comments at Misbehaving, “I wonder how much more credence this question will be given because it’s posed by a man, rather than a woman?”.

I wish that I could talk all the women webloggers and all the non-A List webloggers to go on strike for a week, not to write, not to post, not to say a damn thing online – just to show if we are background noise, buzz if you will, we’re pretty damn important to how all this works. That if we’re not listened to when we speak, then perhaps we’ll be listened to when we don’t.

Business as usual: You, the buzz, to the linking; the popular to be linked and voted; and me to my usual rants that make no difference.


I had an email from a person who is in the awards who thought I was shouting at them with my discussion earlier about the Wizbang awards. The person also said that the essay sounded self-centered and that I didn’t care about the people in the awards who are not as well known.

I guess I am not a very good writer after all, because what I wrote ended up disconnected from what was perceived.

I do have a fairly good rating in Technorati, and people must wonder why I write so much on this – what do I have to bitch about: the A-Lists, the hunt for links, and women’s writing. I have people coming by, writing comments, linking to me, and I’m a woman. What do I have to complain about?

True. All true. That’s why I felt more obligated to write what I do, because I remember all too well coming close to quitting two years ago this Christmas, when I was alone in San Francisco and felt even more alone online because no one was around, or commented, or seemed to see me.

I’ve never forgotten this and hoped to make a difference, but I’m fighting against human nature. I wasn’t helping, and once you get to the point of having to explain your motivation, you’ve already lost the battle.

To be honest, if the Wizbang awards person had taken the nominations, went out to Technorati and found the least linked of them and put only them into the award lists, I would have promoted the hell out of it. I wouldn’t have been on that list, but I still would have promoted the hell out of it.

Do me a favor folks. Disregard my earlier rants about the Wizbang awards. Instead, go out there and look at the lists. From each, find the sites with the fewest links in Technorati, visit them. For those you like, leave a comment or two, and then vote for them.

And vote for the women entries in Best Overall Blog – Megnut, A Small Victory, Dynamist, of Jen Chung of the Gothamist, or BoingBoing (group blog with xeni). Unless you’d rather have Little Green Footballs vindicated as the Best of Blogging.

Last Update

I read some of the comments associated with the so-called cheating on this ‘award’, and then read what Meg wrote in comments to this post, “This award is stupid and meaningless, and I don’t even want to link to it”, even though promoting the contest would be more votes for her.

I sheepishly admit to the truth of what Meg is saying, and wonder myself why I bothered to link to it – it wasn’t worth the effort, and if some people had fun, who am I to complain.