There’s a long list of things I’m not good at – gardening, polite chit-chat at parties, picking the shortest line at the supermarket, coordinating shirts and socks (Garanimals for men, please!), to name just a few. Let’s add paparazzi to that list. Ok, not paparazzi exactly. If someone uber-famous wandered by… like maybe Michael Bolton or Flo from that Progressive Insurance commercial, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to take a picture. But taking a picture of a complete stranger frightens the bejesus out of me.
You may be asking yourself, wait I don’t think this guy is a private eye so why is he stalking strangers and taking their picture? Yes there is a bit of a creep factor here, and as long as no one mentions it to my parole officer we’re all good. The real reason is that I’ve long admired the raw, unexpected, sometimes gritty images, that the truly talented street photographers capture. There’s something about real people going about their lives that’s just captivating.
I wanted to challenge myself to learn something new, something I was uncomfortable with. Poodle grooming is out so street photography seemed like a logical next choice. The problem is that I didn’t anticipate how hard it is to take a picture of a complete stranger – being relatively close and obvious. It just feels… invasive and a bit weird. Of course I could resort to one of those gazillion dollar lenses you see at sporting events and stand two blocks away, but that defeats the purpose. You can’t really capture emotion or the feel of something that way.
I’m not sure yet how I’m going to get over this irrational fear. And it is irrational. It’s not like someone is going to yell at me or chase after me. Even if they do, I can be pretty fast when I need to. I’m sure all that zombie apocalypse fitness training will pay off when that irate old lady gets all up in my face and wants to throw down.
So why can’t I bring myself to point the camera at a stranger and press the shutter? I don’t know. Maybe I need to print out a fake press pass? Dress like a tourist? Enroll in an expensive on-line course? One way or another, I resolve to overcome this fear. Sigh… maybe I’ll just go practice with more pictures of cows. They’re not too scary.
I like food. As a general rule (and I am a rule follower) the worse it is for me the better I like it. But being the enigma I am, there are also fleeting attempts at being healthy. Clearly some sort of foodie Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. A few years ago in brief burst of health I read The Omnivores Dilemma and immediately resolved to eat nothing but food that was locally sourced, grass-fed, watered with unicorn tears, and lovingly harvested by nubile young virgins. That lasted only a few weeks. It’s just so damn easy to go to the mega-mart instead. It wasn’t a complete waste however – I did buy a cow and will do so again once I finish the approximately 276 pounds of hamburger in my freezer.
Anyway, last night after catching up on the Kardashian channel (E! News) I stumbled across Michael Pollan’s movie “Food Inc.”. It wasn’t bad. A little disturbing and very sensationalist. Like his books it does make you think about your food and that’s a good thing. It would be a wonderful thing if we could all afford to buy from farmers markets and not be slaves to the evil corporate machine. Evil-doers I tell you!
Unfortunately it’s not reality. The US population is 317 million. The world population is 7.1 billion. By 2050 those numbers are projected to be 400 million and 8.92 billion. We do not have the capacity to feed those numbers with sustainable chickens running free through the woods and listening to Miley Cyrus on their little iChicken headphones prior to slaughter. Here in the US, we have already exceeded the soil’s capacity to grow. If it wasn’t for the miracle of modern nitrogen-based fertilizers we’d be living in some sort of futuristic Mad Max dust bowl already.
So enough of the self-righteous condemnation of the modern food industry. If, as Warren Buffet said, you’re one of the winners of the ovarian lottery be thankful. Drive the 20 miles to Whole Foods in your eco-friendly Prius and be grateful you can pay $6.99 for Chilean Blueberries while sipping a $7 mocha-latte made from beans sourced from Brazil.
GMO’s, drought and pesticide resistant seeds, massive corporate food production slaughterhouses and assembly lines, cheap immigrant labor… these really are good things. Why? The alternative is third-world food scarcity everywhere. If you have a true, viable, alternative to feed the planet I’m all ears. Meanwhile I’m going to go get me some .99¢ deep-fried chicken tenders, feel bad about myself and resolve to eat more salads.
Year end and beginning is for lists. I think it’s a rule of some sort. And if nothing else, I am a rule follower. Thusly, my list of twelve things learned in 2012 (Please note the cleverness there – 12 for 12. Genius) :
- I love Cheez-Its. They are pure brain food. 3 grams of protein and 140 calories per 30 crackers. That’s better than your average “healthy” yogurt. And it’s a genuine, simulated, baked cheese product. It doesn’t get much better than that. The downside is a certain, uhm, cheese-breath after effect. There’s also the fact that it’s virtually impossible to limit oneself to just the suggested serving size of thirty. Perhaps I should invent a Pez-like dispenser that holds exactly 30. Perfect for travel!
- You need to get rid of your clutter. We put all our stuff in storage and lived in a motorhome for half the year. I didn’t think it would be possible to survive without eighteen dress shirts, toolboxes of “leftover” nuts and bolts, fifteen year old Rollerblades, twenty-three baseball hats, and ten pairs of jeans that I “might” fit into again some day. But I did. And I was perfectly happy.
- Politicians are evil. Not just some, all. Our elected representatives have quickly replaced lawyers as the most hated people on the planet. To quote myself, “If you think your representative is looking out for your best interest, you’re a tool. Don’t be a tool.” Boy I’m impressed with myself. That needs to be on a t-shirt.
- Academically, I can hang with the big dogs. Well, at least with the twenty-somethings. Also, I don’t like art history. Also, I’m really, really good at art history. It’s an internal conflict that will most likely require therapy sometime in my future.
- It’s possible for me to get in really good shape. The inverse of this fitness rule is that I can return to a fairly squishy state in a frighteningly rapid amount of time. Clearly the year for me is split into squishy and non-squishy periods. For the love of humanity and my fellow beach goers, let’s hope that next year the non-squishy state coincides with bikini season.
- Gravity + bikes + a complete lack of coordination = broken ribs. That hurts. A lot. Let’s not do that again.
- This year taught me that I enjoy photography. I also learned that I have no idea whatsoever what I’m doing. All those darn f numbers, shutter speeds, uncooperative swimsuit models, and tricky apertures… being a photography professional is hard work. I may have to fall back on my art history career prospects.
- I seem to have an uncomfortable obsession with cows. Looking back at the year I realize I’ve taken multiple pictures of cows, written an ode to cows, and bought a cow. I’m slightly concerned.
- I can’t do drama. Not the theatrical, off-broadway kind of drama. I mean Real Housewives, Jerry Springer, Tom Cruise break-up kind of drama. Life is too short to waste effort thinking about or dealing with drama. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Lindsay Lohan’s pending implosion. That train wreck is too entertaining to miss.
- I didn’t die when I got a flu shot. I broke down and got my first flu shot this year. When I informed the tech that I’d never had a flu shot in my life she looked shocked and said “Not ever? Seriously?” She actually had me wait for thirty minutes afterwards to monitor me “just in case”. Made me slightly concerned about what’s really in it if I had to be monitored. Fears of government tracking devices and UN conspiracies are now filling my dreams at night. Sigh… more therapy needed clearly.
- People are idiots. The world is filled with a frightening amount of lemmings and sheep. Other than for entertainment value, I have no more tolerance for stupidity (other than my own). And when things go south, those idiots are going to come looking for your stuff. And when you call 911 and there’s nobody available… well good luck with that. If you know me, then you know I’m talking zombie apocalypse. Be prepared.
- The big lesson for 2012 – stop waiting and wishing for what you want. Life is short and we’re only here once (sorry Druids and Hindus – it just isn’t going to happen). As the old saying goes – if you get hit by a cement truck tomorrow, have you done, seen, and accomplished what you wanted?
There you go. An award-winning, incredibly insightful look back at lessons of 2012. Next up, resolutions for 2013. Or not. I may go out and just enjoy the day instead.
The Walmart was having a killer black Friday sale, so we went ahead and bought a cow. Ok, not a cow but a steer. Ok, it wasn’t Walmart but a local rancher. Had to go take a look at him today since he’ll be in our freezer by next week. It’s important to know where your food comes from. That steak doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store!
With your rough coat protecting you from the elements, saliva slowly drips from your cow lips.
I try to slip past without disturbing your cud, changing gears to power over the rough trail, deep divots from your hooves, standing on the muddy trail. How I love your vacant stare, steaming piles, dung shaped like frisbees, rib eye and filets, hamburger.
Calves in the spring are frisky and curious, cute eyelashes, running in the fields, speckled coats of every color. Leather jackets size forty-two long, perfect for a night on the town.
Porcine may be the ruler of barbecue, chickens are the king of breakfast supplies and spicy wings, but the bovine gives us calcium and work gloves, giardia is really just a weight loss method. Cruel? Cows are stupid, uncooperative, inconvenient, ill-tempered creatures. They get what they deserve. A steak is what I crave.