On a stroll through the Elmwood Village on this quiet 4th of July, I crossed Elmwood Avenue to peer into the window of a new clothing Boutique that has sprung up recently. Off in the distance I heard the lively shouts of this group of young people peacefully protesting government surveillance. I realized the small group had formed a tiny parade and they were headed my way. I quickly found a stoop to sit in to wait for them to pass, hoping I could grab a few shots. Someone from the parade handed me a flyer as I snapped photos and exchanged greetings with participants.
The group makes up one of Buffalo’s responses to the movement called Restore the Fourth, which has emerged in the online community with sites like Reddit, Boing Boing and Mozilla supporting a campaign in cities across the United States. “Restore the Fourth” – refers to the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unlawful search and seizure. Read an article about the Restore the Fourth effort on reuters.com – Internet Sites Join July 4th Protest Against Surveillance.
On a recent work trip to Newport News, VA, I went in search of a meal at the end of my last full day there. This was trip number two to the area in as many weeks. All the nights previously I’d dined with colleagues at various spots located at the Peninsula Town Center close to the hotel. This time, however, I was on my own, and I was bound and determined to have an “authentic” experience.
Before heading out, I told a friend on the phone that I wanted to eat at “some old crab shack by the water,” and NOT the famous Joe’s. My friend wished me luck as I hung up the phone to embark on my quest. Success! I simply Googled “Crab Shack Newport News, VA” and I found the perfect spot! I enjoyed a delicious meal of Snow Crab Legs and a baked potato on the side at The Crab Shack on the east end of the James River. Not only was the meal fantastic, but the sunset was perfectly suited for my Instagram obsession. Click, click, click.
Another great place to try if you’re ever in the area is Smoke. I had BBQ lunch there twice. Delicious!
“Impossible, I realize, to enter another’s solitude. If it is true that we can ever come to know another human being, even to a small degree, it is only to the extent that he is willing to make himself known. A man will say: I am cold. Or else he will say nothing, and we will see him shivering. Either way, we will know that he is cold. But what of the man who says nothing and does not shiver? Where all is intractable, here all is hermetic and evasive, one can do no more than observe. But whether one can make sense of what he observes is another matter entirely”
― Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude
In the midst of my regular and usually quite aimless meanderings online, searching for meaning on subjects I obsess over and research in my spare time, I was recently reminded of this talk entitled, This is Water, given by David Foster Wallace in 2005, addressing the graduating class at Kenyon College. DFW committed suicide in 2008 and it is impossible to read or listen to this talk now without thinking of what was to come when he originally delivered it.
In (This is Water) he argues, gorgeously, against “unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.” – From The New Yorker
He begins with a parable:
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
DFW goes on to say:
“The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.”
As I read on, I was so moved, I decided to order the speech which has been reprinted in book form by the Hatchet Book Group.
Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace’s electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend.
Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading.
It’s a small and lovely book and I’ve been carrying it around for days. I especially like how DFW eloquently points out that we are not victims of some innate inclination for how we find meaning in our lives, or as he puts it, we are not “hardwired” in some specific way. Instead we are free to choose. It’s so easy to become trapped in the tedium of every day life and think that we are free.
“Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.
It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.
Because if you cannot or will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.” – David Foster Wallace
There’s so much more to discover… Google This is Water, and see for yourself.
From Grant Street in Buffalo to Pearl Street Rd in Corfu, and various points in between, these are some images I’ve made in my travels around the area over the last two weeks. Instagram provides a fun way to interact with new surroundings when you’re on the go. I like the format of Instagram as a social network too, because it acts as a time capsule for collecting a mass of images, in chronological order all in one place.
When aliens try to learn about Earthlings by looking at facebook, they will think we are all ecstatically happy and that we compulsively “like” just about everything we encounter. Even our status updates about life, love, politics and the world around us are delivered at a pace resembling a frenzied heartbeat. Multitudes of saccharin comments accumulate like deep breathing methods, but they can’t tame the palpitations that fuel our compulsion to remain engaged in this kind of super-charged, yet ultimately empty communication.
At the end of the day, I am the first to admit that I enjoy facebook. I appreciate all that it has to offer, especially when it comes to staying in touch with friends and associates in the arts and of course family. For the most part, I use it solely as a networking tool and it’s negative aspects are easily kept at bay. You can specify a certain audience for each bit of content you put out there, so you don’t have to worry about offending your boss or your grandmother. Since my expectations about the level of meaningful interaction within social media in general are low, I’m rarely overly disappointed with my experience using it.
With all of that said, I also think it’s important to look at the big picture where these kinds of phenomena in our lives are concerned. There are endless contributing factors to how we got here. Facebook itself has contributed greatly to the recent rise in popularity of internet memes who’s culture jamming effects are reminiscent of the impact the Situationist International’s slogans had on daily life, mostly in Europe in the 1950s and 60s. As part of a specific agenda associated with opposing capitalism, the SI’s slogans were a big part of the 1968 uprisings in Paris. The slogans became a part of daily life in the form of graffiti when quotations from two situationist books, The Society of the Spectacle (1967) by Guy Debord and On the Poverty of Student Life (1966) by Mustapha Khayati, were written on the sides of buildings and subway walls of Paris.
Many of the SI slogans could easily be internet memes of today:
Actual Graffiti Found on Paris’ Walls in May, 1968
Don’t beg for the right to live — take it.
Those who make revolutions half way only dig their own graves.
No replastering, the structure is rotten.
The passion of destruction is a creative joy.
Conservatism is a synonym for rottenness and ugliness.
Those who lack imagination cannot imagine what is lacking.
Unbutton your mind as often as your fly.
Professors, you make us grow old.
Terminate the university
The bourgeoisie has no other pleasure than to degrade all pleasures.
Below is a gallery of images I pulled randomly from Google Images with the search query “Situationist Slogans” typed in.
How to make a fake Instagram in 3 easy steps.
Step 1: Select an old photo, preferably one that has a great deal of
sentimental value to you.
Step 2: Scan the photo
Step 3: Crop it into a square.
Voila! Your fake Instagram is complete! Put it on facebook and email it to all your friends.
When Nadja got sick in the Summer of 2010, the Vet helped me keep her alive and, for the most part, pain free with fluid injections that I administered daily for a little over a year. I was so grateful to have that extra time with her and it helped me to prepare somewhat for what was to come.
On July 25, 2011 (one year ago today) Nadja left this world and went on to new adventures. I was struck with a sadness that I’ve never known. It took months for the pain in my heart to ease. My eyes still well up sometimes when I think of her. It’s a very sweet sadness, though. I’ve found that it’s a great joy to hold her in my heart and keep my memories of the 16 years she spent with me close. I enjoy her visits occasionally in my dreams and the little things that bring her to mind. Nadja is gone, but she will never disappear.
“Grief makes one hour ten.”
“The problem with loving is that pets don’t last long enough
and people last too long.”