World Wide Dubya

The very day I left London last week for parts more Nordic, George W. Bush was arriving. A good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. Personally, I'd have liked to witness the public fracas, but was glad to be away from it as well. The paranoia was evident everywhere — just taking a quick snapshot of the American flag decorations along the Mall a few blocks away from Buckingham Palace was enough to attract a pair of quick-stepping constables (who had been sitting in a nearby parked van, watching the street), wanting to know what I was up to.

No surprise that Dubya didn't spend time for any further European touring — it seems unlikely that he'd be welcome anywhere (if you consider the public reception he got in the U.K. to be "welcoming"). At each of my stops last week, I was told the same thing by the locals, repeatedly and unprompted: we like America, we like Americans, you are very nice, but that idiot George Bush is the biggest menace to the world we've ever seen....

It's hard not to hear not-so-faint echoes of The Melian Debate in the goings-on at the U.N. that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The crux of that ancient debate revolves around legitimation of authority — some historians have argued that the whole of western democratic history is built upon a string of crises over this issue.

Osama bin-Laden paints himself in shades of pre-destined greatness — though it may all be a show for his supporters, it's hard not to think that Osama himself believes the hype. He may not be questioned, because his will has been chosen by Allah — anyone who is less closely-aligned with Allah is unimportant and may be freely dispatched, as we have seen occur in recent days to muslims in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. You are less worthy than us, and thus our car bombs perform God's will.

Grotesquely, Dubya has awakened some time ago to the same calling. Without Osama, it's hard to imagine Bush Jr as much more than a bumbling bureaucrat, albeit one whose campaign promises of "compassionate conservatism" had, before September 11th, yielded only conservatism with little sight of compassion.

After September 11th, the New Bush really appeared — not just the career politico, whose position as president merely filled-in the empty spots on his resumé. The New Bush, in response to Evil, is a politico chosen by God for Great Tasks. Mysterious ways indeed — Bush the Younger could now see that as son of the president he truly was imbued with the Divine Right of Kings, and that his faith in the Righteousness of his causes would always see them through to a positive end, without interference from the public, those un-American rabble over in Congress, or facts.

Forged evidence? Lack of WMDs? Really of little concern to those whose actions are driven by faith in unseen invisible string-pullers. For both Osama and Dubya, they can blithely convince themselves that they hold the moral high ground no matter how many innocents are pulverised for the sake of distant alien gods.

Posted November 25, 2003 | Comments (0)

The Foreigner

The foreigner only sees what he already knows.

  — Marc Riboud

I will be gone for a few days — while the technology would let me post entries while away, it seems like a waste of perfectly good travel time.

If you are in southern France toward the end of next week, swing on by Virtual Storytelling 2003.

Posted November 15, 2003 | Comments (2)

Filing Systems

The "roll-lessness" of digital cameras is totally messing with my filing system, which up into the last couple of years had been roll-based. Each roll tagged by date. In general, this also corresponded loosely with subjects, locations, and projects.

Now, the camera software splits everything into days. On a busy day that can mean hundreds of photos in the same directory, where before I could be confident know it was unlikely that there'd be more than 40. Add CDs to the equation and it's clear the old system will have to go. What I haven't settled on is a replacement.


Posted November 11, 2003 | Comments (1)


I was reading a recent ArtForum article about moblog photos, and the reviewer hit upon a key word: inessential. Photos that run counter to the notion of "a perfect flower," they are just "a flower." They don't contend to any special uniqueness or meaningful significance. They're just tonight's dinner, or the cat. They're even less momentous than old snapshots — at least old snapshots were made on someone's birthday or on the family's Grand Canyon roadtrip. Moblog photos tend to be somewhere even less worthy of inspection, between snapshots and the dull gray eye of a security camera. And there's a lot of them.

After seeing Luis's quote of Robert Frank from the 1958 U.S. Camera Annual, a quote I've seen often kicked around, I thought I'd go find the original. I found one in the San Jose library. The due-date stamps showed that it had last been checked out in 1986. And there in the middle was Frank, first with a brief writeup by Walker Evans, then a pretty hefty slice of the then-yet-to-be-published The Americans (one shot rudely clipped-out of the book — wish I knew which one), and then Frank himself. His comments are brief, just a page.

Frank wrote in his Guggenheim application of his desire... "To produce an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact should be such as will nullify explanation..." The first half surely fits the moblog aesthetic, but what of the second?

I have a genuine distrust and "mefiance" toward all group activities. Mass production of uninspired photo journalism and photography without thought becomes anonymous merchandise. The air becomes infect with the "smell" of photography. If the photographer wants to be an artist, his thoughts cannot be developed overnight at the corner drug store.

I am not a pessimist, but looking at a contemporary picture magazine makes it difficult for me to speak about the advancement of photography, since photography today is accepted without question, and is also presumed to be understood by all — even children. I feel that only the integrity of the individual photographer can raise its level.

Frank's still out there, wandering New York or the wilds of eastern Canada. Wonder if he has a celphone cam.

Posted November 08, 2003 | Comments (2)


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