Unbelief Leads to Eternal Damnation

This item originally came to me as a letter to the editor, but we didn’t publish it. I share it here because, res ipsa loquitur… “the thing speaks for itself.”

Unbelief Leads to Eternal Damnation

Unbelief in God the Creator dooms an individual to going to Hell and later to the Lake of Fire.  Two horrific places where no one should want to go.

Yet too many people at this present time seem to be completely ignorant of the existence of such terrible places, and of the fact that unless they repent of their sins and seek God they will spend eternity there.  Under continuous torture!

We live in a time when information abounds, and the greatest communication facilities exist, and yet Humanity has failed to inform the masses about God Almighty, and of His kingdom and his authority over Heaven and Earth.

His command was that each generation was to teach each new generation about his creation of Heaven and Earth, and His giving life to Humanity, and all livings things.  And to remind us that “nothing is impossible to God” who has “absolute power” over everything.

God demonstrated this awesome power when He freed Israel, his chosen nation, from Egypt, drowned their Army, and then sustained the two million or so nation for forty years in the desert.

The world disobeyed and has failed to teach the new generations again and again.

America too has failed to teach the Holy Bible, “the Word of God.” The most important book in the world has been outlawed to teach in public schools by Supreme Court Judges who are in direct disobedience to God.

Just like they were disobedient when they approved of Same-Sex Marriage and other abominable acts which go against God’s just laws.    

Disobeying God has through the ages resulted in God finally punishing or judging individuals and nations.    

God has foretold that His creation will reject his ever-lasting love, and also His plan for salvation, and that He will destroy the wicked at a time which only He knows.  That time is called “The Tribulation.” 

Judging by how wicked humanity has become many now believe that time is near!

Man, for his sake, must realize that our mortal life is short, and that we all have an appointment with death, and then the “judgment.” And as Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

In other words, we cannot go to Heaven unless we have been “born again.”  When a person is “born again” he/or she receives the gift of “Eternal life” from God.  Then upon death angels will escort them instantly to Heaven.             

The “Word of God” tells us it is God’s will that “none should perish.”  But it also tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  God said, “without blood there is no remission of sin.”

Therefore, God’s plan for salvation included the Holy Ghost overshadowing the acquisitioning Mary, implanting the Word of God in Mary, and producing the holy thing (baby) to be born to be called the “Son of God.”  Because of “the will of God” “the Word was made flesh” and baby Jesus was born, “and “dwelt among us,” “and we beheld his glory.”

At the appointed time, Jesus, “the Son of God”, “the Son of Man,” demonstrated the “Powers of God” to show “God was with us” on earth.  He raised the dead, gave site to the blind, healed the sick, gave his life for our sins, by crucifixion, was buried, and on the third day was resurrected.  He was seen on earth forty days before returning to Heaven.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).  THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO HEAVEN!

Thoughts about Dan Fogelberg

As the years have gone by, I have made a mental note of prominent people, many celebrities, who died at a younger age than I am now, 58 as I write this. Steve McQueen and Michael Jackson were 50. Frank Zappa and Christopher Reeve were 52. Jim Henson and John Denver were 53. John Ritter, Peter Sellers, and Michael Landon were 54. Steve Jobs and Linda McCartney were 56. Prince, Patrick Swayze, and Humphrey Bogart were 57. George Harrison and Andy Warhol were 58.

And Dan Fogelberg was 56.

Recently his widow Jean Fogelberg  shared “All the Time in the World,” a serial memoir, on their website, and I read each installment as she published it each week, curious both about the life of the man whose music I admired, especially when I was in college, but also about what it must have been like to get sick and die at the young age of 56. In the midst of reading this, I wrote her a short, frank email:

Feb. 2, 2021

Dear Jean,

My wife Abby and I love to travel. We got married in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park. Between our home in Oklahoma and Moab, there is New Mexico, which we love, and Abby and I are especially fond of the Santa Fe area.

In October 2019, we drove up to Pagosa Springs for our 15th anniversary vacation, and in our conversation I said, “I think Dan Fogelberg lived around here somewhere.” It sent me down the path of talking about his music, how I discovered it, and where it took me.

This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.
This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.

My first experience with the music of Dan Fogelberg was in 1979 when I was in high school, when my first girlfriend Tina decided “Longer” would be “our song.” I didn’t care for it much, but she was young and sentimental, so it fit, as I expect that song did for a lot of kids of that era.

In January 1982, Tina and I saw Dan Fogelberg in concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma, when I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. The 11,000-seat facility was standing room only. The thing I most remember about the show was that Tina wanted to hear “Longer,” and when he did play it, he insisted on silence from the audience, so when someone would “woo-hoo” from the seats, he played around the intro again until everyone shut up.

This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.
This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.

Those days were so naive for me. I was learning so much, but it was uncontained, chaotic, sophomoric. I was building a philosophy, but at the same time I was devoting too many hours to hi-fi stereo, fast cars, staying up late and blowing off class. In April 1982, a close friend, Debbie, died in a car crash, and in May, my former college roommate Jeff shot himself in the head. Interesting times.

I listened to a lot more Fogelberg in college than I had in high school, and his work, especially the early work, had an influence on me. If I had to pin it down, I’d say 1977’s Nether Lands was his strongest album.

I was also a devoted Pink Floyd listener, and was discovering Kansas, Phil Keaggy, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Journey, Simon and Garfunkel, Alan Parsons, more.

It would be decades before I expanded into genius like Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, and This Mortal Coil, and years later I would follow the downward spiral of Nine Inch Nails. It all points to the powerful influence of music.

But back to Santa Fe. I got a big kick out of your description of living in and around the Plaza, and recognizing every landmark you mentioned. I even have a nice image of Abby and her Chihuahua Sierra in Burro Alley.

Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.
Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.

You may have been to Madrid south of Santa Fe on SH14. We always make time to stop there and eat at The Hollar. Abby always says she would love to live there.

Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.
Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.

When Abby and I got home from Colorado in 2019, we bought “A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg,” and listened to it together in one sitting. Like his music in general, some of it was brilliant, and some of it missed the mark. That’s true for all musicians.

My favorite Dan Fogelberg cover isn’t on the Tribute, but the title track from Ashton, Becker and Dente’s 1994 cover album “Along the Road.”

Jean talks about Dan sailing alone in the last few months of his life, and while there is a certain romance about going off to sea and disappearing forever, I think this was a serious mistake: pilots aren’t allowed to fly on all the drugs he was taking, and I’m not sure driving is even safe in that situation. If the argument is that it was his business how he wanted to live and die at the end, fine, but search and rescue is costly and dangerous to all involved.

“Stress and physical wear and tear had begun wreaking havoc on my own body,” she writes in the chapter called Living with the Enemy, and I am certainly in synch with this feeling. When Abby is at her sickest, I stop eating and sleeping, lose weight, and my stomach hurts. You can argue that I should take care of myself, but it is a very fundamental reaction to that kind of stress.

Like a lot of artists, it would have been better for Fogelberg’s music to disappear without a trace rather than get drawn into the corporate music mill. As I wrote this, I listened to his entire catalog, and I remembered fondly his amazing early music, and cringed with embarrassment for us all when I got to 1987’s Exiles. This album sounded like the culture at the time, from the Entertainment Tonight-like soprano sax solos to the drum machines. He became the hair band of easy listening. Exiles is as derivative as any music I’ve ever experienced.

It didn’t have to be that way, of course. It wasn’t his sound. It was the sound (and bad advice) of some popped-collar producer who wanted to ride the industry tide.

In some ways, it’s tempting to forgive individual musicians for the dreck they pumped out during that time. 1987 was, after all, the year that gave us Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, I Want to Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston, Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car by Billy Ocean, and … oh, it hurts my brain to even type this … (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

Dan Fogelberg’s best songs, in my offbeat estimation, are the ones that take advantage of his amazing guitar skills and triharmonic vocals: Scarecrow’s DreamThe Last Nail, The Innocent Age, Sketches, Souvenirs, and Along the Road.

Same Old Lang Syne and Leader of the Band are often cited as great, but they don’t reach me like they do most people.

The chapters of Jean’s account drift off-course fairly often. I know it’s meant to be an intimate tale of their lives together, but I got really bored with the banal chit-chat about which wine they chose to go with which pasta.

Speaking of wine, there is a chapter in which she talks about their wine collection being ruined by a dehumidifier, and they would have to go to the wine shop the next day to replace their expensive Italian wines. Wow. Those poor little rich people had to replace their precious, pricey wine. Sometimes the wealthy can really lose sight of themselves.

I want to add that I thought very highly of Fogelberg’s music when he was really at the crest of his talent and popularity, from 1972’s Home Free through 1983’s Windows and Walls. It’s quite a musical achievement to have such a long run of great music, especially in a world of one-hit wonders.

I would have liked to meet and photograph the man, but I’ve never liked the paparazzi photography scene, and I’m not certain I would have been the photographer for him. Still, I feel I might have been able to express something about his amazing musical talent, and something about how his music and vision influenced me.

My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.
My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.

Review: The Journals of Kurt Cobain

I liked reading Cobain's journals in his own handwriting.
I liked reading Cobain’s journals in his own handwriting.

“I don’t think you’re going to come away from this ‘decoding’ knowing anything more about him than what is already commonly known. You may learn something about him you, personally, didn’t know before, but as for ‘decoding’ him? Not gonna happen. Not from photos of his journal pages alone.”

And so another dismissive, journalist wannabe tried to put me in my place.

When I inadvertently heard that Kurt Cobain kept a journal, I stopped what I was doing right then and found them on Amazon and ordered them. I have been re-reading them for two years since then.

I read some reviews of Kurt Cobain’s Journals in preparation for writing this review. They were all over the place, from praising Cobain’s rawness, candor and expressiveness, to ultra-unforgiving criticism of Cobain’s widow Courtney Love being a sellout for publishing it.

Cobain wasn’t the kind of kid who hung in my high school circles, and he wouldn’t have been comfortable for a minute with my adult friends. Nor was he the school bully or misfit, prom king or quarterback, trumpeter or debater.

That mostly just leaves one category: burners. Those guys were assholes in school, but they all ended up (or already were) in the throes of self-destruction. So sure, I can see Cobain behind a dumpster on a Saturday night when he was 12.

A teenage girl I knew on the day Cobain died told me, “Kurt Cobain was a genius.” At the time, I was very annoyed with her, since his suicide seemed so petulant and selfish, but today I might reconsider. Why? As my brilliant reviewer/journalist/social commentator friend Dan said in his review of Nevermind, “Nirvana was on the forefront of (a) change, a blast of hard rock that was totally different than the plastic, corporate-sanctioned music that had ended the Eighties.”

I know, I’m shifting all over the place, but so did Cobain’s journal.

In the end, I like Cobain’s journal because I can relate to them. I journal, and that journal can be dark, overly honest, contentious, jittery, and chaotic, although I also yearn for a sense of chaos that Cobain clearly mastered.

Here are a few phrases I circled or highlighted while I was reading it…

“I hope I die before I turn into Pete Townshend.”
“Smells like thirtysomething.”
“I’ve collaborated with one of my idols William Burroughs.”
“Television is the most evil thing on our planet.”
“Fuck now, suffer later.”
“I don’t want a granddaughter of mine changing my soiled rubber underwear while I suck on Ry-Krisp, clinging to existence just so I can reminisce about my life as a professional reminiscent.”
“I like passion. I like innocence.”
“Censorship is very American.”
“The king of words is everything.”
“God how I love playing live.”
“Thanks for the tragedy. I need it for my art.”
“Recycle, vote, question, or blow your head off.”
“The revolution will be televised.”
“Life isn’t nearly as sacred as the appreciation of passion.”
“If you think everything has been said and done, then how come nothing has been solved and resolved?”
“I hate myself and want to die.”

Cobain’s most common illustration in his journal is of rooftop snipers aiming at Nazis or Klansmen.

Cobain once wrote a letter to a congressman accidentally using a cigarette instead of a pen.

My sister pointed out that Cobain had terrible taste in woman, since he married one of humanity’s worst, Courtney Love.

For years and years, intimacy seemed to hover around my journals. Now I look back at them (more on that soon), and see how valuable that is, even when others dismantle and criticize them. They are real, raw, unpolished, unprotected, and vulnerable.

I recommend that you, too, read Kurt Cobain’s journals.

Writing something on paper summons a very different part of our minds than typing or texting.
Writing something on paper summons a very different part of our minds than typing or texting.

How to Do Your Own Research

  1. Get a college degree in the field you wish to research.
  2. Get a masters degree in the field you wish to research.
  3. Get a doctorate in the field you wish to research.
  4. Get hired by a company or university in the field you wish to research.
  5. Research.
  6. Copying the research of others is not research.

The Social Dilemma

When considering the "fake news" paradigm, consider this: this image is NOT a picture of the Statue of Liberty. It is a replica in Las Vegas.
When considering the “fake news” paradigm, consider this: this image is NOT a picture of the Statue of Liberty. It is a replica in Las Vegas.

I just watched the Netflix Original Documentary The Social Dilemma, and I have some thoughts on this rather chilling assessment of the current and future netscape.

  1. I have often been disappointed by my social media posts seeming to gather so much more attention than my blog posts here on this site, and I always have a sneaking suspicion that is due to the way social media stimulate rewards centers in the brain, while my blog posts are only well-written, thoughtful and true.
  2. The same concept applies to newspapers vs social media. One of the experts cited in this film asserts that fake news gets about six times as many shares as real news, “because real news is boring.”
  3. I recently turned down a better-paying job in corporate social media, and am feeling very vindicated for it after watching this show.
  4. Social media sharing and participation is easy for everyone, and requires little thought. In a post about my wife’s recent hospitalization, there were 318 “likes” and 108 comments, almost all of which were kind but empty, as in, “thoughts and payers.” You feel like you are contributing something, but nothing particularly valuable.
  5. A relative of ours recently claimed with unwavering certainty that ivermectin, “cures 97 percent of all COVID-19 cases,” and she couldn’t have gotten ahold of a lie like that anywhere else but social media.

So what could the answer be? Is it enough for us to vet and share the truth every day, or will it take action by the force of governments and armies to stop poisoning our minds? Are we, as one commenting in the show asserted, headed for a civil war?

We've all heard the analogy of the "frog in boiling water," in which the heat gets higher so slowly the frog doesn't realize it is being boiled.
We’ve all heard the analogy of the “frog in boiling water,” in which the heat gets higher so slowly the frog doesn’t realize it is being boiled. Are we being boiled?

The Golden Age of the Internet

No matter how many laptop computers you have, you can't make people put down their smartphones.
No matter how many laptop computers you have, you can’t make people put down their smartphones.

In the last 15 years, we have all witnessed the internet deteriorate. What at first seemed like a gleaming futurtopia of the “information superhighway” has become a place for intellectual and spiritual poison.

I’ve been getting nostalgic recently about that golden age: Nyan Cat, Amber Lamps, Double Rainbow All the Way, Badger Badger Badger, Salad Fingers, The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, Teen Girl Squad, and others have served to remind me that there was a time when the web could entertain us without the appalling obsession with money.

Black box warning: clicking on any of the above links may be preceded by, or contain, advertising.

A recent trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole on various subjects brought me to this article: the digital dark age. I hate to say it, but I tend to be right about stuff a lot, and I was always right about this one. I tell my students to keep migrating their data to newer technologies, or they will lose them forever.

And of course, you know where I am going with this: it’s all about money. There’s no money in being brilliant. It’s not socially-piercing poetry that gets 10 million likes. The likes, and the money, go to intellectually numbing crap on sites like Tic-Toc.

Of particular annoyance is that so many (probably the majority of) websites have some kind of nagging beg for money. Pop-overs, pop-downs, ads that take forever to load, all make those pages insufferable. Even the Associated Press home page nags us every time with a pop-over that you can’t not see…

You know what, AP website? Go f*ck yourself.
You know what, AP website? Go f*ck yourself.

This web site, richardbarron.net, has been online since 2004, and I am keeping it up. A downside to that is that viewers gloss over links on social media, and seldom navigate to websites based on searches or bookmarks. I sometimes think that no one ever clicks on links when they browse social media because, to be kind, they are brainwashed into consuming their reality in tiny, salty, sugary, cheesy little bytes.

Part of what we web old-timers liked was the idea of flowing freely from one page to the next, following suggested links or search results, in a fashion that made the internet a bit like a scavenger hunt. In 2021, many, maybe most, users, follow only what one app offers them.

The most obvious solution to you and your digital footprint is to find a way to express it non-digitally. Write or type on paper. Print your photographs. Hold on to your phonograph records, audio tapes, and CDs. Yet I remain pessimistic when I see more powerful and complex smartphones used to create mediocre photos and video, open to one app, used for bottom-tier entertainment only.

In conclusion, if you sprinkle Ivermectin on your Tide pods, it works twice as well to prevent the Rona.

Tiny monsters loom large if they are close enough.
Tiny monsters loom large if they are close enough.

Two Decades Since 9/11

In some ways, the era before 9/11 was an age of innocence.

Just prior to 9/11, I was flying a lot, like in this image of my friend Michael and me flying a cranky Piper Tomahawk (known to aviators as the "Traumahawk") that I rented at Max Westheimer Field in Norman.
Just prior to 9/11, I was flying a lot, like in this image of my friend Michael and me flying a cranky Piper Tomahawk (known to aviators as the “Traumahawk”) that I rented at Max Westheimer Field in Norman.

I have written many times over the years about where I was when 9/11 happened. Since Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an entire generation of people, some my friends and relatives, have little to no memories of that day.

The World Trade Center in New York City is shown in this March 1985 image from the Empire State Building.
The World Trade Center in New York City is shown in this March 1985 image from the Empire State Building.

So today I’d like to share not where I was or what I was doing, but who I was on that day.

I was still flying all the time. I earned my pilot certificate in May 1993, and flew a lot in those years. There were a couple of nice, affordable airplanes to rent at the Ada and Norman airports, and I was building hours by flying and training. 9/11 had a chilling effect on this, since, only marginally related, the terrorists involved had a small amount of general aviation training.

I flew to Florida in the late summer of 2001 to see my parents. My mother made this image of me on a pier at Flagler Beach, Florida. The next time I took a commercial flight in December 2001, the Orlando airport was packed with armed National Guard troops.
I flew to Florida in the late summer of 2001 to see my parents. My mother made this image of me on a pier at Flagler Beach, Florida. The next time I took a commercial flight in December 2001, the Orlando airport was packed with armed National Guard troops.

I was unmarried and wasn’t dating anyone. This wasn’t for lack of trying, but more about how difficult it is to be in a good relationship or in a good marriage. From the moment of 9/11 to my first date with my wife Abby in January 2003, it seemed like an eternity, but of course it was just 16 months.

I lived in a very small downtown Ada apartment. Because it was near the college, my apartment tended to be more culturally diverse than most neighborhoods, and I really liked that.

I still had a darkroom at our newspaper, so I was still very active in film photography, especially black-and-white photography.

On September 12, after more than 24 hours of watching the news about the attacks, a friend told me on the phone that, “I’m really brain dead. I wonder if it’s information overload. I feel like the wheels are just whirring away inside my head.”

9/11 changed us all in some ways.

Just a few days before 9/11, I photographed Ann Kelley with her dog Cookie at their home in Shawnee. Sadly, Ann passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer.
Just a few days before 9/11, I photographed Ann Kelley with her dog Cookie at their home in Shawnee. Sadly, Ann passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer.

Another Reason to Vaccinate

A friend confessed to me just today that he was “afraid of shots,” but was seriously considering getting his COVID-19 vaccination. He said he’d seen that I got vaccinated Monday Aug. 23. What he didn’t realize is that I got my third, or “booster”, dose of the Moderna-made vaccine.

Update, August 25: a day after I talked to my friend and posted this entry, I got a text message from my office showing his CDC vaccination card with his first vaccination, with the text message below it, which said, “Tell Richard that’s for him.”

For the first 24 to 36 hours after receiving my third, booster, dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, August 23, I was achy and just a tad feverish, but it was tolerable, and even encouraging that my body was mounting an immune response.
For the first 24 to 36 hours after receiving my third, booster, dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, August 23, I was achy and just a tad feverish, but it was tolerable, and even encouraging that my body was mounting an immune response.

My sister thinks the entire “vaccine hesitancy” issue is exactly that: fear of needles and injections. I think that is probably an issue with many, but I’m willing to say that it is more dynamic than that; that people are afraid of their bodies, afraid to put things in their bodies that they don’t understand, afraid of trusting others.

For me: there has never been a more important time to be as immune as possible. I am in a hospital setting every day right now as I visit my wife Abby, who is recovering from a very serious non-COVID-related illness, and bringing COVID to her would be a serious setback.

I was born in 1963. I have been vaccinated against polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcal pneumonia, shingles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B,  yearly influenza and, now, SARS-CoV-2, and have never, even once, had any significant complications from any of them.

I hope my friend gets his vaccines, and I hope many other follow my example and do the same.

Of all the vaccinations I have gotten, Shingrix, a two-shot shingles vaccine, hurt the most, and was sore the longest, about a week. You what it felt like? It felt like not getting shingles.
Of all the vaccinations I have gotten, Shingrix, a two-shot shingles vaccine, hurt the most, and was sore the longest, about a week. You what it felt like? It felt like not getting shingles.

“Oink!”

By the time I was a senior is high school, I was hanging out with some people who might not have been the best influences on me.

One thing we did all summer long after graduation was to “cruise.” Younger readers might not exactly understand this activity, since it seems so lame, but essentially, we drove around in big circles, showing off something – how cool we were, how much cooler we were, how much cooler we were than (insert other kinds of people like “goat ropers” or “proud crowd”), and, in the case of the people I cruised with, how cool their cars were.

I recently watched a video on a YouTube channel called Audit the Audit, which is about “the right and wrong of police interactions.”

The video that prompted this entry (link) was one about police detaining a group of young people because one of them shouted “f*ck the police” at them from the passenger side of their vehicle.

A nearly identical event happened to me in 1981: I was riding in a vehicle with two other teenagers when one of them spotted a cop and called “OINK!” as loud as he could from the passenger window.

The police weren’t very happy hearing that, and immediately pulled us over. I understand now, as an adult, why this is so offensive, but at that time in my life, steered by the influence of kids with too much money and huge egos, it felt rebellious and event righteous.

The police called us back behind the car one at a time, and I was first. They asked me who yelled at them, and I told them it was my friend in the back seat. Our driver was next, and he also told them it was our back-seater.

The kid who oinked was back there along time, and the driver and I heard raised police voices. When he came back to the car and the police told us we could go, he was visibly shaken, and told us it was because he recognized the officer as one who had allegedly shot a teenager while working as deputy in a nearby small town.

I thought of this encounter and similar ones from my youth after watching the Audit the Audit video, which concluded that the police officer in the video, who was fired from the force after the incident, acted wrongly, and that criticism of the police, even vulgar, puerile criticism, is a right protected by the Constitution.

Tennagers are children in adult bodies, and can often be arrogant, selfish, and short-sighted.
Tennagers are children in adult bodies, and can often be arrogant, selfish, and short-sighted.

Sidebar: this is a separate entry I have been holding for a few years, but it seems connected to this item in many ways…

I took up with the wrong people in late high school and college, not by virtue of them ruining my life or getting me in trouble, but because they were assholes.

  • J, who moved into my dorm room by trading with my assigned roommate while I was away, without asking me, was something of a sadist, took pleasure in making people look foolish, and constantly made fun of music I liked even though I never asked him to listen to it.
  • A, who set some sort of “trap” to find out if I’d been sleeping in J’s bed, which I had not, and took great pleasure in accusing me of it.
  • On the first day of my sophomore year, A and C brought a dog to our room while I was away, and asked me if they could keep him. When I said no, A said, “See, I told you so.” No you can’t keep a dog in student housing, you four year old.
  • C and J once accidentally skipped the check at a popular Mexican restaurant, and upon discovering how it happened, repeatedly skipped the check in the same fashion.
  • C kept a pistol in his car, and routinely parked in the tow-away zone. Once he fell asleep and his car was towed. About to be arrested for illegal possession of a firearm on campus, his father intervened, possibly with a bribe, to make the charges go away. C had the gun in his car as soon as it was returned to him.
  • C and J made it the duty of passengers to throw any fast food packaging onto the road from the moving vehicle without regard for littering in any way.

 

We Were Lines on a Map

In 2000, I joined a Yahoo! group associated with my high school’s Class of 1981 20th reunion. I got really interested in it for a while. It was like a forum or chat room, only with people who, mostly, attended Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma with me. Like most Yahoo! groups, or anything else from the internet in 2000, it has long since died. It was unsuccessfully replaced for the 30th reunion by a Facebook page, and now is two Facebook pages, Eisenhower Class of 1980 and 1981 class reunion, and Ike 1981 40th reunion. Both sites appear to be hosting the same event.

(Note to self: blog later about the failure of social media to actually be social.)

Ann Kelley made this image of me at the Blue Ice Cream Social. The guy in the center of the frame is Dray, one of the few people who hung out with me in tenth grade. I have no idea who the woman is.
Ann Kelley made this image of me at the Blue Ice Cream Social. The guy in the center of the frame is Dray, one of the few people who hung out with me in tenth grade. I have no idea who the woman is.

In early July 2001, I attended that reunion. I admit that I really just wanted to see a few people, all women, and that the event was awkward and disappointing.

The only real thing I had in common with most of these people is that I lived within the same boundaries on a map as they did. We owed any “friendship” we had to school board members and the economics of home ownership.

You lived in that school district, so don’t fudge your Huggies because you were a Hokie or a Gamecock or a Trojan or a Tarheel or a Pug. It just happened to you.

Most of the people at my high school, and by extension my high school reunion, were complete strangers, and even the people I sort of knew back then turned out to be as boring and ordinary as I thought they would. Some were, just as they had been in high school, complete assholes.

The reunion was a two-day affair. On that Friday, I attended the Blue Ice Cream Social. It was named after a non-sanctioned event on football Friday nights, held at a different rich kid’s house each week, called Blue Ice Cream. It sometimes involved drinking, but always involved a pool party. Except for one time I was assigned to shoot it for the Talon yearbook, I never went to Blue Ice Cream, for both the fact that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and that I was never invited.

With me on that Friday night in 2001 was Ann Kelley, who seemed to have a lot of fun making video from the affair. On the drive home to Ada, after an odd silence, she said, “Richard, I can’t believe someone as interesting as you went to school with those people.”

In all fairness, I am pretty sure none of them really care about me, either, and if they thought I was an ass in high school, they still thought of me as an ass. Except for their efforts to populate the 30th reunion, almost no one from the class has made any effort to maintain any kind of friendship with me. In fact, looking through my contacts list, I only find Anna and Michael, who were two of my closest friends in high school, and the only genuinely loyal ones.

This is a previously unpublished overview I shot on the patio at Eisenhower High School during the Blue Ice Cream Social in July 2001. I swear, I couldn't give you the first names of more than five people in this image.
This is a previously unpublished overview I shot on the patio at Eisenhower High School during the Blue Ice Cream Social in July 2001. I swear, I couldn’t give you the first names of more than five people in this image.

Goodbye Mac, Hello Mackenzee Ellen

Mackenzee Crosby and I visited and photographed the old Ada News building one day. I worked there for more than 30 years.
Mackenzee Crosby and I visited and photographed the old Ada News building one day. I worked there for more than 30 years.

Early in her internship, Mackenzee Ellen Crosby was using the moniker “Mac,” both personally, and on social media.

Mackenzee Crosby photographs some of her Polaroid images in a windowsill in an alley as she and I were on a "photo walk" on a rainy day in May.
Mackenzee Crosby photographs some of her Polaroid images in a windowsill in an alley as she and I were on a “photo walk” on a rainy day in May.

As she grew up, her identity matured and she felt more distance from who she had been as a child and as a young teenager, and she struggled with her identity. We all do that. My sister Nicole wanted to be called “Nicci” for a while. My friend Kaitlyn went by “Katy” for a year or so. One of the Ashford cousins used the last name “Smashford” for a while.

Mackenzee and I made this ghostly self-portrait in a puddle in downtown Ada.
Mackenzee and I made this ghostly self-portrait in a puddle in downtown Ada.

Then one day I told Mackenzee that I liked her name, especially when paired with her middle name, Ellen. In another conversation around that time, I brainstormed some title ideas for her column, and they included Eye Opener, Truth and Coffee, Dear Ellen, Something to Say, Inside Out, This Reclusive Silence, Between You and Me, Journal of Secrets, Thin as a Ghost, This Mortal Coil, Ellipses, A Woman Alone, Hide and Seek, Rough Draft, Morning Light, and Ellen in Grey.

She loved Ellen in Grey, and for the entire summer, that was the name of her column.

Also for the entire summer, she fell in love with journalism.

Mackenzee and Ashlynd Elizabeth "America" Huffman wear news t-shirts at the Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in Oklahoma City in June.
Mackenzee and Ashlynd Elizabeth “America” Huffman wear news t-shirts at the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in Oklahoma City in June.

Mackenzee and I seem to have connections. Photography and journalism are the obvious ones. The next layer is social and religious. At our cores are writing, expressing ourselves emotionally, and a sense that we are outcasts, that people see us as “weird.”

Mackenzee accepted an award for Sports Editor Jeff Cali at the Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in June, do the "finger 'stache" gesture.
Mackenzee accepted an award for Sports Editor Jeff Cali at the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in June, do the “finger ‘stache” gesture.

I read things she wrote in tenth grade, and they could have been my very words when I was in tenth grade.

On one of our first assignments together with Ashlynd, we stopped to photograph clouds I spotted through my sunroof, and that really made an impression on her. This image of Mackenzee photographing a fairy ring reminded me of that time.
On one of our first assignments together with Ashlynd, we stopped to photograph clouds I spotted through my sunroof, and that really made an impression on her. This image of Mackenzee photographing a fairy ring reminded me of that time.

Mackenzee says she’d love to work for us part time during the upcoming academic year, but wants to leave Ada when she graduates from college. I can’t say that I fault her for that; I despise my former hometown so much I actually don’t call it my home town any more.

I have discovered that Mackenzee is not a “hug”person. I have hugged her on three occasions, including when her internship ended, and they all just kind of bounced off. I have tons of “hug” friends in town, and we fall into each other’s arms like we never missed a beat.

I am far-sighted, and Mackenzee is near-sighted, so each of us always had to reset the diopter every time we traded cameras.

Mackenzee already had some impressive skills when she started her internship, but is so bright and easy-going that she soaked up journalism like a sponge. I feel like she grew a lot in the weeks we had her on staff.
Mackenzee already had some impressive skills when she started her internship, but is so bright and easy-going that she soaked up journalism like a sponge. I feel like she grew a lot in the weeks we had her on staff.

We had another great intern in 2019, Ashlynd, and she became one of my best friends. Ashlynd and Mackenzee became better friends this summer, especially after attending the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention, but it’s worth noting that they are quite different from each other:  Ashlynd is into journalism at the street level. She loves ambushing criminals getting arrested or going to house fires in the middle of the night. Mackenzee’s journalism, on the other hand, seems focused on social issues and injustices, although in her goodbye column she said, “Some of my favorite assignments to cover were spot news. I love the exhilaration and adrenaline from working a car accident or crime scene, even though they are often heartbreaking.”

When Ashlynd saw a photo of Mackenzee running across the street at the scene of a car crash with her camera, she told Mackenzee, “I feel this on a spiritual level.”

Mackenzee makes pictures at the scene of a car crash near Ada High School in June.
Mackenzee makes pictures at the scene of a car crash near Ada High School in June.

There are people in our lives who we are always glad to see, people with whom we have lifelong conversations that we can pick up after five minutes or six months without missing a step, and I hope Mackenzee and I have that kind of friendship.

“I will cherish the memories made alongside my friend and mentor, Richard Barron,” she wrote. I hope she and I continue to curate memories no matter where our lives, and our journalism, takes us.

Mackenzee and I pose for a selfie at Ada High School graduation in May. She graduated from Ada in 2017. Covering graduations were among the first assignments I did during my own internship in 1982.
Mackenzee and I pose for a selfie at Ada High School graduation in May. She graduated from Ada in 2017. Covering graduations were among the first assignments I did during my own internship in 1982.

Some Fun Travel Notes and Observations

Abby and I were finally able to travel again after a 20-month hiatus due to the pandemic. We chose the beauty of northern New Mexico.

I wrote a comprehensive trip report, The Summit, here (link), but here are a few extra thoughts.

Taos is a mess

It has been my displeasure to watch charming towns grow up, and as they do, “grow” economically, meaning that they get more businesses, and in turn get more infrastructure. Taos was once small and charming, but it now has a super Walmart, a sign that it has changed into an emotionally dead suburb. Santa Fe and Moab, Utah, have both died in my eyes in this way.

I'm sure this butterfly was meant to brighten up the route through Taos, but now it is graffiti tagged and ratty.
I’m sure this butterfly was meant to brighten up the route through Taos, but now it is graffiti tagged and ratty.

Poverty due to the virus

It was pretty clear looking at the number of closed, and even abandoned, businesses that towns that rely heavily, or even exclusively, on tourism and recreation fared worse than most because of the pandemic.

We saw many locations in Taos and through much of New Mexico that had been struggling before the pandemic, only to be finished off by it in the past year.
We saw many locations in Taos and through much of New Mexico that had been struggling before the pandemic, only to be finished off by it in the past year.

Church protest

On at least two days in Taos, I saw a car legally parked in front of First Baptist Church, covered in blaze yellow signs criticizing Vacation Bible School as “brainwashing.” It’s a pretty strong statement, and many people I know would probably find it offensive, but however you feel about the statement, you have to admit that making it was free speech in its purest form.

I know more than a few people who would actively advocate banning such displays, while at the same time saying they believe in freedom. To them, freedom is the freedom to be like them.
I know more than a few people who would actively advocate banning such displays, while at the same time saying they believe in freedom. To them, freedom is the freedom to be like them.

Food and more food

We had several great meals on our trip, from an amazing pizza in Taos to a great veggie burger and sweet potato fries in Madrid, but honestly, I don’t understand people for whom the best part of travel is the food. The best meals in our lives are usually at home, and I can get a great meal anywhere. I drive to Utah or New Mexico to find things we don’t have in Oklahoma, like mountains, deserts, and canyons, not overpriced appetizers.

We had a wonderful $22 pizza for dinner one night in Taos, but the truth is that I can make a pizza this good at home with ingredients that might cost $1.50.
We had a wonderful $22 pizza for dinner one night in Taos, but the truth is that I can make a pizza this good at home with ingredients that might cost $1.50.

 

A High School Graduate

A portion of this was my column this weekend. I added some less-palatable bits to this entry.

This is Jena Owrey during a football game in September 1980. She was always sweet to me, and we remained friends on social media for a long time, but she has now disappeared. Also of note: compare how skinny the football players look compared to current players.
This is Jena Owrey during a football game in September 1980. She was always sweet to me, and we remained friends on social media for a long time, but she has now disappeared. Also of note: compare how skinny the football players look compared to current players.

As I cover graduations this year, as I do every year, I think of when I walked the same walk.

I graduated from Lawton’s Eisenhower High School on May 31, 1981. If you subtract, yes, that is 40 years ago. Wow.

For some people, high school is a cherished part of their lives, and while I have some great memories from that time, I have to say that I didn’t remain connected to very many people from my graduating class, which, at about 640, was quite large compared to the graduations I cover in the Ada area.

On the day I graduated from high school, President Ronald Reagan was still recovering from an assassination attempt. I didn’t own a computer. Cell phones weren’t a thing yet. MTV had not yet been launched. The first space shuttle had just launched. CDC scientists reported the first five observed cases of AIDS.

It was, as they say, a different time.

I made this image of Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma in 2011, but it looked exactly like this in 1981.
I made this image of Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma in 2011, but it looked exactly like this in 1981.

From my perspective as a photographer, I can tell you that “different time” doesn’t begin to describe how much imaging has changed since that warm day in May 1981.
The 1980s saw a lot of important growth in photographic film. In black-and-white, Kodak’s Tri-X ruled at the start of that decade, but by 1987, Kodak reinvented black-and-white with this T-Max films, including T-Max P3200, which changed my world as a news photographer. In color, we saw 400-speed and 800-speed films go from exotic high-sensitivity film with sharpness-robbing grain to the films we reached for every day.

Photographing graduations themselves has changed tremendously as well. On the day I graduated, my parents might have shot five frames of my friends and me, and me in the unflattering powder blue cap and gown. As I walked across the stage, the photographer made exactly one direct-flash shot of me receiving my diploma.
Today’s world of digital imaging means a senior might be photographed hundreds of times at every event, including their walk across the stage.

To me, though, that photo of me isn’t particularly meaningful. Sure, it’s a moment in my life, but it is emotionless and unengaging. I have tried, as years have gone by, to make my photojournalistic efforts at covering graduations more emotional, more engaging, more memorable.

On this day I started the process of realizing how little I liked the people who attended school with me.
On this day I started the process of realizing how little I liked the people who attended school with me.

Here is the part I redacted: my posse in high school and I haven’t spoken a word to each other in decades. Part of that is because I was so hard to get along with, but a bigger part of it is that I went to high school with a bunch of turds.

I talked about this at greater length in an entry called We Were Lines on a Map (link.)

That's me on the left. When Abby saw this, she said, "You look about eight." I was 17, but about as mature as an eight year old. The other people in this image are Christy Parker, who I don't know, Allen Biehl, Jeff Glenn, and Carey "Chip" Johnson. I recognize now that I should have been keeping different company. No criticism of them is intended. We just weren't a good fit.
That’s me on the left. When Abby saw this, she said, “You look about eight.” I was 17, but about as mature as an eight year old. The other people in this image are Christy Parker, who I don’t know, Allen Biehl, Jeff Glenn, and Carey “Chip” Johnson. I recognize now that I should have been keeping different company. No criticism of them is intended. We just weren’t a good fit.

In 2001, I attended a high school reunion, mostly just to see one girl, and was very disappointed by who these people had become. I don’t expect to attend another one.

It’s pretty clear also that many of them are contemptuous of me as well, since they refuse to add me to their friends list on social media.

Here is another frames of my friends and me, acting like jackasses because we thought it made us look clever.
Here is another frames of my friends and me, acting like jackasses because we thought it made us look clever.

“Everything Richard Eats is Healthy”

A really good meal starts with color.
A really good meal starts with color.

I was at a public gathering recently, and someone in the group said she’d lost 30 pounds recently, 30 pounds she said she’d gained during the lockdowns associated with coronavirus. She told us she lost the weight using the Optavia diet. I was impressed by her achievement, but that diet involves lots of cabbage and broccoli, and she said she had run out of ideas about how to cook them.

“Those are two of the most nutritious foods you can eat,” I said.

“Everything Richard eats is healthy,” she said to the group. I wish that were true. What is true is that I try to be aware of the nutritional content of everything I eat.

I have really been enjoying oranges lately.
I have really been enjoying oranges lately.

When my wife Abby wants a baked ziti from our favorite Italian place, for example, I usually get a veggie pizza while I am there. The fact that it’s a “veggie” pizza doesn’t change its nutritional content much. It’s an indulgence, but I always make sure not to overeat. Pizza keeps well and reheats easily, so I usually make three meals out of it.

I did myself the favor of buying these organic rainbow baby carrots the other day.
I did myself the favor of buying these organic rainbow baby carrots the other day.

Here are some additional thoughts about diet and health…

  • Refined sugar isn’t really a nutrient. How I feel when I eat sugar? Since I eat refined sugar so infrequently, its effect is very evident: rising heart rate, a subtle feeling of anxiety, marked mood elevation followed by a classic “sugar crash.”
  • I stopped drinking sugar drinks like soda decades ago, and if I have a sip of one now, it doesn’t taste appealing in any way.
  • Why do I like what I like? I never get tired of broccoli and cabbage, beans and rice, fresh fruit and whole grains. I admit that some of this is by choice, and some of it is how I am constituted genetically.
  • Counting carbs is off base; that’s how we got here in the first place. I believe the answer lies in a more fundamental behavior: eating less, eating real food, and moving more. The minute you look at a real food like a peach or a cantaloupe and assign a number to it, you’ve lost your way.
  • I ponder this one all the time: nobody wants to be obese or diabetic, so why is it so prevalent? Is it that the machinery of industry makes too much money too easily selling sugar and fat to us, or is it that we are too easily tempted by these things?
  • Stop thinking of food as a reward, and start thinking of food as a choice.
  • On weekends or other days off, the next thing I do after a meal is walk our dogs.
  • One trick that works for me: if I don’t think it should be in my diet, I won’t bring it into my house. When I have a desire for a mid-afternoon snack and look in the pantry, I find what I brought home from the grocery store. Is it apples and steel cut oats, or snack cakes and doughnuts?

I want to end this on a positive note: everyone and anyone can eat a healthier diet, it’s easier than you might imagine, and it has the potential to turn your health and your life completely around.

This is the end result of my go-to stir-fry: Gardein Meatless Chik'n strips, broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage, stir-fried until brown and tender, served over a bed of rice/quinoa mix. I have been eating this dish for 30 years, and I never get tired of it.
This is the end result of my go-to stir-fry: Gardein Meatless Chik’n strips, broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage, stir-fried until brown and tender, served over a bed of rice/quinoa mix. I have been eating this dish for 30 years, and I never get tired of it.

Nature Fighting Back

I got my second coronavirus vaccination this week. My arm is very sore and I have some muscle aches, but that tells me it’s working.

My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm yesterday morning.
My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm yesterday morning.

I posted on social media this week that my peach trees had gone straight to leaves this year, and did not appear to be making blossoms, which, according to my photos from previous years, almost always happened before the first day of spring. I was convinced that I wouldn’t have peaches, though I was encouraged to see that I did have plum blossoms.

A peach blossom clings to a branch on the largest of my peach trees this evening.
A peach blossom clings to a branch on the largest of my peach trees this evening.

Then today, as I walked Hawken, I caught sight of a few peach blossoms on a couple of my trees, and I felt encouraged, both because I might actually get peaches, but also that it seemed to me that nature, after years of cruelty to it by humans, seemed, in the last 15 months or so, to be fighting back.

I have more than one variety of peach trees in my orchard, and they make slightly different blossoms.
I have more than one variety of peach trees in my orchard, and they make slightly different blossoms.

In the Midst of the Rona, I Got My Shingles Vaccination

Great news today: my wife Abby was able to receive her second dose of Pfizer-made coronavirus vaccine Friday.

Across the country, health departments, hospitals and clinics have been struggling to meet demand for vaccines to address the historic coronavirus pandemic. I know that I am grateful for every effort they have made, and I am aware that something on such a scale is sure to be difficult, but we as a nation are on our way to taking our lives back from this disease.

Abby is a little older than I am, so she was eligible to receive her vaccine in the first phase of Governor Stitt’s four-phase plan for vaccinating Oklahomans. But I am in phrase three, so I won’t be eligible for some time yet, and while I wait, I remain aware that there are many other health issues that didn’t go away just because “the Rona” is here. For example, Abby and I both got influenza vaccinations last fall.

So it was that a television ad caught my eye: Shingrix, a vaccine against shingles, is now recommended for adults 50 and older who had chicken pox when they were young, which is most of us.

I’ve known people who have suffered through shingles, an awful, painful illness, and even someone whose shingles damaged her vision, so when I heard it was available, I couldn’t wait to get Shingrix in my arm.

Social media informed me that this vaccine would rough me up a little bit, and they weren’t wrong: just 24 hours from the first of two shots, my side effects were pretty textbook: my arm is super sore, and I even had a little bit of fever, both of which made it difficult to sleep, but which responded to Tylenol.

I am a proponent of vaccines, since I am old enough to know people who had diseases like polio, diphtheria, mumps, measles, whooping cough, tetanus, and smallpox, just to mention a few, which plagued humanity for centuries until being brought under control, and in the case of smallpox, eliminated by vaccines.

I would also encourage my readers to have some common sense when it comes to vaccines and the absurd conspiracy theories surrounding them.

When I become eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, I will take it, and hopefully one fine day this year, we can reclaim our lives and routines, thanks to the science of vaccines.

Abby gets her follow-up coronavirus vaccination today.
Abby gets her follow-up coronavirus vaccination today.

A Legacy of Dignity

What if, after your political career, you could depart the landscape of history with dignity?

What if you could be known as someone who learned from the First World War and brokered a brilliant solution at the end of the Second World War?

What if you left with a spotless record of dignified speeches, a humble social servant and family man, whose administration remained unstained by scandal?

What if your legacy was to challenge America to a difficult and complex task that seemed insurmountable, but one to which America rose?

What if, despite an unimpressive political career, you went on to a long legacy of statesmanlike service to your nation and humanity?

But instead…

“Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.”

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

“You can do anything. Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything.”

“They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part)…”

And what if, instead of standing tall and speaking to the people of the world, from University pulpits and hallowed hall of mighty nations, you did it all from Twitter at four in the morning?

Is our flag fading?
Is our flag fading?

The Times We Have Made

The most difficult year since 9/11 is over, but the world seems to continue to deliver a steady stream of gut punches. The most recent of these is the unfathomably violent, vulgar and seditious actions by pro-Trump supporters in our nation’s capital.

There is good news, however…

  • Abby received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine along with 1000 others in her age group yesterday at the Pontotoc County Agri-Plex. For most of 2020, my biggest worry about the pandemic has been bringing it home to her and her fragile immune system.
  • I am teaching photography again.
  • The protests appear to be over, and congress certified the Electoral College votes.

I and many around me were deeply troubled by the protests in Washington. I can’t speak for others, but for me the most disturbing notion is how eager some people are to throw out the constitution in the name of Trump. It resonates so closely with the events in Germany in 1933, and it sounds like a cliché to compare anyone to Hitler, but the parallels are too real to ignore.

In defense of the Right, the vice president and the senate majority leader, both Republicans, stood against the mob and the president to certify the election results. Even a very right-wing acquaintance of mine posted on social media to the mob: “At easy, assholes!”

Is this really the world we have made? Have we built this glistening tower of technology just to descend into ignorance and bloodshed? Imagine what we could do with the internet and global connectivity if we applied it to exploration, science, health, and medicine.

My thoughts on this are incomplete, so I will just leave this hear and see if anyone comments.

Abby receives her first COVID-19 vaccination yesterday, an mRNA vaccine from Moderna. Despite the appalling rumors and conspiracy theories, mostly from the right, about the vaccine being evil, it really is the only way we can get our world back to normal.
Abby receives her first COVID-19 vaccination yesterday, an mRNA vaccine from Moderna. Despite the appalling rumors and conspiracy theories, mostly from the right, about the vaccine being evil, it really is the only way we can get our world back to normal.

Hate It to Death

I saw a meme on social media recently that read, “Make racists afraid again.” You are so in love with hating racists that you don’t realize that they are already afraid. They would have to be to be racists. Maybe I’m asking too much to say, “Make racists realize that we are all human beings,” or even better, “Love racists and help them becomes better people, and eventually not racists at all.”

And if they did, could you forgive them? Your hate goes pretty deep. You are eager to hate non-racists even for single moments of racism they showed 40 years ago.

I know most of the people who hate racists are supposed to be on my side, but hating something never made it better. Even “hate racism” misses the point. What if we tried to understand racism? Maybe if we got a handle on its causes, we could make strides toward ending it.

If you could change humanity tomorrow, would you burn it to the ground, or nurture it into beauty?
If you could change humanity tomorrow, would you burn it to the ground, or nurture it into beauty?

 

Open Mic Nyte Revisited

An Open Mic Nyte participant reads from a book in August 2017 at Mojo's Coffee in Ada, Oklahoma.
An Open Mic Nyte participant reads from a book in August 2017 at Mojo’s Coffee in Ada, Oklahoma.

This was a story I wrote for my newspaper two years ago, before Open Mic Nyte disbanded. I found the files when I was cleaning out some folders on my laptop, and wanted to preserve it here.

Open Mic Nyte

by Richard R. Barron, Chief Photographer

The scent of coffee drifts through the air as Steve Brogdon gives the microphone a tug to make it a little taller. “There,” he says to me, “is that good?”

I thank him, then awkwardly clear my throat. Though I am not nervous, since I among friends, I still want to sound prepared and professional.

“Three strings walk into a coffee shop,” I say, and I can see eyes rolling from the crowd seated before me. I like to open with a joke before getting to my more serious material, and my “three strings” joke is, well, a great joke.

I pause and make eye contact. Not only do I consider uniform eye contact the mark of a good public speaker, I am happy to look at the people around me, as I have, in the past year, forged friendships with them, thanks to Open Nic Nyte.

Originally organized by Rhonda Ragsdale, who goes by the pen name Lisa M. Pyre, Open Mic is now largely run by Brogdon and Sterling Jacobs, who is a long-time area artist, poet, and, if he will accept that I am calling him this in the most flattering way, eccentric. I think I can get away with calling him that, since I feel a fair amount of eccentricity myself, and I own that and let it feed my artistic expression.

We are all eccentrics when we stand before the microphone.

Open Mic Nyte takes place on the last Monday of most months (breaking for the holidays) at Mojo’s Coffee. It is sponsored by the Happyland Music Alliance, and always has a featured artist.

You might be surprised how many painters, sculptors, charcoal drawers, graphic designers, actors, performance artists, fine art photographers, singers, dancers, conceptual artists, poets, novelists, and musicians live in the Ada area.

I feel happy to be in their midst as I tell my jokes, read from my notebooks, and show off some of my photographs. I finish and say, “Thank you. Thank you very much,” in my best Elvis impersonation voice. The crowd, sometimes just 12 or 15 of us, but sometimes nearly 30, applauds.

Jacobs takes the microphone and thanks me again. We’ve been friends for years, but Open Mic has taken that to the next level.

He next introduces my next door neighbor Jenn Nipps, who reads the next chapter in her newest novel. We all listen as she spins her story.

Since my younger days of reading Henry Miller, Albert Camus, Anaîs Nin, and Jack Kerouac, I’ve dreamed of being part of a café culture, of having a venue to share our ideas, feelings, and creations.

Timothy, who did not wish me to use his last name, is next, and to our amusement has crafted for himself a tinfoil (actually aluminum) hat. He smiles as he dons it, telling us what many of us already know, that he is a bit of a conspiracy theorist. He talks about the moon landings or the shape of the Universe. He shows us his codexes, small notebooks he’s been curating for most of his life. I can relate, since my own Open Mic kit includes some very similar notebooks.

He is welcome among us. The Vietnam veteran and his poetry are welcome among us. The guitar-playing college kid is welcome among us. The middle-aged novelist and the geriatric poet and the awkward teenage author and the pottery-making recluse and the young actor are all welcome among us. You are even welcome among us if you just want to watch and listen.

By the end of the night, nearly everyone has taken a turn at the mic.

So. Three strings walk into Mojo’s Coffee.

The first string says, “I’ll get us some coffee.”

He approaches the barista and says, “Three coffees, please.”

“Sorry, but we don’t serve strings.”

Stunned into silence, the string sits down.

The second string sees this, and defiantly approaches the barista.

Without hesitation, the barista says, “Look, I told your friend, we don’t serve strings!”

The third string is having none of this, so he bends himself into a loop, then takes out a comb and teases and rats his end.

He approaches the barista and says, “Three coffees, please!”

“Look, I told your friends, we don’t serve strings. You’re a string!”

“I’m a frayed not!”

Your host takes his turn at the microphone in April, 2018, during an Open Mic Nyte session at Mojo's Coffee in Ada, Oklahoma.
Your host takes his turn at the microphone in April, 2018, during an Open Mic Nyte session at Mojo’s Coffee in Ada, Oklahoma.

Your Hatred of Science

“Why is NASA spending $1.1 million* to send a probe to Jupiter when all they have to do is open up their Bible to see how all that was created.” ~Citizen at town hall meeting, Ada, Oklahoma, August 2011

A frightening aspect of the recent political landscape is the idea that science and the educated people who wield it are an enemy of truth. At the core of this distrust is the whirlwind of climate change and all the deception it is said to involve.

You hate science, but depend on it every moment of your life. You wouldn’t be reading this sentence without science. Listening to radio without science. Television? Science. The internet? Science. Telephones? Science. Cars and trucks? Science. Food? Science. Medicine? Science. Firearms? Science. Entertainment? Science.

Finally, finally, after almost a year of rudderless leadership about the coronavirus pandemic by the current administration, President-elect Joe Biden announced a task force to fight the virus, headed by scientists.

So why do you hate science? Is it that science disagrees with your entire core of beliefs? If so, do your ever question your beliefs? To do so is incredibly difficult, but to not do so is to remain stagnant, ignorant, even a slave. A great question to honestly answer is: who told you to hate science?

*This actually cost $1.1 billion, not million.

How many of us enjoy the spoils of science every moment of our lives, but claim to hate science only when it disagrees with us?
How many of us enjoy the spoils of science every moment of our lives, but claim to hate science only when it disagrees with us?

My Name at the Top, or “Amazing and So Real!”

Alternate title: Unsigned, Sealed, Delivered

This item was updated November 2020.

I use social media, including Facebook,  to stimulate interest in this web site, richardbarron.net.

The biggest reason social media is popular in the first place is that it gives Everyman a web presence, while at the same time preventing him from ruining it with his terrible taste and lack of creative talent (vis-à-vis MySpace in 2006).

Facebook also seems, it appears, to be the place for vapid, childish idiocy…

To me and those who understand reality, an obvious trick of reflection in camera, but to others...
To me and those who understand reality, an obvious trick of reflection in camera, but to others…

Here are some actual comments about this image…

  •  Woah!!!!
  •  That gives me chills all over!!!!
  •  Wow!
  •  Lord trying to say get ready to do his work here in Eureka Springs AR.
  •  That’s awesome
  •  Amazing
  •  Wow that is great! How exciting! Things are fixing to change!!!!!!
  •  Amen It gets you thinking, could have been an angel watching
  •  Awesome!!!
  •  Amazing
  •  That is beautiful I love that it is so amazing what Jesus Christ can do for his children
  •  Amazing…
  •  We were just talking about this today. Planning to come see it real soon.
  •  I think everyone needs to share this. Let’s let this go viral!!!
  •  I just got chills. Amazing. Amazing!!!!
  •  Wow!!!
  •  Amazing
  •  I’m sharing
  •  these things happen.
  •  wonderful!
  •  Wow! Signs & Wonders
  •  Wow that is awesome. I work at the play and enjoy every moment of it. I wasn’t on set for this part but that is truly amazing.
  •  Wow!!!!
  •  Awesome!
  •  This is wonderful! What a beautiful sight, I wish I was there to see that! I have a pic of myself with several other Ladies with me, and there is an angel covering   hovering over us. When I asked the Lord about it when I picked the pics up at Walgreens. He told me it was my guardian angel! I was brought to tears and awe!
  •  Pretty neat. I shared your post.
  •  That’s amazing and so wonderful!!
  •  Awesome
  •  GLORY BUMPS FROM HEAD TO TOE!!
  •  Beautiful
  •  Wow…
  •  God knew we needed to see this & be reminded that he loves us & is with us !! Thank you Lord 
  •  Awesome
  •  Wonderfull
  •  It’s amazing and so real! I Believe
  •  Even the real GOD loves the Great Passion Play. You should come see it for yourself. You never know you might just see the real GOD there. I know you will feel HIS Spirit there.
  •  Nothing is impossible with God in our life
  •  But wait is that satin in the lower corner of the picture??
  •  Whoa!
  •  Amazing I wish I had been there.

I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed for them being so stupid, angry at them for being so manipulative, or admire them for turning a brilliant false flag.

Look! A ghostly image appeared near a very bright compact fluorescent bulb! It must be a miracle! Praise Bulb!
Look! A ghostly image appeared near a very bright compact fluorescent bulb! It must be a miracle! Praise Bulb!

I can’t make up this stuff.

Christians, it makes you look so ignorant and silly when you believe and assert that simple optics is, “amazing and so real!” This isn’t a sophisticated extract of the possible nature of the Universe. It’s a bunch of hillbillies who think a cell phone camera captured a miracle. They are the overwhelming resonant voice of the faith.

So let’s run some stuff up the flag pole and see who salutes it…

Do Christians think that hating me will change me? Do they think hating gays will make them straight, or hating Muslims will end terrorism?

Do the Christians who commented on that photo think I will change my wicked ways when I see its testimony? That anyone will?

Answer me this: if god is real, why do you have to argue for it? Why would you even need to teach your children about god, for if god is real, would he not be completely self-evident?

So, anyway, I got an unsigned letter from a Christian. From my chair, any unsigned letter just looks like stalking. And for what it’s worth, when you send an unsigned letter, I can cherry pick and quote mine all I want.

Dear Richard:

As a blogger and reader of blogs, I was thrilled to find the “photographer of my youth” at richardbarron.net. I began reading, observing, watching, and viewing. Then, I was saddened. I suppose in Oklahoma, we assume the friendly neighborhood photographer is a believer in God, a believer in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and heaven-bound like “the rest of us.” After all, it is Ada, America. Lesson Learned.

Yes, lesson learned. It is sad that we have religious freedom and diversity in Ada, Oklahoma.

“The rest of us” is thrown in there as part of the “appeal to popularity” logical fallacy.

Seeing many of your posts tainted with the opposite of my assumption, I knew what I had to do. After all (again), if someone had good news for me, promises that were true, and a bright future but failed to tell me, well, that would be just plain rude. I’m not rude. But I am skeptical. I’m skeptical to the extent that I sought out God. I researched for myself. I read for myself. I bypassed Sunday School lessons to figure out on my own what God said, did, promised, was, is, etc. Here’s what I found.

The use of the word “research” here is an interesting misnomer. “Research” implies looking at a number of sources for information that can be verified in some kind of an independent, scientific and logical way. Our anonymous author did none of that, of course, though we in the world of logic never find this surprising.

God sent his son, Jesus, to die for me. Why? Well, years (and I mean YEARS) ago, people of Israel had to sacrifice a lamb for their sins. Pretty brutal. Ugly. Angry. Jesus was the ultimate and final “lamb.” And, just to prove that He didn’t just die for our sin, He came back to life so we could LIVE.

Ah, yes. This silly children’s story is still with us in the 21st Century. As decades of ponderance have sharpened my thoughts on this, I see more and more how so many, too many, adults think is this very troublingly childish way. Magic story. Sky daddy. Happy place for me and my kids and my dogs, unspeakable horror for everyone else. We are lambs. We are sheep.

I devoted another blog entry to addressing The Sacrifice of Jesus (link).

Live with promises from Him. He’s “got our back.”

Let me just add that the Bible never says, “He’s got our back.” That, too, is updating and upgrading god.

I’ve no doubt you have a Bible. You’re an educated man, so… here’s a few verses from a former “prove it to me” researcher to you:, 2 Peter 1:4Jeremiah 29:11Isaiah 40:29-31Matthew 11:28-29Romans 8:37-39Proverbs 1:33.

I love this part, because, as you can see if you look up the Bible verses, none of these items is any kind of proof of anything. I find it odd that in a world of ever-increasing certainty of the nature of the world, theists still seem to cling to the thinnest fallacies, these “believe it because it sounds comforting” ideas.

Don’t take my word. Click the links, read the verse, then copy and paste the part of the verse that proves something in the comments section here.

“…but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm…” Proves. Nothing.

But, if you don’t believe in the Bible, then that does you no good, right? So let me say this. I’ve experienced these promises first hand. I’ve been healed. I’ve seen others healed. I’ve seen marriages saved, jobs restored, diseases cured, joy returned, and the impossible become possible. Not because I go to church (which I do) and not because every day is sunny with Barney singing a theme song.

Experience isn’t evidence. Testimony isn’t evidence. Incredulity isn’t evidence. Feelings aren’t evidence.

No, it’s because I trust in the God who loved me so much that He went to a lot of trouble to prove it.

Actually, it’s quite apparent that god has gone out of his way to hide it, not prove it.

I have personally witnessed the failure of prayer: man prays with all his might for his wife, who is trapped in a vehicle after a crash. She died right then. Christians have brilliant rationalizations for when this happens: god’s will, her time, god needed another angel, blah blah. It’s so thin.

If this hits home at all, if you want to accept these promises, it’s as easy as believing & confessing something like… “Jesus, I believe you died on a cross. I believe you rose again. I believe in You and want to make you ‘King’ of my life. From this point on. Forgive the life I’ve lived without you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

As always, the faithful seem to think that it’s possible to believe something that is not true or believable by simply deciding to believe it. “…it’s as easy as believing…” This might be the most damning thing of all about theists. They don’t believe things because those things are true. They believe them because they believe them. Their logic is a brilliant mirror of, “The Bible is true because The Bible says it’s true.”

Signed, well, you know I’m not going to sign it. You wouldn’t know me from Adam (ha!)

That’s the punch line, really. No signature. What is this? Ashamed of your beliefs? Afraid of them. Embarrassed by them? Afraid of me? This all points to what I think is a terrifying perception: the religious can’t actually believe what they claim. It’s too silly, too absurd, too shallow, and too fictional. Unicorns. Hobbits. Demons. Dragons.

“I truly believe” doesn’t make any of it true. The “why” of it, though, resonates repeatedly with me. Is the answer really as simple as fear? Fear of emptiness, loneliness, meaninglessness, eternity, death? Or is that too deep? Fear of not fitting in, not obeying?

So thus the name of today’s entry. That’s my name at the top of this entry, at the top of every entry. I am Richard R. Barron, and I am not afraid for you to know who I am and what I think.

Oh, meme, how well you know me and my intentions.
Oh, meme, how well you know me and my intentions.

Scanning in 2020

This was my column for October 10, 2020

Journalists are a nosy bunch, and one of my earliest nosy journalist experiences was listening to the police scanner in the newsroom. I wrote a bit about it previously, but today there are a couple of wrinkles in it.

Some of the agencies in our area have moved to digital communications, while others haven’t. Some tried it and didn’t like it, so they have returned to analog/FM communications.

I am in possession of a digital scanner, one that a previous employee had and used without much success, the Uniden BCD436HP. This radio is an interesting exercise in successful failure: it scans the bazillion services it promises, but that very feature causes the radio to miss almost all the radio communications it was meant to receive.

Public safety communications are brief and to the point, so when a local firefighter picks up a microphone and says, “I’m en route to that address,” this Uniden radio is listening to Hughes County, the State Medical Examiner, the Wildlife Service, the railroads… you get the idea.

Area public safety communications are a mix of conventional FM two-way radio, digital signaling, and mobile data sharing via mobile applications.
Area public safety communications are a mix of conventional FM two-way radio, digital signaling, and mobile data sharing via mobile applications.

The next step to improve use of this radio is to build a “favorites list,” which will just listen to only the services I tell it to.

The BCD436HP is meant to be the radio scanner for the digital age, but is set up in such a haphazard way, it’s hard to configure it in any useful way. Worse, the “best” way to program this box is with a Windows-based personal computer, which I don’t own, though this week I was able to borrow one.

Former Ada News intern and current Stillwater News-Press crime reporter Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman told me recently that the purchase of a police scanner was one of the best piece of kit she bought since she’s been in Stillwater. Most Payne County communications are analog, and easily monitored with any scanner.

Finally, I am a bit of an old/vintage scanner collector, and sometimes prowl eBay to see what’s out there. An oddity in the last few months is that prices for scanners of all types have skyrocketed, and the only explanation that makes any sense is panic associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Fragile

Come rain, shine, or pandemic, our mighty Irish wolfhound Hawken remains loyal and affectionate. Sometimes when it all seems too much, he listens better than anyone.
Come rain, shine, or pandemic, our mighty Irish wolfhound Hawken remains loyal and affectionate. Sometimes when it all seems too much, he listens better than anyone.

Most of my work as a journalist has returned. School is back in session, as are athletics, though both have faced fits and starts as the pandemic spreads.

Our young photographer/writer friend Mac came by my office last week after I offered to lend her my copies of Ansel Adams’ The Camera, The Negative, and The Print, which I have been reading since I was her age.

I told her that one thing I really admire and aspire to in her writing and photography is her ability – or is it her nature? – to embrace chaos. My work seems too orderly and safe sometimes.

“It’s like you take a glass sphere,” I told her, “and throw it on the ground, then pick up the shards, while I’m in the corner polishing mine.”

“My life is like that shattered sphere,” she laughed.

Later in the week, I found this at a flower shop and bought it for my wife Abby…

A rainbow rose is preserved inside a fluid-filled glass sphere. I bought this for Abby at a flower shop when I photographed their business for our newspaper's Readers Choice awards.
A rainbow rose is preserved inside a fluid-filled glass sphere. I bought this for Abby at a flower shop when I photographed their business for our newspaper’s Readers Choice awards.

In some ways, life has always been that shattered sphere, yet we felt too secure, too arrogant, too orderly.

Someone I have known for 40 years is currently dealing with her mother having Alzheimer’s disease. It’s terrifying to imagine losing your mind, but it is a reminder that all life is fleeting, that we are all going in the same direction, and that the only thing any of us has for certain is our next breath and our next thought.

I photographed these dry wheat grass seeds reaching into a hazy evening sky last night. They represent my thoughts these days: vanishing, fleeting, fragile.
I photographed these dry wheat grass seeds reaching into a hazy evening sky last night. They represent my thoughts these days: vanishing, fleeting, fragile.

 

“Men are so insecure”

Note: I have sat on this piece for nearly a year now, and in that time the entire social and romantic scene has change fundamentally because of the coronavirus pandemic. If I were single, I would have no idea how to attempt to hook up, since I don’t want to spread The Rona. Maybe The Rona just gave us the push we needed to become a society of impotent thumb-twiddlers.

Correction: to finish becoming a society of impotent thumb-twiddlers.

I was talking with a couple of friends recently. We chatted for nearly 30 minutes, and it was really fun. The topic of dating came up somehow, and the not-married one of the three of us talked about her bad experience with single men.

“Men are so insecure,” she told us.

It seemed like a valid assessment despite its obvious blunt generalization, one I was in no position to dispute, since I have have only dated my own wife since 2003, and have no idea what it’s like to court men.

I can also positively say that in my days of dating, I might have seemed insecure, since I was the butt of rejection time and again, often in favor of far lesser men. It seemed like an adjudication of my entire identity, and after a while, it wore me down.

I also really love women, and when I was single, there was nothing I wanted more, which filled me with a hunger that was hard to distinguish from insecurity.

It wish it were easier to love each other. I wish people didn’t hate other people for who they love or what they want.

I know. I wish, I wish. Whatever.

More recently, an attractive, single, female friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that married men sometimes leer at her. I told her without hesitation that my wedding ring means something to me, that it is an outward symbol of my devotion to my marriage, and something I wear proudly every day.

Connecting some of these dots for me, a good friend of mine recently told me that her best friend ghosted her, adding that this best friend who ghosted her “has a lot of insecurities.” I’d already surmised that based on her facial expressions, inability to feel empathy, and attention-seeking attire that always featured her large breasts.

So, my friends, are men and women just as insecure and in just as much turmoil as you are? It’s an odd dichotomy that we fight this fight together, but alone.

I made this gloomy image earlier this summer, but it remains something of a visual representation of the world right now.
I made this gloomy image earlier this summer, but it remains something of a visual representation of the world right now.

Don’t Change for the Better

A disturbing trend in the news and on social media is to crucify someone for their long-ago misdeeds, especially if those deeds were in the bullseye of whatever is trendy to take offense about.

The message is clear: you have never been allowed to make mistakes, you are not allowed to grow and mature, and “Now I’ve got you, you son a bitch.”

How dare you have been imperfect 30 years ago. How dare you be young and foolish. How dare you fit in. How. Dare. You.

Of course, there will always be some know-it-all in the comments who will explain how wrong it was, so wrong that there can be no redemption, and their friends will rally around them.

This is all part of a bigger constellation of taking offense to everything, all the time. It comes from an angry, empty, spiritually bankrupt society. It reflects a culture of moral supremacy populated by the immoral. It is entirely one-dimensional on all fronts: you’re a sexist! You’re a racist! You’re a liberal! You’re a bully! You’re a label!

There is no redemption or forgiveness. There is only punishment.

Choke on this all of you, from the social justice warrior to the most strident Reaganist:   I am all those things. I have done all those things. I made all those mistakes. I blundered through my youth, my young adulthood, my middle age, making and repeating mistakes, saying things that were cruel and petty and selfish.

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”

Go ahead. Cast it. Where? There is a mirror in the next room.

"They did it without judgement, because it's judgement that defeats us."
“They did it without judgement, because it’s judgement that defeats us.”

The Delicate Arch Paradox

It’s not exactly a paradox, and it’s not exactly ironic, but it is frustrating.

How do I justify my love of exploration and photography in spectacular places like Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park, Yosemite, and White Sands, yet still feel contempt for the way these places have become desperately overcrowded?

You can't elope with an antelope's cantaloupe, and you can't really have fun in Antelope Canyon any more.
You can’t elope with an antelope’s cantaloupe, and you can’t really have fun in Antelope Canyon any more.

Part of my problem with this issue is that I feel oddly outmatched by the crowds photographically, not because they have more talent, but because they have diluted the landscape so much with geotags and armchair photographers, squeezing professional photographers and naturalists into an empty corner.

On the third hand, shouldn’t Abby and I have special Delicate Arch creds, since, after all, we got married there?

Am I being whiney because I don’t want to share its specialness, or has it been made universally unspecial by its discovery and overpopulation by the Instagram crowd?

I’ve been sitting on this post for a month, yet can’t quite solidify it. Help me work this out.

I photographed this passel of visitors at Delicate Arch in October 2005.
I photographed this passel of visitors at Delicate Arch in October 2005.

Just to Break the Tension

I’m not pushing this one to social media for inobvious, murky reasons.

I read, and I blew.

My sister says she despises the phrase “these uncertain times” and the word “unprecedented.”

Newspapers struggle to survive, and soon we will get all our news from Snapchat. All reporters will look like puppies and baby deer.

A baby deer is called a deerling.

I despise the idea that corporate America is selling it back to me, and that our culture crashes when we can’t have the things I happen to think we don’t need at all, like indulgent entertainment and indulgent products, indulgent technology, indulgence.

All things are held in balance by circumstances we might never understand.
All things are held in balance by circumstances we might never understand.

Assuming you don’t have a real excuse (asthma, bronchitis, copd, ect.), you have no excuse for complaining about the mask. Can’t breathe? Look in the mirror. I’m surprised your lungs can lift all that fat off your heart.

Ouch. So cold and dismissive. Why can’t we all be perfect like Richard?

The racist name for the pandemic is “Kung Flu,” but I prefer, “Flung Pu.”

Fortunately, all covid news is fake, so we can go back to our gun shows.

If I could sneak headlines into newspaper? (Can I? Whoa. I guess I could.)…

  • Local dickhead steals Christmas
  • Oaklahoma changes name to Tinesee
  • Private parts now pubic (pube lick?)
  • Forecasters predict it will snow assholes all day
  • Sneeze guards added to pocket pullers
  • Deranged goat attacks two ex-presidents in one day
  • 15 college girls killed in tickling accident
  • Renegade vegan farts on supreme court nominee
  • A personal look at author I. K. Malloveru
  • Anus management clinic to remain open

Maybe The Rona is Oxlong Penal Camp 2.0? (Now regretting letting that URL expire.) The grey jumpsuits and dusty sunglasses are just one executive order away.

I am amazed by how many people really like me, and how many people really hate me.

Explosive decompression of my colon.

A “fortice machete” if you will…

  • It was a mistake to trim her coochie with a fortice machete
  • Fortice Machete had been named in the fraud case just a month earlier
  • Fortice Machete was Nicarango’s fifth underground nuclear test
  • The wolfhound cornered a raccoon trying to steal his dog food; I chased it away with a fortice machete
  • Fortice. Not fartus. Although, fortis machette literally translates to “cut the fart.”
  • The fourth Matrix, the one that overheated all the time so they had to stop for water at every other Texaco, was coded with fortice machete
  • Fortice machete is a video game centered around making your opponents orgasm
  • The fortice integument was stronger than sea panels for bulge control

When did being monstrously racist and sexist go from funny to unacceptable? I know it did, but I never got the email announcing it.

I think most people thought the end of the world would be a lot quicker, like a nuclear war, or a lot more fun, like the zombie apocalypse.

What is this, anyway?
What is this, anyway?

The Story of the Mask

Abby and I pose for a photo after getting our hair cut. Her hair looks amazing.
Abby and I pose for a photo after getting our hair cut. Her hair looks amazing.

My wife Abby and I got our hair cut today. I gave her a lift into town at lunch time. When she was done, our haircut professional, Layce, cut my hair. On the way out of the house, Abby and I grabbed the mail, which included a small padded envelope. When we saw it was from China, we excitedly ripped it open. It was a face mask I ordered way back in March when the COVID-19 crisis began. It says, “Photography is Truth.”

Is photography truth? Well, no, of course not. Truth stands above it all; above opinion, above research, above even journalism.

My photography is often the truth, but not always. For example, there is a small red spot above my left eye which a dermatologist told me is a vein very close to the surface of the skin. It’s harmless, but somehow it feels like a flaw. I use to clone tool to remove it all the time.

I recently met our de facto office mascot, a chocolate skunk named DaeDae. A day or two later I photographed Abby’s pony tail on a fluffy pillow. She immediately quipped, “I’m a caramel skunk.”

"I'm a caramel skunk," Abby quipped.
“I’m a caramel skunk,” Abby quipped.
Summer Time Lane steals a cucumber. I was so proud.
Summer Time Lane steals a cucumber. I was so proud.

Despite the roughness of 2020 and the bad news that feeds bad news, we still remain, and try to find our way. I know, for instance, that our young friend Mac recently deactivated her Facebook profile, and I am with her all the way.

The mirrorless experiments continue, and my intuitions about it have merit. For example, the SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.4 lens is quite an amazing lens, especially since it got its start as a reporter’s camera at small town newspaper. A lot of those lenses were sold as newsroom pool cameras because they were so basic. The 50mm f/1.4 is at the top of any heap you’d be willing to pile; it is sharp, well-built, smooth-focusing, and delivers nothing short of spectacular bokeh. It is a sublime lens.

Your host makes a self-portrait with the excellent 50mm f/1.4 from Pentax.
Your host makes a self-portrait with the excellent 50mm f/1.4 from Pentax.

The Masked Man

For much of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic crisis, I have been thinking even more than usual about human immunology. I have, over the years, read with fascination about smallpox, polio, plague, ebola, hantavirus, dengue fever, malaria, Spanish flu, tuberculosis, and on and on.

Along comes coronavirus in an age in which we should be able to handle it. Or, now that I type those words, maybe the idea of an extremely technologically sophisticated society being able to hand difficult problems is a conceit.

Wearing a mask is simple and can help stop disease, but will it have long-term consequences?
Wearing a mask is simple and can help stop disease, but will it have long-term consequences?

We all have concerns, but I have yet to talk to anyone who shares my own exact perspective. Some of scared to death of getting sick. Some think the whole thing is a scam. Others express suspicions, but are on board with measures being taken. Almost everyone seems to understand the economic and social consequences of shutting down the country again like we did in March.

In my thoughts, there is another consequence: overall immunity in humans. We build our immune systems through exposure to pathogens. Who will we be, immunologically, in six months or a year of obsessive mask-wearing and hand washing? Will we be more and more disease-naîve, until one day we will have to gown up just to survive the common cold?

Where would we be today if a less-lethal version of this virus made its way through the nursing homes and daycares three years ago, instead of being killed again and again by bubblegum-scented foaming hand sanitizer?

It is entirely possible that humanity’s difficulties with coronavirus is a consequence of obsession with not getting sick. Commerce is full of hand sanitizers and antibacterials. They interrupt the path of germs into the immune system. I would love to hear from an immunologist about this idea.

I will immediately concede that I am not a doctor or a researcher, and that I don’t have the answers, but now, nearly seven months into this crisis, no one seems to have answers.