Thursday, April 22, 2010

Invisible Fences Make Good Neighbors

My dog has an Invisible Fence... a wire that runs around my property and is buried under the ground. He wears a collar and if he gets too close to the line it beeps, and if he ignores the beep... it gives him a shock. This sounds cruel, but I live on a busy street and with three kids running in and out, there was a good chance of him getting out and getting hit. Once we had the fence installed, he did get shocked a few times. But only a very few. They put flags up to warn him where the border was and he learned in a day where his territory was. It has gotten to the point where he doesn't even wear his collar much anymore. He just assumes that his border is what it is... and he is content in his box. And he runs madly around in that box to the point of wearing a path through my front yard... right where the line is.

Having spent much of the last year watching the unfolding drama of various celebrities... John Edwards, Tiger Woods, Jesse James, and Tiki Barber... to name the obvious... I am struck by a sea change of the male/female dynamic. I am not naive enough to think that these men are a new phenomenon. The sea change is, however, in how these men are portrayed in the press, and by the public in general. In many cases prior, much of the blame was wrongly placed on the woman... the succubus who come for seduction and are completely irresistible to even the strongest of men, willing them away from their chosen mates. But the sea change is that in these latest cases the men are portrayed as the offenders and the women, as innocent victims of the man's sexual appetites. I don't really know what went on in any of these cases... and neither do you... as much as you think you might. In all likelihood there is guilt on both sides of the aisle. But that doesn't make for as good of a story.

But how does this relate to Invisible fences... you ask.

Well, if I didn't buy my dog an Invisible Fence... he would undoubtedly be running around the neighborhood in a bacchanalian frenzy, screwing everything in sight... girl dogs, boy dogs, children, legs, trees, fire hydrants... etc. There are many dogs in my neighborhood... and many real fences... and some of the dogs ignore their borders and dig under the fences and bound around, breaking out of their boxes and breaking the rules. It isn't until they get hit by the car that they realize that this probably wasn't a good idea. However, those with fences that shock provide some pain beforehand to deter the inevitable frenzy to occurs. I wonder how many of the above mentioned men would have strayed if they were given the painful shock of embarrassment and family ruination that comes after the fact.

It is easy to sit on the sidelines and judge others... and I realize that none of us are completely to blame... nor completely innocent. My dog follows his nature. His nature is to sow his seed far and wide. As more evolved... we humans are supposed to live by a code which uses rules and morals to provide the Invisible Fences around us. Our big brains allow us to think into the future and to see the destruction our actions will cause... both to ourselves and to those around us. Yet the big brain is often overridden by the little brain of our libido.

Perhaps we all just need to wear collars that provide us a jolt of electricity when we begin to get too close to the line.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The fire has died down to embers. The quiet descends as a shroud, covering us in a canopy of muted and tranquil depth. Shadows cover shadows until the eyes strain to uncover the deep grays from the deeper blacks in a futile attempt to divide and parse the world with the weakest of the senses. But while one sense fades, others rush to take its place. The burning wood stings the nose, overpowering the musky pine and loam. But not the fragrance of your hair... so close. The last crackle of the wood spikes the hearing, until the deep rumble of a train, miles away, returns to prominence. Thump, thump, thump.

The moon is full behind the swiftly moving blanket of clouds, and through the trees, the blanket thins for a brief moment and shadows chase themselves until the darkness envelopes us once again.

Your body shifts against me. It is solid and real and full of substance. For a moment, I had forgotten that we were two, but your subtle movement in the crook of my arm is a gentle reminder of our separateness. I can feel your breath against my neck, your hand tightening slightly over mine. The touch is casual. Familiar. Should all other senses fail me, it is touch that will buoy me and keep me afloat on the vast ocean of nothingness. It is touch that connects and combines those things that are unique and separate. It is filled with the raw emotions... the violence of anger... the trembling of fear... the gentleness of love. But the easy manner in which your hand finds mine and gently strokes the hair on my arm speaks volumes more to me than the obviousness of the others.

It is music to me, a melancholy air played on the strings of the heart. The impermanence of now. The moments and touches and feelings and emotions that co-mingle into the sense of being alive. The sense that can be raucous and jovial... tearful and heartbreaking... or, like now... calming and infinite.

I know not what goes through your head... or your heart... but only that you are here. Because I can feel you.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Analog Boy in a Digital World

I was in film school at the dawn of the digital revolution. The talk then was all about the difference between film and video... how to shoot it, light it... This was in the years when if you turned a video camera and pointed it directly at a light you could burn out the tubes inside and ruin the camera for good... and these weren't the cheap cameras... they usually ran about $40K. So we were all very careful. My area of interest was as a cameraman, and I was rankled to have to fit my "art" into the confines defined by a video engineer. I was hardly alone in this and because of it, the look of video has never really taken off for professional projects. And except for a few "video" classes everything I shot was shot in film.

Even today a majority of television shows are still recorded on film. Editing was a different story... the digital revolution was massive for film editors. The silly practice of physically splicing film together was replaced quickly and nearly universally by digital editors. But except for some advances in true digital photography, film for shooting still rules as a recording mechanism in movies and TV.

Why this remains so is hard to describe to most people. But I guarantee that if you saw the results side by side, you would be able to tell. Even the best digital camera has a different way of light capture than a regular film camera. But things are changing quickly as we become more and more accustomed to the "look" of digital. HD TVs are so ubiquitous as to make "regular" TVs seem like dinosaurs. And digital still cameras have made film SLRs seems ancient for home use, and increasingly for professional use.

I've been thinking about all of this of late because I got a Kindle for my birthday. I had been oohing and aahing over a few friends who had gotten one for Christmas, so one magically showed up from Amazon for my birthday a few months later. As a man, I like me some gadgets. But as a well known bibliophile, I also love the feel and smell and touch of books. As with film, it is hard to explain to a non-believer why one would miss the feel of a book. But you do.

The logical part of my brain, which thinks about things like sustainability, knows that it is wasteful to cut down trees to continually make new books and magazines and newspapers, when it is faster and cheaper to deliver words digitally. And I have to say, it is pretty f-ing cool to be on a phone call with someone listening to them rave about a book and download it and start reading it before the call ends. I've done that twice already in my two months of Kindling. It is also cool to have 50 or a 100 or a 1000 books in my backpack without walking around like Igor.

Likewise, shooting family stills has gone by the wayside in a digital world. The photo chemical industry is in the toilet. Which is not a bad thing unless you are in the photo chemical business. Our kids will no doubt be so used to the look of digital that films and TV will eventually go that way too. And it is just a matter of time until e-book readers become so universal as to make hard copy production obsolete. The nay-sayers may say "NEVER"... but the writing is already there, and like all such sea changes, we end up looking like dinosaur hold overs from a different age... laughed at and mocked by the new generation.

And despite logic to the contrary, I will remain nostalgic for the analog world. I will remember the many hours spent changing film with my hands deep inside a light-bag, my hands touching the reels, and carefully and blindly feeding them through the camera. I will remain nostalgic for the look of grain in a world of discrete pixels... of lighting with your gut, and knowing that it was, at the very best, a guess... instead of a sure thing. And I will remain nostalgic for the book stores and libraries that will fade away by the time I die... and the feeling of being surrounded by the works of generations... a feeling I don't get when I hold the thin Kindle in my hand... even though it holds a whole shelf of books already.

Logic does not play well with nostalgia. Nostalgia is smells, and touches... heartbeats and fragments of memories. It is the emotion that we turn to when the antiseptic cleanliness of logic fails to move us. And after all, living is about being moved. And even while they laugh at me now for my nostalgia, the next generation will have their own list of things which will make them nostalgic, I'm sure. At least, I hope.