In 1977 while hanging out with some friends in Philly, I inadvertantly left my camera at an outdoor lunch joint near Second and South. Having shared a few bottles of Merlot (to wash down the double cheese steaks with onions and mushrooms) I hadn’t realized the camera was missing until later in the evening and by then, I figured I was out of luck. In those days, there was no craigslist on which to post lost & found, and I had no idea of the name of the place where we’d eaten lunch (see Merlot ref. above) so I couldn’t call them to find out if it was there.
That was then. The camera is history and as time goes on, the memories become soft and faded like an old pair of jeans. Fast forward thirty some years – timing is everything. What you lose today, has a good chance of showing up tomorrow, thanks to the internet and a few good people who still believe in reaching out.
In the summer of 2008 while hiking in New Hampshire, a man named Matt found a camera at the bottom of a river. The camera was completely rusted out and worthless. A kind and curious dude, Matt took the camera home and fiddled with it until he was able to retrieve the memory card from which, after a little more fiddling, he was able to extract over two hundred photos and movie clips.
Taking it one step further, he set up a blog (http://basinfoundcamera.blogspot.com/ ) and posted some of the photos there with hope that the owner of the camera would see them and he could reunite the two. Eight days later, that’s exactly what happened, giving rise to a great new site, aptly called: iFoundYourCamera. (http://ifoundyourcamera.blogspot.com )
Every Thursday the website is updated with photos sent in by people who have found cameras. Those who have lost a camera can browse through the photos and see if they belong to them. The two are then reunited.
The internet provides us with great opportunity, but people and ideas are what bring it to life. For those who look to reach out and perhaps further the greater good, even if it’s only one camera at a time, there is no chasm that can’t be crossed. All you have to do is picture it.
The days of the in your face – no touch-up’s – crappy lighting – crappy paper – instant photograph have come to a close, as Polaroid ascends to the big darkroom in the sky.I could write about the history of Polaroid, but then you could Google it if you were really interested. And you should because it’s pretty good reading. Instead, today, I’m going to tell you the story of Amelia.
Amelia was just ten years old when I was a volunteer at the Bancroft School in Haddonfield NJ, a residential/boarding school facility for children and adolescents with mental and emotional disabilities. I was seventeen and working toward community service hours, spending Tuesdays and Thursdays at the facility after school. Amelia was there for lack of a better place to stash her because, while her parents had means, they had neither the time nor inclination to take proper care of a deaf child.
On my second Tuesday there, I was assigned to over-see the residential pod where the girls slept and hung out while not in school. There were perhaps fifteen girls to the pod, all of varying levels of disability ranging from proufound Autism to mild social adjustment disorder.
Amelia had neither. She simply couldn’t hear, and henceforth, had never learned to speak.
Having gone to sleep away camp, I’d learned how to sign the alphabet and I attempted to communicate with her as well as I could, spelling out entire words instead of proper signing with symbols and such. And being a 1970’s hippy, I carried a napsack instead of a purse and Amelia, like any pre-adolescent, was curiously curious about it’s contents and immediately wanted to see what I had inside. What was inside was a camera- A Polaroid One Step. The picture would come out and develop right there in front of your eyes.
I took her picture and let her watch it come to life. Mesmerized, Amelia had never seen such a thing and I must admit, I thought it was pretty cool too.
I handed her the camera and let her shoot. Her first shot was of the ceiling of the dorm. Having no idea why she would shoot a picture of the ceiling, I let her continue, figuring that she was having fun and who really cared what she was shooting. The next was of the corner of the hallway near the bathroom door. Then more. I reloaded the film and let her have at it. There were probably ten to twelve photos in all, not counting the ones that were blurry.
I took the photos and placed them on her bed, one next to the other, and we looked at them. Touching them ever so gently with her fingertips, she held them up to me and smiled, pointing to the places in the photo she wanted me to notice. I focus in, then, I see it. Little black spots in the ceiling that look like a constellation. She shows me a book she has under her pillow. It’s a book of planets and stars. She opens it to the page of constellations and shows me Orion’s Belt. It looked just like the pattern of the little black stains on the ceiling of her dorm room. She points out the photo of the wall near the floor by the bathroom door. There are scratch marks. Many of them. I come to learn later it is in this corner they sit for time out.
Each photo, a story in it’s own right. There was the photo of the empty bed, the bed of a girl who went away. Story was she had a seizure and choaked on some food and that was it, but they just told the kids she went away. The kids knew better though. Even the ones you couldn’t really reach.
She picked up two of blurry photos and held one in each of her hands. Stretching out her arms like the wings on an airplane, she began to spin around and around. She spun for a few moments and then flopped on her bed and laughed a deep, gutteral laugh. She signs to me the letters for DIZZY, and points to the blurry photos. I come to realize that the blurry photos are how she feels when she spins. I get it. I nod and sign YES, and smile. She smiles, takes my hand, and shows me the proper sign for I Love You.
A photograph. A connection. A link between two people in diametrically opposite worlds.
I leave my camera with Amelia and bring her some more film the next time I come by. After a few weeks I am transfered to a different pod and then school is over and that is that.
I don’t see Amelia again.
Then, In 1994 I receive an email. She’d found me.
Some years after I’d left, during a showing of some of the Bancroft student’s art for a fundraiser, a few of Amelia’s photos caught the eye of a teacher from the Moore College of Art, who, after some string pulling, arranged a grant for Amelia to attend some classes on campus. It was there she met a student professor who, as it turns out, had been raised by a hearing impared single mother. They date for five years and in 1988, are married in a small ceremony behind the Philly art museum, overlooking the Schuylkill River and a backdrop of vintage boat houses.
Today, Amelia teaches hearing impared children in a small town in Maine and helps her husband (the student professor) with his photography business on the weekends. They have two adopted sons, both hearing impared, and one biological daughter with no hearing disability. The family is happy and thriving.
It is with a heavy heart that I have come to accept Polaroid’s imminent demise, but in the words of Bob Dylan, ‘The Times They Are A Changin’. And while we can’t interfere with progress, I take this moment to raise my glass and bow my head to Polaroid and it’s legacy – for it has done far more than just capture moments, it has in many respects, set spirits free.
Namaste, Polaroid. Gone but not forgotten.
Nobody in their right mind becomes an artist for purpose of making a sensible living. And most artists will tell you that one doesn’t become an artist, an artist is born and merely polishes his or her skills and knowledge over the years in hopes of people noticing what they do. Garnering a following is a notch better and causing conversation and intelligent debate, two notches. Dead presidents are the cherry on the pallet.
Introducing Power to the Poster, a somewhat user generated yet creatively moderated site that offers free downloads of powerful, culturally important, high quality art and graphic posters for you to print out and use and share for free.
There are artists who would shudder at the thought of giving away their work, saying it cheapens the importance and is a waste of their time. And there are artists who use their work as a form of political protest, and what better way to protest than to go against the grain and give your message away for all to see, hear and feel? Art doesn’t become important until someone other than your parents, significant other, or aunt Petunia want more of it. It’s one of the reasons many historical artists didn’t get famous until they were mealworm. The ability to disseminate one’s work was limited. As social and technical civilization evolved, more people were able to get their work noticed. The country opened up as did the world, by ship, car, and aviation, and because it’s in our nature to seek. And now there is the almighty internet. A massive labyrinth of galleries of artists all around the world if you’re so inclined. Today, if you’re an artist, there is no excuse for obscurity. And if your agenda is about reaching an audience with a message, evoking someone’s spirit to speak or their ego to listen, then go check out Power to the Poster.
My husband, who went to art school in upstate NY but who opted for the mortgage, the car payment, the orthodontist and college tuition bills in lieu of his true passion, counseled our eleven year old son recently when he informed us that he wanted to be an actor and be really rich and famous like Josh and Drake.
"A true artist is one who does it for the love of the art, whether or not he is able to make a living at it. The actor will act in the village square, the musician will play on the steps of the library if need be, and the painter will paint until his pallet runs dry, but never will they deny their passion. Do you understand?"
To wit our son answered "Yep. So, you’re saying I should come up with a plan B?"
Last year, I asked my husband for a radio for Christmas. Something for my kitchen counter. Something that would allow me to listen to NPR while I cooked. Nothing fancy, I didn’t even really want anything digital, as I grew up in the day of the radio dial. I’ll even go so far as to admit that in my preteen years, all the cool stations were still on AM.
In recent years, I had a boombox, one that had a CD player on the top and looked like a WMD with an antenna. Big and oblong and obnoxious with a handle, should I want to take it with me to the mall. Over time however my kids had borrowed it and eventually, it went the way of all things that kids borrow, to the beach, perhaps a few tailgate parties and then to hell.
I wasn’t upset over the loss of the box, but rather that I was then relegated to watching re-runs of "My House Is Worth What?" on mute, just for something to keep me company while I was cooking dinner. It didn’t take me long however to decide exactly what it was that I wanted.
A little radio with a little dial. Done. Nothing fancy schmancy with digital displays and flashing lights and shuffle and search and seizure, and a million buttons that I have no idea what they do and that I can’t see anyway. Just a radio. Is that so difficult? I have an IPod, I have a computer, I have a car with a radio and a CD/cassette player. We have Wiis, TVs, MP3s and DVDs enough to choke a horse.
And just when I thought things would never be the same again, he came through. A little radio in a handmade wood cabinet, with nothing but one little speaker and a dial, and a little light to tell you if you’re tuned in properly. That’s it. Pure and simple. Oh, and I might add, killer sound. The Model One AM/FM table radio by Henry Kloss for Tivoli Audio is touted by MSNBC as "the best sounding table radio ever made." We got ours at Target. From their collection of nostalgic goods. Nostalgia is a great trendsetter.
These days, I find that even if I have nothing to cook, I sit in the kitchen and listen – sometimes, it’s all about listening.
Considering all the recent news about people getting in trouble for virtual crimes committed while playing online games involving virtual people, virtual places and virtual things, it seems to me that there is probably a valid and tangible market for a virtual legal profession.
In a recent divorce case involving a British couple and the internet game Second Life, his avatar was found cheating on her avatar with a virtual prostitute. Suspicious, her avatar hired a virtual investigator who slithered and sleuthed his way through the game and found the rat bastard (er, avatar) dead to rights. (not to be confused with dead dead, as in the murdered Japanese avatar in Maple Story, where the avatar’s killer and virtual wife was hauled off to jail in real life.)
In the Second Life case, not only did she dump his sorry boo-tay in the game but also in real life, as they were in fact, married to each other. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that divorce courtroom. "Well your honor, you see, his avatar cheated on me with an avatar whore (would that be a whorevatar?) and who knows WHAT kind of VIRUS he could have given me!!"
The money and time spent in the virtual gaming world is astounding. Because of the state of the world economy, more people are choosing to stay home rather than go out. Twenty dollars a month for a life in a virtual world is a helluva lot cheaper than dinner for two on a Saturday night, not to mention that you can make your avatar look like yourself only with larger breasts or perhaps, hung like a racehorse. Who needs a plastic surgeon? I have an avatar and I’m not afraid to use it!
The potential for a virtual legal system where you would elect virtual judges, hire virtual lawyers and conduct legal proceedings in a virtual courtroom is enormous. I’m pretty sure that if nobody has thought of it yet they will soon because hey, if there’s a whore to be screwed, there’s money to be made.
As for the British couple, sad yes, but as luck would have it, we hear she has moved on to a new lover from World of Warcraft. I hope she’s careful. That game involves sharp objects.
Alright. Now maybe we’re getting somewhere. The last time I wrote about an alleged cyber crime I debated the efficacy of the Japanese police regarding a woman who had logged into a friend’s internet game account (with the login info he himself had given to her) and killed off his beloved avatar. A "crime" for which she was arrested and jailed. (See Murder On The Avatar Express)
Recently, a federal jury in Los Angeles handed down what legal experts say is the country’s first cyber-bullying verdict, convicting a woman from Missouri of three counts of computer fraud. The woman, Lori Drew, created a MySpace page under the false name of Josh Evans, specifically to communicate with and screw around with her daughter’s "arch rival" Megan Meier, who was only 13 and who had a history of depression and suicidal ideations. Drew spent weeks online as “Josh” courting Megan and making her fall in love with "him." Then, Drew suddenly became hostile and told her “The world would be a better place without you.”
This, prosecutors said, pushed Megan over the edge to suicide.
I’m a mother and I have to say that there have been times along the way when I wanted nothing more than to drop kick some little snot-nose-street-rat friend of one or two of my kids, right the hell into next week. And if I’m to be honest I’ll admit I’ve probably read one or two of them the riot act over the years – something to the effect of "The next time your mother sends you over without giving you your ADHD meds you can FUH-GETABOUTIT!!" We all have our moments of temporary insanity where we say or do things out of anger or frustration that we later wish we could take back. But to be a parent and go to the trouble of making a false account for the sole purpose of tormenting someone else’s child for extended periods of time is just plain over the top.
Sentencing is soon, though I’m not sure it’s worthy of the potential jail time she is facing as our prison systems are painfully overburdened and the cost it would take to keep her in jail would be a waste of needed tax dollars. Instead, along with a journey through federal court hell, her name and face is splashed all over the evening news thanks to a tireless media in constant search of shocking material. She should serve something like ten years of community service, along with competent therapy. Lots of it. At her expense. And a good bitch slap or two if you ask me.
And while embarrassment and loss of credibility in the community can be a fairly stigmatizing punishment, it wasn’t my child who died. The universe is a funny thing. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Call it God, Karma, or Quantum Physics, what goes around comes back around. And something tells me the universe ain’t done with her yet.
While preparing dinner at my kitchen counter the other day, I saw a commercial for an Eagles concert at the local Hard Rock indian casino. I immediately conjured a visual of what they looked like back in the seventies, when I was in high school and listened to their music. (which I still do, and which my kids grew up listening to on my car radio set to classic rock and NPR.) I glanced up from my chopping block fully expecting to see long hair and an attitude, and there on the TV screen was a group of old men. My age-peers.
Do I look like that? I grinned as I usually do when the old rock bands from the 60’s, and 70’s come into town and play at either the racetrack or the indian casino. My husband and I always opine that you know you’re considered "Classic" when you no longer play the stadiums but rather at the racetracks and the casinos. Still, the music is gold, as are the memories they ignite.
I never really gave much thought about the actual process of writing, or even that it was a process at all. I liken it to brushing my teeth or walking or breathing. It’s just something I do. And while we all get a little writer’s block from time to time, like constipation, eventually you know that something’s gonna give.
So when a friend recently asked me to blog about "signs" (no smoking, no parking, caution-crime scene etc) I thought "Sheesh. What could I possibly write about signs that would be interesting, sardonically humorous or even remotely relevant?" Enter Pom Cosmos because hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere…