Turmoil

August 17, 2019

BW photograph of a section of running water showing the turbulence.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One media resource that I find to be a useful compilation/analysis of the week’s events is the NPR 1A “Friday News Roundup”, which devotes one hour to U.S. issues and one to the global scene.  The following links are for the week of August 12, 2019:  Domestic and International.

Condensing the amount of current turmoil gives one pause.  The division and hostility between peoples and between humans and the environment paints a bleak picture of the state of humanity.  One of the themes that runs through this week’s stories is the characterization of what it means to be an “American” and how we project that meaning to the rest of the world.  This is encapsulated in the statements made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Please be sure to read through that entire link or listen to the report.  At one point, acting director Cuccinelli states: “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American.” It is important to note the current administration’s effort to eliminate birthright citizenship-a position acting director Cuccinelli has supported.

America was, literally and figuratively, built on immigration.  We also have a long history of racism.  Nationalism is also not a new concept.  However, unless one has a 100% indigenous ancestry, then at some point those born elsewhere factor into one’s family history.  It is also vitally important to keep in mind how the U.S. government ended up treating indigenous peoples.

BW photograph a single leaf with holes laying atop a large boulder.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This was also a week that brought further threats to those species already existing on the margins in the form of changes to the Endangered Species Act.  This link highlights the significance of the language being used and the impact of that language with regard to the protections offered (or not).  Despite progress in genetic engineering, extinction still means forever.

BW photograph of a log laying in front of a large rock.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Focusing on those two issues here is not to be seen as a dismissal of the other issues discussed in this week’s “Friday News Roundup”.  There are certainly other issues of concern not addressed in today’s program.  They do, though, place a square focus on how we envision America.  More importantly, they highlight the operationalization of what it means to be an American.  The 2020 election will help decide that.  However, 2020 is still quite a ways off and much can happen between now and then.  Indeed, listen to those 1A discussions and clarify your positions with regard to the topics.  Do the requisite research so as to become more familiar with the complexities of the issues.  One real problem is engaging short-term thinking and egocentrism for the decision making process.

Once something is gone, it is gone.

A confession:  Due to my age and life experiences, I can go down the rabbit hole when thinking about issues that are important to me.  I also only write about issues that are important to me. I certainly know that some do prefer to not be inundated by such content-I, too, need to turn it off now and then.  It is also clear that not everyone will agree with the points of view expressed here.  What I do hope, though, is that folks will take notice and think about the content.  One can only decide how one feels if they are aware of the issues.  Once those thoughts and feelings become clear, then courses of action can be developed.

For me, that sums up the evolution of this blog.  I knew from the start that I did not want this to be another gear-driven blog:  I am not that into gear.  I also did not want it to be a cascade of “pretty” pictures-there are tons of blogs and other media for that.

To tie in the photographs, when I find myself with something to say, I go in search of an image to create that illustrates or serves as a metaphor for the thoughts and feelings in the written material.  For example, the photograph that leads off this post is one of rushing water.  I was thinking about the “Friday News Roundup” and so used a shutter speed that was fast enough to give some “edge” to the water, but slow enough to also suggest the pace of the flow.  Many times, these types of images are made with a very slow shutter speed so as to completely smooth out the water-there are many examples of that technique in other posts within this blog.  Doing that, to me, suggests a sense of serenity, that all is comfortable and well and peaceful.  That is not what I wanted to convey here as I view the current news cycle as one that is quite edgy and moves at such a pace that it is difficult to keep up.  The issues keep coming, blow past, and can leave one with a sense of accumulated fatigue.  At other times, I create an image and then need to think of written content that will compliment the visuals.

Together, it is the interaction between the written and the visual that spurs my creative process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Take care.

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The Power

August 14, 2019

BW photograph of Morgan Run on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As in the power to alter reality.

As I usually do each morning, I checked my phone’s weather app to see the prevailing conditions-there was a string of clouds for the remaining hours of the morning, but no rain was indicated.  As a result of that info, I went to a favoured spot to take photographic advantage of the light fog in the area.  No sooner had I settled into the composition as seen above, rain started to fall.  For a brief moment (or two), my brain said “It can’t be raining because that is not what the phone said would happen!”  The water landing on my head and camera said otherwise.

Such is the power of the digital age.  Information presented can be in direct contrast to the physical reality, but the physical reality is then what is questioned.

That is a problem.

Some of this comes from confirmation bias, which is the pattern of only paying attention to data that supports one’s preconceived beliefs or desires.  If one wants something to be, one can check sources until an agreeable one is found, or select sources that are known to support a particular position.  Denial drives another part of the delusion.  Denial can be described as a “buffer against an unacceptable reality” or a way of “finding comfort in a threatening situation”.  (Those are in quotes because a speaker at a long-forgotten workshop used them and they made sense to me.  They also frame denial as a coping skill, an ineffective one in the long run, but a form of coping nonetheless.  This view is in comparison to the more pathological perspectives often attributed to that behaviour.)  If it is not acknowledged, it is not happening or did not happen.

I really wanted it to not be raining this morning.

Climate change is, of course, a perfect example of how rhetoric, or an app, can allow one to question or form an “alternate” reality.  That, however, does not change the facts on the ground.

It really was water falling from the sky.

Take care.

Peaceful

August 11, 2019

BW photograph of horses in a field on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The last few posts have been about some of the most contentious and intractable problems involving the culture of the United States.  The issues discussed are most unpleasant-ones that many would prefer to not think about.  That is not an unsympathetic position to take.  However, the failure to directly confront climate change and mass shootings with doing something meaningful, research-driven, and long-lasting simply allows the problems to worsen.   And both of those issues can indeed get worse.

As an aside, the adjectives used in the previous paragraph were deliberately chosen.  Protesters in Dayton chanted “Do Something!” with good reason.  With all due respect to that effort-and they did seem to have some effect, many of the interventions politicians are putting forth are those that have been discussed before and either voted down or not voted on at all.  Plus, they arguably do not get to the root of the problem.  “Meaningful” is there due to the president’s comment about background checks.  It is difficult to know what he means by that, and if he will backtrack or not as he has done following previous shootings once he has talked with the NRA establishment.  “Research-driven” because most of what the president said about mass shootings was not supported by research.  This problem is also complicated by the fact that the Centers for Disease Control have been prevented from researching the topic of gun violence in the U.S.

As for climate change, interestingly, much of that also applies.  The one big difference is that there is ample science and research about the causes and what can be done.  That, to the globe’s detriment, has been brushed away by this administration.

And so here I am, again, railing about this, which, incidentally, was not entirely the intention for this post.

The scene depicted above is one that stands in such stark contrast to the issues (above) that I find quite disturbing.  The Band in “The Shape I’m In” has part of a lyric that says “Go out yonder, peace in the valley…”  That is only a snippet of the song, but the sentiment fits this particular morning in that particular location.  The sun was rising in the distance and the fog gently hugged the ground.  The horses moved in and out as if they were apparitions.  It was cool and quiet.  And yes, peaceful.

May we all find that.

Take care.

 

Water

August 8, 2019

BW photograph of trees reflected in a puddle after a thunderstorm.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And lack thereof.  The content herein would be well-taken in combination with that of the recent post “Hot”.

NPR’s 1A aired a discussion this morning concerning “water stress” and the risk of reaching “Day 0”.  Please listen to the broadcast for the definition of those terms and the conditions creating them.  The World Resources Institute recently published this report, which forms the basis for that discussion.  The full WRI report is also worth a read.  That millions will be displaced due to sea level rise subsequent to melting arctic ice as a result of climate change is a cruel irony.  The same can be said for the cycle of drought/flooding experienced in many parts of the world.

Interestingly, and importantly, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a  report regarding the impact of agriculture on climate change.  This report also addresses water management as does that from the WRI.  The IPCC report, though, underlines the point that current agricultural practices create an extraordinary amount of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much better at trapping heat than CO2 and is thus a significant contributor to climate change.  As such, a reduction in meat and dairy consumption as well as a re-allocation of agricultural land would be necessary in order to intervene in the escalating environmental damage wrought by a lifestyle dominated by such dietary habits.

WBUR’s Here and Now addressed the IPCC report by focusing on the degradation of the Amazon rainforest.

The BBC’s Newshour also covered the IPCC report this morning (8/8/19).  As part of the coverage, several person-in-the-street interview clips were broadcast at the beginning of that segment.  Perhaps not surprisingly, some were not interested in diet modification and others needed more evidence of the environmental damage before considering a change.  It was not clear as to what more info would be needed to recognize the need for intervention.  Would those individuals read the IPCC report?  Would they listen to the rest of the BBC segment for the details about land degradation and climate change? A few did say they would alter their eating habits.  While these responses were expected, they are not in the aggregate encouraging.

Part of the problem here is the “all or none” manner by which the environmental impact of diet is presented and/or perceived-either one must give up all meat and all dairy or do nothing different.  Indeed, one of the best ways to create resistance is to tell people that they have to give up “all” of something.  (As an aside, this is one of the prime tactics used by the NRA and others to promote the fear of gun control.)  Heels dig in and the planet continues to cook (if you pardon the pun here).  There is middle ground.  This article details the potential benefits if one were to forego the eating of beef for just one meal a week.  Of course, the further one moves away from a meat/dairy heavy diet, the better for the environment.  This is not new information.

It goes without saying that water and land are intricately intertwined.  It also goes without saying that humans continue to adversely impact that relationship in ways that further jeopardize the flora and fauna that populate the planet.  The recent WRI and IPCC reports make that abundantly clear.

The information is available.  The science is there.

Take care.

 

 

 

Again and Again

August 7, 2019

BW photograph of a United States flag torn from its stick and laying on the ground next to a large rock.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

El Paso.

Dayton.

The United States has endured over 250 mass shootings this year as per the Gun Violence Archive.  According to this report from NPR, that source defines a mass shooting as “…an event in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.”  It is quite a comment to have needed to develop such a statistic.

The president gave a speech in response to these latest killings and woundings.  In it, he said “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.”  That is a fine sentiment were it not for the hypocrisy involved.  He also blamed the internet and social media, video games, and mental illness-please listen to the speech and read through the report and its links for more information about those connections.  This article addresses the stated connection to video games-it is most important to pay attention to the discussion of gaming/rates of mass shootings in other countries.  This article addresses the stated connection (“…mentally ill monsters…” as per the president-such language further stigmatizes and stereotypes those with mental illness) to mental health.  With regard to the impact of social media, it is worth tracing the history of the president’s own tweets as they relate to race and inclusiveness.

There are (at least) two points to be made here:

First, what was missing were initiatives related to the availability of weapons of mass causalities.

Given that we are at this point once again, (and again and again…) it is also worth investigating what New Zealand and Australia did in the aftermath of mass shootings.

It is possible to have meaningful intervention to address this bloodshed.

Just apparently not here. Yet.  Time will tell.

The previous post was about taking personal responsibility-that applies to this post as well.  Individuals would do well to practice situational awareness when in public places.

Second, that responsibility also applies to the politics of the country.  “Racism, bigotry, and white supremacy” certainly pre-date the current president.  That history becomes further empowered via the validation/encouragement found in the language, both verbal and non-verbal, that emanates from the current president and those in the administration that defend such language.  Symbolic Interactionism, a sociological theory, tells us that words have meaning and that meaning influences behaviour.  People will tend to organize into groups based on a shared understanding or meaning of terms-this includes the formation of online “friends” or “likes”.  As such, social media allows for, and, indeed, encourages and reinforces interactions based on ideas that would ordinarily remain somewhat isolated or otherwise mitigated.  That does not mean that problematic ideologies, such a hate speech, would disappear if social media were not present-just that social media makes it so much easier to spread.  People do not have to be face-to-face to influence others.  Words, then, come with consequences.  Mass shootings are one of those consequences.

One can not have it both ways.  One can not call for the end of hate when presenting those same ideologies.

Be safe.

 

 

1,000

July 30, 2019

BW photograph of run-off after hard rains.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One thousand.  As in days.

At times, days seem to flow past in a blur-especially when looking to the past.  At other times, they seem to trickle by with no seeming end.  In any case, days are markers of time.  They are markers in time.

Birthdays.

Graduation days.

13 Days.

Anne of the Thousand Days.

Vietnam:  The Ten Thousand Day War.

The Talking Heads sang “Letting the days go by…”.  David Byrne finishes with “Same as it ever was”.  In between he asks “Well, how did I get here?”

Which is very much a question worth asking-and answering.  After all, each day will only occur once in a lifetime.

Take care.

A Walk

July 25, 2019

BW photograph of the observation tower on Confederate Ave. in Gettysburg.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I have been visiting the Gettysburg battlefield for decades-it has served as the subject of many posts within this blog over the years.  There is an observation tower just off Confederate Avenue and, once at the top…

BW photograph looking from Confederate Ave. toward the Emmitsburg Road.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

when looking east, it is possible to engage a view of the distance between the area where Confederate soldiers hunkered down (now named Confederate Avenue) in preparation for the battle, and the High Water Mark (the point of their furthest progress during the battle-that is across the Emmitsburg Road, which runs along the top of the above photograph)…

BW photograph looking from Confederate Ave. toward the Round Tops.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

and the two Round Tops, which were prized during the three-day battle; the Union soldiers occupied that ground.  It was across the open field depicted in both photographs that the Confederate soldiers advanced.

BW photograph of a sunrise behind a split rail fence at Gettysburg.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Despite the numerous visits and the research I have done about the battles there, I recently realized that I have never walked that route-I have driven it thousands of times, but that is not the same-the distance is covered much too quickly under motorized transport.  A paved road now connects Confederate Avenue and the Emmitsburg Road so there is no need to actually cross the field.  Yesterday offered a brilliantly cool morning to make that walk.

BW photograph of the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Along the way, is the Peach Orchard…

BW photograph of a split rail fence around the Wheat Field in Gettysburg.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

and the Wheat Field-both were sites of fierce fighting.

It was bit over 3 miles to walk from Confederate Avenue, cross the Emmitsburg Road, make the loop around the Wheat Field, and return.  It took about 15-20 minutes to cover the area represented by that open field.  One can research the accounts left by soldiers who participated in the fighting-Ken Burn’s The Civil War is useful for that purpose.  Making that walk reinforces just how relatively small and tremendously exposed the individual Confederate soldiers were-they were visible to the Union soldiers arrayed across the higher ground from the moment they mustered onto the field and began the march.  Both armies would have been quite aware of what carnage was about to be unleashed-and there was (is) no place to hide, even if one wanted to do so.

BW photograph of a cannon along the Confederate Avenue at Gettysburg.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It goes without saying that no one was shooting at me as I walked and made photographs-the cannon along the way are silent-the air was clear.  I  could take my time.  I could stop when I wanted.  I could take a drink of water as needed.

I could also drive away when finished.

Take care.