Masks

July 9, 2020

BW photograph of a discarded face mask laying atop tree roots.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Last month, there was another post advocating for the wearing of face masks when in public as a means of reducing the spread of COVID-19.  This has been demonstrated to be effective in that capacity.  However, this continues to be another in a long line of divisive political issues…it is hard to image that responding to a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands has become so politicized.  Nonetheless, here we are.  Some continue the refusal to wear a mask as a demonstration of individual rights and a protest against an overreaching government.   Given that the president of the U.S. refuses to wear one, this should not be too surprising.  (With a nod to sociology, this is a perfect example of symbolic interactionism theory.)  Importantly, the president held an indoor rally in Tulsa, OK recently, which attended by his supporters-many of whom were not wearing masks.  The headline of this report is quite telling-please be sure to read the full article, though.

Viruses do what viruses do-politics are not a concern.  Individual rights are not a concern.

So, continue to wear the masks.  However, please do not discard them on the ground.  If they are dropped and you notice (if being worn, it would easy to tell if it was suddenly missing), please backtrack and pick it up.

Be safe and well.

July 4, 2020

July 3, 2020

BW photograph of a bunch of flags set out for the Fourth of July.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow is a national holiday-one that celebrates America’s independence.

Perhaps, though, rather than ostentatious, ill-advised public displays (here and here), it would be useful to use this day for quiet contemplation and reflection on how well we measure up to what we think we are as a nation, where we want to be, and the means by which to get there.

There is much about which to ponder.  The botched response to COVID-19 would be a good place to begin.  That the “celebrations” linked above are being held when a global pandemic dictates mask-wearing, social distancing, and the avoidance of large groups is, in itself, remarkable.  However, one must also remember that there are reasons why the U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 cases, not to mention that we now have the daily record for new cases.   Those reasons start with the current leadership at many levels in the government.

COVID-19 has also, again, exposed the result of decades of systemic racism in the U.S.  (This was also a topic of conversation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.)  Much has been written about how chronic stress and poor healthcare have disproportionately impacted communities of colour-conditions that are ripe for a severe response to COVID-19. Of course, it is not only the pandemic killing people of colour-the murder of Mr. George Floyd, as one example, brings another aspect of inequity to this picture.

Finally, climate change must also be brought into this discussion.  “Will climate change make COVID-19 worse?” is a question that appears on the WHO website-click the link for the full answer.  In summary, and to paraphrase, climate change impacts the viability of human populations around the world.  As as result, people seek out other areas in which to live and in which to find food.  This increases inter-species contact, which can then lead to viruses jumping from animals to humans.

I fully recognize this does not sound celebratory-this is very much a reflection of my feelings at this time.

We do, though, appear to be at a point of reckoning.  Perhaps we have reached a tipping point.

It is not time for a celebration.

Be safe and well.

Flying

June 30, 2020

BW photograph of a small plane flying into some large clouds.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Despite what I said about flying in the “Train, Train” post, every time clouds form, or the sound of a plane is heard, I look up and think about being in the air.  If you look carefully at the upper left of this photograph, that black spot is a small plane making its way to somewhere.

BW photograph looking up into a cloud formation.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When watching movies from the 6os and 70s, air travel is depicted as (mostly) stress free.  Passengers walk up to the counter, are greeted by smiling ticket agents, purchase a ticket, walk straight to the plane, settle in, light up, and have a drink.  Quite pleasant and sophisticated.  Of course, that is what the airline industry wanted to present to the public to entice said passengers.  Still, absent the smoking, what is not to like?

In a post 9/11 era, though, such is not the case.  Tickets are often purchased months in advance in order to secure a lower rate, packing and dressing must be done with knowledge of the TSA regulations and screening process so as to avoid delays and other unwanted complications, and usually there are long (sometimes very extremely long) lines of fellow travelers.   Forget about just showing up and going right to the plane.  It is fortunate that smoking is no longer permitted on the planes.

BW photograph of cumulous clouds on a clear day.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 presents additional concerns at the moment.

I do still like the idea of flying.  When at 30,000 feet with someone else in the driver’s (flier’s?) seat, one can (hopefully) let go of the need to be in control.  Five hours to the West Coast sure beats multiple days of driving, but there really is a price to pay for that shortened transit.

Incidentally, if one wants a good look at the places in between, then a long, meandering road trip would be ideal.  Someday, I will make that kind of trip.

Be safe and well.

 

Expectoration

June 28, 2020

BW photograph of a church markee recommending the wearing of masks.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Please pay attention to the message contained in the above photograph.  Even if one is not religiously inclined, it is important to recognize that the wearing of masks is primarily for the protection of others.  Being concerned for other’s well-being, really, is not necessarily religious at all, especially when one considers how religions have been and are used by some to specifically separate, disadvantage, and/or kill others.   No, the message herein is much more spiritual in nature:  we demonstrate our care and concern for fellow humans by protecting them from our expectoration.

COVID-19 cases are spiking in Arizona, Texas, and Florida-Johns Hopkins University maintains an up-to-date tracking of COVID-19 cases locally, nationally, and globally.  The exponential rise in cases in those states can largely be attributed to the relaxing of what precautions were in place.  This report details the current global situation.

Given that the U.S. is in a time of extreme polarization and that there is not much which does not become politicized, the wearing of masks has also become a point of contention.  There are those who see this as a fundamental tool to prevent the spread of a contagion-others who view this as an infringement on their individual rights.  Please read this article.

There does appear to be a question of legality regarding a mandate to wear masks.  Effective, concerned leadership up and down the political spectrum could eliminate this, especially given that masks do help in reducing transmission.  Even without a legal standard, though, it would be beneficial to recognize the role each of us has with regard to the safety of others, especially in a pandemic.

Without a culturally-based, widespread sense of community, dealing with this and future pandemics, not to mention the chronic problems of racism and inequality, is made much more difficult.  It is only when we see each other as “us” and “we” that real progress can be made-that is a message of inclusivity which needs to begin with the president on down.  However, expecting that now is quite unrealistic.

Therefore, it is important that voices be heard, not only in protests, but through voting.

Be safe and well.

Train, Train

June 20, 2020

BW photograph of the Midland Railway running in a canyon of trees.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Trains have a significant place in culture.

There have been many songs written about travel by rail.  Moreover, many books have been written about railroads, rail travel, or have plots that significantly involve trains.  The same can be said for movies, especially movies that began as books.

BW photograph of the Midland Railway running in a canyon of trees.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The rails themselves convey movement.  That the rails appear to become closer together when one knows they remain parallel, this apparent convergence, is a fundamental distance cue.  It literally shows that one would be moving from here to there.

Travel by rail has long held a place in my wanderlust.  This no doubt began with the Lionel electric train that I received when a child-a train that I still have.  I can still smell the oily smoke the locomotive would release.  The idea of being in a rail car, rocking side-to-side, and watching as the scenery flows past has a calming sense to it that air travel never has.  On a train, there is the real sense that you are still connected to the environ-that you could open the window, reach out, and touch it…not that that would be a good idea.  You are still a part of, not zooming over at 30,000 feet.  There is also the freedom to get off at the next stop…on a plane, you are there for the duration.

Perhaps if I had more experience actually traveling by train, those sentiments would be different, less romanticized.  I have flown much more than I have been on trips by train, and that romance has definitely, perhaps irrevocably, been jaded by experience.

This reminiscing was initiated by the reading of this article.  While immersed in that, I could look up and see part of my collection of Paul Theroux books that center on railways of the world.  I have a couple of books about traveling by train across Siberia.

Having been largely restricted for four months most certainly plays a part is this wistfulness.

Be safe and well.

 

Coverage

June 4, 2020

BW photograph of an upside down tattered American flag on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The killing of Black Americans by police continues…NPR ran this story recently, which addresses the history of just the past ten years.

American cities are again burning.  I remember the riots of 1967 and 1968…of watching the National Guard drill and drive their vehicles up and down the street in the small town in which I lived-our house was across the street from their barracks.  I remember watching the TV news of Detroit and Watts burning and being fearful that my town would erupt.  It did not.  The memories linger, though.

That is a key point…memories.  Being fearful for my life on a daily basis is not a lived experience as my race affords protection from such systemic brutally as that repeatedly delivered to people of colour in the U.S.

President Trump has a long history of denigrating the press and has burned the term “fake news” into our lexicon.  As an important aside, that phrase has also been used by other politicians around the world as a means of discrediting information considered not favourable to their positions.  It is a bit ironic that one so opposed to globalism praises another country’s leader for adopting that phrase. The value of a free press has historically been to call attention to inequities, to give voice to those without, and to hold those in power to account.  In today’s hyper-polarized political climate, that hostility toward journalists has become endemic as supporters of the president have taken up the call to discredit unfavourable coverage.

With Mr. Floyd’s homicide, once again those charged with enforcing the law have disregarded it, and communities around the world have protested.  Once again, the role of the press is to ensure that the facts of the incident, and the protests, are reported…that truth be held to power.

However, we have reached a place where police have begun to target journalists (here and here) covering the protests, as well.

The arrest, murder, or “disappearing” of journalists doing their jobs has been a tactic employed by repressive regimes around the world for quite some time.  Such is often the norm under authoritarian governments.  Think back to the Arab Spring, for example.

COVID-19 has provided a different avenue by which to call attention to the social and economic injustice the prevails in the U.S.  Mr. Floyd’s murder provides yet another marker in a long-standing pattern.  The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO resulted in the police department being put under federal oversight via a consent decree.  The same happened in Baltimore after the killing of Freddie Gray.  When the Trump administration came into power, the then Attorney General Jeff Sessions intervened to “pull back” on such oversights.

That journalists of colour have been abused while in some instances white journalists have not speaks again to systemic racism.

Look carefully at the photo above, which was made on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  It displays an upside-down U.S. flag…one that is also quite tattered.  This is a recognized symbol of distress.

Our current circumstances would appear to warrant that.

Be safe and well.

 

 

BW photograph of a tree trunk laying across a hiking trail.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There was a decent rain last night, so the morning was cool, damp, and a bit foggy.

BW photograph of runoff.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Given those conditions, it seemed to be a good morning to be near some water.  The sound of running water can be quite relaxing and, given the front page of today’s New York Times, it was nice to have a moment to literally step away from the news of the day.

BW photograph of runoff with a piece of paper underneath the water.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Look carefully at the photo just above.  See anything unusual?  Sometimes I deliberately look for trash…in most cases, it is not hard to find (see below).  At other times, especially when I am searching for different subject matter or a different experience, my brain completely disregards what is there-this is a form of selective attention.  For the photograph just above, I was intent on getting the desired composition, which required some artful footwork on slippery roots and rocks.  Once in place, and with the exposure dialed, that image was made.  It was not until I was processing the image that the whitish rectangle at the lower left was noticed…nature does not do such shapes.   From a photographic perspective, there are two points to be made here:  One, once you have your composition, look away from the camera for an instant to clear your head-in other words, turn off the “creative” brain.  Then, look again with the “critical” brain.  (As an important aside, please read this.) Is there anything in the composition that is not wanted?  Two, work the scene with multiple compositions.  I had used a slightly different camera position for some earlier shots, one of which is the second image posted above, which does not include the offending rectangle.  Given that I was not looking for trash this morning, I was glad to have the tighter composition-that is more representative of my feeling at the time, and for what I was looking.  I guess a third point would be that the image could  be cropped to remove the offending object…but get it “right” in camera.

BW photograph of Morgan Run after a rain.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Back to the walk…I continued on until reaching another of my favourite places for photographing running water.  I have photographed this scene many, many times as I like getting a touch of rock in the foreground to anchor the image, while still extending into the distance toward the soft, foggy, light.  The slow shutter speed blurred the rushing water. Quite nice.

BW photograph of a crushed plastic bottle laying atop a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a twisted plastic bottle laying atop a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a crushed plastic bottle stuck between a root and a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What was not so nice was the trash left behind by others.

BW photograph of a pair of broken sunglasses laying near a root.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It also seems to have been a rough few days for sunglasses…

The conclusion?  It is useful to find ways to relax amid this stressful, stressful time.  Sometimes that also means, literally and figuratively, looking past that which is annoying so as to not spoil the moment.

Be safe and well.

Spring

May 18, 2020

BW photograph of azalea blooms.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Despite all of the badness, it is helpful to recognize that it is springtime…that flowers are blooming, grass is being cut, and birds are singing.  Parks are open or opening, and, as long as folks continue to practice safe distancing, wear masks, and follow whatever other restrictions are in place, being out is good for the soul.

Notice I did not mention that Tropical Storm Arthur is moving up the coast-the first named storm of the 2020 Hurricane Season…which does not officially begin until June 1.

Trying to stay positive…

Be safe and well.

Repeat

May 12, 2020

BW photograph of a lost black glove laying next to a road.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On Being has this intellectually deep interview/discussion with musician Devendra Banhart.  The topic centered around host Krista Tippet’s and Mr. Banhart’s impressions on how this book provides a useful perspective on the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.  One message they both referred to several times was the passage from the book:  that things fall apart, get better, then fall apart again, only to improve, and once again fall apart (this is a paraphrase).  The conversation explored the ramifications of this concept and how one can respond on a meaningful level.  It is worth a listen for the thinking it encourages.

BW photograph of a COVID-19 symptom warning sign on a medical office window.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Several of the previous posts on this blog described the connection between SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.  Listening to the program reinforced that connection for me.  Pandemics come, go, and come again.  It also (finally) resonated that this repeating pattern is, on a basic level, similar to Nietzsche’s “eternal return”-that one continues to re-experience events until the end of time.  As John Kaag states “…if one’s choices are to be replayed endlessly, they’d better be the “right” ones” (p 74).  “Right” is, of course, a value-laden term.  That is part of what makes the process of arriving at a decision complicated.  This is especially true when the decisions impact the many and not just the one.

BW photograph of an empty college parking lot.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With regard to COVID-19, there are the competing issues of economic collapse and human risk, which are writ large.  States are beginning to “re-open” in the face of concern over another wave of infections.  Kaag goes on to emphasize that for Nietzsche, decisions are highly personal and that one must assume the total responsibility both for the decisions made and the resultant consequences.

And so…the issue of responsibility.  At the risk of stereotyping (and this is a stereotype-this also takes us out of the realm of an individual and into the collective), here in the U.S. we like to assign blame.  As such, that can become a means by which to avoid personal responsibility-“…it’s not my fault…”  This, then, is also a means by which to avoid taking action.  The politics of the day appear to be based on this pattern.  Indeed, our history is littered with politicians who have not taken responsibility for their behaviour, let alone apologize, until they literally have been caught with their pants down.  Scientific data is dismissed, and when things go badly, there is a search for whom to point the finger and shift responsibility.

Yes, choices must be made.  Those making them must also accept that responsibility.

As an aside, the concepts alluded to in this post most certainly do require further exploration and examination as there is much more that the authors intended with these works.  This search for meaning, for understanding, and the means by which to cope requires cultivation and stimulation.  It is important to gather data and critically think about the applications of that data-to examine past mistakes in order to not make them again…and again…and again.

States are beginning to re-open.  South Korea has some experience and data worth considering.

Be safe and well.

 

Melting

May 2, 2020

BW photograph of water currents in front of a rock.

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

Lost amid the coverage of COVID-19 is this most important report (well, not lost as the link attests).  This is not to say that COVID-19 is undeserving of the attention.  It is, though, another example of how chronic conditions continue outside of public awareness when more acute issues arise.

We really do seem to have a short attention span.  Once SARS dissipated, interest was lost.  Then, along came MERS.  Now, we have COVID-19, which highlighted the lack of preparation for such a pandemic. Meanwhile, the ice sheets have continued to melt and seas have continued to rise.

At some point, it is hoped that we collectively learn that it is in humanity’s best interest to be more forward thinking:  to fully engage in the research and development needed to address emerging pathogens rather than by cutting funding and eliminating programs once the crisis has passed.  To fully commit to funding the R&D to provide the needed adaptation/mitigation options as dictated by environmental conditions.  Climate change has long lacked that necessary attention.

Climate change, especially given the political administrations in place in much of the world and their interest in rolling-back environmental protection efforts, remains inexorable in its effect.

Take care and be safe.