Sunday, February 24, 2013

Perspectives: See the Earth, See Yourself

To be able to look back at yourself and see yourself, you are able to change your perspective on everything. Psychotherapy is but just one small way to take this perspective. There are many others.

My friend Tess Morgan for spotting this clip that shows one powerful way to see yourself.

"Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is avaliable... a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose." -- Fred Hoyle, 1948 (see here for additional information about Hoyle)


OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

For another opportunity to explore perspective, check out this previous post about Carl Sagan and the Pale Blue Dot.

Hidden From View: Medfield Insane Asylum


Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Men in the Trees

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Here is another vintage image that I can resist posting. The picture is well thought out--the photographer took some time in planning the light and composition. I like how them men are both hidden and exposed by the trees. I also like that I can identify this picture.

Numerous bloggers have posted this image on sites aggregating pictures of men together. None have, apparently, taken the time to see if the image can be identified. It can.

The image, entitled Two Young Men Positing Outdoors--De Land, Florida--resides in the State Archives of Florida. The young man on the right is identified as potentially being Robert Stewart Bly.

Of course I have no idea who Robert Bly is, nor why Florida has decided to archive nearly 100 images of the Bly family. An internet search doesn't turn up much history except the photos and their family house, which is now the site of wedding parties.

Perhaps a Florida history buff will stop by this page some day and share a little bit about the story these two men are telling us from behind the trees.

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their DogAdam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

The Girl in the Outhouse

For those of you who follow me on Tumblr, you know that I'm somewhat obsessed at the moment with vintage photographs depicting men and friendship. I love how the pictures create and intimate connection in the present with relationships of the past.

I almost passed by this image without noticing the story it told. At first glance, the two men--perhaps father and son--are getting a portrait taken. Based on their dress the image suggests it's circa 1860s. There are lots of family photos from that era--perhaps fathers wanting to capture a moment with their son's prior to departing to fight in the Civil War. I've read that most soldiers carried a photo of their family with them in their personal effects.

Look closely behind the door of the structure. Peaking out from behind a wooden door is a little girl that turns this ordinary picture into something extraordinary. Her story, like that of the two men, will never be known. Perhaps she snuck herself into the image marveling at the ability of a photographer capturing an image. Maybe she knew her father was about ready to leave for war--and might never return.

Absent of any details that can be verified, we are left to let the picture speak to us on our own. There she stands behind these too men, glancing out at us from the past reminding us of moments that have passed.

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their DogAdam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Vegan Vigilantes: When a Good Idea Strays

I recently wrote a blog post Vegan Woes: When Non-Violence is Violent. My interest in this situation is not about the relative merits of a vegan diet versus the relative merits of a omnivorous diet. Rather, I am interested in how individuals, in an attempt to protect other living beings through advocating for a vegan lifestyle, transgress against others and act with violence and aggression.

This morning I woke up to an inbox filled with videos and pictures of dead animals, slaughterhouse horrors, and one picture that appears to be an aborted fetus. There were also various emails suggesting personal attacks against me such as one writer who hopes that my nose gets ground off like a baby rooster.

Ouch.

Not very non-violent. Also not very nice. Most of all, acting with violence and aggression is not an act that is internally consistent with a vegan philosophy. In making a call to reduce suffering and violence for farm animals, some vegans cause suffering and violence for other humans. That's not particularly helpful.

Some commenters on my blog have questioned my intellectual abilities as well as acumen as a psychologist. The gist of the comments are this: I'm nuts to call it an act of violence and aggression to demand other people adopt a particular world view.

Ethnocentricity is the attitude that "mine is better" or that "my way is the only way."

I view the assumption that if an individual has one particular world-view everyone must share that world view a rather imperious and colonial stance. I also see that as an act that holds potential for enormous amounts of interpersonal violence and aggression.

Many raise very important questions. What about slavery? What about child abuse? What about violence against women? What about discrimination against LGBTQ folks? These are, indeed, important questions. They are questions that, for many in the United States, have been more or less settled--or are rapidly settling. Slavery, child abuse, and violence against women is bad. An increasing majority sees discrimination against LGBTQ people as bad. We've created a system of morality enforced by laws. Being part of of our society means following these rules or risk legal and social consequences.

Five children a day die in the United States from child abuse related injuries. 

Yes, there is still a lot of work to do.

We've not developed a consensus that being vegan or vegetarian is the socially accepted value when making dietary decisions. A few questions worth considering:


  • What gives one group of people (vegans) the moral authority to demand their way of thinking is a way that should be adopted by another group of people (omnivores)? 
  • Is it a just act to demand that omnivores alter their diet to conform to the non-violent world-view of vegans? 
  • Is eating animals violent, as vegans feel, the only way to see the use of animals as food? 
  • Is it right to assume that the morality of another group of people (dirt-farmers who live from the land, religious folk who see animals as gifts of food from God, etc.) is less valuable or important that vegan's value system? 
  • What about issues of economy and class? The purchase of whole fresh foods can be significantly more expensive and out of reach of individuals and families with limited or modest incomes. Can we judge their choices and demand them to change?

There are about one million vegans in the United States and 7 million vegetarians.

  • Which choices are acceptable and important? Who decides? Who has the power? 
  • How is that power used? How is it misused?
  • It it moral and just to wield power over another to change their minds and ways? In what circumstances? Why? When is it not moral?

Many of the commenters of my blog, the vegan vigilantes as I'm calling them, seem to be uninterested in looking at these questions. They appear interested in demanding that others hear, accept, and follow their world view because they said so. They are unwilling--or unable--to see the world through a different set of values.

They are, indeed, committing acts of violence and aggression in the service of supporting a non-violent world view. An unreflective and unexamined imposition of one group's will over that lives of another group is an aggressive and violent act. While it is difficult to locate the place where dialogue ends and the violent imposition and colonization of one group's will over the lives of another group begins, it is important to at least know how to ask the questions that help us examine issues of power and control.

These questions are worth asking, and it's a worthwhile endeavor to look for ways to increase dialogue and decrease the imposition of one group's will over another. Many commenters to this blog, filled with good intentions, have gotten off their soap box, placed it upon their heads, and pulled it down over their own eyes. They are locked in a game of "who's right"--and while they are busying trying to win and be right, they are neglecting the interpersonal costs they exact from the others.

What's particularly sad is the unexamined aggression and violence some project toward the other in the service of supporting a non-violent world view.

Sad, indeed.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Vegan Woes: When Non-Violence is Violent

An artist and farmer--Kathrine Dunn of Apifera Farm--that I deeply admire recently posted a call for help on Facebook. It seems that a blogger has decided to write a rather aggressive and mean-spirited post. The blogger takes the stance that it is impossible to care for animals--offering them sanctuary--and also eat animals.

I decided to write a response to the blog. I've also decided to include it here because it bothered me so very deeply. I've been a vegetarian for nearly two decades out of a matter of choice. I made a decision to try to walk in this world as gently as possible and in following through on this choice, I have decided to not take the life of living creatures so that I can eat. In walking non-violently in this world I have also made the decision--and work on it every day--to not behave with violence or aggression toward other people. It's a work in progress.

Here is my comment. If you are moved consider commenting too.


I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly two decades and try to walk as carefully and as gently on this Earth as possible. It deeply saddens me to read this post–not because Katherine has, for whatever her reasons are, chosen to live a lifestyle that involves living closely from the land and eating animal flesh, but because of how she is treated in this blog post by someone that doesn’t know her.
It deeply disturbs me when I see vegans, who by definition choose to live in this world in non-violent ways, transgress against those who do not live a vegan life in ways that are emotionally violent. Katherine deserves more than an aggressive and violent blog post opposing her choices to be a farmer who both deeply respects animals for what she sees as their place in the world.
To me, a vegan–or vegetarian–who holds aggression and violence in their heart toward people who make different choices needs to look more closely at their own motivations and actions. Otherwise what is the point of making a commitment to a life that does not bring harm?
This post brings harm to Katherine. It doesn’t bring love.
Sad, indeed.


Update:


Why do I call this an act of violence and aggression? I respond to questions on the bloggers site with this:

It is an act of violence and aggression to impose your system of morality on another person--and use that system to judge another--without stopping to consider that the values and morals of another are potentially equally as valid and important to the other. Try some perspective taking, and taking in the experience and views of another person, and you might find more peace, understanding, and progress.

It does no one any good for you to get off your soap box, pull it on your head, and pull it down over your eyes. It is an act of aggression--and awfully imperious--to take a stand that your own personal value system should be privileged over that of another.

Be sure to read the companion post, Vegan Vigilantes: When A Good Idea Strays.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tommy and Buzz: All My Love

I recently came across this picture of Tommy and Buzz. I got to wondering what the story was behind the moment they shared together on the beach. The inscription on the back of the photo is so tantalizing and sweet:

"To Buzz, I'll always remember the times we spent together. All my love, your Tommy."

If Tommy or Buzz are still alive they are now both close to or well into their 80s. The world has totally transformed in the time that has elapsed since this moment was captured on the beach. Do you think they still remember that day?

I've carefully looked at each of the 300+ websites that this image appears on and searched for clues to their identity. There are none. It's likely neither know that their image has been populated around the internet.

Who they are and were--and what times they shared--are likely forever lost to history. If someone had not located this picture and taken the time to digitize it, the entire memory of this experience might have been erased for all times.

 I'm overwhelmed contemplating that thought. It inevitably reminds me that some day I too will be erased from the this world. All that I am will be reduced down to ever-smaller bits of data. Eventually that which is I will evaporate and return to whatever it was from which I emerged from when I became an I. It will happen to you too.

Go back and read that again slowly. 

...and now back to Buzz and Tommy

Blowing Smoke Up There: Smoke Enemas

I'm sure you've said it before. I'm also sure you are guilty of doing it, too.

Have you ever wondered where the phrase "you're just blowing smoke up my ass" came from? During a recent adventure though the internet I've uncovered some images of medical devices used for smoke enemas. This apparently was a thing.

Who knew?

Appropriated from the native peoples of North America, this medical technique was used to treat a panoply of conditions such as drowning, gut pain, and hernias. My sources suggest that smoke and liquid tobacco enemas started a long slow decline in popularity beginning in the early 1800s. The treatment, however, persisted well into the early 20th century. 

Photos, of course.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Men in Photo Booths

details unknown
I've become transfixed by vintage images male friendships captured on film. They provide an interesting and unexpected view on changing notions of masculinity, friendship, and possibilities of intimacy between men. Of course I've gone overboard and decided that I need to collect, inspect, and ponder the meanings of every possible image available on the internet.

It's just my way. Something captures my interest and I'm down the rabbit hole.

Keep your eye on my Tumblr or Twitter feed -- I'll be posting the images I'm looking at in both places.

Here is a small collection of pictures of men together in photo booths. Some images are easily read: two men kissing convey a very strong message of same-sex attraction. It's also helpful that some of the images are from a collection of an LGBT archive and the men and their relationships are named. 

In the case where the people in the individuals can be identified, we can be clear that the image of intimacy between men suggest sexual attraction. The other images are not so easy to read. The identities and feelings of most of the men pictured here have been swallowed up by history. We don't know if they are friends, lovers, or something else. 

The level of intimacy men are permitted to have with each other changes through time. There are ample accounts of men walking hand-in-hand down city streets in modern & past culture (here, here, here, here, and here). These men aren't gay--they are friends expressing closeness and intimacy that is no longer permitted in American culture.

That's precisely what I find so interesting in these photos. We don't know the nature of the relationship between these men in the photo booths. Some are friends, capturing an image of their friendship to cherish. Others are lovers, capturing an image of their friendship to cherish. These images of men cause to wonder how easy (or hard) it was for men with primarily same-sex attraction to live out a public life featuring their intimate relationship without notice.

Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957

Here is a set of images I found on the One Archives. The images were all of a same sex wedding held in Philadelphia sometime around 1957. The photoshop found the images inappropriate and never returned them to the young couple. It's heartbreaking to think about how much of these two handsome young men's lives were rendered invisible. At the same time they found a way to have a long strong enough to be witnessed in a ceremony of a community of people who loved them.

Take a moment to think of their existence. Take a moment to notice them and let them be real.








For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their DogAdam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Voyagers: A Valentine Across Time and Space



The Voyagers from Penny Lane.

A short film about two small spacecraft, an epic journey, taking risks and falling in love. Also Carl Sagan.

You can read an interview with Penny Lane about this film on The Atlantic's website:

ABOUT THE FILM

In the summer of 1977, NASA sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on an epic journey into interstellar space. Each spacecraft carries a golden record album, a massive compilation of images and sounds embodying the best of Planet Earth. According to Carl Sagan, “[t]he spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” While working on the golden record, Sagan met and fell madly in love with his future wife Annie Druyan. The golden record became their love letter to humankind and to each other. In the summer of 2010, I began my own hopeful voyage into the unknown. This film is a love letter to my fellow traveler.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nemo: Time Lapse

Who knew my video recorder had a time lapse feature? I certainly didn't. This may have something to do with my aversion for reading instruction manual. Reading the instruction manual might have also clued me in on why this video recorded in black and white.

More experimentation is necessary.

Keep your eye out for cameo appearances by my aloof black cat named Iggy. He enjoys the fourth floor look-out up atop my house. It's the only area that he can be reasonably sure not to be interrupted by his arch-enemy, Magnolia Wigglesworth.

Views from Nemo




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Art Shows the Unseen

Artist Sandow Birk gives us two opposing images:

A Conservative Map of the World/Sandow Berk
A Liberal Map of the World/Sandow Berk
Follow me on Tumblr for an ongoing view of things that I'm looking at that show the unseen.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Crane Beach

I've felt the ocean calling to me me over the last couple of weeks. The weather was somewhat cooperative today so we all packed up and made a trip out to Crane Beach. Part of the Trustees of the Reservation, the five and a half miles of trails made of an ideal winter hike.

Winter is probably my favorite time to visit Cranes. The crowds of sunbathers are absent--as are the pesky green headed flies. The slower pace of winter allows to take in the area with a sense of leisure that the summer doesn't allow. Here are a few of the details from the hike that caught my eye.



Ocean Sky

This is so amazing and inspiring. Worth the couple of minutes to sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience.


Ocean Sky from Alex Cherney on Vimeo.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sign, Click, and Feel Good

When is the last time you watched a documentary and were inspired to make a meaningful lasting change? After watching Bowling for Columbine did you sell your guns, call your senators demanding for gun control measures, and write a check to support a local agency that serves at-risk teens? After watching Food Inc. did you start your own garden, shop from local farmers, and eschew any form of pre-packaged food made by an agri-business? 

If you made changes, were any of them changes that you sustained?

Probably not.

I recently watched and fell in love with the luscious and beautiful film Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. It didn't make me write a check to support Tsunami victims. It didn't make me board a plane for Japan to help survivors heal and rebuild their lives. It didn't inspire me to take any meaningful action that an outsider can observe, measure, and document.

Documentaries are an art form that stimulate us to have an emotional response about the human experience. They document history and teach us about it. They don't stimulate us--at least very many of us--to do anything. They stimulate us to feel something. When done well, the art form of a documentary exposes us to a new part of the human experience. In revealing something new about the world, we reveal something new within ourselves. 

I love documentaries as an art form. I love exposing myself to new parts of the human experience. I love discovering new parts of my own experience that were opened and exposed by my interaction with the documentary. 

I don't, however, confuse this with action, behavior change, or social change.