Above the madding crowd: a brief note on the artistic process

I posted a different version of this shot a few days ago. I loved the explosion of color but it lacked focus. The eye wanted to look everywhere at once, which can be confusing and tiring. This one has been cropped and I pulled the light in tighter around the upper left third – note that purple bloom standing higher than the rest? – for greater impact. Sometimes I wonder if any work of art is ever absolutely, positively finished…

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Pedophilia and our sexualized media: is naïveté a good thing or a bad thing?

The Mr. C case has me wondering if widespread familiarity with sexual themes and content makes today’s youth more or less susceptible to pedophiles.

Part 2 of a series.

Yesterday I reflected on the conflict I’m facing in light of the revelation that one of the most important influences in my life, a junior high teacher and coach, had been convicted of sexually abusing several minor students. In closing, I wondered how close I came to being one of those victims.

I was a naïve, deeply religious boy. Prosecutors said Mr. C’s dirty jokes and “locker room talk” were “grooming” behavior designed to figure out who might be amenable to his advances. Continue reading

SVR this week means Science Video Roundup

Title: SVR means Science Video Roundup this week

Saturday Video Roundup this week is all science videos.

First, Neil DeGrasse Tyson on science as a method to discover truth and how that truth is true whether you believe it or not.


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Anniversary journalism? Well, mostly it just sucks.

In early April 1970, I walked into the newsroom of my hometown newspaper and asked the editor if he knew anyone at the state department of natural resources. I’d just received my undergraduate degree in geology. I could do that kind of work for a while before I returned to university for master’s and doctoral degrees and to eventually live happily in Alaska as its state geologist.

best-earth-day-poster-ideas-pictures-2016I walked out of that newsroom as a journalist. (I lied about being able to type.) The editor needed another sportswriter but couldn’t hire one full time. He needed an environmental writer (the first Earth Day was two weeks away) but he couldn’t hire a full-time one.

I could do both, he judged. He hired me. I wrote about Sen. Gaylord Perry’s first teach-in on April 22. For the next six weeks, I wrote “green” and follow-up Earth Day stories in the afternoon, and local sports in the evening.

But come June, the editor asked for fewer “green” stories and more sports stories. By July, I’d more or less become a full-time sports writer.

In March 1975, five years later, I was asked to produce a slew of Earth Day anniversary stories. Then, a few weeks after Earth Day, no more stories. Ditto 10 years later and 15 years later.

That introduced me to anniversary journalism. I witnessed that with the rise of fall of Earth stories every five years in my newspaper and many, many others.

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Some helpful suggestions for the New York Times

I just learned of the editorial kerfuffle going on over at the New York Times regarding the hiring of some git or other who shall remain nameless here. Don’t worry, he’s named all too often at the link. I apologize that the link is to HuffPo, because I ordinarily don’t waste my time with them, and shouldn’t waste yours with them, but they’re relevant this time. HuffPo apparently had something to say to and/or about the Times. The Times replied to HuffPo. So I kinda have to cite them. Bummer. Continue reading

There is more to experiencing life than mere sight

Try this: stop, close your eyes, and focus on your other senses instead. You might discover a world beyond your eyes that you haven’t payed enough attention to.

Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

“Your eyes can deceive you – don’t trust them” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

We experience the world so much through our eyes. Poets and philosophers have talked about our eyes being windows into our souls, about a picture – perceived via our vision – being worth a thousand words. Those of us who are able to see normally (or with minimal correction to our vision) too often pity the blind and nearly blind for being unable to experience the beauty of a sunset or appreciate the artistry of a painting.

But Obi-Wan’s wisdom is known to anyone who has studied how easily our brains can be tricked by visual illusions. Our eyes can be deceived. As amazing a product of evolution eyesight is, it isn’t perfect by any means. And while it’s possible to have a profound experience looking at a photograph or inspecting a microbe through a microscope, we have other senses. And it’s possible to have profound experiences that are driven by our other senses as well.

Over the years, I’ve had profound experiences that had little or nothing to do with my vision. Not always good experiences, but there’s nothing in the definition of “profound” that requires the experience to be a good or pleasant one. Continue reading

Visa review makes clear: Trump doesn’t think Americans are capable of greatness

Time to nominate a Handicapper General.

Here’s President Donald’s plan to make America #1: ban the competition.

Trump to order review of visa program to encourage hiring Americans

President Donald Trump on Tuesday will order federal agencies to look at tightening a temporary visa program used to bring high-skilled foreign workers to the United States, as he tries to carry out his campaign pledges to put “America First.” Continue reading

In My Life: Lennon remembers…

There’s something Shakespearean about Lennon’s meditation on life and meaning.

“I think ‘In My Life’ was the first song that I wrote that was really, consciously about my life, and it was sparked by a remark a journalist and writer in England made after In His Own Write came out. I think ‘In My Life’ was after In His Own Write… But he said to me, ‘Why don’t you put some of the way you write in the book, as it were, in the songs? Or why don’t you put something about your childhood into the songs?’ Which came out later as ‘Penny Lane’ from Paul – although it was actually me who lived in Penny Lane – and Strawberry Fields.”  – John Lennon

Outtake for the Rubber Soul album cover (image courtesy “Yer Doin’ Great”

The marvelous Beatles Bible offers four John Lennon quotes about the composition of “In My Life.” Lennon considered it one of his most important songs for several reasons. It was the first song, he says, written about his life – the result, Lennon told multiple interviewers, of a comment by British journalist Kenneth Allsopp concerning Lennon’s first book, In His Own Write.

Another concern Lennon has was his ability to write melodies – something that his writing partner, Paul, was and is particularly adept at. “In My Life” is predominantly John’s melody (though he says Paul wrote the middle eight). Continue reading

What does it mean to be a “good ancestor”?

usa-2074What is a good parent? What is a good grandparent? These terms don’t mean what they used to.

I heard a comment a few weeks ago about someone who wanted to be thought of as a “good ancestor.” It has stuck with me, and I have been wrestling with what, if anything, is meant by the phrase. It’s a serious attempt to capture something that up to a decade or two ago would never have been in question. Up until recently, ancestors generally were good in the same way. They tried to make a career and livelihood for themselves that could be passed on to their children, or to equip their children with the tools necessary to survive and, hopefully, to prosper. My grandparents took this responsibility seriously—this is why some of them emigrated to America from Germany. And this sense of responsibility preceded them by generations, and was passed on to their children, who tried to, and sometimes even succeeded in, passing it on to my generation. Leaving the world a better place was a given.

But the world has changed. All of this took place in a world that seemed to have no limits—natural capital, if it was thought about at all, was thought to be inexhaustible. But we know now that this is not true. Not only is natural capital, the foundation of the global economic system, exhaustible, some parts of it (such as water) are being depleted at a more rapid rate than anyone could have anticipated. Continue reading

S&R at 10: Still thinking, ’cause it ain’t illegal, and we want to keep it that way

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim— George Santayana, 1863-1952

We’re not fanatics here at Scholars & Rogues. As our founder, Sam Smith, writes today on our 10th anniversary, our unruly mob of scholars and rogues believes in a “fierce commitment to confronting challenging questions facing ourselves, our society and our communities.”

S&R-logo-originalMany, if not most, of those challenges arrive at our digital doorstep because those who are fanatics have lost both their aim and their minds. We, as do you, routinely witness assaults on common sense, on dignity, on respect, and on intelligent public discourse.

We’ve tried to be more than mere witnesses here. When we’ve seen stupidity, we’ve shouted, sometimes whispered, “Hey! That’s not right. Don’t do that.”

But that’s not enough. To again paraphrase my favorite fictional president, Andrew Shepard, those who have lost their way or their minds on an issue do two things and two things only: Telling you to be afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.

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