I’m sitting on my daughter’s white couch, looking out the window at the falling snow. There is a white sludge of bird poop on the glass, obstructing a small part of my view.
That detail is unimportant, I suppose, but it’s also true. And of course the bird dropped his little present not three weeks after we had the windows professionally cleaned for Thanksgiving. (Isn’t that always the way?)
Because winter has arrived here in earnest, and our mountains draw the biggest storms around, it’s the time of year where we build fires in our wood-stove each day.
It’s an antiquated system:
The first step, (after I sweep the ashes from the previous conflagration,) is to roll up some old newspaper. My dad taught me how to do it when I was a kid, and I still use his technique. These days, though, we add napalm bricks that make the whole process much easier.
Building the fire forces me to look at information on paper, (talk about antiquated,) and the other day I saw the most disturbing “news.” On a single page, in some random edition of the Albuquerque Journal, there was a story about a man who killed his young son by leaving him in a hot car for 7 hours, and a blurb about a woman who fed her stepchild to the family pigs, after the murder.
Unsurprisingly, I felt the cortisol drop in real time. Just looking at those words made my body change, and my mood alter. And that was only after a cursory 5 second glance, when I wasn’t even trying to read the paper. (Burn, baby, burn.)
It got me thinking though, about the idea of “news.” Where did it come from? This need to know what was happening in parts elsewhere. I can see the value of Paul Revere riding through the dark night, as the British WERE coming.
But the mass dissemination of salacious stories that have no impact on our daily lives? How did it become so necessary? And now that we’re assaulted with such information all day, every day, instead of 7 times a week, will we ever break the habit?
Not to be Debbie Downer, but I’d suggest we’re stuck with the habit, as long as such information is treated as a commodity. While the nightly news, brought to you by Cablevision, is no longer the arbiter of what everyone thinks, (thanks to the breakaway republic of FoxNewsistanBreitbartlandia,) everyone’s trying to make money off this “news.”
The entire cycle, taken to it’s absurd conclusion, just delivered the Presidency to Donald J Trump, and it’s not even clear he wants the job. Sure, he wants to be President, because it will make him even richer and more famous, but does he really want to do the grunt work that Obama clearly relished?
But the “news” organizations essentially handed him the election by covering every rally, (for free,) writing about every insane comment, treating the entire process with a respect that it clearly did not deserve.
I guess it serves us right.
Honestly, though, while the snow out the window is somewhat calming, I’m a bit riled up having just put down “National Trust,” a new soft-cover book by Jay Turner Frey Seawell, (whom we’ll refer to as JTFS,) recently published by upstart Skylark Editions in Chicago.
Now that we’re no longer getting our books from photo-eye, I’m relying on what people send me. (Yes, we are accepting submissions, but please contact me first. I don’t want you to waste a book on something I’d never review.) JTFS and the folks at Skylark thought I might dig this book, and boy, were they right.
I hope the artist is getting some publicity at the moment, because he certainly deserves it. Much like my project “The Value of a Dollar” took off because I was thinking about food a couple of years before EVERYONE was, these pictures were shot in advance of our current political climate.
JTFS lives in Washington, DC, I believe, and from 2011-13, he photographed the media facade/political industrial complex. Man, are these pictures good.
They’re sharp, both in image clarity and observational skills. They clearly pull back the curtain to reveal, what exactly? And I’m not even being metaphorical. There’s an image, called “Supreme Court,” that clearly depicts a curtain of a column, right where we’d expect an actual column to exist.
We see the bright lights, including one picture where the apparatus perfectly covers a “talking head,” as he fixes his expensive cuff-link. The compositional style, which manages to be chaotic and restrained at the same time, emphasizes the read that the world has gone amuck.
We’re all trapped in a bubble that keeps growing, even as we spend so much less money obtaining said “news.” As such, the closing picture, of a five dollar bill torn asunder on the sidewalk, made me think that somewhere in the afterlife, Abe Lincoln, who gave his life for this nation’s unity, is up there thinking, “They get what they fucking deserve.”
That’s right people. Sad Abraham Lincoln is my takeaway, as his ghost has to contemplate D Trump entertaining right wing billionaires in his own bedroom. (Maybe even in his own bed.)
All because we can’t turn off the TV. We can’t step away from the Twitter. We can’t unlike what the world has become. I rarely ask for more from a photo book, and neither should you.
Bottom Line: Exquisite, perfectly timed look at the Washington media-political-industrial-complex
To Purchase “National Trust” Go Here: http://www.skylarkeditions.org/shop/national-trust-by-jay-seawell-1
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