1999 Notebook: Interval II

11 January 1999
The Problems with Portraits
I'm not sure what to make of yesterday's portrait of Bethan, especially since I have yet to develop the film. First of all, my plan to photograph her during a dinner party didn't go very well. I kept my camera trained on her waiting for the right moment, which led one of the guests to tell me that I'd "taken enough photos of her" after I'd made only one. It will probably be a blur since it was a one-second exposure. I took another shot or two of her in the kitchen behind steamed glass; I'm equally unsure whether those will work.

The real problem, though, goes back to my piece, "Liz Young (unfinished portrait)." I still can't find an elegant way of joining words and photographs of people. It always seems a little hokey when I see others do it, even the people who both write and photograph well.

I'd originally written, "Bethan is one of my smartest and charmingest friends." I later simply decided to use, "Bethan is one of my friends." After all, I couldn't--or shouldn't--really say that one of my friends is smarter or more charming than another one.

The minimalist approach is also a lazy way of avoiding the work of describing her. I'm not that good of a writer, and it would be a formidable challenge to do justice to a complex person in only a few paragraphs.

I think I may have bitten off more than I could chew when I decided to make thirty-eight portraits this year. We'll see.

12 January 1999
Wrong Place Wrong Time?
I read that murderers recently killed five people on Sicily. Three of the dead may have been involved in some sort of organized crime dispute with the killers, but the other two victims were, in the words of the newsreader, "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

I wonder if that's true. They might have been in the right place at the wrong time, or in the wrong place at the right time. And, if you believe in fate, they may even have been in the right place at the right time.

Where's Mac Rebennack when you need him?

13 January 1999
The Four Things I Know About Edward Steichen
Before I read excepts from two large biographies of Edward Steichen, I only knew two things about him. I liked his 1905 photograph of the Flatiron Building that appeared in Camerawork. And I loathed the "Family of Man" exhibit he curated.

I still like a lot of his early work, and I still dislike the "Family of Man" show, but I now know two more things about him. He used to park his car in his third-floor office after bringing it up on the elevator. And, by all accounts, he is the only gardener to have a Museum of Modern Art exhibit of flowers. (He was quite fond of delphiniums.)

gratuitous image
14 January 1999
Canceled Tartans
I was surprised to discover this photograph; I forgot I'd made it. I do remember drinking quite a lot of beer that night from tartan cans. I guess the memory of the tartan cans negated the memory of the tartan pants. What other explanation could there possibly be for forgetting such a sight?

15 January 1999
Horse Sense
It's been a long time since I've been interested in horses. A corollary: it's been a very long time since I had a teenage girlfriend with a horse.

And so it is that I was surprised to discover that all horses are not created equal:

    ribs: seventeen
    lumbar vertebrae: five
    caudal vertebrae: sixteen

    most other horses
    ribs: eighteen
    lumbar vertebrae: six
    caudal vertebrae: eighteen

Vertebrae statistics always confuse me. How can they build horses differently?

gratuitous image
16 January 1999
Fearghas McKay (snaportrait)
Fearghas is a friend of mine.

17 January 1999
Sperm Meets Egg
A woman from Harvard said there are 900,000 human conceptions every day; one third of which will result in the birth of another person. That means, on average, just over ten human sperms unite with human eggs every second.

Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm! Schmmm!

Imagine that!

18 January 1999
Not Four Rare Sumatran Orangutans
I love zoos and I hate zoos: I love seeing animals I'd never otherwise see, but I hate doing so in the environs of an animal prison. I do, however, love the Covilha Zoo in Portugal. Here's why:

Recently the proprietor of the Covilha Zoo announced that he had acquired four rare Sumatran orangutans. The publicity resulted in a flood of visitors, some of whom knew more about orangutans than the zoo owner might have anticipated.

Specifically, more than one of the observers noted that the specimens on exhibit weren't rare, weren't from Sumatra, and, more to the point, weren't orangutans. The animals on display were, in fact, the owner's wife and children wearing monkey suits.

I think it's a shame that the owner was arrested as a result of the fraud. After all, a lot of people were entertained--one way or the other--by the "four rare Sumatran orangutans." And somewhere in Sumatra, four rare Sumatran orangutans are cavorting about in the wild instead of being cooped up in a zoo prison.

It's too bad all zoos don't follow the lead of the Covilha Zoo. If they did, the historical surplus of actors could vanish overnight.

19 January 1999
AHEM ...
Recently, two unrelated friends separately emailed me some good advice, ALL IN CAPS. Although some people get annoyed at getting told what to do, I appreciate good counsel. The problem is that I'm sometimes too stupid to recognize the right path even when it's right in front of me. It's like a famous old fool said, "Sometimes you have to hit a mule over the head with a two by four to get its attention." I don't like the animal abuse metaphor, but for me it's uncomfortably appropriate.

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart