Where I Screwed Up

IMG_6419 - CopyI realized today just how and when I screwed up my foray into photography.  The fundamental malfunction came about at exactly the second that I began to care what anyone else thought about what I was doing.

As I look back on many of the posts in this blog I realize, and sometimes even specifically state, that they are written for the benefit of future-Rob only and that anyone else that happens to read them can take them or leave them and I care not a single whit one way or another.  Rereading some of those posts now, current-Rob is extremely impressed and entertained at the moment in time that was crystallized in a few words.  Current-Rob is occasionally horrified at an uncorrected grammatical error as well but one takes the good with the bad.

201 - CopyFor many years, photography went along in much the same groove.  I wandered about, captured what I saw, posted it somewhere in the endless oblivion that is the internet and left it to sit for a decade.  When I look back at those photos now I’m similarly impressed by the feelings they summon up for me.  Does anyone else get the same vibe from them?  I could not possibly care less.  They do so for me and to be frank there is no person I would rather give pleasure to than me.

This all went bananas about 9 months ago.  I started taking photos at live events, founded Indy Live Photography, and began to have a following.  People started to … somewhat … pay attention to me.  Sometimes positively and sometimes negatively but most of the time completely failed to care.  A big chunk of my psyche started to wind itself up trying to figure out what people liked and what might “sell” and would appeal the masses.  I spent thousands of hours taking photos and processing them but somewhere in all that forgot the person I was supposed to be pleasing.  Not dissimilarly to the hundreds of idiotic book reviews you’ll find in this blog, I pumped out quantity and forgot about quality and worst of all neglected my only true audience.  

071 - CopySo from this day forward I declare simply, and concisely, that you are welcome to look at my work and do what you will with it but I sincerely and completely don’t give a damn what you think because it’s not really for you anyway.  You’re not going to look back on it in ten years and think about the nuance of expression in a particular photo or ponder the larger context of the instant in time that was captured… but I am.  This is my life in these photos and in these words and you are more than welcome to share them with me but I can’t let you influence them lest they be untrue to me.

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Woe of Hours Wasted

IMG_9339This afternoon I read a sci fi short story entitled “The Gold at the Starbow’s End” by Frederik Pohl (1973). In it, a scientist devises a plan to strand eight people on a spacecraft bound for Alpha Centauri on a contrived mission to colonize a planet that doesn’t really exist. He does this because he believes that if you put humans into a situation away from distractions and modern convenience and allow them to focus solely on solving difficult problems that the results will be profound and sufficient to change the world. The story, in its detail, is fairly preposterous but I think that there may be a hefty thread of truth winding through this concept.

If you look at our modern workaday world in historical context, we’ve got some amazing advantages over our forebearers only 100 years ago. We have more leisure time than any group of humans ever. Our access to information is mind-boggling; if you want to study the mating habits of Nicaraguan sea turtles you can have access to that information in under 60 seconds. While disposable income varies wildly, the internet allows us to obtain just about anything you can imagine. We are the most intellectually empowered species in the history of this planet.

But what do we actually do with all that power? There are, of course, the elite few who are putting their brains to the proverbial grindstone and pushing to make the world a better place but it seems that for the vast majority of us (and I do not absolve myself from this one iota) we go to work at jobs that don’t really challenge us and then come home to lives that don’t really put us to the test or stretch us as people and simply float by on a cloud of recreation waiting for the next life event to come to pass. In every sense of it this is a terrible waste of an amazing opportunity.

Speaking personally, I look back on previous versions of myself (at times represented in this blog) and I yearn for that person that I used to be. I was far from ideal to be sure but I did more. I wrote more keenly; I thought more profoundly. Perhaps not with so much wisdom as I might hope for now but there was an energy that I haven’t found again. Ironically, I’m much more empowered in every sense than I was 10 years ago yet I’ve still lost something.

Looking at the world as a whole, I believe that collectively we have all the energy both mental and physical to solve all of our problems 1000 times over. What we lack is leadership and direction to point us in the right direction and when humans lack direction, leadership and inspiration the collective psyche devolves to watching cat videos, random complaining, and heavy drinking. I can’t deny that I’ve certainly frittered my share of hours away and dream keenly of what better use they could have been put to.

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The Mother Who Never Was

Deb-SlavenThe needful background for this story is that a little over a month ago my mother died.  I avoid the use of any euphemism or distracting turn of phrase here because more than any other person I’ve ever known, she simply slowly and irrevocably shriveled up and just passed from existence.  In point of fact I’m not sure that she was ever truly alive in any meaningful way at any point when I knew her.  

To understand this one has to go back many years to her childhood.  She was the eldest of three children and the only daughter; her mother was a very kind and simple woman while her father was an emotionally abusive alcoholic.  I got very little information from mother about her childhood but she recalled with great vividness many episodes in which her father careened down the road, drunk off his ass, taking great pleasure at the screams of his terrified children in the back seat.  By the time I knew my grandfather he had mellowed considerably but one could still see the vestiges of a domineering father figure.

When it came time for my mother to head to college, she aspired above all to work with animals.  She ended up at Purdue so she was in the right place at the right time but unfortunately, her father would have none of that.  He insisted, as mom tells it anyway, that being a veterinarian was not a proper profession for a woman and that he would only support her if she trained to become a teacher instead.  My shy and retiring mother didn’t agree but she went along with the plan.  Sadly, uninspired by the curriculum, she didn’t make it past her first year of classes.  Within 12 months she was back in Frankfort working in a factory.

C.T.S 1985 (I Think)After a few years back in town she met my father; in a way they were a good match.  My father was a rebel and my mother needed that influence.  Grandpa, of course, wasn’t terribly happy about it.  Family history has it that there were a few instances in which my grandfather made his displeasure with my father clear using a firearm.  I suspect on some deeper level that my mother married my father at least in part just because he disapproved so strongly.  They married in 1972 and less than two months later I was on the way.  I’ve written elsewhere in this blog about my mother’s view on motherhood so I won’t rehash it but suffice to say that a human child was the last thing she needed at this juncture in her life.

My parents remained married for about 15 years and putting both halves of the story together they really seemed to be working at right angles to each other.  To hear my father’s side of the story, his basic issue was that he seemed to just lose interest in her.  She didn’t grow as a person, he said, at all during the years of their marriage.  As a result he ended up seeking fulfillment in his artwork, carpentry and (it is rumored) “outside the marriage.”  On her side, she said she was doing everything she could to make him happy.  I understand completely why she would have done so; given her relationship with her father, this was just how relationships with men are supposed to go.  She tried to emulate her obedient and subservient mother but that was the last thing my father wanted out of a marriage.  He hung on as long as he did only out of some sense of duty to me, I suspect.  

When their marriage ended, things went downhill quickly, but I recall exactly one lucid and connected conversation with my mother from that time.  After my father had left the house for good she sat on the bed next to me and said simply, “well, it’s just you and me now.”  I recall feeling elated; not because I wanted my father to leave but because I wanted desperately for things to change.  Even if they changed for the worse there was a chance that I’d not be stuck in that room.  Sadly, that moment of lucidity passed in a flash.  A few months later she attempted suicide (pills) and I was put in the care of my grandparents permanently.  

My contact with her after that was sporadic at best and when we did speak our conversations were awash in her intense mental illness.  She insisted that my father was still harassing her by driving past the house multiple times a day.  People at work, she claimed, talked about her behind her back and were trying to get her fired.  Eventually she told me in rather impolite terms to stop calling her at all; she honestly believed I was only calling to check up on her so I’d know when she died and could get her money.  At the time of her death I hadn’t spoken to her for years except to tell her when my father passed away.


A month ago when I walked into my mother’s house for the first time in over a decade I didn’t know what to expect.  I had hopes, of course, that somehow I’d find some answers to the puzzle that was my mother.  This woman gave birth to me but to be honest I didn’t really know her.  She was an archetype of mental illness and abused child but at no point did I ever really KNOW her as a person.  I had hoped on some level to finally unravel part of the mystery to find out who my mother really was as a person beyond the high-level view I had.

After spending several hours digging through the contents of her house, it became clear that there were no answers.  There was one photo album; it contained pictures only of herself and every animal she’d ever owned.  All photos of me or other family members were absent.  She had very neatly trimmed everyone else in the universe out of her life because her brain had tricked her into thinking that everyone she knew, past and present, was a deceiver and out to get her somehow.

The only glimmers of her came in the form of a few oddments.  She had become fairly obsessed with Sam Elliott as evidenced by a box of magazines and several movies.  Her cedar chest contained a few remembrancers from past pets: a parakeet perch, her last dog’s collar.  She kept legal documents, tax returns, one letter from my ex wife with photos of the kids.  My mom turned to the Bible at some point for hope and inspiration but it was short lived; she had a notebook devoted to the topic but only the first page was ever used.  All in all the physical footprint she left on this world over almost 70 years was remarkably scant.

Either my mother was very good at hiding herself or (as my father would say if he were here) maybe there just wasn’t anything there in the first place.  He was very intent on the idea that in many ways my mother was a non-person because she never put herself first enough to develop into someone real.  Life was always about making her father happy or making him happy but it was never about making herself happy.  So maybe I went into that house looking for a mom that never existed in the first place.  

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Review of With Malice by Eileen Cook

As if often the case I received this book free for the purposes of review. Despite that kindness I’m absolutely candid below.

The summary on this one is pretty typical; we open with our protagonist unsure of where she is or what has gone on for the past six weeks. Her friend is dead and she stands accused. Yet she can’t remember a thing. The novel unfurls as everyone around her tries to figure out what exactly came to pass.

This is a YA novel and I tend to judge those somewhat differently than I do others in the adult genres. The first question to be asked is whether there’s anything in this novel that I wouldn’t want my own kids to read. On that note, it’s a bit rough in the language department. There is a fair amount of profanity and some reference to sex but it’s nothing major or hard core. It’s just something to watch out for. It should be also noted that the overall arc of this story is NOT a lesson that I would want my children to internalize. It’s hard to be more specific without accidentally creating a spoiler but suffice to say that if my kids behaved this way I’d have to shake my head and walk away.

Secondly, is there anything in this book that’s positive that I would consider a positive message for kids. The book demonstrates the creation of a great friendship built between two people in very different layers of society. That is good to see, but unfortunately the rest is a spiraling maelstrom of jealousy and deceit and people just generally being jerks to each other. So there’s not much positive in that.

Lastly, the question is, will readers find it enjoyable. On that count, they just might, mostly on the basis of the complete deficiency of anything positive to say in question two. If you like them dark and beyond any redemption then this is a book for you. It is a very easily consumed little novel that you could swallow in several hours but the question is will you like the taste in your mouth once you eat it?

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Review of: Grape Spunk – Wine Memoirs 2015 by Stuart Reeves

This one appealed to neither me nor my fiancee but perhaps it will do for you. She asked me to stop reading after three pages.

It’s certainly crude enough for even the most puerile partaker of literature and bars no holds when it comes to offending the reader.

In my video review hear my reading of a couple of randomly selected wines

** Original Description:

This superb testament to fine wine fermentation emanates like a huge constipated turd from the Whippet Digest’s Food & Drink team. Featuring the marvellous reviews by their in house connoisseur’s, Felicity Cockstraddler and Roderick Cameron – Nightterror, it provides a cutting edge survival guide to navigating some of the lesser established 2015 vintages.

Flirting a distinct luminous broken nose poca dot colour, infused with hallucinogenic tartan and a prominent cattle ranch nose, this belter of a book has a distinctly unique dry texture, skillfully woven to a completely fictitious fruity frame.

Would pair magnificently on a lazy Sunday morning wash room expedition after a massive bender the night before, particularly if you have run out of toilet paper and read fast. However, this vintage should keep for years in a cool environment and is an excellent choice for refined individuals, who understand not to take life too seriously.

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Frightfully Ever After by Nick DeWolf

As is often the case I received this book free for the purpose of review but despite that I’ll be completely candid about it below.

The nutshell on this book is that it plays much like a cross between Breaking Bad and Cinderella. You’ve got drug deals, shoot-outs, lots of profanity, magic axes and Fairie Godmothers. It’s not very often you get all that between two covers.

To the positive, I was fairly giddy at the concept and remained so throughout the book. While it would be a bit of a stretch to call this all that original, I will say that this is the first book I’ve seen in which this was done so well and with such blatant grit. As the book progresses the protagonists/antagonists evolve into pretty frightful badasses. DeWolf has a talent for action scenes and his descriptions leave just enough to the imagination to engage the reader in total interest. The writing is solid, reasonably well edited and leaves little to be desired.

To the negative, many of the characters are pretty stereotypical and don’t enjoy fully proper development. This should, I think, be viewed as only a slight issue however, since the original genres from which the author draws aren’t exactly known for their deep character development. Faerie tales cop shows deal primarily in archetypes rather than fully-fleshed characters because they’re intended to teach a more generalized lesson that the reader can relate to by filling in the gaps with their own attributes.

In summary, this is a delightful and thoroughly entertaining book. I found myself wanting to know more about their history and what brought them to the various straits in which they find themselves. If the author has it within him, this milieu would make for a wonderful extended series that focuses on more details and fleshes out some of the gaps left in this narrative.

Find the book on Amazon.


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Bad Books of the Week for 3/26/2016

This week’s batch of bad books is truly a waste of internet.
51kWXv--HjL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Best Damn Sex Jokes Ever!: Jokes Free, Jokes for Adults, Jokes 2016, Funny Jokes (Jokes, Jokes for Adults, best jokes 2016, best jokes, jokes 2016) Kindle Edition
by Johnathon Jacobs (Author)

I’ve never encountered a book of any sort that’s quite in this format. It looks huge in the reader but the real contents are pretty small.

The jokes are translated into languages ranging from Afrikaans to Zulu. However there are only 30 different jokes all of which I could find on the internet. Further, the translation is pretty poorly done. For example, if you look at Latin the language is very clearly not Latin. So I assume that a machine translation service was used.

On the whole, the jokes aren’t bad, it’s just that there’s precious little content for any one reader when compared to the size of the file and the price asked. Fairly strong avoid.

51zfHSRITVL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_I Like to Read Books (Adventures in Everyday Life Book 1) Kindle Edition
by Jason Anderson (Author)

The figure you see on the front cover appears on every page. In fact, that exact same image appears on all 15 pages, unchanged, unmoved but with different backgrounds except that he changes his shirt color from red to green and back again. In the last frame he adopts a slightly different pose as he plays a guitar.

Backgrounds are all clearly inspired by The Simpsons but the only recognizable character which appears is Moe.

I’d be exceptionally disappointed if I had paid money for this little bit of literature.

51KevlBb8IL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Life These Days: With Family And Friends Kindle Edition
by Ronald McClure (Author)

* First off, the concept seems…. well, only interesting to a VERY select group of people. Maybe the author and a few people around him, but let’s give it a fair shot.

* Page 1: A photo of fixing a door. And all the comments from family/friends about said photo. It’s not transcribed mind you, it’s just screen captures of the Facebook posts glued into each page.

* Page 2: “We woke up WHITE! Just thought you’d like to know!” – yeah well, everyone in this book is pretty white, let me tell you.

* Page 3: Photo of an unidentified interior of a building. Can’t tell if it’s a bar or a house. Photos are all black and white and VERY small so even if this was interesting, it wouldn’t be.

* Page 4/5: Merry Christmas greetings, the author and wife in Christmas hats. Lots of one-liner Christmas greetings exchanged.

* A few pages on we get an album of apparent vacation photos. No indication of where they are though. Grand Canyon maybe? Seems like something better posted on Flickr or some sort of… oh, I dunno, photo service?

* Couple pages further… picture of a relative holding a cup of soda in some unidentified diner.

* A few more pages further we are treated to a sampling of a Facebook messenger chat with someone else who is unidentified and his importance is entirely unknown.

OK, enough of that. While I appreciate what a pain in the butt it must have been to put this together, I fail to see the need for this there is in the world. The only people who could be remotely interested in this are already Facebook friends with the author. So while by all means I applaud the desire to capture and document the past, I see absolutely no reason to try to sell copies of it online.

51K5ustjXML._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Memes: Badass Memes Humor Unlimited (Funny Memes) Kindle Edition
by Memes (Author)

Pages and pages of memes that we’ve all seen before.

One picture per page, nothing terribly entertaining though a couple are slightly more entertaining than staring directly into the sun.

41z-pehbUZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Billionaire Romance: Marrying a Billionaire: (New Adult Romance) Kindle Edition
by jvr publishing (Author)

Wow. Writing is SO poor. I don’t even have to turn from the first page to find a dozen textual issues. Verbatim quotes below:

“Ellie was so desperate to get married a rich man…”

“Joe is her closest friend who secretly in love with her…”

“Is marrying a billionaire man is the only chance for a woman who is desperate…”

“Angry clouds roared in the form of lightening…”

“After waiting for half an hour and no hard to find a ride…”

It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is; if the writing is THIS poor then all bets are off as far as I’m concerned.

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