Monthly Archives: April 2011

Storyboard – Wabash River (Flooded), West Lafayette, IN – April 29 2011

Recent downpours that would make Noah sit up and take notice have brought the Wabash river up around the knees of several local joggers. So to share in the soggy joy, Laura and I took ourselves out to see the sights and sounds.

The new pedestrian walkway between Lafayette and West Lafayette is a nice area but also rife with all sorts of spiders looking to make their living. Sadly the wind was mind-blowing on this day so it was tough to get any of the subject matter to sit still for long, but one exception was this small fly or moth caught up for the last time.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

Lafayette downtown from the bridge.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

Note the right-of-way sign that’s almost entirely under water. Normally this would be a jogging path.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

BEST. HAIR. EVER.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

No picnics today.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

These fanciful yellow mushrooms, maybe Boletinellus merulioides(?) (for the record, mushroom identification is harder than it would seem) were recently mulched over so they were barely protruding from the surface.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

They’re missing the gills of the typical ‘shroom.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

I love dandelion seeds. They seem so innocuous but they’re really terrible barbed little devils. All the better to snag on something as you’re flying through the air, I suppose. (Click the link to see the ultra close-up version.)

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

The neighboring trees (some sort of Apple or Crabapple perhaps) are just awash with blooms. The perspective in this shot makes it look as if they go on forever and ever.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

Seems to be missing an arrow. All users yield to flood.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

Closing with this picture of Laura. For some reason it just really appeals to me. Huge sun flare on the left, simple composition and completely candid.

From Wabash River – 04-29-11

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Books: Faces of Poverty – Portraits of Women and Children on Welfare [1995]

Introduction
The first question that will no doubt occur is that of motivation. Why would I, a fairly middle-class type of gent, care to read a book about women in poverty? The answer is really just one of simple curiosity and a desire to see the other side of the socio-economic fence, to have some insight into this part of society that is fairly well insulated from the larger parts of society. I’ve never been anywhere near the financial straits that these women find themselves in and I’ve never known anyone who has been so it’s a completely foreign life situation. Further, this group is one of the more maligned in our country and I can’t help but wonder where that comes from and whether it is at all justified. If you listen to conservative talk radio you will quickly get the impression that the Welfare system is responsible for wasting billions of dollars and that Welfare recipients are lazy, shiftless do-nothings who have babies just for the purposes of collecting bigger and bigger checks. Given this rather dark baseline for the discussion, what exactly is the truth of the matter?
Textual Note: This text is a bit on the dated side so the numbers quoted are also a bit on the dated side. I’ll make very small effort to modernize this data since the spirit of the book remains the same regardless of how old the numbers are.

Chapter 1 – What is Welfare?
Established in 1935 after the Great Depression, the Welfare system, or AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), was designed to help the “deserving poor,” mostly women who had been widowed, divorced or abandoned during the financial crisis. The intent was to provide a sort of minimum stopgap measure for women so they could stay at home and care for their children while they made plans for more long-term support. At the time, this long-term plan was usually in the form of finding a new husband. Since the program required that parents provide a “suitable home” for their children and working outside the home was typically frowned upon, it wasn’t particularly practical for a woman to work her way off of Welfare.

At its inception, the program was seen as a great public boon, helping those who really were in trouble through no fault of their own. The shift in public opinion seemed to begin most notably in the 1960s when laws about what constituted a “suitable home” were struck down by the courts. Before the civil rights movement, many southern state’s laws had exclusions that deemed unwed African American mothers as fundamentally unsuitable. In the twenty years after suitability laws were removed from the welfare system, the rolls increased from 2 million to 5 million while the demographics of the nation changed as well. In 1960 5% of children lived in female-led households among Caucasians and 15% among African Americans. By 1980 these numbers had tripled to 15% and 45% respectively. Today the percentage of African American children in a single parent household has reached a staggering 67%. In 1939 when the program was started, 80% of the recipients were white. By 1995 the numbers had shifted dramatically when 39% were black despite comprising only 12% of the total population

In addition to the shift in race, the target audience for Welfare also shifted dramatically in situation. The system originally set up to assist widows and abandoned women was now servicing mothers who had never been married or been divorced. By 1991 only 1.6% of the women on Welfare were actually in the original intended audience for the program. Of single mothers, 35% were never married at all while 37% were divorced. Given the numbers, it’s not hard to see that the difference in public opinion stems at least in part from the fact that as a society, we’re still working off a lot of bigotry against the people that the program helps. While we were all happy to help white widows, we seem to have a harder time coming to the aid of a woman of color who has children out of wedlock.

Over the years, the attempts to reform Welfare have been numerous. We’ve seen countless job-training programs but these have always been woefully underfunded. Even the best-funded programs in the 90s only saw 19% participation. Benefits have been progressively lowered and in 1995 a family of three in this country can expect to see a benefit of $400 per month, putting them well below the poverty line (~$15,000 a year). Public opinion also seems to have it that women on Welfare are sitting around having more children to raise their payments. In 1995 the average increase in benefit for having another child was $70 per month. This explains why 72% of women on welfare have only one or two children. Further, the benefits are so poor that half of recipients stay on the program for less than two years with only 17% receiving benefits for 8 years or more.

The grand summation of all these statistics seems to be that most of our common perceptions about Welfare and the people on it are all a bunch of bunk. Nobody’s getting rich off this system and the idea that they’re all just kicking back and relaxing rather than going to work is ludicrous. The average Welfare mom could make twice as much even working for minimum wage rather than sitting around collecting a check for doing nothing, assuming she could find affordable childcare during her working hours. Clearly, nobody wants to be on Welfare for various reasons from the psychological effect of feeling like a failure to the crushing poverty that it leaves in its wake. Anyway, that’s my impression so far. Chapter 2 later…

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Storyboard – Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN – April 3, 2011

Ah yes, I remember this day well. It was so windy as Laura and Eric and I made our way into the woods that we believed repeatedly that a tree might be blown over in the forest and crush us.

These tiny wildflowers proliferate the underbrush in early April. They look a lot bigger here, but they’re really about as wide as a pencil eraser.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

This delicate creature appears to be the Wood Anemone… Maybe?. They vary from white to this pale sort of violet color.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

I like this image in particular because of the way they seem to reach up, craning their scrawny necks to find their way above the foliage.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

Here’s the first glimpse of the six-spotted tiger beetle, Cicindela sexguttata.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

With these mega-fierce mandibles, they show down on insects and spiders. So no need to hide your small children.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

Eric and Laura had fun at the small artificial waterfall at the back of the park.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

Pretty sure this is photographer pose #1. Not that photographers tend to pose much.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

The tricky thing about photographing spider webs is depth of field. Focus too deep and you lose everything. Focus too high and lose any sense of depth. All in all, a tough prospect.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

Some rude person disturbed an any colony in a dead tree and send the inhabitants scrambling to gather the unhatched eggs.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

I actually bothered to set this one up. The image of the two flowers on the leaf seemed apropos somehow.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

This one struck me as particularly grim. Underexposed intentionally for emphasis. Clearly the day is about done and humans who don’t wish to be eaten by bears should move along.

From Ross Hills Park, West Lafayette, IN

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Movies: “Source Code”

Firstly, it should be noted that I don’t write about movies often because I simply don’t go to movies particularly often. Secondly, it should be noted that if you have a thing for geeky movies that use bits of made-up science to concoct a barely believable plot and you might go see this movie you shouldn’t read any further because I’m 100% committed to spoiling it. You were duly warned.

The basic premise of this movie is similar to many in the genre. *Insert Technology* enables scientists to thwart *Bad Thing* which they do and this results in *Happy Result*. There, now I’ve ruined it utterly. If that’s not enough, I’ll ruin it further. The technology in question is the ability to take a living human brain and send it back in time to take over the brain of a soon-to-be-deceased person in the past. Apparently, the plot seems to implore us to believe, the electromagnetic signature of a human brain continues to bounce around the world for eight minutes after death which means that this technology will allow you to stuff your consciousness into the brain of a person for the eight minutes preceding their demise. So our hero, a wounded helicopter pilot who is little better off than a brain in a jar, is repeatedly thrown back in time to relive over and over the last eight minutes of life belonging to a passenger on a train that’s blown up by a very large bomb.

Interestingly though, in addition to seeing the occurrence over and over, our protagonist is somehow able to repeatedly influence events in these eight minutes and despite the flailing explanation of the scientists in charge, creates a happy ending for himself and the woman he manages to fall in love with in eight minutes. All this goes on quite blissfully despite a fairly sizeable causal contradiction. As is usual in these movies, the hero stops the event that led to his being sent on the mission in the first place yet nobody blinks an eye. The fabric of space and time is not ripped asunder, no parallel realities are formed and somehow in all this confusion, boy still manages to meet girl and fall in love.

My painting of the movie in general is dark but it really did have a chance. As usual, Hollywood makes movies that are almost exactly five minutes too long. Our hero could have died a hero’s death, making good in the world but leaving the smaller evil still in place. Instead the movie had to stretch itself like a lazy cat who leans a bit too far and finds herself plummeting off the side of the bed at two in the morning. Boy did not have to get girl. A few could have died to save the many. Instead we’re left with an interesting exercise in psychology and a bit of fake science that had an saccharine sweet ending crammed down its throat. Clearly worth seeing on DVD but only if you have the willpower to turn it off with five minutes left to go.

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Storyboard – Indianapolis Museum of Art (grounds) – April 8, 2011

Admittedly, I’m going back in time a bit on this one but I can only reason that  I should document while I still actually remember what took place.

The first photo is utterly unexciting, I will warn you, but lends itself to an observation.  Whether this is an interesting observation is left as an exercise to the reader.  Anyway, simply, the closer you get to things the more you realize that everything has hair.  Spiders have hair.  Plants have hair.  People have hair.  Apparently tiny appendages are the “IN” thing when it comes to life forms now adays.

From 2011_04_08

I’ve yet to solidly determine any reason why these flowers would point downward. There’s no evolutionary advantage that comes to mind. Perhaps this saves the flowers moisture and allows them to last longer?

From 2011_04_08

Daffodils have just been bred to the point of insanity. Like anything this gaudy could survive in the wild…

From 2011_04_08

A few nice Hyachinth.

From 2011_04_08

This guy was climbing down a wall. Some people… hate spiders. Me, I adore a nice complicated and hairy spider. What can I say.

From 2011_04_08

Alright, confession time. I love primitive plants. The second you say ‘non-vascular’ to me you instantly have my attention. So mosses and liverworts are to die for but for showiness, the ferns rule all in their semi-primitive glory.

From 2011_04_08

This little denizen of the forest didn’t come out nearly as well as I would have liked. His brown-on-brown coloring was difficult to get a proper exposure on. Add to that the fact that he was a quick little bugger (I never kill for the purposes of photographing)

From 2011_04_08

This little jumping spider was very cooperative and made for, in my opinion, one of the best photos I’ve ever taken. The creepy part is that I can see myself in the reflection in her eyes. Clearly, she’s somewhere far away thinking of me as a nice, delicious stew…

From 2011_04_08

Lastly, this wasp made an appearance, but doubtless my flashbacks to childhood when I was stung by a whole nestfull of the dratted things made my results… well, less than optimal.

From 2011_04_08

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More Wondrous Feedback

One of the best things about publishing your almost-innermost thoughts in a blog is that sometimes you get candid feedback about what you’ve written from people when next they happen to meet you in person. Yesterday was such a day and for the purpose of posterity I will share the highlights, such as they were, here. The main points follow, in no particular order.

It was mentioned that my demeanor in writing is very different from my demeanor in person. Judging by my blog posts, I am a strongly opinionated person with unwavering beliefs that brook absolutely no argument from anyone. I have firmly and completely made up my mind and, seemingly, anyone disagreeing can “taketh themselves unto Hades” as my grandfather used to say, but in slightly different terms. When you sit down to talk to me in person, it was observed, I’m “slippery” and “evasive” and “one never really knows what I think on a particular topic.”

Admittedly, it took me no small time to digest this feedback. I pride myself on honesty and forthrightness if for no other reason that I haven’t the time nor inclination nor memory for subterfuge. I will admit that there is a distinct difference between the outward appearance of these two aspects of my personality. In writing, I do seem more determined and opinionated but this is merely because I know what I’m going to say, I’ve chosen the topic specifically because I feel strongly about it, and there’s nobody else here to contradict me or contribute. If I seem forceful or opinionated it’s not because I am unwilling to hear other voices in the discussion but merely because there ARE no other voices. If I leave room for them in my writing for voices which will not speak then those spaces will appear only as holes. I have not mastered the rhetorical arts necessary to write only half a story.

In conversation, I will of course appear softer because I want to leave as much room as possible for the other side of the discussion. Good conversation is something I treasure above almost everything else. If I presented myself with the abruptness and directness of a blog entry then everyone else would quickly become bored. If the result of the conversation seems oleaginous or evasive, then it is only because real face-to-face interaction is not about a getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Whereas writing is a full-out sprint from starting point to finish, a good conversation is more of a dance between two people who agree on a starting point and work together to come to a conclusion. This isn’t evasiveness but instead partnership. A good conversation has two sides. At best a piece of written work can have but one.

Secondly, I was taken to task on a specific point of fact in a blog entry from 2006. In the post I talked long and vehemently about alcohol and its place in American Society. It was one blog among many but the commentator pointed out, quite correctly, that my current lifestyle was contradictory to that single post. The question was, simply, why hadn’t I corrected the post to indicate my revision of opinion on the topic? My response to that, while a weak one, was that I had no interest in being a revisionist. I cannot be responsible for every bit of fluff that I knock off half a decade ago. Looking back on the post, I still agree with the content in spirit, but don’t adhere to my own previous standards. I wish I did, but I don’t. I’m not sure what else to say except that I have addressed the topics at issue though not with the vehemence of my original proclamation. Perhaps I’m embarrassed at the failure and don’t wish to publicize it? Who can say really.

I think the larger point is that a blog isn’t about the now so much as it is a history. The value isn’t in maintaining a pristine image of where you are so much as figuring out where you’ve been. Perhaps where you’ve been isn’t so great. I’ve written plenty of things that I’ve later realized were complete shit. One need only follow the posts on religion to realize that. I put out an opinion on the topic and the world came together to beat me back and correct me over the subsequent seven years. I consider there to be no better outcome for a writer than to be proven wrong by his readers. When that happens it means not only that you all cared enough to tell me that I was full of shit but also that I was accepting and receptive of it and that YOU, my readers, my friends, my family, changed me for the better. For that, I thank you.

Lastly, one recurring topic that my commentator hit upon frequently is to ask simply, why I would bother to blog at all. Why have I, for seven years, sat down at the computer and typed out what I was thinking about? Why would I bother to invest in this endeavor? What would I possibly have to gain from it? In all honesty, the endeavor was a search for friendship. Through my years on this planet I have sought to connect and to find people with whom I could share my life. For the most part, because of my own attitudes, I’ve been unsuccessful. I’ve come across as demanding and antisocial and generally an ass because I categorically reject, sometimes forcefully and insultingly, many things that people hold most dear. That’s a pretty poor way to make friends and looking back on this blog, it’s only exacerbated the problem. While I pour out my thoughts on things I also doubtless find a way to alienate just about everyone who reads it. This is sad because in some very specific way I value every one I come in contact with in a way that I’m just terribly and ironically bad at communicating. In some ways I feel like I can communicate in a masterful and convincing way and in some ways I feel like a hopeless and wordless child who accomplishes the exact opposite of his intent.

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Storyboard – Indianapolis Zoo – April 23, 2011

On Saturday the girls and I went off to the Indianapolis zoo.  It was a fairly nice day and therefore prime time to wander around in the quasi-outdoors that the zoo provides.  Unfortunately, there was also an Earth Day celebration further down White River park so everybody else and their brother also thought it was a prime day to take in the local attractions.  To say it was crowded would have been a vast understatement.

Aquarium photography is an art I’ve not come near to mastering. After a short jaunt I resolved to take an entire day and do this properly.

From 2011-04-23

I love how they just float here so effortlessly.

From 2011-04-23

The jellies are wonderful subjects, but my results are poor and unsatisfying. This may be where I camp out first when I go back with several hours to kill.

From 2011-04-23

The result here was a total failure when compared to my original intent but it’s more than a bit surreal when separated from my original design.

From 2011-04-23

The baby giraffe seems to be a hit everyone. Unfortunately I was toting a macro lens and not a zoom this day so all my shots were full-body rather than the more intimate portraits I’ve had of these animals in the past.

From 2011-04-23

From 2011-04-23

I should have made better notes on what I was photographing in this case. Another note for the next trip out.

From 2011-04-23

Izzy looked on in typical Izzy fashion.

From 2011-04-23

And as usual Amanda’s glasses match her eyes.

From 2011-04-23

And they get along swimmingly…

From 2011-04-23

From 2011-04-23

The meerkats are attentive as always.

From 2011-04-23

From an evolutionary standpoint it’s baffling to me why these gets are a complimentary color compared to their environment.

From 2011-04-23

Ahhh… had forgotten about this one. Captured bolt of lightning from the storm the night before. Four second exposure.

From 2011-04-23

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