Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why politics matters
Everyone I work with knows I love politics. I love reading 800 page books on Chairman Mao, or the foreign policy of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. There are only a handful of things that I enjoy more. I long ago learned that it is not worth talking politics as a general rule. You have to find people who also love and follow it. They don’t have to agree with you, just be able to have a discussion without becoming red faced. This year politics is especially in the air. We are in the midst of a truly historic election. You would have to go back all the way to 1952 for the last time there was an election without an incumbent President or Vice President running. The result has been a fiery debate among an open field on both sides of the aisle. Throw in a juggled and front loaded primary system and you have a down right throw down. But I’m not done, we also have a woman and an African American competing, actually competing, for the top spot. Now consider that it looks increasingly like the next President will be from the Senate, a feat that only a handful of people have accomplished, and fewer have accomplished in recent history. The last Senator to springboard to the presidency was Kennedy in 1960 and before that you have to go back to 1880 with James Garfield. However, many Senators have launched plenty of losing campaigns from the Senate. Take all this into account, and you can’t help feel that this is truly a historic and exciting election; and it’s just the primaries. I notice more and more people are talking politics and I think it’s good. However, for all you newcomers out there I will give you some advice. Enjoy it! Most primaries are dull. Front-runners get established early and conventions are just giant parties that go through the motions at the cost of millions of dollars. This year we may actually witness a convention that actually decides a candidate rather than anoints one. It will be one heck of a ride. Maybe things can change. It does seem to me that the road seems a little less dirty than normal. I guess attack ads and slander just ain’t what they used to be. Maybe people will start demanding a little more of their politicians, and from themselves. I have to admit that I feel good no matter what candidate gets selected. This may be one of the rare times when the pendulum swings the other way, when the people become the beneficiaries of government. I hope so! Politics is important, and with all the new voters this year, I hope everyone realizes why they need to be involved. The leaders we elect affect our lives on every level. They make decisions that determine whether you can have an abortion, decisions that affect your ability to get student loans, educate your children, how much money you get to keep in your paycheck, or whether you get sent to war. They can influence and make decisions that matter in all kinds of ways that are too many to list. Not only that, they have the power of appointment. They choose judges (many for lifetime appointments) and administration officials who control the food we eat, the air we breathe, the cars we drive and the quality and availability of our health care, just to mention a few of the ways they effect our lives. To often, politicians and the like rely on the fact that half of the electorate is not paying attention to what they do and what they pass. They represent their own ambitions and rarely have our best interests at heart. That being said, not all politicians are crooks. I believe there are those who feel a sense of public service in what they do. The system makes it so hard for people like that to thrive. All the more reason to pay attention! The only real power we have is to throw the bums out when our interests are not served. They know it too. Believe me, they pay attention to the demographics that vote. Some call that pandering; I think it is the system working. History is full of people who ruled without accountability and the list of abuses is long. Politics can often be frustrating and maddening but Americans are lucky to have the system we have and we should appreciate it. We can throw them out, and often do! So go vote, but more importantly pay attention, dig a little deeper. Demand more than a sound bite or slogan. Know what the issues are for yourself; don’t let them tell you what they are. Maybe you can find just a hint of the passion that I have. We would all benefit from it!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I love photographs and photography. Always have! I also love looking through old family photographs. Admittedly, I was slow to the digital age, but have jumped in with both feet. Despite my enthusiasm, I think we are over saturated with an abundance of images. Camera phones, digital cameras, video are common place and abundant to the point I feel like every waking moment is recorded.
On our recent trip to Disney World, I shot 482 pictures over 6 days; including an hour of video. That’s 20 roles of 24 exposure film in addition to all the developing cost! Yikes! Digital photos are cheaper, the pictures are amazing; and there are no wasted shots. If it is bad you simply delete it! It’s easier to go through them as well; digital frames, online photo albums and computer software make viewing easy and accessible for family and friends across the country without even so much as a stamp! Digital photography is superior in every respect.
Now contrast that with my parents. They have about 20 or so albums of family pictures. One event, say like a trip to the Grand Canyon, might only have 10-15 pictures! My parents just didn’t take a lot of photos. Certainly not 482 of them. I can’t say that is typical, but it is how they were.
Pictures from smaller point and shoot cameras in the 1970’s were less than stellar in quality. Often pictures were not exposed correctly, the images were grainy and lacked the crisp detail of today’s digital photos! Color was no where near as dynamic as it is now. Yet I can’t help but feel that we lose something in the digital age. Perhaps an overabundance of images makes us less sensitive to the real importance of family photos. Perhaps 20 pictures are more precious and valuable than 482.

A good example is the picture you see with this blog. It’s from October 1975, and one of my all time favorite family pictures. I was 6 and my sister was about 5 months old. It’s not too great a photo, typical of the time. Check out the 70’s orange drapes with the plastic lining, not to mention that carpet. What a decade! Notice that I have a Star Trek action figure, Lt. Uhura, clutched in my hand. Technically it’s not a doll, dolls don’t have phasers! This photo instantly transports me back to that time. I loved all those action figures that I had! Again, not dolls! So much so, that I found the same toys on Ebay. Still newish, they have the same smell that I so distinctly remember. Easily may favorite toys of my childhood!
Notice the action figure on the floor. Any one remember what that one was? Yep, It’s an original Col. Steve Austin The Bionic Man action figure. I’m sure the engine block is not far!
Now, notice the rocking chair. I currently am sitting in it while I write this blog. That chair has rocked myself and my sister as well as both my girls. In fact, not 10 minutes ago my youngest came and sat in my lap and let me rock her! She’s tired and had a boo-boo, and I’m sure felt generous enough to give Daddy some quality time. How great would it be to one day pass it along to my girls and my grand children?
So as you can see, the picture has a lot of details that are special to me. It is these details that make family photos so special. Not that the photos we take now are not special, I just think we lose sight of what is important while trying to document every second of every event.
I feel lucky that my parents took what they did. So many people have only a handful of family photos. Often it is the only connection they have with their past, making them much more valuable. That also makes the details that much more important! That’s how we connect with our past, and that is what family photos are all about!
I have to wonder if 482 pictures will have the same power 30 years from now! I hope so, or I’ve wasted a lot of time taking pictures and shooting video. I suppose 482 versus 10 gives me a better chance to find that all too precious photo. I hope one day, that my children can have a photo that will let them experience the same flood of memories and emotions that I get from that picture! That will make 482 pictures worth it!