Wednesday, July 30, 2014


trib·ute - ╦łtribyo͞ot
noun: tribute; plural noun: tributes  
1. an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration.

I just discovered, in one of the books that we had brought to my father over the time he was in nursing home care, a note.  The book was To Make Ourselves a Home, a collection of stories his father -- my grandfather -- would tell the family about his early childhood in northern Canada.  As he ailed, my father had him write them down to occupy himself while bedridden.  The handwritten manuscript traveled with my father and then me from house to house until, with time on his hands in retirement, my father sat down and edited it.  We then had it produced as a book by our publisher as a Christmas present to him.

The note was a little piece of paper, handwritten by volunteers from Hospice who sat with my father as the end approached. "On Tuesday, vigil volunteer Lu Dooley read pp 1-35 out loud to Dr. Young," it said.  "Then Ted B read pp 36-49 to him -- although he appeared to be asleep the whole time."

It was a nice image for me to take with me, that as he drifted away, it was hearing the stories he had been told by his father as a child.

At this moment, I'm left to wonder what to say.  People come up sympathetically, telling me how sorry they are for my loss.  I don't know what to tell them: that I've been bracing myself for this moment for years -- since my Mom first developed Alzheimer's, since she died in 2007, since my Dad first showed signs of dementia or when he went into full-time nursing care?  I really don't know how to be satisfactorily distraught, how to give them what they're searching for, but I want to play my role so that they can go on with their lives feeling they have done their part.

However, I also want to show my father the respect he never properly received in life.  As I said when announcing his death on Facebook (and what a modern and inadequate thing that statement is), "He was a successful and frankly rather important man."  He reached the highest levels of his profession and saved and earned his way to become, at least technically, a millionaire, thus achieving the goals he set himself as a child.  Once, when we visited the campus of a university where he had been Dean of Students, he pointed out that all of his contemporaries now had buildings named after them.  There was no Kenneth Young Hall, however.

He gave me a comfortable life, one in which I was free to pursue an offbeat profession and start a business without the concerns and anxieties he suffered in youth.  For me, that was a spectacular gift which I never adequately repaid.

So now he's gone, and I still don't know what to say (though I seem to have spun out a lot of text doing it).

It was my father who told me that, at the end of every funeral, there's always somebody who says, "What's for lunch?"  His point was that life goes on, no matter how tragic and central the loss. A resolutely logical man, I have no doubt that he, like I, would simply march on, going to work and getting the minutia of life handled.  When his father died after a long battle with heart valve problems at 48, I think he (then only in his 20s) acted similarly ... though oddly we never really talked about it.

He was and is a huge influence.  As shown above, I cite him regularly, and I hope never to forget the moments when I received the wisdom that I cite, but I also hope to always have the man close to mind, as if I had just spoken with him.

"As a day well spent brings blessed sleep,
So a life well lived brings a blessed death."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Saturday, July 26, 2014

And now a word from our other blog ...

Because I'm awfully happy with this picture:

That's David Chaltas, who does a living history first-person interpretation of Robert E. Lee, speaking at a rally protesting the removal of Confederate battle flags from Lee Chapel, where the Southern leader is buried.

I put a lot more pics from the rally, and a bit of reporting, on the "phlog," Guy with a Leica.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Life Is A Boat ... "

“Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.”
Shunryu Suzuki

I like this for a number of reasons.  I like the structure, like that of a good joke, where it seems to lead you down one path before revealing that you're somewhere totally unexpected.  I like how it gives you the optimism of adventure and new experience before slapping you in the face with reality.  Then comes the realization that this is indeed a Zen saying -- life is a struggle, death is just a transition.  I like how it mirrors one's maturing approach to life: eager at first for the experience, then caught up in the journey, and finally simply tired and ready for a rest.  And I like that it shows that everything changes.

Change.  Just last night I heard somebody say, "Nobody likes change."  Normally, I'd disagree, but right now I can't.

Sometimes, once we get things ticking along in a system, even if it's a system built to handle problems, one begins to wish that nothing would ever change.  The well working cycle could just keep ticking along -- the kids would always be kids, never growing older or sadder or more distant, the pets would always be there, purring in your lap and occasionally peeing in the corner, and your parents would always be there in the background, old and doddering perhaps, but still there.

My life is now in total flux, and all I can think of is that it was all under control just a minute ago.  And why can't it just stay that way, stressful and exhausting as it was?  Of course, it wasn't under control, and change -- though incremental -- was always underway.  And frankly the situation wasn't that great.  Now, however, I feel as though I thrown myself off of the precipice, and I can only hope that I, in the words of Ray Bradbury, can build my wings on the way down ...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Loose Stuff ...

Shall we start on the subject of Leicas?  It's not like I've talked about that before, is it?

I came across this piece (NSFW) on the internet today.  Frankly, his complaints about image quality are hard for me to see, even though I reflexively agree with him, but his rant at the end was an interesting new thought on my old digital vs. analog question.  Indeed, I have and regularly use Leicas that are 60 years old.  They work great, and it puts me in direct control of the image (no auto functions causing the camera to refuse to fire because it thinks I'm making a mistake, no weird artifacts added by some secondary processing function, and so on ...)

But how long will there be film -- nice, Kodak-made Tri-X, for example -- not to mention the chemistry and so on to process it?  I have said that one could take solace in the fact that there are photographers out there still making daguerreotypes and ambrotypes -- techniques from the very earliest days of photography -- but those are processes that use very basic chemicals that can be combined in essentially a home lab.  35 mm Tri-X is not something you can cobble together in your garage.

Back in December, Craig Mod contemplated about this subject in the New Yorker.  He told his story of transition from various film cameras, through digital to his positive impressions of pictures shot during one trip on an iPhone.  "Tracing the evolution from the Nikon 8008 to the Nikon D70 to the GX1, we see cameras transitioning into what they were bound to become: networked lenses," he wrote.  In other words, he sees the whole process of photography shifting as the value of the pictures themselves become increasingly measured by the ability of people to see them through the network.  I'm not sure I agree (per the Vivian Maier Test), but it is an interesting thought.

 Finally, there's this.  Spoiler alert: this is the final sentence: "No doubt, cameras capabilities will continue to improve and amaze, but I wonder as camera design evolves just how much joy will be left in the process of taking photos?"  However, the journey to that point is quick and interesting.