Saturday Linkages: Get Off the Internet and Embroider!

My great aunt enjoying a goat chariot in Stockton, CA.

Want to learn embroidery? Natalie Richards shows you the stitches on YouTube.

Unraveling the Secret Origins of an AmazonBasics Battery

All Right Already By now, we know where Facebook’s allegiances lie

Meat in the Machine

Winds of change: the sailing ships cleaning up sea transport

Silicon Valley Leaders Sit Down With Wildfire At Investment Meeting After Being Impressed By Its Rapid Expansion

Belgian TV show takes politicians on a bike ride – then confronts them with 500 relatives of cyclists killed through poor infrastructure

Sorting Family Photos

Johnny over at Granola Shotgun once described the phenomenon of alleged minimalists with secret troves of STUFF. For us that secret untidiness resided in a backyard shed. Wanting to put that shed to better use, Kelly and I decided to tackle boxes of family photos and home movies.

It was emotionally wrenching for me as my mom’s death was just two years ago. I miss both my parents and think about them every day but we don’t have the room in our tiny house to hold on to every photo, slide, super 8 film and video tape. While I was able to get rid of duplicate photos and pictures of people I can’t identify, I ended up stopping because the process just made me too sad.

An unintentional history of photography lesson
What played out as I went through over 150 years worth of photos was a short history of photography. I have just a few Victorian era photos consisting of studio portraits as well as shots of my paternal great-grandparent’s general store in Stockton, California. With the advent of snapshot photography in the early 20th century there’s more photos, but I suspect photography was still relatively expensive. The early 20th century snapshots seem more carefully posed than what comes later when photography gets cheaper. There’s a lot more photos from the 1970s and 80s but the quality of many of those photos in terms of composition and lighting gets poorer. And color photos from this period have faded badly, whereas the black and white photos from the early 20th century still look as good as new. The last photos I have are of friends taken in the 1990s. Then everything goes digital. From this digital period I have thousands of pictures on a no longer functioning disc drive that I have yet to pay to have recovered. Since formats change and drives fail, we could have a black hole in the history of photography someday, what librarians refer to as a “digital dark age.”

Digitize?
But what to do with all those boxes of photos and home movies? We don’t have kids or any other relatives interested in keeping them after we pass on. Kelly went through her family photos, picked out the best and put them in a slim volume. I don’t know if I’m ready for this. I could take all those photos, slides and movies to Costco and have them digitized. Librarians suggest keeping a digital copy of photos at home, with a friend and in the cloud (Though I feel some guilt about the energy used for cloud storage of photos I might not look at). And they don’t’ suggest throwing out the originals. Lacking a way to project the films and slides, digitizing is the only way that I’ll be able to see them.

But there’s a funny way in which grief works. With the photos in the shed I could put off dealing with the loss of my parents by keeping that grief at a distance, in a kind of stasis, locked away in a shed I rarely visit. There’s a way in which simply digitizing everything would be kind of the same in that I don’t think I’d ever go though that whole archive of images. Perhaps it would be better to face my grief and do what Kelly did and curate a selection of the best photos. Every year around the All Saints/All Souls weekend I could spend some time reflecting on that hypothetical album.

I’m curious how you, our readers, have tacked this problem. Have you digitized? How are you dealing with that mountain of digital images? Do you have kids and if so how does that change the equation?

Saturday Linkages: We Are All Liars

Rather than links today, I thought I’d post a quote from a book everyone should read, Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine:

On the social media platforms, the incentive is to constantly produce more information: a perpetual motion machine, harnessed to passions of which the machine knows nothing. This production is not for the purpose of making meaning. It is for the purpose of producing effects on users that keep us hooked. It is for the purpose of making users the conduits of the machine’s power, keeping its effects in circulation. Faked celebrity deaths, trolling, porn clickbait, advertisements, flurries of food and animal pictures, thirst traps, the endless ticker tape of messages mean less than they perform. The increase of information corresponds to a decrease in meaning . . . The result could be the most elaborate Skinner Box in history. What seems like a device for adventure and freedom could become ‘the creepiest behavior-modification device’ invented thus far.

Moms On Bikes

Kelly and I spent a good part of the week going through boxes of old photos and found this one of my mom giving me a ride on her bike. I’m guessing this must be sometime around 1968. My mom liked to ride bikes, an unusual activity for adults in Southern California in the 1960s. She took me all over Culver City this way until one day when we took a tumble, probably caused by a pothole. I vaguely recall a long haired and bearded young man helping us off the pavement (that I can remember “hippies” shows how old I am). None of us were injured but it shook up my mom enough that she didn’t bike after that accident.

I found this photo on the same day that I read a sad story in the New York Times about a sharp increase in bike and pedestrian accidents in the past few years. And just last week, here in Los Angeles, a child was killed in a crosswalk due to a driver being “blinding by the early morning sun.” Like so much of the bloodshed on our roads the driver will, likely, face no consequences.

The mayhem on our streets has, ironically, scared me back into driving more and biking less. I know a lot of my fellow cyclists feel the same way. There are too many SUVs, too much texting, too many angry drivers and too little concern from our corrupt elected officials.

We are living in a time of climate, economic and political crisis. If we care about the children in this world who are the age I was in this photo, we need to all stand up and make a difference. We need bike lanes, road diets, bus only lanes, public housing and we need to ask our elected leaders not to take any money from fossil fuel and automotive interests. The minor inconveniences we will have to put up with in a transition to a walkable and bikable future are small compared with the rising seas, fires and climate-based refugee crises our children will face.