Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Scars Are Souvenirs You Never Lose

No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget

Over dinner last night, I was having a conversation with my wife about a family friend. The friend, not unlike us (and you, I suspect) is fond of posting images on social media. The pictures show smiling faces, fun in the sun. A nice meal. A fantastic sunset.

People are smiling. Always smiling.

Many people today are talking as well about the scene of Academy Award-nominated actor Bradley Cooper exchanging a silent but loving look with "Lady Ga Ga", his co-star from the recent movie remake of A Star Is Born. Of course, Cooper and "Ga Ga" are professional actors, and they are paid to feign emotion. And quite skilful at it.

I remarked to my wife, people on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media project a certain idealized image of the life that they wish that they had.

This is not to say that they are not happy. It does not mean the emotion in the photos is false. But images online capture the soft light that shines into our lives. What is missing from our digital footprints is the shadows that fall on us all.

How are our actual lives stacked up against the way we want the world to see them?

Several years ago, there was a film released called One Hour Photo. For those who came of age in the era of digital photography, in the olden days (like, pre-2005), people took pictures using cameras with actual film in them. The rolls were taken to drug stores or to speciality photo printing shops to be printed. You dropped the roll of film and a couple of days later, went to retrieve the prints.

For an additional fee, you could get them back, as the title indicated, in one hour - a rush job.

I think most of the PhotoMats of my youth are long gone.

In an odd, against-type casting, Robin Williams played a character named Sy Parrish, who worked developing other people’s pictures. The movie opens with a soliloquy by Parrish:
Family photos depict smiling faces... births, weddings, holidays, children's birthday parties. People take pictures of the happy moments in their lives. Someone looking through our photo album would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.
I liked the movie, though it comes to rather an unhappy and surprising end. But this observation has stayed with me since then.

“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”

Therein lies your answer. No one is as happy as they appear in their on-line world.

That is the ugly truth of life.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Another Year

Today is the 13th of February, which for those who know me, means that the odometer today clicks another digit over. Any one year is not significantly different from the last, but after a few revolutions, the chassis has picked up more than a few miles.

This year (49) is not a mile-stone year by any stretch. 49 is not even a prime number, so it's just another footnote in the stats almanac and not "black ink" as baseball writer Bill James liked to say.

It's today a rainy, stormy day here in San Francisco (speaking of 49ers). It reminds me a bit of my 30th birthday, which (incredibly) is now nearly two decades ago.

I turned 30 in the year 2000, which made it especially auspicious. Remember the Y2K scare? How silly we all felt when really, nothing happened?

That February, like this one, saw a lot of rain. The Bay Area is close to a desert in terms of annual rainfall, but we do get between 15 and 20 inches of rain in a year. But that rainfall is packed into a couple of months of the winter. For eight or so months per year, we typically do not even get a cloud in the sky, fog excepted.

I remember how wet it was in 2000. I remember more than that that my mother was visiting me. At the time, I was living in San Jose, California, in a sub-division called "Naglee Park." For my 30th birthday, I took the day off. My mother and I spent the middle part of the day getting lunch and then at the Municipal Rose Garden, just west of downtown. The Rose Garden is a beautiful park in central San Jose, with crushed gravel parkways, some sculptures and topiaries, and of course, rows and rows of roses.

It's the sort of place you might expect in a European city more than the self-described "Capital of Silicon Valley."

It was rather a stormy week (much like today), and in fact, it began to sprinkle. So we went to the Valley Fair shopping centre nearby for some shelter. My mother got me a Tiffany glass mission-style table lamp as a Christmas present before we headed home.

For dinner, my mother prepared my favourite meal - a recipe of oven barbecued pork spare ribs. She and I - and my dog Rowan - shared a birthday dinner.

I'm soon heading home from work, and that same menu is on for tonight. I'll share it with my wife and son. My dog Eiffel will get a bone if he behaves as well.

I still have that Tiffany lamp; it's on the dresser in my bedroom. I think about my 30th birthday when I see it each night.