Detroit, A Cautionary Tale

View from the Highway, Detroit, MI

This past weekend I went back to Michigan to spend some time with my parents. I didn’t go down into Detroit on this trip, but from what I saw from the highway back to the airport, things haven’t changed much. There has been a lot made of the impact of the economic downturn on the inner city, but Detroit has looked like this since the 70s. Burnt out and abandoned homes and warehouses are the norm rather than the exception, and many of these structures haven’t been touched in 40 years other than to provide shelter for the homeless in the winter, or as kindling on Devil’s Night.

I don’t know the history of this particular building, but it stands as an example not of our current economic downturn, but of what happens when a city can’t rebuild itself after social and economic destruction. It is a reminder that while things are tough right now, we as people cannot allow ourselves to turn on each other, to riot in the streets and to destroy our cities. If we do, we all pay the price.

French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre created a photo essay on the Detroit ruins that Time Magazine calls “haunting”, and I have to agree. It is a shame what has happened to my home city, but Marchand and Meffre document it with an eye for beauty in the decay.  The DetroitYES Project also has a photo essay showing the ruins of major city landmarks, with small write-ups on each location in the photo tour.

Where The Wild Things Are

Wow, just wow.

I remember having heard this was going to be made into a movie, but I had no idea just how amazing it was going to look. I can’t wait!

Obamicon Me!

My Obamicon

In honor of the end of the longest US election season in history, Paste Magazine has set up an “Obamafier” on their website where anyone can upload a photo of, well, anything, and have it Obamified. After you’re been Obamified you can move your image around in the box to center it however you want, and even adjust the color balance in the image. Then you can select one of the captions or make up your own. There are quite a few interesting custom captions on the site… There are options to share the image on Facebook and to send it to friends with the click of a button, no need to download (although that’s an option too).

As you may know I was not on the Obama bandwagon during the election, but I am cautiously optimistic about the next four years. So I’ve chosen the “Hope” tagline, hoping that in the next few months I’ll see some great decisions being made and I’ll be Obamified for real. But whether you support or loathe Obama, the Obamifier is just plain fun.

Get Obamified!

Morning Inspiration

Morning Inspiration

This morning I went out and bought a book.

I drove out to the Barnes and Noble at The Galleria with the intention of buying the book Light: Science and Magic, which provides instruction in lighting for photography. I’d checked online and I knew they had it in stock. I found my book, but stayed to browse some of the other photography books on the shelves, and my mood started to change. I became very contemplative and present in the book browsing, lost in the pictures and the book synopses. This has happened to me before – it’s why I like going to bookstores, actually – and so felt as if I was digging into a big bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese; comforting and fulfilling at the same time. After some time I found the book A Year of Mornings. This book of photography came out of a blog project where the two women author-photographers, both living in cities named Portland but on opposite sides of the country, each took one picture every weekday morning for a year. When viewed together the pictures often seemed to complement each other, as if there was some connection between them even though the women did not discuss the pictures before shooting them. Sometimes the colors seemed to go together, and on some mornings they each took a picture of the same items. I was also struck by the beauty of such simple items, a cup of coffee or half-eaten grapefruit, a flower in a vase or an unmade bed. Looking at the pictures reminded me that to find beauty in the everyday I must be present in the moment and open to the possibilities.

Somehow this time of year I always come upon this realization. Sometimes it’s through the beauty of the first snow, or a something that happens in my yoga practice. Sometimes it just comes out of the rush that is the holiday season; the visiting of family and friends, the bustling of shopping, decorating and baking, and this strange need to feel jolly in what is ultimately the darkest time of the year. This time of year always makes me feel like I need to slow down, and being present is my way of slowing things down. This year the feeling has taken me a bit by surprise as I haven’t been working, and thus in theory I shouldn’t feel so rushed. But still, I’ve needed the reminder, to remember to get on my yoga mat, to enjoy my breakfast and my brisk walk each morning with Cooper. To notice the little things, like the way Storm joins me in the bathroom each morning with a purr, and the way the sun fills the living room on clear winter days. As the year comes to an end I need to make the most of my time off from work as I’m sure the new year will bring with it a new job that will take up most of my time, and I will have to work harder to find the good stuff.

So I left the bookstore without the book I planned to purchase, but with my own copy of A Year of Mornings and a nice dose of inspiration. I’ve been trying to take at least one “keeper” picture each day in preparation for a 365 project on flickr that I was planning to start formally in 2009. I’ve had a block with my photography as I feel like I have nothing interesting to say or shoot, that I need a theme outside of myself to make things interesting for others. But I’ve been reminded of a purpose – find something each day that interests or inspires me, or that tells a story. Simple, right? Well, it probably won’t be, as I know from others who’ve gone down the path. But I know it will be worth the effort.

Addendum: A Year of Evenings is currently in progress at the 3191 blog. The pics are beautiful!

The Pickens Plan

One of the many things that I hope our new president has on his to-do list, after re-energizing the economy, is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil in a manner that does not destroy our ecosystems here in the U.S. I am a big advocate for sustainable energy and believe that wind and solar energy are highly underutilized here. So when I picked up this month’s copy of Outside Magazine and read about the Pickens Plan, I was intrigued, and then let down.

The Pickens Plan, developed by T. Boone Pickens, is a new energy plan for the United States that is designed to limit our dependency on foreign oil. The plan advocates the use of wind farms over oil, and natural gas over gasoline to power automotive vehicles. The plan also advocates drilling and using the remaining local reserves of oil. While I support the use of wind power, I can’t get behind the rest of the plan. Why would we want to switch to natural gas, another fossil fuel, over fuel cells, plug-in hybrids (powered by wind and the sun) or other sustainable resources? To me that sounds redundant. It’s just going from one scarce and non-renewable resource to another. It just doesn’t make sense when there are sustainable options in the works now.

I’m also not a fan of using up the remaining oil as fast as possible. Some of that oil is in pristine wilderness that would likely never recover from drilling. And even if that wasn’t a consideration, it’s never a good idea to use up any resource. As an oil tycoon and former corporate raider, T. Boone Pickens ought to know this. We need to move towards energy independence in a sustainable manner, not a destructive one. So while this is an interesting plan, I’m not going to be backing it. I think know we can do better. We deserve better.