Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Be Yourself

Grandson Alex posing for his grandmother
Never do I ask people to pose for pictures. Sometimes my wife will request that I take certain shots of the grandchildren or other family members and I’ll oblige, but I much prefer candid photos. Some people love posing and others don’t like it any more than I do. Even when I’m looking at them from many yards away with my lens fully extended at 300 millimeters, they sense I’m focusing on them and turn their heads to look right back through the lens at me just as I snap the shutter. Pulling the photo up later on a bigger screen, I’ll see suspicion and a hint of annoyance on their faces.

Alex candid
At extended-family gatherings, they all know me as “the photographer.” While others may take pictures with their cell phones, I’m the one with the giant, full-frame DSLR hanging over my shoulder, and they’re accustomed to that. They’re usually at ease and I can move about shooting images of them, often from across the room.

Candid sunset on Kezar Lake
After a day or two of shooting landscapes and/or people, I look at the images on the camera’s LCD panel and delete the bad ones. Then I’ll download the rest onto my laptop, put it on full-screen view and go through them again. At that point, I’ll delete a few more. The rest will get closer scrutiny. With an editing program, I’ll sometimes adjust lighting, contrast, white balance, exposure, or color levels. Lastly, I’ll crop if necessary, but that’s rare because, with a zoom lens and enough time to frame the image while shooting, cropping isn’t needed — except to occasionally level the horizon if a lake or ocean is in the background.

This whole process offers me a closer study of my loved ones. Not only do I see and interact with them at family functions, I see still photos of them again and again while I go through the above-described process. I see aspects of their personalities that I wouldn’t otherwise notice. Just before Christmas, I go through them all again and save 400-500 shots onto thumb drives which I distribute to family members to whom I’ve previously given motion-activated, digital picture frames. My own frame is set up on a kitchen counter and it activates every time my wife or I walk by. A dozen or more candid shots of loved ones will present themselves — one every five seconds — until I leave the room.

When my twin grandsons were born five years ago, the obstetrician said they were identical. After a few months, however, we could see they were not but they’re still hard to tell apart. While they look very much alike physically, their personalities are as different as any two siblings — and those distinctions emerge in the many photos I’ve taken of them. After my wife allowed each twin to take a large frond from her hosta plants, one waved it around doing a happy dance while the other used it as a sunshade while in deep-thought mode. 

An old television show, very popular in the sixties, illustrated the appeal of candid shots. Appropriately called “Candid Camera,” it was charming because people didn’t know they were being filmed. They were being themselves — and that’s nearly always appealing. It’s true of kids in kindergarten, puppies, kittens, and almost every other organism. Genuine is endearing; disingenuousness isn’t and never was.

Some people, though, are as ease when a camera is pointed their way, especially if they’re genuinely happy about something. Others have a naturally happy disposition and nearly always look their best in photos. Still others are afraid of having their pictures taken for fear that whoever sees the images will be able to see what they’re really like. Then there are camera hogs who love to have their pictures taken. I’ve fallen into both latter categories at different periods of my youth and cringe sometimes while looking at old family photographs which are proof of how I used to be.

There are very few pictures of me from the past few decades though because I’m almost always the one behind the camera. I chronicle family history and what I’ve accumulated is invaluable. My children and grandchildren see pictures of themselves, their siblings, their cousins, their uncles and aunts every day, and it reminds them that they’re all part of an extended family.

Rarely do I take video, but I have taken some when they grandchildren were little. I’ve spliced and edited some of that and distributed results to family, but video requires another whole skill set of which I have only a little. Preserving all this digital imagery is daunting, and I’m glad tech companies are producing portable, affordable hard drives with storage capabilities measured in terabytes.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Left & Right September 3, 2018

Mark Guerringue again defends the left. We begin with the McCain funeral. Mark was a big fan of McCain and thought the funeral was inspiring. My take is that it was overdone, that it seemed to go on forever. That leads to a discussion of the 2008 campaign where Obama defeated McCain and I suggest that the media liked McCain when he criticized Republicans, but not when he opposed Obama. Mark disagrees. From there we again discuss leftist media bias which Mark still denies and I still insist is rampant -- and a big driver of the Mueller investigation. I make the case that Trump is right when he calls it a witchhunt. Mark says the Mueller indictments prove there's something to it. We discuss further developments in South Africa with government expropriation of farmland from whites and their murders by roving hordes of bandits. I point to a Gallup poll indicating that a majority of Democrats now view capitalism unfavorably and socialism favorably. Mark says Democrats don't want socialism. Bernie Sanders was a socialist before he said while running for president that he was a democratic socialist. I ask what is the difference between democratic socialism and socialism, but Mark doesn't know. The producer prints out definitions for each but, while the definition of socialism is clear-cut​, that for democratic socialism is very vague. It seems no one does. We discuss Democrat support for abolishing ICE. I say it's a dog whistle for open borders. Mark insists the Democrat Party is against open borders.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Buck

Never did I see a whitetail buck act that way. Not that I ever saw too many of them over the years — I didn’t, especially not in the woods. Driving up Hatch’s Hill Road as I do several times a week, I got a half-second glimpse of a six-point buck out my passenger-side window. Rather than slow down, I went to the top of the hill and turned around in a driveway to go back and see if he was still there. “This is dumb,” I said to myself while executing the turn. “He’ll be long gone by the time I get back,” but there he was, looking right at me from behind a tree.

He’d climbed a steep bank and hopped a stone wall, but he stuck his velvet-antlered head up and looked at me without a trace of alarm. Still seated in my truck, I took out my camera, unlocked the lens, and took a few shots as he casually turned around and walked deeper into an overgrown field and out of my sight. I pulled to the side of the road and set my brake, got out, and climbed the steep bank after him to try for more pictures. Sure enough, there he was again standing broadside to me and munching on some shoots. I took several more shots.

All the while, I’m thinking: “This is not a game farm. I’m twenty feet away from a healthy, whitetail buck in the wild and he’s not a bit afraid of me.” At that point, he assumed an undignified posture and began urinating while I continued snapping pictures.

When he was finished, he just sauntered away, casually biting off more shoots as he went along, occasionally looking back over his shoulder at me. I continued snapping pictures.

Never once did he raise his tail in alarm to show the white underneath. That’s the part we humans usually see as those aptly named whitetail deer jump away from us. That was usually all I saw when I hunted them; by the time I got my gun up, they were gone. Whitetails were generally safe when I was in the woods but I was always excited to get out there again every year as November approached — until about twenty years ago, that is.

I’m not sure what changed, but the urge to hunt left me. My brother(s) would call and I’d tell them I wasn’t going out. “What?” they’d exclaim. “What’s happening to you?” Maybe it was remembering all the energy I expended hiking up and down hills all day and not even seeing a flag — that’s what we called the white tails we’d see on deer bounding away through the woods away from us. Maybe it was because I’d think of how much wood I could have split and stacked in the woodshed before snow fell instead of spending the entire day in futile pursuit of the elusive whitetail. Maybe it was because my testosterone levels were diminishing and my inner caveman was subduing itself commensurately.

Even after I’d become more prosperous and could afford to burn oil instead of wood, the hunting urge didn’t return. Something basic had changed in me and I haven’t gone deer hunting since. I still shoot squirrels with my .22 and chipmunks with my pellet gun because they’re both troublesome rodents who damage property. I still shoot porcupines and groundhogs. I still trap mice and flying squirrels because they all invade the properties I manage and my own as well. But I don’t hunt deer anymore, and I think the buck I photographed sensed that. He knew somehow that I meant him no harm.

Squirrels, however, know I want to kill them. When I step out of my truck with a rifle they run. They don’t just climb a tree either. They run along the ground into deep woods where they’re safe — and they don’t stop long enough along the way for me to get a bead on them. This year, there are more squirrels than I ever remember and it’s harder to keep the population under control.

Shooting them guarantees they won't return
For that matter, there have been more cones on the white pines — and more needles fell from them this year as well. More seeds fell from ash trees too. Never have I seen so many. Many things go in cycles and I guess I’m no different; I’ve rotated out of my hunter phase. I eat more vegetables because my wife insists, as long as there is a serving of meat with them. I don’t have to kill it though. I’m content to buy it at Shaws or Hannaford. If I couldn’t do that, I’d be sufficiently motivated to resume the hunt.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Curb Your Judgement?

Mrs. H. is a strong-willed woman who likes to stay in shape. While living here in western Maine, she fought off a man who tried to assault her sexually as she was jogging. She avoided rape but emerged bruised, battered, and traumatized, which is why she wants anonymity. She lives in Florida now where she is suing Planet Fitness for revoking her membership after she complained about a man ogling women in the locker room. She contacted me recently about the situation.

Attorney Mathew Staver describes the case: “‘Mrs. H.’ is a survivor of a violent rape attempt. On May 29, 2018, staff at the Leesburg location revoked ‘Mrs. H.’s’ membership after she was intimidated by and complained about the behavior of Jordan Rich in the women’s locker room. Rich claims to be ‘transgender,’ but is obviously a man and his behavior indicates he derives enjoyment from depriving women of privacy.”

Eric Stagno
Planet Fitness declares itself a “judgement-free zone” which has been problematic in at least two other cases. Last month, Eric Stagno was arrested in the Plaistow, New Hampshire Planet Fitness facility and charged with indecent exposure, lewdness and disorderly conduct because he was walking back and forth and doing poses on a yoga mat in the nude. The Lawrence Eagle Tribune reported: “The only statement police said Stagno made during the arrest was that he thought the gym was a ‘judgement free zone,’ apparently referencing the workout chain's slogan.”

CNN reported that Yvette Cormier of Michigan lost her Planet Fitness membership after warning other women about a man who called himself “Carlotta” in the locker room. “If you have male parts you don't need to be in the women's locker room,” said Cormier. “I don't care what you are; I don't care if you're gay lesbian, transgender or transvestite. I am uncomfortable with you as a male in my locker room, in my restroom.” Planet Fitness got support from the Michigan ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign — a national homosexual lobbying group, as well other LGBT pressure groups. Cormier’s lawsuit was dismissed in two lower courts but then upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court last month.

Cormier and "Carlotta"
Jordan Rich is a man who says he’s a woman and Mrs. H. was uncomfortable changing while he watched her in a big locker room mirror two feet away. She politely asked him to leave, but he refused. When she left, he chased her into the parking lot, then called 911 as she drove off to report that she had sexually harassed him. Police responded, but evidently didn’t take Mr. Rich’s charge seriously.
Jordan Rich
Mainstream media habitually champion “transgenders” who say they feel uncomfortable in the locker rooms or bathrooms corresponding to their actual sex. Such people comprise less than 1% of the population but don’t seem to mind making others uncomfortable when they take either their clothes off in the presence of women, or watch women undress in women’s locker rooms. Yvette Cormier won her case in Michigan, but will it be appealed to federal courts? Will Eric Stagno sue the Plaistow, New Hampshire police who arrested him? Will Jordan Rich file suit against Mrs. H. for sexual harassment? Will more women file suits like these?

Planet Fitness is a private company and they can make any policies they want, but they should state them in their contracts so women who are joining know that men are allowed in women’s locker rooms. As stories like that of Mrs. H. and others get out there, profits may decline and they might consider changing their policies.

Meanwhile, government schools have been allowing girls in boys’ locker rooms — and mandating that boys and parents accept it. A group of parents filed suit in federal court against an Oregon school declaring the presence of a girl in the boys’ locker room was causing their sons “embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, intimidation, fear, apprehension, and stress.”

Obama-appointed Judge Marco Hernandez threw out the suite last month declaring that: “High school students do not have a fundamental privacy right to not share school restrooms, lockers, and showers with transgender students whose biological sex is different than theirs.” He said the stress the boys felt was not "comparable to the plight of transgender students who are not allowed to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

Hernandez’s ruling will stand unless it’s overturned in a federal court of appeals, and that won’t likely be quick if it happens at all. What can we expect when schools open this fall? Will boys be allowed in girls’s shower rooms? After that ruling, public schools won’t be able to stop it. It’s one thing for private entities like Planet Fitness gyms to allow it; people can go to another gym — but now the federal government can force it on public schools.

I don’t believe I have to ask Mrs. H. what she thinks of this development.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

No More Pious Platitudes

How old is the Catholic Church? Well, what year are we in? It’s 2018 years old, the oldest, continually-functioning institution on earth. Along the way it’s been corrupted and reformed more than once and we’re overdue for another purge. When now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was credibly accused earlier this month of having molested young men and boys for decades, I was shaken. When the sexual abuse scandal first broke in 2002, McCarrick had been a prominent spokesperson assuring us all that he and other bishops would straighten everything out. Now we see he’d been a predator himself the entire time.

Then came the grand jury report in Pennsylvania earlier last week documenting that a thousand young people, mostly adolescent boys, were systematically molested by over three hundred priests. How many more were there who never came forth? Even worse, it was covered up for decades by other priests and bishops just like McCarrick. Those bishops live in mansions, but they belong in prison cells. How many clergy knew what was going on but lacked the courage to speak up? They should resign immediately. The time for pious platitudes is over.

Pittsburgh bishop's mansion
I was born a Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat in 1951 and went to mass every Sunday. I attended Catholic schools from second grade through high school. After eighteen, my attendance declined. After going out on my own I had stopped attending altogether. Only when I had children who asked me about God did I go back.

Some years later The Boston Globe published its 2002 Spotlight Series on the huge scandal in the Boston Archdiocese. Priests had been raping altar boys by the hundreds across eastern Massachusetts for decades — all covered up by bishops, Cardinal Bernard Law, and others until the Globe blew it wide open. The Globe had done us all a service but they were wrong about one thing. They spun it as a “Pedophile Priest Scandal,” and yes, there were a few pedophile priests who molested children, but the vast majority of assaults were by homosexual priests preying on pubescent boys and young men. It was most definitely a homosexual priest scandal, but Cardinal McCarrick and others the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) carefully painted it as something else. Now we know why. 

Several of their advisors, however, disagreed. According to a 2011 article in the Linacre Quarterly: “Dr. Paul McHugh, a member of the first USCCB National Review Board and former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, stated in an interview about the crisis: “I’m amazed that this fundamental bombshell [of the homosexual predation of American adolescent males] has not been the subject of greater interest and discussion. . . . I’m astonished that people throughout America are not . . . wondering about what the mechanisms were that set this alight.” 

A more recent article in US News and World Report cites research concluding that a majority of Catholic priests are homosexual. The Catholic Church has long taught that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered,” but it’s obvious now that many American and European priests, bishops, cardinals, and maybe Pope Francis, don’t believe it. Many, maybe most people in the pews don’t believe it either. How many Catholic readers here have heard homilies about homosexual sex at mass? I’ve heard only one in the past thirty years.

The Church also teaches that abortion is wrong, but how many homilies have you heard about that? Again, I’ve heard only two in thirty years. As many as half the people in the pews don’t believe homosexual sex or abortion are wrong and live accordingly. The late Bishop Fulton Sheen put it best: “If you don't behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.”

Such are the consequences of the last century’s sexual revolution. If the Catholic Church is to be saved, bishops and priests who don’t believe its teachings must leave. Those remaining must return to preaching that the only proper place for sexual behavior is in a marriage between one man and one woman that welcomes children. They must preach that abortion is always wrong except to save the life of the mother, which is hardly ever necessary. Most people calling themselves Catholics today think it okay to live lives in violation of Catholic teachings, and it’s increasingly clear that many in the clergy, too, think it’s okay to wink at the rules. This cannot continue.

To preach on church teachings, one must believe them and those homilies will very likely drive down both attendance at mass and revenue from the collection box. Many parishioners and clergy will join Episcopal, Unitarian, and other churches where rules are easier, or you can make your own.

We used to see the Catholic Church as holding fast to basic Christian principles against enormous world pressure to relax them. It’s harder to see it that way now.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Left & Right August 15, 2018

Gino Funicella is back in the "left" chair for this episode. The producer asks our opinion on Trump's proposed Space Force. Gino is against it and I support it as another way of administering space-based weapons, which are now administered cross branches. From here, Gino criticizes Trump's proposed increase in the military budget. I support it. Gino brings up Afghanistan. I make a case for ending that war as unwinnable. Gino says "they owe us," but I don't comprehend his point. Gino brings up Alex Jones and supports his ouster from social media platforms. I contend that it's viewpoint discrimination against conservatives while leftist whackoes like Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton are tolerated and they're more extremist than Jones. Then there are ANTIFA and the Southern Poverty Law Center who are extremists with social media platforms. ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter violence over the weekend. Thousands of them demonstrated against only thirty "Unite The Right" white supremacists. Both groups were violent against police and media, but it was ignored by mainstream media which referred to them "anti-hate" demonstrators. I offer several examples of violence by the above groups over the weekend who claim to be against fascism while acting like classic fascists themselves. Gino makes his case against Trump's tariffs. I support the president's efforts to renegotiate trade agreements leveraging those efforts with tariffs. Sarah Jeong's racist tweets overlooked by the New York Times which hired her as an editorial assistant. She's okay as long as she tweets racist statements against white people whom she hates. Gino brings up Manafort trial, pointing out that the Meuller team's star witness is crooked himself. The jury is still out as of this writing. Gino criticizes several members of Trump's cabinet and conservative members of Congress. Gino brings up election hacking by eleven-year-olds this week and suggests going back to paper ballots. The producer asks our opinion of Trump campaigning for Republicans prior to the midterm election. We agree that it will be up to individual candidates.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Surrogate Humans?

Elderly Japanese want to be grandparents, but few of the children they raised are having children of their own. There’s an acute grandchildren shortage and robots are filling the gap. According to sbs.com.au: “More than ten thousand of them are in homes and businesses across Japan. They’re purchased on payment plans, much like a cell phone.”

I first learned of this ten years ago when reading about demographic problems in Japan, and I thought the robot-grandchildren phenomenon very strange. It’s one thing for little girls to have talking dolls; I remember my sisters being thrilled with their “Chatty Cathy” dolls sixty years ago. The dolls had a little ring in the back of the neck so that if you pulled it and let go, it would say something childlike. But these are mature Japanese adults essentially playing with 21st century robotic dolls.

As with reading a novel, it would seem that a suspension of disbelief is necessary to “play” with a robotic grandchild. Children have little difficulty achieving this with their dolls and action figures, but it feels unhealthy for adults. I like novels, and I can suspend disbelief while reading, but I know the author is human and has created characters based on actual people — in part at least. Well-written novels can be realistic, but talking to a robot on a feeling level? I could never suspend disbelief enough to accomplish that.

I talk to Siri on my iPhone, to Alexa on my Amazon devices, and to robotic answering services on technical support lines, but I know they’re all disembodied automatons. There’s nothing human about them and I cannot imagine relating to them as if there were. An increasing number of people are though; some are even having sex with robots. Researching for this column I watched videos of people talking to sex robots about vaguely sexual subjects and I was surprised at the sophistication of the technology involved in creating these “sexbots.”

So far, the only sexbots I’ve seen are made to look female. Evidently, some males are so hyper-libidinous that a machine does the trick for them, and there are places they can go now to use robots for sex. A breitbart.com article reported robot brothels gaining popularity in Europe. At one Austrian brothel, many customers prefer a particular robot over real women and a Barcelona operation is looking to expand worldwide. Customers pay between $87 and $108 for an hour with a sexbot. Some are paying $10,000 — $15,000 to purchase one.

Sexbot brothel owners report that customers act out lurid fantasies with sexbots that they wouldn’t do with human females. This sounds dangerous, but even more dangerous are childlike robots for sex. While some think child sexbots are safe outlets for pedophiles, others suspect they’re not safe at all because they’re likely to heighten perverted desires in those who use them. Some countries ban them, but so far they’re legal in the United States. According to NBCNews: “Representative Dan Donovan (R-NY) introduced legislation that would ban the importation and distribution of child sex dolls and child sexbots.”

Good for him, I say. Think of sexbots as three-dimensional pornography. If watching two-dimensional porn is a major cause of divorce — and research seems to confirm that it is, one would think the three-dimensional variety would be even more damaging to marriages. Two-dimensional porn, however, involves images of real human beings. Sexbots are not human, but I would think users of them must, at least temporarily, believe they are. Will robot patrons declare a constitutional right to machine sex? Will an R be added to LGBTQ?

Taking a long view of all these phenomena, they amount to a further separation of the sex act from its primary purpose: reproduction. When the birth control pill started being used widely in the 1960s, it gave impetus to the sexual revolution. Sex outside of marriage lost its stigma and the results are obvious to anyone old enough to remember how it used to be. Conservatives tend to believe the results are disastrous. Liberals, however, are inclined to celebrate them as liberating.

Maybe it’s impossible to ever put the toothpaste back in the tube, but I choose to hold out hope. I don’t expect to see a turn-around in my lifetime; the nuclear family is on the ropes and being pummeled every day. The very terms “father” and “mother” are slowly being outlawed by the left. US passport applications now substitute “parent 1” and “parent 2” for those old, outdated, soon-to-be-obsolete words.

The rules of society have changed drastically over the past half-century, but Natural Law has not. It is my expectation that the latter will win out eventually, but not before we Americans experience considerably more societal suffering — and long after I’m dead.