Category Archives: Personal Narrative

The democratization of photography: S&R Honors George Eastman

Our lives are full of Kodak moments, even now.

The New York Times estimates there will be 1.3 trillion photos taken this year. Granted, the signal:noise ratio is low. A vast majority of these images will be captured with mobile phones of varying quality. Most will be selfies and casual users curating the moments of their lives, and if you want to insert the word “banal” in that description somewhere I won’t argue. I learned not long after buying my first camera that there’s a big difference between doing photography and merely taking pictures.

All that said, 1.3 trillion – that’s a huge number, and it must be acknowledged that digital technology has exerted a democratizing force on creativity. New tools have provided those who can’t afford an expensive DSLR with a means to capture, process and interpret their worlds in remarkably inventive ways.
If you can afford a nice digital camera, as well as increasingly accessible top-end digital editing tools (I use Lightroom, Photoshop and several of the functions in the Nik suite), the options are, for all practical purposes, infinite. Continue reading The democratization of photography: S&R Honors George Eastman

Pedophilia and our sexualized media: is naïveté a good thing or a bad thing?

The Mr. C case has me wondering if widespread familiarity with sexual themes and content makes today’s youth more or less susceptible to pedophiles.

Part 2 of a series.

UPDATE: As explained in the update to part 1, Mr. C is Thomas Tilman Cridlebaugh, a longtime teacher and coach at Wallburg and Ledford Jr. High Schools in Davidson County, NC.

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Yesterday I reflected on the conflict I’m facing in light of the revelation that one of the most important influences in my life, a junior high teacher and coach, had been convicted of sexually abusing several minor students. In closing, I wondered how close I came to being one of those victims.

I was a naïve, deeply religious boy. Prosecutors said Mr. C’s dirty jokes and “locker room talk” were “grooming” behavior designed to figure out who might be amenable to his advances. Continue reading Pedophilia and our sexualized media: is naïveté a good thing or a bad thing?

My mentor, the pedophile [UPDATED]

What do we do when those who meant so much to us are found guilty of the worst of crimes? There, but for the grace of God, go I…

Thomas CridlebaughPart 1 of a series.

Many of us, if we were lucky, had people in our lives when we were young who shaped us, molded us – important, vitally influential characters without whom we would be less than we are. Teachers, coaches, perhaps church leaders, family friends or relatives – we learn values from these figures that we never unlearn, and we can feel their presence, if we concentrate, decades later, in both our most pivotal and banal moments.

Can you name the five most influential people in the history of your life? I can, sort of. There’s about a ten-way tie for fifth, but the first four are my grandparents, my former teacher and now S&R colleague Jim Booth, and a junior high coach and teacher I’ll call Mr. C. This post is about him, and it’s one I have dreaded writing because I really have no idea what to do with my feelings.

Like a lot of kids in their early teens, I had no idea who I was. Continue reading My mentor, the pedophile [UPDATED]

Dear Liberals: you don't vote in your economic best interests, either

trump-votersBottom line: almost ALL Americans vote against their best interests.

For years progressives have been hammering conservatives – specifically social conservatives – who “vote against their own interests.” As in, poor working people who vote for the wealthy GOP interests that are the reason they’re poor, and whose policies insure they will remain that way. I have certainly been among this crowd – I remember wondering back in the 1992 election what the fuck could be wrong with Arkansas Bush I voters, for instance. They concluded that Dubya’s Daddy was the sort of guy “they’d like to have a beer with.” Somehow a Northeastern blueblood Skull & Boneser who’d been born with a silver spoon up his ass was more “one of them” than, you know, the guy who was actually born in the trailer park down the road.

It was irrational, it was self-defeating, and it was stupid beyond all imagining. Continue reading Dear Liberals: you don't vote in your economic best interests, either

Rural elites: I've had it with the arrogance of ignorance (and its promoters)

ignorance-is-powerThe only thing worse than the willfully ignorant is the legion of apologists enabling them.

Since the election – before, really – we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all those urban liberal elites need to stop being so arrogant and start listening to very real concerns of real Americans in rural flyover values America.

We have more recently begun to see some informed pushback against this silliness self-serving rhetorical engineering masquerading as good-faith socio-political analysis. Now we’ve hit the daily double, though.

First, our friend Otherwise passed along a righteous rant from a very frustrated Melinda Byerley, CMO of TimeShare. Have a quick look. Continue reading Rural elites: I've had it with the arrogance of ignorance (and its promoters)

The most common New Years resolutions and me in 2017

Some yes, some probably not, a little bitch please….

new-years-resolutionsPart 3 of a series

I posted my two big resolutions for 2017 already: aim high and shoot straight and insist that support be mutual. But what will I do about all the standard resolutions? You know, the ones everybody makes and breaks every year?

Here are 15 top New Years resolutions. And what I plan to do about them.

Lose Weight and Get Fit

Well, I’m already doing that. In terms of strength I’m in the best shape of my life already. So this is more like I resolve to keep doing what I’ve been doing, only moreso.

Quit Smoking

Never have, never will, so it doesn’t matter. Continue reading The most common New Years resolutions and me in 2017

New Years Resolutions, pt 2: support is a two-way street

I have always supported independent artists, but that support has not often been reciprocated. This bothers me.

Part 2 of a series

support_independent_artists_invitation-r6303469af3264b2a811939c475b2c50f_zk9yi_324[Caveat: I’ll apologize in advance if this one sounds a little bitchy. That isn’t my intent, but I know people don’t always hear what I think I’m saying.]

Ever since we started this blog in 2007, and really for a good number of years before that via different media, I have done all I could to support the efforts of artists I found worthy, especially the seemingly numberless independent artists out there who are being all kinds of brilliant without much help from mainstream media or the industry institutions that dominate the areas in which they work. Music, visual arts, photography, literature, you name it – if you’re like me you run across a lot of fantastic creative work, and if you’re like me you want everyone else to appreciate it as much as you do. Continue reading New Years Resolutions, pt 2: support is a two-way street

New Year Resolutions, pt 1: aim high and shoot straight

new-years-resolutionsI resolve to be more honest and direct in confronting ignorance and hatred.

Part 1 of a series

When I was a little boy, my grandparents read me the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). They had a particularly Southern Baptist working class interpretation of what it meant. If you had a gift, the Lord intended you to use it to make the world a better place. If you didn’t, it was a sin and the gift might be taken from you.

“You’re smart,” they said to me. “God means you to use your brain to help others.”

Whether because my ego liked the idea of being smart or because I was innately concerned about other people’s well being, the lesson never left me.

When I got older and started my career, I developed a reputation among those I worked with as a guy who was honest. Continue reading New Year Resolutions, pt 1: aim high and shoot straight

A dark holiday playlist – and one man's melancholy war with childhood

There is beauty in the darkness. This is all I have ever known.

Beauty doesn’t work the same for me as it does for most people. I first started realizing this in Mr. Booth’s (excuse me, Dr. Booth’s) English V class at Ledford High School in 1978 and 1979. I remember two moments distinctly. First, we read “The Eve of St. Agnes,” by Keats. I recall being overwhelmed by a) its darkness, and b) its beauty. This was not a traditional sunny pastoral. It’s a poem of the night, one of mystery and compelling seductive splendor.

Later we read Tennyson’s equally marvelous “The Lady of Shalott.” Again, I was struck by the way in which beauty was interwoven with dark, even sinister themes.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of my reactions to these masterworks, but something was afoot, and when I started writing poetry on my own (as long as we’re on the subject of darkness and doom) it began with a piece called “Octoberfaust,” which I tried to infuse with as much mystery and passionate nocturne as I could muster.

Of course, looking back, my melancholy aesthetic didn’t begin in high school. Continue reading A dark holiday playlist – and one man's melancholy war with childhood

#HopeTuesday: the sun is rising

#breathe #takebackourfuture

Six years ago today – this is Ronan MacScottie hoping to make friends with a squirrel in Benedict Fountain Park.

I was a few months into being single again, and was hoping to find some happiness after years in the darkness. The upper side of the park was frequented by homeless people, who I suppose were hoping for anything at all – food, shelter. Life on the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Ronan never met that squirrel. I don’t know what became of the homeless people. And I didn’t know it then, but the darkness was about to get even blacker, and it would stay that way for another four years or so. But it was different this time – it was the darkness just before light breaks.

On Thursday I move in with my girlfriend, whom I love immensely. Who knows how things go, but maybe my perseverance has been rewarded. Continue reading #HopeTuesday: the sun is rising