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Under Construction
Grand Lake theater area, Oakland

December 27th, 2004

Writing About It
It's been raining quite hard since early last evening, the sky dark, the wall heater pumping hot air throughout the apartment, me sitting here printing photographs. My first thought when I heard of the destruction wrought by the tsunami off the coast of Indonesia was I hope Ester's family and friends are OK if only for Rien's sake. None of our company employees or offices evidently sustained damage, although there were employee family injuries reported. Odd to work for a company with offices everywhere and one of the first thoughts that occurs when you hear of disaster is maybe people with whom you've exchanged email or talked with on the phone are in trouble.

You see the pictures, you listen to what is being said, but what is real about any of it?

Unless you're there, the Iraqi war is a series of pictures on a television screen, a series of pictures and stories in a morning newspaper, an occasional article in a magazine. A tsunami that kills tens of thousands of people comes through the same holes in the aether. Ten dead. Ten thousand dead. There is a difference, but what difference when the event itself is a series of shadows on a television screen?

I was listening to an interview that took an odd turn recently, an interview with the author of a book of movie criticism. He was wondering what there is to say about a society that experiences more and more of its waking life in the form of fantasy? Everything from watching movies to playing video games to watching the news to participating in chat rooms to listening to iPods to talking on cell phones to blogging? What is real, for example, about the part of my life that's laid out here in this journal? I spend a lot of time futzing with it. Yes, I get out of the house and onto the streets to shoot pictures, but shooting pictures is a kind of voyeurism, a way to watch, but not necessarily to interact with the world. And these very paragraphs? What do they have to do with the “real” world? What does it all mean, Mr. Natural?

Evidently the last earthquake of this size they've had in this area of South Asia happened something like a hundred years ago. We had a big earthquake around here a hundred years ago. There is a relationship with what I'm seeing on TV and the real thing, I suppose, but it's a pale imitation of reality until it happens to you. And it will happen. I experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake while living in Napa. I've been in two or three others, serious shake the ground look at all the books come down episodes that never went further than the fleeting question “is this it?” as I was heading toward the nearest door jam.

Maybe I'm just spinning my wheels. Maybe my reaction to the movie critic's comments simply missed the mark. Two buildings destroyed in New York City, a war in a place called Iraq, tens of thousands dead in a tsunami, tens of thousands more to die tomorrow and again tomorrow through disease in the aftermath. What do they really mean, how do you take them into your heart or get your head around it? One day you're walking down the street and you're hit by a car. One day you're walking along a beach and the water rises. How do you make sense of it? I don't know. I'm not sure I should be writing this soon about it.

The photograph was taken in the Grand Lake theater area with a Nikon D2h mounted with a 17-55mm f2.8 Nikkor lens at ISO 200.