the humanness of things

“I don’t believe in coincidences.” You’ve heard that line spoken in every detective show that’s ever been on television. It’s ridiculous, of course, because coincidences exist. I mean, that’s why we have a word for it.

For example, about a week ago I was shooting a photograph of some yellow bollards at the very back of a massive and nearly empty parking area of a big box store. I was using an old Polaroid Spectra 2 camera, trying to get a feel for what the camera could do, using Impossible Project color film, trying to get a feel for what the film could do. In other words, I was experimenting.


Before I took the shot, however, a car pulled up and the driver rolled down his window. He was an old guy (and as I say that I realize he was probably around my age — maybe even a bit younger), and he grinned at me and my Polaroid camera and asked “How do you use your camera?”

I’d had a similar question from a police officer a couple of weeks earlier (there’s a coincidence for you — and coincidentally, one of the photos I shot before the arrival of the police officer was of a yellow bollard). With that encounter in mind I launched into an explanation of how I used the camera as a descriptive tool, a device designed to record a small but precise rectangle of the reality in front of the lens. I was prepared to elaborate on that idea — to spell out how the decisions of what to include in the frame and what to exclude from the frame were expressive decisions, and so even if the final image seemed mundane — like, say, a group of yellow bollards — there were still aesthetic aspects to be considered, as well as the notion that mundane objects and structures can be interpreted as a manifestation of humanness. In other words, my decision of what to include in the frame is, in part, a reflection of some other person’s past decision to…

“No,” the old guy interrupted. He said, “No, I mean, the camera. The camera. How do you use that camera? I thought they stopped making Polaroid film.” So I told him about the Impossible Project. Then I shot the photo.

That photo, coincidentally, sparked a brief discussion on Facebook because apparently relatively few people were aware those posts are called bollards. And coincidentally, this morning on Facebook I learned that William Christenberry had died.

Just over a decade ago I admitted that although I’d been shooting photographs for years and I knew how to operate a camera, I was pretty ignorant about the history of the craft. I had only the barest notion of what had been done in photography in the past, or who had done it, or what they were thinking when they did it. So I decided to educate myself, and I decided to share my education with a group of friends in a Flickr group called Utata. I’d pick a photographer, do some research, write a short article based on the research, and we’d discuss it in the group. We called it the Sunday Salon.


One of the first photographers I picked for the Sunday Salon was William Christenberry. Why? Because I came across his name somewhere and liked it. I didn’t know anything about his photography, and when I began to look at his photographs, they didn’t make a lick of sense to me. I saw an old black-and while photo of a dilapidated juke joint somewhere in Alabama. Then I saw a photo of the same building, only this time it was in color. Then another photo of the same place, and another and another — all of the same building.

I began to get it. This guy wasn’t just photographing the building; he was photographing the history of the building. Christenberry wasn’t trying to make art — at least not at first. He was just creating a document, a description of how particular structures evolved and devolved. He went back to the same places year after year to record how things change.


A building may be static, but the world around it is dynamic. What happens in the world is reflecting by the changes to a building. Wind and rain have an effect, the settling of the structure into the soil has an effect. Paint fades, shutters have to be replaced, buildings begin to tilt. Humans very obviously have an effect; they do the painting, they replace the shutters, they repair the damage.

Over time, Christenberry’s simple documentation process became deliberate, thoughtful art. His first photographs were shot using an old Brownie camera given to him when he was young, but as the project progressed, so did his use of technology. He eventually began to shoot with a Deardorff 8×10 view camera. Christenberry even began to take measurements of some of the buildings and recreated them as sculptures.


“What I really feel very strongly about,” Christenberry once said, “and I hope reflects in all aspects of my work, is the human touch, the humanness of things, the positive and sometimes the negative and sometimes the sad.”

There it is. The humanness of things. Those half-dozen yellow bollards? Somebody deliberately put them there. Somebody designed the shape of that small area, somebody chose to plant a tree in the middle of it, somebody decided what type of tree to plant. Somebody designed that parking lot. The humanness of things is always there.

I believe in coincidence. I love coincidence. I enjoy the weird, improbable chain that links an encounter with the police to an old guy in a parking lot asking about an old camera to a discussion on the etymology of the term bollard to the work of William Christenberry to a photograph of yellow bollards. I believe in coincidence and I believe in the humanness of things, and wouldn’t the world be terribly dull and uninteresting without them.

asshats unleashed

I don’t recall the first time I came across the term ‘Trump Effect’. I do recall being irritated by it, though. The ‘Trump Effect’ — it seems much too polite. On the other hand, I have to admit it’s an incredibly efficient use of language. You can say the ‘Trump Effect’ or you can say ‘the pernicious, aggressively belligerent, multifarious forms of bigotry and hatred and bullying that have been unleashed by the campaign and election of Donald Trump’.

As far as that goes, even the phrase ‘multifarious forms of bigotry and hatred’ is an efficient shorthand for ‘misogynistic, Islamophobic, racist, anti-intellectual, homophobic, anti-poor and working class, trans-hating, xenophobic, anti-science, climate-denying, white supremacist, social venom’. So basically, it’s either this:

The ‘Trump Effect’

or it’s this:

The pernicious, aggressively belligerent, misogynistic, Islamophobic, racist, anti-intellectual, homophobic, anti-poor and working class, trans-hating, xenophobic, anti-science, climate-denying, white supremacist, social venom and bullying that has been unleashed by the campaign and election of Donald Trump.

As somebody who makes a living with words, I’ve got to go with the Trump Effect. But whatever you call it, it’s real. It’s easy to dismiss asshats like the guy below as a sort of aberration — something outrageous you see on Facebook or YouTube but don’t expect to encounter in real life.

But you’d be making a mistake if you dismissed these fuckwits. I live in a mostly white neighborhood, in a mostly white city, in a mostly white state. I know this shit happens, but I almost never witness blatant racism in my mostly white daily life.

Then a few days before Thanksgiving I found myself in a small specialty shop that sells batteries. There were two other customers when I entered the shop: a young Latina getting a battery for her phone and a young white guy buying a battery for something or other. The white guy needed to give the clerk some information in order to get a lifetime guarantee for his battery. When asked for his name, the guy spelled out his surname.

“Busch. Like the beer. The American beer. I’m as American as the beer. Voted for Trump too.”

He looked the Latina when he said he was American as the beer. After saying he’d voted for Trump, he said “Whoops!”, made a mocking face like a boy who’d said something naughty, then laughed. The Latina just ignored him and paid for her battery. I was still standing there thinking ‘What the fuck? Did that actually just happen?‘ when she left the shop. Nobody said anything about it — not me, not the clerks. We just all stood there blinking.


Then it happened again, the Trump Effect. On Thanksgiving. Everything was prepared and timed to be on the table a short while after the guests arrived. One of the guests, a woman I’ve known for three or four years, was the first to show up. She looked around the kitchen, smiled, and said “You must have worked like a little nigger getting this ready.” Again, I did that blinking in disbelief thing. Then I said, “What did you just say?” And she laughed, sort of embarrassed. I said, “Don’t ever say that again.” And she sort of laughed again. Other guests arrived and I let it go.

I like this woman. She’s a friend. I’ve seen her take time off her job to care for a sick friend. I’ve shopped at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale with her. I’ve seen her be kind and thoughtful and giving. Now I’ve heard her say nigger and our friendship is tainted, possibly ruined. Trump didn’t make her a racist; she must have held those views before Trump arrived on the political scene. But I do believe Trump’s election allowed her to think it was okay to say nigger in the company of friends. I do believe the Trump Effect gave her tacit permission to voice views that she’d held in check before.

I suspect this is going to happen more often, but now I’m prepared for it. At least I hope I am. It’s a shame, but I have to be prepared for it. I can’t allow people I think of as friends to make racist or hateful comments around me. I can’t stay quiet when I see sexist, homophobic, or hateful behavior taking place in public places. I cannot allow this shit to be seen as acceptable or normal.

I absolutely hate that it’s become necessary for me to do this.

i took a walk a couple of weeks ago

I like to walk. I like to walk without any purpose, without any goal or objective, without any particular destination. But occasionally I walk with the idea of shooting photographs. Most often that happens on a Thursday (largely because I belong to Utata — an international group of photographers who walk on Thursdays; I’ve written about this before: here, here, and here).

So it wasn’t unusual for me to take a walk on Thursday, the 11th day of November, 2016. I needed a walk that day. I needed it because Donald J. (for Jackass) Trump had just been elected President of These United States. A quiet, contemplative walk on a gray, chilly day that seemed to hold the promise of a gray, chilly future.

And that was how I felt even before I got stopped by a police officer. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


I wasn’t really in the mood to shoot photographs, so I didn’t bother to take a camera. Just my cell phone. It was this tire swing that first made me pull out my phone and open my favorite black-and-white camera app. It seemed a perfect metaphor for my mood. Sort of sad, sort of nostalgic, sort of pathetic. Lost innocence and all that.

I was near a semi-industrial commercial area, so wandered over there and strolled along behind the various shops. You know, that area where the shop owners keep their trash and deliveries get made and isn’t meant to attract customers. I’ve always liked the lack of pretense in alleyways and the backs of shops. And, again, it suited my mood.


This wasn’t an actual alley, though it served the same purpose. I’ve wandered along behind these buildings before; it’s always remarkably tidy. The morning light gave it a certain shabby elegance that contrasted well with the bright, functional geometry of the buildings.

At some point I’d stopped thinking about Trump and started to enjoy myself. That’s the thing about photography, isn’t it. It draws you outside of yourself. And that’s especially true, I think, of black-and-white photography, since you’re paying more attention to shape and line and structure.


Everything gets reduced to what’s in the frame. Not just what’s in the center of the frame, but what’s on the periphery. A step or two to the right, and that bit of shadow from a vent disappears. A step or two to the left, and the bollard disrupts the lock on the electrical whatsit, and the ramp is no longer obviously a ramp.

I know this because I actually took those steps to the left and the right before deciding this was the composition I wanted. (I learned to shoot with film, and since film was expensive and processing it was pain the ass, I learned to pay very close attention to composition; get it right the first time, shoot one frame — maybe two — and move on. I’m a stingy photographer.)


There’s usually a sort of fuzzy area between semi-industrial commercial shops and the more comfortably suburban, well-groomed neighborhoods — an area where the houses might need a bit of paint, where the lawns aren’t quite as tidy, where the kids’ toys haven’t been picked up, where the cars and trucks are a few years older and are showing a bit of rust. It’s the Almost American Dream zone. I grew up in that zone.

Remember that police officer I mentioned earlier? This is where he shows up. I was just about out of the Almost American Dream zone when he arrived.


He was very polite. Young white kid, buzz cut, nice smile. He rolled down his window, said “How’re you doing?” I considered telling him I’d voted for Hillary, so how the hell would I be doing. And that’s basically what I said, though I moderated the last bit. He nodded and said he couldn’t believe it either. Then he said something to this effect: “We got a call about somebody walking behind the shops and taking pictures with a phone. That you?”

I admitted it was. He said one of the shop owners was concerned that somebody might be casing the joint (he actually said “casing the joint”), and then asked if he could have my name.

A short digression here. I worked as a criminal defense investigator for about seven years. I’ve been stopped and questioned and actively harassed by police officers more times than I can count. I know my rights. As a pedestrian legally walking along a public way and minding my own business, I’m not required to identify myself to the police. However, if the officer is investigating a possible crime it becomes a tad tricky. And given that there might be some dispute whether the area behind these particular shops is a public way, it becomes a tad trickier. So I told the officer I was going to reach into my pocket and get my wallet (as a white guy, the odds that the police would shoot me for reaching for my wallet are really really really slim — but still).

I showed him my driver’s licence. He asked the obvious question. “Why were you taking pictures behind those shops?” So I told him. Thursday walks, Utata, light and shadow, alleyway geometry.


Then he asked the really difficult question. “Can I see your photos?”

The obvious answer is no. No, you can’t see my photos. No, because you have no legal right to see them, and I have no obligation to show them to you. The fact that he’d asked to see them rather than issuing a command didn’t matter. The fact that he’d asked politely didn’t matter. Courtesy counts, but it doesn’t trump civil rights.

On the other hand, I didn’t want a fuss. Hillary had just lost the election; I didn’t have the energy to make a passionate civil liberties argument. So I offered a compromise. I told the officer I was reluctant to show him the photos as a matter of principle, but I understood why he wanted to see them. I said “If you agree that you have no legal right to see the photos, I’ll show them to you.”

I got lucky, probably. This guy had a sense of humor. He laughed a bit, then agreed he had no legal right to see the photographs. So I showed him the photos. More than anything else, he was surprised to see that the photos were actually shot in black-and-white. He wasn’t aware there were black-and-white apps. He wasn’t aware you could shoot square format with a phone.

So I took my phone back, turned and shot the photo of the basketball hoop and shadow, and showed it to him. He asked for the name of the app. Then I asked if I could take his photo, and he said this (or something like this): “You have the right to take my picture so long as it doesn’t interfere with the performance of my duties…but I’d rather you didn’t.”

So I didn’t. I thought about it, but I didn’t. As he drove away, I wished I had. Sort of.

Postscript: I began to write about this on the day it happened. But the sad fact is, I was still too discouraged about the election to write more than a couple of paragraphs. I’ve noodled around with this post off and on, but I’m still pretty gutted by Hillary’s loss — and seeing these photos reminded me of how grim I’ve felt since the election. It reminds me of how much stuff I’ve put off, how many things I’ve been procrastinating about, how much normal stuff I’ve been avoiding.

I had a good encounter with a police officer — something positive happened to me — and I just couldn’t maintain that feeling. That sucks. It has to change. Maybe finishing this and publishing it is the spark I need. And now I suppose I have to append the ‘confessional crap’ tag to this. I hate confessional crap.

sure enough gettin’ worse

It’s been a week now. Seven days since I woke up and discovered it wasn’t just another PTSD nightmare. Donald Trump really no shit actually won the election. A full week, and folks I’ve been struggling.

Here’s the thing: I’m a Buddhist. I’m not a particularly good Buddhist, but for the most part I try to abide by the basic tenets of Buddhism. I don’t often talk about this Buddhist stuff because 1) who cares? and 2) it’s nobody’s business. But I’ve been struggling, because one concept lies at the heart of all the various Buddhist groups: compassion. So I’ve been trying to practice compassion for Trump voters.

It ain’t easy. For example, I read a New York Times column by Rabbi Michael Lerner entitled Stop Shaming Trump Supporters. I’m going to quote a chunk of his column:

The right has been very successful at persuading working people that they are vulnerable not because they themselves have failed, but because of the selfishness of some other villain (African-Americans, feminists, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, liberals, progressives; the list keeps growing).

Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed. The rage many white working-class people feel in response is rooted in the sense that once again, as has happened to them throughout their lives, they are being misunderstood.

No. As Donald J. Grabbembythepussy would say, wrong. The left has NOT been blaming white people as a whole. The right has been telling white people that the left has been blaming them — and a LOT of white folks have fallen for that lie. The political right-wing has also promoted the lie that the ‘failure’ of some groups of white folks been the fault of “some other villain”. Rabbi Lerner has got the wrong end of the stick.

Here’s where I begin to struggle. When I was formally studying Buddhism I was taught the greatest impediment to compassion is our attachment to a personal belief about how the world should be. I was also taught that compassion and forgiveness went together like peanut butter and milk chocolate. I have no problem feeling a good Buddhist level of compassion for folks who’ve been lied to and whose suffering is exacerbated by their acceptance of those lies. It’s the forgiveness component that’s kicking my ass.

Which leads me to this: if you voted for a candidate who is racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic, then even if you’re not personally racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic, you’re at the very least willing to support racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. I can feel compassion for folks who are scared of other races, who are fearful of women, who are anxious about folks who are different. But right now I’m just not capable of being forgiving of such bullshit.

And if you voted for a candidate who explicitly advocates torture and the revenge killing of the families of terrorists, then even if you’re not personally in favor of torture and revenge killing, you’re at the very least willing to support torture and revenge killing. I can feel compassion for folks who are so afraid of the world around them that they think hurting other people is the only way to protect themselves. But right now I’m just not capable of being forgiving of such bullshit.

So right now, this week, I’m struggling. Right now, this week, I’m in Mose Allison’s camp. Everybody cryin’ mercy, when they don’t know the meaning of the word. Right now, this week, I have no time for racists who suddenly feel safe to be racists, and who whine when they get called on their racism.

Right now, this week — and maybe the next, and maybe the week after that — I’ll do my damnedest to be compassionate, but I’m putting a hold on the forgiveness. I figure the Buddha would understand. That dude had compassion down.

Postscript: I just found out Mose Allison died yesterday, Fuck me with a chainsaw.

okay, now what?

Donald J. Trump is the next President of These United States. That’s just a fact. Regardless of how or why he was elected, we have to acknowledge that he was fairly elected. In January he’ll be behind the desk in the Oval Office — and he’ll be there because people voted for him.

Those of us who opposed him must continue to oppose him. But it would be a terrible mistake, I think, to do that in a hateful way. We can be discouraged. Hell, I’m so discouraged I can barely stand to look at the news. Any news, not just about the election. We can feel depressed; depression is a natural reaction to tragedy. But we shouldn’t be hateful. We can be dazed and perplexed and disconcerted by this unimaginable turn of events. But we shouldn’t be hateful. We can be angry — hell, we can be completely fucking furious — but we shouldn’t be hateful.

That’s tough to say, partly because right now hate seems pretty seductive. We’ve just seen hate used effectively as a tool to get votes. We’ve just seen hate and fear rewarded. There’s a part of me right now that wants to be hateful.

But we can’t. We can’t because hate comes from fear, and fear and hate not only lead to racism and sexism and homophobia and xenophobia, it also leads to devaluing people just because we disagree with them. We can’t afford to be hateful, not even to the people who’ve benefited from hate.

So what do we do? First, give in to grief for a while. A short while. Then look around and find somebody who’s hurt, somebody who’s vulnerable, somebody who’s suffering. Listen to them. Really listen to them, and find out what you can do to help. Helping others is a good way to heal yourself. Kindness can’t stop hate by itself, but believing in the value of kindness can inoculate you from the worst effects of hate.

The cat still finds pleasure napping in the sun. So can you.

The cat still finds pleasure napping in the sun. So can you.

Second, live your life the way you want it to be lived. Walk your dog; your dog doesn’t care who the president is. Walk your dog and pick up its shit — because that’s what decent people do. Cook good food — for yourself and for others. Make art and read books and watch movies and listen to music and have a beer with your friends. Laugh. Laugh a lot. Laugh with, not at. But laugh. Laugh and be kind.

Things are going to be ugly for a while, and it’s important — even necessary — to nurture beauty and creativity and kindness, and to spread it around liberally.

not really all that instant

Back in 2008, when Polaroid announced they were going to stop making film, I thought maybe I’d pick up an old camera and play around with it. I was never a fan of Polaroids; the notion of instant film always struck me as gimmicky. They were okay for making quick, amateurish snapshots at parties and events, but not for ‘real’ photography.

Still, Polaroid’s announcement sparked enough interest in me that I took a trip to the local Salvation Army store in search of a camera. They only had one — a Polaroid Spectra 2. The clerk had no idea if the camera worked, but since it was only a couple of bucks I figured I’d take the chance. The clerk also told me I should check out the nearby Goodwill shop. I did; they had a Polaroid Sun 660. Maybe a buck and a half. Maybe it would work, maybe not.


I took the two cameras home, put them on a shelf, and promptly forgot all about them. A few years later I heard about the Impossible Project — a group of lunatics who decided to try to recreate the process by which Polaroid film is made. They bought a bunch of old Polaroid production machinery, leased a building, and set to work. And hey, they succeeded. After a fashion. By every report, the film was finicky. Exceedingly finicky. Crazy finicky. So very finicky that I had no interest in playing with it.

I sort of half-heartedly followed the progress of the Impossible Project. Maybe more like quarter-heartedly; it was sort of like keeping abreast of Italian politics — you were aware that stuff was happening, but it all seemed very distant and confusing and it didn’t have any real effect on me.

But I discovered I had friends who were mad for Polaroids. Mad and passionate. Friends who weren’t the least bit discouraged by finicky film. Friends like Meredith Wilson, and Lisa Toboz, and Heather Polley, who shot astonishingly lovely Polaroid photographs using expired Polaroid film or film from the Impossible Project. Another friend, Debra Broughton, has been photographing a specific barn for at least a year and a half (she shoots with a Fujifilm Instax, which is a more modern instant film camera). These women and the work they’ve done made me more and more curious about instant film.

First two shots with the Polaroid 660.

First two test shots with the Polaroid 660.

Then, a few weeks ago, I learned about ‘Roid Week — a project on Flickr celebrating instant film photography. That was enough to get me interested in taking another look at those old thrift store cameras. And what the hell, I bought some B&W film from Impossible Project for the Spectra.

You’ve heard the phrase ‘a learning experience‘, right? Well, I had one of those. First, I learned that the camera sorta kinda functioned. It would take photos, but it wouldn’t eject them. They jammed. I did some reading, watched some videos, learned of a few possible causes for the problem, tried a few things — and none of them worked. So I sent an email to the folks at Impossible Project and asked, “Dudes, what else can I try?”

Get this: they replied within a couple of hours. And they told me what else I could try, but said the only way to test the camera would be to try another film pack. I should note at this point that Impossible Project film ain’t cheap. US$25 for eight photos. But — and seriously, get this — they offered me a free pack of film. So what the hell, I ordered another pack of B&W film for the Spectra AND a pack of color film for the Polaroid 660. The film arrived like two days later.

THAT is excellent customer service.


I loaded the color film in the 660, took a couple of test shots — and hey, bingo! The camera worked, the film worked. I made a few adjustments. Well, I made one adjustment. There aren’t really a lot of adjustments you can make on a Polaroid. Lighten or darken, that’s about it. I made my adjustment, shot another test shot, and then started to think about how to make photographs with a Polaroid.

There’s always been a cerebral aspect to photography for me. With the exception of street photography, most of the photographs I shoot are shot with some level of deliberation. I think about what I want in the frame and what I want to exclude it. I tend to think about shadow more than light. I think about depth of field, and the geometry of composition.

But with the Polaroid cameras I have, there’s little (or no) control over shadow — and the fixed focus lens severely limits what you can do with depth of field. So it all comes down to composition, right? Basically, I was using a camera I’d considered useful only for party snapshots to make what I hoped would be artful, thoughtful images.


For me, that meant concentrating on the simplicity of composition. Line and form. Balance. Leading the viewer’s eye. Color blocking (with color film, obviously). The basics — which is sort of appropriate for such a basic camera.

Remember back a bit I spoke about how finicky Impossible Project film used to be? Well, it’s still finicky. Maybe not as finicky as before, but pretty damned finicky. Unlike the old Polaroid film, Impossible film has to develop in the dark. Almost everybody agrees the very first thing you do after the camera ejects the print is immediately put that little bugger away in a dark container. Don’t even bother trying to look at it for at least ten minutes. At least ten minutes. Some folks say give it an hour to cook.

This can sometimes be a monumental pain in the ass. In order to get the photograph of the industrial building above, I had to park my car near the field, open the glove box, open the passenger side door, walk about fifteen feet into the field — and THEN shoot the photo, immediately put it into the wee box the film arrived in, sprint to the car, slam the film box inside the glove box and close it. Then I drove home, put the car in the garage, and wait for an hour to go out, open the glove box, open the film box, and finally see if I’d got the shot.

I enjoyed ever minute of that.

First two shots with the Polaroid 660

Here’s what I’ve learned about shooting with a Polaroid:

— It’s fun.
— It’s stupid expensive.
— It’s a lot of fuss.
— When you press the shutter release, there’s a charming little whirring sound that’s ridiculously happy-making.
— It’s SO easy to screw things up
— When it comes to Spectra film, you take what you can get. When I first ordered film, all they had was B&W packs. Now all they have is color packs.
— The autofocus is done by some weird sonar arrangement, which means shooting a photo through a window requires you to press a secret, hidden autofocus override button.
— It’s NOT instant film. It’s nowhere near instant. Unless you’re thinking in glacial or geological terms.
— It’s still fun.

I never got anything done in time for ‘Roid Week, sadly. I think for a serious photography project, personally I’d probably buy a Fujifilm Instax — they’re a lot more reliable and consistent. Not the Instax mini, but the silly-looking full-sized unit.

But for sheer unpredictable fun, it’s Polaroid. I don’t know that I’ll be doing a LOT of Polaroid work, but I suspect I’ll continue to do it sporadically. In fact, I’ve made some repairs to the old Spectra, and after feeding it a new pack of B&W film, it seems to be working. If I can get through a pack of eight without mishap, I’ll be ordering color film for the Spectra.

This is probably how all addictions begin.


Early this morning two local police officers–one from Des Moines and one from the suburb of Urbandale–were murdered. The officers were shot at separate locations a few city blocks apart within about a twenty minute period. Both officers were shot and killed while sitting in their squad cars at intersections.

These were clearly targeted killings — purposeful assassinations. Almost immediately after the news of the murders was released, a lot of people on social media began denouncing certain segments of the population.

Thank you Obama, Hillary, Colin Kaepernick and all the morons who have been denigrating and attacking our law enforcement and dividing our country.

Ambush attacks? Hmmm…the Religion of Pieces? Black Lies Matter?

It wouldn’t surprise me if this goes all the way to POTUS! I’m beginning to think the politicians are profiting from drug trade and that’s the reason why they want to Nationalize the police.

Islamic or BLM attack on our POLICE!!!

The blacks are way out of control, we need to take back our streets regardless of what the media thinks and says.

BlackLivesMAtter and Kapernack…have made it cool to kill cops….with Obama and HIllary and many other DEMOCRATS cheering them on

It wasn’t just the usual ‘Comment Lunatics’ saying this sort of stupid shit. Rudy Giuliani, who was in town laying down manure for Donald Trump, said, “I’m not going to politicize this, but…” and then compared these murders to those police murders fueled by anger over the shooting by police of unarmed black men. Giuliani’s clear inference was that killer was likely to be an angry black guy.

Later this morning, police released a photograph of a suspect wanted in the murders.

Scott Michael Greene

Scott Michael Greene

Well, okay — an angry white guy. This is Scott Michael Greene of Urbandale. Locally, Urbandale is sometimes referred to as ‘Suburbandale’. When the city was incorporated in 1917 it was seen as a ‘streetcar suburb’ of Des Moines. Not much has changed. It’s your basic white, middle class suburb distinguished from Des Moines only by street signs informing you that you’ve entered Urbandale.

DMPD squad car driven by murdered police officer.

DMPD squad car driven by murdered police officer.

Scott Michael Greene has a history of anger issues, conflict with the police, and a general dislike of folks who aren’t white. Oddly enough, the Colin Kaepernick comments made by racist idiots are relevant. Just a couple of weeks ago, it appears Greene attended an Urbandale High School football game. During the playing of the national anthem, a group of African-American students remained seated. Greene apparently went to that section, stood in front of them, and displayed a Confederate Battle Flag.

Somebody allegedly hit him. Somebody else  allegedly took the Confederate flag. Greene was then escorted out of the stadium. Greene made a long, rather pointless video of his chat with Urbandale police officers.

If you haven’t the time or patience to watch the video, it seems Greene felt oppressed because he wasn’t allowed to wave a flag celebrated by racists in front of some black kids whose behavior offended him. Greene said this about the video:

“I was offended by the blacks sitting through our anthem. Thousands more whites fought and died for their freedom. However this is not about the Armed forces, they are cop haters.”

That wasn’t Greene’s first hostile encounter with police officers or black folks. Two years ago he was charged with a misdemeanor count of Interference with Official Acts when he resisted being patted down for weapons by Urbandale police. Two days later, Greene accosted a man in the parking lot of an apartment complex, shone a flashlight in the man’s face, and allegedly called the man ‘nigger’ and threatened him, saying “I will kill you, fucking kill you.” He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in those cases.

It’s to be hoped that Greene will soon be arrested without any further violence. However, since he is said to be armed with some version of an AR-15–the Jesus Gun of gun nuts everywhere–anything is possible. (UPDATE: Greene has peacefully surrendered himself to a Department of Natural Resources officer.)

Scott Michael Greene being oppressed.

Scott Michael Greene being oppressed.

Obviously, the only person responsible for these murders is the person who held the weapon, pointed it at police officers sitting in their vehicles, and pulled the trigger. But you’d have to be willfully blind NOT to see connections between this tragedy and recent events.

I’m just guessing here, but I suspect we’ll learn Greene was a Trump supporter. I’m basing that guess on the fact the Greene appears to be pretty much at the center of the Trump demographic: white, racist, angry, aggressive, resentful, confrontational, and armed. I’m also basing this on another ugly fact: Donald Trump’s campaign appearances have contributed bigly to an atmosphere of hostility and violence and hateful speech. His speeches have encouraged otherwise quiet racists and haters to give voice to — and even act on — their hateful world views. (UPDATE: according to a DM Register reporter, this is Scott Greene’s home.)

Scott Michael Greene's home

Scott Michael Greene’s home

Like Giuliani, I want to politicize this without appearing to politicize it. But whether we like it or not, these murders have a socio-political component. The motivation for pulling the trigger might not be overtly political, but assuming Green IS the killer (and it’s critically important to remember that at this point he MUST still be considered innocent) it would be naive not to consider the social climate in which the murders took place.

The almost unbearably sad thing is that whatever directly motivated the shooter to murder the two police officers, their deaths will be subsumed by politics. At a time when the families and friends and co-workers of the officers (as well as the family and friends of Scott Greene) are grieving and suffering, the politics of the moment will transform their tragedies into footnotes.

This is just all so very sad, so very stupid, so very sad, so very stupid, so sad and so stupid and stupidsad.