Posts Tagged ‘vision’

Nervous Tic

30 June 2010

Dear J-

I’m not going to say that being the boss — even for a week like this — is all sunshine and roses, but I get some insight on what the day goes like. It’s busy. I don’t remember the last time I had more to do — got in early, left late, and it still wasn’t enough to have ten hours rooted to my chair. There’s been a few interesting wrinkles along the way, though; they take this you-are-the-supervisor stuff pretty seriously, and I’m invited to meetings with peers way past my shallow depth. At the moment my ambition has little to do with getting ahead and more to do with staying afloat.

There’s an old saying that engineers make lousy managers; I can feel it taking hold at times — I want to micromanage and delegate work to people I know will do things the way I would do them. The truth is that everyone has a slightly different style and the journey, unfortunately, is not as important as the destination. You do need some technical expertise to know what you’re looking for, but I think the actual amount required is almost always overstated; if you trust your folks to do the right thing, then you’ve got to demonstrate that with actions.

I’m reminded of the World Cup; we’ve ascribed too much importance, I think, to the coaching — how can you explain the success of the Argentines under Diego Maradona (a great player, sure, but not one who exhibited amazing leadership). And yet there’s no denying that they’ve been carving up the competition without any real difficulty. If nothing else being more aware of leadership has introduced all kinds of difficulties in my life; when all I knew was the shadows on the cave wall, that was enough. The bit of vision for the long haul just makes me more and more nervous.

Mike

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Seeing Things

29 July 2009

Dear J-

We’re told as parents that babies see high contrast items best at first, so black-and-white and illuminated items work out pretty well.  I’m not convinced that we need a whole industry specializing in black and white baby toys, except maybe as a prop diversion to convince kids that one day the whole world became colorful — not until the much-beloved but now-defunct Kodachrome, in fact.  Patterns are interesting, of course, but I think we teach ourselves to see using shape and size.

Based on genetics it is a strong probabiliy that figgy will develop myopia, probably before she’s ten; I got my first pair of glasses when I was eight and while the world snapped back into focus during the day, at night it became a pleasant blur once the glasses were off, a sort of visual filter showing once again shape, size, but no detail.  Friends with no glasses would be unconvinced and offer up guessing games for me to say how many fingers they were holding up (hey, not that finger!) with glasses off.  I won most of those games; as we all find out as our eyes age, it’s not having our vision go dark.

The level of political discourse in this country has sunk to the point where laser-like focus narrows in on a few choice phrases and words without context to support and reinforce a view — hey, it’s a little like the physics behind lasers, now that I think about it.  Indiscretions and gaffes are dredged up as levers to sway opinion, but end up repeating only what we want to see.  Take a step back instead; although it almost physically hurts, try to read both FOX and the New York Times; surround the story with different perspectives; remember how you learned to see:  everything, details fuzzy perhaps but as a whole.

Mike

Photographic Memory

25 February 2009

Dear J-

Watch the traffic rolling by and close your eyes; do you hear the whirring of engines, or imagine a busy river?  I like the old story about the five blind men coming upon an elephant, each declaring, with justification, that they’d come upon a snake, tree, sheet, brush, or house, depending on which part they touched.  You would imagine that upon hearing the conflicting information they’d each take the time to verify each other’s conclusions, so that’s why the story adds a little addendum about how crochety and stubborn each one was.  Point is that we see so much and, as our primary sense, we believe it best.

Susan Sontag had some interesting thoughts about photography, including that it grew popular amongst cultures with veneration of long work hours (Germans, Americans, and Japanese) because it provided a pleasant sort of work in leisure time.  On vacation?  Sure, go document x, y, and z and bring back proof in some form.  The old cliche first assignment of “What I Did for Summer Break” is so familiar and trite because we’ve all had to do it at some point — I did a double-take when Godai recalled that he had the same assignment when he was little in Maison Ikkoku, more evidence that the inculcation of a work ethic starts young.

Photography serves as an exact record, in miniature, with less effort and expense than doing your own illustration or painting.  One of Sontag’s assertions is that everything has been photographed at one point, and it leads to a sort of overload where the impact of any one photograph is lessened, whereas when it was practiced by relatively fewer people and photographs were not as readily available, the impact of each was greater.  There’s some truth to it — I am guilty of the kittens-babies-sunsets variety on flickr myself — but in the whole I reject that.  Yes, photography plays up to only the visual sense, but there are so many different ways to depict a scene that the images we take and choose to share are inevitably tied to our own aesthetics.

Different people have different photographic styles, what they call a visual voice; it may degenerate to the form of self-parody but I’m reasonably sure that any number of people would be able to tell an Anne Geddes picture from an Annie Leibowitz one, for instance, or Helmut Lang from Duane Michals from Weegee from Arbus from Weston.  The good photographs tell complete stories with one sense — vision — and between voice, mood, and light, there’s so many different methods of relating experiences that  doubt we’ll ever truly capture all the possible images in the whole world.

Mike