|"LET'S ROCK", THE PHOTO SHOW at Barry Whistler's gallery
in Dallas, Texas, closed this weekend. If you weren't there, this is what
it looked like. I think it looks great. I love being in shows. It's a shame
that the work I put on gallery walls mostly ends up decorating the walls
of the homes of myself, my friends and family.
A few days before the show ended, I e-mailed Allison,
the organizer of the show, asking her how things sold -- not just for myself,
but in general. Of course I wanted to hear that I could expect a cheque
in the mail soon, US$250 per photo minus gallery commission. Of course
I knew that I wouldn't hear anything of the sort. Allison wrote me back:
|Yes there were sales. Not as many as Barry and I had hoped,
but there were. Next to your photos there is a shot of Dolly P. that sold
two times. The shot of Willie sold 5 times. In total there were probably
25 sales. Many people commented on yours. One friend (who my dog is named
after) said yours were his favorites in the show. Also all the other photographers
liked your images too. Thanks so much for being part of the show. I will
let you know how the LAST day goes. It is going to be sad to see the show
It's nice to hear. My work tends to get a better reception
from other photographers than from your man in the street. Photographers
tend not to care as much about who, or what, is in the photo, and more
about how, and why, the photo was taken. Still, the grim truth underneath
this lovely compliment is that photographers tend to have very little money,
and rarely support their peers' work. After all, they can cover the walls
of their house with photos anytime they want, and at a competitive price.
But there's a part of me that isn't happy, that grumbles
that it would have been nice to have that free market validation of the
value of my work: cash in hand, the confidence of the market bestowed upon
my modest labours. Perhaps I should have sent along some celeb work,
something to compete with Dolly and Willie, but it wouldn't have felt right.
Allison and Barry asked for some of my best, and that's what I sent.
Oh well. There's a nice wall in the living room where
the shots will find a home. Alongside the rest of my "selected works".
IT'S TAKEN FOUR YEARS, but I've finally filled up the
ten megs of server space allotted to me by my ISP. Time to start adding
new megs, so I call up Technical Support. It takes me awhile to get them
to understand that I'm not asking for more mail space, but more web space.
I'd like to know just how much space is left at the moment; they tell me
they have know way of knowing. No matter, I say, just add another meg for
now, and I'll see how long it takes to fill that.
"I'm sorry sir, but you have to talk to Account Services
Very well then, connect me with Account Services.
"I'm sorry sir, but I have no way of doing that. You'll
have to phone back. I think you press two after you press one for English."
My ISP has this new, absurdly long, detailed automatic
operator. I know for a fact that I only get to press two for Account Services
after going through three or four different levels of robotic voice instructions
that includes a sales pitch for their new dial-up software. I thank the
Technical Support representative, hang up and call back. Some day soon
I will miss his voice, his eminent good sense, his remarkable frankness.
Account Services tells me that I have to send an e-mail
to "Policy" to request the extra meg, stating that I'm aware that it will
cost me $2.50 a month per meg. I copy down Policy's e-mail address and
send off the message a few minutes later.
The next day, I recieve an e-mail from "Christian" at
|Dear Mr. McGinnis,
Thank you for contacting us via email.
We will be happy to increase your webspace limit by 1MB, but you will need
to call Account Services at 1-800-920-7873 to get this done. They
are opened Monday through Friday from 8AM to 10PM and on weekends from
8AM to 8PM SET.
I send "Christian" an e-mail, stating that someone at
Technical Support told me to call Account Services, who told me to e-mail
Policy requesting the extra meg. I politely inquire as to whether I'm not
embarking on a wild goose chase through their various departments, looking
for something that no one is certain they can give me. I refrain -- tastefully,
I like to think -- from using the word "Kafkaesque".
"Christian" sends me back another e-mail within hours:
You will need to contact account services
for this matter. They are the ones who need to process this request.
However, the extra space won't be added instantly. It shouldn't take
more then 48 hours, but they will be able to tell you exactly how much
time it will take.
I was told -- so long ago, it seems by now, time having
become elastic under the t.v. static skies of my corporate sojourn -- that
I'd have my new meg in four to twenty-four hours. But that was vouchsafed
me by the original Technical Support representative, at the distant beginning
of this epic Quest for Megs. I'm fairly certain that was a person; "Christian",
I'm certain, is probably a software program, a distant cousin of HAL 9000,
spun out like a bit of viral code, proliferating across the network of
the web, slowly chipping away at the fabric of corporeal reality and mere
I make the mistake of trying to call Account Services
just minutes before K. and I are supposed to leave for work. I'm put on
endless hold, and hang up when I see K. put on her coat and stand at the
top of the stairs, waiting for me. I try again the next day, early in the
morning, and spend twenty minutes listening to Baroque music, interrupted
by the sleepy, robotic reassurance that "you call is important to us. Please
remain on the line."
When I finally get an Account Services representative
on the line, she's surprised that Christian was so insistent on sending
me back to them. "He wasn't supposed to do that," she tells me, In fact,
I shouldn't have gotten any e-mail whatsoever.
"But I did," I reassure her, inquiring as an afterthought
as to whether Christian is a real person.
"Oh, yes sir, he is," she tells me, earnestly. "I mean,
I've never met him, but I know he's a real person." It occurs to me that
her confidence in Christian's corporeal existence, in the absence of proof,
is something of an act of faith, but I let it go.
It's all very interesting, this quaint metaphysical chit-chat,
but there remains the question of my extra Meg. The Account Services representative
-- sadly, I never learn her name -- insists that it can be done; it's just
that very few people have ever asked for it.
I'm frankly surprised. "Really? Never?"
"No sir. There doesn't seem to be much call for it," she
tells me, trying hard to sound reassuring, adding: "I don't know why."
I need it, nevertheless, and more, and insist that we
proceed. "Can I have your phone number, sir, and I'll call you back as
soon as I know what's happening?" I give it to her, and she promptly puts
me on hold again. By now, K. is sitting on the couch opposite me, quietly
listening. The Account Services representative comes back on the line.
"I'm still not sure what's happening here, sir." It's
a frank admission, and I'm strangely grateful that she's making it. "Can
I call you back today?" I tell her that she can, and hang up, still unsure
as to the status of my extra Meg.
"That was wonderful, dear," K. says, and gives me a hug.
"You were very, very good with her. I'm so proud of you." What she means
is that I was only occasionally sarcastic, and that I'd never raised my
voice or gotten hostile or questioned the legality or sanity of the enterprise
at hand. I didn't ask whether she thought I was "some stupid asshole",
as I often did when dealing with Technical Support representatives, or
smashed the handset of our cordless phone, as I had, just a month or two
earlier, while trying to get Sprint to clear up the static on our line.
Frankly, I was rather proud of myself, as well. But the
Account Sevices representative never called me back, and I still don't
know if I have my extra Meg.
IíM FEELING RATHER OUT OF DATE lately, but thatís not
a new sensation, and I should be used to it by now. The reason is simple
Ė I donít write a daily blog, and in the fast-moving mainstream of even
the non-commercial net, that leaves me rather quaintly laboring in the
margins. Four years ago, when I began thinking about this diary, the online
journal was the hot thing, the subject of features in Salon and
the focus of an active community. Today, many of those journals are gone,
or moribund, depleted of their once-impressive head of steam, and in any
case the online journal community has receded to a sort of stubborn quaintness
with which I donít feel much connection.
The blog is the thing, these days, and Iím feeling a little
out of it, putting out my four or five pleonastic entries each month, only
a fraction of which Ė a sizeable fraction, but a fraction nonetheless Ė
has anything to do with the war. Like everyone else, I read four, five,
six warblogs a day, from Jeff
Jarvis to Ken Layne
to Brian Lamb.
Many of the bloggers are journalists, and their blogs have become essential
reading for op-ed columnists, given shout-outs and referenced with respect.
The bloggers are a gregarious lot, linking to each other promiscuously,
drawing even non-blogs into their clubby blog fold. I envy their confidence,
their concision, their obvious sense of being firmly in the swim of popular
opinion, regardless of how divergent their opinions might be.
But I donít write a blog, and the reasons are simple enough.
First of all, with an ancient laptop wheezing away with a P90 chip, 16
Megs of RAM and barely more than a gig of memory, itís hard enough just
building this site and editing images. With a 28.8 modem, downloading the
average daily paperís online front page is like sucking tapioca through
a sparrowís quill. Secondly, with a full-time job (for the duration of
the winter, it seems), I donít have the time to read and collect links,
either at home or at the office.
Most importantly, I just donít feel like it. Iíll be the
first to admit that an online journal like this one is an anachronism,
a classic case of a medium (the fleeting, quick fix, fast food web) ill-utilized.
My ambitions here Ė as my friend John Scalzi pointed out to me just a week
or two ago Ė are probably more literary than anything else, and yes I know
how pretentious that sounds, but there it is.
And besides, I canít see myself contained in those neat
compartments of tiny sans serif type. Iím just not a sans serif kind of
ULTIMATELY, THOUGH, I DONíT FEEL prepared to make definitive
statements about our new war. I know where I stand Ė somewhere in the middle,
between the querulous, sometimes looney left and the increasingly vindicated
hawks on the right, some of them, by their own admission, newly minted
"former pacifists". Donít get me wrong Ė I couldnít be more pleased to
see the back of the Taliban. If any regime deserved annihilation, this
one would be it, for reasons that are becoming even
more obvious now that theyíre gone.
But I donít like the bully pulpit, and my sense of unease
hasnít abated a bit, especially since I donít trust the men (and women
Ė Iím talking to you, Condoleeza Rice) who are at the helm of the "war
against terrorism". I donít like triumphalism, and if anything has dominated
the tone of too many of the warblogs, especially in the last month or so,
itís a crowing, jeering dismissal of not only Noam Chomsky and others on
the Ė admittedly tiresome Ė looney left, but of aid workers, religious
pacifists, and any unfortunate idealist who refuses to cede moral preeminence
to the wide-shouldered new realpolitik.
A big fan Ė and frequent link Ė of the weblogs is our
own Mark Steyn, who made a big splash in the blogs the other day when he
took on the
insidious menace of humanitarian workers, those all-powerful defeatists
who, if you believe Steyn, constitute something of a fifth-column in our
|"There are some special-interest groups -- the National
Rifle Association, Right To Life -- whose press releases get dismissed
by the media as propaganda, and others -- environmental groups, for example
-- whose every claim is taken at face value. Into this last happy category
fall the Ďhumanitarian lobby.í"
Aid agencies had warned of mass starvation if aid convoys
werenít able to reach remote areas of Afghanistan before winter. They were
unable to predict the rapid defeat of the Taliban under sustained bombing
raids. Getting food to the starving is their job; defeating the Taliban
and al-Qaeda was the militaryís job. Their job is difficult enough,
and having to deal with both the Taliban and B-52 raids no doubt inspired
them to ask for a bit of help from the U.S. who, Iím sure, they assume
is ultimately on their side. Today, they have to deal with the warlords
again, who tend to regard their aid supplies either booty or tribute. In
any case, the people of Afghanistan might end up the losers, but donít
ask Steyn to concede that point.
Of course, Steynís never been to Afghanistan, but he has
friends in the aid agencies, and if he generally feels free to accuse the
media Ė in which he finds employment Ė of any sort of unpatriotic perfidy,
then why not his own friends? The fact is that Steyn is the worst kind
of tenured bullyboy and op-ed cynic, hungry for controversy and approval
in whatever proportion he can get it. His style is a mix of attack dog
and lap dog, his choice of targets safe and popular ones: aid agencies,
feminists, academics and liberals. In confidence, his employers and supporters
suspect that he doesnít really believe half of what he says. No matter
Ė there are column inches to be filled, a marketable façade of gruff
contrarian and scourge of the insufficiently bloody-minded to be maintained.
I just donít want to help him with his job.