There’s a line from Errol Morris’s essay “The Pianist and the Lobster” that’s been rattling around in my brain: “It’s hard to forgive yourself, really, if you’ve done nothing wrong.” (Also: it took me two reads through to realize that the two images above speak to each other.)
Back home after two weeks on the road with the kids. No new epiphanies, only fortified beliefs:
1. Traveling with young children is not a “vacation” it is a “trip.”
The sooner you understand and accept this the sooner you can lower your expectations accordingly. My kids are, I think, wonderful travelers, and even so, traveling with them is beyond exhausting.
2. Photos can say whatever we want them to say.
Instagram lies. If you follow me on Instagram, it probably looked like I was having the time of my life. Nope! There was a lot of eye candy to be had, but a large majority of the trip was pretty miserable.
I found myself thinking a lot about Errol Morris’s book, Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography, and how he summarized it in these handy 8 points:
- All photographs are posed.
- The intentions of the photographer are not recorded in a photographic image. (You can imagine what they are, but it’s pure speculation.)
- Photographs are neither true nor false. (They have no truth-value.)
- False beliefs adhere to photographs like flies to flypaper.
- There is a causal connection between a photograph and what it is a photograph of. (Even photoshopped images.)
- Uncovering the relationship between a photograph and reality is no easy matter.
- Most people don’t care about this and prefer to speculate about what they beleive about a photograph.
- The more famous a photograph is, the more likely it is that people will claim it has been posed or faked.
If you’re sitting around this summer scrolling Instagram seething with jealousy over vacation photos, remember what Mary Karr says: “Don’t make the mistake of comparing your twisted-up insides to people’s blow-dried outsides.” You have no idea what kind of time anybody’s having. Images are nothing without context.
If you love summer and summer vacation, I’m happy for you. For me, it’s the season of lies. Best to pour some iced tea, crack a book, and wait for it to pass.
(Happy to be back, BTW. Will write a more upbeat post tomorrow!)
Notes on The Fog of War (see them bigger)
The filmmaker Errol Morris’s blog for the NyTimes has quickly become one of my favorite reads on the internet, so I Netflixed a bunch of his documentaries. I started with The Fog of War (Amazon), since the film’s subject, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, died a couple weeks ago. (There’s a good Fresh Air with interviews of McNamara and Morris.)
This was a lazy set of notes for me: I knew ahead of time that there were “Eleven Lessons” from McNamara’s life, so I just listed them as the movie went along, with a few other scribbles here and there.
The one thing notable about them is that I used the page on the right of the sketchbook for straightforward notes, and the page on the left for doodles. I was thinking of Lynda Barry — how she keeps a legal pad next to whatever she’s working on, so she can keep her brush moving when she gets stuck.
Of course, to me, the doodle page is much more interesting. The right side is straightforward information, the left side is free-associative, with me riffing off the information, processing it. In my better notes, I combine these two sides…