Why I’m Cheering for Instagram From the Cheap Seats

19 12 2012

Yesterday the social media world was in a frenzy. Instagram released their new Privacy Policy and the wording within the statement implied that Instagram could use our photos for their own gain… WITHOUT having to have our approval. I sat back and watched as friends deleted their accounts and went shopping for other FREE services to post their beloved images.

While I personally applaud Instagram for their efforts to protect the images that ride on their system, I yell a long deep “BOOOOO!” from the cheap seats because of HOW they mismanaged the communication of the policy. They vastly underestimated the push back their “wording” would be perceived by it’s users.

This is honestly not surprising at all, considering Facebook owns Instagram and Facebook is famous to changing policies and practices without care for how their users will react. Of course they, like all FREE social media platforms, don’t really have to poll the crowd. They know they are the best game in town and most follow Apple’s methodology of change. “Remove the floppy drive,” said Steve Jobs. Then, “No, we’re not putting Blue Ray DVD players in our machines,” he said. Then, “remove the DVD drive all together”. Steve was right because he understood the big picture and could see the future. Floppy disks were a horrible medium to be followed by a less than practical format with the CD-ROM and then the DVD. He saw the promise of the cloud, and he knew the only way to get there was to remove the very thing that was stopping us from moving forward. The major Social Media platform providers see the future too. They will make changes to protect their assets. It just so happens that their assets were created by us!

Instagram wants to be able control who uses the images that are stored on their system. They produced a privacy policy that seems, to us, that they want to take advantage of us. In fact though, they are protecting us. Previously they had no ability to go after any organization that snagged those images by normal means.

An example is this Taco Bell Los Taco’s ad.

The images that appear in this ad seem to be taken directly from Instagram users. In my own job (Communications), I’ve taken images posted on Instagram and used them for promotional purposes. Granted the images were tagged with a custom hashtag and all of the people who shot the images knew how they were going to be used. However until Instagram created this new Privacy Policy, any company, anywhere in the world, could, in theory, use Instagram as a free stock photo service.

Not anymore though. Those images are now (or at least will be after Jan. 15, 2013) protected. Only Instagram will be able to use those images. Some people will continue to go nuts over the fact that the images they took and then posted on a server somewhere so that other people could see them are now going to be considered “Controlled by Others”.

Me? Well, I’m not going to go nuts over it. I’m going to continue to post images as often as before. And I’m going to remain smart about it. Posting images online is fun. It’s a way to express yourself. It’s a creative outlet. My kids are cute, I’m proud of them and I want the world to know about it. My wife is incredible and I want the world to know how I feel about her.

I’m glad Instagram is adding teeth to protect the images so that some company I’ve never heard of can’t use them. Can Instagram use them? Sure they can. But they would be stupid to use an image of a minor in an ad without written permission first. And although Instagram and Facebook are not great at communicating the advantages their policies being their users… they aren’t stupid. Does the policy provide them the right to sell the images to others? Yes it does. Will they? Probably not the images themselves, but for sure the data that is hidden within them.

For instance… I post images of my 1974 Jeep CJ5 a good bit. A company that sells accessories for my Jeep wants to target their ads at Jeep owners. Instagram’s data mine knows that I have a Jeep and so that company pays Instagram to place ads in my photo stream. Or because my zip code is part of my digital footprint the accessory supplier will buy ads in areas that have a high concentrations of people who own old Jeeps. Before the policy was in place, that company could have paid some other data miner (think of data as gold) to dig up that information and then connect it to my other online footprints. Instagram wants that money. They need that money to install more servers to provide more room for us to post pictures. And of course to pay stock holders.

I say that I am cheering from the cheap seats because I’m not a stockholder. I’m a user of a FREE service that makes it’s money using the unseen data I provide. It’s as simple as that. If I have to look at ads, I’d prefer them to be about something I’m at least interested in. I’ve noticed in the last 5 years that the ads on the right side of my Facebook page more closely resemble my tastes and lifestyle. That is because companies, or at least their Ad Agencies, are learning and now understand better how Social Media works. I for one am grateful for the free service and I’m happy that I rarely see ads for things like feminine hygiene products or acne treatments.

Product development teams at all major companies want and need the data that is mined from Social Media. If you want better products and services for you and your family… post pictures on Instagram! Make statements on Twitter! Post your thoughts on Facebook!

Trust me. Instagram’s new policy has very little to do with the images that you posted of your kids playing in the indoor playground at the fast food place down the street… It has to do with the fact that the fast food place wants to know if you were having a good time… if your kids liked the food… if you enjoyed hanging out with your “Mom’s Group”… if you used the wifi system they just installed… if it was too crowded… how often you are there… what time you were there… Every little nugget costs money and Instagram’s new policy means they are the only ones who can mine for those nuggets.

I’m okay with that because I understand that the big picture is made up of thousands and thousands and thousands of images taken in places all over the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Everyone of them leading to better ideas, better solutions and better products.

So take those pictures! Share them online! We’d all like to enjoy them with you!

My Namesake and His Draft Card

12 11 2012

Chesley James Rivers was my Grandpa.  This week he would have turned 101 years old.  The Veterans Day celebrations that occurred this past weekend caused me to cast a light on his newly discovered (at least to me) Selective Service card. I find it so very interesting. He was 28 years old when he signed it in 1939.  I can only assume that it was signed in October of that year right after the Burke-Wadsworth Act was passed by Congress and of course, a couple of years before the U.S. entered World War II.

I have no idea if his number was ever called.  It would not have mattered anyway since he would have be classified as Section V. He was not able to hear. His deafness was caused by complications from a childhood illness.  As I recall the story told to me long ago… when as very small child, he developed pneumonia.  Near the end of his recovery, after the first snowfall of the season, his sister let him out to play in the snow.  The remaining fluid in his ears froze and forever damaged his eardrums.  How much of that story is accurate is in question of course. However that is how I remember it. I will add the disclaimer that my imagination often adds embellishments.

I never heard my Grandpa speak.  However I did hear him sing.  Funny that I write this during Veterans Day… His favorite song to sing out loud was “Onward Christian Soldiers” and although the words came forth in a manner you would expect from someone who is deaf, the notes were always in the right place. I call it his “Marching Song”. He would sing it only while standing… and always at the top of his lungs.

The card was signed while he was working at the EM Holt Plaid Mill.  He worked a loom and although I’m sure the mass manufacturing process was laborious at best, he kept a nice sized loom in his home until the day he died.  He made beautiful things.  Mostly in plaid of course!  My Grandparents lived in the Carolina’s, but also in south Louisiana, Houston and Washington, D.C. He moved from the loom to the printing press and worked for the Congressional Record for a time in the 70’s.

Today I honor him for his service.  He signed a card and was willing to serve.  Though he wouldn’t be asked to fight in a war, I’ve never known anyone more patriotic. I used to think his deafness placed him in a world where only deaf people worked.  Mills and print shop are loud, distracting and sometimes dangerous places.  Many, many deaf people worked in these places because they were ideally suited for the work.  However as I look at it now, I see that he chose work that offered him creativity through the use of technology.  He made beautiful things… from loud, complicated machines.

Happy birthday Grandpa! Thank you for providing for your wife and daughters. For singing loudly and for making me smile.  Thank you for being tall, but for never looking down on anyone. Thank you for teaching me, even after you are gone, that creativity can come from the most complicated things. I miss you.


To the Silent Segment

6 09 2012

Are you an active participant in Social Media? By that, I mean do you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest at least once a day? Or maybe you’re a non-poster, but instead an avid viewer. Maybe you log on only once or twice a week to see what “the kids” are up to. No matter how often you take a look, you are bound to see some type of political statement in this season of elections. Is the polarization of our country becoming worse or are we just now more aware of it?

I, for one, am interested in the high level of engagement that appears on Social Media these days. Granted I see it more overtly with “repeat offenders” (for which I have created a Friend List), but I do watch a number of intense debates that shed a great deal of light on the nature of our culture… Even our local sub-cultures.

Lately I’ve seen somewhat of a backlash of traffic where people are threatening the acursed “un-friending” of those that continue to fill the space that answers the question “What’s on your mind?” with political preponderance. I hesitate to call these [posts] rants. However, many times the comments that follow the initial posts often qualify as such.

I think that I can break down those who are reading this into one of three groups. Group 1 (these are in no particular order by the way) would be those of you who are nodding your head in agreement. Group 2 are those of you who are, at this very moment, thinking about what you want to comment in rebuttal of this post so far. Group 3 are those of you who just want me to show you how to create Friend Lists. Group 4 are those who have no opinion what-so-ever, and you are just trying to kill some time by following some links from a Twitter feed.

To each of you, here is my point: The world we live in, is in fact, becoming more polarized. Social Media has NOT accelerated this process. It has though brought it more to our attention.

I have close friends and distant acquaintances that live on both sides… wait. I really don’t think there are simply 2 sides anymore. I honestly believe it’s more of a interlocking group of spheres. Think of an atomic nucleus. Yes it’s made up of protons and neutrons, however each are connected and touching so many others that are unlike themselves in the highly compressed object.

Our culture is highly compressed. I think it’s very hard to find a “purest” anymore. There are radicals to be sure. However even within those ranks there are hypocrites. Yep… hypocrites (one of the most touch sensitive words in our vocabulary).

I do wonder, in the next 60 days, will we see a marked increase of political based chatter on our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds? Will people other than the repeat offenders have something to say? Or will the Silent Section (what used to be the Silent Majority) watch from a distance and then vote how they had planned to vote at this time last year? Are there really that many undecided, or does that percentage of the polled public lie about their choice to ward off Pollsters and the inevitable follow up questions?

I see all of this as proof that we are headed to a zenith of a “WE” culture. When the witch hunt will begin again. The last time a zenith of a “WE” hit was in the early 1940’s. The Department of Justice started keeping a list of organizations that it deemed subversive beginning in 1942 and then came McCarthyism. We are 10 years from the next zenith (2023, which is 80 years from the last one), however if you look closely at history and you watch our culture evolve, you can almost make out in the distance where we are headed.

Now I’m not saying the government will propel the movement to “call out” and “blacklist” people. But I am saying that the Silent Segment will have to state out loud and in public what they believe. The atomic nucleus will be blown apart and each person will have to stand on their on with their core values and beliefs.

It will take 20 years for the dust to clear and for effective change to be made easy again. My boys will be 20 and 25 at the zenith and close to my age at the tipping point (when we begin to head more towards the “Me” culture. I’m not a survivalist and I’m not storing up ammo (yet), but I am worried about my boys. Will they be ready to answer the hard questions? Will they be ready to not be silent? To stand up, raise their head high and be clear about what they believe? Will they lead their families to do the same?

Many in the Silent Segment believe, actions speak louder than words. So many of us are in fact hypocrites that we know our words hold little weight. It’s the reason we are silent. It’s not that we aren’t convicted… just that we are aware that there is plank in our own eye. (Maybe now more of you have moved to my Group 1!)

So many of us struggle with our own forgiveness. We head for the charity route so that we can try to donate our guilt away. We become tolerant because we think we understand the internal guilt that we assume “those people” must have. (Some have now moved to Group 2) Moreover, we can’t defend our beliefs so therefore we remain quiet. Like when the teacher asks a question in class that we should know the answer to, yet we pray she doesn’t call on us! We “kind of” know the answer, but surly someone else can provide it more clearly, or at least with authority.

I see the next generation being more hungry than the last to be able to answer the questions. They have a better handle on hypocrisy and understand that you can’t get away with it anymore. It’s the good part of being in the middle era of the “WE” culture. Information is not hard to acquire and proof is even easier to provide. The very first thing that was pointed out in speeches of BOTH the RNC and DNC were lies (a.k.a. mis-information, exaggerations, bad data, inaccuracies, simple conjecture.) Where with my generation the was a lack of absolute truth, the next generation will have to find truth absolutely. There is a difference.

Unlike the special note added to the post for the image at the top of this page, soon there will be no special forum state your view. It will all be public and everyone will have to answer the questions. Are you ready to speak clearly about what you believe? Do you have the words to convince, say… yourself, that what you believe is true?

What causes you to be silent?

Get Some Airtime

5 06 2012

Okay, I have to say that clicking on the “Talk to Someone” button freaked me out a little bit.  Who was going to pop up? Would we be able to speak to each other or just stare at the screen.  I had no idea that God might use this app to light my fire once again!

The app is called Airtime (www.airtime.com) and it was created but the same guys that brought us Napster.  In it’s simplest form, it uses the data within your Facebook profile to connect you with people all over the world who have similar data. Songs and artist, books and websites, schools and jobs, etc. They are all poured into a jug, shaken up and then you get a chance to put your hand in and pull out a name.  It you don’t like who Airtime picks for you, you just click the “Next Button”.

In the course of about 3 minutes I got to meet a guy in Dallas (who uses 10 of the same apps I use) , a guy in Atlanta (whose dad played baseball for LSU), a guy with a fu-man-chu stash (who simply had a Star Trek airship cutout that he waved across the screen) and a guy who looked really tired in Singapore.

These conversations were extremely brief. Almost like speaking to someone in a checkout line at Starbucks.  Now those of you who know me, know that I don’t start conversations with people in line at Starbucks. Or any other place for that matter.  However, coming literally face to face with people online that in some manner have a slight iota of similar interests makes me want to persue it.

In the last hour I’ve been able to share Christ with people from one coast the other!  The standard starting point on Airtime to ask where a person is at that moment.  Next question…. What do you do in Yourtown, USA.  “I’m a minister” I say.  You should see the expressions!  


So now I’m off to see how to get deeper into the core process of how this thing really works.  So that, of course, I can go ye therefore!  Hey, and maybe I’ll make some new friends along the way!



Reflections… of sound and other things.

2 05 2012


Over 20 years ago I was cutting my teeth on audio design for very unique environments.  I was extremely blessed to be handed the keys to the Tennessee Preforming Arts Center (TPAC) for nearly 2 months.  During that time I was the project manager for one of the most interesting audio system installations in the world.

TPAC was built with music in mind.  Being located in the center of the music capital of the planet, it’s patrons were super critical listeners.  So critical, that when the Nashville Symphony played there, complaints about the “feel” of the room were often heard. Because of that fact, the Symphony moved out.  They left their new home, moved back and set up shop at the much older War Memorial Auditorium. Older, as in, dedicated in 1925. Even though it was not nearly as nice or as comfortable as TPAC, it had the right “feel” for the sound of a symphony orchestra.

The people at TAPC needed to get the room “fixed”, but at the same time it needed to preserve the seemly dead acoustic space for acts beyond the classical variety.  Enter Jaffe Acoustics and their Electronic Reflected-Energy System (ERES).  It was a game changer over 20 years ago and it forever changed my understanding of acoustics for performing spaces.  The ERES system was comprised of over 100 speaker enclosures.  Most of which weighed more than 100 lbs. a piece.  Each enclosure reproduced a different, very select group of audio frequencies (or notes), and they were hung above the floating ceiling panels or hidden in interesting locations around the edge of the room.   Several microphones were hung out in the room and several were hung on the edge of the stage.  Using Jaffe’s magic processors and some rocket science, we were able to electronically make the room feel good.

Part of what makes a room feel good is the amount of reverb time it has or allows, and how the sound bounces off one wall and then another before it comes to rest in your ears. Like singing in the shower, classical music sounds best, and ultimately feels best, in a room where the sound takes a second or two to come to rest after the maestro has frozen his baton. Because of TAPC’s plush curtains, thickly padded seating and soft carpets, the sound was literally sucked right up like a Hoover as it flowed off the stage.

Using the tiny amount of sound that did make into the room, we were able to use the perfectly placed microphones to “mix” the sounds, add artificial coloring and route them to over 100 different locations in the room.  It was like night and day.  Upon final tuning, the Conductor came out into the seats and listened to his orchestra with and without the system activated.  The Nashville Symphony moved back the TPAC.

That was over 20 years ago.  Today I came across a video that caused those old memories to come forth.  This new origami-ish system does nearly exactly what ERES did, but with no artificial ingredients!  Of course there is a magic box that controls the “breathing” of the system, but still… it’s an amazing use of technology, art and science.

Obviously this post is totally geeked out. However, I wanted highlight this point.  We spend huge amounts of energy to create things to fix problems.  Problems that are caused by nearsightedness or sometime more than that… strong opinions.  TPAC was created for performance. But it fell short because it focused on comfort and ease of use.  War Memorial Auditorium was admired for it’s seemingly perfect acoustics. But if you ever sat though a show there or had to load in a set from back stage, you would find it lacking. People in 1925 never anticipated the need for HVAC systems nor were they concerned about ADA regulations.

This may sound backwards, but I think nearsightedness is okay.  Glasses, contacts and now surgery can fix that.  Innovation comes from fixing problems.  If there were no problems there would be no innovation.  Tweet that!

Pulling the Bowstring of Purpose

24 04 2012


There are days when I seem to start out with great intentions.  I’ve got a plan. I’ve had the shower epiphany.  Ideas are following. The whole team is at work today and stuff is going to get done.  It’s a wave of progress.  Yet for some unknown reason I miss the target completely.  I don’t just miss the bull eye… I miss all the concentric circles that surround the mark.

Well, I let me be really honest.  I don’t miss… My arrow never even reaches the block of cratered styrofoam the paper goal is stuck on. I have failed to pull the bowstring of purpose back far enough.  

There are lots of reasons people sometimes fail in this effort.  For me, it’s often fear. Fear that my choices are flawed in some minor way.  That the end result will not reach my expectations.  So, I don’t pull back on the bowstring enough.  

An adage that I have had in my mental pocket since the week my oldest son turned one is, “Pull the trigger and ride the bullet.” I’ve recalled that note out nearly every week of my life for the last 13 years.  I heard it from one of my favorite teachers, Roy Williams. He was replaying a story about a friend of his named Tony, who seemed to keep making bad decisions.  Roy was amazed that even though Tony kept bombing, he never really seemed to be discouraged by his failures and he NEVER pointed his finger at anyone in an effort to blame.  Instead he would look to the heavens and say, “I pulled the trigger and rode the bullet.”

As a leader I’ve consistently applied this lesson.  When I green light the project, I’m responsible for the outcome. No matter what the bullet hits.  

Now before I mix the metaphors too much, let me be clear.  It’s one thing to pull the trigger.  It’s quite another to pull a bowstring.  Like applying pressure to piano key, the intent is the critical inch.

There are times in our lives when we love the plan.  We are granted a long range vision of what the future holds and we have buy in from those around us.  At that point there is no doubt we are able, and maybe more importantly, willing to pull back on the bowstring to it’s perfect zenith.  We have and know a purpose in those times.

There are other times when something is just not right.  Time has rushed up on us and action has to be taken.  We’re not really happy with the plan and we can’t really fine tune the the means.  It’s at that point when we, most often sub-consciencely, stop ourselves from pulling back the bowstring far enough. An arrow flies and as soon as it leaves the bow… you know.  If was golf, you would walking to the cart to grab the sand wedge. If it was basketball, you’d yell AIR.  If it was baseball, you’d be already be asking the ump for a clean ball.

Finding the purpose is the key. Great intent is applied only after purpose is recognized.  

What’s the real purpose of the project you are working on today?  Are you ready to pull the bowstring to the  zenith?

Book It

31 12 2011

“The duty and the task of a writer are those of an interpreter.” –Marcel Proust

I saw this quote recently and it resounded with me.  Not because I think I’m a writer, but because it mentions interpreters.  My Mom is an interpreter.  My Dad is fast becoming an interpreter. She speaks for the deaf and he knows how to order food at authentic Mexican restaurants, AND he can preach in Spanish!

This blog started a few years ago with the goal of being a catalyst for a book.  A book that helps people understand why interpreters are so important.  It really doesn’t matter that social media has made the world feel smaller.  We live in a diversified world.  Like a city with lots of little neighborhoods, each group has it’s own language and traditions.  Even within the groups, different generations communicate in unique languages.  Different tongues if you will.

This book, Hushpuppies and Tennis Shoes, will happen this year.  It’s come up way too many times recently to be ignored.  Even if no one ever reads it, it will be a fulfillment of  a challenge .  You thought it would be of a dream.  It’s not really. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream about writing a book. The challenge  has come from… well… you’ll have to read the book! (that’s called a marketing tease).

It’s New Years Eve and the book is the plan for 2012.  That… and hitting 220.

Proof readers and editors wanted.  Message me!


The Love of God

3 10 2011

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

I’ve been traveling a great deal lately and I’ve found an overwhelming theme in my watching and listening to people from near the Great Lakes to the Plains to the west coast of Florida.  God is wanting me to understand His love. He wants me to have full knowledge of His love. At the same time he wants me to be mystified by it.

Here’s a brief list of the people I’ve heard from in person the last 30 days:

Ed Dobson
Esther Havens
Kyle Cooper
Ann Voskamp
Ian Morgan Cron
Shane Hipps
Robert Morgan
Tommy Walker
The Greencards

All of these folks had something extremely impactful to say or to sing into my life. Each served up a platter of ribs.  And like with all forms of great cuts… you eat the meat and spit out the bones. I’ve gotten a lot to meat from these folks, but there have been some bones…. I’m just saying.

One word that I chewed on for quite a while, not because it was hard to swallow, but because it released a wonderful flavor, was from Robert Morgan regarding A.W. Tozer and his writings. He talked about how Tozer wrote his books and about how much time he spent alone with God. He explained that Tozer would sometimes buy a round trip train ticket from Chicago to a city miles away just so he could be alone in a sleeper car to write, pray and listen to God.

I have trouble listening.  I want to butt in so often.  I’m a fixer… as soon as I see the problem, I want suggest the solution. I’ve gotten better over the last 10 years I think.  I’ve learned to speak at the end instead of the middle.  Now I’m learning to not speak at all. Just to listen… to God. He wants to show me His love.  He wants me to hear about it from Him.

Today I’m adding a new feature to my time with God.  I’m reading hymns out loud.  How is that listening? I believe the Holy Spirit communicates the love of God [to me] through words penned by those who are already dialed in to His love.  There’s something unique that happens when I read out loud.  I slow down.  I see the words and I hear the words. I listen.

The words at the beginning of this post are from the third verse of the hymn “The Love of God”. The first two verses of the hymn were written by Frederick Lehman in 1917 and based on a Jewish poem from 1050. This one, the third, was written on the wall of an insane asylum by a patient.  Read it out loud. Go ahead… I’ll wait…

I love these words.  Crazy or not… I think the writer understood God’s love.

What do you use to connect with God? I’d like to know!

By the way, there is nothing really spiritually redeeming about the music of The Greencards.  I just happen to like the vibe! It’s mystifying!

1000 Words About A Picture (okay 1072, but whose counting?)

29 11 2010

I wrote the main portion of this story back in March of 2006. It seems like a lifetime ago, so I added some thoughts and touched it up a bit. The picture above doesn’t really have anything to do with the story other than I love the how it reveals the fun we had that day. Read on…

When I was a kid one of my most favorite things to do was to help my dad with the new member photos at our church. Being that my dad was the Minister of Education, it was his responsibility to take these pictures with one of those top-of- the-line Polaroid cameras. This was during the late 70’s and our church used a manual camera model that I can still remember today. Mainly because of the sounds and the smells. If you are over the age of the 30 you can probably remember the same senses. The sound of the POP the flash made. The quick whiff of phosphor and melting plastic of the flash. The ripping of the photo from the metal cartridge. It had two positions… first a yank… and then a slip.  And there it was. The shiny black skin that covered the yet to be developed image on the photo paper.  There was no color image to be seen under that layer of gooey, sticky disposable jacket.

And then there was the wait. It was my job to hold the recently birthed sleeve for exactly 60 seconds. As an eight year old this was the longest minute I’d ever known. I would wiggle around to try and see my Dad’s wristwatch as he took the next shot. I can still remember the brown leather on his old Seiko. I remember straining to see that second hand. As soon as the time was right I would ever so carefully peel back the film to reveal a perfectly focused black and white image. It’s no wonder why our digital cameras today refer to black and white as a “special effect”. And then there was the pink spongy alcohol swab. You had to wipe it across the image to seal the picture. I probably still have 100 of those swab canisters in a box in my Mom and Dad’s attic. They were prefect for carrying things like dirt and bugs to school.

What brought all this back to my mind recently is how my life and the lives of those around me seem to be in such a state of wanting. Wanting to see what’s about to be. What’s around the corner. The analogy is dead on. God has created a picture of how He wants it to be. The pop of the flash happened the instant God gave it to us. The pull of the image from the camera will always be a tough one. It feels like it’s out… and then it feels like it’s jammed again. One more pull and it comes out so smooth its like dipping ice cream with a scoop that’s been soaking in hot water.  The real rub comes at this point. Revel the image too quickly and you’ll destroy the impression forever. Wait too long and big chunks will peel off with the sticky goo. It’s got to be right on time. I think this is why my dad never let me see his watch during the photo sessions.  He knew instinctively that I would watch the clock and lie to myself about where the second hand began just so I could peel back the picture sooner. He made me keep asking, keep straining to see when it was time.

I also remember that it wasn’t just me that wanted to see the picture. The family whose faces would appear on that 3×5 photograph also wanted to see. Everyone it seemed wanted to see. Some more that others, but everyone did want to see the frozen moment in time.  It was common in those days for photographs to have to be developed. We were used to it. And for those who had never been through it, there were plenty of others around to help explain how it had to happen.  There was another unique thing about these new member photos. Rarely, and I do mean hardly ever, were people ready to have their picture taken. They were never prepared. The question would be asked, “Now what exactly are you going to do with this picture?”  It’s amazing to me how we feel like we have to be “ready” for our picture to be taken.

There are some of you that would rather eat steel wool than to have someone take your picture.  My youngest son is not one of those people.  He’s always ready and mugs a smile whenever even a Smartphone is pointed his way.  My oldest has been through enough family portrait studios and Christmas card photo sessions at the grandparents’ house to grimace and give the rolling eyes to the wary photographer. Namely me.

I’ve learned that the best way to get great looking images to shoot the unaware. The candid looks that friends and family (and even the simple acquaintance) can recognize as being a perfect representation of “them”.

I think God is like that.  He’s not happy with the staged, touched up and ready portrait. He desires to see the spontaneous reaction of the life we live. The image He has created for us did not take hours to prepare for. There were no make up sessions or trips to the mall to pick out an outfit or staying inside once we are dressed so we won’t mess up the pants that were just pressed. None of that.

I do think though that waiting is still part of the deal. Call me old school, but I believe in the wait. The brutal longing to know all the details is part of the plan. I mean what would Christmas morning be like if we knew, without a doubt, what every box contained. Faith is like that. It’s knowing that there will be gifts under the tree… but not what’s in the boxes.

Christmas is on its way and picture post cards will be crossing in the mail from far and wide. Imagine the picture that God has of you.  Is it one you have prepared for or is it one He has taken while you were unaware?  Is it one worth framing?

A Gift That’s Not Wanted

15 11 2010

I love playing 7 degrees of separation.  It’s how I came to find a point for this post.  It took less than 7 steps, but things are going my way today, so there!

I get the Daily Heller which is an email from Steve Heller (the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts). It’s a message of consequence about art things. Today’s email was about a piece of modern art by Roy Lichtenstein that recently sold for $38 Million. The painting is called Ohhhh…Alright….and it’s basically a snapshot from the frame of an old comic book. The painting was owned by Steve Wynn (as in the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, and The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi). He had it listed at an art dealer for $50 Million, so I’m sure he was pretty sad that he only got $38 Million for it.  The comic book sold for $0.10 in 1963 and the illustrators and colorist probably got pennies per frame for their work.

In the same article, Heller talks about another painting owned by Barney Ebsworth that sold for $23.8 Million. It was Warhol’s Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable). It had been estimated to bring between $30 and $50 million.  This economy is hurting everyone isn’t it? It turns out that Ebsworth was selling this Warhol to raise money to build a church!  That statement sent me on a path to learn more about this Ebsworth guy and this church.

Well it turns out that it’s not a church.  It a public meditative chapel, designed by a famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando.  It’s going to be built on Capital Hill in Seattle, WA. It will only seat 140 and have 75 parking spaces.  It will have a pipe organ and a 7 voice choir available… yes 7 voices.  Mr. Ebsworth is a very wealthy man.  According to Danny Westneat, Seattle Times staff columnist, “His dream, friends say, is to leave an artistic legacy in the form of a chapel to honor his family and be used by the public.” Image that. Image that you could sell a 48 year old painting of a can of soup and BAM!… an artistic legacy can be had.

Westnest goes on to report that Ebsworth (who doesn’t trust the press) has a friend who is a retired reverend named Gerry Porter. Porter says that the chapel is to be “an artistic gift to his adopted city.” A gift. Interesting.

The problem is that Ebsworth already tried to build the chapel in Bellevue, WA, but got turned away by the neighbors. It seems there is a storm brewing in the new neighborhood selection as well.

I feel for the guy.  I really do.  Have you ever tried to give someone a gift and had the Ohhhh…Alright…. reaction? It’s an okay idea, but it’s not really something that was on the wish list. Like when you were little and got socks for Christmas from your grandparents or crazy aunt (no Aunt Pasty, I’m not talking about you!).

I have to think that the gift to the city might have been packaged a bit wrong.  Oh… Did I tell you that the chapel design would include 6 burial sites and a memorial garden for Ebworth’s family? Oooohhh… now you understand why it’s not really something for the city.

How often do we do that? How often do we portray something as a gift or a favor in order to make it palatable for the public (or singular recipient)? I’m raising my hand here… because I’m selfish. I want to give my sons whatever I can for them to become rock stars and famous baseball players… So I can live vicariously through them and they can buy me a new house and a cool car. Or here’s a better one:  I want to give my wife a trip to the day spa and a quiet night out with just the two of us… so I can (use your imagination here).

You do it too. And so does the church at large.  This time of year it gets bad.  We’ll see signs saying “The 100th Annual Singing Christmas Tree, Our gift to the Metrocosium” Heck! I’ve written and designed ads like that! What it really means is that we want everyone to come see this show we’ve been working on since July that somehow will end with equating our work with the gift God has given us through His Son, Jesus.

That’s not the goal or the desire, but it’s how the neighbors see it.

The Bottom Line:  I think Mr. Ebsworth should have just bought the property and said it would be his family plot. Period.  After it was built, polished and shined up, he should search the obituaries and engagement announcements and quietly, anonymously and freely offer other families the use of the chapel in their time of sorrow and time of joy. Now THAT would be a gift to the neighbors!