Journal Entry: Discourse, August 2014

How does someone really make a difference?

I honestly don’t know. At least anymore. Do one thing? Do it well and hope that others follow along? What I find challenging today is the lack of allowable discourse. If you mention something the Canadians do, or the crafty Europeans, one of the responses you get here is “Well then why don’t you go live there?” Questioning the way things are has become “anti” and frowned up.

Let us look no further than online photography. I don’t look at work online, and I’m dangerously, dangerously close to not looking at ANYTHING online outside of my immediate requirements of email and work related issues. That’s it. My departure from social has had a profound influence on me, and this influence grows stronger and stronger each day. The vast majority of online discourse is predictable and catered to the overwhelmingly positive. You know the favorite kisses, “Amazing,” “Incredible, “Awesome snap.” Etc., Etc. This isn’t discourse. The news is embarrassing. One real story buried under celebrity, the outlandish and the tricks to feed the insatiable advertising machine. We are bought, sold and traded on a daily basis.

I’m in the Texas Hill Country today, my final day here, and this trip has been a strong one. Where I sit now, looking out a picture window, I see little to no influence of modern man. Five acres. I’m sitting in one small space on five acres of land owned by my bloodline. The cabin is hand built, fortress like and yet it is under constant attack by the forces of nature. Rain, wind, relentless sun and an absolute army of the insect and animal world. Yesterday a scorpion in the shower. Brown recluse under the desk I sit at now. And just this morning, outside as the sun peaked over the Twin Sisters, I see deer, raccoon, squirrel, white wing dove, vulture, hawk, bull snake, fire ant, chickens, feral cats and an abundance of song birds. Last night mosquitos and clicker bugs bombarded my waiting carcass.

There is no chance in winning this war. It’s evident we are the visiting species. Yet a few scant miles away the Earthmovers do their best to enslave this wild beast, and they do it in the most shortsighted, ignorant, arrogant way. Just do it and do it quickly. The new road is already showing signs of fray. The traffic has already overwhelmed the “upgrades.” “Progress” is made as the horizon is painted with identical rooftops, all needed to be air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. The three foot wall of Earth has been replaced by the six inch wall of toxicity. (Our neighbor’s house was lined with toxic insulation. I know because I walked it as it was being built. Right there on the warning label.)

I’m not the only one. Others I know look around and ask “Why?” But none of us know what to do, what step to take. Do you take a stand? Maybe. When you take a stand you are often times labeled, pinned, accused of being “revolutionary,” a “kook,” or something worse. Anti-American? Questioning is now subversive. In Orange County a man yells at me in the parking lot of the market because I rode the 2 miles from my house on my bike to shop. “You shouldn’t be on that thing,” he says to me, shaking with rage. Why? Was he stuck in traffic on the way to the same market? Has the bike become a lightning rod? Or do we have a growing, underlying anger emerging from what is clearly a dead end street of human “evolution?”

I see many underlying issues, but the one I find most troubling is greed. Look no further than our current wars, the financial collapse, the auto industry lawsuits, real estate bubbles, etc., etc. Greed. Plain and simple. Driving the daily engine to acquire. You question this and suddenly you are “anti-progress,” or “against competition.” The cover ups, the bail outs, the leaks of atrocity. They are endless, and the media makes sure we are good and scared while being good and burned out on all things that matter.

Drugged. That is how I would describe this, or us. We are straight trippin. So we medicate with media. We medicate with television. We medicate with the internet. We seem to know everything and nothing at the same time. I’ve written a lot about attention span, something I find wildly interesting. “You should write multiple posts per day.” “You need listicles.” All words of advice about blogging. Forget the truth. Forget how you really feel. Do what you need to do to gain, to get and to promote. Man, I’m so over this mentality. How many of my photographer friends live dual lives? The online, professional life and then the real one they wake up to each day. They pretend, the clients pretend and the awkward imbalance continues while EVERYONE whispers behind closed doors.

The truth hurts, but it’s a good sting, like eating ginger, or wasabi when it goes up your nose. We don’t need much. We really don’t. I have too much. I’m guilty of some of the things I complain about, and my mind wanders like a felon on furlough at the Playboy Mansion. I’m not centered. I have no real answer. But with each passing day my mind gets closer to making a stand.

Meaning. Yes, okay, I’ll do it. “What is the meaning of all this?” Yes, I just asked that question. What is the meaning of life? Is it building another strip mall because you own a concrete company and that’s what you do? Is it covering the Gaza Conflict? Is it joining a monastery and attempting to find peace? No idea. Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know.

20 responses to “Journal Entry: Discourse, August 2014”

  1. lionelB says:

    Taking personal ownership of all these horrors leads only to a crushing depression that paralyses all and any intervention. Been there, done that. There needs to be a bit of distance. That is not about “selling out” it is about sanity.

    I watched the Perth train meme. Guilty. A fascinating microcosm though. Drones milling around, phones in hand. Achingly slow. Finally, a drably clothed grey haired woman sizes up the engineering problem. Train carriages have suspension. Give. She becomes a most unlikely sergeant and the crowd follows. She has an idea and they don’t. There is a dim folk memory of mutual aid but mostly they are just fixated with the fact that they are increasingly late for work. If they dislodge the guy, the train will move again. Heave. Success. Normality resumes.

    I think that is roughly how it works.

  2. Ulysses R. says:


    I totally agree with you. It’s almost like we are slowly itching towards Orwell’s “1984”. The worst part is is that the blind (intentional or not) folks continue to let the establishment divide and conquer us. When did we stop caring about each other? When did we stop caring about our environment?

    Most people I speak with about these issues almost always never have any information except for what the propaganda machine (“news”) pumps out (like the smog of a factory clouding our better judgement). Usually i just get told to get off of my soapbox. At times I just can’t help it. At times I feel like it’s my duty to invoke a spark of questioning the status quo even though most of the time people mentally check out after the first minute. I just hope there are enough of the “red pill” takers to make some sort of difference. But your right in your initial question… How do you start? I don’t know

    Sorry for the rant.

    • Smogranch says:

      It’s not a rant. Give yourself credit. It’s just thought. Feeling, etc. People check out because have found a way to pay attention to almost everything and nothing at the same time. People have given up in a tradeoff for new things.

  3. I share your sentiments and I’m afraid I don’t have the answers either. We won’t find them in social media, of that much I’m sure.

    Thank you for not writing “listicles.”

  4. Julian says:

    I agree in general, but I think there is value in simply living the best life you can- vote with your feet, so to speak. I hope you don’t “withdraw” from writing this blog.

    By the way, much lower incidence of hazardous bugs here in Canada, and cycling is widely permitted.

  5. One of your best blogs yet Dan, we feel the need to consume and overwhelming guilt afterwards when the worldwide poverty seeps or escape from the daily news.
    Like you I don’t know the answer but I am emboldened by the knowledge that there are like-minded souls in the world, thank you and keep posting.

  6. mike a says:

    The other day I was thinking about the “progress” as some call it, that I’ve seen in my fifty years on the planet. Some of the things I never imagined would happened and some I wish would have never happened. Lately I feel like a visitor just watching this crazy world happen. We have smart phones yet we do so many things that aren’t smart. I applied for a newspaper position the other day and was told I didn’t have enough video experience, “that’s something we leaning heavily on these days” he said. I see all this photo sharing sites, flickr etc. likes and it’s awesome and such. Honestly, I don’t care if you like my pictures or not, I shot them for me. This whole world seems to be spinning out of control. I would like to think what I think and say matters to someone but in reality it doesn’t very often. Daniel, you’ve made a great post here, the questions you raise are valid and the observations are right on in my book. I really enjoy your writing.

    • Smogranch says:

      Thanks Mike, and sorry about that job. On the flipside, I’ve never seen a paper who claims this to actually use it in an interesting or positive way. Most just produce content and then force people to view it. The stills gallery is still the highest traffic vehicle on the web. There are a handful of great papers left, but the rest are postponing the buzzsaw that awaits. Shooting for yourself is key, especially today.

  7. Ryan says:

    Thanks for writing this Dan, a lot of what you speak about here I feel the same way. Quite a bit of what I’ve been thinking about my life and what I am doing is echoed by your feelings. I guess that’s the first step, the hardest and the one least seen, is opening your eyes and acknowledging these things.

  8. Sean Breslin says:

    Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike*. It’ll make a difference eventually.

    As you know I fractured both wrists and my left elbow in the spring. It was a blessing in disguise. I missed being able to cycle so much that since getting the OK from the doctor I’ve been on my bike nearly every day since.

    Outside everyday in the countryside – no iPhone, no internet, no camera most of the time. Just me, the forests, the mountains, the sounds of nature, the weather, the pain of the climbs, and the exhilaration of the descents. Bliss.

    Cycling feeds the soul. So does hiking, looking at the stars or sitting outside on a balcony at sunset. It’s an antidote to modern life and more people need to realise it.

    *Once you get your lime issue sorted.

    • Smogranch says:

      My body aches just thinking about that. I rode 40 on Saturday. Kept thinking “I should shoot something along the way then do a post about it.” I was up in wine country which is UNREAL good riding. But I kept realizing “I don’t want to stop and shoot.” “Just want to look around and enjoy the moment.”

    • Sean Breslin says:

      “But I kept realizing “I don’t want to stop and shoot.”“Just want to look around and enjoy the moment.”


    • Smogranch says:

      I was dreaming about this today as I sat in the dentist’s chair having three fillings done. Now my head is numb.

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