Learning To Fly

As the year 2019 comes to a slow, inevitable close, I’m struck by the sudden desire to start photographing again.  I can’t really say that I ever stopped–I carry a camera with me every day to work.  I shoot images on the weekends out with the family but I haven’t done it with any degree of seriousness.  I shoot out a roll, I mark it ‘+2’ or ‘+1’ and into the fridge it goes, presumably to be processed sometime in the distant future after my untimely demise.

I haven’t really been writing either for that matter which really shows after I read that last sentence back in my head (shit it’s bad isn’t it?) I can’t really say why that’s the case either though.  My economics, or time or the economics of time but I miss both pursuits greatly.  Not that I’m a genius at either but they are things that are intrinsically mine–wholly owned by Christopher Michael Noellert II and require zero input from the outside world.    

But I’m rusty.  It’s going to take a hot second to get my thoughts in order; to write with some kind of familiarity or ease; to photograph purpose and clarity of vision.  Bear with me though.  I have 100 or so rolls to process and scan which means there’s tons of stories ready to make their way out into the digital abyss in 2020.  

I’m learning to fly again. 

Hasselblad 501cm, Kodak Tri-X +2, processed at the Icon.  

Alternative realities

I think communication has been hacked…  

Not all communication of course, but masses of it, especially when it comes to what is actually happening in the world.  I’m not talking about Russian Facebook ads or the 2016 election hacking, I’m talking about the root of the tree of talking, which has been spliced to an outside source like you would hot-wire a car.  The lines have been splayed to an outside source and that source is pumping inaccuracies into our pipes like lead from the Detroit River.

Communication between two people involves taking a huge amount of real information, discarding massive amounts of it–like nearly all–while choosing words to represent that experience or sentiment or idea in as sparingly accurate a way as possible to faithfully represented all of the sensations, emotions and ultimately details the speaker experienced during the event that’s being discussed all the while taking great lengths to ensure that the words that he or she is choosing to condense this subjective experience can be understood and related to in a similar fashion by the person to whom they are speaking.  

That’s what we do.  We discard most of the detail, condense (compress) the information to be transmitted over words into as few but meaningful words as needed to guarantee that the receiver will be able to uncompress these few words into a mental image that is as true as possible to what we were trying to convey.  It’ll never be a perfect replica though.  It will never be 1:1 compression because in order for that to happen the listener would have to have experienced it themselves.  They would have had to been there.  They would have had to have experienced or seen or felt whatever it is you are trying to convey.  

In fact, the best that can be expected using our low-bandwidth communication which we call speaking, is some form of mutual understanding whereby the speaker and the listener have a common understanding of a broad framework of similar experiences, beliefs and ideas that they are able to utilize during this act of compressing and decompressing communication.  For example, the speaker uses the word “home” to describe where he currently is located.  This requires the listener to know what the speaker refers to as “home” and other details related to that particular word relative to the person who is speaking it.  My “home” is not your “home” is not my mom’s “home” which is certainly not the “home” of my boss.   

This is an important distinction because it also denote that successful communication requires context.  The words that are used not only need to have a commonality between those who are using them but a context also must be established to communicate between parties successfully.  

“Who’s house” are we talking about?  “My house?” “Your house?”  Without knowing the context I might end-up driving to New Orleans to my mom’s house.  This is not good.  Context is born out of a higher level understanding of what the exchange of ideas is related to.  It’s the twine tied-around a bundle twigs.  It’s the big M&M text on a bag of otherwise nondescript yellow packaging containing, small, round, hard somethings.   

So when I say that communication has been hacked, what exactly am I referring to?  In this hyper-partisan political environment we’ve retreated to our corners and tone-locked our phones and televisions in to the sources that we believe to be true and real and authentic.  The thing is, not everyone is doing their due diligence in checking their sources and what can start out as harmless omissions of small facts can quickly lead to omissions of whole news-stories and before you know it you’ve got a political spin-machine like Fox News as your main source of information.  

Now having a fave new source is not an issue in it of itself, but it quickly explodes into a massive issue when the other information sources you rely on are equally as omissive and misleading.  What’s happening is that these information sources, playing the role of the speaker, begin to reinforce a framework of words, ideas and shared experiences that slowly begin to replace those words, ideas and shared experiences that we might have used to communicate with someone who doesn’t share our same geo-political ideals.  We slowly burn the ideas we normally would have used to bridge different points of view simply by not allowing ourselves to share any common qualities, words or ideas with the listener to whom we are speaking.  And we’re doing this cyclically, drilling downwards until there are no bridges left.  

Once upon a time, those shared qualities humans shared were born of the expansive fictions that man has willed into being from the recesses of his creative ingenuity.  These are the stories we spun once-upon-a-time to bind us together–first in small tribes but later into villages and the towns and then states and countries, filled with Christians and Jews and Muslims and Capitalists and Communists and Socialists.  These explosive acts of creativity are what have allowed us to conquer the world and they are all based on the same low-bandwidth of human communication which continues to fuel the fiery imaginations of listeners the world over.  

But these sources that used to be our frameworks of shared understanding–our religions, our belief in America or Capitalism or liberal rights are what is being overwritten with data from our partisan information sources, slowly warping our worldview into something that is not universally shared by the members of our old framework.  The commonality of our frameworks are being zeroed-out and filled back in with specifically designed narratives, hellbent on leaving the humans of this country split into sub-groups of sub-groups to the point that there is no commonality left at all.  For all intents and purposes the partisan information that we are consuming in insanely high quantities is becoming our new framework of beliefs–our new religion–and it is easily becoming more powerful a framework than any of the traditional religions of God, country and economics because it actually encompasses all three, tied neatly in a bow and delivered directly to you wherever you are to devour and rewrite your commonality.  

Over time, the speakers and listeners in their opposing political tribes understand less and less of the other’s context until finally communication becomes nothing but noise.  There are no shared words or ideas or experiences.  The context surrounding the framework of the speaker is diametrically opposed to that of the listener.  There is zero commonality.  At that moment, the speaker and the listener live in alternative realities–their ability to relate and to communicate is gone and we are pwnd.  

Alternative Realities, Mamiya6MF, Kodak Tri-X at 1600, processed at the Icon.  

Look here

I’m fighting the impulse that people–a vast majority of people by my humble reckoning–are not capable of deciding what is in their best interest.  Maybe my attitude is a product of the twenty-four-hour-cable-news-cycle-pandemic that’s currently infecting anyone with the remotest interest in current events.  It’s the most likely explanation really.  But perhaps it’s a sensation that’s always been there in my psyche, hanging-out around the corner from the joint where my favorite brand of socialism set-up shop all those years back, waiting for the exact moment to round the bend and pull a knife on my conscious mind as it unexpectedly happens by.

I bring it up (of course) because of politics and the current state of the world.  I watched over the weekend as political operatives from left and right retreated to the safety of their respective corners over Trump’s latest idiocy and attempted to rain hell-fire and brimstone down on the the opposing encampment who were just as dug in and feeling just as fiery.  Neither side changed anyone’s mind on the other side though because the two sides live in completely different realities.  

The brilliance of Trump is *not* that he’s the greatest showman, or a master negotiator or any of the other titles he’s self-bestowed.  Trump’s brilliance lies in his ability to infiltrate the exact moment where our conscious mind is going to make the decision as to whether or no something is factually true or not and in the case of the ill-informed or angry or just plain stupid, convince them of an alternative truth.  That’s to say he’s figured out how to abuse the fictions we have collectively created as a species–our single largest asset and the ability which has allowed us to conquer the world–and turn it against those who lack the capacity to understand what is happening, tricking them into doing things that are not even remotely in their own self interest.  

Human’s rule the world because we were blessed with imagination.  It’s our gift to the universe.  The fictions that we have created includes but is not limited to, all religions, all monetary systems, all boarders and all educational pursuits.  

We made all of that shit up.  It wasn’t there and then we dreamt it up and it was there.

Even if you believe in some fire and brimstone God, or maybe the Geco-esque God of capitalistic Greed is more your speed, all of those ideals were penned by human hands–not a single omniscient being was present in the writing of any of our religious, geo-political or social doctrines.  We invented the constitution and liberalism and Twinkies and Canada.  We just pulled this shit literally out of thin air.  It wasn’t ordained by God and willed into being.  There wasn’t a lightning-bolt with the old testament duct-taped to it.  

Nope.  Some people sat down, came up with an idea, got enough people to believe in that idea so that it was no longer cult and then people started believing in Jesus, or Nazism, or dollars or the internet.  We fucking invented duct-tape just like we fucking invented the old testament. It’s obviously not as simple as that on many levels but at it’s core, our fictions become “real” to us not when they are birthed into our conscious minds but rather when we tell other people about our ideas and enough other people start to believe them to be truths that they stop being cult and become real.  Real like Fox news or taxes.    

And there’s the tie-in to Trump.  With the advent of the internet, the way that we as a species consume communication requires no work anymore.  It’s not as though we need to read textbook to establish the reasoning behind what the conclusion is.  We just scarf down the Apple News headline and don’t bother to even read the supporting text.  We’re not even reading cliff-notes regarding the communications we ingest in our daily lives.  If we did we would understand the amount of actual data which is being discarded when we read a headline about the latest, horrible, batshit crazy thing that some un-woke, moron did.  We would have done the required reading and thereby we could understand the importance (or lack of thereof) in every word presented to us, or in every podcast diatribe we listen to, or in whatever talking points that expert panelist is espousing when their message reaches our brain for processing in that critical moment where we decide whether or not something is true and real.

Also with the switch from a handful of news sources which would pick through the stories which are deemed important enough to pass-along to the general populous, fact-checked, stripped-down and retransmitted for mass-consumption,  to a system of notification headlines Twitter and Facebook where anyone can break any story and it can reach millions with no vetting, zero fact-checking and with most-likely dubvious intent, we have turned our greatest strength into a high-capacity magazine, fully-loaded, semi-automatic AR15 which we’ve turned on ourselves while repeatedly pulling the trigger.

This is what Donald Trump has figured out.  If you reach enough of the right kinds of people–the people who don’t take the time to understand context.  The kind of people who don’t have the capacity or the openness of mind or strength of conviction to admit freely that they don’t fully understand something.   The kind of people who feel wronged by the world, people who have had a hard life.  If you can find and reach enough of these people and tell them a story–a really great bit of fiction that is easy for them to believe–maybe one that makes them feel better about themselves or the situation they are in or the people they dislike or the world that we live in–and enough of those people come to believe that fiction, well, then by virtue of being human that fiction becomes real and far more malevolent than the constitution and liberalism and Twinkies and Canada.  

The sad truth is that Trump’s truths are easier to swallow for a huge portion of Americans.  They make more sense and like I pointed out in another literary excursion, the only thing authoritarians ask for in return, is blind loyalty and if you lack the understanding of what is really happening, loyalty costs you nothing.  So he becomes their guy!  They’re with him all the way!  MAGA MAGA MAGA!  The hats go on, the chants get louder, his words are their truth!  Look at the crowd sizes and they all believe.

From 30,000 feet we can see what’s happening.  He’s a two-bit carnie who says “look here” and all the suckers look and swear that the ball is under the middle shell when there never was a ball to begin with–the trick was getting 61,943,670 suckers to believe he was actually playing the game to begin with.  They provide him and each other with all the truth they all need.  They willed and birthed Trumpian fictions from lies into truths.  

“Look Here” shot on my Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X film at 1600, processed at the Icon.  

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