“I see you finally got your first adult cell phone,” Vero told me when I visited her yesterday. I was busy snap, snap, snapping away with my new Nokia X2, a super sophisticated camera that, very James Bond-like, has been ingeniously disguised as a tiny, lower-end cell phone.
Carla gifted me the X2 on Sunday, and hasn’t been able to get much of my attention since.
“You don’t really need a phone with a camera,” she commented on Monday night. “You need a camera with a phone.”
Oh right. This phone in this camera is real! And so is the great radio! And, hell, I could put my music collection on it if, um, I had a music collection. Hell, it will even play the videos I will load onto it as soon as I expand the memory, which is, um, expandable.
I know I’m a Luddite, but am I really the only one who is surprised that a piece of technology this sophisticated and elegant doesn’t earn the “smart” designation? If this is a dumb phone, I can’t even imagine what kind of cameras you First World People are making calls on.
And, no, I do not have any regrets being 5 or 10 years late to the everyone’s-got-a-camera-in-his-phone party. You see, whenever I have a camera in hand, 1) I can’t seem to stop snap, snap, snapping away with it, 2) I like to take pictures of people at close range, and 3) as a result (and I’m sorry about this, Carla), I sometimes make people a little antsy. Well. . .
It turns out that in 2011, even in the Third World, you can take as many pictures of people as you want, and you can do so as close as you want. Not only do people not mind, thy don’t even notice. They just think you’re on the phone.
It wasn’t a dirty joke. That’s what I was expecting when I opened the email Carla forwarded me yesterday from Uncle Maurice up in New Jersey.
You see, it was titled “Space Shuttle Cockpit,” and so I was sure it was one of the inoffensive “dirty” jokes he’s always passing around. But, no, this is the actual cockpit of the Space Shuttle Discovery — made as it gets decommissioned, snif, sif.
I guess Carla felt compelled to share after our talk about the significance of The Last Shuttle mission, which made me feel sad and sentimental — Josh and I woke up early on April 12, 1981, to see the first shuttle blast off — but, I confess, I couldn’t even do a good job of explaining to Carla what the hell the Shuttle is. Oh well.
This kind of 360VR experience often makes me feel dizzy and disoriented, but isn’t a little dizzy disorientation appropriate when visiting a place designed for floating astronauts?
Posted on YouTube by SpaceRip, this video reveals a rockn’ unique vision of space shuttle flight — from the take-off to splash-down perspective of an Atlantean Solid Rocket Booster, or what NASA calls an SRB.
Yesterday Human Rights Watch published this image of mine to illustrate the article “Protecting Women From Unsafe Abortions in Argentina.” In it, Marianne Møllmann, HRW’s Advocacy Director of the Women’s Rights Division, recounts her experience speaking at an Argentine Congressional meeting on November 30, 2010. The meeting was historic: Argentina’s government publicly opened a debate to consider decriminalizing abortion.
Møllmann has been working on safeguarding the reproductive rights of Argentine women for years, having researched, written and publicised two influential HRW reports on the topic. These put international pressure on the government, directly supporting the efforts of local groups and politicians to bring the “abortion issue” to Congress. (I illustrated the cover of the second report, “Illusions of Care,” released last fall. )
HRW asked me to provide photography coverage of Møllmann’s activities on November 30.
I was totally blown away by seeing Møllmann in action. To me, the most incredible aspect of her advocacy efforts was the fact that when she arrived in Buenos Aires that Tuesday morning — by overnight plane from New York — Møllmann had no idea exactly what she was stepping into. After-the-fact press coverage (and even HRW’s own reporting) make it seems otherwise. But the fact is that Møllmann had received nothing more than a vague invite from an Argentine Congresswoman, and subsequently she could confirm almost nothing about the day’s events.
As I photographed Møllmann going over her notes outside “Congreso,” she explained that she might be meeting with just a few legislators and receive little or no press coverage. Or perhaps, she said, she would face scores of legislators and receive massive press coverage. She didn’t know if she would be given five minutes to speak or an hour, if she would be part of a panel or a sole presenter. It was possible, she said, that she could be used as the face of third-party international organization to help Argentine legislators open the debate in the most positive manner possible.
I was fascinated by this possible role that Møllmann/HRW might play, but utterly dumbfounded that she had, with only two hours before her meeting, no idea what this meeting would be. Without recalling my earliest sexual experiences, I can’t even begin to imagine that kind of pressure mixed with uncertainty.
Soon Møllmann’s cell phone rang, a Congresswoman showed up at the café and, after a few minutes of chatting, Møllmann was whisked past Congress’s entrance security — as well as protesters both for and against the legalization of abortion. It turned out that this was going to be a major event. In little more than an hour Møllmann would be the only speaker addressing a large Congressional meeting. Cameras from every major Argentine news agency would be rolling. She would take a slew of dificult follow-up questions, first from members from Congress, then a mob of press, then in individual interviews throughout the afternoon.
I was amazed by how Møllmann handled the hectic pace, the uncertainty of the events as they unfolded and the swarms of Argentines who wanted her attention. Some of these saw her as a supportive ally, others as a dangerous enemy. (One group had launched a FaceBook page attacking Møllmann before her arrival, prompting HRW to take extra security measures to ensure her safety.) Ally or enemy, all wanted her to ask her tough questions about a very tough issue.
Thoughts regarding abortion legislation are difficult for anyone to express in any context, even among two friends who are ideologically in line with each other. The exception to this, of course, is if you’re fanatical. If you’re fanatical, abortion is easy to discuss. If your the rest of us, it’s so very difficult.
Møllmann is not at all fanatical, and she always expresses utmost respect for the thinking and emotions of those who are uncomfortable with abortion — even if they have launched a FaceBook hate campaign against her. She understands. It’s basically impossible to legislate such a personal issue, but it’s necessary.
Although Møllmann is respectful, she is even more pragmatic. Decriminalizing abortion, she is convinced, is the only way to reduce the rate of deaths to pregnant woman that result from illegal abortions. To those who would say that these abortions should not take place, Møllmann does not argue the point. She simply, pragmatically points out that legal or not, abortions have always and will always take place.
Møllmann’s pragmatism seems to come, at least in part, from her Western European upbringing. (The funny “ø” in her name hints to her Danish roots). She explained to me that in a number of Western European countries abortion laws are not as cut-and-dry as the “yes” or “no” approach to the legality of abortion in many countries, such as the United States (“yes”) and Argentina (“no”). Rather, a woman’s right to access abortion depends on how pregnant she is.
For example, in Denmark you can have an abortion legally in your first trimester of pregnancy; in your third trimester of pregnancy you can only receive an abortion if the pregnancy poses a serious risk to your health. This approach, which I had not been aware of, makes perfect sense to me, and it seems much better suited to the nature of abortion than either a “yes” or “no” approach. (At eight months your fetus is unarguably much closer to a baby than at the moment of conception, regardless of when you might believe a fetus becomes “human.”)
I’m getting off track a bit by starting to go into such fine points. The real point is that any such fine points regarding abortion were beyond the scope of what Møllmann might communicate on November 30th. As her uncertain Tuesday morning turned into a frantic afternoon, Møllmann had to keep her wits about her to best share the most pertinent message in the most effective way. And this is exactly what she did.
From my point of view (as a language-learning moron), Møllmann gets major points for doing all of this in beautifully fluid Spanish, which is her third (or maybe fourth?) language. She also gets a whole different kind of points for doing all of this with a attitude of humility.
When I mention humility, be clear that I’m not going to paint Møllmann as a pushover. She brings that rare, focused, controlled kind of fighting to the table for which lawyers are known. (In fact, she studied law but never practiced.) No, when I mention Møllmann’s humility I am referring to the fact that, on the one hand, she understands that there is extremely little that she (or Human Rights Watch or any outside force) can do to change the laws (or attitudes) of a foreign nation (or its people). On the other hand, she is hellbent on protecting and improving the rights of women. And when she sees a chance to make a difference, even if it’s a very slim one, she is willing to commit years of work to a specific cause — as with her efforts in Argentina. All along she has known that her work might come to nothing, but nonetheless she seems to trust that the efforts have value nonetheless.
Tuesday, November 30th, was one of the rare moments in Møllmann’s career when she could see the results of her work come too such a visible, positive head. And yet, with humility, she never once took credit for “making a difference.” She did, pragmatically, take credit for being a small, important part of large movement that might make a difference.
“Protecting Women From Unsafe Abortions in Argentina” is informative — good background knowledge for anyone unfamiliar with the topic — but it does not convey the feverish energy of the day nor (to my mind) a true sense of the skills (and energy!) required by Møllmann to accomplish her work.
It will sound corny, but it’s true: I felt privileged to have the opportunity to photograph Marianne Møllmann at work. It was educational, inspiring and downright mesmerizing.
This gallery features more of my images from my coverage of the Congressional meeting on November 30, including these three visions of at Møllmann at work.
New Year’s is the most celebrated holiday in Buenos Aires — tons of family, food and fireworks, which explode citywide at midnight, but keep popping off well into the morning. Back home from family festivities at Hernan’s — we were 25 with Yalu’s family — I was enjoying the fresh, cool air that came as a wonderful relief after our week-long hot spell. (Three days sin luz — without electricity.) I found myself clicking away a bit, to capture the Southern Cross, which you can make out to the left of the firework burst in this photo, if you know what to look for. It’s on its left side, pointing to to the right, south. The outermost light steam from the firework burst cuts through the center of the Cross, covering over Acrux, the bottommost star in the constellation.
The firework burst came as a total surprise. It was pure luck that I had the camera on the tripod with the 20-second exposure dialed in. This was the third of three small, local fireworks that eruputed within my view from our patio, just outside our kitchen door. When I heard the report for this one, I squeezed the trigger and captured this view of Buenos Aires New Years at 03:45, 1/1/11.
The previous capture better shows off the Southern Cross:
For all you astronomy geeks (you, Peter), a NASA-enhanced close up:
“Es igual a Jason,” laughs Carla.
If that was true, than he would look like this. . . » Continue reading “Do I Look Like My Great, Great, Great Grandfather?”
I might be insane, and I might do the same things over and over again expecting different results, but I might not be insane for doing so. Whoopie!
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
It was funny timing, as just this morning in my personal journaling I was writing about how I feel like I’ve had a sudden, major shift in my thinking regarding the ole nature versus nurture dialog. I won’t freak you out by quoting myself, but the gist of my thinking is that I feel as though I’m suddenly seeing that my nature is my nature is my nature — regardless of whether I like it or not. In other words, who I was born to be might be a much more powerful force in regard who I actually am than the Freudian thinking I was reared on will allow me to accept.
I’m not downplaying the importance of nurture to make or break one’s life (or day). (Hell, all that Freudian thinking certainly influenced my thoughts about — and my reaction to — the nature of my nature.) Rather, I think I’m starting to accept that, to use another famous quote, “I am what I am.”
For me, I think this might have profound (if subtle) implications — especially in terms of being less frustrated by my making the same mistakes over and over again. This head-banging frustration makes me feel insane, even if I’m not, especially because I think I should (or at least can) change how I act in many cases, when in many cases I act the same.
I can see that this abstract thinking is better left for a personal journal entry, so I’ll get back to The Fat Man and his ragging on the “definition of insanity” quote, which » Continue reading “I’m Not Insane!”