Thursday, May 21, 2015

Photo of the Day #141

My name is Rory and I live in New Mexico. I can't stress enough how much I hate the rain.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Looking Back - Photo of the Day #3

When I was a kid, I used to have frequent nightmares that would cause me to wake up screaming. I don't know if the nighttime terrors were caused through some physical or emotional problems, but I was usually one tired little boy.
One of the most frightening dreams was of mannequins who hung out in our kitchen and wanted to turn me into a mannequin as well. They would laugh an evil laughter when I would tell them I didn't want to be a mannequin.
It's been years since I've had any of these dreams, but I still remember them in vivid detail. As you can probably imagine, mannequins tend to creep me out -- especially ones that are realistic. Some people may have thought the movie "Mannequin" was a light-hearted romantic comedy. Far from it, it was a horror movie.
Lately, some of the hipper clothing stores have been using mannequins that are hyper-real except for the faces. Look at this photo, there are no faces, but the fingernails on the hands look real. The figure in front shows the neck ligature of a girl with her head turned.
I'm starting to reconsider my fearful dreams -- maybe instead of wanting me to become a mannequin, those that haunted me were actually trapped souls that wanted me to free them.
Regardless, it's still kind of creepy.

Looking Back - Photo of the Day #1

   Each year, Beckett begs to be allowed to stay up at least until midnight to see the new year in. This year was no exception, and, as usual, the permission was granted.
   He made it to midnight and came into our room to make sure he said "Happy New Year!" We rolled over, returned his well wishes and went to sleep.
   I'm not sure how late he stayed up, but this is what I found the next morning.

Photo of the Day #136


Sunday, May 10, 2015

All is Well in the Facebook Echo Chamber



To those of you who followed me over from Facebook, I just want to say thank you. To rest of you, I guess I had nothing to say that you really cared about. I could call you all sorts of names and no one would be the wiser. That’s not my style, though.

I haven’t completely left the social media world – my page is still there, everything that was on it has been left up and I have no plans to delete it. It is a snapshot, I guess, and anyone can certainly drop by and take a look at it. I’ve just decided not to play anymore, and there are several reasons why.
The first is that the original reason for the Facebook account was an opportunity to cheaply and easily market the books I’ve written. It was a way to build the “brand” of Rory McClannahan, Writer. I went about building friends – both by asking and accepting just about any request that came my way.
I did the standard sneaky back door type stuff, liking publishers or groups where people who might like what I’m peddling were hanging out.

I encountered some really nice people – mostly other writers – and found some long-lost real friends. I even sold a few books.

The thing about building a “brand” though, is that you have to keep after it. In this rush-rush world of instant communication, if you aren’t seen and heard, you are forgotten. And if you don’t have some new product – in my case books – then you’re just a little sad pushing the same old stuff. Right now, I just don’t have any new books, although I’ve got at least one I hope to have available later this year.
What I found was that the people who were most likely to buy my books went ahead and bought them. Those who weren’t interested probably got annoyed with my posts asking everyone to buy my books and blocked me. Facebook and other social media, at one time, may have been a good place to sell. Those days are long past.

In fact, Facebook’s algorithms are such that any posting you make will only be seen in about 10 percent of your friends’ newsfeeds and generally, they are the same 10 percent of people. I started to feel guilty about posting the same sort of things to these same 10 percent of people who claimed friendship.

At one point, I bought a few ads through Facebook to see what kind of reach and response I would get. The results were telling – more than 50,000 people in the US and Great Britain were fed my ads and it resulted in exactly zero sales. The point being that Facebook was contributing very little to sales.

I still felt there is value to social media. Actually, I still do. I want anyone who may have stumbled across any of my books and found they liked them to have an opportunity to interact with me. I love chatting with people and talking about different ideas and such. And while I’ve read horror stories about internet trolls going after writers, I have never had a negative experience. My attitude has been not engage in negative online conversations. I’ve gotten bad reviews, but I’ve never tried to confront the people who wrote them. So that means I should have no complaints, but I do.

Facebook became less about selling books and marketing and establishing Brand Rory than about lurking about and seeing what crazy stuff friends would post. I know that I even posted things that interested me and seemingly no one else. I noticed, though, that I would never see some of my friends in my news feed and I would go to their pages, like everything they posted and hope they would turn up more often in my news feed. The effect is that I would get everything they would post and someone else would drop off.

Another thing I noticed was the increased polarization and politicization of what my friends were posting. I never knew that I was familiar with so many extremists on both the left and the right, although I suppose on each side the feeling is probably along the lines of who is right and who is wrong. Along with that came an attitude that disagreement was discouraged and those with opposing viewpoints are shamed. And with shaming comes the inevitable backlash.

You may find yourself not wanting to get drawn into an old-school online flame war, but social media makes it easy to do, even if you are simply trying to correct false information. Next thing you know, your “friends” are calling you names. So much for civil discourse. As I said, I rarely jumped into these arguments. No one really cares or wants to hear what I think about gay marriage, fracking, race relations or anything else for that matter. To tell the truth, I don’t much care for anything anyone else posts on social media, either, unless I agree with it. That kind of scares me, that's not the kind of person I want to be.

I found myself blocking those of my friends who liked to get into these political arguments and some of them I’ve even unfriended. (Why wouldn’t I when this person said all of the people of one political persuasion – of which I belong – are evil? I suppose if I’m evil, this person wouldn’t really want to be my friend anyway.)  Who has the time to scan through unwanted and extremist posts filled with misinformation and guaranteed to make me angry?

And that my friends is the problem. I had fallen into my own echo chamber, only willing to hear want I wanted to hear, read what I wanted to read and believe what I knew to be true. That’s not the kind of person I want to be. I want to hear diversity of opinion, I want to read different ideas and remain open-minded to new experiences and ways of thinking. But I also want to hear these ideas from people who aren’t screaming at me or trying to make me feel as though buying a chicken sandwich is a blow to gay rights. Or that the only way to support the “American way of life” is by buying that same chicken sandwich.

We have many problems in this world, which isn’t any different than any other time in history. The difference is that we now have instant communication across vast geographic distances. And as those barriers have been pulled, we find that – in general – we just don’t get along with each other very well.

So. I’ve hung up on the social media stuff for a while. I will miss the cat videos and pictures of new babies and jokes and quick notes to say hello. Hopefully, those who really want to say hello will still do so through other forms of communication. It will still be easy to get in contact with me. As for the length of this self-imposed exile? I don’t know. It’s been a couple of days now and I’m finding myself more engaged in the world around me instead of the virtual one. I kind of like that. I’m reading different things and I’m getting a lot done on projects I need to finish.

I’m already feeling better about myself.

Photo of the Day #130


Thursday, May 7, 2015

An Explanation About Photo of the Day

We all know what it means when someone tells us we need to stop and smell the roses.
It means we need to slow down and take time to appreciate the world around us. Of course, very few of us actually do stop and take in our surroundings, to enjoy a moment to its fullest and to gaze upon ordinary objects and events with the eye of an artist.

That's because many people believe they are not artists. I submit that those people are wrong — within the chest of every human being beats the heart of a poet. It's one of the gifts that has been given to us, if only we choose to use it.
We may not all be able to draw a figure, or write a song and play an instrument, or write a line of poetry that makes the masses weep with joy at the beauty of it, but there is art in everything we do, if we only look for it.

That's what I'm trying to convince myself, anyway. At the beginning of the year, I started on a project in which I promised myself to take a photograph every day during 2015. As of today, I'm up to 127 photos.

Anyone who has photography as a hobby knows that firing off 127 frames is pretty easy, I've shot hundreds of frames of the sunflowers in my yard trying to get that perfect shot. The exercise, though, is to select a photo each day that I kind of, sort of, like.

The primary idea behind the project is to force myself to slow down and smell the roses. After five months in, though, I'm finding there are other discoveries about this project that I'm making.
At first, I thought that I wanted to take photos of the things I encounter every day as I go about living. Some of these photos include filling up at the gas station, shopping for groceries and eating breakfast. There are already plenty of photos taken at home and at work. What I'm finding is that the more mundane and ordinary the location, the more I work to make the photograph creative.

It's resulted in some interesting photos.

I've also discovered as I look back on the photos, I can see there are several that are really nice, real artistic. Looking at them as a whole, though, I see there is a story that is being told about me. You can see photos at council meetings, of my frightened dog hiding under a table, of the game closet in my home.

I can't decide whether I like this story or not. While there is a very large part of me that wants to preserve my privacy, to hide my world view from the world, the other part of me knows that the act of creating art comes from exposing ourselves, to put away our fears and vulnerabilities, and revel in our vision. That's why so many people avoid their artistic impulses — it can get pretty messy and the worst thing that can occur is when you pour your heart out, throw art into the world and the world responds with disinterest.

However difficult it is to put aside those fears of apathy, we should all tap into our inner artist, because art is not created with an audience in mind, it is made with its creator in mind.

Studies have shown that, on the whole, people who have creative pursuits are happier. I suppose that's probably true. I know that I've committed myself to a year-long art project and afterwards I plan to put it all together in a book that I doubt many people will be interested in seeing. That doesn't matter, though. It is giving me a chance to slow down and smell the roses.

I first started this project on my Facebook page, but decided to move it over here. For anyone who cares to look at all the photos from Jan. 1, I'll be posting them as I have the time, placing them in a dropbox file or you can go to my page at www.facebook.com/rory.mcclannahan.

Photo of the Day #127