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Carmgdbie Utiisvnrey did a study taht porevd that as lnog as the fisrt and lsat ltetres of a wrod are trehe, you can slamcrbe the mdilde of a word in any fahison and the wrod will still rdea as the oaringil wrod.

What I find interesting about this is the idea of perception and how our minds automatically form narratives, or make sense of the nonsensical. It’s impossible for us to accept something in the abstract, we are always trying to fit ourselves into the situation, mentally, in order to understand what our senses are perceiving. In regards to the Cambridge study, we are applying known truths (i.e. definable, recognizable words) to nonsense. In regards to art, it allows the obscure and abstract to become more accessible.

In INLAND EMPIRE, the director David Lynch toys with the idea of traditional narrative. He wrote the movie script on a day-by-day basis, handing the actors a freshly written page in the morning and filming the movie without knowing what the plot would be, framing ideas within scenes and trusting that everything would fit together in the end. The result is an intimidatingly long movie that is so convoluted that it is difficult to sit though. During my viewing, a quarter of the theater got up and left during the middle. However, as confused as you may be, once you relax and trust in David Lynch, the movie reads on the same level as a poem. Each scene tantalizing in it’s own right, single lines that force contemplation long after they have been uttered. INLAND EMPIRE is the most mentally agile film I have ever seen. It forces active audience participation because of it’s lack of cohesive narrative, both during the film and after. You, as an audience member, struggle throughout the movie to form a narrative, and each scene forces you to reevaluate the narrative you had settled upon during the previous scene. The plot is constantly shifting because you are struggling to find a plot. You need a story, and the lack of a specific story, or at least a traditional arc, only creates a more tantalizing puzzle.

I admire this ability of people to piece together a narrative, whether, as in the Cambridge study, from known absolutes, or as in INLAND EMPIRE, simply as a way to process and comprehend unrecognizable stimuli. Paul Broks, author of Into the Silent Land posits that what we think of ourselves, what we define as our being, is a story. We imagine ourselves as something, re-form our memories to reflect this, and act accordingly. Life is nothing but a story.

My present
way
of composing’s
involved with the
observation
of imperfections in the paper
on which I happen
to be
writing.

– John Cage (Silence, 1961)

4’33” (Reflection of NeuCage) | download

. . . advice = L.L.L.oud! . . .

Train
Train Video

I’ve got nothing to say, and I am saying it,
and that is poetry as I need it.
-John Cage.

“…That there could be art without beauty is preposterous. The artists who imagine that they can accept or reject beauty have obviously never known the power that beauty wields.” -Jed Perl, The Beauty Trap

Beauty is a touchy subject these days. Make something beautiful, and its integrity is questioned. It is only when art shuns beauty and traditional aesthetics that it is hailed as worthy. Let me back off for a moment and admit that, perhaps, I am being too critical. Artists have some appreciation of craft. But it isn’t embraced; it is an option. Craft, for an artist, should not be optional. It should be a necessity. I applaud concepts and am interested in ideas, but I am more interested in beauty. My favorite artists are the ones who move me emotionally, and on a level that is not able to be picked apart and deciphered, at least not completely. There is always something within their pieces that I cannot describe or completely understand. And I get the sense that the artist was wrestling with something within herself, she was making art to discover something about herself, not to communicate something explicit and one-dimensional.

Looking at the variety of other art forms that exist, it appears that visual art is the only form where bad equals good. Within writing, authors are judged by their ability to manipulate words and juggle sentences, where no matter how modern the writing appears, basic craft and beauty is a priority. Nobody wants to read writing that isn’t beautiful, even if it is only beautiful in an ugly way. Music is the same. Talent is defined by a musician’s ability to handle an instrument, to piece together chords and generate something new, exciting, and pleasing.

I am not railing against the usage of ideas and the illustration of concepts. I am simply asking that artists consider utilizing their artistic talent and creating something that is visually stunning to draw in the viewer. Then, by all means, caress the intellect and whisper ideas and philosophies, but do it gently. Prettily. Pleasingly. The result is much more layered and lasting than an artist’s statement could ever convey.

Its time to practice writing got to practice to perfect a literary (read: acceptable [read: able to be analyzed] ) style of marking words down words down words down in sufficient order maybe a sentence is just a chronological list based on a language based on translation of an idea from some nonlinguistic space place in the mind maybe a language you can understand is one that fits the proper time dimension in yr mind & time traveling is as easy as translating this sentence into spanish the adjectives begin to arrive after the nouns the nouns after the nouns after the nouns after nouns the after nouns the nouns after the nouns are moving faster in time |.now.|

But what i meant to say was its time to practice writing by choosing something nearby & jotting down phrases & meaningless rhyming couplets or nearly rhyming quintuplets something or maybe anything abt or not exactly but metaphorically related to that thing i chose just a minute ago to quote write abt unquote i might hint at its color reminding me of childhood family trips & then slowly move towards how i could never relate to the phrase ‘family trip’ bc on tv movies books or even bill hicks records a family trip meant brothers & sisters & moms & dads & it was just me & mom & dad so id always just say me & mom & dad & thats who was on the trip not the ‘family’ but i wouldnt really say all that id just hint at it by mentioning the color of the thing (you remember the thing from earlier, right?) the thing’s color & maybe shape & where it is relative to others like it nearby or not so nearby maybe maybe! i could pick it up & hold it reminisce abt other things (like it or otherwise) that ive held, not everything of course bc that would go on for a long time or maybe it wouldnt, which would also be of note, & i could write abt all of the things not like this thing that i am holding that i wish i had, or in literary terms, regret having not held which to some readers might seem as overkill or excessive & in fact may seem like a cheap means of getting to the modern standard autobiographical poetic sorry-for-ourselves style many have become accustomed to in these new-millenium or even some may call it (excuse my vague politcs:) post-nine-eleven (ah! for shame!) times in which we live but lets get back to the thing eventually i would choose to put it down & certainly that would call for a simple one or two lines somehow indicating that i, the writer, & you, the reader, are now to recall times in the past or even, and likely even more sorrowful, in the future (near or distant, not that it matters much but it is relevant, i think we can all agree) that we have or will have to let go of something or someone in infinite degrees of importance, & i would likely find a way to show that really this letting go (or moving on, or even abandoning, if you will) is what is important at least for me, the writer, not so much the level of emotional (or otherwise) importance & although its quite important in the long run, for the sake of this piece of writing it would be made distinctly separate for the purpose of indicating whatever the final meaning may eventually turn out to be

Well no, i guess what i should have said was its time now to practice writing abt that lone solemn stone, wise amongst its neighbors a fading once deep red like a myrtle beach sunset, although really the sunsets better down on floridas gulf coast walking in & out of in & out of walking in & out of floridas gulf coast walking in & out of floridas gulf coast walking in & out of the surf wishing i could stay one or eight steps away from my parents man im such a nerd out here tossing each fresh smooth youthfulness out to the ocean skipping twice maybe three times crap that was a good one i should have grabbed it (instead?)

Death of a LeafBlower

Summer Evening

Generally speaking, the concepts of ‘literature’ and ‘current events’ aren’t very likely to collide. There are exceptions: Harry Potter selling a bajillion copies, Dan Brown getting sued for hack-jobbing someone else’s hack-job, Salman Rushdie pissing off Muslims. But there’s also a new genre of literary news that has proliferated over the last few years, and it’s my least favorite yet.

I came across its most recent iteration in today’s New York Times. The headline reads, New Stage for a Private Family Drama, and the piece is about the revered playwright Arthur Miller’s treatment of his son, Daniel, who was born with Down syndrome. It is a reaction to a recent article in Vanity Fair detailing, and to an extent criticizing, Miller’s having essentially ignored Daniel’s existence after sending him off to a mental institutional. The possible implication that Miller’s work, and his status as a literary titan, should be reevaluated in light of this element of his personal life is teased by the author, and more directly stated by quoted sources.

This is just another outcry in the James Frey vein of literary newsworthiness. Though I do cringe to place Miller’s name so close to that dubious memoirist’s, and there is the added difference that some of the anger over Frey’s case from the fact that the book was marketed as memoir, not fiction. But it’s the same in both cases, really. Readers of a writer’s work feel offended, scandalized, betrayed when it turns out that the author is in some way not what they were supposed to be. It happened with J.T. Leroy, and Günter Grass too. James Frey was publicly scolded by Oprah, a fate I can’t even begin to imagine lameness of. That’s got to be one of those things that makes a guy want to sob and laugh hysterically at the same time.

But the question is, why should anyone care about the life behind the works? Is this just a product of a culture that’s seen too many reruns of VH1’s Behind the Music? Or that wants to make a celebrity out of anybody that does anything noteworthy, and then hold them to some weirdly assumed common moral code? Why the outrage?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I have no idea. To me, a writer or artist’s prime directive is to make art. Preferably, to make good art, but even that’s not essential. Hence the designation, ‘artist’. It’s what they do, and if they’re good at it, I applaud. I experience their work and I learn to see the world in a more nuanced way; I am made better by their toil. I can’t picture a circumstance under which I would feel this experience diminished if it turned out the writer or artist was a dick.

In fact, thinking back on it now, many of the people who I most respect for their work were probably reprehensible in one way or another in their personal lives. Picasso was a douche, Heidegger a Nazi, Wittgenstein a major a-hole, and Faulkner a faithless and prolific philanderer. And even if I got backstage at a Bob Dylan concert, and found him cuisinarting baby otters, I’d still think John Wesley Harding was a damn fine album.

Somewhere, William James has a quote that what we call ‘genius’ is really just an intensity of focus (he used the metaphor of a light focused to a burning point) on something that excludes everything else as irrelevant. This seems pretty right on to me. I found it amply illustrated when I once tried to read a biography of Borges, getting a couple hundred pages in before I realized I was reading a book about the life of a man who pretty much read during every waking moment in which he wasn’t writing. Not exactly material for a John Le Carré novel, I tell you.

Anyway, in the other direction, what makes Arthur Miller a genius, what makes him great, is his writing, is his sheer mastery of his language and human conditions. His greatness does not care about his ability to dance a jig, and it doesn’t care about his child-rearing sensibilities either. In fact, it seems impossible that there wouldn’t be some fairly glaring deficiencies in a life that was given almost wholly to crafting the written word.

This is not to excuse him, or to deny whatever ill effects his attitude might have had on his son (though, by the given accounts, he’s lived a very happy life without his father’s presence). But it is to say, to anyone who thinks that said attitude should be reflected in treatment of Miller’s work, get over yourself. Go stress out over Shakespeare-authorship conspiracy theories, or something.

Anyhow, let me apologize for this half-baked consideration and get back to the issue raised above: I’m still left wondering what makes people so morally outraged when a work’s author doesn’t live up to their expectations. Any ideas?

The Laurence Rassel Show, cover image

The Hurdle

    The first major hurdle one encounters when preparing to write about The Laurence Rassel Show is as follows: How does the author of any reasonable critique appropriately review the work in question while properly maneuvering around the fact that one of the main themes within the work being critiqued is the fetishization of the entire concept of authorship to begin with?

Let me take a step back…

    The Laurence Rassel Show is the newest audio release from Public Record, an internet-based record label founded by the activist art organization, Ultra-red. Specifically, The Laurence Rassel Show is a collaboration between cyberfeminist Laurence Rassel and musician/trans-activist Terre Thaemlitz, both, arguably, well-known and un-known masters of their respective fields.

Let me take another step back…

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One minute and thirty seconds out of your life…

rain video still

Australian aboriginals have a concept which is dubbed ‘dream-time’. Boiled down to it’s essential and most telling elements, Dream-time refers to a time period beyond human memory when the Australian’s ancestors wandered the earth in the guise of both humans and animals, forming it into it’s current terrain.

Additionally there is dreaming–as it sounds, night images–descriptions of which indicate a certain type of belief structure. (ex.: Rabbit dreaming could be akin to Christianity while Turtle Dreaming could be similar to Judaism.) Dreaming is beyond regular time, basically beyond any conception of time that we and they (the tribes) are physically familiar with. (Sort of like Heaven–for believers it just is, even if it can’t really be explained logically or with any specific physicality). They describe dreaming as ‘all-at-once’, because they believe the experience is the past, present, and future co-existing. A person exists eternally in dreaming.

Amazingly, copyright then comes into play.

Each of the tribes have their own stories. To begin with, these stories are only supposed to be told within the tribe, and are the express property of the tribe. They are passed on from generation to generation and are understood as intellectual property. If they are used–whether in a retelling or in a painting–without permission, it is considered stolen property. Certain stories within the tribes are also protected. Some tales are to be told only at certain times, or only to certain people. For example,let’s presume there is a coming-of-age story that is told during a boy’s initiation into manhood. If he is told this story before it is the appropriate time, or if a girl is told this story, it is considered a serious breach of law and the orator could be punished with death.

The Australian Aboriginals are merely a mirror of our own culture. American copyrights were originally set up to protect the creator’s creation, not to restrict the idea or to insist that the discussion and concept remain tied to the specific, original piece. The problem is, inspiration comes from other artists, so artists are constantly utilizing other’s ideas. (The ideas themselves originating long before anyone alive). In the United States, with art, copyright is automatic. You don’t have to register it, registration simply ties a paper trail to it. (In case of legal battles down the road.) You can specify that something is copyrighted under creative commons, which has numerous facets, but essentially tells people that the piece is in the public domain. (Free for inspiring and using parts of to make other, unique pieces.) The concept of protecting ideas seems obviously counter-productive to a thriving culture, but what is interesting is how shaky the sturdy foundation of this particular sect of laws has become. With the advent of the internet, it is becoming nearly impossible to protect ideas and non-solid works (i.e. music and digital photos).

While, admittedly, the majority of the downloads and sharing is simply done to snag a tune or get a photo for that powerpoint presentation, there is a good amount of creative appropriation happening. Music cut up and re-formed with a new twist and new vision, images altered or spliced to illustrate a new concept, or sentences lifted and placed into another’s story. The internet is suddenly making it really easy to get what you need to make what you want. And you can do it with complete anonymity. Given, if you want to do the gallery thing you better make sure that you are within the frameworks of the law (or at least the idea/image is convoluted enough for nobody to notice), but if you are posting on some blog under a pseudonym, by all means use Mickey and Minney Mouse as porn-stars in your animated film commenting on sexuality and materialism in modern-day America. You can. Nobody can catch you. And that is what is infuriating authorities. They literally can’t do anything. This is looking to be the first digital revolt–a movement spurned on because, more or less, people want free music.

Page1

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Looking for Oil
3 minute video

“Real art has been willfully confused with fake art.”
~Jonathan Lethem

Let’s say you’re a novel, and you want to get in a sex scene without breaking the flow of the narrative. What do you do? Well, if you’re Jonathan Lethem’s new novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet, you have characters exchange weighty, plot-moving dialogue while they’re having orgasms. And you do it twice. Did I mention you’re only 224 pages long?

Nobody doesn’t like Jonathan Lethem. Who doesn’t like Jonathan Lethem? He’s an underdog comer of a novelist, the best we’ve got at bridging the increasingly antiquated (if still apt) gap between high and low culture. I hopped on Lethem’s bandwagon at Motherless Brooklyn, so I haven’t read his early science-fiction inflected work, but I know enough to know that nothing feels out of place in a Jonathan Lethem novel. He’s a paragon of omnivorous consumerism, a guy who knows all about art and music and loves to tell you that he knows what he knows. He pays homage to filmmakers, soul singers, grunge rockers, installation artists, painters, comic book creators, cartoonists, physicists, sociologists, chess prodigies, and semi-professional masturbators. They all crash together in a dayglo confluence of class and trash. It’s no surprise that the names of the main characters of his best book, The Fortress of Solitude, Dylan and Mingus, are shared by musicians who toiled away in marginal, populist traditions – folk and jazz – until they were eventually canonized and lionized as Great American Artists.

So Lethem tends to write about scrappy underdog types, and this novel is no different. The characters don’t have a lot going for them in the classic sense of climbing the corporate ladder – one of the only character with a day-job works at a masturbation boutique called No Shame – so to fill the time, they kidnap kangaroos. They do high-concept installation art. They play in a rock band. And they fuck a lot. Sometimes they orgasm before they’re able to start. When they’re not in the presence of another character, they masturbate. More than once, the protagonist Lucinda tries to masturbate and fails.

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Pregnant

Body Worlds is an exhibit of corpses–flayed, then posed in ways that showcase a menagerie of muscles and innards. The disconcerting thing about the display is the manner in which the bodies have been preserved, plastination. Invented in the late 70’s and perfected on deceased inmates and mental patients (without consent), the process dehydrates the body, then replaces the fluids with a liquid plastic which eventually hardens. The bodies can be positioned in various stances before they set, which allows muscle movement to be studied. The visual result of the process resembles a hard plastic GI Joe, not a dead person. As the viewer walks through the exhibit, it is uncomfortably easy to forget that these are dead bodies rather than a plastic approximation. Stiff and ultimately un-lifelike, subtle reminders occasionally crop up to jar your sensibilities. When I was there, a child accidentally hitting the glass caused a scrotum to leisurely wave back and forth.

There is strained line between art and science that the inventor, Gunther von Hagens, toes. The website states that they want to present a comprehensive view of the various systems of the body. Yet, the first posed body upon entry is directly inspired by a 16th century print by Gaspar Becerra. Science or art? Presumably, it was assumed that viewing these ‘specimens’ from a scientific viewpoint would offend less easily than using dead people for aesthetic gain. But, the obvious inclination of Hagens to treat the bodies as a sort of sculpture is still present, even hiding under a legitimate veil of science.

Gaspar BecerraBody Worlds-Holding Skin

Encased in the exhibit was a breathtaking series of body parts whose nerves had been filled with bright red plastic. The outer coating had been removed, leaving a stunningly delicate sketch of the form’s contours. The sequence lost the shock and grandeur of the full-fledged bodies, but retained a strange simplicity of form that was instinctively appealing. Both the beauty and the intellectual interest that these pieces generated acted in the same way that a great piece of art does, transcending itself and appealing not to the mind first, but to the stomach with an unsettlingly intriguing energy. It generated that clammy interest that signals an attraction, and doesn’t disappoint with it’s concept. Science, art….whatever. This show, for all it’s flaws and ego, is managing to uncover a concept and idea that is fascinating and possibly groundbreaking. Additionally, how it is developed and then received by the public is going to be as interesting as the work itself.

Who is Mario Incandenza?

In one sense, he’s the lovable middle child of the Incandenza clan, the dysfunctional set at the heart of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. In another, he’s Wallace’s proposed ideal human and savior of authentic sentiment in literature.

Mario’s physical demeanor is sad/funny; his

“incomplete gestation and arachnoidal birth left the kid with some lifelong character-building physical challenges. Size was one, he being in sixth grade about the size of a toddler and at 18+ in a range somwhere between elf and jockey. There was the matter of the withered-looking and bradyauxetic arms, which just as in a hair-raising case of Volkmann’s contracture curled out in front of this thorax in magiscule S’s and were usable for rudimentary knifeless eating and slapping at doorknobs until the sort of turned just enough and doors could be kicked open and forming a pretend lens-frame to scout scenes through, plus maybe tossing tennis balls very short distances to players who wanted them, but not for much else…” (313)

On top of this, he can’t really stand up by himself and requires a body-brace and weighted tripod-like apparatus to anchor him in place, and he’s a homodont (every one of his teeth is a bicuspid).

He’s also the most unequivocally likable character in this book, and maybe in any book I’ve ever read. It’s almost too much to handle, really. The guy is entirely devoid of guile, self-consciousness, cynicism, judgmentalism, and smarm. And irony. Here he is, super-nice, über-deformed guy with a head-mounted movie camera, and he is so unironic as to be almost heart-rending in his sincerity.

But why should sincerity be so striking? Why should a character that isn’t cloaked in hip cynicism be noteworthy? Embedded in this consideration is, I think, Wallace’s comment on contemporary American literature.

Surveying the field of “postmodern” fiction, some of the hallmarks one sees are irreverence, shock-value, obsession with technical experimentation, cynicism about received narratives, and an ironic way of dealing with the past. Wallace is of the next generation, the one that grew up reading Barth, Pynchon, and Coover. But what happens after the critique has been made? In getting his generational pendulum on, Wallace says NO to glib irony, and seems to want to reclaim prominence for human emotion in high-brow literature.

And so, enter Mario Incandenza as the incarnation of Wallace’s anti-irony. Contrast him with his younger brother Hal, one of two ostensible protagonists in the book, the tennis whiz and lexical prodigy. Hal seems so jaded as to almost disappear as a force or will as he ages. He’s not without insight into his condition, though:

“Hal, who’s empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human…One of the really American things about Hal, probably, is the way he despises what it is he’s really lonely for: this hideous internal self, incontinent of sentiment and need, that pules and writhes just under the hip empty mask, anhedonia.” (695)

A mask of course would be silly on Mario, who’s entire body is a strange, almost abstract representation of human form. He’s anything but hip and irreverent; he’s unwaveringly loyal, honest, and has a physically permanent smile fixed on his face.

Mario is also given the only glorious finale of all the characters in the book, a reviver of faith-in-humanity, as he comes across a bunch of homeless people outside the T-station pleading for anyone to touch them, just simply touch them: “and Mario, being alone and only fourteen and largely clueless about anti-stem defensive strategies outside T-stations, had had no one wordly or adult along with him there to explain to him why the request of men with outstretched hands for a simple handshake or High Five shouldn’t automatically be honored and granted…” (971) If not precisely Christ-like, Mario does carve a singularly optimistic and purifying figure (like a handicapped Socrates) against an oftentimes bleak themescape of consumer America.

So, who is Mario Incandenza? He’s unhip, unwordly, and embarrassingly sincere. And we should all try to be more like him. So, I plan to remember this catchy thought-experiment next time I’m in a jam: What Would Mario Do (WWMD)?

I heard Barrett Whatten speak a few months ago, a presentation he called “Against Ekphrasis.” I have been trying to come to terms with this idea since then. Ekphrasis has many extended connotations and nuances of meaning, but its base definition denotes poetry or poetic writing that provokes highly visual imagery. “Against ekphrasis” is a stance that claims the concreteness of words on their own terms: the word “red,” for example, referring not to the color, but to the word. When you extend this idea to media other than words, it leads to an examination of the meaning inherent in the medium itself, stripping away all metaphor and symbolism. (And from here it is a small step to musing about the idea itself as a concrete entity, independent of any referrent – but I digress.)

Yet I pause and wonder if this is altogether possible. Can we ever perceive the medium as sole content independent of its cultural role? Is it possible, for example, to view a photograph, not as a cultural object but as a collection of captured light?

Being an intermedia artist, I am particularly interested in the conceptual boundaries between things. In an installation when you place objects in the same room, they become related. By being in the same perceptual space, there exists between the objects an intermedium, itself a third meaning. Likewise, images seen together cause us to create meanings in their relationships. Words placed in the same perceptual space as these images multiply this effect. Working against ekphrasis, questioning assumed references, stripping away and examining the layers of acquired cultural meaning, is an important deconstructive step in the conceptual processes of creating artwork – it pops you into a new point of view. What really interests me, however, is the step beyond this deconstructive process, when the pieces are reconstructed to create something else.

“Five” video

#one

 

Babies

 

Standing Outside House

 

Dolls

 

 

 

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500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

By Eggman913

Contemporary African Cinema:The Emergence of an Independent Cinema in Nigeria


“The ability to picture oneself is a vital need. In fact, if a man were to live without the capacity of forging a picture of himself, he would have no aspirations, no desires, and no dreams of his own.

The same applies to a community, a society, and a people. A society daily subjected to foreign images eventually loses its identity and its capacity to forge its own identity.

The development of Africa implies, among other things, the production of its own images.”

 


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Camera LucidaHidden in the shadows of posh antique stores lurk secondhand shops. These overlooked treasures are bursting with both history and small remnants of human life–reminders of those that have flitted in and out of this world leaving behind nothing but a stack of photos or a selective record collection. You walk through the doors, your fingerprints joining the other smudges on the doors glass window. Dank and musty smelling, walking room is limited to a six inch space between the chipped china and the basket of ripped stuffed animals. Stuck in the back, there is inevitably two or three large bins filled with photographs. Subjects range from traditional family portraits to spontaneous snapshots on the family hike. A certain sadness encompasses this area of the store. The bins hold the lives and memorials of more people than a small cemetery. As you idly flip through the photos, nothing arrests you. You toss aside the remnants of hundreds of people’s lives with barely a second thought. And then, one grabs you.

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