Teaching the Controversy

79th St and Central Park West, New York

The plaque says, “Addressing the Statue,” and notes that while some love the historic statue, others abhor the clear subservient stance of the Native and African American.

In fact, the plaque does not so much address the statue’s problematic nature as leverage it to invite visitors to enter the museum “to learn more,” one of the natural long-term outcomes of Ronald Reagan’s charge to mediate everything in the marketplace.

A few months ago the statue was surrounded by stanchions to keep anti-racists at bay. Evidently the Museum has calculated that zealousness to have abated.

Now it can be told…

Well, I’ve been missing from these pages for a while but I think I’m back. For those interested, here’s what’s been going on with my health. For those not interested, wait a few hours and there’ll be a picture again!

4 weeks ago, I was working at my desk when I realized I felt a little woozy. Not dizzy and not light-headed, just a little woozy. I waited for it to pass but it didn’t. Then I made the classic mistake of looking up wooziness online. The first couple of possibilities were clearly not relevant: dehydration and low blood sugar. I’d had my usual 2 mugs of coffee, a bowl of fruit salad and had gotten through my 3/4 liter seltzer bottle already. The next 2 possibilities were a little more frightening: heart attack or stroke. I was advised not to ignore it but to seek medical attention.

Under the guise of making doctoring more convenient, I now reach my doctor via an app where I can leave him messages and he can write back, anytime, from anywhere. In reality, this means I don’t hear for, typically, 24 hours.

So eventually, after not hearing back, and not wishing to risk a stroke, I decided I’d toddle off to an Urgent Care facility around the corner from me that afternoon, run by Mt Sinai Hospital. My wife accompanied me but, due to Covid restrictions, had to wait in the outer waiting room. I was feeling a bit worse but still nothing really serious. Blood was drawn, an EKG taken and a gentle nasal swab administered. Nothing was found but I’ve reached that age where the young doctors say to me, “if you were my father…” I’d definitely go to the Emergency Room of the hospital (A&E for you Brits). First they gave me an anti-dizziness pill.

So a cab ride to the Mt Sinai ER (really the old St Lukes) and I was triaged, once again leaving my wife on her own to return home. They refused to look at the test results and EKG from the Urgent Care facility and re-administered the blood-work, the EKG, a CAT scan, a chest x-ray, and another gentle nasal swab in between which I sat in a chair in a bay of the ER until after midnight. The anti-dizziness pill had kicked in and I felt fine, if a bit hungry. At this point they wanted to admit me for overnight observation and to get an MRI.

Around 1:00 am a nurse took pity on me and got me some pretzels, a fig newton and 2 containers of applesauce (without spoon). I slept through the night except for the obligatory 4:00 am bp check and the groans of my roommate. Woke to not a bad breakfast and, eventually an MRI. After the MRI I had a quite good lunch (not what I’d ordered when asked, but close) and eventually 2 doctors showed up to discuss my condition with me. All the tests were negative. No Covid, no heart attack, no stroke, no sign that anything untoward had ever occurred. I was advised to follow up with my personal physician and discharged. In the meantime he’d written back to suggest I wait for it to pass, inquired how I was feeling now and suggested I come in for a check-up in 2 weeks. I said to the doctors in the hospital, since you didn’t find anything that means I don’t have to worry if this happens again, right? “No, no, no,” they said, “you must come back to the ER immediately if you feel this again.”

So I took a cab ride home and went about my business. The Urgent Care facility called to say their Covid test came back negative. I continued to feel a bit low, tired, and other kinds of peripheral symptoms of a cold, but nothing serious. No congestion, no sore throat, no coughing or sneezing, just a general malaise and slight disorientation. I started sleeping a lot, in between zoom calls for work and all night. I tried to get an earlier appointment with my GP but no slots were available. A week after returning home I went back to the ER because these annoying symptoms weren’t getting better or going away. Again I was triaged and in a short while another young doctor came and asked me a series of questions. She then left to review my test results from the previous week and returned to say I should go home and see my GP for a follow-up.

I languished for another week, feeling weaker and tireder all the time. Finally, 2½ weeks after it all began the day came to see the Primary Care Physician. I was feeling a little better. I took a cab over, and he interviewed me about what I’d been feeling. He discussed several possibilities and a program of testing to narrow down the possibilities. He had already reviewed all the hospital test results and ruled out anything wrong with my heart, or brain, tumors and neuro-degenerative diseases. He thought the most likely case was a flu, probably Covid. Blood was taken and a painful nasal swab – the kind where you worry about being lobotomized. I was sent home to await results.

Next day, Friday, the Dr called to tell me I had Covid, had had it since the beginning, was no longer contagious, and had passed the 10-day period for isolating or quarantining. and, although my wife had never suffered at all (other than helping me about), she was now past the period of needing to isolate after being in contact with someone testing positive. “How could the Urgent Care and ER have missed that,” I asked. 2 false negatives at 2 facilities seemed statistically unlikely. Probably didn’t really push up there high enough, the Dr replied.

The following Monday, contact tracers from the NY Health and Hospitals called me and my wife and, in the course of long discussions on the whole tale, they informed me of all kinds of benefits available to me and that I was past the point of being contagious or needing to isolate.

That was a week ago. In the meantime I’m mostly recovered. the mystery is how I got it in the first place. Since the pandemic started I seldom go anywhere and am very careful when I do. In fact, there are only 3 possibilities:

  • My wife and I had a timed appointment to visit Fotografiska a few weeks before (see my earlier post). All the other visitors wore masks but I do remember thinking some were closer than I was absolutely comfortable with.
  • Since the beginning of January, my building management have sought to fix a leak in our 90-year old plumbing, embedded in concrete in the floors. A small stream of masked workers have entered our apartment daily, marched to the back room where they have, behind closed doors, removed almost all of our bathrooms and, slowly, started to reconstruct them.
  • A week before I fell ill, the contractor on this job, drove us to a tile warehouse in Queens to choose tiles for re-doing the full bathroom. He tends to wear his mask below his nose, as did many of the workers at the tile warehouse.

So, beware – if your Covid test swab doesn’t make you want to scream, that negative result may be false and not only may you be sick, you may be contagious. Insist on being hurt!

Fotografiska, New York

Some years ago, on a vacation in Stockholm, I persuaded my family to accompany me to Fotografiska a vast and excellent photography museum there. For something like a year leading up to its opening, I received regular teaser emails presaging the advent of their New York branch. When it finally arrived last year I was disappointed to learn how high ticket prices were and, in the midst of the pandemic mostly forgot about it. But my wife gave me a couple of tickets and a pandemic appointment for an hour last weekend and down we went. (Click any image above to see them all enlarged.)

I have ambivalent feelings about what we saw. There were 3 featured exhibits and a fourth one dedicated to the winners of the Photography 4 Humanity 2020 contest, photo-journalistic work dedicated to human rights issues. There was some excellent work here, in the traditional documentary photography school, some of it dramatically artistic as well.

Next came a powerful exhibit dedicated to death-row inmates who had been wrongfully accused and had been exonerated by DNA evidence, many after years of incarceration and some just hours or days before being scheduled to be executed. While it was a very powerful and moving exhibit, it was only marginally photographic. Each of the subjects was shown in their own floor-to-ceiling portrait, in a darkened alcove, with their voice describing some element of their experience. However, the portraits weren’t still photographs, they were video portraits of their faces.

Next was Naima Green’s Brief & Drenching. The first part was a series of portraits, seeking to explode traditional binary-gendered portrait styles. These were quite good, and certainly had their own style, although they remained, essentially portrait photographs. The rest of the exhibit was less photographic. there was an installation of objects, a video (snapshot of bloody pearls, evidently being pulled from a vagina, above, is from the video), framed collections of motion-blurred, deliberately “artless” Polaroids, and so on.

This was followed by the gorgeous photo-montages of Cooper and Gorfer’s Between These Folded Walls, Utopia, shown in 2 of the pictures above). These were beautiful, sensuous images. I’m not sure exactly how they were made, but certainly not through straight photographic processes.

Finally, there was Andres Serrano’s Infamous. Serrano, no stranger to controversy (think Piss Christ), collected a number of racist artifacts and then photographed them. Taken at face value, they’re a shocking evocation of the extreme racism that was quotidian in this country’s culture throughout its history, reminding us, in the current climate, how important it is to extirpate this scourge. While the photography is pretty straightforward, still-life product photography and the exhibit is powerful, it strikes me that it’s not so much a photography exhibit as a racist artifact exhibit with photography almost incidentally being the medium of display.

So, I came away from Fotografiska having seen some worthwhile, and even important, exhibits but not a lot of photography. Granted, photography is a broad term and all these works can certainly fit within a catholic definition of photography, but only to the extent that the term ceases to mean much more than ‘images created using technology, with content not necessarily concerned with the medium.’ To some extent I know as a white man of a certain age, I tend to think of photography in increasingly outmoded ways. OTOH, it almost feels as if the medium has been exhausted – all that’s left is tendrils of new forms growing out of the corpse of the now-dead photography I grew up with.

Blog Note

I’m in the throes of some long overdue updates but things may be a tad disoriented for a little while. I am attempting to provide a slightly more integrated experience between my blog, obBLOGato, and my main web site. So I have cross connected the links to various pages and changed to a WordPress theme that mimics (somewhat) the left-side menu navigation of my Zenfolio site. I will, over time, slowly integrate them better and, eventually, actually move the others site onto my domain, islerweb.com. Until then, patience…

Blog Note

Nothing to post right now but some changes coming. I’m hard at work on a relaunch of my Zenfolio site and, in attempting to integrate it more tightly with obBLOGato there will be some changes around here. Probably a new theme and a new menu on the left. Still playing around in the sandbox but coming soon… you have been warned!

Very Little Plastic is Recycled

West 92nd Street, New York

A disgusting story of corporate deception. TLDR: Plastic is rarely recycled because it degrades, so recycling doesn’t work well and is too expensive relative tot he cost of fresh, new plastic! The oil and chemical companies always knew it and knowingly lied to us so they could keep selling new plastic.

Blog Note

For those interested in books, I have just updated the list on the Books page with several new entries of books of photographs from the years since I first posted the books page and added a new feature at the top, a listing of all books I have been reading, that I can remember, from the last few years, according to Libby, Nook, Kindle and Google Play with a few actual, honest-to-God physical books from my shelf.

Blog Note

Well, I hadn’t intended to change the look and feel of the place for 2020 but WordPress posted notice of a new theme for 2020 and I thought I’d give it a whirl. Only I hit the wrong button and instead of testing it in the sandbox I activated it. But I really didn’t like it (some of you may have seen it there for an hour or so, all cream colored with red-wine highlights).

Then I couldn’t remember or find the old theme so I had to go through them all to find one I liked. Then I discovered it hadn’t kept track of my randomized header images so I had to select and crop and test a bunch of new header images and randomize them. And finally I took advantage of the imbroglio to update some of the widgets and menus.

Welcome to obBLOGato’s new look for 2020!