Zanti Misfits

What was I doing in the yard this morning? I went out for some reason.
I remember: I had my shoes on already and needed to turn off the pool filter, so I went through the cellar door rather than take my shoes off and go through the house.
There were slugs all over the grass. Four-inch brown ones.
It’s a good thing I had my shoes on.
The air smelled briefly of toast, a neighbor was making breakfast.
The sky was blue.
The flowers were tall.
The ants were scarce.
I sprinkled some cinnamon along their trail to fuck with them. Don’t know if it will help – I hear it does – but the house sure smells nice.
When I battle ants I have to think of the “Zanti Misfits” episode of The Outer Limits.
My wife is in southern Austria researching her family history.
My daughters are in Vietnam. They are posting beautiful pictures to Instagram and Facebook.
This amazes me in a couple ways.
When I was their age, or a little younger, you might go to Vietnam but you didn’t go for tourism.
When I was their age, when you went on a trip, your parents just worried for a couple weeks, or months, until you got back. They couldn’t see the awesome things you were doing by checking their social media feeds.
Also it amazes me that they are such travelers, because I dislike traveling.
I like staying where I am.
That’s the secret reason I live in Europe. I couldn’t be arsed to go home.
They are all traveling, so I find myself alone this week.
Except for pets and vermin.
Theoretically it’s the perfect time to be alone, summer. No better time to go out and get into trouble.
Get up to no good.
Commit shenanigans.
Instead, I go for walks or sit around on a lawn chair and stare into space and watch the sun go down because going out is too much work.
But that’s okay. A week of introspection could be a good thing. I’ve been really sick of myself lately, as one is at times. This would be a good chance to figure things out, if one knew what things needed to be figured out.
What have I learned?
I can hold my breath for two minutes and 40 seconds with minimal hyperventilation.
That’s all, so far.
Someone asked me how I was, recently, as one does.
I’m not depressed or sad.
I’m just sick of myself.
A little isolated and creepy, the way one gets when one neglects friendships.
(That’s one thing that gets easier as you get older – creeping people out).
Still amazed at the beauty of the world and stuff.
Need a haircut. This alone would tell me I am not depressed: I called the haircut place and made an appointment, despite my hatred of talking on the phone.
Also, just forced myself to finish a book that had lots of great reviews, although it sucked. A little angry that sucky books get good reviews.
Do you ever wonder how your train of thought brought you somewhere? Like, you start out wondering how to be a good person, or more charming, or how making art functions, and suddenly you’re wondering if anyone wrote a science fiction story about an invasion of alien life forms that people don’t realize are alien life forms because the aliens have no physical bodies: they are ideas.
Such as, for example, Neoliberal Capitalism. Destroying the world, but people assume it was their own idea so they just shrug and think, There Is No Alternative.
Or you wonder if anyone wrote a story about a planet that was terraformed by taking the excess carbon out of the atmosphere (to make the climate and rest of the environment pleasant) and hiding it deep, deep down in the ground where no one would ever find it, in the form of petroleum and coal.
Maybe you don’t.

7 things

At the window in Connemara
I see seven things my father loved:
a brand new sunrise in a rainy sky
ponies in a grassy pasture
trees bending in wind
a white shed
heavy machinery (a red backhoe)
a wood plank corral
his granddaughter, still asleep
me, reflected
8 things

Bifurcation

I woke up, fed the cats, and (here is the innovation) went back to bed for another hour.
Here is one theory of multiple universes: every time you select one of two (or more) alternatives, new universes are created: one in which you did the other thing.
One in which I did not go back to bed, but instead moped around the kitchen for an hour, or went down into my room to write something in a journal.
Or this one: I was standing in front of the Vienna Observatory park making a movie of a tree. A young man nearby waited until I had finished and said, You’re a professor, right? Unfortunately not, I said sadly. (Although we just created an alternate universe in which I am, I did not add.)Undaunted, he asked me if this was the entrance to the Vienna Observatory. I said I believed it was. However it is locked although past opening time, he pointed out (creating an unlocked-gate alternate universe).
I sometimes go for walks in this park, I said, and this is not the first time the gate is locked past opening time. IIRC, there may be another gate up the hill at the other corner, I said.
The young man told me he was to attend an internship for school. Good luck, I said. He left and walked uphill. When I got there (I was dinking around with filters, uploading the film to Instagram) he was nowhere to be seen, and I assumed he had gone in the gate (which was open).
Or this one: in one universe you donate furniture to the Red Cross for refugees, in another you take the furniture apart and drive it to some refugees a friend knows and give it to them personally and you and the refugees and your friends who introduced you carry it up to their apartment (luckily the elevator is working in this universe because they live on the 5th floor) and there you sit amidst a pile of pieces of desk and wardrobe in their living room and realize that, in this universe, you did not think to label the pieces, trusting your memory.
A family of six people watch your every move. Plus two friends and their little boy. ‘No pressure, Mig,’ says one friend.
I took pictures, luckily, you say, unlocking your phone and scrolling through pictures until you find them. In another universe the pictures are really helpful.
You eventually get the desk assembled, or almost – when you are nearly done your wife calls you and informs you you forgot a piece at home. Luckily it is the last piece, so you assemble everything but that, and bring that by the following day.
Also luckily, the refugees are intelligent and observant, and watch you closely, handing you screws right when you need them, or pulling a drawer out so you can tighten a bolt right when you need the drawer pulled out, without you having to say anything.
Forking and forking, good old reality.

Samsara

Dalai Lama: (puts a drinking glass over a wasp, goes back to chopping up a squash, finishes, gives pieces to wife.)
Mrs. Lama: Thanks, honey.
Dalai Lama: Don’t mention it. (goes into living room, checks facebook)
Mrs. Lama: Did you have anything planned for this wasp?
Dalai Lama: Oh, gee, sorry! I was going to let him go and got sidetracked. (pauses video of moose cooling off in a wading pool)
Dalai Lama: Wow, that looks like I set a booby trap for you, doesn’t it. (Gets newspaper, whips glass off counter onto newspaper, but can’t find wasp.) Er… (Looks around for wasp, spots it on the newspaper, puts glass over it, fumbles glass, catches glass.) Oh. (The glass is devoid of wasp. Looks for wasp. Finds wasp on his arm.) Fuck!
Wasp: (Stings Dalai Lama)
Dalai Lama: Son of a bitch.
Mrs. Dalai Lama: Is it dead?
Dalai Lama: (Rolls up newspaper, swats wasp, which is now on floor) Yes. (Picks up wasp with paper towel, carries out to garbage, stands in front of garbage cans looking back and forth between compostable garbage bin and residual waste garbage bin, opts for the latter.)

Deprivation, isolation, floating

What say the slain?
One day, months ago, during a brief respite from political ranting during a drive into town with Gamma, we listened to a radio program about a sensory deprivation / isolation / floating tank business in Vienna.
“I’ve always wanted to try that,” I said.
Gamma filed that information away neatly and guess what my daughters gave me for Father’s Day?
This is how I found myself sitting on a shady bench in a Vienna cemetery yesterday evening. I was early for my appointment at the Sargfabrik, an apartment complex in Vienna with a theater instead of a parking garage, and down in the cellar a room with a floatation tank.
Floatation (or floating? not sure) tank is what used to be called an isolation tank, and before that sensory deprivation tank.
I prefer sensory deprivation tank, but understand one must market the things.
Like I was saying, I was early as always and took a walk around the neighborhood and disliked the park (too sunny, for one thing, and generally unlikeable, at least yesterday evening, for me, at that spot) so I continued onward and found the cemetery next door and went in and found a shady bench and watched the gravediggers work, and read the dates on the headstones, as one does.
Then I thought, Ah! Cemetery – Sargfabrik, I get it!
I guess the Sargfabrik used to be an actual coffin factory until it was converted into housing.
Then I texted the floating tank guy that I was already in the neighborhood, in case I could get in early, and I did and there I sat, no longer in the cemetery, in the cellar, in a dimly lit, cool room, being orientated.
Epilepsy? he said. Claustrophobia?
Nah, I said.
Goals? Hopes? he said.
Curiosity, I said. Father’s Day.
He looked a little disappointed, (but I might have been making that up, there in the dim light) so I added, maybe get an insight into this deep sadness I lug around all the time that is kinda the mortar holding my world together? Or into this yapping I have been doing with my wife?
Okay, he said. I dunno, he didn’t look real relieved so maybe it really was the dim light after all.
He said he’d knock on the outside of the tank when my time was up, and left.
I took a shower and got into the tank and shut the lid.
I spent a long time getting comfortable which is weird because what could be more comfortable than floating naked in a shallow tub of super dense saltwater in the dark?
But such is life.
I floated there in the dark listening to something hum. Something was fucking humming! What kind of sensory deprivation is this? Maybe it was the ventilation.
More of a buzz than a hum. And not loud, but still.
It wasn’t me.
Then either I got used to it or it stopped.
I listened to my breathing for a while, and to my heartbeat.
After a long, tiring day, I was surprised I did not fall asleep, or even get sleepy. After lunch I had been nodding off at my desk.
I sort of meditated for a while. I hummed a little. My mind was pretty blank a lot of the time.
At some point I woke up, or regained consciousness, or something. So I was out for a while, in one way or another.
Toward the end, trying out different ways of holding my head and comparing relative comfort, I got salt water in both eyes and was really glad the orientator had showed me where the kleenexes were in case that happened. I opened the hatch and wiped out my eyes and closed the lid again and eventually the stinging stopped.
One’s ears are submerged in the tank, so sounds are muffled.
I lay there listening to my heartbeat.
Thump-thump-thump! Then after three thumps it stopped again. Weird, I thought. I tried various positions to hear my heartbeat clearly again like that. Then I did, I heard it again. Thump-thump-thump.
After doing this a few more times I realized it was the guy knocking on the outside of the tank that my time was up.
He went away again and I lay there for a minute, thinking, Well that was an anticlimax.
No jumping out of the tank and running around like a caveman like William Hurt in Altered States. No hallucinations, no epiphanies.
It didn’t even seem all that different from my normal, daily life, I thought.
Then I thought, my normal, daily life is like an isolation tank.
Then I thought, there’s an epiphany for you after all.

Today is a very quiet day

I got a good night’s sleep last night and as a result feel human today. Although Monday, today is a holiday. My wife is away on business (she texted me this morning that she was still alive, a few minutes after a 5.4 earthquake in Tokyo), the kids are resting and/or studying, the cats are sleeping. So, after vacuuming the downstairs and mopping a few floors I saw no reason not to set up my photographic gear and make a couple alutypes in the backyard.

Initially I wanted to take a picture of the rosebush in the flower bed in front of the house, but it was too windy – the roses would have blurred too much with a 2 or 3 second exposure.

So I picked some roses, put them in a vase and took pictures of them on a table against the wall of the neighbor’s shed, which is white-ish stucco.

I tried a couple different collodions. The first picture uses a newer collodion, which is quite a bit faster than that used for the second picture, it being both a different formula and about a year old – normally, I believe, one uses collodion up after a few months because it gets slower over time and also maybe unstable, but I’m not sure.

I’m just trying different things out. It went well today, I was happy with the first picture, which was only a test really. Less happy with the second, which came out a little dark. They will both get darker again when I varnish them tonight.

Roses from the bush in front of the house, in glass vase on grey table in front of white wall. Bohemia collodion (IIRC), f3, 2 seconds, aluminum plate, partly sunny.

Roses from the bush in front of the house, in glass vase on grey table in front of white wall. Bohemia collodion (IIRC), f3, 2 seconds, aluminum plate, partly sunny.

Roses from bush in front of house, glass vase, grey table in front of white wall. Partly sunny. f4.5 or so, 3 seconds, Old Workhorse collodion (about a year old).

Roses from bush in front of house, glass vase, grey table in front of white wall. Partly sunny. f4.5 or so, 3 seconds, Old Workhorse collodion (about a year old).

Today’s wet plate

Bouquet, Bohemia collodion (old batch), f11 at about 7 seconds, full sun

Bouquet, Bohemia collodion (new batch), f11 at about 6 seconds, full sun

Bouquet, Lea's portrait collodion (old batch), f11 at about 7 seconds, full sun.

Bouquet, Lea’s portrait collodion (new batch), f11 at about 7 seconds, full sun.

Linnaea amabilis, Lea's portrait collodion (old batch), f11, about 7 seconds, shade.

Linnaea amabilis, Lea’s portrait collodion (old batch), f11, about 8 seconds, shade.

Barbecued for lunch today. Tried chicken breasts stuffed with feta and garlic, was good although maybe too much garlic.

After lunch it rained for a while, then when it stopped I set up all my wet plate stuff and shot a few plates. Learning from past mistakes, I went slower this time and got a couple plates that I think are okay, of a bush and a bouquet. Was too windy to shoot much, the bush is blurry as you can see. Too windy for portraits, which was good because the family currently is unwilling to pose for portraits. Not even the tortoise holds still long enough.

I’m eventually going to need a new camera, brass parts are starting to fall off the one I have. Nothing essential yet, but it’s only a matter of time…