Random Excellence: Giants?


Giants snapshot

Might call this "random interest" rather than excellence, but it's curious. You might want to look at the picture carefully before reading on.

We were talking about the novel Giants in the Earth the other day, and I ran across the old snapshot above on a site called Ipernity. The original poster, Alan Mays, was given it as a Christmas present. A few different elements conspire to create a visual illusion. The small size of the tractor and the boy driving it, the looming hill in the background, and the fact that we can't see the adults' feet can make it read as though the adults, who are actually standing on the far fender of the tractor, are far behind the tractor...and about sixteen feet tall!

Giants in the earth-2Can you see it that way? I have a strong "reality bias" in my mind, and I default to an assumption that adults are adult-sized, so I had to work a little to see the illusion. But it's there, all right. And once I want to see it, I can.

Here's something this made me think of: someone told me last night (my pool league team won 8-1 last night and we're still in first place) that the pool genius Efren Reyes likes to watch amateurs play. The reason is that professionals are so methodical, and know exactly which shots work in which situations (not to mention that they can do every sort of shot) that they're predictable to a degree—they're not often forced to get inventive or creative. Amateurs, on the other hand, get themselves into all sorts of odd or awkward dilemmas and then take highly unconventional routes to try to get themselves out of trouble—and watching them do so is entertaining for Efren.

Analogously, interesting snapshots are rare, perhaps, but I really love them, and for similar reasons—they show all sorts of whimsical and serendipitous oddities and surprises that more practiced photographers know to avoid. I have what amounts to a mini-library of books that feature "found" snapshots.

There's a good book available of early photography from the plains, but I can't find it. And the only pioneer photographer I can think of is Solomon D. Butcher. Population has been in decline on the great plains for years, as people move to places where life is easier.

Speaking of Giants in the Earth, it's been nice to hear that so many readers have indeed "engaged" with works of literature, such as Wayne, who said: "Among my favorite things to experience over and over are Lawrence Durrell's exquisite Alexandria Quartet and just about any Leonard Cohen music. Open to any page of Durrell or set the needle down on any track of Cohen, and I'm done for the day."

From The Alexandria Quartet (I'll just note that the Folio Society editions [OoP] are all illustrated with photographs):

As for me I am neither happy nor unhappy; I lie suspended like a hair or a feather in the cloudy mixtures of memory. I spoke of the uselessness of art but added nothing truthful about its consolations. The solace of such work as I do with brain and heart lies in this—that only there in the silences of the painter or the writer can reality be reordered, reworked and made to show its significant side. Our common actions in reality are simply the sackcloth covering which hides the cloth-of-gold—the meaning of the pattern.

By the way, while we're on quotes, the "Giants" title is from Genesis 6:4 in the KJV: " There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. " There's a sequel to Giants, called Peder Victorious: A Tale of the Pioneers Twenty Years Later.

Mike

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[Author: Michael Johnston]


Tags: Books, Photography, Earth, Giants, Leonard Cohen, Michael Johnston, Wayne, Cohen, Michael C Johnston, Solomon, KJV, Efren Reyes, Random Excellence, Lawrence Durrell, Durrell, Alan Mays, Speaking of Giants, Alexandria Quartet

Source:  http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/typepad/ZSjz/~3/Zsok1BXneMs/random-excellence-giants-in-the-earth.html



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