I thought we had it made with digital imaging in 2022. But then I found a scan of a slide taken with a manual everything camera back in the 1990s and I realized that....


If you could nail exposure and all the basic settings when shooting color transparency film (slides) and you didn't lose the frame in the chemical processing the results could be quite good. On par for use online with the best of the current digital cameras. It's an awkward realization; for sure.

Photos of a restaurant serving up a ton of pink-ness. And thoughts about the positive role of friction in our modern lives.

On Sixth St., near West Avenue, there used to be a pizza place called, "Frank and Angie's." They served great pizzas for a couple of decades and then closed about two and a half years ago. I noticed a new restaurant in its place on one of my walks but never strayed from the walking route to really take another look. I presumed the location had devolved and become yet another inside/outside bar serving odd cocktails to students and wannabe cool people. 

Today was too nice to waste indoors so after a late breakfast I grabbed a handy camera and headed out the door. I think it hit the low 60°s this afternoon. You could walk without having to drag along gloves, a parka, snow boots and other accessories. I was out to walk off the residue of Christmas indulgence. Too much flan. Too many cheese and jalapeƱo tamales. Too much bacon wrapped shrimp. Too much driving back and forth.

One of the first places my walk took me was closer to this restaurant. I might not have stopped but I noticed they had a pay telephone on the front corner of the building and this anachronism struck me as delightedly silly so I was immediately drawn in. According to a manager who came out to see what the heck I was doing and then chat for a while, the cuisine is a mix of breakfast dishes and contemporary Tex-Mex. Their stylistic differentiation is that any food that can be made to be pink will be pink. Pink cocktails, pink waffles, pink tortillas, etc. I asked if the enchiladas were also pink but the manager shook his head and related that the actual Mexican food was not pink. At least not yet. 

I think I am intrigued enough to go try it out. Seems like a very laid back and mellow place. At least they've got style. Some kind of style. That pushes them up to a higher level in my mind.

Here's some exterior photos:

I saw an interesting lecture this morning on one of the psychology channels. It was very insightful about what causes depression, anxiety, and sadness in very affluent, modern cultures. To distill it down to its essence, the program's idea was that humans have evolved to work best when they are challenged. Really challenged. Food, shelter, safety and defenses from precarious, life-threatening situations. They did not evolve to be passive and bored. If you have free time and you are unchallenged you start looking for external things to engage with. What we really need are authentic and meaningful challenges.  But for most of us in the most affluent societies we've lost the thread.

Our jobs are mostly routine, our lives safe and our extra time and energy is channeled into pursuits that give us momentary dopamine hits which serve to take the place of authentic challenges. We play video games, watch kinetic, action movies, watch videos, and then, afterwards the dopamine wears off and we need another hit. Again and again. Until we no longer get the same reaction at which point we become anxious, depressed, unsettled, suicidal, distraught and on the prowl for something or anything that will once again give us that dopamine high. 

What we've lost in most of our pursuits is a natural challenge that gives up a healthy dose of real accomplishment. Like a sine wave our modern lives bounce back and forth from apathy to unhealthy experiential addictions from which we inevitably come back down from in a funk. This got me thinking about why some of us use cameras that are more difficult to master; harder to use. We seem to need a certain amount of friction, or push back from life to work against in order to do our best work. Our meaningful work.

When I rail against a camera that can focus at the speed of light on anything, at any velocity I think what my brain is really trying to say is: They made this far too easy and in doing so sucked out the emotional value that is inevitably introduced by the struggle. Some of us need a level of external resistance to an exercise or effort in order to do our best work. If everything falls easily in place for us we don't feel as though we've accomplished much and the value of the work suffers in our own eyes. 

It's almost like the dichotomy of Watching a movie on TV with the remote in one hand and a cold beer in the other versus sitting down and working on a difficult project that requires total engagement. Finish the movie and you feel a bit let down and start looking for the next movie in the hope that it will be the game-changing program you yearn for. Finish writing a novel, printing a photo essay that is meaningful to you or volunteering for Meals on Wheels and you feel a sense of accomplishment that sticks with you and builds real satisfaction instead of a transitory dopamine bump. Sometimes a dopamine hit with an adrenaline chaser. 

It's interesting to see research that shows far fewer mental health issues or issues about life satisfaction in most of the poorer (but not the poorest) countries when compared to the most affluent countries. For a while young adults from Switzerland, one of the most affluent societies in our world, had the highest rates of suicide anywhere. Seems that having everything and lacking real challenge in life is a bit soul sapping. 

It's widely noted that men who retired from jobs they found to be challenging and at which they excelled by making prodigious efforts at mastery tend to die quickly if they retire into lives of leisure. Lives with no defined and authentic challenges attached. 

Some say that youth is wasted on the young which I always took to mean that crotchety old men would love to have the benefits of youth because they would know how best to leverage said benefits. It's becoming more obvious that many wouldn't escape their own youth in good mental health if those formative years weren't at least somewhat filled with the usual challenges and disappointments. Perhaps the assurance of a cushy safety net trades a set of advantages with a bucket full of its own downsides. 

Maybe having everything handed to us doesn't make our lives better but sets us up for an addiction to shallow external rewards that are unhappy exactly because they are basically unearned. No pain, no gain?

Having to make hard choices instead of easy ones might be the secret to personal and artistic growth. 

How often have I heard people I grew up and worked with for decades talk about how, after they retired, they would pursue their photography with gusto only to see that when the opportunity to stop working occurs the inspiration and resolve don't come along for the ride. The law practice or medical practice or entrepreneurship was a way of building financial nest eggs that would eliminate the friction of doing photography. Why? Because my friends could throw money at any part that was hard. They might try to shortcut their learning process by becoming  addicted to workshops and paid, one-on-one mentoring instead of the more painful but effective approach of learning through hands on trial and error. 

The learning seems to stick best if it's glued snuggly into the brain by failures. Try and fail at a technique nine times and two things happen by the tenth (and first successful) trial. One is that whatever thing you finally learn is much better wired into your brain than if you are handed a bulletproof solution at the outset. Second, you traded blood, sweat and tears and got back discipline, skill and purpose instead. None of which need an additional endorphin dose to enjoy. It's good to take the middle way between the pleasure and pain to enjoy a more fulfilling life. 

You probably know someone that bounces from adventure to adventure. From a first wife to a progression of wives. From bungee jumping to sky-diving. Motorcycle racing to mountain climbing. They are constantly on the prowl for excitement but when you really engage them you find they are sad, and the experiences empty. Mostly because they could afford the seamless indulgence of whatever exciting thing they wanted to pursue at the time. There was no friction. No real investment in the process. 

Friction might slow you down. That might be a good thing. 

On the simplest level, and relating this to our photography, the very pursuit of the camera that makes taking photographs the easiest might be the thing that degrades our own satisfaction with the pursuit. If it was more difficult to do the hobby or art or work the friction might just be the thing that warms you up to the task. Diligent discovery time from behind the viewfinder pays off with experience and is the sole component that eventually delivers to the user a personal style.

Pleasure and pain are two sides of the same coin. A constant pursuit of pleasure is no less damaging than any other, conventional, addiction. And constant pain is the opposite but equal problem. Working with purpose and diligence seems to be the antidote for our angst. It's seems to be the middle way.

Buying cameras relentlessly is part of the endorphin cycle. So is endlessly watching videos that might teach us something we don't know about photography. You always have to ask yourself: To what end?

An interesting video with some good takeaways. Not everything should be easy. Maybe the pursuit of ease and efficiency is our modern trap. Or maybe we're just living in the matrix and it's the way we're programmed.