Gay Pride parade, Paris, 2011.
I have a new favorite toy, one you can only play with if you have an iThingy (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad). But you can enjoy the results without one (to a limited degree).
The toy is Instagram, an iThingy application. What you do is take a picture with your iThingy, open it in Instagram, drag it around to frame it, apply one of several pre-set filters (or not) to make your photo look all artsy or vintage, and save. At that point you have the option to publish the photo to any number of sites like Flickr and Twitter, or you can just keep it private.
Here’s a before and after I did. The original has decent composition and color and some nice light and shadow, but it’s rather mundane and drab.
Drag it around in the square frame on Instagram, resize it, choose a filter, and you have a little work of art:
I’m publishing all of mine to Tumblr (also Flickr, but I created the Tumblr site as soon as I got near 200 pics; Flickr makes you pay for more than that) because Instagram doesn’t provide online user galleries. When you publish a link to a picture on Twitter, for example, people who click it are taken to a web page, but from there they can’t see the rest of your photos (or follow you, or do anything, for that matter, which kinda blows). The pictures, if you don’t publish and store them somewhere, are pretty much lost in the ether, which is a shame because some of them are amazing.
You can only browse other Instagram photos on your iThingy. You can browse “popular” photos (who knows how they determine popularity), or you can follow specific people and see their photos.
Instagram is a nice change of pace for me, since I tend to be most comfortable with verbal expression. Getting creative with the visual is refreshing from time to time, which is why Photoshop is another fave toy. (I combine the two Vs on everyday splendor, my prose-oet-ography blog.)
But Instagram is much more than a toy. There are two things about it that really make my heart swell. First, seeing pictures taken by people all over the world, being privy to moments friends and semi-friends and total strangers find exceptional enough to record and share, really makes you hyper aware of the beating heart of humanity on this planet. The other six-plus billion souls cease to be an abstraction when you see that somebody is living a moment in a dusty street in a Korean village or on a beach at sunset while you sleep or wash dishes. It’s exhilarating, extraordinarily moving and, on some level, reassuring. When the “other” becomes real, we’re less likely to destroy him. The same concept is in action when the mother of the abducted child goes on TV and says her name over and over and talks about her hobbies and favorite color. She becomes a person in the mind of the psycho who took her and is more likely to survive. The world could use a dose of this. (This is exactly why I’m an Internet evangelist.)
Second, Instagram puts the tools for creating something beautiful in the hands of Average Jane, which is more significant than it might seem to you at first glance. You see, I also believe that when you cultivate your sensitivity to beauty and engage in the act of creating things of beauty yourself, it elevates you. You are more fulfilled, enlightened, open — simply a better human being. (The French know this, one of the things I love about this culture.) Technology, when it can help make a human more human, is sublime.
I plan to find people to follow on every continent, and in as many countries as I can. It will be a treasure hunt. I found one in Asia today (don’t know what language that is, but I’ll get it figured out).
Part of the big attraction of apps like these for both young and old is that you can make your photos look vintage. Some of us (and our photos) are already vintage, so we don’t really need an app for that…
A similar app, Hipstamatic, is much more about community, and looks like it has a wider range of effects for your pictures. I just bought it, and played with it for a few seconds. Looks a lot more complicated, and I’m not sure I’m motivated to tackle the learning curve. At least not today. Hipstamatic has been around a while and created quite a buzz, but I didn’t get it sooner because it’s not free. I don’t generally pay for apps unless I’m sure I’ll use them. (You know I’m a bad little consumer, the kind who thinks before spending.) Anyway, considering the fun I’ve had with Instagram, I’m pretty sure I’ll get my $1.59’s worth out of Hipstamatic.
If you’re using Instagram, look me up: pamela_poole.
Christmas was a big deal when you were a kid and it’s a big deal when you have little kids but otherwise it’s no big deal. It remains to be seen whether I will have grandkids and whether having grandkids will restore Christmas big-dealness for a time. Will I be around for great-grandkids? Doubt it. But there’s my great-grandmother with her hand on my shoulder, looking over at my baby bro. Did we bring back some big-dealness to her Christmases or those of my grandmother next to her? Hope so.
I wish I had my grandmother’s awesome coat. A mid-century riff on provençal, and red. It’s so very me.
The best thing about Christmas is when you get an idea for a great gift. A gift you think will bring a little life to the life of someone you love. Actually, it’s the only thing about Christmas that makes it worth mentioning anymore. Maybe you wouldn’t think the five matching SPAM t-shirts from size itsy bitsy to XL I bought this year for the aforementioned baby bro and his family were anything special. But it wasn’t a totally random act. Little I do is totally random. It has to do with Hawaii, where we ran amok as teens. And, yes, I selfishly hope the subliminal suggestion will work: brother wears shirt, or sees it in his drawer or the laundry, or sees any member of his family wearing shirt, and thinks of me, or maybe even gets a sudden inexplicable urge to call or send an e-mail. I think of him all the time.
I got a gift today, from Chance. A treasure I’m glad to share. Take it if you need it. Now this is a great gift:
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight in you.
Charles Bukowski, The Laughing Heart
December is sucky in general because of the weather and nostalgia and because it seems to come around so much quicker than it used to.
But I had an unsucky week. This week was filled with youth and passion and swifts and lunches and red wine and a pink latex dress and a purple rubber ducky and a snowman and cowboy boots among other things.
Three days of events around and including LeWeb, Europe’s largest tech conference, which I’ve had a press pass to for three years running since I write about the Internet for tech blogs in the US. I look forward to it all year, as much as I ever did to Christmas as a kid. The conference is an orgiastic encounter of curious and creative minds, and basking in the youthful idealism and optimism and energy of startup founders who want to create some kind of beauty is as good as sunbathing, but without the risk of skin cancer. (The Internet is the fountain of youth, folks.) Here’s Olivier Desmoulin of SuperMarmite, a site that hooks people up with home-cooked meals, one of three winners of the startup competition this year.
I came home with my favorite piece of conference swag ever. Did Yahoo! know before coming to Paris that French designer Sonia Rykiel makes a rubber ducky vibrator? If they didn’t, they found out soon enough. The first thing my French friend Myriam asked the Yahoo rep hosting the Official Blogger lounge was if it vibrated… I took one for my step-daughter (14) and one for me. (It only squeaks, by the way.)
Alas, the orgy ended and regular life resumed. Dog walking in winter is no fun, except when it is. Two days after the huge Paris snowstorm that made international news, Wiley spied a snowman. He gave him a wide berth and slowly circled in close enough to sniff his face, which he did for a long time, because, of course, the sniffing provided no insight into the nature of this creature. I just stood there enjoying the show.
Another dog walk, this one at night in the dark. The only shop open in a tiny side street near my house looked so warm and welcoming, but that could have been the not-so-subliminal suggestion of the sign, the fact that it was in my own language, and what was inside. I felt like the little match girl standing out there looking in at the delicious boots. Of course, it wasn’t the first time I’d paused before this shop, but it was the first time I’d seen it open at night. In fact, I just discovered yesterday that Paris is killing my red cowboy boots, the ones I thought would last forever (and would have in California). The leather on the vamp is cracked through from the wetness and probably nasty chemicals in the rainwater. I was obviously not diligent enough about my mink oiling… This is Go West Boots, in the 5th. Let me know if you want the address (you can’t find it on their site).
I arranged to meet an online acquaintance, a blogger whose voice and views I enjoy, who was in Paris for the week, not for LeWeb (though she’s covered it before), but for LeVin, a big wine conference. I don’t often bring people from my online life into my real life, but my instincts were good, as usual. She’s originally from South Africa, lives in Italy, is my age, and (also) has a lust for life. We connected on many levels and talked about things that, in the old days, you wouldn’t get to till some time had passed but, for better or worse, our ways of being have changed because the Internet has broken down so many barriers. We ate lunch, drank wine, watched swifts flying frenetically around outside her window, and went and tried on wild clothes at Phyléa for dessert.
This November, my fifth in Paris, was a special one because my son came to visit for two weeks. While we were out tooling around one afternoon, I got my annual November picture.
I took the photo at the Place Denfert-Rochereau with my iPhone, which is why it’s a little grainy. Unfortunately, you can’t make out the details of the bronze Lion of Belfort in the middle of the roundabout, but here’s a better picture and some history. It’s one of my favorite Paris sculptures.
Click the pic for a larger version. There are links to previous years’ November photos below.