Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blast from Past – Lockwood meets Vonnegut (Part 1 of 3)


This morning, I used my get up earlier than everybody else so that I can have time for myself time to work on the “Endless Project.”


Lifetimes ago, I read a book, I think by John Barth, who I pretended to like because he was popular at the time and I was trying to be literarily correct. I didn’t really like John Barth, didn’t think he made a lot of sense, and don’t remember the title of the book. In fact, it may not even have been John Barth at all.


But somewhere, in some book I once read, there was a character who had two obsessive rituals that illustrated his core belief about life. First, he paid his rent every morning. Just one day’s rent. Because he could never be sure if that was the day that death would come to him. Secondly, he ended every day in the evening by working for an hour on a project that he had calculated would take a thousand years. Because you never could be sure that you wouldn’t live forever either…or at least a long time. Maybe it was John Barth after all since the second half of this formula doesn’t make a lot of sense to me now.


It may not make a lot of sense but I have a project that is sort of like that.


Shortly before last Christmas, I purchased a really good printer/copier/scanner that is also capable of scanning negatives. This is exciting because it enables me to convert lots of old film photos to digital. Scanning negatives is better than copying prints because it captures more detail. Of course, to get the detail, you have to change the default setting of 200 ppi to 600 ppi and this causes each scan to take ten minutes or so! I need a faster computer with more RAM and more ROM and more OOMPH. I can also set it for as high as 2,800 ppi but anything above 600 currently crashes my system.


More detail is great! It reveals more clearly all the dust specks, scratches, hairs and accumulated junk on these old negatives despite all my efforts at blowing, brushing, anti-static-ing, and cleaning. Most of my negatives, I placed in protective sleeves. But, but over time, hairs and dust are more persistent than gravity. I’ll never beat Mother Nature.



These negatives go back to 1968 when I used to do my own black and white developing and printing in a bathroom sealed off by towels and blankets. From 1968 to 1976, the cheap apartments I lived in always reeked of pipe smoke and booze except for the bathrooms which reeked of developer, fixer and stop bath. It’s a wonder I can smell anything today.


Damn. Digressing again. I am incapable of telling a story straight. Where was I?


Oh, yes. The endless project. The notebook pictured above, which contains the subtle odors of pipesmoke, booze, photographic chemicals, and mould from countless storage sheds, also contains approximately 8,500 images. 8,300 of these are junk…booze focused fuzz balls of god knows what or guilt-producing pictures of old girlfriends. But in order to find ones I want to save, I have to at least do the intial pre-scan. I may never get through them all.


Oh yes, there is also a huge box of snapshots and color negatives from the thirty years after that! Many of these negatives are not in sleeves much to the delight of hair and dust particles that treat the box like an all you can eat buffet.


But periodically I plow on through memory lane. And this morning, I suddenly ran into John Lockwood.

11 comments:

  1. I can relate to your one-time character. In fact, I warm to him!

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  2. We have quite a few trays of slides and my next project is to buy a scanner that will have a slide holder...but since I now have two printers, my husband has asked me to wait. (One of the printers I got free with my camera purchase.) I do know a bargain.

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  3. This sounds like a project worth the time, even if it is not a thousand years!

    ~AM

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  4. i'm with John Barth, this is why i don't buy toilet paper in bulk from costco....tomorrow may never come but we all need bigger, more expensive houses to store all this stuff...:)

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  5. I totally agree with B&g girl (that's quite a name!) (stuff--what it means, what to do with it all--is the theme of my blog); and, I also commiserate with your endless project. My great uncle was an avid amateur photographer who took 1000s of photos and slides from the 40s-80s. He was with the UN and traveled the world. I have these slides and want to scan them someday. That's the crux...someday. So much else to do. Why do I have to have a job?????

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  6. You do have a lot of work ahead of you but it will be worth it when done. And one thing I wanted to say, I am glad of glad you dont think straight because it makes for way more enjoyable blog posts thanks. I like the thought about paying your rent for each day too.

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  7. I have noticed that my photographs from a certain period in the eighties have all developed a reddish tinge - poor processing, poor paper, whatever, but I have found that photoshop does a good job of restoring them, and as for the scratches and dirt, I like the aged look. It really feels like history.

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  8. Alright I like this story and the brilliant way you chose to sneak us into it.

    I will be back for more.

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  9. I've never thought about scanning my old negatives - makes me salivate now as
    to what I'll find. Going back fifty years!
    June in Oz

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  10. Hmmm, perhaps this project's endlessness is caused by, ah, um, where was I? Uh-oh, looks like I have a bit of it too!

    peace,
    mike
    livelife365

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  11. Googled John Barth. Found he is "known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work". That explains everything. Right there in a nutshell - with emphasis on the word "nut". Now, since you brought it up, what in the name of all that is good and fine, what is a "postmodernist" - even a "premodernist" - or a "metafictive"? Hope they found a cure.

    Really need to break open the two cruise boxes full of photos. There must be jillions of them in there. One of my thousnad year projects is to make a disk or two for each of my offspring - offal - with the best of the best. Tomorrow. See some of the posts from Chicken Fat (http://ethunter1.blogspot.com/) for an example of someone with a great photo system.

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