Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of short essays which Michael Jay Tucker has written about his recent trip to Santa Fe, where he attended a conference of activist, progressive Christians eager to help change the world for the better. They were, in his opinion, the perfect antithesis of the reactionary “Christian Right,” which supports Trump no matter what.
Tucker is doing this series to illustrate how Christian activism can be liberal and loving and tough at the same time.
After the short drive from Albuquerque, we arrived in Santa Fe and parked. We walked about a bit, window shopping, then, we headed for lunch at a local restaurant we frequent. Then, because the conference didn’t start until the morning, we drifted over to the New Mexico Museum of Art on Palace Avenue. In particular, Martha was quite eager to see one of the current exhibits, “Shots In The Dark,” (December 15, 2018 – March 31, 2019).
Basically, this is a display of works of night photography. To quote the Museum’s own website, “Photography is most often associated with light and the word itself means ‘light writing’ in Greek. However, in this exhibition of nearly thirty images, four Southwestern photographers explore the dark side of the medium. Featured are about thirty photographs by Christopher Colville, scott b. davis, Michael Lundgren, and Ken Rosenthal. Each of the artists makes pictures in the landscape at night, inviting us to explore our preconceptions, fears, and fantasies about the world of shadows.” This was then linked to another exhibit, this on the floor above, of night-themed paintings and other works of art.
I am afraid neither of us really enjoyed the night photography. I understood the artists’ goals, and perhaps could admire their methods, but somehow the works did not move me. The close-up photos of tree roots and such in the dark just seemed tangled and dim to me. I suppose I just wanted to see more light in the darkness. But maybe that is my limitation rather than the works’. When I was very young, I went through a sudden onset of serious myopia and night-blindness. For years, I disliked the impressionists because their canvases reminded me of the fuzziness that attended my vision in my grade school years. Maybe the works set in such restricted lighting elicit similar, unconscious responses from me today.
From there, it was to the hotel, where we could check in by now. We rested for a while, and then it was time for our second tradition whenever we visit Santa Fe. We went to grocery store. We get bread and cheese, plus wine (if we haven’t already had something to drink that day), and eat in the room. It is good, and cheap, and cozy.
We watched television, or tried to. Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address was on, and neither of us particularly wanted to see that. Though, we did see snippets of it. I found it quite depressing, really, with the Republicans wildly (not to say hysterically) applauding their leader’s every word, no matter how absurd or false.
I was unpleasantly reminded of videos I saw of official celebrations of Mengistu’s dictatorial regime in Ethiopia, when his supporters literally danced in the aisles of the nation’s assembly, while only a few miles away people were starving to death.
We don’t have a famine here…yet…but I worry.
Other than the State of the Union, we found precious little to watch. The best thing we saw all night long was a WKRP In Cincinnati rerun. (That was such a good show!) Otherwise, it was a damn depressing succession of shopping networks, appallingly bad infomercials (including “Do You Poop Enough” from “Dr. Ho Cleanse”), ancient westerns, alleged comedies and “family fair” from the 1960s and earlier…
Mind you, there is no reason that TV programing has to be that stupid. The current version of Will & Grace, plus so many of the Netflix and Amazon originals, prove that you can make good TV if you put your mind to it. But, clearly, right at the moment, no one is applying many brain cells to basic cable.
It struck me that there are times and places where the powerfully Darwinian factor of economics seems to mitigate against intelligence. Producing original programming is both expensive and risky. An infomercial, no matter how wretched (see “Do you poop?”) will make some money somehow. Reruns from the 1960s and 1950s are cheap or free, and you can still sell ads on them.
Thus, it all makes sense. And it is a perfect metaphor for the modern, vast, semi-monopolistic corporation. Take no risks and yet reap rewards.
Still, I wonder. Who watches these things? Who buys the stuff on the infomercials? My guess is that it is an aging population, dwindling daily. Will there come a time when those raised on Gunsmoke and Hogan’s Heroes, and who genuinely worry about their colons, will cease to be, shall we say? A viable market?
And then, will intelligence once more be at a premium?
Michael Jay Tucker is the “sort of volunteer editor” of LR Net. He is also a writer and journalist who has written on topics ranging from the Jazz Age to computers. (Among his small claims to fame is that he interviewed Steve Jobs just after that talented if complicated man got kicked out of Apple, and just before the company’s Board came begging him to come back.)
Tucker’s most recent book is Padre: To The Island, a meditation on life and death based on the passing of his own parents.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.