Favorite Shots from 2013

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I surprised myself when I set out to pick 12 of my photos from 2013 that best represent the year for me.

2013 has been a year of great magnitude for me, a personal and professional struggle of nearly a decade came to pass – and for that reason, I thought the photos I chose would be full of dancing in the streets and champagne glasses – because there was a fair deal of that in my life when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 in California were both declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Few know the impact these laws had on me – an American woman married to an Australian woman who was denied the simple right to sponsor my wife for a green card. Our journey, like that of some 40,000 other same-sex binational couples, was an odyssey of international travel, visas, activism, bureaucracy, politics, social networks, work challenges, financial burdens and frustrations of all kinds. But it also was a “our normal”, so perhaps these photos represent my period of adjustment for a “new normal”.

About half these photos were taken before the law changed in our favor, half after. They were taken with iPhones, a broken point and shoot and an 8-year-old Canon XT Rebel DSLR – nothing fancy. They were shot at home in San Francisco and in some fantastic cities: Sydney, Madrid, New York and New Orleans – three of 12 are from that magical city that I visited for the first time in 2013. Obviously, it spoke to me.

Was I capturing a year in transition? While the year was a very good one for me personally – and my family, I was aware while putting together this collection that many people I knew did not have such a great year. There was much loss, some of it sudden. There were disappointments. Could a year with a “13” in it have brought on a subconscious bout of triskaidekaphobia – a fear of a number so embedded in our culture that it brought about bad things for good people?

Or, was it just meant to be my year? I was born on Friday the 13th. And while 2013 seemed a very long time away when I was a child, it got here before I knew it. I approached the year not as a bad one – but one that was meant to be. It was inevitable.  And now it has passed.

You can see the 12 photos I chose for 2013 here. Now, I’m wondering why I didn’t pick 13?

Live Streaming the Yule Log

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One of my fondest Christmas memories as a small child growing up in the shadow of New York City in the 1960s is of my father sitting in the living room, his feet up, a strong drink in his hand and the Yule Log on TV – WPIX to be exact.

We didn’t have a fireplace, but we had a color TV, and when you put on Channel 11, you and everybody else in the New York Metro area became one with the 17-second open hearth loop and traditional Christmas carols. Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song”, aka “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, in all its haunting glory is the one I remember most. Maybe because in my father’s no-nonsense approach to bringing up kids, he informed us that Nat King Cole had died of lung cancer just a few years before.

On that note – flash forward to Christmas in California, where I’ve lived for many years, the last 10 or so with a real, working fireplace. It is another “spare the air” Christmas Eve in San Francisco, so we won’t be lighting our own personal Yule Log. The fact that it’s 60 degrees out makes this basically a non-issue. Besides I’ve had the Yule Log app on my iPad for the last few Christmases past since it usually is a spare the air holiday around here anyway.

This morning I came across a great column called “Historical Shit” in the online version of the Village Voice that gives those of us who grew up with such fond memories of the Yule Log on WPIX more “historical shit” about the Yule Log than anyone but someone who grew up watching a fireplace on their TV at Christmastime could possibly stand. I’ve read every word – twice – and now am even writing my own post about the Yule Log because, obviously, I’m a huge fan.

Two years ago the phrase “there’s an app for that” probably rang truest in our online lifestyles. Indeed, it did for me on Christmas Eve when I found out I could get cited for lighting my fireplace and placed my iPad with the Yule Log app ablaze in front of the home hearth. In 2013, “live streaming” is probably the year’s biggest change to the way we used to do things. Now you can watch what you want to watch when you want to or tap into radio and TV stations from around the world – no longer limited by broadcast reaches or the the FCC.

Best. Christmas. Present. So. Far. WPIX is live streaming the Yule Log from 6 to 10 pm tonight (Christmas Eve), and from 9 am to 1 pm and 7 to 10 pm on Christmas Day! All I have to do now is remember is to put my feet up, get a strong drink and adhere to Eastern Standard Time before giving my Dad (and Mom) a call.

Bowery Santas

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A recent find by the NY Times Lens blog. Susan Meiselas’ compelling black and whites of Bowery Santas from the mid-1970s.

Meiselas discovered the Santas in midtown, outside popular department stores like Macys and Gimbel’s and was surprised to learn that many of them were so-called “Bowery bums,” the down-and-outers, mostly alcoholics who were recruited to be these storefront Santas during the holiday seasons. Meiselas followed them for two Christmases.

Why did these men who couldn’t hold a job most of the rest of the year, take on the Santa role? And fulfill the commitment? According to one, “ Once a year, I can be a human. I do it to remind myself.”

See the slide show here.

Half Empty Parking Lots on Black Friday

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This year Black Friday took a lot of flak. Mostly because of retailers’ audacity to let it slip into Thanksgiving Day, forcing minimum wage workers to forsake the holiday with family and come into work. These pictures of half-empty parking lots in Middle America on the so-called “busiest shopping day of the year,” do not underscore a problem with the U.S. economy per se. Rather they show the gap between the richest and the poorest and the shrinking middle class, which just a decade or two ago would have flooded these stores, looking for mid-range bargains for a happy Christmas.

Source: StreetsBlog.net.

Photo from: Twitter user @glm4.  Sent photo to StreetsBlog.net from Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.