Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mirrors and Treadmills

I went over to Costco Monday to pick up groceries, pills and stuff like that. The doc turned me on to a half month's supply of Plavix, which was pretty cool considering the stuff goes for over three bucks a hit, and you can't even turn a profit selling it off on the black market. The thing he gave me was some cardboard folder, cheerfully entitled Your Heart Attack Recovery Kit. It was filled with informative literature, a plastic card for the pills, and one of those government/insurance company printouts only slightly smaller than the Sunday Times: one of those oversized pages for which you need a microfiche reader, a law degree, and a doctorate in pharmacology to decipher. I think the purpose of the thing is to say, in essence, that if you kick the bucket from taking this shit it ain't their fault. Fine with me. Risk is my middle name.

But what got me was the picture on the front of the cardboard folder. It showed all these happy, glowey, and full of life seniors grinning away, as they no doubt contemplated Club Med Vacations, golf games, tri-athalons, or at least being able to live long enough (thanks to the Plavix) to blow all their money before their Gen-X grandkids could get hold of it. Still they looked like a bunch of old farts, and I found it somewhat galling to be taking old fart type pills, instead of some cooler drug like Vicodin, or Oxycontin which at least has a decent resale value should I run short of cash in the middle of the month. I mean hell- I'm only...

Oh, shit, yeah. That's right. Fifty-six.

But I had to wait for the prescription to get filled, so I pushed the SUV sized shopping cart around the warehouse grabbing the various items essential to life in the world as we know it. All of it in slightly embarrassing quantities. Thirty rolls of paper towels. The forty-five roll pack of toilet paper. Ninety six pounds of laundry soap. A side of beef, three little pigs, and a barnyard's worth of dismembered chicken parts neatly sealed in plastic blisters. I don't buy cat food at Costco, however. They have these fifty pound bags of stuff that I think they import from North Korea, or somewhere, and I hate the thought of feeding Booger the Cat, and Crabby Old Sam on recycled political prisoners, and toxic waste.

I paid a visit to the electronics section. Not a good idea. I don't even want a giant flat screen TV, despite the demo discs showing how realistic shit blowing up looks in high definition. They had some new desktop computers, but my four year old Sony PC works just fine.


They have the Canon EOS digital Rebel 14mp SLR, with choice of lenses... I don't need it, can't afford it, and I know that my life is incomplete without it. I had to take it off the shelf, hold it, and pretend to look through the viewfinder at the imagined perfect shot that won't present itself to me until I break down someday and buy the damn thing. I considered how much better my timeless portrait of the Loch Ness Rabbit would have come out if only I had the thousand dollar Canon instead of the three hundred dollar Minolta. Greatness and fame were just a credit card swipe, and a signature away... Forget it. Get back to the pharmacy; get your boring damn pills, and go home.

But I had to stop and look for a second. A few people were checking out some new gizmo on some new laptop computer which I needed only slightly less than the camera. And whatdoyaknow. What they were checking out was a camera- one mounted right in the middle of the laptop lid. You could flip the computer open, and see your digital image right there in real time, live on your own private TV network.

I had to look. Bad mistake. Very bad.

We all of us look at ourselves in the mirror every day, and since we see ourselves every day we are seldom surprised by what we see. After all, your reflection at five in the afternoon isn't significantly older than the one you saw at seven that morning. But what we are used to seeing reflected in the mirror is just that- a mirror reflection, a reversed image, backward typeface version of ourselves. The image on the laptop screen was not a reflection. It was my face just as everyone else sees it. Right was right, and left was left, and the effect was startling as a son of a bitch. Talk about the old farts on the Plavix folder- Cripes, I should hope to look so good. Who was this dismal old bastard staring back at me? This computer wasn't worth a shit, I decided. No way I need it.

I got my pills, paid for the groceries, and got the hell out of there.

But today brought a brighter note. I had to go and do a treadmill test this morning at the cardiologist's. No sweat. I fried the thing. Actually did better than I did a year and a half ago. So all those grinning idiots on the Plavix folder can eat their hearts out. So what if trick photography made them look all glowey, and young. I'm sure I could kick their butts.



julie said...

They have the Canon EOS digital Rebel 14mp SLR, with choice of lenses... I don't need it, can't afford it, and I know that my life is incomplete without it.

I share your pain, John. Especially after reading that article on photography Robin linked a couple weeks back, wherein one of the first commandments was "get a real camera." Needless to say, my current trusty companion does not fit that definition. And so I sigh to myself and think "Oh, that shot could have been so much better if only..." But that's silly. If I can't work with what I've got, how could I reasonably work with more?

julie said...

At least, that's what I tell myself ;)

jwm said...

Your pics look really good. What are you using? I have a 4mp Minolta Dimage Z2


mushroom said...

I agree -- there's nothing worse than seeing myself on camera, or even in a still picture. I have actually wondered who that was.

I'm leaving the cameras to you hotshots. I have a very pedestrian Canon Powershot that generally exceeds my ability to mess up a picture. The more power you give me, the more chances I have to cause problems.

wv: skibil -- I get a bill for everything else.

xlbrl said...

Back in the bad old days, circa 1962, a 65 year-old neighbor lady with a bum ticker was told she would not be stong enough for the heart surgury if she was unable to meet a certain standard on the treadmill. The risk in taking the test, she was told, was that it conceivabley could kill her. It did.

will said...

I figure the reason we're all shocked to pieces at the sight of our own mugs as others see them is because we have these idealized images of ourselves that have been there since age 12 or the thereabouts.I suppose self-image is part of the ego-building process, the I-am-me-and-nobody-else process.

Now our real appearance may not be so bad, may even be good, but it's just at such variance with our long-bred self-image that beholding it for the first time is shocking, a reality-check nonpareil.

I suppose, too, that we all have a self-image of how others *regard* us. Imagine the shock wave that would ensue if there was some way we could access that mother.

Robin Starfish said...

There's a very good reason certain photographers stay behind the lens. ;-)

If you want a real shock, I have a little technique that will scare the crap out of you, guaranteed. Maybe I'll post a tutorial on it one of these days. But first I need to find a subject that doesn't mind a little embarrassment. Heh.

wv: aptiol, the wonder drug

walt said...

Look at it this way: Your wife thinks you're just peachy, and your employer sees you as (at least) satisfactory. Their opinions count!

To us, your "face" is the wfb, and it looks fine!

julie said...

wv says "scusi," for not replying sooner :)

My camera is a Panasonic Lumix, SLR-style (but not an actual SLR), 6 or 8mp (I forget which). It's a nice little camera, don't get me wrong - Leica lens, decent image stabilization, etc. It's just that it has limitations, and I'm starting to be able to tell what they are. Just being able to swap lenses would be wonderful, at times, and I'd really love to be able to do some decent slow night exposures... Really, I'm not asking much - just a camera that can process with the same or better clarity as I do ;)

Skully said...

"But first I need to find a subject that doesn't mind a little embarrassment. Heh."

Hey, Dojo, for a few grogs I would volunteer to help. It is afterall for the kits.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Yes, of course the companies always want to put the best spin on their products, and you're right about the disclaimers.

Can't blame them, since some folks will sue over anything, even with the side effects clearly listed.

It would be nice if the disclaimers merely said "there is risk involved with taking this medication and yes, you may experience the side effects listed.
But ask yourself this, what is the alternative?"

Nice and simple. But there's always some butthead who will try to find a way to blame the company regardless of all the warnings.

Glad to hear you passed the treadmill with flyin' colors, John! :^)

"I suppose, too, that we all have a self-image of how others *regard* us. Imagine the shock wave that would ensue if there was some way we could access that mother."

Egads, Will! I don't wanna know...unless it's good. :^)