Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Memory Lane and Others'

I recently discovered a fantastic photography blog and have been going through it semi-obsessively over the course of the past couple days. I've made it to the January 2008 archives now, and when I got to this article on the Library of Congress' massive project of putting thousands of pictures up on Flickr. You should make a point of checking this blog out, because the author has a truly great and diverse taste in photography. It's called The Year in Pictures and I came to it via another blog, which posted pictures of tulip farms:

I mean, amazing, right? On a side note, this whole thing is a real experiment in how the Internet is kind of constantly eating itself, and makes me feel considerably less unique in my interests than I usually see myself. This blog was linked from 24 Free Dinners which is an offshoot of Daddy Likey, which was linked to by both The Manolo and that weird fashion blog whose grammatical ineptitude eventually became too much for me to handle, the former of which is referred to with varying frequency on Television Without Pity, Tomato Nation and Pajiba, and this intersects with The Sartorialist, who is frequently referenced on the Year in Pictures blog and whom I read regularly. No matter how varied my regular Internet spots may seem to be, they all eventually mash together, particularly around Television Without Pity. I have three main online zones...politics and hard news, fashion, and pop-cultural-but-not-hyper-gossipy (i.e. no Gawker, Perez Hilton, etc.), which I think seem fairly separate from one another, yet they all seem to run into each other in the most random and serendipitous ways. Fascinating, I think. My nearest guess is that the intellectual level and style of all these blogs is about the same. I don't know if I should feel happy that there are lots of people out there who think like me, or if I should feel territorial and pissy that others are infringing in my (imagined?) uniqueness.

Okay, I'm sorry but extra side note...I use an online music thingie (not really radio, not really P2P) called Pandora and it's so interesting to see how certain tiny things that you would never notice carry through things you like, even if you would not consider said things to go together. The way Pandora works is that you punch in an artist of song you like, and based on that song, Pandora puts together a radio station of what it thinks you'll like. From there you can guide it along by giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to the songs it plays, and eventually, you get your very own superawesome radio station. I started on station with "The Way I Are" and somehow, presumably through magic, the radio station now includes all kinds of weird crap that I would not associate with ANYTHING from Timbaland but that I love all the same. I think there are just certain things that appeal to us, and whether we recognize them and conciously seek them out, like choosing a pink shirt over black, or respond without knowing we do so, dog whistle style, we respond to them the same way every time.

Should I get to the goddamn point already, because I think I should get to the goddamn point. As I said about three weeks ago at the start of this entry, the Library of Congress posted a ton of photos to Flickr, which is a huge service to the entire planet, since their photo collections are simply amazing (If I have not harangued you about this in person, PLEASE do not skip the Library of Congress. I know it sounds less thrilling than many of the other DC attractions, but it's really a spectacular place). I just loved this picture of Shulman's Market at N and Union in Southwest Washington, DC, taken by Louise Roskam in 1942:

Not only is it a gorgeous picture, but somehow it manages to be everything I love about DC. This market is still there...maybe not in the same place, probably not under the same name, but the spirit of this market is still in DC. (As it turns out, some helpful folks have investigated the specific market. I love the Internet.) What I love so much about DC is that so many different things manage to exist within the city limits. Everyone thinks of the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial...these are the iconic images of the city, photographed ad nauseam and instantly understandable. But what really makes living in DC so exceptional is the other stuff...the storefronts that are still like this, and the neighborhoods that each have their own feel and flavor.
No matter what environment you thrive in, no matter what feelings you want to immerse yourself in, you can find it in Washington. If you can't decide, you can Georgetown, to the Hill, to Dupont, to Adams Morgan...hell, to Anacostia, if you want. You can find whatever people you could want in the District, too, from the Leader of the Free World right down to welfare queens of the dingier neighborhoods. There is a range and a depth in DC that I have rarely found elsewhere, and that is what I love and miss the most about it. It's a city with problems and pain and endless trauma, but it still manages to embody a certain spirit of resilience and strength that simply cannot be denied. How perfect, for a country like America, that such a city would serve as its seat of government, when it exemplifes all the mishmash of the country itself.

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