Monday, March 30, 2009

Song #10: "This Is Where I Begin"

My latest song is about boundaries. Intended for a female singer. Here is the tune (.mp3), the sheet music (.pdf) and me singing the song, poorly (.wav). The full lyrics are below (not too meaningful without the music). Both the tune and the words are my own original work. I've gone as far as I can with this song. Now it's your turn! Midi file available upon request.

This Is Where I Begin

It seemed so simple then.
We would be more than friends.
Melting together, give what you can,
Take what you need.
We couldn't see the toll,
The loss of self-control.
As bad as losing you was the losing me.

Because this is where I begin.
This is where you must end.
No you can't come over this side
Even if you are my friend.
This is my hiding place.
You'll have to find your own.
Because even if I love you
We must face the world alone.

We crave consistency,
Lifelong security.
It's not a path you take without cost.
See what we lost.
Love unconditional
Can be dysfunctional.
Our contract clearly states I must rescue you
From anything you do.
You never have to truly stand up on your own.

This is where I begin.
This is where you must end.
No you can't come over this side
Even if you are my friend.
This is my own reward.
You'll have to earn your own.
Because even if I love you
We must face the world alone.

Don't walk away.
Let's find a way.
Let's compromise, negotiate but for today.
Can't make no plans.
Please understand.
You can't take all of me.
You only take my hand.

This is where I begin.
This is where you must end.
No you can't come over this side
Even if you are my friend.
This is my Paradise.
You'll have to build your own.
Because even if I love you
We must face the world alone.

Lyrics and tune copyright © 2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.
Released from Deming, New Mexico.
You can see all my songs here. All my songs and screen stories are indexed at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Permission to Photograph

This lady in Dublin said, "Take our picture!" so I did.

One of my Facebook friends writes: "Hey Glenn, I was wondering if anybody got upset about you taking pictures of them without their consent... Have you ever been in a situation like that before? If so, what happened?"

This is a complex and interesting question: Do I have a right to photograph people without their permission, and how far am I willing to go?"

(My photo albums are found at

I have basically two kinds of human subjects: (1) people deliberately making a spectacle of themselves—say, by dressing in costumes and participating in a public celebration; and (2) people going about their daily business in the place where I happen to be photographing.

A good example of the first case is a renaissance fair, where people dress up in outlandish medieval customs intending to be noticed. That, to me, implies a permission to photograph them. I am careful not to make people uncomfortable, but I have no discomfort about shooting.

The second case is more complicated. If I photograph, say, a street vendor without his permission, am I violating his privacy? In the U.S., at least, there aren't any specific laws against it. It is well-established, for example, that celebrities can be photographed whenever they appear in public, and they don't have to be paid royalties for it, which is the legal principle supporting the paparazzi. The same general idea applies to anyone appearing in public. Legally, I never fear that I will be arrested for what I do.

The more important issue, however, is making people uncomfortable, and I do my best to avoid it. The fact is, the vast majority of the people in my photos don't even know there are being photographed. It happens so quickly (in a fraction of a second), that they are only dimly aware of it at most, so there's no opportunity for them to become uncomfortable. Usually, I appear to be photographing something else, like the Grand Canyon, and the people in the foreground aren't aware that they are my main subject.

A lot of the apparent intimacy of my photos happens in post-production. My original photo shows a much wider scene, but I crop it down to the small part of the scene that is most interesting. When it appears in the photo that I am close to a person and interacting with them, I am usually very far away and just happened to catch them when they are looking in my direction. They may see a guy with a camera, but they probably don't know he is looking at them.

I don't feel uncomfortable about "stealing" photos like this, because the chance of the subject or anyone he knows ever seeing the photo is very slim. And I never portray people in an unflattering light, anyway, so it shouldn't be something that would upset them if they saw it. If anyone did see themselves on one of my websites and asked me to remove them, I probably would, but so far no one has asked.

Occasionally, though, I may actually engage with my subject. This may happen, for example, when a bunch of kids (or drunk adults) see that I have a camera and they start hamming for it. If you start performing for my camera, this implies a permission to photograph, and I will take advantage of it.

Generally, I only photograph people under circumstances where photography is normal, like at tourist attractions or public events. This gives me the "cover" I need to focus on what really interests me: the people. I don't photograph in circumstances where I would be drawing attention to myself by doing so. The essence of candid photography is that the subject be at ease, so I don't want them distracted by my presence.

In practice, it is virtually impossible to get "permission" to photograph. Once I ask, "May I photograph you?" people become self-conscious, and it destroys the spontaneity of the moment. It also starts raising questions, like "What are you going to do with these photos?" which requires a long, complicated negotiation. I couldn't take a lot of pictures in an amusement park if I tried to ask permission from each person who appears in my viewfinder. Instead, I just shoot and move on. Usually, it happens in a split second, and I have completely left the area five seconds later.

I do obey some general rules:

(1) I don't photograph people in undignified positions. I try to draw a line between "capturing" people and "exploiting" them.

(2) I don't photograph people where there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy."

The last concept is a vague one, but I generally don't photograph people in busses or subways or engaged in activities that are generally closed to the public. I wouldn't photograph people at a funeral or at private events I haven't been invited to. A general rule of thumb is that if a regular tourist wouldn't be photographing the scene, I won't either, but if a lot of other cameras are present I will feel free to snap away. This is why the majority of my venues end up being tourist attractions.

Occasionally, people will ask me not to photograph them, but usually these are very paranoid characters who are hyper-vigilant for any perceived threat in their environment. Usually, I don't give them the chance complain. If I dwell too long in one area or point my camera in one direction for an extended time, I might get a complaint, in which case I promptly leave the area or put the camera away.

In my photography career, only handful of people have asked me not to photograph them. These incidents stick out in my mind, and I have adjusted my methods so I don't trigger this kind of response. I may walk down the street going snap-snap-snap, but by the time a paranoid has a chance to react, I'm already long gone.

I feel that the benefits outweigh the concerns. I usually believe that something important is being captured that would slip away otherwise.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kilroy Café #34: "Compromises: In a crisis, are you willing to make them?"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay. You can click on the image above for a larger version or print it out on a single page via the pdf file. The full text is also below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

In a crisis, are you willing to make them?


One of the hidden advantages of an economic crisis or any other kind of disaster is that it forces us to focus on what's really important. To survive, we will probably have to purge the things we never really needed in favor of the core things we do need. In the end, if we play our cards right, we could end up healthier and more fulfilled than if the crisis never happened.

The requirements of life are pretty simple: We need food, health and a reasonable measure of physical safety. Philosophically, we also need a meaningful personal mission and some control over our own destiny. If we have these things, everything else is negotiable. We may think we need other "essentials," but when forced to go without them, we will usually find a way.

The seeds of almost every crisis lie in the prosperity that came before. The tragedy of good times is that they encourage us to take on more crap than we can ultimately support: more possessions, more debt, more obligations and more arbitrary expectations about what the proper life should be. After a period of good fortune, people are burdened by so much excess baggage, both physical and psychological, they can hardly move.

A crisis tends to strip all of that away. We are forced to make hard choices about the things we need and don't need, and after a painful transition, we may end up with a life that is leaner, more direct and ultimately more satisfying than the one we had before.

Some people are broken by crisis. Their spirit never recovers. Others are ultimately strengthened by it and come out the other side much more productive than they were before. What is the difference between the two? It's a matter of attitude.

Those who prosper approach the crisis as an opportunity. They say, "I didn't ask for this, but now that it is happening, I'm going to take advantage of it." You can't keep these people down, because every bad thing you throw at them gets turned to their benefit.

There can be great freedom in control being taken out of our hands, which is what a crisis usually does. For example, few of us would want to lose our job, have our home foreclosed on or have to file for bankruptcy, but if these things are forced upon us, we might be better off in the long term, getting closer to the simple things that are most important. Without a crisis, we might never have passed the threshold of pain necessary to make these changes.

A crisis often allows us to make dramatic course corrections that would be unthinkable in good times. Instead of a dull, straight-line path through life, you may end up with a much more interesting and purposeful journey—if you take advantage of the opportunity.

A crisis can be thought of a wormhole through space. Instead of travelling 20 light years by slow space ship to reach your destination, you could jump through a wormhole and get there much faster.

The only disadvantage of wormholes is the devastation they wreck when they appear in your universe. Everything you cared about and thought was important may be sucked away. There is nothing pleasant about it, and there may be times when no solution seems possible.

Just like the unrealistic euphoria of good times, the worry of bad times is rarely as bad as it first seems. Once a few things go bad, we start planning for the worst-case scenario where everything goes bad. Paranoia starts ruling our actions, which often makes things even worse.

But along with the calamities, unexpected opportunities are also bound to appear, and when they do, you have to be ready to jump into them. The key preparation is to purge all those things you don't need. Do you really need this obligation, that possession? People have always told you those things are necessary but are they really? If you are truly creative, you can often find a better work-around.

The greatest benefit of a crisis is the purging it encourages. It gives you a chance to get back to basics, to what's really important. If you're smart, you'll take the hint and get rid of everything not of immediate practical value. Instead of travelling with eighteen steamer trunks, you should be passing through life with one carry-on.

The real privilege is to be passing through life at all, not what you are carrying with you.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
This issue was released from Las Vegas.
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.
You are welcome to comment on this newsletter below.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kilroy Café #33: "Dorothy and the Ruby Slippers"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay. You can click on the image above for a larger version or print it out on a single page via the pdf file. The full text is also below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

Dorothy and the Ruby Slippers
The Yellow Brick Road is not the path to creativity


Probably the greatest movie of all time, at least for its metaphorical value, is Wizard of Oz. Here you have a girl engaged in a long journey to achieve her "heart's desire." She thinks the best way to get there is an appeal to the Mighty Oz, but it turns out she never really needed him. The power to fulfill her own dreams was hers all along!

That's a mistake all of us make in the beginning. When we want something, we think we need some outside force to give it to us, so we engage in some sort of complicated multi-year process to pander to that force. Years later, we may discover that the "man behind the curtain" was a fraud. All we ever needed, it turns out, was the self-confidence to do it ourselves.

Tell me: Why haven't you written that song, novel or screenplay you always dreamed of? You may think it's because you don't have an agent or contract, or because you haven't taken the right classes, or because you don't have anyone to believe in you.

Rubbish! The responsibility for any creative achievement lies wholly within you. If you fancy yourself a musician, then you should be making music—not just performing music, but creating it. If you are a writer, then you should be writing. There is no other way.

Dorothy could have gone back to Kansas anytime she wanted. The power was in her ruby slippers all along, but frankly she didn't even need the shoes. That's just another magical belief, another substitute for responsibility.

If there's something you want to do, that's important you, YOU JUST BLOODY DO IT! No matter what prison you may be trapped in, you will find a way if you choose to. No Oz can give it to you.

Budding artists tend to get caught up in marketing and the myth of "discovery." Instead of actually producing a great product, they become fixated on convincing others of their talent. This inevitably turns into some form of prostitution where you are pandering to the selfish needs of some outside agent or sponsor (or the fickle public) who is a failure at the art themselves.

All of this energy should be focused on the art itself, on the quality of the product. Appealing to power might get you ahead in the short term, but in the greater arc of history, only quality lasts.

Nowadays, you don't need a publishing or recording contract to create a work that lasts forever. The internet now gives you that, practically for free. Your product may not be noticed, but at least it won't be lost in the attic, and it will be noticed eventually if the quality is really there.

Why were the Beatles a success? Why are we still listening to them today? It wasn't because they had recording contracts or good agents. It was because they produced really great songs—even before the contracts or agents. They had a singular focus on quality long before their "discovery." In fact, you could say it was the discovery, agents and contracts that destroyed them. How can any artist remain productive when assaulted by so much success?

Of all the people who dream of doing creative things, only a tiny portion actually do them. That's because everyone else gets sidelined by some irrelevant journey. They get sucked down some mindless Yellow Brick Road that ends up diverting them from their goals and taking up most of their lives. They take this journey thinking Oz will give them something that can really only come from within.

Why do they fall for it? It's the blank page problem: People stare at the empty canvas in front of them and panic. "I don't know what to do!" They sit down to write the great novel but can't think of anything to say. That's when they start looking for external solutions—for saviors and magical fixes.

The blank page isn't so frightening if you step back and look beyond it. All around you are tools and opportunities, and you have to listen to them. You can make art out of anything, but you have to resolve to work with what you've got and go where it leads you, not demand a certain end product.

If you become obsessed with writing a bestselling novel, you probably won't, but if you decide to be creative with whatever tools you have today, you are far more likely to produce a quality product. That process, if you are flexible enough to follow it, may lead to an Emerald City you never expected.

If you are going to create, you can't put it off. You have to do it now.

—G .C.

For your convenience, here is the complete screenplay for Wizard of Oz

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
This issue was released from Daytona Beach, Florida.
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.
You are welcome to comment on this newsletter below.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kilroy Café #32: "Fight the Evil of the Capitalist Commercial Agenda"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay. You can click on the image above for a larger version or print it out on a single page via the pdf file. The full text is also below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

of the Capitalist Commercial Agenda


Capitalism has given us many useful tools. Thanks to trade, you don't have to grow or hunt your own food; you just go to the store and buy it. Thanks in part to commercial medicine, you now have a reasonable chance of living beyond the age of 40. Many products offered by Capitalism, like computers and washing machines, can be worth far more than their purchase price if they relieve you of routine tasks and let you spend more time on important things.

All of this technology is driven by profit. Entrepreneurs know that if they provide something people need, they will make money and gain greater freedom for themselves. For example, a farmer can grow food more efficiently than the blacksmith. The blacksmith pays the farmer for food so he, in turn, can focus on what he does best. Both parties benefit from their commercial exchange and don't have to work so hard to survive.

Capitalism becomes less benign, however, as soon as the needs of survival have been met. Merchants will still seek profit, but how can they make any when the customer is already satisfied?

Answer: They make the customer dissatisfied.

Once all reasonable human needs have been met, the role of Capitalism is to generate artificial needs where none had previously existed. These new needs, in turn, are used to sell ever more ridiculous and burdensome products.

That's the purpose of advertizing: to create those artificial needs. Once upon a time, advertizing was simply used to connect the buyer who wanted something with the seller who had it. Now, its main purpose is to tell the buyer he needs something when he never would have thought of it otherwise.

In the modern world, the overwhelming role of Capitalism is to sell people things they don't need, thereby keeping the people enslaved to the system rather than freeing them.

If all you need is simple food and basic shelter, you can become satisfied relatively quickly, but the wheels of marketing assure that the simple and basic are never enough. There will always be ever finer distinctions of "need" to attend to—more exotic food, more expensive fashion, etc.—until all your resources are used up and you never feel satisfied no matter how much you have.

The incentive for deception is huge. There is little profit in supplying basic needs, because this is a commodity business where competition holds prices down, but there can be big profit in selling people things they don't need. When a marketer invents the need himself, he can engineer it so only his product fulfills that imaginary need.

The bulk of advertizing is focused on products with "tm" at the end of their names. Pepsi™ and Coke™ are each focused on creating an addictive need for their supposedly unique product. By buying the product, the marketing tells you, you are buying into a certain illusory lifestyle only they can supply.

Of course, what they are really selling you is sugar water and caffeine, things for which your body has no genuine need. Like 99% of the marketed products out there, the need is totally or mostly artificial and has no real benefit to the healthy functioning of your life.

It is easy to say you're not swayed by advertizing, but advertizing is rapidly becoming the only culture we have left on this planet. It's impossible to avoid. Even most "entertainment" is a commercial product design to generate and reinforce an artificial need.

We all have real needs, but we have to listen to our own bodies and circumstances to find out what they are and how best to address them. We shouldn't take advice from people who have an obvious agenda in selling us something.

Even when it accurately identifies a need, Capitalism usually wants to sell you a $200 solution when a $2 one might work even better. Because commerce has so thoroughly usurped our culture, you're probably never going to hear about the $2 solution because there's no news channel for it.

The commercial agenda poisons everything it touches and will destroy your life if you give it a chance. You can't make it go away, but you can turn it off. You don't just have a choice of Coke vs. Pepsi. The real exercise of your freedom is seeing that you need neither.

—G .C.

ALSO SEE an earlier philosophy essay: Capitalism Sucks (Family Court Philosopher #35, 11/28/06)

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.
You are welcome to comment on this newsletter below.

Photos Are No Longer Posted Here

My new photo albums will no longer be posted to this blog, since they are adequately published on other blogs.

The definitive list of all my photo albums is found at This archive may be delayed, however, and it may take weeks or months before new albums appear there. (Albums are added here only when they are complete.)

My latest photos will always be posted to my Facebook page first. (You must "friend" me to see this page.) When an album is first begun it will also be posted to my abbreviated Facebook Fan page. (Any Facebook member can view it or become a fan.)

My Facebook page is mirrored on my public Archive of my Facebook Wall, which may be delayed by a few days after posting to the Facebook page.

Given all these sources for the photos, also adding them to Kilroy Cafe seemed unnecessary. Kilroy Cafe is now mainly for my philosophical and creative writings. (Traditionally, new ideas start on Kilroy Cafe then are moved to other blogs or websites as they mature.)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kilroy Café #31: "The Destructive Power of Puppies"

Here is the latest Kilroy philosophy essay. You can click on the image above for a larger version or print it out on a single page via the pdf file. The full text is also below. Also see my other Kilroy Café newsletters.

The Destructive Power of Puppies


One of the fundamental challenges of life is learning how to resist temptation now in favor of a better outcome in the future. Most people simply can't do it, especially if the temptation is something emotional and close at hand.

Take, for example, the puppy. Look how adorable, helpless and funny he is. Can't we take him home? Pleeease?

Faced with those big, innocent, heartbreaking eyes (of both the puppy and the person begging for one), most of us can't resist. It's just one little puppy. What harm can he do?

But what happens then? That's right, puppies grow up! They can turn into big, hungry, undisciplined bruisers who take over your life for years, sometimes long after the person who begged for them has moved away. Grown up puppies can cost thousands of dollars over their lifetime and cause you daily inconvenience worth far more.

Metaphorically, a "puppy" is anything that appeals to your emotions in the present but that isn't best for you in the long run. All of us are struggling with puppies—doing what feels good vs. what we know is right—and all of us fall for them sometimes.

Drugs are a puppy, in that they make you feel good now (or at least stop the bad feelings) but aren't good for you over time. Rich food is a puppy if you know you're overweight. A puppy can be something you buy for yourself that you know you don't need or "help" you give someone when they should be helping themselves.

A puppy can also be a painful but necessary decision that you have been avoiding, like firing an employee who is trying his best but not meeting the requirements of the job. It's a puppy when you avoid causing someone immediate discomfort at the expense of both their long term health and yours.

Puppies abound in the home and in intimate relationships. Even the most ruthless judge or businessman, capable of hard and calculated decisions on the job, may turn into a creampuff when he gets back to the wife and kids. Once you drop your defenses with someone and become responsive to their emotions, it can become incredibly difficult to say "No." Puppies sneak in wherever the will gets weak, and soon you have a house full of dysfunction.

The "puppy problem" is a common disorder of the underclass in any society: the poor, illiterate and impulsive. It is not just that these people lack resources, but they tend to misuse them when they do have them. Those without much experience in good fortune are likely to squander it on things that feel good right now—luxury goods, entertainment, gifts to friends—while their long-term prospects go down the drain.

The puppy problem is also the official disease of politics. Leaders are elected or defeated on the basis of whatever puppies appeal to the public at the moment. The voters rarely comprehend the long-term consequences of their current hysteria, so they elect leaders who pander to those feelings.

Advertisers are always trying to sell you puppies, for a simple reason: the profit margin on products you don't need is usually much greater than on the basics. There's little reward in selling tap water or basic transportation but huge profit on sugared soft drinks and luxury cars. The job of advertising is to manufacture puppies: things your emotions say you can't live without even as you mortgage your soul to pay for them.

The puppy problem turns up in countless guises and never goes away. If you don't face the problem today, you will in the near future.

You have already had plenty of life experience concerning what happens when you fall prey to puppies. They can lead to many kinds of prison and rob years from your life, so you can't afford to make too many puppy mistakes.

No one wants to be a puppy killer. Part of the burden of refusing the sentiments of the moment is that people are going to hate you for it. The risk, however, is that you take in too many puppies and your whole system collapses, leaving you unable to care for any of them.

Come on, just one little puppy? Look at those sweet little eyes!

Okay, well maybe just one.

You're going to fall for it sooner or later, so you have to be crafty. You can give in on the little puppy proposals, like borrowing one for the weekend, but you have to hold the line on the big ones.

The puppy before you can't just be seen in three dimensions but in four, including time. What will this puppy become over months and years?

If you clearly see the fourth dimension and understand that your best control of it happens now, you might be better equipped to face the puppy temptation.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173. See my other philosophy newsletters at
You can distribute this newsletter on your own blog or website under the conditions given at the main entry for it.
You are welcome to comment on this newsletter below.