CSotD: In search of Wow!

Non Sequitur (AMS) comes through with a bit of nice timing to reassure me and I hope you that we aren’t crazy after all.

It’s not so bad that we’re told what to be outraged about. It’s that we snap to and obey.

Given lead times, Wiley couldn’t have known this strip would land just as we were being outraged that only 150,000 people had been evacuated from Kabul in less that two weeks, and that the failure of 20 years of military occupation was a direct result of the last eight months’ effort.

The only flaw in his suggestion is that it hasn’t just been the cable news outlets wallowing in the bad news, though I seem to sense a slackening of the knee-jerk pile-on in other media, which I hope will continue.

In the meantime, we’ll just look to the funny pages today and hope for better coverage tomorrow.


After all, it’s a beautiful world out there, though, as Deflocked (AMS) points out, not beautiful enough for some people.

We’re only a few weeks away from fall foliage, when people will ignore the for-real beauty out there because they can make it even moreso, as they do with sunsets.

Which brings up this interesting bit of trivia: The term “gilding the lily” is a misquote. The original is this:

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet …
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
                            —  Shakespeare, King John, IV,2

Some sunsets are truly spectacular, some are not so much, and the thrill is to capture the real thing.


That was thirteen years ago, and I was delighted both to see it and to be able to record it, but, when everybody cheats, it diminishes those rare, authentic moments.

There’s a Twitter account called @picpedant that deflates, not the dime store filterers but the blatant phonies who add things to NASA shots or make the Moon appear at impossible sizes in improbable places.

Their frauds would be laughable if they didn’t so distort people’s views of what’s really out there, not to mention their stealing of glory from photographers who genuinely were in the right place at the right time with the right apertures.

But here’s the positive side of all that:

David Angotti from smokymountains.com contacted me the other day with a link to this interactive national map for fall foliage, that will help you plan a trip, with or without a camera, since sometimes the best idea is to put away the camera and stop trying to capture everything, so that you can relax and just let the Wow! overwhelm you.

And, on a related topic, here are 10 National Parks with good dark skies where you can see the stars in their natural glory, secure in the knowledge that any picture you tried to take probably wouldn’t have come out anyway.

Most of those parks administer some Wow! in the daytime, too.


Meanwhile, over at Between Friends (KFS), Maeve is trying to extend the Wow! in her love life by transforming her long-distance romance into something more … well, the word “quotidian” means happening every day, but it also means mundane and unremarkable, and Maeve should be careful what she wishes for.

The nice thing about long-distance relationships is that everybody can be charming for a couple of days at a time, picking their underwear up off the floor and stifling their gas, but if the two of you stay together in the same place long enough, your actual personalities are going to escape captivity, at which point the filters indeed come off and I hope you didn’t just quit a good job and move 200 miles.

Unless you like that stranger who has taken over the body of your Perfect Lover, which, y’know, could happen.

Perhaps Maeve should make a list of the reasons to move, and a list of the reasons not to move, and see how they balance out logically and objectively.


Or, as Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal points out, maybe that’s not how it works.

Well, Maeve, hope is the thing with feathers.

And so is a chicken.

Take your pick.


In Betty (AMS), Bub has accidentally read some literature, thinking it was just a good story about bullfighting and fly-fishing.

You never know when you’re going to blunder into quality, the important thing here being that he finished the book before noticing that note on the back cover and realizing that it was a novel.

I quoted “War and Peace” here yesterday, and that’s a book with an undeserved reputation for impenetrability. It is long, of course, but people lug all sorts of long books to the beach each summer and enjoy immersing themselves in them.

“Ulysses” is impenetrable. “War and Peace” is not.

There is the name thing, such that Natalia Ilyanova Rostova is only very formally called that, Ilyanova indicating that she’s Ilya’s daughter.

She’s Natalia Ilyanova to casual acquaintances and Natasha among friends and family. You get used to it.

Beyond that, it’s historical fiction with a substantial amount of soap opera, and the major difference between it and that fat beach book is that, as Bub puts it, it has a thinky quality.

Heavens forfend!

Incidentally, “The Sun Also Rises” is a lot more fun to read when you’re 20 and romantic than after you’ve been around long enough to recognize what selfish wastrels populate it, and, much as I love “War and Peace,” the older I get the less I like Natasha. (Fortunately, the more I understand Andre and love Pierre.)

Thinky books are like that.


Also, the older I get, the more I realize how much I have in common with the dog in this Joe Dator cartoon.

At least I’ve retired and no longer have to endlessly chase my tail.



6 thoughts on “CSotD: In search of Wow!

  1. I’m a photographer, and over the 50+ years I’ve been taking pictures I’ve found that a lot of sunsets (and sunrises and pretty much everything else) fall into the “great memory, terrible photograph” category. But in the instances where it may really be a great photograph, digital has greatly improved my work, since now I can take 200 pictures of a gull catching a crab and get that ONE perfect picture.

    But touching up a photo that isn’t good to begin with is kind of like putting crepe paper on a hog. It might sound like a good idea, but it isn’t.

  2. ULYSSES is *not* “impenetrable!” (Though I’ll admit FINNEGANS WAKE is, at least for me.)

  3. My wife and a friend and I were driving all around Hampton Roads looking for a spot out of the light spill so we could see some Leonid meteors. It was harder to find than we thought, but inspiration took us to the Jamestown ferry, a free part of the highway system, and luck put us on the one (there are three that go back and forth) whose upper deck had a corner away from the lights on the ferry. And lo, the sky opened up, and we saw meteors.

    Then we went home and read Joyce. The End.

  4. I’ve read Ulysses three times, including once in class, though that wasn’t my first time through it.

    If you don’t have a strong sense of Irish culture and some solid background in classics, you can read it but you won’t get the most of it and there will be parts you’ll miss entirely.

    I like it a lot, I’ve taken a great deal from it, but I infuriated the professor in that course by writing that it was no more a novel than the Statue of Liberty was a building, because Joyce was more into posing puzzles than telling a story. Which he proved with the Wake.

    By contrast, War and Peace, which I’ve read at least a half dozen times, is storytelling, and, since Tolstoy focuses on Westernizers, requires virtually no knowledge of Russian culture, though it helps to know something about the war involved.

    It’s a much easier read.

  5. Shooting sports taught me that if I wanted to see it, I had to put down the camera.

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