Not My Pictures

1 June 2001

Just checking here: how many of you believe that the Bush twins are really stupid enough to get repeatedly caught trying to buy alcohol underage, if it's an accident? I don't believe it's accidental. I really don't. The more paranoid explanation might be that they're drawing attention away from something else going on. But I think more likely they're making a point.

They're the President's daughters. If anybody could be making a statement about the utter stupidity of our age-related drinking laws, it would be them. Does anybody need a recap on why our drinking laws are stupid? I hope not. I guess I assume I'd be preaching to the choir on this one -- not that I don't do that often anyway, of course.

I really hope they're making a statement. Because otherwise, they're stupid enough that they may be forgetting to breathe on a regular basis. Anyone can drink underage on or near an American college campus and not get caught. Let me emphasize that: anyone. Any college campus. On or near it. There are some basic cautionary procedures one has to observe, and getting drunk will make one's odds of getting caught skyrocket. But anyone can drink without getting caught. It's buying your own alcohol that's the problem, and buying your own alcohol is totally unnecessary.

This is one of the reasons I laugh so much at the articles that try to bring up the President's alleged past alcoholism and ponder whether Jenna Bush also has a drinking problem: ordering a margarita with your Mexican food is not a drinking problem, it's a culinary experience. If she had a drinking problem, my bet is she wouldn't be getting caught at it, because she'd be drinking a lot more, but in situations that were a lot less public.

And now for something completely different: Karina finally put up pictures of herself. (And of her puppies, the sweet lady. Tia is so cute I can hardly stand it.) And that helped me picture the person who's doing the writing -- sort of.

Thing is, David was over yesterday, and I showed him a couple of older pictures of me. He kept commenting that the pictures did not look like me. (I might add that his pictures didn't look like him, either -- but since he was thirteen at the time, I didn't expect them to.) But as the pictures got more and more recent, David didn't stop commenting that they didn't really look like me, that my face looks different in pictures. And he's right. My web page picture is as close as we've been able to get to a picture that looks like me, and it's still just off. (I may be the wrong person to ask about this, since I'm often surprised when I look in the mirror.)

So I started looking around at other people's pictures. Karen's pictures do not always look like Karen's best expressions, in my limited experience with Karen and her expressions, but they do look like Karen. Tim -- well, good Lord, Tim's pictures look nothing like Tim. Even the ones that aren't of him at age five. I think the problem with Tim -- as with Heather sometimes -- is that any picture inherently catches him mid-bounce. And the bouncing, or squirming, or just moving in some fashion, is pretty integral to how Tim looks. The picture holds still, which Tim just does not. (Also, if he's swearing and there are two d's in the word, he skips one of them. So that the first time you want to correct his grammar: "No, Tim, God is, I am." And after that you just giggle. Little details that just don't come out in journals.)

There are other examples of varying degrees of goodness, but I think the motion is key. I tend to make friends with people who look good in motion, and then when I look at pictures of them, they don't look as good. Which may be what I like about Heather's picture of David: if you're sarcastic at him while he's looking at your books, this is precisely what you will get. And it's what I like about the picture Mary Anne took of Timprov: it's a mid-motion expression he gets a lot. (Mary Anne, by the way, is much prettier than her most recent picture with her new-old friend would indicate. Not that I'm saying the picture is ugly, just that I think Mary Anne is prettier than that. And -- once again -- a very mobile person, in my limited experience.) And this is why I only show people one picture of Scott, if I can help it: he doesn't look like any of his other pictures. Even though his face goes through those positions on the way to doing something else, it's never what you see of Scott.

Let us not even speak of online pictures of Mark. I guess this one is about equally good of both of us. There are good pictures of Mark -- we just don't have them scanned in.

Seeing Sam's photos prepared me only moderately well for meeting her in person, and after all these years, I'm wondering if I have any concept of what Liz looks like at all. We'll finally get together after all this time, and one of us will have to hold up a sign in the airport.

So the science fiction writer component of my brain (that is, most of it) kicks in at this point and says, okay, is there a technological fix for this? I really don't think there is. I think if there was, cheap video would be the answer, but people tend to move differently when they're on camera. Even when they're comfortable, they're performing. This is one of the reasons I didn't want a videographer when we got married: people kept saying, "Oh, but you can have footage of the reception and all of your friends and relatives." And I kept thinking, "Oh, good, I can have footage of my friends and relatives saying things that are so inane they would crawl under the table if they weren't on camera." Because that's the sort of thing I say when presented with a videographer who wants me to give a happy couple best wishes or advice.

Also, you can just glance at a picture. A video, you have to take the time to watch, and you're just not going to do that to see how someone moves. Well, I'm probably not, anyway. Unless they're doing something interesting, which is likely to be performing. If Liz started whirling flaming objects around her, I'd be interested in watching -- but I wouldn't assume that that was how she stood or walked or moved when she was sitting on the sofa griping about work, or going to the grocery store, or whatever. And if someone filmed Liz going to the grocery store without making a performance of it, I would probably get up and go read a book or write her a letter or something.

It just seems like this is an intractable problem. I hate intractable problems. They offend my sensibilities. But it's still worth the approximation that a picture provides. I'm glad to have a guess at what Karina looks like. I just won't expect it to help me recognize her when, sometime in the next forty years, we meet in person.

Maybe that's the real reason why most authors keep the same jacket photo for years. It's not vanity. It's just that they only have about one every twenty years that resembles them at all. Hmm.

Okay, I'm going to get showered so that I can make it to lunch with Avi on time or thereabouts. Have a good day.

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