Lifelong Friend Asks Hard Questions
Bart Sedgebear, an old friend of ours, dropped by recently and, after the greetings, asked the question he always asks: “What are you up to?” I told him I was launching a new blog on the state of the world and explained a little bit about it. His first response was, “Wait a minute, let me find a pencil.” Bart knows what questions to ask and he quickly turned an informal chat into an interview. He called it, “Old man takes on the world.” Here it is.
an interview by Bart Sedgebear
Mike, you’re primarily known as a creator of fine-art-print sites. But in your current blogs there’s not a print to be seen. What happened?
I started publishing printmaking sites because my wife, Maureen, was–and is–a printmaker. She’s now well established so I have less work to do there, so a couple of years ago I started casting about for something else to do.
Is that why you started SomosPineros.com?
That’s part of it. In addition I had been wanting to digitalize the best of my thousands of 35mm black and white negatives dating back 48 years. These had been lying in boxes since 1969 and I promised myself that when I got the time I would go through them and print up some of the best ones. When I got stuck into the pile and began to see pictures of life in our village in the old days I thought, “Wow, my neighbors would really enjoy seeing this stuff,” and it occurred to me to publish them on a WordPress blog site.
That’s how Somos Pineros (We’re from Pinos) began two years ago. In the beginning I updated it with dozens of photos every day. Its success was remarkable. On its fourth day of publication it had 19,000 hits, this in a village of 1,200 people. I couldn’t believe it. I had done a lot of Internet projects but none of them ever had that kind of response.
You’re still updating it, aren’t you?
Well, yes. It became addictive. When I ran out of old photographs I started thinking of ways to keep it going. So I began photographing current events in the pueblo, fiestas, cultural and sports events, street scenes, nature, and like that. This maintained the popularity of the site and was also rewarding for me. It was great getting back into photography, and my neighbors appreciate seeing themselves, their children, their parents and grandparents in photographs. So I’m still doing it. It’s small payback for everything this Spanish village has done for us over the last almost half-century. As of today I have published more than 200 posts with 20-40 photos on each one. Here’s a link to it. The text is in Spanish but the pictures are pictures.
I understand you’ve got a new blog. Would you like to tell us about it?
This one, Trump and All the Rest, is a response to desperation. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and I wake up every morning asking myself, “What can I do in the face of so much dishonesty, brutality, hypocrisy, and inequality?” In the end I decided to do the only thing I know how to do: write it up.
How’s it going?
It’s too soon to tell. I’ve only posted 15 little essays so far and I need more feedback. Starting up a website is like getting a freight train rolling. It’s heavy work. The novelty for me with Trump and All the Rest is that I’m writing it in my own voice, that of a boy born and raised in rural Michigan who saw the dark light thanks to obligatory military service, fled to Europe, discovered Spain, put down roots and suddenly finds himself a grey-bearded grandfather who’s hard of hearing. Most of what I’ve written over the years has been done for other people’s eyes, tailored to please or convince or impress, or at least not to offend. I’m not doing that this time. I’m telling it straight and it feels luxurious. I should have done it a lot sooner.
What’s the new blog about?
It’s about human life on this planet, or what little remains of it. Almost everybody’s world has been altered by excessive pride, greed and lust for power, all of that magnified by technology. The selfie rules. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in technology, but not when it’s used to turn rainforests into wet wipes, nor simple traditional societies into hothouses of consumerism, nor to utilize big data to influence elections. The heart of the problem, I think, is profit. Yes, of course, we need profit, but how much do we need? And do we need to kill for it?
What do you attribute all this dystopia to? If we had a clear idea of where it was coming from maybe we could address it.
Suffice it to say that the principal responsibility for the whole mess lies at the feet of the richest, most powerful country in the world. If they were to clean up their own house and rethink their war on everything, the world would be a better place to raise children.
Please recommend for us one of those “little essays” as an example of what you’re doing.
You might look at the first post, A Left-Handed Defense of Donald Trump.
It sounds as if you’re taking on a Herculean job for an old man on a rocky mountainside. What motivates you?
I get bored if I’m not working on a project.
What’s your timetable?
Timetable? Whatever it takes. The older I get the less I’m in a hurry.