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Sunday, 13 May 2012


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Mike, stop worrying. We love you. Yours is the best blog.


Taking umbrage says more about the offended than the 'offender', in the same way that conspiracy theories say more about the theorist than the evil world dominators they fear.


Cool! Nicely summed up, Mike. If you changed anything about yourself, you would probably lose some of the "far-flung and widely divergent audience of individuals".

Pass along my regards to Olive Oil and Sweet Pea,


Mike I don't know if you spend time deleting some of these accusations from posts--which would be an awful waste of time for you, but it's nice to see a log of posts with civility on TOP with such regularity.

Seems that in this age of easy communication the phenomenon of immediate, unthinking abuse is the spirit of the times.

How controversial can a site devoted to photography be?

Personally, if I feel like haranguing someone I save the page, read it the next day, and then very, very seldom do anything further.

But I'm getting old, I guess.

Hi Mike.

It's the price of fame to be attacked. But to be ignored might be a bigger insult.

It's an interesting exercise to contemplate what motivates a person to attack you. Among the list of motivations I can think of, the one that seems most likely is that the attacker is scared of you. You threaten their existence somehow. If that wasn't the case, why do they care at all what you write?

Everyone has their unique perspective. It would be impossible to express any kind of opinion without one. Potential upset arises not from having a particular perspective, but from the clash of two discordant perspectives, and for that, the attacker must bear equal responsibility.

I'm sure the silent majority, like me, greatly appreciates your existence and your presence on the 'net. Open a can of spinach for yourself and enjoy your Sunday.

" I overvalue what I myself am good at and care about (a common human trait)"

A nice summary, a very common trait.


Intolerance is generally associated with anonymity. For me any anonymous intervention is invalid due to the asymmetry that is created between a person, say MJ, which explicitly displays his opinion, and one hiding behind a peseudo.
The soft totalitarianism is a constant threat that must be resisted quietly. And this refusal to accept that one may think differently is an alarming symptom.

T.O.P. is not a sullen sect but a place of free exchanges, of hospitality and conviviality.

And eventually Mike, you know, if regum ultima ratio, in real life, there is always an exit :

“Them’s my principles; but if you don’t like them — I kin change them!” (Groucho maybe, maybe not)

Because in the end we should not fight against preconceived ideas. This is energy vainly squandered .

In France we have the ideal cure, trust me =


All very nicely said, Mike. One of the reasons I look in on TOP most days is that it is an eclectic mix of thinking only loosely centred on photography (a good thing), and that your writing is both accessible, thought-provoking, and very fairly expressed - which must mean that you and I share a similar outlook!

The sociologists who thought up that definition of middle-aged are hopelessly wrong, however. Middle-aged is one year older than I am. Currently, it starts at 47. This is a much more nuanced view than that held by an aunt of mine, who annually celebrated her 29th birthday for 7 or 8 years, until her husband gave her a "RIP 29" funeral card when she was approaching 40.

I enjoy visiting TOP on a daily basis, so please, continue to write your distorted views! To be less than who you are would be intolerable!!

(Said with a grin and a wink.)

He... smile...

Politically INcorrect, as any man with self respect and integrity.

How dare you set an example?

Big smile from Denmark

That's the irony of the contemporary emphasis on toleration, everyone is intolerant in some areas. Like discrimination, intolerance is not inherently a bad thing, and one doesn't always need to be ashamed or apologetic for it. Keep being true to who you are, Mike. I sometimes disagree with your opinions, but it's phony people I can't tolerate.

Mike, despite all that, we still like you. Keep up the good work, and do try and go to bed before the sun comes up. Eric

"I once angered a reader by calling him a "fellow," which he was dead certain was an insult..."

Well it was, assuming he believed himself your superior.

(In which case, he'd be an ignorant fellow.)

BFA in photography? After dismissing several (I thought) more plausible alternatives, I am left with Bachelor Fine Arts.

I seem to remember Popeye occasionally adding a K to his outbursts. And then he stopped. Ahh - Brutusk. I yamsk what I yamsk.

Yes, well, writing that has a taste of the writer is like food that has a taste of its ingredients. We've all learned, haven't we, that bad cooks can produce tasteless food?

So thanks for your tasty writing, Mike.

Just keep going, Mike. Don't change a thing. We like you the way you are!
Regards, David.

You missed out: honest, and introspective.

Those of us that have being looking in here for a few years, through the open window to your world, will be well aware of all this. Aside from not being American, or well read, this Scot shares a lot in common with the above, especially the Sarah Palin bit. But then, she is a dead-ringer for my ex-wife - in looks, and politics...

Please don't change!

Nice to see some compatible evolutionary DNA; for all intents and purposes, I am you.

You go boy!!!!!!

If we were all the same and held the same opinions, the world would be a mighty mighty boring place.

With the exception of your BFA in Photography and the fact that you are from the Midwest (I have deep roots in the North East), you and I are identical.

Typical. ;)

Mike, as someone of remarkably similar age, interests, background (Southern instead of Midwestern), education, (lack of) religion and political leanings, all I can say is I don't have a problem!

In seriousness, no matter how much I twist and contort my perspective I will NEVER truly understand anything beyond my experience. I can make a speculative allowance that other world views contain merit, listen with an open mind and then hope I can find a mutual experience or idea with the other party on which I can agree.

I spent a lot of years growing into liking me for me.I feel no need to apologize for being me.

Curious, isn't it.....we're supposed to embrace diversity and yet we're sometimes expected to pretend that we're all the same. Sigh.

Keep repeating to yourself "I want to be like Mike" (that would be you, not the other guy). Be up-front about your biases and call 'em like you see 'em. I don't see how we can expect anything better than that.

Does all that mean that you won't even try doing something about yourself? ;-)


Unfortunately, yours is the lot of anyone who dares to speak in public. Apparently so many are without sin -- or believe themselves guided by an immaculate hand -- these days that they pick up any stone that's handy when they see something they think they can hit. Their goal is to kill an idea by silencing its advocate. I'm happy to know that it won't work against you. Nonetheless, the stones can still hurt, and some no doubt cast them simply to inflict pain. I guess it makes them feel powerful and important.

As you know, it's really an old game, the ad hominem attack. Those who rely on it don't seem to realize that its use instantly brands them as desperate and lacking a real argument, one supported by logic and relevant facts. With an audience of thoughtful and analytical people, they show themselves as losers. They could just raise a white flag, but they persist no doubt because they can influence other thoughtless people, people for whom a short label -- liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, redhead, wedding photographer, Leica user, etc. -- is all they care to know about a person and that person's ideas.

My descriptors are much like yours, but my history and education are quite different. I think I tend to agree with much of what you say and value the way you say it because of its form and content, not because we share a few descriptors.

Keep up the good work. I don't always agree with your ideas and opinions, but whether I do or not, your columns educate, inform and stimulate the little grey cells. If all they did was to repeat things I already know or views I already have, what would be the point? You also entertain, have a great sense of humor and a self-deprecating charm. But I can tell your velvet glove of modesty dresses an iron fist of conviction.

PS: What is your position on the importance of retaining the traditional distinction between the concepts of "jealousy" and "envy"? (Insert smiley face)

IHYM "Bachelor's", being as how Batchelor's is a kind of soup. ;)

Don't worry - at least you are not condescending, patronising or pompous and graciously admit when you are wrong. With those attributes, I can even forgive you starting to lean in the direction of small sensor cameras.....

Blog on Mike! We agree often enough for me to feel reassured, we disagree often enough for me to see new perspectives. (Whether I buy into them or not is my privilege and responsibility.) The Online Photographer educates me often and gives me occasional moments of comfortable nostalgia. And unfailingly, Mike, your writing gives me pleasure because you are indeed adept with language and your ideas are fresh and cogently expressed. I frequently quote you to my spouse or pass on a quotation you have recorded in your blog.

In short, you have become a valued friend. We have enough in common to permit easy understanding, enough diversity to keep the conversation flavourful.

I don't want to marry you Mike, but I certainly enjoy our daily visits.

~ David Miller

Me too. - Ben Marks

An interesting piece, Mike.
I have always wondered what those who complain about the perspective of others hope to accomplish. I can only surmise they want everything in the world to conform to their view. If it's a case of not liking your perspective they can, as you pointed out, not read your blog.
Personally, I prefer to read things from different perspectives. I might not agree with them, but the world would be a pretty boring place if everyone agreed on everything (one camera, one lens, one sensor/film, one photo [probably a mostly out of focus one of a cat]).
If I find a perspective abhorrent, or just patently silly, I'll stop reading. However, I can't see complaining to the author serving any purpose.
So, keep up the intolerant, bigoted blogging.

Largely ditto. I'm a Northeasterner not a Midwesterner. I'm past middle age (officially senior), My BFA is in ceramics. My photography training was commercial (NYI) and military. My conservative friends think I'm a flaming liberal and my liberal friends chastise me saying I need to learn to "appreciate" other cultures, religions, music, etc., etc. No I don't. I need to (and do) be tolerant of them. Like you though I don't need to tolerate things that extend (are agressively shoved) beyond the end my nose or the nose of anyone I care about who chooses different culture, religion, music, etc. than what's being pushed at me/them. I once read a SciFi story in which the author proposed a code of laws that was "don't annoy others and don't be too easily annoyed". It's called being considerate of others. That works works me. If only everyone would practice it.

Everyone who writes or creates attracts this stuff on the Internet. Note the recent abdication (and then reversal, happily) of one of your fellow photography writers in the past year.

I'm glad you're able to take on all of these accusations with humor (can I take it that no one's taken you task at least for injecting some humor in your work?). Keep up the fine work.

P.S. I've been given a reprieve on middle age for another four years? I gladly accept, though I don't think I agree.

Brothers of different Mothers?

The only thing I won't tolerate is intolerance!

All you have proved is that most middle aged liberal white men with beards are pretty much alike :)

I was born in Kansas, raised in Missouri, and live in Indiana. Caucasian male, 65, slightly right of liberal and intolerant of most of the same things that you are. I am also particular about the precise use of language. Consequently, I have no problem with your point of view.

Well for what its worth -- I like you just the way you are :-) And somehow I had already guessed you were a hoosier (me too and proud of it). Don't let the bastards get you down!

Good! Thumbs Up!

"I'm intolerant of . . . cruelty (cruelty especially), selfishness, unkindness, . . . brutality . . . ."

Hey, I'm vegan too! See this short video by Sir Paul McCartney to see the compelling logic here:


I appreciate your perspective and couldn't imagine the writing of someone who didn't have one. Thanks.

Mike - The term "accused" is telling. I prefer Popeye's perspective as well. Would you say that the majority of your comments share a general optimism?

Speaking of "Toleration", I've always found this Simpson's quote funny.

Bart: "Sharing is a bunch of bull, too. And helping others. And what's all this crap I've been hearing about tolerance?"

Homer: "Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter."

It seems to me that people who charge intolerance are themselves intolerant, if only of intolerance.

(middle-aged, white, male, western European-descended, protestant-raised, college-educated, heterosexual, left-leaning, left-handed, gin-drinking, otherwise-normal person.)

Well I think you must be a very nice guy, that's why my browser's home page is your blog. I don't agree with absolutely everything you write but that does not matter one bit. I also think today's post is cool, very cool.
Viva TOP!

Mom didn't tell me I had a brother in the Midwest.

Keep up the good (from my personal perspective) work.



i'm offended!

frankly, it matters not how neutral a tone you take on any topic: someone somewhere will be offended. there are plenty of aphorisms about how you can please some of the people some of the time and that's about it. and good luck with it ....

........& their problem is? Maybe they should get over themselves.
I love you as you are, "warts" & all.

Somehow this seems appropriate:

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back awhile sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy."
-Walt Whitman,
from Song of Myself

"Personally, if I feel like haranguing someone I save the page, read it the next day, and then very, very seldom do anything further."

It's a wise course, Ross. I do the same thing myself, almost always. Sometimes I get as far as writing an angry response; but fortunately I seldom get as far as hitting the send button.


There is a difference between noting a perspective and accusing.

It would appear that the new definition of middle-age still includes me.

As a physician I tell my patients that I'm a fat middle-aged white guy and I can't be anything else. I also inform them that I am an equal opportunity pain in the backside. I tease people without regard to race creed color or national origin. Smile at my bad jokes and you are fair game.

Physicians are called upon to be the ultimate chameleons changing colors instantaneously and tolerating everyone at all times and in all situations. It is some corollary vaguely derived from the hypocritical oath and pounded in to one in school. Sorry, can't do that.
Most of my patients like me-Press Gainey tells me that. But one can always go to the next subspecialist 80 miles down the road. Grumpy aren't I?

There does seem to be something real in what I named the "Dr. Jekyll / [email protected]" phenomenon -- some people do seem to totally miss the humanity of other people on the net. (That name will tell you that I made it up quite a while ago, too.)

Most people seem to do well enough, with only the occasionally mis-step (and we make those in person, too). Others go ballistic over and over and over again. It's a constant puzzle.

We've known this on Usenet since the 1980s, for that matter (a bit earlier for a some people). Or, before that, think of the legendary letter exchanges occasionally hosted by the Times of London.

Well, thank you for clearing that up. I'll have you know that I haven't changed my opinion in the least. I am still a fan.

Mike, I've been reading this blog for several years and I never suspected what a disgusting, biased blight on humanity you've now admitted to being. Since I once contributed a small piece to these pages, I suppose I suffer guilt by association.

I am so ashamed. I want my Teddy bear.

"...I'm am somewhat bigoted against people who can't or won't use English well..."

"...I'm intolerant of greed,...selfishness, unkindness, narcissism,...noise pollution, Sarah Palin,...and willful ignorance..."

Does that mean, being a writer guilty of extreme redundancy as exhibited in the second quote, you're bigoted against yourself? ;-)

Your loquaciousness and profundity notwithstanding, you spelled "Bachelor's" incorrectly. ;)

Hey, I'm a silent reader and frequent your blog. Like Mikey - I like it !

My advice to those who trash on bloggers is this: "You have to choose to take offense".

Have a good Sunday -

Come again? Middle age now stretches to 65? Whoopee!!

Best news I've heard all week. I love this blog. LOVE it!

(Mike, remember the old Timex watch ads? Keep on ticking', buddy!)

I've been reading your blog for some time now and I could never recognize any traces of intoleration or bigot. However, what I know for sure, having a blog of my own, is that many people tend not to read what we mean to say when we write, but what they want to make of it. I know it all - they truncate, distort and willingly misinterpret our words and use them against us. That's something we get used to, although sometimes we can't help baulking at the foolishness of some comments.
Keep on with the good work!

(P. S.: thanks to this post I found out I entered middle age three years ago. Ignorance is bliss, they say; now that I'm aware of that fact I'm beginning to feel very old...)


You is what you is, keep it that way!

Methinks you're officially experiencing a full-on raging mid-life crisis.

Fret not, my dear fellow, for it too shall pass.

Great piece, enjoyed reading it. It is a pity you had to make such a statement, but on the other hand, when it is done so eloquently and with such admirable self-reflection, I am almost grateful for the reasons that made you write it.

It is just amazing to me than anyone can write a blog, day after day. Exhausting would seem to be too mild an adjective for such an endeavor, on any subject. As an aside, you send me to a dictionary at least once a week. Keep up the good work.

I grew up in southern Indiana, not really the same as the rest of the state.

Mike, some of us like you just the way you are. Because of it and in spite of it ;-)

"As a blogger whose sole reason for existence is...
I yam what I yam."

Nice to meet ya, Mike!

To quote the immortal Tom Lehrer: "There are people out there who do not love their fellow man and I HATE people like that!"

As for middle age, I think of myself as 28 base 20.

This is the only photo forum/blog that I read on a regular basis. That's due to its elevated and civil tone, wide-ranging subjects, and the intelligent commentary of both writers and commenting readers. The contrast with the routine nastiness of posts on certain fan-boy forums, such as those recently relocated to Seattle, is stark.

One needs to write honestly and that basically means from their own perspective and life experiences. While one should certainly try to continually expand our own knowledge, enmpathy, and perspective, a writer or photographer is neither authentic nor accurate when asserting points of view incongruent with their own.

In our culture of victimhood, too many people become too easily offended and then try to use their excessive sensitivity as a weapon against others, rather like insisting that peanuts be banned from everyone's in-flight snacks. In most instances, such attacks are not a sign of elevated moral stature (despite the accuser's claims), but rather only a lack of knowledge and inability to tolerate other points of view.

Do you recall the uproar when, in 2006, the University of Washington reversed its decision to erect a plaque honoring one of its alumni, the WWII Marine hero and Medal of Honor winner Greg "Pappy" Boyington, because the student senate objected to honoring "rich white males" who killed people in WWII? Those objecting did not even realize that Boyington was of Souix heritage (obvious in any photograph) and died poor despite his fame, or that the US, and he, fought only after the then-Japanese Empire attacked the US as the culmination of their prior fifty years brutal imperialism in Asia.

Unfortunately, the Internet allows not only the widespread dissemination of information but also of disinformation and anonymous venting. Anyone even vaguely in the public eye has experienced this.

It's probably best to simply ignore such people. A forensic psychologist friend once told me that the people who act this way do so because doing so makes them feel powerful. It's even easier when you can do damage remotely, perhaps not even using your own name.

By not allowing them to derail you, not publishing their rants, you deny them the feeling of power. Maybe, then, they'll go away and take their incivil discourse with them.

I am sure that many of us recall how Kirk Tuck, a wonderful and insightful photographer and writer about photography, briefly stopped writing because of a similar situation. Thankfully, he resumed his writing, here and on his own blog, after many importuned him.

Please stay authentic and keep up the good work.

Bravo, Sir! If only the world had such self-awareness.

For your sake (and that of your readers) I hope you never come across Sarah Palin behind the wheel of an Expedition doing her make-up while listening to her horoscope at full volume.

That was another well-written, enjoyable and thought-provoking essay. David Miller's response resonated with me.

It's curious that you have chosen the definition of middle age that comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Version 4). But if that allows me to remain middle aged until age 65, I'll take it.

We needn't give up our biases (nor could we if we tried). Self-awareness is more than sufficient and helps prevent us from bludgeoning others with them.

By the very act of expressing forthright opinion on the interweb, you enjoinder robust and sometimes contrary discussion. This is the nature of the beast. In that spirit, fair play to the writing here (ctein and Kirk also) for getting the various balls rolling in the trenches of healthy discussion. Good writing generally means standing up and being counted...first. This is not as easy as replying. Standing ovations all round.

Gee, Mike, thanks for popping my balloon. I'm 66 (almost 67) and was hoping middle-age lasts until at least 70!

"It's possible I am not who I would choose to be, if unlimited alternatives were merely up for choosing. I would choose to be richer, and fifteen years younger, and to have married young, and to be a writer of books."

None of things are really who you are or might be. You simply are, as are we all.

You may now arise from my analysis couch, pay the cashier on the way out. You're welcome.

It was the *accent* you used when you called the guy a fellow. "I'm not certain that a fellow like yourself would be happy in a blog like this." Really sort of Dartmouthy, in my opinion.

Waaaall ain't you'll goin' ta heel ina handbasket... :)

I recall making a very negative comment on TOP once, vehemently disagreeing with someone's comment about some artist you were discussing at the time. In fact, my comment really amounted to an attack against the reader whom I disagreed with, rather than some productive point contributing to the general conversation. I remember that you refused to post my comment and quite courteously sent me an email explaining why you didn't feel my views were appropriate. That basically all points of view are welcome on TOP and since my comments didn't contribute anything to the discussion at hand and were only aimed at someone who WAS making a point that I didn't agree with.

I don't even remember what I had tried to say that day, but I do know that my acid words would have done no more than possibly injure the person who was only expressing their point of view and sully the open and free discussion, so common on TOP and so valued by many who read your words here every day.

I don't normally consider myself a hothead and don't normally criticize, or especially attack, others for their points of view. I know that I would have regretted it later had my comments made it into print.

In the end I must thank you, Mike, for your "intolerance" (in this case, of my own ignorance) and whether or not it matters to you, to let you know that I hold no grudge whatsoever against you and still continue to read and enjoy TOP almost every day.

I guess all I did there was to go the long way around to make the point that "intolerance" takes many forms and your intolerance of my ignorance that day was quite admirable. Thank you for that Mike.

A fine one, Mike.


I didn't even know that there was anything "left of liberal" anymore! I thought that liberal was now synonymous with "radical socialist extremist", which doesn't leave much room on the left.

David ( just, another white male, middle aged, bearded radical socialist.)

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours".

~ Richard Bach

As with the rest of the English language it all depends upon how its said... "listen Feller! is different to "... my fellow gentlemen...".

Well said, sir.
It's funny how so often the cry of "be tolerant" really means "shut up".
It's my job as a presumably intelligent reader to asess your perspective and adjust accordingly, not the other way around.

Keep writing and I'll keep subscribing.
I even like reading your posts when we disagree. At a minimum they make me think, and that (sadly) is far more than can be said for 99.9% of the internet.
Thank you Mike!

Congratulations! You and I are kindred spirits. I embrace my own intolerance as a protective cloak around a firm identity for which I do not apologize. I say, "Good on you!"

And I make regular fun of my detractors every week. My readers happen to get a kick out of the interactive fun when I let them decide what to give the hatemailers.

So glad I was referred to you by the Aware Writer.


Featured Comment by Ed Grossman: "Each of us is unique...just like everybody else"

I'm not

[With Thanks to Monty P]

Time it is to revise the middle-aged bracket up by another five to ten years!

Gee Mike---I never would have known.

Love, Norm

( I remember reading an article about Ernest Hemingway in his later alcoholic years. The saddest thing of all, the author felt, was that, Hemmingway was now a man without opinions.)

Hmmm...I cant' see how racism, sexism, ageism, etc, could enter into a blog that is pretty much about cameras and photography. Cameras don't care. But whatever.

Hey, I don't care. Live and let live. Except when yer trashin' Leicas. Then yer walkin' on the fightin' side of me....:-)

Well, Mike, be glad you won't be counted amongst the false prophets! After all, in the book of Luke we can find the statement

"Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets."

You've certainly steered clear of that! Seriously, I empathize with you. These days especially, it doesn't seem to matter how reasonable you may try to be, someone will take exception... Funny that we seem to be freer to have contrary opinions and less tolerant of contrary opinions at the same time...

www.robertharshman.com/popi.png :)

I was what I waz and I'm here forever.

Overlooking the big river at his home town.

Shot with a iPhone 3G a few years ago. Pluto and Olive are there too.


I don't come here to read about photography - I have DPReview for that. I come here to read about your opinions. The fact that reader comments are usually a worthy read helps, but I would be a regular reader regardless.

If you were a young, white, married Portuguese economist your opinions would probably seem banal to me. So... stay as you are and keep it up.

It's no wonder we don't always get along. We're too alike.

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