Keeping Up Appearances

by admin on 2016/10/10

[Jimbaux will never believe in you again.]

Hi.  It’s been awhile since I posted any actual new content, I know.  I took a train picture yesterday (note the comment, which basically translates to “It’s too bad that, on your personal blog, you had to write your personal opinions of things”), which was my first train picture since early April, and I got some more pictures today.


I have very much wanted to update the site with some new information, but I’m just not into this train-picture-taking thing anymore; so, I had to really push myself to get these shots.

We’ll start at Louisa Street on the CSX, where the daily BNSF Railway manifest train is stopped, awaiting clearance to move toward Gentilly Yard.

I decided to try to bag him at my old shot at Alvar Street, but my general apathy about taking pictures cost me the telephoto shot and almost cost me this shot, because I wanted to sit in the truck and chill before the train showed up.

Check out that Grinstein Green SD70MAC, increasingly rare in general, and even rarer this far from coal routes; I decided to get a rostery shot of it, thinking that this might be the last time that I see one of these things, especially as I can’t recall the last time that I saw one, at least not since the last time I was in Nebraska!

Well, that was fun (not really, not anymore.)  It’s time to head to Terminal Junction on the NS and see what’s happening there, which is this.

Here’s some northbound train – I don’t even know what train is which anymore – recoupling after doing a block swap.

Damn that glare!

Well, that’s all for the pictures today, but I have some important site news to announce, and some other very important things to say.

Keeping Up Appearances

Site News

You might recall that last year, I was making retrospective blog articles for every day that I took any publication-worthy and publication-appropriate pictures in 2005 from the time that I ‘went digital’ in July of that year, posting them on the 10-year anniversary of each set of pictures (and I did this with scanned slides from my time in Mexico in the summer of 2004.)  You might also recall that this process took so much out of me that I decided that at the point of the changeover of the year, whether from 2005 to 2006 or from 2015 to 2016, I’d cease the practice and would, instead, post a monthly “sampler” set of 10 pictures from each month in 2006.

Longtime readers will remember that I started doing the “five years ago” thing in the latter half of 2011; so, many of these late 2006 pictures are already blogged, and that means (among other things) that I don’t have much original content from which to pull yet-unpublished pictures, especially for September, October, and November.

It’s partly for those reasons, and partly for reasons that my most recent life situations create some time for me to be on my laptop that I have decided to resume the daily decennial postings that I stopped at the end of 2015.  I am, at this point, several months ahead, having pictures in mid-April of 2007 processed, that I think that I can do this for all of 2017.  If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve already noticed this, as both the September archives and the October archives already has three sets of 2006 pictures.

So, the good news for any of you who have been disappointed at the dropoff in newly published sets of pictures on this publication is that things will pick up again like old times very soon, even though I’m hardly taking pictures anymore.

But there’s something else that I need to say here.  I guess that it’s only at this point in my life at which I have basically stopped taking train pictures that I’m able to look back upon a period like a decade ago and realize that, oh my gosh, I spent a ridiculous amount of time and effort by the tracks taking pictures back then!  Seriously, I’m kind of alarmed as I look back and see what part of me now wants to retrospectively view as wasted time; interest in trains and railroads, especially the way that some of us do it, certainly can meet the definition of “obsession.”

I feel some embarrassment by it, really.  So, then, why further embarrass myself by revealing how much actual time and effort I spent taking train pictures in 2007?  Well, I put plenty of time and effort into those creations, those pieces of art and photojournalism; if I don’t put a little bit more time and effort into processing them, then they’ll go to waste anyway, as nobody will ever see them.  So, basically, I want to make that “wasted time” mean something, even to the very few people who will look at or care about the pictures.  One of the several reasons that I almost never take pictures anymore (I’ve toyed with the idea of selling my gear, but I’m probably not going to do that) is that taking pictures out in the field means that I’ll have to spend time in front of the computer processing the pictures, and I spend too much damned time on this thing as it is.  (Also, I hardly ever look at anyone else’s train pictures anymore, either.)  So, as a practical manifestation, the knowledge that I’ll have to expend time processing any pictures that I take and the dread that that knowledge makes me feel act as an active disincentive to take pictures.

A few people have asked why I seem to publish pictures on the anniversaries – usually, the first, fifth, or tenth – that the pictures were taken.  My fairly simple answer to this question is that it’s the most sensible – or least senseless – way of which I know to do it.  What else am I to do?  Sort them by location?  This isn’t useful when a picture can show three different towns, or, as was the case for many of the pictures that I took on 31 May 2004, be taken in one country and showing mostly another country.  Sort them by type?  Type is subjective, and many of my pictures show more than one thing, like landscapes, trains, human interests, etc., in one picture.  I didn’t even have a blog when these 2006-2007 pictures were taken, and, even for the pictures that I take since I’ve started this site, if I’ve spent plenty of time and effort taking pictures on one day, I don’t have much time or energy left in that same day to process and post them.

By doing it by chronology, there can be no conflict; I can’t be in two places at one time, taking pictures in each place.  So, sorting them by when they were taken is, by default, the most sensible way to do it.

I should also make a warning.  In some of the pictures that I will post over the next six months or so, I will have been trespassing for them.  This may seem hypocritical to some of you, and it might indeed be so, since I have railed against railroad enthusiasts publicizing contemporary photographs that were taken on railroad property, but I’m going to do it since these are old pictures and since I don’t even take pictures anymore, since this was something that most of us did without problems – and with complicity from railroad employees – in the pre-internet era, and since I calculate the potential for actual damage caused by my publication of these pictures to be infinitesimally low.

In my very long 6 January 2015 post and in the slightly-less-long 7 January 2015 post the next day, I lamented about how this publication seems far less useful than it did when it started because the internet has changed so much.  I still think about that, and I still wonder about the utility of this publication; after the fall of Gawker, Jeet Heer wrote a great piece over the summer about blogs and how they’ve become so irrelevant, making me wonder what the point of keeping going here is, but I hope that you still find all of this useful.

In any case, the best way to be alerted to updates of new blog articles is to subscribe to the e-mail list.  Instructions on how to sign up are in the ABOUT THIS SITE page, and it’s rare that I send more than one e-mail per week, usually with links to several new items at once.

Election 2016

I guess that I have to talk about the hugely consequential election next month.  The options are quite unappealing, but, if you’re going to be an adult about it, the choice is very simple.

Donald Trump and the revolting movement that sustains his candidacy represent an existential threat to this great – but, apparently, fragile – nation, its people, its peace, its rights, and its democratic institutions like never before.  This really is not about politics; it’s about humanity.

He has campaigned on the degradation, disrespect, and – most consequentially – dispossession of people less fortunate, specifically, but not limited to, disfavored minorities.  There is little reason to think that this would not mean, if Trump is elected, tangible and intangible harm – the use of force will be required to enact these policies – inflicted on real people, most of whom are your fellow citizens.

That Trump has (halfheartedly) disavowed the support from many white nationalist groups, white supremacist groups, and David Duke is not very relevant.  There is a reason that the KKK and other white nationalists groups see so much to admire in a Trump Presidency, regardless of how many times Trump disavows them.  You can swat flies away from a pile of feces all that you want, but it doesn’t change the reasons that the flies are attracted to the feces in the first place; poop is still poop.

My grandfather didn’t get shot out of the sky over Europe and spend the last year of the war in a German POW camp just so that the United States could, in 2016, elect a proto-fascist as President!  If you ancestors fought for the Allies in World War II, and if you wish to honor their sacrifice and make it worth something today, you must stop Trump.

Yes, it is very sad that our dumb electoral system – we really should have instant-runoff voting, and you should work to make that kind of voting become a reality in America – leaves us with, at this point, nothing more than the annoying, faulty, and flawed Hillary Clinton to stand in the way of Trumpism, but that’s just the reality of the choice you face.  I do indeed have several issues with Clinton, both policywise and personal; my main policy concern is her neoconservative outlook that might involve us in a needless confrontation with Russia and-or a needless and avoidable new war in the Middle East, and, to a lesser degree, I take issue with her reaffirmation, in the face over ever increasing automation of jobs, of wage slavery (but so is every other major politician), but even if we limit this to foreign policy, I’m not sure Clinton’s aggregate problems here are worse than Trump’s alarming disregard for the nuclear umbrella and the post-World-War-II alliances that have maintained peace for decades in the civilized world; my main personal issues with her are her seeming sense of entitlement to the position, that she’s out-of-touch with the struggles and hopes of ordinary Americans, and that she’s just generally kind of annoying.

Still, she’s stable, and she has not, in any way, based her campaign on insults and division.  Furthermore, you must consider the very important fact that some of the people whose jobs it has been over the last quarter-century to get you to hate the Clintons – including Michael Chertoff, who led the Whitewater prosecution, and Tim Miller (this piece is very much worth reading), who literally wrote a book about how bad the Clintons are – have said that it’s necessary to vote for Clinton to stop Trump.

However, even though not being Trump should be enough for any sane and educated and democratic-minded person to hold his or her nose and vote for admittedly-flawed Clinton (or any other ordinary politician on the ballot), as Nathan Robinson at Current Affairs pointed out in July after the Brexit vote, that’s a disastrous electoral strategy, especially long-term.

Robinson here has succinctly encapsulated so much of my problem with the anti-Trump – and, indeed, the broader years-long anti-racism – efforts.  I exhaust myself telling my progressive and liberal friends that it’s not enough to just say “well, that’s racist” if you don’t couple that with an explanation of what the actual source of the problem is and-or if you don’t address the reasons – be they psychological, sociological, economic, or otherwise – that make racism seem like a good explanation.

If you actually believe that your problems are caused by Those People getting or gaining more of something, then racism, as terrible as it is, is a somewhat rational response; it’s the responsibility of persons like myself who know better to demonstrate that and why this scarcity mentality is not the best way to think of these issues.

A major problem, as I see it, is not that jobs are being “taken”; it’s that, in a world in which technology is replacing so many of them, we still think that these jobs are even necessary.  When they’re not coupled with shortages or high prices for essential goods, high unemployment levels aren’t a bad sign; they are a sign of how good we’ve become at making so much more stuff with so fewer and fewer labor inputs.  Until about a year ago, I had always been against the idea of a universal basic income guarantee, but the need for – and, indeed, the great utility of – it is now so incredibly obvious to me.  If you haven’t read it already, I hope that you’ll read the argument that I made for UBI after the Brexit vote.

That might sound like welfare to you (it’s not), but, by demanding that the government “bring back” jobs that the free market apparently no longer needs, Trump supporters are, themselves, asking for a form of welfare.  If we’re going to create stuff to do that doesn’t actually need to be done (by humans) and pay them money to do it, why not just hand them the money and let them decide how to spend their time themselves?

Trump has done a wonderful thing in disproving the lie that most GOP voters are motivated by “small government” ideology.

Yep.  Those complaints about “big government” are, as I now so plainly see but could not see until recently, just a fig leaf, just meant to cover the disdain of whom certain government programs – and only certain government programs – are perceived as most helping.  You don’t hear the same people talking about “big government” when some communities protest the ultimate domestic expression of big-government: overpolicing.

I’m glad that at least people like Rand Paul are trying to get GOPers to be consistent on this matter.

We are, as Chris Arnade says, divided by meaning, and we are divided by identity; this is especially true when you consider the degree to which a person finds identity through his chosen paid employment, and that should indicate how the rapidly changing economy – accelerated by automation – affects the senses of identity that many people have.

And when we’re divided by meaning, we have no consensus on, as Robinson said, what the causes of the problems are.  But when you’re faced with choosing between no explanation and a very bad and destructive explanation, an explanation that your problems somehow are caused by those even less fortunate than you are, along with all of the awful things that will come along with it, there’s only one adult thing to do.

Yes, voting for Hillary is nausea-inducing, as will having her voice in your living room for four years be, but Donald Trump is an existential threat to the United States of America (and ISIS is not.)  That’s your choice.

If she wins, you can afford to periodically tune out her annoying self for awhile (and, believe-you-me, I plan on doing that), since she won’t wreck the world while you’re not paying attention, but if Trump becomes President, you’ll have to constantly watch him like a kid riding a bike.  He has no respect for democratic norms, no respect for separation of powers, no respect for the Constitution, no respect for peace and civility, no respect for anyone, and no respect for himself or the office he would hold.

The Access Hollywood tape that came out the other day, in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, is far more than just a bug.  There’s overwhelming evidence that it’s a feature, that it represents his sense of entitlement to the bodies of others, and that his entire campaign has been based on that.

Do you get it now?  Calling Mexicans “rapists” wasn’t just an act of racism; it was an act of misogyny.

There is a long history of using the spectre of rape – by Those People – as a way of justifying racism and sexism.

Of course, there is no evidence that rape rate among Mexicans is any higher than it is among any other group.

But when your daughters hear this, they are more inclined to think of themselves as possessions, and more inclined to think that their worth in this world depends upon their body types.

And when your sons hear this, they are more inclined to think of themselves as entitled to the bodies of women, and of non-white people in general.

I hope that you see that vulgarity is more than just vulgarity.

But, in any case, that vulgarity matters. He doesn’t care about you at all, though it’s understandable why white males might think that he’s fighting for them.

But, of course, any policy that benefits you as a white male automatically comes at the dispossession or disempowerment of everyone else.

As a kid in a speech class when I was in school, I argued that Bill Clinton should resign because of his being morally compromised by his affairs.  All of that – and, critically, so very much more – are parts of my anti-Trump stance.

I am alarmed that so many of my fellow Americans find anything appealing about Trump’s candidacy. But, sadly, I’ve kind of seen this coming; I’ve long noticed the ugliness and bigotry in many adults.

Yes, this election is turning into a referendum on white male patriarchy.  Until this year, I thought that even the term “white male patriarchy” was just crazy leftist talk, but, thanks to Trumpism, it makes so much sense to me now, sadly.

To vote to stop Trump is to vote for individual bodily autonomy, but it’s revealing that it took bragging about sexual assault – and not violating the bodily autonomy of various non-white people subjected to all of Trump’s various policy proposals – for Republicans to finally repudiate him.

I’m a registered Republican, and I spent years – including in front of high school students – defending the charge that the Republican Party was a racist party; I’m not trying anymore!

No, it should not matter that you have daughters.  You should not treat anyone – not Mexicans, not Muslims, etc. – like that, but it says plenty about Republicans that it took this to get them to back off of Trump.   At least the ‘Religious Right’ people are finally being revealed for the shameless hypocrites that they’ve always been; what they’re actually defending is white male patriarchy, and they just use the Bible as a post-hoc justification.

Some things just should not need explaining, but here we are.

You’re better than making someone this awful the most powerful man in the world, America. Well, I hope that you are, but this election is revealing some disturbing things.

The deal with the devil from a half-century ago is coming apart.

Women – well, people in general, really – are merely tools for Trump; he uses them to advance his own interests, and his entire life shows that that he’s never been about much more than himself.

All of this is disgusting, and it’s a great shame that, in 2016, we are even having this conversation.

Just like Trump has split – albeit taken more than half of – the Religious Right, he’s shown some divisions in the libertarian community, of which I somewhat associate.  Sadly, it looks like plenty of “libertarians” are motivated more by a defense of patriarchy, privilege, and the status quo more than anything.  Yes, there’s a reason that the libertarian community is predominantly white and male.

You should have known.

You must face the ugly truth.

Yes, this is an article from a few years ago that you must read, that makes so much sense now.

Trump is promising hell for your non-white fellow citizens, and, if you’re white, you might be okay under a Trump regime as long as you don’t object to what is happening to the less fortunate around you, but Trump is a cruel, vindictive, and vengeful human being.  One Trump outrage that I don’t think got sufficient attention was his publication of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s private cellular telephone number.  That was classic bullying, and it revealed personal information that in no way needed to be revealed.  Yes, Graham is a public figure, yes, he’s privileged, yes, he took it in stride, and, even, yes, I don’t like him that much, but that should not matter.  That’s just an extraordinarily petty, invasive, and vindictive thing to do to another human being, even if he is powerful and privileged.

And Trump’s fans loved it.  That’s the part that really spooked me.  Because it wasn’t just an insult.  It was invasive.  And it was completely unnecessary.  I’m still wondering what to make of that and why I think that it deserves more attention than other things that he has done, but I guess that it’s just an invasion of privacy, even if a relatively mild one.

I’m a registered Republican (yes, believe it), and I did what I could to stop this demagoguery and hostility in the primary.

You might be thinking of voting for Trump or a third-party candidate (in a state that might be close) just because you dislike Hillary Clinton, and disliking Hillary Clinton is certainly understandable (!), but by voting for Trump, you’re signalling one of two things.

Either . . .

A.) casual acts of racism, and whatever destructive and forceful acts and laws are inspired by them, including the hell Trump is promising your non-white fellow citizens, are permissible; the division that both causes and is effected by these acts is permissible; casual acts of sexism and misogyny, and whatever destructive and forceful acts and laws are inspired by them, are permissible, including your daughters becoming ever more self-conscious about their bodies, to the point that sexual assault gets downplayed; threats to and erosion of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion are permissible; a culture of impunity in which Mexicans and Muslims – and whomever else we decide to target next, including maybe YOU – are subjected to violence and routine violations of their constitutional rights and civil liberties is permissible.

or . . .

B.) for whatever “real” and hidden and more benign reason that you vote Trump, including maybe because he more closely resembles the “conservatism” with which you are comfortable, or just because you dislike Clinton that much (again, that is, on its own, very understandable), you’re still willing to tolerate all of the awful and dangerous things mentioned above, and all of the pervasive and perpetual incivilities inspired from them, including some of the suffering that some of your fellow citizens, especially your non-white fellow citizens, will face, as mere collateral damage.

Until the day that you die, and beyond that, anyone who knows that you voted for Trump will assume one of those two things about you.

This has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.  You could swap her name with just about any well-known politician of either major political party, and the choice would still be the same and still be just as consequential.  To insist on making a case for Hillary Clinton is to say that someone who seeks elected office deserves credit for behaving like a civilized adult, for not stoking racial tension, and for possessing large amounts knowledge.  She’s a normal American politician in all of the positive and negative denotations and connotations of that word.  There’s no case to be made for her.  There does not need to be a case made for her.  Trump is just that terrible and menacing.

Do the right thing.  Do the mature adult thing.  Save the republic.  Please, for the love of all that is good, decent, sweet, and peaceful, I implore you.



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike Palmieri November 23, 2016 at 12:33

James, As I have scanned railroad photos I took, mostly 25-40 years ago, over the past decade, I too have been reminded of how much time I spent photographing trains; but this just reminds me of how much enjoyment I got from my hobby, and all of the folks I have met along the way. While I spent a lot of time around railroad property all by myself waiting for something to show up, I also did this with friends, and later with family. It’s been a long time since I photographed a train, but I still retain my interest in railroads and the railroad industry.


2 Joy November 27, 2016 at 19:42

Why be embarrassed that you spent a lot of time taking photos of trains? It’s not a waste. It is nice to be able to let go of that obsessive side and sit and do other things like read a book or just be able to put the camera down more often (or sit the editing aside and watch a television show) and enjoy life for what it is. I’ve always enjoyed your photography and it has inspired me a good deal. But, it’s just in the past and you can’t do anything to change the past so there is no sense being embarrassed by it.

As for politics.. eh, it sucks. Trains are a less stressful hobby. :-)


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