Sunday, November 14, 2010

life on the half shell

The playwright formerly known as Mr. Marilyn Monroe once said: "The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental.  It's so much like life."

Just like photography.

Some shots are framed.  Some just happen.  The photograph above is one of the latter.

I was on my way back to the hotel after the bloggers' conference sessions on Saturday.  In front of one of the local churches stood a bride.  All alone.  Waiting for her cue to start changing her name.

In attempting to capture a candid shot of her, I instead caught a shot of a young man walking by -- whose eyes were caught by the beauty in the plaza.  The irony, of course, is that we chuckle at him for doing exactly what I am doing by taking her photograph.

It is such slices of life that brought the Latin America bloggers together for this weekend's conference.  To discuss why we do what we do.  And to learn better ways of doing it.

We are a social lot -- a lesson we have learned in our adventures in Mexico.  So, we met at 9; not for business, but for coffee and treats.

Mexican at heart, we may be, but we have enough American and Canadian training to know that other people's time is precious.  We were scheduled to start at 10, and start we did.

Three bloggers volunteered to lecture (with audience participation) on: "Keeping Your Blog's Focus," "Internet Ethics and Copyright Law," and "Supporting Your Blog With Photographs."

Our mistress of focus was none other than Theresa of ¿What do I do all day?  We all know the problem.  Blogs that seem to have no purpose.  And, because they don't, they tend to run amok -- losing the interest of most readers.

To prove her point, she asked each of us to describe why we blogged.  And then asked whether we really focused on that purpose when we write.  It was a particularly valuable exercise.  Especially for me, whose focus has wandered during the past seven months.

We then heard from some self-important overweight retired attorney who no longer looks like his blog photograph -- on copyright law.  Not as an expert, which he is not.  But as a consciousness-raising exercise.  The bottom line: Keep your hands off other people's property -- unless they let you use it.

Marc Olson of An Alaskan in Yucatan was a new name (and new blog) for me.  A former photojournalist, he has a great eye for spotting narrative in photographs.  He shared a few tips with us to help us have a positive impact with the photographs we use. 

I have been working on improving my photography skills for the past year, and his advice rang true -- even though the photograph at the top of this post violates at least seven of his tips.

After lunch, Johanna of Writing from Merida gave us some extremely interesting writing tips.  Most we knew.  But knowing and doing is two separate things.  And it is always good to double check old habits.

We then split into two discussions groups: Blogger users (led by Debi of Debi in Merida) and WordPress users (led by Jonna of blah...blah...blah... Ginger!).  This turned out to be one of the highlights of the conference.  We have all struggled with our blogger software.  But we were able to find some solutions merely by sharing with one another.

To top the evening off, Islagringo and I joined several fellow bloggers at the premier of the Merida Theater Group.  As they style themselves: English-speakers "who enjoy the theater and miss the opportunity and pleasure of experiencing English language theater."

They did well.  Putting together a series of costumed readings under the umbrella "Life is --," they played to a sold out audience.

It was a full day.  Informative.  Social.  Entertaining.

But a day full of life.


Anonymous said...

One of these days I will actually start my blog as I keep threatening to do...I have the domain rented and the ideas....all I am missing are the discipline and some oomph...then maybe I will meet all these fine people some day at a blogger's conference...any chance you will still be in Merida on Tuesday? KK

Marc Olson said...

Bleary-eyed this morning, I checked my blog and noticed a sudden swarm of interest from all over the place, in large part to your link. Seems when you speak, quite a few people take notice.

I think you summed up the day nicely, Steve. I particularly appreciated that retired attorney guy who did a great job getting us to think about internet ethics and copyright.

It WAS a good day.

Mike Nickell and Cynthia Johnson said...

Great post, Steve! I wish I was there to meet everyone. I hope you'll write about your presentation and copyright law. And thanks for the intro to Marc Olson - I just took a look at his blog and his pics.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Steve, check your links, you have Johanna´s wrong. It was such a good day, thanks for your part in it!

Dan in NC said...

Steve - Wow! 3 blogs/2 days, and you've yet to explore the rest of the Yucatan or Merida with Islagringo! Thought the 3 on the blog-fest were very interesting, but really looking forward on your thoughts of the peninsula vs west coast of Mexico - and of your thoughts on Merida as a place to visit.. By the end of next week you should have a month's worth of blogs to share!
Dan in NC

Joanna said...

Steve, it was such a pleasure to meet you and have some important lessons hammered home. You sure made me get cracking today! And happily I think I have resolved my issue. I'm truly grateful for your timely counsel, Counsellor.

I'm glad you enjoyed the play...

Anonymous said...

Beauty and accident = art?

Sounds a bit mush-headed to me. I'd argue nature by itself is neither beautiful nor ugly: non-beautiful.

The human framing, not accidental, introduces the aesthetic aspect. Some accident may enhance the human form invested in the medium, but it cannot carry the day.

Sheer accident is only that: accident. What's the moral worth in that, I ask?


2ericc said...

Many thanks for a solid presentation on copyright issues. But I wish you had been less severe about "keeping your hands off other people's stuff."

I feel that FAIR USE is much more elastic than what you shared. (Attorneys have a penchant for strict interpretation. Artists are more flexible.) So let me provide a link for those who might wish to read the law, and find their own way of being compliant, without scoffing:

And here's a paste from a site I often read which posts a notice regarding the source of their materials. (When we heed the Biblical observation that "there is nothing new under the sun" we recognize that we are all thieves, BORROWING stuff from everybody!)


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, spiritual, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. END PASTE

I should now give credit to Jerry Katz of for I have stolen his stolen property, I guess. (And I didn't even ask permission. Shame!)


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Just today I finally launched my first blog on out path to, and life in Guanajuato. The tips you share from the conference are a great help to us newbies.

Paul said...

Steve, great summary. I enjoyed meeting you. I also got several pics of the bride you featured. The groom was actually late. When he finally arrived the mother in law lectured him on the street. Then after the wedding actually started, two bridesmaids made a late appearance. TIM, as they say.

Steve Cotton said...

Paul -- It was very nice getting to talk with you. I just wish we had more time.

I missed a lot of the street darama surrounding the wedding. No wonder the bride looked so ticked off.