Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stealing their souls



    The place, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The time, last February. The museum consists of a number of various buildings and courtyards and, coming out of one, we encountered this installation of yellow plastic string— Jesus Rafael Soto's 1990 "Penetrable"—with children happily scampering through it. It seemed a picture. I whipped out my cell phone.
     "That's creepy," my teenage son said.
     "It's creepy to take photos of other people's children," my wife agreed.
    I was taken aback, surprised, indignant. Yes, I knew where they were coming from—fear of perverts—but didn't agree that this was an intrusion.
    I gestured to proud parents, standing around, also snapping pictures, one assumed of their kids, who were supposed to play in the thing (One critic called it "part geometric abstraction, part day care.")
    "Nobody knows that I'm not the parent of one of these kids," I said.
    Or, now that I think of it, the grandparent.
    It was a sour moment, that left a bad taste in my mouth for an hour, one that came back to me when reading about an incident earlier this month in Australia. A man took a selfie in front of a Darth Vader poster at a mall, and said some benign comment to a group of nearby kids, waiting to take a picture as well, something along the lines of, "I'll be done in a minute." Their mother caught the exchange but not what was said, instantly decided her children were being approached by a would-be molester, snapped his picture, and posted it online identifying him as "a creep." The post was shared thousands of times, the man's complete innocence established, and soon the mom was getting death threats and issuing "a groveling apology" through the Daily Mail.
      Fear spreads instantly but rationality takes its time. Being kidnapped by strangers is a risk, but a minute one. Far greater is the risk of overprotective parents warping their children'a lives by living in a state of constant fear, or blaming innocent persons doing unobjectionable things. I don't consider the above an inappropriate picture, nor the taking it, in a courtyard at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, an act of questionable judgment. Or was it?
   

59 comments:

  1. (Burning the midnight oil).

    First of all, the photo itself is quality; interesting and colorful. I was drawn into it. As far as using questionable judgment, of course everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. The way I see it is: was your intention in taking the photo innocent? Of course, it was...so, unless a parent or child specifically asked you beforehand not to take the photo, I would say it was perfectly okay and not creepy. In matters of intention vs. perception, doesn't intention hold more weight?

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    1. you are way past midnight

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    2. I'm kind of a night owl.

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  2. In a world where so many of us are documenting our ENTIRE lives with photos and video and Facebook posts, how can it be inappropriate to take ANY photo in a public place? Newsflash to worried parents...yes, there are creeps and pedophiles out there. Keep an eye on your children. Two eyes even.Stop texting and gabbing. As you suggest, perceived threats and fear have replaced rational thought and appropriate protective measures.

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  3. Advocate of the Anti-ChristMay 21, 2015 at 5:40 AM

    There are more FAMILY MEMBERS, such as fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who molest children than strangers, just as their are more parental abductions of children as part of custody disputes than there are stranger kidnappings of children.

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    Replies
    1. maybe you are anon not anon

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  4. Robbie the RobotMay 21, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    Us robots can't even have children. Unfair!
    And you are still making me swear I am not a robot, just to post my commentaries here.
    Man, Neil, you need like a paradigm shift. I am able to suggest that even though I never read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, cause I'm a bad ass robot!
    Robots rule!
    Stick that in your algorithm!

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    1. okay, it's not funny anymore, Robbie- I suppose you have metal private parts too

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    2. I think ANA and Bitter Scribe, are one and the same.

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    3. If you get upgraded to an R-100 model, you can have children.

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  5. Look how Neil sets up the "I can't lose" conclusion. He defines "creepy" to mean kidnapper. What if the parents just don't like the idea of possibly some fan of child porn using the public opportunity to take pictures of their kids and photoshop them or just gawk at them? Is that SO much less likely than that this stranger just wants to enjoy the "cute" picture of happy kids? (NS notes that he doesn't consider this picture inappropriate or the taking of it - the picture doesn't show any faces clearly but there'd be no way for a creeped-out parent to know what the picture was: it could be using the zoom feature right on their child as far as they know). Would you evaluate the odds differently if the stranger was alone rather than with his own family? Do those parents - the 99% who wouldn't post a picture of NS online and try to shame him but still wish he'd keep his camera to himself - "warp" their kids? I don't think so. Look, I don't think this is that big a deal either way. But I get the parents (and NS' family's) reaction.

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    1. You may have a point A-N-A but what exactly do you have against Neil? You disagree in such a disagreeable style with putdowns- like a bully.

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    2. He said "or was it" bad judgement. That's not an "I can't lose" conclusion. Again, you are splitting hairs. Did you lose out on a newspaper job to him or something? You seem more bitter, than just someone who disagrees.

      Are you a parent? Perhaps you might think that you don't like a stranger snapping a general pic. That I can understand.

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    3. My view is, every AA meeting has a meeting bully who abuses people out of a misplaced sense of superiority. A-non-A is that person here. There's no point in reacting because you can't win in the narrow universe as he defines it. But he's within the realm of comity, so he can do his thing. It isn't worth removing.

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    4. To Anon 8:30 - not to hijack the blog, but imho NS started it (and I've never resorted to foul language either). I think Neil is a good person at heart (i.e., has genuine concern for the disadvantaged, will take up unpopular causes he believes in, let alone basic things like doing right by your family and friends). But he's not a particularly polite one, and at a minimum he deals snark out pretty liberally and shouldn't complain about return fire. And he doesn't - it seems to upset some of his fans here more than him (who also tend to read my posts in the harshest "tone of inner-ear voice" possible). I'm probably flattering myself but I like to think he finds an "ombundsmun" quality to some of my jabs, but here I say I don't think it's that big of a deal, just that I think he gamed the question. People can agree or disagree!

      To Anon 8:33 - well yes, I'm saying the post is gamed to lead you to answer that question in the "sympathetic to NS" way. I think many parents would feel discomfort at a stranger taking a picture of their kids and agree or disagree, it's surely not at the "warping your children with your paranoia" level to merely find that creepy.

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    5. very well, that part of his text is best ignored, you can fight your own battles, he seeks attention in the wrong way, maybe he's a wife beater

      anyhow , yesterday I had to go look up what chiasmus went, so you are improving our word power

      What is all this hoopla over Letterman, by the way? Never liked him.

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    6. a/n/a- are you drinking liquor when you write these rants?

      Neil, maybe he's some relative or ex pal, ex co worker- who is mad at you for something. He's grinding some axe, not just disagreeing. I've seen this pattern for months and I haven't been on here long. Maybe he's an anti -semite.

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    7. To Anon Not at 9:04

      I agree with you in part- it's not what you say but how

      I don't think the blog host is as manipulative as you think , even if he gets on a high horse now and then

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    8. ana/yes, he can be snarky and not so polite- but it's his blog and he deserves some respect on that-thanks for explaining

      or could it be that ANA is not a male at all but some old galpal of Neil that he may have dumped?

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    9. Neil, the anon at 9:06 is directed at him, and I'm speaking to you about him, it's not directed at you-this way there is no misunderstanding

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    10. But ANA, you are snarky as well and it's not even your blog. Again, if he find NS so infuriating, why read this? Or do you like jumping people?

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    11. You are correct, a--n-a, you are flattering yourself.

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    12. So to the people (or person) who care so much about my tone, there you have it: I think NS is a bully, he thinks that I am. The house rule is comity and I shall seek to comply.

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    13. Not that much of a bully -- you're here. A bully would just strip you off the comments. But people seem interested in engaging you, so let them have their fun. My basic guideline for this is, I have my say above, and the comments are where you guys have your say. The need for me to intercede is minimal.

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    14. Damn, I KNEW A-n-A was a wife-beater! As the 9:06 anonymouse so astutely opines. Lordy! AND he's also Bitter Scribe, too? Wow, we have some active, if severely misguided, imaginations on display today...

      Gonna have to side with the evil and hated Anon-not-Anon here, and drive my stock even lower with both our host and his vigorous defenders. As he notes, NS is not Mary Schmich, to pick a random example. He's pretty harsh, himself, when he wants to be. And he calls 'em like he sees 'em. Thus, many of his most loyal readers are iconoclasts and independent thinkers who aren't only interested in giving him a pat on the back. (Though I don't mind doing so often, as, most importantly and relevantly, he's a fine writer, and calling 'em as he sees 'em is something to applaud.)

      A-n-A is a bit more abrasive than I think he needs to be, but so what? It's not up to me. And I can identify with this statement: "I like to think he finds an "ombundsmun" quality to some of my jabs..." (Even if you butchered "ombudsman" there, buddy!) Though I don't know that that's the word I'd have gone with. When I disagree with something on here, "I like to think" that I'm offering a perspective that must be shared by at least SOME other readers, so that Neil is aware of how a segment of his readership is viewing what he wrote. I'd think that that's the point of allowing comments on here. Sometimes NS seems to appreciate it, sometimes not, as would be the case with anybody. Mr. Zorn didn't seem to relish some of my my more prickly, though I thought helpful, comments, either!

      Though he doesn't need me to defend him, I'd just like to point out again -- A-n-A is a fan of Neil's! He's not a troll just firing off pointless snark to goad anybody -- he always has a point, whether one agrees with him, or not, and whatever one thinks of his style.

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    15. Jackash, said with class as usual. True, he could be less abrasive.

      But first tell me, what does iconoclast mean? Why should I look it up if you brought it up?

      Bitter Scribe can be a bit abrasive too, but not as badly as ANA. Still all 3 of you and NS are clever indeed.

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    16. LOL, ANA, you said Neil "started it?" I hope so, or we'd have an empty blog. Sounds like a comment one would hear in the playground. You must be a young adult and not quite so mature.

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    17. NS must think we are fools here.

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    18. Jackash - thanks and sheepish grin: among other faults I am an atrocious speller! And heck, I'm not just a fan of NS' writing, I buy his book - one can't take trips to LA on adoration alone. Part of my problem might be my respect for his position: people talk a lot about how newspapers and the media in general have declined, but ideas count - NS has the power to put themes and issues into the public conciousness (or at least light the spark that others will pick up on) that few do and it frustrates me when I think he's wasting it (let alone when I think he's wrong).

      Anon 12:46 - Oh, I wish I were a young adult! I'll be saying goodbye to "target demo" in the near future. And yes - playground, NBA/NFL game, life - the teacher/ref always calls foul on the second guy (or gal). It's a law of nature, kind of like "it's the cover-up that gets you."

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    19. Oops, meant to say books.

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  6. I should also add I wouldn't make taking pictures illegal in a public museum (if Pam Gellar can do her thing...) - it's just a personal conduct question. I'd let a private museum set whatever policies they want.

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  7. Advocate of the Anti-ChristMay 21, 2015 at 6:49 AM

    Pam Gellar is a Nazi racist scum.

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    1. not necessarily, funny many think she's some born again, but she's Jewish and a supporter of Israel-while I don't like her style, we still have the right not to be shot at in our own country if we want to put up certain pics

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    2. Advocate of the Anti-ChristMay 22, 2015 at 2:33 AM

      I'm Jewish and an opponent of "Israel" (occupied Palestine). And I say she's a Nazi racist scum.

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  8. There was absolutely nothing wrong w taking that picture. If parents are that paranoid of pictures being taken by possible pedophiles, they had better never let their kids leave the house. Cameras are everywhere these days. I wouldn't put too much into the Daily Fail article. That rag isn't known for its accuracy, but it sometimes has nice photos. Personally I'm surprised your family wasn't playing in that installation as well. I wouldn't have been able to resist going into that, and I'm sure my teens wouldn't as well.

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    1. This reminds me of my overprotective, strict, Italian born dad. If sis and I were at a public hotel pool as teens on vacation, he'd be mad if some single male just looked our way, thinking they had the worst of intentions. He meant well though.

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  9. Yes, it's said our society has come to this overly cocooned stage of constant fear. What happened to moderation. No one said to be negligent. I read somewhere of one mom being questioned cause her kids were walking home alone from a park . It's not like they were toddlers or alone. The days of hopping a bus at 12 are long over.

    In another vein, Mary Mitchell today cries out that why jump to conc. that more backs commit crimes when we don't think that of whites after seeing bikers. She needs a math class. In proportion to their ratio to the population, blacks do commit more, per capita.

    Mr. S. will reply if you disagree with him over column in email. She won't for most part or just stop replying if you disagree once, even politely.

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  10. Sandy K insists that intention should outweigh perception. And so it should. But it often doesn't unfortunately.

    John

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  11. A local school administrator here lost his job not too long ago. A parent a the swimming pool noticed this man taking pictures of different kids walking around. She put two and two together and realized theses were not his kids. Turned him in. They discovered a massive horde of pics of swimsuit or leotard wearing children. Jail time was discussed, but considering it was only porn lite, a different hobby was suggested. J remember hoping that he didn't take his hobby further when the cameras were not on.

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    1. at, I. I should have proof read :)

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    2. I remember reading that story. But notice, he took more than one pic. Plus , at a museum, many would be taking pics of displays-it shouldn't be so disconcerting then.

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    3. So who was harmed by his hobby? Yes, you and I think it's creepy, but nobody was hurt. Lots of creepy passtimes are harmless and legal.

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  12. Overprotective parents are far, far, creepier. Taking pictures in a public place is your right.

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  13. yes, they'll turn their kids into scared rabbit girls, and sissy boys

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  14. I'm of the general opinion that way too many photos are being taken these days by way too many people.

    I'm of the indefensible opinion that, ideally, anybody being photographed should be asked for permission, especially when it comes to photos that get published in the paper or other public media. I'm the kinda guy that, were I at a Cubs game, I wouldn't want to be shown on the big screen, regardless of what I was doing or not doing. (Of course, by buying a ticket, you're essentially signing a release that they could put a photo of you on a billboard, if they wanted to.)

    However, I'm of the informed opinion that Neil posts a lot of swell photos on this blog. [I'm just glad that none have been of me, dressed in my steampunk outfit, cartwheeling down State Street. ; )]

    I'm of the specific opinion that today's photo, in particular, is interesting, completely innocuous and not creepy.

    I can understand, however, that some parents might not like a stranger taking photos of their children, and that, as A-n-A points out, nobody in that museum would know how detailed a photo was being taken, nor what the intended purpose for it was.

    Bottom line for me; I probably would have been on the family's side had I been at the museum, but I have no problem with the actual photo that was taken.

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    1. Jakash, What's a steampunk outfit? Is that anything to do with punk rock?

      As to not anon's dig about the sat. locale game, he's just doing sour grapes because he can't guess the places. We know you are bright not anon, don't go overboard.

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    2. Is a steampunk outfit what that guy was wearing for last Sat's contest?

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    3. "steampunk", from dictionary . com: 1. a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.

      2. a subculture inspired by this literary and film subgenre: the fashions and gadgets of steampunk.

      Just a joke on my part. I'd thought maybe that was the look our buddy in the picture from the Saturday contest was going for. Upon further review, having looked up some examples, I guess not...

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    4. "Steampunk" evoked "that guy" from Saturday's contest for me as well. I can see where it was advisable to get his permission to take or publish the photo, but if you're in a public place, especially in a crowd, you've got to expect to be photographed numerous times and I've seen many people preen for a security camera...in my backyard. John

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  15. Actually, Jakash is NOT anon, with a split personality.

    Let's do an age poll here: not exact age, just say 40's , 50's whatever. thanks

    50's here

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  16. Where's Tom Evans today?

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  17. ANA-NS is cocky but not a bully.

    And I agree with that other poster. Tired of hearing about Letterman. He's rude.

    Where is Mr. Scribe today?

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    1. So, just what is the fascination with age on this blog, or who might be posing as whom? Not to mention who might be smarter than whom, and why isn't so-and-so posting anything today (she asks, SHH*)

      *shaking her head....

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  18. I don't see the big deal here. Steinberg was photographing an art exhibit. The fact the exhibit was open to interaction by the public, including children, does not suggest he was doing anything improper.

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    1. Right, Wendy, if he'd even wanted a photo just of the art, with no kids interacting with the exhibit, what's he supposed to do -- hang around for an hour, waiting for a moment when no people were in the shot? That WOULD kinda seem creepy...

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  19. Actually, the various anon posters are more irksome than the regular poster is.

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  20. Cant believe I just wasted 15 minutes reading these comments. I usually just read the blog. I feel like Josh Lyman when he discovered there was a whole subculture of strange folk out there in social media. Apparently you guys are regulars.At least Anon Not Anon, Robbie, Jakash, and maybe several Anonymous's. No one is right and no one wrong but come-on!So much self righteous, snarky and non snarky, pretend erudite stuff interspersed with some normalcy.Gave me a headache. Not sure I want to visit this afterblog world again ........as for the pic- public place, interactive exhibit, not a prob.

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.