The Simple Pleasures Of Taking Pictures

Plus: PEN15, Enola Holmes, and What’s Making Us Happy

by Linda Holmes
Welcome! It was the week when Schitt’s Creek had a very big night at the Emmys. It was the week when the BTS Army came to NPR. And it was the week when big movies continued to slide forward into 2021, making us all a little more bummed but hopefully a little more safe. Let’s get to it.

Opening Argument: The Simple Pleasures Of Taking Pictures

I have been, off and on, something of a photography dabbler. Don’t get me wrong: I am not good at it in any way that would be meaningful to anyone else. But for stretches of time in the past, I’ve spent some energy learning about the controls on cameras and how to use them to get different results, and I’ve read some books and so forth. I have a roll of film I took at the Minnesota State Fair once, which features a man and his daughter riding the Scrambler, their hair flying, their faces delighted. I don’t know who they are. Somehow, I got them at exactly the right minute just as their car flew past me on its mechanical arm.

(Side note: I loved the quality of film where you didn’t know whether something worked until it came back from being developed. I once took a picture of a snowstorm in St. Paul where the flash accidentally fired when I didn’t mean to. It created a fascinating scatter effect, little squares of light that dotted the entire frame. I loved taking that print out of the envelope from Walgreens or wherever I had it developed. It was an absolute shock. But digital is all I do now, and it’s also good. For a bumbler like myself, it’s better to have a hundred chances than rely on happy and unexpected accidents.)

I have a roll of film I took at the 2001 9/11 memorial service at the Minnesota State Capitol. I’m proud of some of the pictures — the black-and-white ones are nice — but mostly, I used the camera, and the slight emotional distance it created, to tolerate the situation. To endure the sadness of it. As I said to someone this week, taking pictures lets me be in the world, but not too much. 

And that’s sort of what I need right now, too. To be in the world, but not too much.

Of course, pictures are easier now, because I have a dog, and if you have any contact with any social media presence I’ve had in the last three years or so, you know that I love to take pictures of that dog. He has big, expressive eyes that always look concerned; he has a run that carries him at very high speeds with grace, but that paradoxically looks ungainly if you freeze him in place in a photo. He tucks in his ears in a way that makes him look like a Dickensian urchin, but is actually merely a plea for attention and skritches. (He has his own Instagram account.)

It’s a cliche to say «you need a hobby.» It suggests a certain directionlessness; there’s something dismissive about it. But I actually do need a hobby. I need several. And while obviously I love to read and watch movies and all the things I do for work, I need some hobbies that are purely my own only partially informed brain leading a series of experiments. That’s why I like to bake, but it can be hard to get motivated to bake for one person, if I’m honest. All my best baking has been done for the benefit of groups of people I currently don’t see. (I made some apple cider donuts one time and took them to work, and I think I earned several additional months of patience for the times when my laugh is too loud for the room.) 

In the world, but not too much. Engaged with things, but moderated, too. That’s sort of what I need right now. I will probably never take brilliant portraits or artsy studio still lifes. But I will get my tripod out and take pictures of the moon, because it’s still up there, and I’m still down here. 

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We Recommend:

I think everyone, but perhaps especially people like me who live alone and rely heavily on their friendships, has struggled with the challenges of maintaining closeness during the pandemic. I really appreciated this piece about all the difficult feelings that are involved. Give yourself grace; give it to others. I keep repeating it to myself. 

Want a joy infusion, courtesy of Twitter? I have one for you

My current podcast obsession is Unfinished: Short Creek, about the FLDS community on the border of Arizona and Utah. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts, or if you’re a Stitcher Premium person, you can binge the whole thing now. 

It’s here, it’s here! As we discussed last week, The Great British Baking Show has a new season, and the first episode is now available on Netflix. Rowan the music teacher is my new baking chum. 

What We Did This Week:

Maya (Maya Erskine) and Anna (Anna Konkle) survive a pool party and a lot of other challenges in the second season of Hulu's PEN15.
Erica Parise/Hulu
Aisha made her writing debut at NPR as a PCHH host with a touching piece about PEN15, a show we all have appreciated that’s now back for a second season. 

I talked to Rachel Martin on Morning Edition about some of my favorite audiobooks and why I love them. 

Glen wrote about Amazon’s Utopia, which he did not like. 

Glen also wrote about Netflix’s Enola Holmes, which he did like. 

Enola Holmes was also the topic of our Friday show, featuring Glen with our pals Chris Klimek, Daisy Rosario and Margaret Willison. 

Stephen was one of the people at NPR Music who helped shepherd the BTS Tiny Desk (Home) Concert to the giant fandom that was so happy to hear it. What a delight to see other people totally delighted. 

We covered the Emmys, of course — Stephen, Aisha and I did a late-night roundup on the podcast, and I wrote about why (against all odds) this weird pandemic-era version of an awards show kinda worked for me. (It didn’t hurt that it featured a lot of deserving winners.)

What’s Making Us Happy:

Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are:
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