Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Garden Cocktails, and the Voyeur Motel


When Dave and I came home from work yesterday, the sky was sunny and blue, and the evening was warm enough to open the windows and air out the house. We made tonics and went to sit on our back garden bench. Yay, spring! (Olga could not understand why we weren't playing Kong with her.)

In fact, it was a beautiful day overall. I went to Ladbroke Grove to get blood drawn for my follow-up doctor's appointment -- my "health check," as they call it, when they review my cholesterol levels and that sort of thing. Of course, Dave made a big shrimp salad for dinner the night before, so my cholesterol was probably through the roof.

It's funny: I scheduled the blood draw as quickly as I could after leaving my doctor's office last Thursday -- in fact, I called while standing on the sidewalk outside his door -- and the quickest the lab could fit me in was yesterday at 11:55 a.m. And yet, when I showed up, no one was there. The waiting room was a ghost town. "Lots of people have missed their appointments," said the attendant.

I bet if I'd simply walked over there from the doctor last Thursday they could have fit me in right away. If they allow that sort of spontaneity. Who knows how these things work?

Anyway, the day was so beautiful that after the blood draw, I went walking along Portobello Road with my camera, taking a circuitous route back to the tube. I got a handful of pretty good photos, I think, but I wasn't super-inspired. I photographed that area so much when we lived there that I'm sort of burned out on it!

On another subject entirely, have you read the New Yorker article about the Colorado man who bought a motel back in the 1960s expressly so he could spy on his guests? He cut holes in the ceilings of the rooms so he could peer down on them, in the name of pseudo-scientific "research" as well as his own gratification. This went on for decades. It's a fascinating piece, one of the best things I've read in the magazine in a while -- and it's written so well (by Gay Talese) that you come away feeling some shocked understanding, if not quite sympathy, for the voyeur, as alarming (and criminal) as his behavior was. Talese gets beyond the repugnance of the acts in order to explore his motives. (Of course there are tons of ethical questions here, as addressed by others.)

A coworker at school told me about the article last week, and as I read it I mentioned it to my boss, who's also been reading it, and we had a lively discussion. A sure sign of good journalism -- when it prompts water-cooler conversations! (I was then a little annoyed when my boss assigned me a task in the afternoon that prevented me from finishing the article, even though I had less than a page to go. Argh!)

Another subject of work discussion: This gizmo at Time magazine, which shows you what your name would be if you were born today. This is based solely on the popularity of your name -- for example, my name, Stephen, was the 26th most popular boys' name in 1966, the year of my birth. Today I would be named Carter, which is the 26th most popular name. In 1910 I'd have been named Elmer. (God forbid!)

Of course, this assumes that our parents chose our names based solely on their ranking, which I'm pretty sure is a flawed conclusion. But still -- it's fun.

16 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

My name today would apparently be Miguel! In 1953, when I was born, my name was the 144th most popular. If I had been born in the 1910's my name would be Mitchell. However, the "Time" facility is understandably constructed in relation to American naming habits. Here in England my name today would probably be Ibrahim.

Steve Reed said...

Yeah, it's based on data from the U.S. Social Security Administration, so they're statistics that reflect just the USA.

You might be Ibrahim here! A few years ago one of the newspapers reported that Muhammad was the most popular boy's name in London...

http://shadowsteve.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/alfie-and-poppy-and-michael-and-freya.html

Jennifer said...

What fun! I would be named Emma today, and my husband (Gregory) would be named Gabriel.

Ms. Moon said...

I was named for my great grandmother so who knows what I would be named today.
As to that article- I felt that Mr. Talese was way too complicit in his protection of the motel owner. I think of the scene where he was watching with the owner and his tie was dangling down through the vent, their faces almost touching. For some reason, that image makes me ill. The motel owner was obviously a very sick person, no matter how he framed his illness or rationalized it. His desire to share his "findings" was a part of that and Gay Talese just jumped right in and served that purpose. Even if he had never reported him to the authorities (which is what I think he should have done) he could have told Mr. Foos that he had no interest in communicating with him. I don't feel that this is good journalism as much as I think it is simply prurient and shocking. I felt as if I were reading fiction and perhaps that's because the rationalizations of the voyeur were so transparently false. He may have insisted that his observations did not affect those he observed at all but the fact remains- he violated the privacy of thousands of people in the most base and cowardly of ways.
As you can tell- I feel quite strongly about this.

herding tapeworms said...

i just read that article! couldn't put it down. it was fascinating and repugnant, and i felt so conflicted at the end. curious about the book the author mentioned writing, but also not sure i can tolerate the subject for much longer than a new yorker article. your afternoon cocktails sounded lovely. yay for better weather!

Steve Reed said...

Ms Moon: What's so fascinating to me are the layers of morality involved in this story -- not just of the voyeur, but also of the journalist, the motel guests (some of whom were involved in morally questionable activities of their own) and even, in a way, of us as the readers. (Aren't we being a bit voyeuristic too, in consuming this man's account of his activities all those years?) It's an interesting psychological portrait that explores the ways people deceive themselves and rationalize even criminal behavior. And yes, as a journalist, i find the questions of Talese's complicity even MORE intriguing. I'm surprised he never reported the guy, to be honest -- especially when the story of the murder popped up -- but I guess he felt bound by the confidentiality agreement and his own questions about his subject's reliability. (Would that agreement EVER hold up in a court?!) I'm not condoning any of it, exactly, but I think the end product is journalistically valid, given its exploration of all these issues.

utahDOG! said...

Jane's name today would be Guadalupe according to the Time magazine thingie, so I'm not so sure that the logic simplified for the script applies accurately.

Red said...

Sunny days seem better after a lot of crappy weather. I don't read good magazines anymore. They're all in the library here. We can even take them out for three weeks. By God, that's what I'm going to do today...take out some magazines.

The Bug said...

Hi, I'm Autumn! Ha! I knew an Autumn in college - I wonder what her name would be today. I actually like my 1910 name - Maude. Makes me all nostalgic for tall sassy irreverent hilarious women :)

Linda Sue said...

I've not read the article, yet...but always have the sense that I am being watched, which comes from "he sees you when your sleeping, he knows when you're awake" Santa Clause cult. And that whole deal of god being everywhere, don't touch yourself down there! It is creepy but no news, just more blatant from what you have said. I might have to read it and become even more conscious of the fact that we are all being watched all of the time...by something. I used to put my dolls in the closet to prevent them from staring at me all night. AND today I would be Olivia! Which does not sound like who I would EVER be. Cool post, Steve!

Sabine said...

Did you have to wait with breakfast until after your 11 am appt. for the blood test? If not, don't bother about the cholesterol results anyway.

Here the medical experts are settling on 200 plus age for a healthy enough level.

Spring took its time but it's so lovely now.

jenny_o said...

Did you also see the article that commented on the journalist's part in the story? It's here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2016/04/11/should-gay-talese-have-reported-perverted-motel-owner-to-the-police/

The whole thing creeps me out!

We're getting some nice days here, too. That Olga always looks like she's smiling, even in this photo where I can't possibly see her expression because she's so far away. Her whole body seems to smile!

Elizabeth said...

Talese is getting a lot of heat for that article. I read his books earlier in my life because his background is similar to my father's -- southern Italian -- but I find the reports of his sexism disturbing, to say the least.

alphabet soup said...

Well, that was a lot of fun - my name would be Arianna today - if I had been born in the USA.
I will read the article when I have more battery, although I have already formed an opinion....

Ms Arianna Soup

Sharon Anck said...

I just took that little name test and see that my name would be Madison if I was born today. I could live nicely with most of the names they listed through the years. There was nothing too radical.

37paddington said...

Okay, I'm all caught up now. I missed a lot of posts! And my name today would be Amiyah, go figure.