Photos of readers

August 27, 2019 • 3:16 pm

Today’s picture(s) come from reader Tim Anderson, who often sends us astronomy photos. His notes are indented, and we have an old and new version of the picture:

Here is a picture of me, taken in 1981. I am the loony on the left. The loony on the right is my friend Bill. Should any of your readers care to guess what was going on here, I shall respond in the comments. A clue is that it was intended as a satire on Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”. The picture is entitled “The First Brick”.

And here is a more recent version from 2018.

36 thoughts on “Photos of readers

  1. The rake has not improved and the housing is a little off the ground. Kind of a fixer upper? The look on the faces are the same.

    1. Is the, What is going on question – From 1981 to now, not much movement in the great society. The war on poverty, like most others was lost?

  2. I don’t see a reference to a brick in his 1964 speech when he announced this very ambitious initiative. But I would suppose that it has to do with the effort to build a better society by expanding on programs to help the poor.

    1. Omigod, there should be a trigger warning for that. Those two are possibly the ugliest people I have ever seen.

      (They must know what they look like, what baffles me is why they would ever pose for a photo…?)


        1. That is, I suppose, a possibility. They look thoroughly bad-tempered though. Whether that’s a natural reaction to decades of being stared at, or an unfortunate side-effect of their appearance, I don’t know. But, given that their appearance is – what it is, surely they should be suspicious of the motives of someone wanting to take a picture of them?

          I mean, surely even a smile would have helped.

          I Googled, and it does help, quite incredibly so. They are mentally retarded twins, now in a home for mentally challenged people, but reputedly they are good-natured. See the pic in the article:


          1. P.S. I, as an amateur photographer, would not have reproduced a photo of anyone looking so unfortunately ugly. Why oppress them further?

            You can catch anybody looking stupid if you time it right, but – unless you’ve got an ulterior motive – why would you?


              1. Correct.

                (Note that even ugly people – like those twins – can look much less unattractive. So why catch them at their worst?)


              2. Some of us don’t think the purpose of photography is to show idealized images. We would rather show people at their “truest”, to the extent that such a goal is meaningful.

              3. My position is that ‘truest’ does not mean ‘their worst moment’. ‘Truest’ is nuanced and probably hard to achieve with any single photo.

                That certainly was not the case (if one credits the article I linked) with that dreadful photo of those twins.


              4. How do you know this was their “worst moment”? In any case, it is a bit of reality. It isn’t fiction.

                I understand that you don’t like the photo. I don’t like rap music.

  3. A barefooted bicycler? Ouch! I used to do that as a kid every once in a while…never enjoyed it.

    Nice touch having the old photo in the background of the recent photo. And then you can take the recent photo and shrink it and put it in the background of a new photo in another decade or so. I’m channeling Pink Floyd’s album cover for “Ummagumma”. 🙂

    1. The Droste effect, a form of mise en abyme, the use of recursive images in art.

      (One of those odd, useless artifacts that’s gotten stuck on the fly-paper in my noggin.)

      1. I wonder if PF had any idea of the Droste effect. Might just be one of those gut stoner trip decisions. Either way…Ken…you are excellent at finding names for random shit. Droste effect? Are you kidding me? How many people could grok that one. We all appreciate you here on WEIT. No going out on a limb on that one. 🙂

        1. Don’t know whether the Floyd had any knowledge of the Droste effect, but Storm Thorgerson probably did. 😉


        2. “The flypaper in my noggin..”. love it! How had I never before hoid of the Droste effect, being a big fan of mathematical recursion and fractals AND Droste chockies??Now I’ve got to make that stick to the flypaper in MY noggin, which is already crammed full of all kinds of useless trivia🤓

  4. The Great Society I care about is the SF band that launched Grace Slick [same initials man] & recorded the original & better, wilder, acid-soaked version of the GS penned White Rabbit. Below is the live Matrix version, from before they worried about being in tune, on beat & instrumentally proficient [don’t listen if you care about that nonsense]:

    The original 1981 B&W photo by Aussie radio astronomer Tim Anderson was taken around 17 years after the start of LBJ’s “Great Society”, which was an ambitious Democratic launched, but republican supported program to eliminate poverty & racial injustice in the USA.

    The image reminds me of the austere, humourless, proud agricultural father/daughter couple portrayed in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” [GBJames Comment #3], in that there’s a building in the back & a rake [instead of pitchfork]

    I think the ’81 photo is trying to borrow the American Gothic use of symbolism – the painting speaks of stability & dull contentment just after The Great Depression & now [the 1980’s] Tim wishes to contrast that with the failure side of the mixed bag that was The Great Society program.

    Tim on the left represents THE HAVES & Bill on the right represents THE HAVE NOTS. After almost two decades much of the Great Society program has failed to bear fruit & that’s the message of the picture. Tim still has full control over the means of production [rake], the quality housing [brick – the urban renewal program failed IMO] & the comforts of hearth & home [furniture & boots] while Bill is still not much better equipped to survive/prosper than Huckleberry Finn in his shoeless state – restricted in mobility to a bicycle.

    I see that Tim in the 2018 colour picture still has all the toys & even a piece of wood under his chair to level it against the slope. A very nice boat lean-to & I suppose Tim has all the boats too.

    Fun pics!

    1. P.S. I don’t think Tim is a radio astronomer, but he has a bloody great dish near him [by Aussie standards of “near”] & that’s all I’m saying!

    2. I prefer the slicker later studio version of White Rabbit. If it’s intended to have a mesmeric effect on the listener, getting the beat, the tune and the words all perfect helps to create the effect.

      Speaking of music and American Gothic, that picture was referenced in Rocky Horror Picture Show with a similar po-faced couple (though they can’t help being better-looking) standing in front of the doors of ‘Denton Episcopal Church’.


  5. No official explanation yet? Dang.

    I was wondering about the straw which hangs from the seated gentlemen’s mouth in both pictures. Didn’t notice that at first.

    1. Tim is seated & Bill is standing shoeless.

      In both pictures both of them have straw dangling from their mouths.

      The straw might just mean they’re representing farming folks, or it could be political in that “hayseeds” are rural types who get overlooked by Washington nearly all the time, or they’re displaying they’re at ease, or it’s the “Great Society” aid to small farmers. The latter I think was of limited scope once the huge cost of the Second Indochina War [Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos] sucked all the social budgets into a black hole.

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