September 3, 2005
This movie has been both praised and damned... as a Wong Kar-Wai worshiper I went in with high expectations.
For me it was a lovely mess, painfully beautiful visually but almost haphazard in it's storytelling. It's really a collection of short stories held together more by the mood than narrative. But at some point I just stopped caring about the overall story and just enjoyed drinking in the visual lushness of each scene and the tangible melancholy of each shot. Tony Leung is top notch as usual, but this film belongs to Zhang Ziyi who is heartbreakingly good. Faye Wong & Gong Li's performances seem almost inert by comparison. The problem for me was unlike In the Mood For Love a film whose melancholy added up to an emotional punch, 2046 left me thinking about the actual filmmaking... admiring the sets, wardrobe & photography, wishing the writing had been sharper, and wondering how I would have re-organized the film to make it add up to something that didn't break my suspension of disbelief.
September 3, 2005
It is easy to get worked into a lather over the president's inept (and quite frankly bizarrely disconnected) response to the vast human tragedy taking place in Louisiana and Mississippi (Who did not cringe on hearing him cackle about how he used to enjoy himself partying too much in New Orleans when he was younger while standing on the tarmac of the New Orleans Airport where 30 people died just last night.)... And around the world there seems to be a healthy dose of schadenfreude in the newspaper editorials about the botched response to the disaster. But not all the news is bad...
Today on the New Jersey turnpike we passed scores of New York City police vehicles, generators, communication trucks, and busses in convoy down to New Orleans. Cars on the turnpike pulled into the median, their occupants standing in front of their cars pumping their fists in support or simply clapping. People passing by waved and gave the thumbs up or peace signs. Jenn teared up as we passed each bus. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, another smaller convoy of busses and supplies. On the median there, more people stopping and showing their support. One woman simply standing and crying.
September 3, 2005
Have you ever noticed that some weeks the Sunday Times is chock full of interesting articles while other weeks it is thin. Well this week the paper is a full meal. Read as much news as you can take (this overview of the week's events in New Orleans is particularly helpful in unraveling why things went so awry), then to take a break from reality start with an article about biking across Tanzania, follow that up with some spiritualist photography, and end with a discussion of early Japanese film.
September 5, 2005
It is midnight in Pennsylvania where we are visiting for the weekend. The crickets and frogs are are out in force and the night is full of stars. I am sitting in the dark with only the computer light and my belly is full of Plum ice cream. My wife and baby are asleep. I hear their overlapping breaths in the next room. They start out the night breathing out of sync, but by this hour are almost in unison. I can't sleep and have been thinking of my grandmother's watermelon slush. As tomorrow is Labor Day I thought I might share the secret recipe. Watch out, it's super delicious.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup H20 (room temp)
2 cups liquefied watermelon (de seed before blending... don't skimp with one of those seedless melons, get the real thing. real watermelons have seeds)
1 cup very cold H20
1/4 cup lime juice (small round Mexican key limes are best)
1. Deseed and liquefy watermelon, put aside.
2. Mix 1/2 cup H20 with sugar and boil.
3. Right when the mixture boils add the watermelon, lime juice, and cold H20.
4. Freeze immediately.
5. When frozen. Use an ice scraper or a spoon to scrape out servings.
That's it. Try it, it's so good you'll forget your name.
September 5, 2005
September 6, 2005
I heard yet another interview this morning in which a FEMA official said "no one could have predicted" a hurricane this devastating. Really? All of these articles were written in the last few years:
September 7, 2005
Lately our baby has started developing strong dislikes of certain things. For example right now he doesn't like to be strapped into seats-any kind of seat: car seats, strollers, high chairs etc. He's a strong little guy and manages to straighten and stiffen his body like a board, hard to bend without a wrestle. Afterwards, once we get him in, fireworks as he protests at the top of his lungs. Or I should write AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS. So if you see me or my wife strolling around Brooklyn with a baby going at full volume please don't judge us. It's a phase. Or at least that's what we keep telling ourselves.
Other Raul Andres facts:
-Despite the post above, he's generally a pretty happy little guy. He almost always wakes up with a smile. In the mornings when he's playing on the floor and I'm reading the paper I often hear him chuckling to himself over some private joke.
-He eats virtually everything (including his fair share of paper), except plums.
-Anything with wheels, gears, or levers fascinate, as does my hair.
-He likes to blow into bottles to make noise.
-He makes ululating sounds by moving his hand over his mouth.
-He likes banging things on the table, but doesn't like the banging sound. He hasn't figured out the dissonance yet and keeps banging and then being kind of startled and annoyed.
-His mother is his favorite person in the world, but I can almost always make him laugh.
-His current favorite toy is a small basketball. He's also a fan of rocks.
-He shows no interest in crawling but keep trying to walk.
-His favorite thing to do is to be held upside down by the ankles and taken from room to room.
September 7, 2005
This show of photos from the Arab world opens tomorrow. I've admired work from several of the featured photographers for years. Should be excellent.
Thursday, September 8, 2005
6 p.m.-8 p.m.
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York
September 10, 2005
Because everyone needs a little Tony Quinn in their lives.
September 11, 2005
But while wandering around Red Hook with my family and looking out over the water towards Manhattan I remembered it is September 11th. "September 11th" has been so co-opted by our president and his party for crass political gain and war mongering that even the silent mental recitation of the phrase made me feel queasy. But of course it is absurd to allow the petty vainglorious machinations of the current administration interfere with remembrance of what is all of ours to bear.
I was not here in 9/11/2001. I had left town on September 5th on one of my sojourns half a world away. On the eleventh I was in the mountains cut off from all communication. I didn't hear about the attacks until almost a week later, and even then the information was incomplete. It wasn't until I landed in Hong Kong almost a month after the fact and walked into a newsstand in the deserted airport that the full scale of the destruction hit me. The rows of magazines with pictures of the towers, the victims, and the aftermath was shattering... almost incomprehensible, but of course everything was over.
Never did I have to suffer the urgent fear of not knowing what was going to happen next so prevalent on that day. It was much later still that I discovered a friend of mine, Suria Clarke had been working for Cantor Fitzgerald and had perished in the North Tower. She had been in a division of the company known as eSpeed and I didn't know it was connected to Cantor. I tried to contact her on my return to New York and found her phone dead. I had assumed she had moved and that I would hear from her soon. Only after suggesting to a mutual friend that she be a guest at a dinner party did I learn the awful truth.
Suria had a quality one so rarely finds in New York: she was an utterly reliable friend. I could call her late on a Monday night for dinner and she would arrive within the hour in good spirits and with 2 or 3 good stories to tell. She was always up for a movie or drinks or an exploratory walk around an unknown neighborhood. As both a Brit and a new arrival she had sharp eye for the absurdities of this city which she loved dearly. She of all people would be horrified by so much of what has been done in the name of the victims. Any tragedy becomes amplified if you have some connection to it and Suria's loss even more than the holes in the sky made it all hit home for me.
Photos from that day from the nonist.
September 12, 2005
September 14, 2005
I've had a 2 or 3 requests recently via comments and email to explain my process from shot to post on my photoblog. It's not complicated:
1. Take picture
2. Use Photoshop's Raw import to select white balance, bump up sharpness, etc. (usually I just use the default settings).
3. Resize in Photoshop
4. Post to Movable Type.
1. Take photo. (Usually w/ Nikon FM2 or FM3 & 24mm lens)
2. Develop negatives.
3. Scan negatives with Nikon Coolscan 5000.
4. Resize & unsharp mask if needed.
5. Post to Movable Type.
In some interior shots I use Photoshop's autocolor to correct for tungsten.
My scanner doesn't deal well with negatives with wide exposure range and the dark part of the photos often come out looking underexposed so in those cases I use Photoshop's "curve's" tool to adjust.
Most of the stuff I've posted recently was shot on film.
September 14, 2005
Another photography related email comes from Ruby a junior high school student who asks: "What advice do you have for me so that I can take pictures like yours? I want to post them online."
Hmmm. Well Ruby I think the goal would be not to take pictures like mine or someone else's, but to take pictures that are your own, that show a little bit about how you see the world. For me photography is not about what you choose to shoot, but about what you choose to leave out. And ultimately it's all about emotion. What do you love? Or hate? What things do you see that other people miss? What moves you?
Highly biased advice:
I've been taking pictures most of my life so it's pretty much organic. Know your cameras. Feel comfortable with them. Get to the point where you don't have to think about how to make the camera do what you want it to do.
Tell a story.
I always tell myself to get closer. The closer you get (within reason) the more emotion you will find.
Long lenses are not a substitute for getting closer.
If you are shooting people look your subjects in the eye.
Slow down. Hang out with your subjects. Try waiting 10 minutes before pulling out the camera, or better yet, an hour.
Wait for the light to get better.
One of the silliest comments I see again and again is "nice depth of field" (ironically usually posted when the depth of field is shallow. People have gotten so used to digital cameras with high ISOs that stop down and keep everything in focus that they have forgotten the possibilities of wide aperture photography. Ditto for slow shutters speeds and motion. This said, don't let the wide aperture become a crutch. Just because you've focused on something at f 1.4 doesn't mean it's interesting.
Don't post pictures of cats (dogs are ok, dogs show emotion, but be sparing).
Avoid clichés. Some common clichés: zoo pictures, pictures shot and then modified with stock Photoshop filters, sunsets, flowers (unless your audience is full of horticulturalists nobody cares), abandoned buildings, graffiti, mannequins, people in clown makeup (or some other silly costume), fall foliage, water on glass (usually shot with a wide aperture), random people walking down an anonymous street, people in wacky t-shirts, pretty clouds, silly signs, empty roads, seagulls, swans, ducks, water reflections, couples on the beach.
Just because you shoot with a macro lens/holga/polaroid doesn't make it interesting.
When taking travel photos try to avoid the touristic. What is touristic? If you see a gaggle of tourists shooting in a particular spot, the images taken from there will be touristic. If it should be on a postcard, it's touristic. Photos of "natives" in tribal dress shot with a long lens, usually smiling at the photographer are touristic.
Turn off automatic stuff: auto-focus, auto-exposure, auto-whatever. Make some decisions.
Edit. Edit. Edit. (I am horrible at this.)
Shoot black and white now and then.
When I choose a picture to post I ask myself "so what?". If I can't answer that for myself, I figure it's not worth posting.
September 14, 2005
September 16, 2005
My mom's birthday just past. She would have been 60 which is hard to imagine. She was only 45 when she died, 21 when she had me. In my mind she is always young, although always still my mother, the adult. Her voice rings clear in my head and I'm sure it will remain so when I am an old man. The Mexican side of me holds death close.
My grandmother had 10 brothers and sisters, nine of them preceded her in death, and yet she always spoke of them as if they were guests expected at any moment. She would catalog stories of their lives, but would always end by noting their burial places often lamenting the fact that they were not together to more easily talk in the afterlife. From the age of 3 until I was in my 20's at the end of every visit she would whisper, "hug me tight because this is the last time you will see me in this world." She would often press pictures of herself in my hands so that I wouldn't forget "when I am gone."
My mother's pictures, letters, and other small things scattered around the house do not provoke melancholy, but instead remind me how much I have to live up to for my own son. It is a strange bargain knowing that the more we give of ourselves, the more open we are to pain, but the more alive we become.
Octavio Paz, one of my favorite poets writes, "To the inhabitant of New York, Paris, or London death is a word that is never uttered because it burns the lips. The Mexican, on the other hand, frequents it, mocks it, caresses it, sleeps with it, entertains it, it is one of his favourite playthings and his most enduring love."
September 16, 2005
Hardcore Mac geeks read on, everyone else: as you were.
Recently I've been tormented by some mysterious preference files that keep showing up in my system folder with jibberish names. Tracking down which app has been writing these files as been difficult. Also my hard disk has been spinning seeming at random when I'm not doing anything. This too was hard to troubleshoot.
FSEventer to the rescue. This little program opens up a graphical display window that shows you every file written to disk (including invisible files) and gives authorship information with a click. Despite the esoteric name it features a friendly interface and is fun to watch (to see it go nuts fire up a browser and hit some MS sites which write a million cookies). I managed to track down both of my mysterious problems in minutes. This is a good little program for your toolbox.
September 16, 2005
September 17, 2005
Boing Boing has a nice link to early American color photographs from the Great Depression. Most of those images are Kodacolor or Kodachrome (as an aside, check out this page on how to date early Kodachrome slides). I've long been fascinated with early photography from the generation before this, ie from the turn of the century. Most of these are Autochromes, the first widely available color photo process invented by the Lumier Brothers.
This is a pretty good timeline of the development of color photography.
The image below is from WWI for me it shows why Autochromes are compelling... there is just something so tangible and accessible about them versus early black and white or hand colored images.
Some linkage: early Russian photography, early French photography, World War I color photography, & a sampling of Lumiere Studio work. More WWI photos here and here (pages 6-8). This gallery of framed autochromes shows how saturated and "real" they can be.
Autochromes are often available on ebay, just search for Autochrome.
Update: Exhibition at UK's National Media Museum: Autochome- The Dawn of Color
September 18, 2005
When I lived in LA I would often drive aimlessly around the neighborhood just to hear the end of a This American Life broadcast. Now of course, it's on the web, always available. Listen to After the Flood, last week's show on New Orleans, and you'll know why I never miss an episode. (real audio required)
September 18, 2005
Yes that's Kim Jong Ill on horseback. I should explain. I was googling information on The Bern Institute for Xylophonics when I came across some fascinating quicktime movies from North Korean TV: Mo Kin, 3 year old "genius" plays the xylophone, Mo Kin sings!, Kim Jong Ill's Roses, Potato Pride, & North Korean High School Girls. All these videos are from the Roppongi Video Happy Hour a wacky variety show in Japan. There are more videos both North Korean (including the horseback one) and Japanese (some very very silly) available on the main robpongi thumbnail page.
I never found the page Xylophonics institute, if you can track it down, drop the url in the comments.
September 19, 2005
I've been a fan of Jose Luis's work for a long time. His recent portraits have been superb.
September 20, 2005
If you were walking in the vicinity of Hicks and Atlantic this evening you might have heard a long loud man scream. A rat, one of the large armadillo-like ones that come up from the river, jumped off a fence using me as stepping stone on the way to the ground. So yeah, that was me. Inelegant I know.
September 23, 2005
That's my dad hiding under the N. He was on a trip with some of his medical school friends which would date this picture to around 1959. I especially love the background of this picture... reminds me of one of those Pedro Infante movies my grandfather and I would watch together on late night TV... also for me it recalls great Trios we would play on my grandparents record player. Here are some songs that bring it all back: Novia Mia, Lloren Guitarras
September 25, 2005
The eye of hurricane Rita passed directly over Lufkin, Texas (where I grew up) up last night. Damage was limited, mainly to houses hit by downed trees. Also the big rotating bull atop Bryan's Smokehouse and BBQ was knocked down. Sad yes, but I am sure the bull will rise again. The Lufkin Daily News has more details and photos. Trees fell on our house there. We don't know the full extent of the damage yet.
September 25, 2005
Several people have pointed me to the Wall Street Journal article on Scott Rudin who I worked for many moons ago. You might be able to access it via this link (you have to go to the page and copy the link shown into your browser... blah I hate subscription sites). The article sugarcoats the stories quite a bit. If you ever want to hear much better stories, invite me out for a beer some night.
September 28, 2005
Conversation in the booth behind me from a few minutes ago:
Guy Number 1: But you have to understand I love her. I LOVE HER. I am straight up serious. L. O. V. E. Man. Its hurts. It hurts like I'm on fire or something.
Guy Number 2: I understand already, you're crazy about her.
Guy Number 1: Crazy? You see you just don't get it. It's LOVE. I think about her in the morning , at work all day long man, at night. Right now. Just being here is making me bug out. It's deep man. I understand songs now man...it's like every song is about me. It's like the whole world is opened up and raw. Love, man. It's ridiculous. Ridiculous. Look at me. I want to see her tonight. I want to write her name all over my body that's how I feel (he had the name Isabelle written all over his arm in blue ink in large cursive). It's deep man. Real real deep.
Guy Number 2: But she doesn't even like you.
Guy Number 1: Yeah man. That's the whole point. What am I supposed to do? Love is crazy. What am I supposed to do?
[Then stifled tears, then real tears. Then silence for the next 15 minutes as they ate their sandwiches, paid the bill, and walked out into the night.]
September 28, 2005
September 29, 2005
Jenn can't accompany me to the NY Film festival tonight so I have a single extra ticket. The film is Something Like Happiness and it starts at 6:00pm. If you want the ticket email me at raul at mexicanpictures.com. First come first serve. I will also have single tickets available for Monday night's doulble feature, The President's Last Bang and Who's Camus Anyway as well as Three Times on Wednesday.
Update: Something Like Happiness is spoken for. The rest are still available.
September 30, 2005
NYC Photobloggers 5 is tonight upstairs at the Apple Store. I won't be able to make it, but if you're a photo geek you should check it out. Good lineup and free beer.