August 3, 2007
In the office of Melvin Hurwitz you will find fourl guys in ill fitting grey suits hunched over metal desks, all in a row. The lights are florescent and harsh, the walls are dingy, haphazardly decorated with pictures of wives and old pictures of Mr. Hurwitz who sits at the last desk. While the other men chat on the phone or sort through papers, Hurwitz sits with his hands on his desk with a look of real calm. He's ready to do business.
Melvin Hurwitz is a notary public. He is also a lawyer. On his desk you will find a roll of peppermints. He'll offer you one if you stare at them long enough.
I was having a car title notarized. Mr. Hurwitz asked for ID and I slid him my passport. "This could be you, but maybe it's not," he said after a cursory examination, "what do I know?"
"It's me." I said.
"So you say," he said. "you know, I see everything here. Marriages. Divorces. Buying and selling. Right here at this desk. Half the time people lie. You can't trust anybody."
Then we sat in silence as he fiddled with a desk drawer to find the notary stamp. I signed. He stamped. I paid my 3 dollars.
"I had a very good friend. Dear friend. He got locked up. My age. Good guy. You want to know why?" Mr. Hurwitz took a ballpoint pen out of his breast pocket, tore a scrap of paper from a legal pad, wrote something on it, folded the paper 3 times, and slid it to me. "Read it," he said.
I picked up the paper, and unfolded it. 'HUBRIS' was written in all caps and circled.
"Do you know what that word means?" he asked.
"Yes of course." I answered. He gave me a look that said, 'I don't believe you,' so I elaborated "excessive pride, um, insolence."
He studied me, "I looked up that word. Do you know it originally meant in Greek? It meant laughing at the gods? You know what happens if you laugh at the gods. Tragedy. My friend, good guy, but he laughed at the gods."
We sat in silence looking at each other for a moment.
"You know you're the first person who knew that word."
I slid the scrap of paper back to him. He folded it neatly, pushed it into his breast pocket, and wished me good day.
August 5, 2007
Almost every night when everyone is asleep, I'll rearrange my son's train tracks. We have wooden tracks, the kind I wish I had when I was a kid. (The secret to buying kids trains is to not worry so much about the trains themselves, but get a good variety of tracks). I sit on the floor in the semi-darkness and try to come up with an interesting design because I know in a few hours my son will wander in dragging me by the hand and the first thing he'll do is study the new tracks before sitting down and playing trains for a while. He's never asked why the tracks are always different, it's just how things are in his world. It's little my way of telling the kid I love him. Sometimes, like this morning, I'll fall asleep on the couch while he's there playing and when I wake up I'll be covered in carefully placed cars and trains covering me from head to toe. I figure that's his way of saying he loves me back.
August 6, 2007
I always like hitting up my photo minded friends for the names of photographers to watch for.... today a friend forwarded the above image and recommended I check out Neil Rough's Tunisia Portfolio which she described as "mysterious and enigmatic"... It is indeed. "Who are these people," I kept asking myself. "People he met along the way? Guests at a party?" They seem to exist outside of normal time. This is the kind of portfolio I love.
I should also note that Mr. Rough does a great self portrait.
August 9, 2007
Although I'm generally not big on conceptual art, I've had a soft spot for the work of Keith Arnatt since discovering a zine-like book of his images many years ago in my college art library. The book, consisting mainly of people being buried in one way or another, was unexpected, amusing, and compelling.
The Photographer's Gallery in London is running an Arnatt show through September and if there are any English readers of this blog who want to win my eternal gratitude, I'd love to be sent a catalog (catalouge!), a postcard, or even a review of the show...
August 11, 2007
The image above is from an Austrian artist named Lois Hechenblaikner who shoots the "iconography of mass tourism". This series is part of an exhibition of 21 Austrian artists titled '21 Positions' at the Austrian Cultural Forum here in NY (pdf catalog of the exhibit). It's a nice lineup of artists most of whom were new to me...
As an aside, and I know this is completely unfair, but when I heard about an exhibition of Austrian artists my head instantly went to that scene in the film Before Sunrise where the two characters meet a pair of non-professional actors on a bridge:
(They approach two men who are looking over the bridge at the water below.) Jesse: Excuse me, excuse me uh, sprechen sie English? (Do you speak English?)
Man with jacket: Ja, of course.
Man with tie: Couldn't you speak German for a change?
Man with tie: No, it was a joke.
Jesse: Well, listen, we just got into Vienna today, and we're looking for something fun to do.
Céline: Like museums, exhibitions, things...
Man with tie: But museums are not that funny any more these days, uh...
Man with jacket: Uh, (looking at watch) but they are closing right now. How long are you going to be here?
Jesse: Just for tonight.
Man with tie: Why did you come to Vienna? What, uh, what could you be expecting?
Jesse: (Perplexed.) Uh...
Céline: We're on honeymoon.
Jesse: Yeah, she got pregnant, we had to get married, you know.
Man with tie: (Points at Jesse.) You know I don't believe you, you're a bad liar.
(The two men exchange some words in German.)
Man with tie: Ja.
Man with jacket: See here. (Pulls paper out of pocket.)
Man with tie: This is a play we're both in, and we would like to invite you.
Céline: You're actors?
Man with tie: No, not professional actors uh, part-time actors, for fun.
Man with jacket: It's a play about a cow, and an Indian searching for it. There are also in it politicians, Mexicans...
Man with tie: Russians, Communists…
Man with jacket: Russians.
Jesse: So, you have a real cow on stage.
Man with tie: No, not a real cow. It‘s an actor in a cow costume.
Man with jacket: (Gesturing.) And he's the cow.
Man with tie: Yes, I am the cow. And the cow is a bit weird.
Man with jacket: The cow has a disease.
Man with tie: She's acting a bit strange, like a dog. If someone throws a stick, she fetches it, and brings it back. And she can smoke, with her hooves (motions with his hand, as if smoking with cow’s hooves), and everything.
Man with jacket: And as you see, there is the address. It‘s in the 2nd District.
Man with tie: Near the Prater. You know the Prater?
Céline: Oh, the big Ferris wheel?
Man with tie: By the wheel, yes.
Céline: Oh, we should go.
Man with tie: Yes, the wheel, everybody knows the wheel.
Man with jacket: Perhaps you can go to the Prater before the play. It starts at twenty-one-thirty.
Jesse: Twenty-one thirty?
Man with tie: That's nine-thirty.
Jesse: Nine-thirty? Oh, right, right. Okay, great, well, what's the name of this play?
Man with tie: Uh...
Man with jacket: It translates as, "Bring Me The Horns...(together with other man) of Wilmington's Cow."
Man with tie: Ja, I am Wilmington's cow.
Jesse: We'll try to be there.
Man with tie: You'll be there?
Jesse: We'll try.
Man with tie: I am the cow.
Jesse: You're the cow.
Man with tie: Goodbye.
August 14, 2007
Few things in this world better than a good meteor shower. Sadly it was hazy here last night... here's a better veiw:
August 14, 2007
August 14, 2007
Donald Weber is a Guggenheim fellow and a Lange-Taylor prize winning photographer based in Moscow. His portfolios whether they be from the Ukraine or Turkish Kurdistan or Chad are reminders of just how muscular and illuminating photography can be when in the hands of a fearless observer... Please stop wasting your time here and click over to his site right away.
August 18, 2007
From an old journal on this date:
Was advised against train travel because the tracks are regularly bombed.
Opted for the bus instead.
Bus stuck in mud for 6 hours near Kempong Thum.
Lunch was a surprisingly delicious soup made with an unclassifiable meat, cilantro, and chilis.
At around 8PM the bus stopped and was boarded by 4 masked men carrying guns. Actually one boarded, 3 were outside. One of the gunman, a kid—he couldn't have been more than 16—shouted something and everyone ducked down in their seats or went down to the floor. I was left sitting there like a jackass. He smiled at me and pointed his finger down. I went down to the floor as best I could hugging my backpack. He was looking for someone. Robbed the bus driver. Rattled the hell out of everyone else.
Ended the night very late near Phlouk. No electric. Totally pitch black. Bugs. Sleeping in one of those big platform houses. All the men are on one side women are on the other. We all have little mats on the floor protected with mosquito nets that hang from the rafters. I'm being urged to shut off my flashlight.
4:54am Woke up in the inky dark to a a woman's blood curdling screams. Then everyone started screaming. Men turned on their lighters. Quite a scene with all the yelling and shadows dancing all around.
A giant snake had fallen from the rafters onto a pregnant woman's mosquito net getting itself (and the woman) trapped. The bus driver clubbed the snake to death with a stick. Everyone laughed when they discovered it was just a snake (I was sure the screamer was being murdered...). The snake, conservatively 70 pounds, is being cut up to be eaten for breakfast. Everyone is in an oddly good mood. Even the woman is sort of jolly/teary.
Bus departs at 6 sharp. Wondering if I should have taken the train.
August 21, 2007
It is much too late to be looking at photography but these images by Asako Narahashi from her series half awake and half asleep in the water matched my mood perfectly. Indulge yourself.
More can images can be found on the artist's website.
August 22, 2007
Love downtown NYC?
August 25, 2007
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to camp out in the open under starry skies you know that if you stare up long enough and get yourself into the right frame of mind you can see the stars slowly rotating through bowl of the sky. If you happen to be near a mountain the little dots of light blink out as they pass behind the silhouette. I am always overcome with the hard to resolve simultaneous feelings of slowness and extreme speed. Some geeky part of me knows the earth is spinning at almost 1000mph and barreling around the sun at 67,000mph and yet you almost have to slow your heartbeat down to experience that nightly show starry transcendence. Look away for a second and the sky stills, the show ends, your brain readjusts to a normal recording speed and it takes a long time to find your groove again.
A few have asked what life with 2 kids is like now that we’re almost 6 months down the road and the first thing that comes to mind is that same sense of paradox: of speed and of slowness. Our baby Gabriel sometimes demands to be held in the middle of the night. So we will spend an hour, two hours rocking him while he ever so slowly falls back into sleep. Time stops. It is almost possible to believe the world is all still and yet.... overnight he grows, literally. He’ll fall asleep fitting his pajamas, he'll wake up and we'll find they are too small. Fingernails must be cut every few days. Pictures from a month ago are almost unfamiliar.
Our other child, a 2 1/2 year old might spend an hour preparing his oatmeal—picking exactly the right blueberries to add, carefully spooning in brown sugar and a single icecube. It is a s l o w process. And then he’ll put his head on the table looking deeply into his bowl and say that the milk is the ocean and the oat grains are like the land—a first metaphor, a leap of imagination he couldn’t have made a few weeks ago. The terrible twos for all their whininess and tantrums are also a time of staggering sweetness. You’ll be sitting there sleepily, grumpily accompanying the daily oatmeal extravaganza when apropos of nothing you’ll get a heartfelt hug, "I love you daddy. I love mommy too. Daddy, Mommy, Gabriel," and then it’s back to eating the oatmeal. "I love oatmeal! All done. I dump it out?" And as much as you enjoy the moment you know it will pass quickly, the baggage of life will accumulate. Things will not be spoken. You see yourself and your own father and your father with his father. You see the little boy next to you chattering away and can’t believe he was was once like the infant in your arms. You try not to be distracted and look away too much because you know it can take a long time to find your way back.
August 26, 2007
I'm almost always a fan of photography of interiors of places that look well lived in... the type of photography that people like Bert Teunissen or Seth Thompson do so well, so I was pleased to come across a team of Polish photographers who work in this subgenre. Their projects can be seen here or (in bigger sizes but with fewer images) here.
August 29, 2007
Like many young photographers Miranda Lehman's portfolio is full of moody pictures of couples in bed, but the photograph on her site that hooked me is one above that evokes classic Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia imagery..