December 9, 2007

On Turning Three

On Thursday a day shy of his 3rd birthday, my son and I turned a corner onto Prince street when we encountered a man who had just been hit by a car. His face was badly bloodied and his leg was twisted at a grotesque angle. We arrived just as he slumped over to the ground. The man driving of the car was also in distress, also bleeding. He was sitting in the driver's seat trying to adjust his broken glasses, stunned, and surrounded by smoke, presumably from the airbag. The car had jumped the curb and was pressed into a lamp pole. Although we arrived just seconds after the accident people on the street had already sprung into action. Two passersby were comforting the man on the ground. Another man sacrificed an overcoat to keep him warm. A husband and wife team in matching full length fur coats were attending to the driver. My son was still, outwardly impassive. Although my instinct had been to hurry him down the street he was transfixed. Hearing the ambulance siren he said, "The ambulance will take the man to the hospital and give him a big band aid and then he'll be better."
"Yes," I said, "We should go so the ambulance men can do their work."
"Ok," he said.
A few minutes later we were at a restaurant. "I want french fries and cauliflower", he announced and then went on to talk about robots, his mom, a girl he likes in school, his little brother, his upcoming birthday party, robots again, and trains.

In his second year of his life, our son's world has opened up to include all the things he reads in books. He has a sense that the world is round. He knows we live in Brooklyn and that winter follows fall. When it we got a dusting of snow the other day he first wanted to taste it, then build a snowman, then build an igloo. He calls his mom "my cutie pie" and loves to sing Amazing Grace and Clementine. And yet for all that knows and all that he can do at 3, there are still many traces lingering babydom. His parents are still his touchstones and too much time apart from us leave him somewhat undone. A blank face is often presented to strangers, a mask for a vague distrust. He falls asleep alone, but ends up in our bed every night. The upset over an apparently small thing can easily turn into tears.

Raul Andres' world has been turned upside down several times this year, most dramatically by the addition of a brother, later by the loss of a house.

I knew he would be a good big brother when he began asking me to include Gabriel in his bedtime stories just a few days after Gabriel was born. "One day a little boy, Raul Andres, went out for a walk..." I would start.
"And you too?"
"Me too."
"And mommy?"
"And mommy."
"And Gabriel?"
"And Gabriel.... So Raul Andres, mommy, daddy, and Gabriel all went out on a walk..."

The old house, he still misses. We moved four blocks away so it's still painfully close for him. Last week we walked by the old place on the way home from school.
"This was our house," he declared, "we lived here for a long time. Can we go inside."
"No," I replied. "Someone else lives there now."
"I'm sad," he said.
"Me too," I said.
"Can we sit down?" he asked pointing to the stoop.
We had spent countless hours on the stoop during his first two years. Sitting there and watching people pass by was one of his favorite things to do."
"Of course. Let's sit."
We sat for a while in silence and then continued walking home. "I miss that house too much," he declared.

And so it was for much of the year—a wonderful economy in his words.

His terrible twos were miraculously short. We can count the number of limp-noodle-fall-on-the-ground-sobbing incidents on one hand. And that period seems to be long over.

Unlike a 2 year old whose his life is all about the here and now, the 3 year old anticipates events big and small Halloween, Christmas, or maybe just the next time we sit outside and eat peppermint. And after experiencing things he thinks about them. "Last Halloween I was a wolf, next Halloween I want to be a robot and a fireman."

The 3 year old is contemplative. Last night, or 'last night ago' as he would say, my son brought up the man who had been hit by the car. "Do you think that man will be ok?" he asked.
"I think so." I replied.
"We must be careful when we cross the street," he declared.
"Yes." I said, "We must be careful when we cross the street."
"Today is my birthday, tomorrow is my birthday party, just like in my book."
"Yes," I answered."
"Then I will be 3?"
"Yes," I said."
"And then 4?"
"And then 4," I replied.

related: On Turning Two

December 9, 2007

Stefan Rohner

If you've ever found yourself in a taxi roaming a part of the world far from home, you'll appreciate Stefan Rhoner's essay from Morroco "The King Is Coming"...

December 10, 2007

Melanie Schiff

In interviews Melanie Schiff often references music. "You hear a sad song and you feel like it's your experience, and I wanted to make art like that, to make photos like that." And many of the images in her current portfolio literally reference music. There are still lives with skulls and cassette tapes, another of light bouncing off cd cases, and a self portrait with a Neil Young album. It might sound silly when described but it all just works. The image selection is eclectic and personal and for me it does play like a very good album.

I read on MAO today that Ms. Schiff was recently chosen for the 2008 Whitney Biennial which is good news indeed. I look forward to seeing her enormous prints here in NYC.

More of Schiff's work can be seen at the Kavi Gupta Gallery.

December 11, 2007

Children's Books I love

A friend who's baby is still a few months away from being born asked me for some suggestions for children's books because she wants to start building a library. Assuming she has the basic classics covered, here's a list of slightly less well known books that my sons and I love. Many of these books are out of print but can easily be found on Amazon, ebay, or on Here are a few to get you started...

The Birthday Party - Maurice Sendak
Little Blue and Little Yellow - Lionni
May I Bring A Friend - de Regniers
Where Everyday Things Come From - Aldren Watson
Tall Book of Nursery Tales - Feodor Rojankovsky
The Tall Book of Make Believe - Garth Williams
A Tail is a Tail - Katherine Mace
Rotten Island - William Steig
Doctor Desoto - William Steig
Today's Basic Science - Navarra and Zafforoni
Henri's Walk to Paris - Saul Bass
The Wonderful House - Margert Wise Brown
Choo Choo - Virginia Lee Burton
The Dead Bird - Margaret Wise Brown
The Line Up Book - Marisabina Russo
What Makes A Shadow?- Clyde Robert Bulla
Tiny Nonsense Stories
Goodnight Gorilla - Peggy Rathman

My general advice on buying kids books:

1. Always buy hardcover. A used hardcover is usually better than a new softcover. If your kids loves a book, he will read it hundreds of times. Softcover books just don't hold up.

2. As a general rule avoid celebrity authors.

3. Avoid modern "message" books.

4. Love the politically incorrect. The Tiny Nonsense Stories feature gun wielding kittens, cigarette smoking ducks, and pig families that sneak around scaring the daylights out of each other. Kids of course love these stories.

5. For vintage books, never worry about finding a first edition if you plan on actually reading your children's books. Your kids will want to bring them to the dinner table, they will bend them, tear, them and so on. This is how children's books like to be read. Just find the cleanest cheapest copy you can find.

If you are looking for more book buying ideas, check out this japanese site which always has a well curated selection of vintage visually spectacular kid's books... (the little links that read A-C, D-F, and so on show thumbnails of the covers)

December 17, 2007

The Serpent 1937


I swear I've had dreams that look exactly like this picture. More here.

(via MonsterBrains)

December 19, 2007

Guillaume Herbaut

Guillaume Herbaut travels to many of the world's grim hard places; his portfolio is a catalog of suffering and woe. By photographing what most of us would run away from he forces us to consider the large swaths of the world where misery is the norm. The two images above are from the series Vendetta taken in Albania where thousands of people are locked in blood struggles...

December 22, 2007


Years from now I look forward to torturing my kids with a collection of 'scared of Santa' pictures. This one is pretty good, but 2005's is my favorite.

December 22, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

For my entire childhood in Texas Charlie Wilson was my congressman. I have yet to see the movie in which he is portrayed by Tom Hanks but I can heartily recommend the book on which the movie is based. It's the story of how one congressman from a district of no special importance managed to get the United States involved in a covert war that played a major part in bringing down the USSR and how that involvement ultimately gave rise to the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden's brand of fundamentalism. My guess is that at each step from which the story is removed from the man, the story is diminished, although perhaps these versions are more believable than the truth which is outrageous enough to seem fictional.

Wilson lived down the road from my first childhood home, and although he was rarely around, he was hard to miss when he was in town. He often held court on Saturday mornings at local breakfast spots like the Hot Biscuit and the Holiday Inn and if you were anywhere in earshot of his table you would inevitably catch loud profane tales of Washington skullduggery... And then there were always whispers about his various girlfriends around town. If you're curious about the man, he's profiled in today's Washington Post in an article titled "Charlie Wilson Sticks to His Guns". A football coach in Lufkin once said of Wilson, "You either love the fella or you hate him, he'll be re-elected unless he kills someone so you might as well love him. Hell, he might have already killed someone, with Charlie you never know."

Sidenote: The Post article mentions his campaign ads, which I remember fondly for their pure outlandishness. This is a somewhat tame selection. I hope someone digs up some of his earlier ads.

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas From Brooklyn


December 27, 2007

Hiromi Tsuchida

hiromi tsuchida
Hiromi Tsuchida always included on the short list of great Japanese photographers for his books Hiroshima and Counting Grains of Sand. He's recently released New Counting Grains of Sand, a continuation of the original project. It's a delightful book and worth tracking down (you can find it on PhotoEye .)

If you don't visit Tsuchida's website for the photography, go for the 20 year timelapse of his head... I have a weakness for time based projects...

And if you happen to be in London you still have a week to see some of Tsuchida's prints in person. They are part of a show titled The Eyes an Island: Japanese Photography 1945-2007.

Related: Noah Kalina, Time Photography

December 28, 2007

The Internet Giveth

20 year old clips featuring my wife. I plan on using the phrase "Drop the Monkey" often around the house.

December 28, 2007

Mikiko Hara

As a response to yesterday's post a friend asked if I had ever seen the work of Mikiko Hara. I haven't seen it in person, but I recently read a nice post on Hara on, one of my favorite photography blogs. Hara's work is quiet and poetic, a rare quality in street photography. Works for me.

Update:Lesley Martin, who always writes incisively about photography has written a nice piece on Ms. Hara in the Winter 07 issue of Aperture. I've met Lesley a couple of times while sitting on Jen Bekman's Hey Hot Shot Panel, she also happens to be swell in general.

December 31, 2007

Obsequies for 2007

Remember when years measured the time between Christmases and birthdays?
A year was 4 summers.
A year was a new notch on the doorway, your height scribbled nearby.
A new year felt new because
A year was everything.

On television the crowds in Tokyo and Paris would smile, and cheer, and kiss while we waited...
In Times Square the ball would drop at eleven o’clock.
This was the burden of living in Central Time.
The hour between eleven and twelve would crawl slower and ever slower....
Fighting sleep.
Until those last seconds.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 3, 2, and then...
A dive into the unknown.

We would write out the new year because it felt weird to see it in ink.
In a year we could learn geometry, the stories of Athena and Apollo, and how to catch catfish on rainy days.
In a year we might fall in and out of love 20 times.
In a year we might kiss a girl. With tounge.
In a year we had time to build forts in trees.
A year was something.

Does the calendar change anything now?
Wasn’t it just... Wait. That was 4 years ago.
My favorite winter overcoat is six years older than some of my friends.
I return to places and find trees I planted towering above the rooftops.
I see someone else in the mirror.
Birthdays mean nothing to me.
I’ve forgotten how to measure things.

« November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 »