June 1, 2008


For all the art photography I look at some of the pictures that compel me the most are taken by robots. This view taken yesterday by the Phoenix Lander of of what is almost surely ice on Mars sent my little geek heart aflutter:

And since we are on the subject of Mars here are two other favorite images: below is the much reproduced sunset over Gusev crater (Spirit Rover):


A view into a deep pit crater on the side of a volcano taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:

Somewhere in storage I have a big book of Mars images (including 3D images) produced by the Viking Landers which I picked up with grass cutting money after a visit to Nasa when I was around 12. The pictures might look fairly primitive compared to the ones coming through now, but there were very few single books that had a greater impact on my adolescence.

More adolescent geekery: ASCII Days

June 2, 2008

Benoit Aquin

BenoitAquin.jpgBenoit Aquin's series titled "The Chinese Dust Bowl" is a sobering look at the consequences of over-exploitation of fragile environments. Be sure to also read the associated magazine article in the Canadian [pdf] Walrus Magazine. Today's NYTimes has a story about something similar happening in Spain. (via the always superb BLDG BLOG)

June 4, 2008

We real cool

I haven't read or thought about this poem by Gwendolyn Brooks since high school but for reasons unexplained it has been running through my head all day:


We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

-Gwendolyn Brooks

June 7, 2008

Zhuang Xueben

A reader named Mu Qian turned me on to the work of Zhuang Xueben who travelled the Tibetan regions of Amdo and Kham in the 1930s. I don't think it's just my history in this region that makes the pictures so fascinating. Anybody have any more good Xueben links or book references outside what is easily googleable?

another site

June 10, 2008

Donald Weber's White Nights: Russia After the Gulag

donaldweber2.jpgDonald Weber has recently added work online to his ongoing Guggenheim Fellowship taken in the Komi Republic, Russia. After you look a these photos, some brutal, some beautiful, note that they were shot in May. Can't imagine what January would look like.

June 14, 2008

10 Ghosts

Ghost #1
The house, a solid four bedroom colonial on an acre of land in Buck’s Country, had been on the market for years, and each year the price had come down. The stain of death bothered Jenn’s parent’s but their immigrant’s love of the deal overcame any sense of trepidation. Each house they had owned since moving from Korea had been a little bigger than the last, but this one was two steps up the ladder.

Soon after moving in, Jenn, who was 8 at the time and who had heard nothing of the dark history of the place, would complain about a man whistling in the hallways. “Can you tell him to stop,” she would ask her mother. Her mother would shush her. Ghosts should be ignored. Later, through the network of 8-year-olds at school Jenn found out about the dad who had been murdered in the basement. Friends were scared to sleep over. She told the whistling man to go away and as suddenly as it started, it stopped. Four years later when her own father dropped dead of a heart attack in church, everyone blamed the ghost. To a certain extent, they still do.

Ghost #2
One of the previous owners of a house I lived in on Coronado Street in LA was a man named Fink. Fink had died in the tub and wasn’t found for several weeks. While I avoided tub baths in that house, I didn’t think much of the story until I found an old suitcase full of Fink family snapshots. Most were apparently taken by Mr. Fink himself. There was his shadow at the Rose Bowl, the shadow at the State Fair wearing a hat, the shadow wearing another hat at the Golden Gate Bridge. There was Fink's date at Chasens. Fink's cat. Another cat and another (Fink apparently had many cats). And at the bottom of the suitcase in an envelope, there was a single picture of Fink himself. A picture of Mr. Fink in a bubble bath wearing one of the saddest expressions I have ever seen.

Ghosts #3-#8
My grandmother was one of 11 children. Nine of her brothers and sisters died before her and she claimed to have had premonitions of each death. Her mother was also a frequent visitor in dreams.

Tio Gorgonio had come to her in a dream the night before he died. In the dream he was wearing his best suit, but without shoes. He did not speak when she called to him, but just waved and walked away.

At the very moment someone called to tell her of Tiberio's death, a wind blew up the curtains and slammed the doors of her house. It was a windless day.

With Tia Honda it was a nighttime vision of her sister alone on a bus carrying a live rooster. When my grandmother would call out her sister's name, Honda would turn towards her with a twinkle in her eyes, shush he,r and tell her to get off the bus.

When my grandmother would sleep in her blue rocker, she would dream it was Tio Nacho who was rocking her, and indeed even in the deepest sleep her rocking would never stop.

Her mother, Mama Juela, would show up in afternoon dreams as a 10 year old in a confirmation dress eating Polvorones.

More often than you might think, my grandmother woke up with tearstained pillows.

Ghost #9
Most of all I remember the silence. In the mid-90's I worked for for a movie producer for a few years and we had offices near the top of the old Gulf an Western building on Columbus Circle. The building was on its last legs (it was about to be gut-renovated, renamed, and clad it chintzy bronze by Donald Trump) and our offices were less than glamorous (and made less so by a boss who had a habit of punching holes in the walls), but we all had spectacular views.

One afternoon out of the corner of my eye I saw a man falling. He was out across Columbus Avenue. It was not a graceful fall. It happened in slow silence although the fall itself was incredibly fast. I was spared the impact by some intervening buildings but some officemates were not and I remember the startled yelps that echoed through the office. The man we later learned was a college professor. In the middle of a lecture, he had paused mid sentence, gone to the window, opened it, taken off his glasses and jumped.

A scrum of police cars and fire engines arrived quickly on scene. An ambulance showed up, and then men with power hoses. An hour later it was as if nothing had happened. When I walk that particular corner I always feel enveloped in the cold and helpless silence of that moment.

Ghost #10
My brother Christopher would probably enjoy being thought of as a ghost. He always had a thing for the supernatural although he was an intensely rational soul. In my dreams he is usually reading in the back of the room. I'll have been doing something else and will only notice him after a long time of being engrossed elsewhere. He is always 19 always with a fresh haircut. I try to ask him how he's been, but by the time I reach him, only the book remains, always with one of his elaborate homemade bookmarks. I collect the bookmark hoping that finding it missing he will have to pick up the book again, and I will have another chance at saying, 'Hey there little brother, I miss you'.

More Ghosts
I am in Maine for the week and ghosts are plentiful here. People talk of the ghost of a headless sea captain who roams Damariscove island, the ghost of a mother who lost her baby in the sea, and the ghost of a girl who walked into the woods one day and never returned. In thinking about ghosts I realized the ghosts that scare us are born of other people's tragedies, the things we can't understand, they are the mental form of our fears— a clumsy way of marking the unspeakable and warning us that danger is all around. But there are other types of ghosts, these are the ghosts conjured from our hardest memories, the ones that give shape to sadness. In their strange medicine of allowing us taste to loss anew, these ghosts provide deep comfort even if we must occasionally wake as my grandmother did with tearstained pillows.

June 15, 2008

Faulkner's Voice

I love that Faulkner sounds exactly like what you think Faulkner would sound like (Faulkner on college English and Faulkner accepting his Nobel). Hemingway on the other hand sounds nothing like what I expected. (Hemingway accepting the Nobel). I assumed Hemingway would sound something like Orson Wells.

Related: Teddy Roosevelt's voice

June 17, 2008

Markku Lahdesmaki

Finnish photographer Markku Lahdesmaki's high profile editorial work doesn't do much for me, it's too finished and perfect in the way the editorial world demands, but I love many of his personal portfolios, especially the ones taken in Chinese Space Museums and in the Finnish countryside. (via my friend Tina who I've been trying to have lunch with for over a year even though we run into each other all the time)

June 25, 2008

Helping the Lams of Ludlow Street

A few weeks ago I pointed to a project called The Lams of Ludlow Street by Thomas Holton. A fire has damaged their building on Ludlow and Mr. Holton is helping them out with a set of benefit editions. A worthy cause.

June 27, 2008

Carolyn Drake


2008 Lange Taylor Prize winner Carolyn Drake has been making beautiful photography all around Central Asia which is my favorite part of the world. Her pictures like no others I've seen from the area evoke the sights, sounds, and smells of the region.

June 28, 2008

When You Talk To The Seaweed

While we were drawing monsters today, Raul Andres told me a story which I transcribed.

When You Talk To The Seaweed

A very long time ago when there were no dinasaurs there were people riding monsters. No, no, sitting on the monsters on their backs and they would help them with their arms. The people had no cars but a lot a lot of toys everywhere and they ate no monsters, just broccoli but when they were sick they ate vitamins. When they were hot they ate flies and dragonflies and when they were cold they ate bumblebees. When they were inside they ate straw but usually they ate food outside at nighttime like a picnic. But the monsters had no mouths and the people put food on their backs with their arms.

The end.

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