March 4, 2009

3 Stories about Rocks

For the last few weeks, the conversation I have with Gabriel (who turned 2 on Sunday) at bedtime goes like this:

Me: "What kind of story do you want tonight?'

Gabriel: "Rock story."

So I tell a story about a rock. If I try to tell a story twice I invariably hear the demand, "new one".

Anyway here are 3 new stories about rocks... more on the way...


Once there was a rock.

As far as the rock knew, it was alone in the world — one rock sitting quietly by itself on a grassy field that spread out as far as the eye can see. But this rock had no eyes and it saw nothing, so it did the only thing it knew how to do, it rolled. It rolled through days and nights and rain and fog until it bumped up against another rock.

The two rocks enjoyed one other's company so there they stayed until they were bumped by a third rock and three was even nicer than two so they cuddled up for a very long time until along came another, and maybe a year later another, and another, and so on. After a more days than even I know how to count, where there had once been one rock in a field, there was now a great pile of rocks. Birds came and made their nests on the pile and grass grew up around the edges and the rocks forgot they were rocks and today they speak with one voice when they bother to speak at all, because they are happy bunch, happy to have found one another in such a wide world, happy to have found their place. And today they call themselves a mountain.



Far away and a long time ago there lived a very rich king who loved things. This king built himself a castle on a grass covered mountain far away from everything and instructed his knights to go out into the world and fill the castle with resplendent things. Each room contained a specific treasure. Room 32A was filled hummingbird eggs, 22D was stacked with flying carpets, 7C housed a collection of the world's finest ukuleles. There was, of course, a geode room, and several rooms full of dinosaur bones. One room upstairs was covered floor to ceiling with paintings of volcanoes, another was stuffed with pirate maps, and an entire wing was devoted to illustrated love letters all neatly catalogued. The king loved his castle and each day he would sleep in, have a late breakfast, and wait for the knights to arrive with his riches.

But one day, the king awoke to a strange silence. His castle was empty, the gate had been left open, his breakfast was unmade, and all around there was evidence his servants and lords and ladies had run away in great haste. No knights arrived. He ate cereal and waited all day and night. Early the next day three of his men staggered through the gate. All were in bad shape, bloodied and bruised. "The rival king is on his way", they said, "he is looking for his own treasures and will take everything. We have already lost the war" they said.

The king immediately decided to secure his castle. He closed the windows, locked the doors, barred the gates and burned the drawbridge. Then he led his men down the mountain to a very large rock which he had them push with all their might. Underneath this rock he placed a small box with keys to the castle gate and all the rooms inside. So heavy was the rock that all three men, spent from their trials, collapsed with exhaustion after shoving the rock back in it's place. The king, because he trusted no one, killed each of the men in their sleep the preserve the secret of the keys. He then donned peasant clothing and made his way out into the world.

The rival king never made it to the mountain turning back without ever discovering the castle or the once rich king who was now disguised as a peasant and living out his days as a goatherd. One day the goats wandered back to the great rock and the king who was now a very old man was too weak to move it. He died a few years later. They found him in his hut which he had decorated with birds nests, turtle shells, and colored pebbles found out in the fields. The dead knights' ghosts haunted the rock, but grew bored and wandered away. The castle remains there up on that mountain, now it's all covered in vines waiting to be discovered. And the rock is annoyed someone has placed a small box under it's belly and can't wait for someone to remove that key. It dreams of rolling up to the castle and smashing the gate if only to see the geode room.



Not so long ago, out near the edge of the world, lived a hungry giant. One fine day the giant's friend, a normal sized boy, noticed a very large, very round rock buried in his field. This particular giant liked to eat rocks so the boy asked his giant friend to make a deal. "Dig up that rock and you can eat as much as you want", suggested the boy, "just take the rock away from here." The giant started digging and eating and digging and eating until he had dug up so much of the world that the boy got nervous. "Please giant, stop digging!" So the giant stepped into the deep hole, pulled the huge round rock from the earth and held it up over his head. "How high can you throw that rock?" yelled the boy." And the giant threw the rock high in the sky where it got stuck. Now we call that rock the moon, and that hole the giant dug,was filled by rain and became the ocean. This was all a very long time ago. And the giant? Well he liked that moon rock so much that every now and then he takes a big bite. Look up in the sky, if you're lucky you'll see it.

March 5, 2009

Birthe Piontek


I've been a big fan of Birthe Piontek the photographer and the person since seeing her work a few years ago at Review Santa Fe. She's just released a new project titled The Idea of the North, full compelling environmental portraits and quietly emotional landscapes.

The project was shot over three months in a small community in the Yukon, Piontek writes:

I experienced first hand the mystery and fascination of life above the 60th parallel, and met people who came here as part of their quest for the idea of North.

I’m not the first observer to be simultaneously intrigued, yet remain a visitor. Glenn Gould, whose work inspired the title, wrote after visiting the North briefly, "I've read about it, written about it, and even pulled up my parka once and gone there. Yet like all but a few Canadians I've had no real experience of the North. I've remained, of necessity, an outsider. And the North remained for me, a convenient place to dream about, spin tales about,” and in the end, return South.

March 27, 2009

Nadia Sablin


I don't know if she's recently updated her website, but the volume of Nadia Sablin's online output seems to grown significantly since I last checked in. I first encountered Sablin's work a few years ago via Hey Hot Shot, and had always found her portraiture compelling while simultaneously having the desire to make radically different edits of the work she presents... Of course wanting to make different edits of other people's is my general state of being (so much easier than editing your own!)... Sablin is a Russian expatriate who has lived in the US since she was 12.

March 27, 2009

Dave Berman (Actual Air)

In the last week a book of poetry titled Actual Air by Dave Berman (of Silver Jews fame) has come up three times in conversation. I re-read it tonight. Such a good way to end an otherwise lousy day.

Here's a sample to inspire you go grab the book yourself:

Classic Water

I remember Kitty saying we shared a deep longing for
the consolation prize, laughing as we rinsed the stagecoach.

I remember the night we camped out
and I heard her whisper
"think of me as a place" from her sleeping bag
with the centaur print.

I remember being in her father's basement workshop
when we picked up an unknown man sobbing
over the shortwave radio

and the night we got so high we convinced ourselves
that the road was a hologram projected by the headlight beams.

I remember how she would always get everyone to vote
on what we should do next and the time she said
"all water is classic water" and shyly turned her face away.

At volleyball games her parents sat in the bleachers
like ambassadors from Indiana in all their midwestern schmaltz.

She was destroyed when they were busted for operating
a private judicial system within U.S. borders.

Sometimes I'm awakened in the middle of the night
by the clatter of a room service cart and I think back on Kitty.

Those summer evenings by the government lake,
talking about the paradox of multiple Santas
or how it felt to have your heart broken.

I still get a hollow feeling on Labor Day when the summer ends

and I remember how I would always refer to her boyfriends
as what's-his-face, which was wrong of me and I'd like
to apologize to those guys right now, wherever they are:

No one deserves to be called what's-his-face.

--David Berman. Actual Air

As a bonus here's a couple of Silver Jews interviews: circa 1989, circa 2002, 2005 & 2008

March 27, 2009

Pekka Turunen

The Kominek Gallery in Berlin is opening a show and selling a few precious copies of the cult classic book by Pekka Turunen, Against The Wall. I've loved this body of work for years and would be thrilled to see it in person (Tickets to Berlin anyone?). The website only shows a small fraction of this project which unfortunately isn't available anywhere I know of online. Turunen is in good company in this gallery which also shows Joakim Eskildsen, Misha Kominek, Andrew Miksys, Birthe Piontek, and Simon Roberts. An impressive crowd.

March 27, 2009

Peter Bialobrzeski

Whether he's shooting in Asia or India or the Middle East, Peter Bialobrzeski takes his 4x5 out in the world and makes evocative images. When he's shooting on the street and including people, because of their long exposure times and subject matter, the images evoke 19th century photography. But when he's shooting from a distance especially when he's shooting around Asia's megacities his work evokes Blade Runner using the same technique. It's a tension I like and find fascinating. Bialobzeski's site is actually a collection of links to other sites that showcase his work... While most of the images are presented too small you get a sense of how spectacular they could be as prints. Also of interest is Bialobrzeski's early work which is shot in a completely different documentary style. Fascinating to see what happened after he found his calling.

NYTimes Review

Recommended Bialobrzeski's books: XXX Jouney - Journeys into the Spiritual Heart of India & Heimat

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