August 6, 2009

The Laugher

I've always loved the opening paragraph of Heinrich Böll's The Laugher.

"When someone asks me what business I am in, I am seized with embarrassment: I blush and stammer, I who am otherwise known as a man of poise. I envy people who can say: I am a bricklayer. I envy barbers, bookkeepers, and writers. All these professions speak for themselves. They need no lengthy explanation, while I am forced to reply to such questions: I am a laugher. Then I am always asked, "Is that how you make your living?" Truthfully I must say, "Yes." I actually do make a living at my laughing, and a good one, too. My laughing is - commercially speaking - much in demand. I am a good laugher, experienced. No one else laughs as well as I do. No one else has such command of the fine points of my art."

August 10, 2009

Margareta Kern


In 2007 Margareta Kern travelled around Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina documenting old woman preparing the clothes in which they wish to be buried (via belencerezo). Kern kept a blog while making the project.

August 11, 2009

Lies I've told my 4 year old recently

The mole men live in the subways.

The bird men live in the skies.

The monster doesn't actually live under the bed (he's hiding somewhere else nearby).

There are 71 flavors of snow, but only 63 flavors of water.

If you sing enough, you will never grow old.

Don't worry, I lock up bad dreams in little cages.

Every good room has a ghost.

When we made you, we left part of ourselves behind so you would never be lonely.

Your shadow knows your secrets.

Books hide when they don't want to be read.

Time moves faster when close your eyes.

You knew everything, but then you were born and forgot, and now you have to learn everything again.

Be nice to your brother, he will always be your best friend.

We're not lost.

Moms and Dads never really get lost.

We know exactly where we're going.

Related: Lies I've told my 3 year old recently

August 12, 2009

Tim Berners-Lee on the personal home page circa 1996

"With all respect, the personal home page is not a private expression; it's a public billboard that people work on to say what they're interested in. That's not as interesting to me as people using it in their private lives. It's exhibitionism, if you like. Or self-expression. It's openness, and it's great in a way, it's people letting the community into their homes. But it's not really their home. They may call it a home page, but it's more like the gnome in somebody's front yard than the home itself. People don't have the tools for using the Web for their homes, or for organizing their private lives; they don't really put their scrapbooks on the Web. They don't have family Webs. There are many distributed families nowadays, especially in the high-tech fields, so it would be quite reasonable to do that, yet I don't know of any. One reason is that most people don't have the ability to publish with restricted access."

August 14, 2009

Jason Florio

Jason Florio's portfolio site is full of top notch reportage. The image above is from a set titled Beijing Artists. I also especially like a set he titles "The Poets of Bagdhad". He writes in his bio:

"Over the past nine years I have been arrested by the Taliban and enjoyed a tea with them, I have ridden into far-flung Afghan valleys in search of nomads with mujahideen as my security, dressed as a woman to cross a border, was at the foot of the Twin Towers as they collapsed, enjoyed the ‘comforts’ of a Cuban hospital, hunted bats in Surinam, chatted with Somali pirates over Coke and biscuits and danced like a fiend in Beirut nightclubs…..........among other things."

That's about what I expected from the photos.

August 25, 2009

Adventures in Hair

Photo 1
1. Koreans of a certain generation/ilk dye their hair into their 80's. It's normal, like cutting your fingernails. So anyone with grey hair, especially anyone under 50, at least in the eyes of this group, looks a) ancient b) ungroomed to the point of being disheveled.

2. My mother in law is Korean and of this certain generation/ilk.

3. For almost a decade she's been urging me to "Look younger. Feel better."

4. For a recent family wedding I decided to make my mother in law happy.

5. And that is how I found myself in the Jung Won Beauty Salon. The dying procedure was observed by my mother in law, her father, her sister, her sister's husband, a Pastor, and a couple of kids.

6. Afterwards:

Mother-in-law: "You look sooo handsome now. Not like old man. Before you look sooo old."

Grandfather [laughing]: "Before you were older than me. Now, not so bad."

Mother-in-law's sister: "Yeah, you looked terrible. This is so nice."

Pastor Shin: "I really like the reddish color." It looks great!"

7. I forgot to mention that the hair lady decided to make my hair an unnatural looking dark red color. Yup.

Photo 2

1. After 3 weeks of hiding under a baseball cap, the correction.

**What I actually looked like 20 years ago vs normal me

August 26, 2009

Kennedy & the Ocean

It's 4am. Edward Kennedy died a few hours ago. On hearing the news, I immediately thought back to second time I saw the man in person. It was a black tie event here in New York. He was stuffed into a tuxedo, red faced, tired, and seemingly bored with the gaggle of bejeweled dowagers surrounding him. This was in the early 90s. I had seen him many years earlier on a junior high trip to Washington D.C. We were on a tour of the Capitol building. This was well before the era of 9/11 and you could pretty much roam the halls. The group was looking for our local congressman's office, and while navigating a narrow hallway, Kennedy hustled by, a man in a hurry, carrying nothing and being trailed by several young aides. A teacher in my group shouted "Senator Kennedy!" Perhaps it was her thick East Texas accent that made him turn. He brightened, "Welcome to the Washington everyone," he said in that voice. That voice was startling, it made him real. I waved and he waved back. I could have sworn the wave was for me even though the rest of the class waved as well. That stuck with me.

So when I saw him all those years later, stuck at that table I had the ridiculous thought that a wave from the crowd would lighten his mood. I convinced my date to wave with me. Kennedy seemed to notice us for a second, but then quickly went back to looking bored. The second memory started to color the first.

The third time I saw Kennedy in person was a few years later, I had flow to Hyannis Port from from California for a fall wedding. After arriving I escaped the hotel/wedding party for a walk along the shore. It was drizzling and cold, not good walking weather, or good beach weather, but I needed to stretch my legs. The beach was empty save for a solitary figure in the far distance. I wasn't until I got close that I realized it was Kennedy. He was wearing a windbreaker and staring out to sea, hands in his pockets. He was a big hippopotamus of a man, wind whipping his hair around, but he was calm. He stood there for a very long time. What does a guy with that much incident in his life think about in those moments? Policy? Fending off enemies? Family? His aches and pains? I thought about how in the tiniest way I had been part of the noisy background of his life and how nice it must be for someone like him to look out into the empty ocean without yappy people constantly vying for attention.

Later that weekend I remember trying to take pictures of the sea. This is something virtually everyone who owns a camera does at some point no matter how banal the results. Virtually all of us have sat there staring out at the sea and wanted to hold on to that feeling. The sea connects us in some strange way because that mental frame of sky / horizon / water is so powerful. Sugimoto suggests (rightly) that that frame is one of our most primal visions.

Here are three seascapes. I could have just as easily picked 6 or 16. Here are 3 more and some more. I believe we all carry these images around even when we are landlocked, even when can't take solitary walks in the rain.

wolfgang.jpgWolfgang Uhlig

yumiko.jpgYumiko Kinoshita

olaf2.jpgOlaf Otto Beck

August 28, 2009

Carlos Jiménez Cahua

Carlos-Jimenez-Cahua2.jpgCarlos Jiménez Cahua graduated from Princeton last year with a thesis exhibition was titled Lima. Of this body of work he writes:

"I am Peruvian by blood and birth, but I've grown up an American. In the US, and in most places, I feel like I am in a city, region, or nation—those intangible creations of people. But in Lima, I felt not like I was in a city, in Peru, or even South America, but atop the Earth herself."

His recent one man show just closed. I'm sad I missed it.

August 28, 2009

Allie Mount

I have a weakness for western landscapes perhaps born of childhood of 16 hour drives between Texas and Mexico. This was the era before parents used car seats or seat belts and we would turn the back of the station wagon into private forts padded with sleeping bags and stocked with binoculars, Hardy Boys, and flashlights (the flashlights were for shining out the window at night). In my memory of those journeys, after the initial excitement of the trip had worn off, and after we had counted our 100th Volkswagen Beetle and spied everything we were going to spy with our purple eyes, my brothers would always lie down staring out the back window engrossed in endless debate about the nature of things whereas I would gravitate to the window obsessing over flashes of light, large marooned rocks, strange trees, and lone figures out in the distance. I don't remember ever getting tired of that rolling view and even today a long western drive nowhere is one my my favorite things in the world.

Many of Allie Mount's polaroid projects work for me as visual mnemonics allowing me to trace backwards in time to that view from the station wagon window and for this I am grateful.

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