On Turning Two

December 7, 2006

There is a moment during great concerts after last note has played out, but before the applause starts, of lingering clarity. The music trails in your head, the musician waits expectantly for the audience reaction, the crowd recoils silently with palpable tension. The quiet is delicious and I always want it to go on forever. But then, usually too soon, people leap to their feet spontaneously, applauding and cheering. The artist relaxes, smiles and the moment has passed.

That in-between moment is the best way I know to describe the experience of seeing of seeing my son for the first time. After the drama of being born he was lying in an incubator squalling under the attention of a small battery of nurses and doctors. They parted allowing me in and there was a sudden quiet. My son's eyes opened for the first time and we looked at each other. He held my finger. Everything fell away. Lingering clarity... and then of course it was time to bring him to his mother who worked so hard to get him into this world and things got noisy again.

With a first child you spend nine months speculating. What will he look like? Will he have a sense of humor? Will he hate eggs like I do? Will he have my toes or yours? But when the child is actually born, sitting there blinking, still steaming from the womb, holding your finger with his entire hand, you realize, you don't know anything, you have no idea what to do, and the only thought in your head is, "What have we done?"

Fast forward two years to this morning. My son is hiding under a blanket. When I peek underneath he says in his scariest voice, "Boo" and pulls down a corner. From my perspective I see a blanket covered mound shaking with giggles. He refers to watermelon as "mmmmmmmmmm" as in "yummmmmmmmm". He is moved by music of all kinds, finding it impossible not to sway his entire body from side to side when hears something he digs. He insists we join in his rapture so if you see the Gutierrez family at an Indian restaurant and they are playing Bollywood tunes (he loves Hindi music), you will see all of us chair dancing in unison and a huge smile on my son's face. He loves the moon and wants me to grab it for him. None of this would I have imagined.

Of course it hasn't all been fun. Sleep has never been our son's strong suit... All the clichés about not knowing vulnerability until you have a kid are true... wait until your 3 month old has a raging fever, or you watch your 6 month old topple from a chair, or witness a 4 year old sucker punch your kid in the playground. Each incident stops your heart for a second, but while these things hurt our parental minds, the kids are, for the most part, oblivious. They're hard to break. It is a necessary trait of the very young, to shake things off and to keep moving forward without looking back.

Time has a different meaning for a 2 year old. He can spend an afternoon chasing ants and have it pass in a second, but 5 minutes in a car seat can stretch out to eternity. For us parents days flicker by with blinding speed. We look at pictures from 3 months ago and say to each other, "My god he was such a baby."

Life is full of so many firsts. First smile. First steps. First time seeing the ocean. First ice cream. First stars. First time wearing waders in the rain. First time playing in a pile of leaves. First scar. Maybe first memories.

And for this particular two year old life has been full of people who love him, and he expresses love in return with an almost heartbreaking openness. If only things could always be this sweet...

related: birth, one year

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud

December 6, 2006

When was the last time you sat in a darkened room and listened to a great album from start to finish with without distractions? No internet, no books, no preoccupations- just you and the music... this, I recommend.

To Whom it May Concern

December 5, 2006

I do not like cheese
a well known fact
nor rainy days nor purring cats

there are so many things
that displease me
now go away and let me be.

December 5th, 1976, Lufkin Texas

(written on the back)

p.s. Happy Martin Van Buren's birthday.

related: about a year later

Andrew Moore Show

December 1, 2006

One of my favorite photographers, Andrew Moore, has a show up at Yancy Richardson through the end of January. It's a broad review of his work over the last couple of years... I missed the opening last night which is annoying as I was only a few blocks away.

535 West 22nd Street 3rd floor
New York NY 10011
tel 646-230-9610
fax 646-230-6131
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10-6 PM

related: Andrew Moore's Russia

November 29, 1970

November 29, 2006

The man on the right is my wife's haraboji (grandfather).

Haraboji was born into a wealthy family in what is now North Korea. His parents, like their parents before, were strong Christians in what was then still an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. He rarely fails to mention this. "5 generations of Christians. Very strong," he will say. The family lost everything including their names to the Japanese (he went to Japanese schools and still can speak the language), but he bears little bitterness. After World War II his family recovered their house and some land, only to lose everything again to the communists. He joined the anti-communist army and fled south, almost losing his wife and children in the chaos. Eventually he ended up working for the US Army as a translator and continued working for the Americans through the rest of the Korean War and into Vietnam...

The date on this snapshot leads me to believe it was taken in Vietnam at an on-base store. Maybe it was meant to be sent back to Korea as a holiday greeting. Haraboji had 5 daughters before he producing a son. Jenn's mom is the third daughter. The entire family moved to the states a few years after this picture was taken. He is now in Philadelphia where he lives very close to four of his daughters (his wife died 3 years ago).

A more patriotic American you will not find although his dream is to go back to the village where he grew up. "My house was made of wood and looked out at the mountain. Very beautiful house." he says, "I dream about my village. We will go back soon... after North Korea is finished. I want to see my house."

Crewdson's Fireflies

November 27, 2006

The pictures that have made Gregory Crewdson famous, his large scale tableaus, don't do much for me. I admire their artistry and recognize why they have created such a stir in the art world, but having worked on movie sets, they look familiar, and I always wonder, why not just make a movie?. Add star models and that feeling/question is heightened. For me the big cinematic images lack the kind of emotion and truth I look for in photography...

...but the mark of a great artist is someone who is willing to take risks and exhibit work not normally associated with his signature style and Crewdson has done this in a small and lovely show titled simply Fireflies now showing uptown at Skarstedt Fine Art. According to the show notes the pictures were taken over two months of nights outside a cabin in Becket, Massachusetts in 1996.

Crewdson writes about the night of the show opening in this article.

Because these images are so subtle and dark seeing them on web doesn't don't do them justice. If you aren't near NY, you might be able to find a copy of the current issue of Blind Spot magazine which features work from the show on the cover and has semi-decent reproductions. A book with all 62 images is also forthcoming.

I don't know why these images took 10 years to come out, but I'm glad they did. Each is like a small poem infused with sweet smell of summer evening. Seeing them on the wall is something special.

related: nice review in the Village Voice

Glitter and Doom

November 24, 2006

The Metropolitan Museum is displaying a must see exhibition of portraits from the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement. The show is titled 'Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s' and runs through February. The New York Times ran a nice review of the exhibition this weekend rightfully highlighting the Otto Dix portrait above titled "Lady With Mink and Veil". The review speculates "the image may depict one of the many war widows who turned to prostitution to keep afloat."

A book of the exhibition is available from the Yale University Press.

The artistic culture of Weimar Germany always fascinates and looking at the images one always wonders what happened to this rowdy saturated world; what were the stories of the sitters in the years that followed? Many reviewers then and now, call these portraits grotesque, but I wonder if the artists artists saw them that way or if they were celebrating the extreme in the manner of Almodovar or Diane Arbus, only in a more extreme political climate...

More reviews: New York Magazine, DP, CultureGrrrl

Ed Burtynsky Lecture

November 23, 2006

I just discovered this video of photographer Ed Burtynsky discussing his 'manufactured landscapes' as part of last years TEDTalks conference. If you haven't discovered it yet, TEDTalks has a fantastic video archive of lectures of world class artists and innovators. You can also grab these via their blog or itunes (search for TedTalks in the store). The itunes versions are higher quality.

Turkey and Kimchee

November 23, 2006

For the first time since we started dating Jenn won't be making Thanksgiving dinner. We'll be with Korean relatives in Philadelphia enjoying a Turkey dinner preceded by banchan and served with kimchee on the side. This is not unlike the way I grew up where we often had Turkey with a side of salsa. Tortillas were always an option and turkey tacos were the favored way of prepping leftovers. We had Indian neighbors who would serve Turkey and samosas. Russians who would serve borscht. Some my friends in East Texas would always have deep fried turkey, or better yet, deep fried turduckin. In LA I knew vegetarians who would craft a tofurky. However you celebrate it, enjoy the holiday. Eat well. Enjoy your family and friends. Travel safe.

This is why I save everything

November 21, 2006

Opening of a letter written by my younger brother to my parents. We were both at camp near Burnet Texas:

"June 1, 1980

Dear Mom and Dad,

Raul lost his glasses in the lake. He's gotten a lot of D Merits (which is not good). He really isn't trying. Please send him a pair of glasses."

The Megacity

November 20, 2006

George Packer's The Megacity: Decoding the chaos of Lagos' in the In the November 13th New Yorker is as fascinating as it is depressing (and not incidentally a searing indictment of architectural intellectuals like Rem Koolhaas who are so lost in theory that they seem unable to comprehend the palpable misery they are witnessing). The article is not online, but seek it out, it deserves to be read.

The story is illustrated with 2 powerful images from Samantha Appleton, an incredible photographer (and former assistant to James Nachtwey), who works in most difficult corners of the world.

update: if you have a library card, you can read the full article on this library site.

related: lagos on google maps, memories of post colonial africa

Jenn Trausch on the Road

November 17, 2006

One small goal of mine (which will now never be reached) was to make portraits with one of the famous 20x24 polaroid cameras. A few months ago I was hanging out in a print studio with Jenn Trausch, a 20x24 camera operator (and a photographer in her own right), when she mentioned that Polaroid would stop making 20x24 film effectively retiring the camera forever. But before the camera was to be mothballed, she convinced Polaroid to let her go on one last photographic adventure. Images of Jenn (and the camera) in action out on the road can be found here and here.

related: 20x24 Studio West, 20x24 faq

Seth Thompson

November 13, 2006

One of my favorite recent photography discoveries is of the work of Seth Thompson who happens to be represented by my gallery. Seth's work includes scores lush interiors of homes in rural Mexico and Cuba shot with medium format cameras. The work recalls Eliot Porter's Mexican Churches series which came out of an extended trip to Mexico in 1956. Seth recently added many images to his website which he groups under the project name Poco Luz. Poco Luz which means 'little light' (almost all his images are long exposures shot in dim natural light). Perhaps it's something about those long thirty second to several minute exposures that saturate the silver because his images are drenched in almost unbearably beautiful color. The bedrooms, kitchens, churches in these pictures leave me with a visceral sense of lives lived simply, but well and with passion. If you like what you see on the web, you'll be floored by his big, finely made prints which you can view by appointment at the Nelson Hancock Gallery.

Best Korean Restaurant in Brooklyn?

November 13, 2006

I'm happy to report that our search for a great Korean restaurant in this part of Brooklyn is over.

To my knowledge, excluding Williamsburg, there are exactly 3 Korean places in Brooklyn, 5 if you are being really broad in your characterization:

Kim Chee is a solid family run place, but it's in Bay Ridge on the other side of Brooklyn.
9324 3rd Ave 718.567.5741

Noona recently opened on the corner Vanderbilt Avenue and Pacific in Prospect Heights. Noona is an upscale Korean restaurant with small but tasty portions. While the menu looks fully authentic the dishes appear to be geared towards non-Koreans and many of the dishes tasted somehow muted. Jenn deemed the bibimbop good enough and at $10 it would be a perfect lunch if they were open for lunch, but other entrees were a bit too pricey for this restaurant to be on the regular rotation. The restaurant has potential, but they haven't settled into their groove yet.
565 Vanderbilt Avenue 718.398.6662

Henry's Express is a small stand-and-eat hamburger stand on Henry just past Atlantic Avenue. It's Korean run and on Thursday's and Friday's they serve greasy but edible bulgolgi. It's only worth mentioning because it's a stone's throw away.
331 Henry St. 718.222.0708

The Good Fork is an upscale "Korean inspired" diner Red Hook. This is the type of restaurant that makes eating exciting. The food is totally delicious, but it's not exactly authentic Korean comfort food.
718.643.6636 Location: 391 Van Brunt Street

But our search has now ended with the discovery of Sushi Okdol a Japanese/Korean restaurant above a deli in Fort Green run by a Korean family. Sushi Okdol is a dive decorated with pictures of fish torn from magazines, and a sushi clock, but you won't notice the decor once you dive into your meal. Everything from the panchan to the madoo, karbi, to the bibimbop was hit-the-spot delicious and cheap to boot. The menu is small, but all the standard dishes are there. We'll be back and soon.(pdf of the menu)
497 Myrtle Ave. at Hall Street, 718.789.1373

And since I'm on the topic of Korean food I might as well throw in some of our favorite LA Korean Restaurants, each of which I miss:

Tahoe Galbi - Real open fire, meat in the flames, BBQ. So good.
3986 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, (213) 365-9000

Korean Kitchen - I dream about this place. Everything even the vinegar they used in salad dressing was special. Best panchan in LA for my money.
135 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012
213 680-1039

Soot Bull Jeep - the quintessential smokey Korean BBQ place.
3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
213 387-3865

There was also super family run restaurant in Glendale way down Glendale Avenue near Eagle Rock, but I can't find it on google.

And btw if you ever find yourself in LA and need eating suggestions, it's almost required that you read Jonathan Gold's Where to Eat in the Real LA. Through the book and his LAWeekly columns Mr. Gold has single handedly been responsible for more of my memorable meals than anyone except for my wife, my mom and my grandmother.

Update: Noona is now apparently open for lunch.

Three Journal Project Redux

November 11, 2006

Several of you have asked for an update on my journal project.

I ended up with around 150 names and addresses and three journals went out into the world at the end of May.

One was lost immediately. I got reports of the other 2 meandering through several continents before also being lost. I understand the second one changed hands about 12 times. Then it stalled in Seattle for almost a month before heading to China in someone's backpack. There it was lost in a youth hostel in Yangshou. The 3rd journal crisscrossed Europe and was eventually loaned to "a friend of a friend" of blog reader Frida in the Swedish city of Hudiksvall... you know how that goes.

I still have some small hope that two of the journals will unstall, but I've had no word of either of them in almost a month. If they are lost I'm sad I never got to see them. If you worked on any of journals, and especially if you have scans, I'd love to hear/see more.

But I am undeterred! Soon 3 new journals will go out into the world! I think one of the problems with the first incarnation of the project was methodology. I had printed all the addresses inside the journal and had covered them all with individual lightly glued brown strips of paper. The idea was that when you got the journal you would work on your pages, remove a strip at random and send the book on. But this didn't account for the vagaries of life, procrastination, etc. So this time the idea will be that each time the journal is to be sent on, the next name on the list will come from me. This will allow me to track the journals, to report on them as they travel around and so on. I'll also ask for a snapshot of the book in your location so at the very least we'll be able to see where it has been... I'm sure a few of the of the people on the original list won't be contact-able, and some of the people who worked on the original journals might not want to work on a second one, so if you're not on the list and would like to be email your address to journalproject@mexicanpictures.com.

The new rules.

1. You will receive an email asking if you are ready to accept a journal and verifying your address.

2. The journal will arrive in the mail. You will have about a week to work on it. After one week you will gently be reminded that your time is up and it is time to send the journal on to the next address which will be provided.

3. Once you get the address you should send it off as soon as you are able and email when it is actually on it's way.

backstory: description of the original project, the project grows, the journals go out

The New West

November 10, 2006

These days photographers whose work focuses on the landscape of suburban dystopia are a dime a dozen. Strip malls, gas stations, chain stores, and so on. But few of the photographers inhabiting this milieu can compare to Robert Adams who was out there in the 60's and 70's. I found a signed copy of The New West, his minimalist masterpiece at my favorite used bookstore this morning for $16. Looking through the book I was struck by how Adams' photography works on me like Antononi's early films (La Notte, Aventura) in which each frame is so subtle and formally perfect that they need to be digested and relished slowly. The bookstore owner was happy to get rid of the book, "Who wants to look at pictures in black and white anymore?" he asked as I paid.

related: found at the same bookstore

Importing from Blogger to Wordpress to Movable Type

November 10, 2006

The mark of a good document/publishing format is good built in import and export. Import/Export keeps you from being tied to a single system and is a hedge against future technology changes. It also allows you do things like download your data to your computer or an ipod or some other system... it give you options. Right now only Movable Type has strong built in export (it's import functions are anemic). Other popular systems allow you to import, but neglect to include a good built-in export function. Anyway I've had to convert a few blogs in the past few days and had to dig around quite a bit to figure out how to move blog content from one system to another. Here are some simplified instructions for future googlers with the same issues.

How to import to Wordpress from Blogger

This is with Wordpress 2.05 and the non-beta version of blogger available as of 11/2006. The instructions don't work with the blogger beta.

1. If you are publishing to your own domain/ftp change, change the publishing settings in blogger and to publish to a temporary blogspot blog... make sure to copy down your old settings for later (also copy the archive publishing settings). You can republish to the temporary blogspot address if you wish to see if it works, but this is not required. If you are using blogspot already then just skip to #2.

2. In Wordpress go to import and select Blogger and follow the instructions.

3. If you were publishing in blogger to your own domain, remember to change the publishing and archive settings back to their original settings.

How to export Wordpress to Moveable Type

Eric Pierce has written an export Wordpress plugin called WPexport. It was posted a few years ago and has gotten a bit crufty over time, but people on the web have continued to post code fixes in his comments. Here is a patched version that worked for me with Wordpress 2.05 and MT 3.3. You can find the original broken plugin with all the specific fixes in the comments on Eric's seeming defunct website. Perhaps he's graduated. I couldn't find a working email address.

1. So install the plugin.

2. Activate it and go to options.

3. If you have a large blog you will see a blank text box. After some time (minutes in my case) a long text file containing your blog posts the MT import format will show up.

4. Copy all the text and paste it into a word processor that can save things as simple text files.

5. Save your file calling it "import".

6. Upload that file to the import folder in the base folder of your MT installation (if there isn't an import folder, create one).

7. Within MT follow the import instructions.

Cultural Revolution Images

November 10, 2006

I've always had a morbid fascination with China's Cultural Revolution but I've only seen pictures of that period from within China proper. This Chinese language blog by Zhao Wang has a few Cultural Revolution images taken within Tibet showing the destruction of the Jokhang monastary. Can anyone do a translation summary of the text? And it should be noted the Jokhang monastery is located in Lhasa and has been restored.

The only named Chinese photographer I know from that period is Li Zhensheng... I'm always looking for new links to others.

Related: cultural revolution propaganda posters, more photographs, clip art,

Dear O'Clery Family,

November 8, 2006

Thank you for your letter.

Getting a real letter from anywhere is a good thing, but one from Derry, Ireland is an especially good thing.

As requested these are the answers to your questions:

1. Under a tree somewhere in Texas.

2. Paul Klee once wrote, "I comfort myself with the thought that my words do not address themselves to you in isolation but will complement and bring into focus the impressions, perhaps still a little hazy, which you have already received from my pictures."

3. Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta

4. Is there anything finer than a naked woman in your bed in the morning?

5. Once again I must produce a quote, this time from Fitzgerald (Tender is the Night):

I want to give a really bad party. I mean it.
I want to give a party where there's a brawl and
seductions and people going home with their
feelings hurt and women passed out in the
cabinet de toilette.

6. They don't serve fish in aquarium restaurants. When you ask why, you always get the same answer: "It makes the kids cry."

7. The Sleestacks.

8. No preference as I would be quite dead.

9. The best secrets are the ones never told.

10. Someday. For sure.

all best,


Andrew Garn

November 7, 2006

A few weeks ago at PhotoNY I stopped by the booth of AM Richards Fine Art where the gallery was exhibiting the street photography of Andrew Garn taken in Times Square during the 80's. Looking at the prints today you can't help wonder what happened to all the people in that darker, grittier New York which has been all but erased. Garn's website doesn't do justice to the images the gallery has selected, so if you happen to be in Brooklyn, check them out in person.

328 Berry Street (Williamsburg)
Brooklyn NY 11211
tel: 917 570 1476

Luna llena

November 6, 2006

Today, like so many days with a spent with a young child, sort of drifted away. We played cars. We ran in the park. We went to a birthday party. We read books. He saw the moon for the first time though (not seeing the moon until you are almost 2 is a hazard for the early to bed). That was something. He was impressed. I was too.

related: mira la luna

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