In front of Key Foods

July 10, 2006

Some stories have no beginning and no end, just a middle. Or maybe just a beginning... or just an end. I can't decide.

On the corner of Clinton and Atlantic today at sunset a beautiful girl in her twenties was crying her eyes out inside a beaten up Chevy Nova. Her face, more rural and southern than one generally runs into in Brooklyn, was wet and puffy, a marked contrast to the two flowers she had placed in her hair and the vintage party dress she was wearing. She waited in the passenger's seat―the driver's seat being empty save for a crushed box of Marlboro cigarettes. The girl did not notice the 19 month old boy sitting on his dad's shoulders pointing her out. She did not notice the dad pick up his camera and then decide to put it down without shooting. She did not notice the Yemeni women who passed close by adjusting their headscarfs to look into the car and she did not notice the wind which picked up her brown hair and scattered it around her face sticking it to her cheeks. She did not even notice when the little boy, now down from his perch, walked within a few feet of the car's open window to offer a stick for solace nor the tears welling up in his eyes when she did not look down or accept his offering.

List & Lessons

July 9, 2006

Chinese Triads
14K Moo
United Bamboo
Three Mountains Association
Fong-Fong Boys
Celestial Way

Finnish Metal Bands
69 Eyes
Ablaze In Hatred
The Lust I Seek

English Covens
Ladies of the Heath
Children Of Hekate
Soul Guard
The Mighty Ones
Seidr Practical Group

Chicago Gangs
Almighty Harrison Gents
Conservative Vice Lords
Insane Unknowns
12th Street Players
Latin Kings

Camp Long Horn Water Polo Teams (1980's)
Neptune's Army
The Dudes
Barracuda Wave
Fugi Onyomammagi

Things learned while making these lists:

1. The proper way to kill a fellow triad member is to slash the disgraced member a hundred times (four hundred is better) and then to bury the person while he is still alive.

2. In order to be in a Finnish metal band, you must have "really good hair and for good hair you must shampoo regularly with mild shampoo or you get split ends. It is easy to forget this when you are on the road."

3. When choosing a coven "Sex should never be expected in return for training, nor should it be part of your initiation."

4. 40-45% of all homicides in major American cities are gang related.

5. In 1982 I still had my hair in wings parted straight and hard down the middle.

Stephanie Sinclair

July 9, 2006

One of the best photojournalists out there, Stephanie Sinclair, has photo essay on Afghani child brides in this week's New York Times magazine. The writing accompanying the article is a bit annoying, but the pictures are, as always, extraordinary.

Her personal website was recently updated to include a number of new stories.

WFMU Playlist

July 8, 2006

This morning @ 9AM Eastern Time I hosted WFMU listener hour on 91.1 in New York/New Jersey and on the web. Enclosed are a few show notes in the form of links, if you only click one of them, make it the one for sSgt Barry Sadler written by his son.

The show: Streaming MP3, Real Audio


The Third Man Theme - Chet Atkins

Boeing Boeing 707 - Roger Miller

She Taught Me How To Yodel - Frank Ifield

Wo ist zu Hause, Mama - Johnny Cash

Put on Your Pretty Skirt - Singing Nun

Mal Hombre - Lydia Mendoza


My Rifle, My Pony & Me - Ricky Nelson & Dean Martin intro John Wayne

Hold That Critter Down - Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys

Cattle Call - Eddy Arnold

Cattle Call snippet - Elvis Presley

Radar Blues - Coleman Wilson

Dadyr-Todur - Huun-Huur-Tu

A Little Love, A Little Kiss - Karl Denver


The Ballad Of The Green Berets - sSgt Barry Sadler

The Monkey Song - Robin & Crystal Bernard
LP: Jerry Falwell - Feudin' Fussin' And Frettin' (Thomas Road Baptist Church) 1972

Dwarf Invasion - Reggie and the Full Effect Promotional Copy & Greatest Hits

What Is Humidity? - Tom Glazer - Weather Songs

A Beautiful Girl - John Rydgren


It Ain't Me Babe - Sebastian Cabot, actor

Bad Habits - Monks

Guyana Punch - The Judys

Bad Man - Greg Oblivian & The Tip Tops

I'd Like To See The Bad Guys Win - Margo Guryan

Man can't get no satisfaction - The Mighty Clouds Of Joy

Corrido de Monterrey - Los Alegres de Teran


July 7, 2006

A couple of days ago in Florida I was wandering around... driving semi-aimlesslessly exploring parts unknown when I came across an interesting little neighborhood outside of Palmetto. Beckoned by brightly colored houses, chickens in the yards, and plastic statues of the Virgin Mary, I parked my rental car, met some old men playing checkers, and started hanging out and taking a few pictures. The men introduced themselves as Little Louis, Speedy, and Tubbs. They talked hurricanes, jail, and women. Tubbs told me to find his friend Wanita up the road. "She loves having her picture taken," he said, so I headed down the road.

Half a block away a young guy with an extraordinary face appeared out of nowhere. A deep scar ran from forehead to chin and when he opened his mouth it glinted in the sun. His teeth were gold, all his teeth were gold, and it gave him a striking somewhat mechanical look. I desperately wanted to photograph him but something told me not to raise the camera without chatting first. Rarely do you run into such a face, so I smiled and asked him about paintings on a pair of what looked like airplane hangers (apparently an old strawberry cannery. I got no smile in return.

"What's your business?" he growled.

"I'm just taking some pictures. Thought that building looked interesting... and Tubbs over there told me Wanita might want her picture taken," I smiled.

"Why would anyone want a picture of that busted bitch?"

Taken aback, I answered carefully, "Because I like to tell people's stories, and it sounds like she has a story to tell."

"There are stories everywhere and you have no call to visit" he said, spitting close to my feet. "I say you're getting into other's people's business. You have no need to picture me."

At this point I was choosing my words with extreme delicacy and speaking softly, "I haven't taken your picture. I was just over there with Little Louis and Speedy and I didn't point my camera at them until after I asked to take their picture. I showed them respect, and I'm showing you respect. I'm not pointing my camera at you."

"I don't like having my picture taken."

"No problem, I'm not taking it."

"Ok then," he said looking at me.

Tubbs called out, "He's not the law fool, look at his scrappy shoes. You ever seen the law in shit shoes like that?"

And with that the guy gave me a big golden smile and I started walking away thanking god for my chucks. Little Louis came running after me. "It's time to leave now boy. Booger thinks you're police and he's running. He's a shooter if you know what I mean."

That was all he needed to say. I'm not one to look for trouble. But Booger if you're out there, I'd still like to take your picture and hear your story and I think you're wrong about Wanita I hear she's got dance moves that make an old man young.

Open Letter

July 6, 2006

Dear Becky and Michael, godparents of our son,

I keep turning over the story you told tonight at dinner in my mind.

This much I understand:

1. You're at a Montauk restaurant with a group of people including Rebecca Romijn.

2. Becky is seated next to Ms. Romijn who is being kind of bitchy and actively not making conversation.

3. There's another girl there also being bitchy who claims to be from Detroit but obviously isn't from Detroit which is annoying to people from Michigan like yourself who know that 90% of the people who say they are from Detroit really aren't.

4. A fish arrives complete with head and tail and the faux Detroit girl offers to de-bone it, because she is an expert de-boner, but then declines when she discovers it's Becky's fish.

5. Ms. Romijn is not wearing underwear.

This part I fail to understand no matter how hard I try to wrap my mind around it:

6. Both of you are part of a human pyramid, 4 layers high, with the aforementioned people.

7. You are on the bottom of the pyramid.

8. You explain you were bullied into this.

Post Positive Adjectives

July 5, 2006

My friend JP plays an addictive little game coming up with phrases with post positive adjectives, adjectives that come after the noun, princess royal for example. As many of the phrases are of French origin, there is speculation the first of these were Normanisms that became an acceptable English form. Indeed many these phrases are legalisms which would make sense as many legal concepts became codified into English law shortly after the Norman conquest (The Normans added a hefty dose of bureaucracy and centralization to Anglo-Saxon legal affairs).

An interesting side panel on both the plural form and the proper hyphenation of court martial can be found in the middle of this page.

Some examples of phrases with post positive adjectives:

ambassador plenipotentiary
bar sinister
fiddlers three
judge advocate general
time past
mother superior
rhyme royal
chaise longue
moment supreme
battle royal...

Do any more come to mind?

July 4th remembered

July 5, 2006

While other holidays blur together, my July 4ths are differentiated with strange clarity... I can count them back to about the age of 15 and tell you exactly where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing. Here are a few:

July 4, 1984, Marble Falls, Texas - Went bowling and walked out with a pair of red and blue bowling shoes, ditching my chucks. Had a bottle rocket war with friends near Inks Lake.

July 4, 1986, Boston - I was with a group of college friends one of those long nights when you end up at strange people's parties. I remember after the fireworks and very late in the evening I sat on the banks of Charles with a girl I liked. She was from Los Angeles and could quote Dickens, The Pickwick Papers to be precise. We could hear voices carrying from the other bank of the river.

July 4, 1988, Princeton - Wrote a letter to a friend in Kenya, illustrated it with zebras, and watched fireworks from the roof of Blair Hall. It was a perfect summer night and after a few beers we all fell asleep up there.

July 4, 1989, Philadelphia - I didn't know at the time, but my college girlfriend was breaking up with me. We fought about many things that day including a very long fight over a pound cake. Looking back at it now I wonder how 22 year olds could have made each other so miserable.

July 4, 1991, East Hampton - At some country club on the invite of a date. We watched little girls in white dresses and little boys in ties and jackets run around the beach with sparklers. The fireworks illuminated the sailboats on the still water. Went skinny dipping later.

July 4th, 1992, Pakistan - Looked at the stars (so many stars up at 14,000 feet) and thought of home.

July 4th 1993 Mongolia - Shot hundreds of tracer rounds into the sky at an ex-Soviet military base with a couple of ex-pat Texans. Had a grand time.

July 4, 1994 - Beverly Hills. Alone, tired. Strange. Watched the fireworks over the city lights in the far distance from my roof.

July 4th 1997 - San Francisco. The fireworks illuminated the low hanging fog in weird and beautiful patterns.

July 4th 2001 - Langmusi. Rounded up several other Americans and managed to improvise a bbq complete with yak burgers and apple pie. In lieu of fireworks we created a huge bonfire on the mountainside with our Tibetan friends. Everyone drank too much baiju.

July 4th, 2004 - Santa Barbara. We know we're leaving California by now and take a final drive up Route 1. We watch fireworks on the beach in a big happy crowd. Jenn is pregnant and the baby kicks when the fireworks boom.

July 4th, 2006 - Brooklyn. We walk down the street following the crowds under the BQE. The scene has a off-kilter Mad Max quality about it. Hasidic Jews, tough Brooklyn gangstas, Yemeni Arabs, scores of average New Yorkers, and a random celebrity or two all crowded behind fences and concertina wire to watch the fireworks over Manhattan. After we return home, Jenn IMs me from downstairs, "What just happened tonight?"

Images from a wider world

July 2, 2006

Sigh still I don't have the underlying problems fixed on this blog yet, so I've been spending my nightly blog time working on getting the issues fixed as opposed to writing... In the meantime here are a few photographers portfolios pointed to me by friends...all well worth the clicks...

Michael Christopher Brown - Make sure to check out portfolio titled "The Great Experiment." (via Travis.)

Paul D'Amato - via Daniella.

Hamid Sardar - Heartstoppingly great images. (via Youngna.)

Winging it to Brooklyn

June 29, 2006

I'm back at home and can finally start to tackle my server issues which have made posting very difficult. I've posted minimal text because each post must be entered by hand and paragraphs of text are a mess... I'll try to sort through the dross and get everything back to normal tomorrow. I have a backlog to put up.

Day to forget

June 27, 2006

I drove all day to make it to the airport on time only to be bumped from my flight and stuck by the airline in a moldy hotel room where a friendly cockroaches skitter across the floor with a loud click click clicking sound the minute I shut out the lights. I should have camped out at the terminal. Oh the room also reeks of smoke ("Smokers welcome!" reads the sign outside) and of course the windows are plastered shut. When I arrived there was a long red hair in the sink.


June 25, 2006

Even a year and a half into fatherhood, it is sometimes easy to forget you are a dad. You will be driving through a mangrove swamp somewhere in Florida at night and just be a guy driving with the windows down keeping the radio spinning through stations on scan waiting for just the right music come up and enjoying the long periods of static... That invisible tether that connects you to wife and child is slack and you are momentarily unaware of it. Mosquitoes buzz around outside and are being killed on the windshield at an alarming rate but you figure at 85mph what are the odds of one making it into the car. And then one does and lands on your arm, puncturing your flesh discretely but leaving an immediate welt so itchy and painful you feel compelled, to roll up the windows, pull over and punish the beast for it’s transgression. The splatter of blood left on inside of the passenger’s side window, while impressive, leaves you less satisfied than you might think, so you roll on. But as your arm itches you remember you wife’s email about your son being attacked by mosquitoes, and the monster itchy welts they left all over his body and suddenly the tether goes taught and all you want in the world is to be back with your family, battling mosquitoes and doing the things that dad’s do.


June 20, 2006

A word for the sense of nostalgia you have for a period of time you haven't experienced.

A word for the feeling that washes over you when you see something so embarrassing you feel embarrassed yourself.

A word for not recognizing yourself in the mirror.

A word for a person who always chooses bad fonts.

A word for the collective oohs and ahhs of a crowd watching fireworks.

A word for the limbo you enter when you are in a good dream and wake up halfway, but push yourself back, because you don't want the dream to end.

A word for the spaces between words when we talk.

A word for goodbyes for someone you know you will never see again.

A word for the dusty emptiness left by suicides and the murdered.

A word for a memory so powerful it smothers the other memories around it.

A word for time, when time goes all out of whack and moves either too slowly or with agonizing speed.

A word for the moment when you know everything that follows will be different.

A word for the lightest touch, when that touch means everything.

A word for the rush of warmth you feel when you hold the person you love the most.

"Large" Animal Collection

June 17, 2006

The Staten Island Zoo website is a wee bit defensive about the zoo's animal collection.

"How big is our invertebrate collection? There are 10 zoos with larger collections, 2 zoos with same size collections, and 139 zoos with smaller collections. Thus, only 7% of zoos have larger invertebrate collections than us. Our invertebrate collection is larger than the following big zoos combined: Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Philadelphia. Because they all have none!"

The Cameramen

June 16, 2006

This week's New Yorker features a nice piece on Gregg Toland, the innovative and influential cinematographer who revolutionized the look of cinema (article is not online yet) shooting film monuments like Citizen Kane and Intermezzo. Visually his films are shockingly fresh. In the article Steve Soderbergh says of The Long Voyage Home "It looks like it was shot tomorrow."

Back when I was working at Paramount I became friends with Piotr Sobocinski the cinematographer behind Kieslowski's Red and the Decalogue. Our friendship came out of a mutual fascination with Toland. Piotr would have me dig up old production stills to try to figure out Toland's lighting setups. Usually they were startling in their simplicity, many big lights bunched together. This was similar to the technique Piotr often used. "Only one big light, like the sun, I do the same" he would say in his heavily accented English obviously pleased. My boss had helped bring Piotr over from Poland where he was making a fraction of his Hollywood salary, but Hollywood did not suit him. His missed his family in Poland and he hated the Hollywood system which didn't allow for artistic experimentation and flow. He would brood and when he was feeling particularly down he would watch Toland's films to cheer himself up. Through my job I helped him screen obscure copies films not available on video. He always wondered aloud what Toland would have done if he had lived a full life (Toland died unexpectedly at 44 in his sleep), because "great cinematographers do best work after 60". The deep irony of course is that Piotr would die at 43, and like Toland leave behind a wife and children and leaving us to wonder what might have been.

5 Cabdrivers I've Met Recently

June 16, 2006

Gerardo Santiago Felix
(translated from Spanish) "I love her, man do I love her. Do you know every day I buy her roses and leave them at her door. She doesn't love me though. I am too old, more than twice her age. Maybe I am ugly. But every day I leave her roses and one day she will know my true love. I don't care how it takes. Do you know the constellation Orion. One day she told me this is what she looks for in the sky, so every night I pray to Orion. She has a boyfriend now, but I can wait, she's had other boyfriends. I don't interfere, and one day she will come to me. Wait a minute, that's her calling..."

Mohammed Islam
"People never talk to me, they think I am a terrorist because I look like Bin Laden so I am surprised when you talk to me. I hate Bin Laden. He says he is a prophet but look what he has done. Everyone in the world hates Muslims now. Maybe Bin Laden is an Israeli spy or maybe he is just a Saudi. Saudis hate Americans. In Pakistan many people love Americans. I love this country. I moved here 22 years ago, and my whole family lives here now, even my grandparents."

Bazyli Ochabski
"I love miniature trains. Not toy trains, but miniatures, you can ride them. On weekends I take the seats out of the cab and load it with my steam engine. All built by hand. I am a member of so many clubs and everybody wants to see my train so I drive to New Jersey or Maryland or Florida with my train to show it to club members. There is a really good club in Somerset Hills, New Jersey. We have miles of tracks. You should come. It would change your life."

S. Aungubolkul aka Mr. Bacon
"I hate this country because this country is weak. In my country we wouldn't have problem with these terrorists. Iraq is a joke. Every day America gets weaker and weaker. In my country I was Thai military and in Thai military we didn't play games. My nickname was Mr. Bacon because I would make them eat pork. [laughs] I made big mistake though, I fell in love with girl who wants to come to America. Now look at me. I am nothing."

Hitler Singh
"My mother wanted me to have famous name... all of us had famous names. My brothers are Chaplin, Churchhill, and Napoleon. Really. Some people get so angry you know but Hitler is my name so I am proud of it. The truth is my mother didn't know much about history."

Thoughts on the Chinatown Bus

June 12, 2006

Immigrants given enough time away from the place they have forsaken will often return to find themselves a stranger in a strange place. This happens because either they have changed and return to find the place unchanged, or they will cling to the traditions of their youth and return to a place that has moved on. Either way they will end up feeling adrift-people without a home. I noticed our bus driver's pinky nails were both very long and etched with characters. While you still might find the long pinky nail amongst Chinese men, the tradition of character etching is pretty much dead. The driver said he had been in New York for almost 35 years. He returned to his village in Fujian province in 2004. "They destroy everything." he said, "I will never go back there."

Why are all the Jamacians on this bus wearing small cowboy hats?

Is it strange that every white person on this bus has a tattoo?

It is the common view in the west that Muslim women who are strict in their dress, the women who wear black flowing robes, and a hijab with only a tiny slit for the eyes) feel trapped by their clothing... is it possible wearing the hajib feels makes one feel the way I did when I wore a ninja costume... stealthy? A person with secrets. There is a woman on this bus with only the tiniest opening for her eyes, she is covered head to toe and yet I swear I can feel her smiling underneath there.

This is the primary Qur'anic verse used explain the Islamic custom women's modest dress btw, "And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms, and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments." There is also another verse about drawing their jalābib (long coat) close when they go out...

I love the strangeness of the world, but is baby octopus ever good breakfast food?

One of my favorite things to do on a bus is to look down into the windows of the cars as they pass. People relax in their cars. Their walls are down. You know that opening scene of "Wings of Desire"? I imagine it like that.

Is it impolite to change seats if the person next to you is quietly breaking wind?

Aaron Ruell

June 9, 2006

I've noticed the photography of Aaron Ruell before but I never never noted the photgrapher's name. Today I discovered his website.

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