North Korea Images

May 18, 2006

My brother-in-law Paul has once again come up with some links to North Korea snapshot galleries.

Artemiy Lebedev posts 4 galleries of images on his website (one, two,
, and four).

There are several good DPRK sets on flickr: Matthijs Gall, Mark Wang, Veronica Pinter. nuwex, prime8z, Fraser Lewry, Liz Ralph, John Goodman, and staypuff.

And finally blogger Daniel Shorr's pictures and blog account of a recent trip. (in the blog archive scroll down to the bottom and work your way up).

I hope to do some photography there in the relative near future.

General Mariano Escobedo International Airport

May 18, 2006

Do you ever find yourself writing something you're really into, put it down for a bit, and return to find total crap? That was my experience tonight so consider yourself spared of a page of heavy BS.

In the meantime, another old journal entry:

Monterrey, December 16, 1996

6:30AM Dreams of time travel and train wrecks last night. I’m sitting in the airport lounge watching Sylvester the Cat chase Tweety Bird (in Spanish). All airports should be so equipped. Oops Sylvester just got blown up. Again.

Tip for Entourage Users

May 18, 2006

If you use Entourage 2005 on OS X 10.4, Microsoft has quietly released a major upgrade.

Once you've installed the update, start the program, nothing looks different, but go to the preferences and select Spotlight and click the option to "include entourage items in Spotlight search results' and hit the rebuild button.

Whammo. Your old email just got much more useful. Now instead of waiting minutes for entourage to churn through your email when you hit find, you can have results in seconds in spotlight. Your email database has just gone from being an inert repository to an incredibly rich resource. Of course it depends on how long you've saved your email (I have religiously upgraded my databases since pre-internet all text BBS days) but even if your database is small it's nice to have instant access to everything by plugging in a few search terms.

Another benefit, you can now sync Entourage with the Address Book and iCal. Yippee.


May 17, 2006

1. Why did my parents make me take ice skating lessons in Houston where the temperature rarely drops below 80?

2. Why, even at the age of 4 and a half, did I allow myself to be put into a bunny outfit?

3.Why was I so damned slow?

4. And why, when all the other kids had skated far far ahead of me, did I decide play to the crowd by turning and doing series of hops, eventually passing the other bunnies now headed in the opposite direction, causing the girl I liked, Kelly Jackson, to call me Fooey Bugs and wrinkle her nose at me for the rest of the summer?

A note about Babar

May 15, 2006

I love Babar as much as the next guy, but when Jean de Brunhoff stopped illustrating after 7 boooks and his son Laurent took over, the series went downhill. Babar's Cousin: That Rascal Arthur?! Come on. Please.

Now I know where the idea for cousin Oliver was hatched.

Frank Sinatra Has A Cold

May 13, 2006

Square America has posted some fantastic vintage nightclub photos over at Swapatorium.

The images brought to mind "Frank Sinatra has a Cold" by Gay Talese which is often cited as one of the all time greatest magazine stories. The piece originally appeared in the April 1966 Esquire. If you don't know the article, I recommend first listening to Act IV of the This American Life show titled Sinatra featuring Mr. Talese reading an excerpt from his essay. Then when you are done, read the full article (pdf download, web version). Once you've heard Mr. Talese, you'll read the article with his rich voice and word cadence in your head. The article is fairly long so I recommend the pdf version.

Comet Hyakutake

May 13, 2006

This is from a journal dated March 1996.

I saw the comet again tonight.

Carlyle called at sunset and asked if I wanted to go out and look for it. She said she knew I was the type of guy who would want to see it. She was right, I had already driven out beyond the city lights to find it twice, not the type of thing I would miss, but I didn't mention my previous excursions. "Let's find it together," I said. "Goodie," she exclaimed. She was the type of girl who could get away with a "goodie" now and then.

I picked her up at 11 and we drove out onto the PCH to escape the LA city lights. In her deep Alabama drawl she told stories about her father, about her broken down Cadillac that smelled of cat pee, about growing up in Alabama, and about this guy Ronnie she used to date. She said he would wear all black, and she would wear all white and they would go into bars like that and drink until they couldn’t drink anymore. Ronnie was dead now. She carefully enumerated all the reasons she missed him and about how she felt him watching over her, "He's an avenging angel. Bad ass," she whispered, before changing the subject to how she felt she would be famous someday. "I know I will," she said, "I just know it."

I was listening, but only half listening, I was thinking about how we carry around memories of you can know someone for years and not notice them until they’re gone, or you can meet someone on a train for five minutes, and they can change your life forever.

We had been on the road for almost an hour now and were somewhere past Malibu, the sky was getting really dark. I could see the stars through the windshield. She had stopped talking but I hadn't noticed.

We drove off the highway onto the sand of a dark beach. I shut off the headlights and Carlyle giggled nervously. The comet was easy to spot even from inside the car. It was right up there as sure as anything and I was newly amazed because all my life comets have been a minor obsession and I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing one without binoculars. We walked along the beach and I pointed out stars and constellations, but Carlyle didn’t seem to care. I asked what was wrong, "Oh nothing," came the answer.

After a long silence she murmured, "It’s him, isn’t it?" I had no idea what she was talking about but she explained, "it's ok his presence is strong tonight. You feel him too." Accepting her logic I said nothing and looked at the comet and the stars and the moon and felt thrilled for a while. In my giddiness I laughed and said that the comet was brighter than it had been the a few nights ago. She asked me what I was talking about, and I admitted I had seen it already. This was a mistake and she stomped off towards the water. Even with the waves breaking I could hear her crying. It was really dark.

After a while, I heard her walk across the sand, and get into the car. She flashed the headlights to hurry me up blinding me temporarily.

We drove home in silence which didn’t bother me, but I put on the radio to lighten things up. The DJ on KCRW was playing Mississippi John Hurt, one of my favorite blues singers, and sound of his quiet voice got all mixed up with the sound of the wind coming through the window. It all felt nice in my head and my mind was wandering all over the place, but I kept coming back to thinking how grand it had been to see the comet on the dark beach and that Carlyle would one day forget being upset and remember only the sky. I wondered how I would remember it.

When I was four or five my parents woke me up at midnight to see a lunar eclipse. Now I don’t remember the eclipse at all, I just remember being picked up by my dad and sitting on his shoulders and my mom tickling my back.

When my head starts going like that, time flies. We arrived back in no time and I drove Carlyle to her little house in Huntington Beach. I didn’t want the night to end on a bad note, so I kissed her on the cheek and said, "I hope you enjoyed seeing the comet." She got out of the car and started walking into the dark.

"It wasn't anything," she called back, "it was just a blur."


May 12, 2006

It's pouring rain. Lighting but no thunder. The trees are whipping around and scraping the windows. My kind of night.

Thinking about: a quote my wife often repeats, "There is no distance in memory."

Rut Blees Luxemburg

May 11, 2006

I recently asked a friend of mine who is a fairly serious photography collector about artists who have caught his eye recently. "Rut Blees Luxemburg," he answered, and showed me a few prints of her images from Dakar. I found them intriguing. You won't find one site with a good catalog of her photographs, but a google image search will find many of the better known images.

A few free links

May 11, 2006

These small art books are super cool. The remind me of grownup little big books. The company also produces cool flip books.

Jonathan Gitelson's portfolio site is a delight. I especially like his wave project.

Similar to the site above, Stephen Gill's site is great fun.

It took me a couple of times through to understand Colleen Plumb's image selection. Her site is full of small photo jokes.

If you can get past the super annoying navigation, Michael Northrup has a couple of nice Southern trailerpark gothic images.

Proper Attire

May 10, 2006

As I'm on a digital archive kick, check out these early Korea photographs from the New York Public Library's digital gallery. I found them while doing research for my wife's secret web project. The first is labeled "Woman's correct street costume-1906". The second is labeled "trial" with a date in the 20's although it looks to be earlier.


May 9, 2006

When I become friends with someone I am always interested in going through their family albums and looking for faces or traits that appear generation after generation. A childhood friend came from a family of women with large floppy ears and arrow straight noses. The other features would be re-arranged, but the ears and noses were on face after face. In my own family my father and I are of my grandmother's line and are marked by our noses, and expressive eyebrows (my son has the eyebrow as well, but so far seems to be of Jenn's dad's line) whereas my brother is of my great grandfather's line of tall men with of strong chins. Some photographic evidence below. The images below are of my great grandfather, my grandfather, my uncle, and my brother.

Whose face do you carry?

Lisa's Seutonius Series

May 8, 2006

Tonight I discovered the blog of Lisa Eisenbrey and I did something I rarely do which is read it all the way through. (Hello there Lisa if you happen to be reading this, you made me a) laugh b) miss Austin). The whole blog is great, but I was particularly taken by her Seutonius series (Caesar V, Caesar IV, Caesar III, and Caesars I & II) which distills The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius into amusing lists. (More on Suetonius at

Often historians interpret these emperors' erratic actions as madness or inbreeding and of course that was sometimes undoubtedly what was going on, but my thought is this: Is it possible to look at the lives of these some of these emperors and not see madness, but a kind of extreme logic born of a life in which you are told you are a living god ruling over the known world. Aren't many of the extravagences and cruelties of these men simply the capricious whims of the id unchecked by the ego? Don't all ugly bald men like Caligula secretly want to kill the handsome well coifed men they encounter?

Petty Booka

May 6, 2006

AAARRRRRGGGGG!!!!! Tragedy! I missed Petty Booka's recent New York gig. I fell totally in love with the Booka girls years ago when I heard them sing My Baby Don't Dance To Nothing But Ernest Tubb at the Silverlake Lounge. Sigh I suppose I'll just have to put Ukulele Lady in heavy rotation and resolve to be more vigilant about concert dates.


May 5, 2006

The "spy page" of my mother's address book, circa 1956 when she was 11 years old. She was D.M. The guy she liked was L.S., aka Leonard Stango. Stango is a fairly unusual name and a little searching around reveals a Leonard Stango of my mom's age in Corona, NY which is one of the places my mom lived as a kid. There is a another Leonard a few years younger than me in the same location. Did he stay there, marry and have a son? I've often thought about calling and seeing if he remembers anything about my mom as her childhood is a blank to me. But then of course I would have to explain her death which would be difficult and perhaps an unfair thing to put her childhood sweetheart... would I be unfairly disturbing his memory? Anyway I've never done it... but perhaps I will one day.

The City at Night

May 4, 2006

I walked home to Brooklyn from Central Park South tonight... about 6 miles. The city was rainy and quiet and strange. Even the rain was preternaturally misty, a downpour without raindrops. In front of Rockefeller Center a woman with a red cape brushed past, soon after a man leading a white horse walked against traffic up Fifth Avenue. Through the window of the empty 24-hour Macdonalds (the one in front of the Empire State Building) a worker stared up at a framed painting of whales in outer space in rapt contemplation. Whales in outer space is the theme of the restaurant; anything to sell a burger I guess. Oblivious to the rain, three men in tuxedos chased each other around in Madison square park and then for a long time it felt as if the sidewalks were totally empty.

On Leonard and Broadway a cab slowly followed me down the street perhaps hoping I would tire of walking, the driver blasting Arabic prayers inside. I did not slow down. A few moment later a flurry of cabs passed each one empty, each one slowing and then speeding up when I did not raise my hand. Seeing each driver I felt I could almost hear their mumbled thoughts ala Wings of Desire. But by the time I hit the Brooklyn Bridge those imagined inner dialogs went silent. The brige was deserted. By this time the rain had cleared and the clouds were hanging low over the river--and the loudest sound was that of the East River rushing by beneath.

Walking down Henry Street most of the lights in the brownstones were off save for one or two people tapping away at their computers always on upper floors. On my street a teenage couple was making out on the next stoop. I tried not to disturb them, but a jangle of my keys sent them scurrying... and now of course time to close my eyes. Good night New York. Good night.

Sergey Maximishin

May 3, 2006

I love the camera in this image from Afghanistan by photojournalist Sergey Maximishin. More images from Afghanistan from Mr. Maximishin can be found on the stories section of his website. Be sure to check out his recent North Korea set.

Where I go when I sleep

May 3, 2006

I was responding to a friend's query about Pakistan the other day when I came across this image in my files taken way back in 1991... A girl in white was standing in the foreground but it was a long exposure and she had only paused for a moment before wandering home. Not even a bit of a blur remains... so it's a failed shot, but the place often comes to me at odd hours of the night.

Consider the Lettuce Maker

May 2, 2006

In Japan most restaurants feature lifelike plastic displays of the the various items on the menu. Low end restaurants use prefabricated dishes heaped with noodles or sushi or veggies, but better restaurants will actually have their dishes custom sculpted. The realism is startling. Soups practically shimmer, rice is slightly wet as if fresh from the pot, edamame come complete with plastic fuzz. At a Mexican restaurant in Osaka a display of tortilla chips featured individually molded pieces complete with a slight dust of salt. Artificial noodles sometimes drip from their bowls onto plates. American places show hamburgers complete with individual plastic sesame seeds on the bun. I asked everyone I knew about how such individualized displays were made. "Plastic food is art and science," my friend Daiki explained. He told me of high end studios where apprentice artists worked their way up from the lowly lettuce to American food and finally to fish and octopus. "Of course only masters create delicious looking octopus."

A few years ago while in Tokyo I sought out one of the most famous studios in the Kappabashi district and managed to talk my way in. Specifically I wanted see the apprentice lettuce makers in action, and after some confusion I was led by a secretary to a big windowless room full of small desks with men and women hunched over them. Over in the back sat an old man wearing a dirty smock over a dark suit, his workspace covered with paint tins, bits of plastic, and sharp modeling knives. Several pieces of lettuce in various states of completion had been carefully positioned on a plate. Before I could get started in precise English he explained, "to you, all lettuce looks same, but variety is infinite and each piece is unique. Our competitors try to copy life perfectly which is of course impossible. They make molds. Ha! I look at these an am ashamed. We do not even look at photographs. Our employees visit restaurant, eat each dish without taking notes. Afterwards our memory is the guide. We return to eat if we forget this thing or that. For lettuce to look like lettuce or fish to look like fish it must be better than reality but it also must be imperfect. This is the most important thing. If you make things perfect of course they will look fake. Think of American women and their plastic breasts. Of course breasts are never the same size! "

I asked how long he had been making lettuce. "36 years" was the quiet answer. I asked if he ever wished to do something else (a woman nearby was putting the finishing touches on a pastry that looked like a jelly donut). Of course I am a master, once I made a snake for a Chinese restaurant so full of life it was removed from the window for scaring customers, but lettuce is my passion. I would never start an artist on lettuce. Only someone with years of experience can get it right. Our artists start with rice which not easy, rice is just as difficult as anything else, but people are easily fooled with rice. And then maybe they move on to meat. Only then do sit with me and learn lettuce."

"And then they go on to fish," I added helpfully...

"After lettuce they can do anything," he smiled.

Albert Barnes on art education

May 1, 2006

From a radio address by Albert C. Barnes on the establishment of his foundation.

"Stated in simple language, the fundamental ideas of our educational program are:

Art is not a phase of life apart from work-a-day world, to which one may turn in moments of leisure or perhaps in the name of so-called 'culture', or in a spirit of worship. In the Foundation's courses art is taken out of its usually detached, esoteric world and is linked up with life itself, because all the qualities which give painting its value are those which are found in various phases of everyday life; and art has value only because it expresses those qualities. In other worlds, 'art is a fragment of life presented to us enriched in feeling by means of the creative spirit of the artist.'

We do not teach students how to paint, for that would be like teaching an injured person how to scream. We teach them how to learn to see; that is to perceive the meanings in events of everyday life, as well as in paintings, sculpture, music, furniture, objects in wrought iron, trees and flowers.

We try to eradicate the almost universal, bad, confusing habit of looking at a painting for what it is not intended to be - information about subject matter, reminiscence, likeness to familiar objects, etc...

We endeavor to create new habits of perception by means of objective observation of the relationship of line, light, color, and space that constitute form. We study the artist's language and how at all periods of time it has been affected by his environment in other words, we study the great traditions."

Is this kind of pragmatic idealism dead in today's world? Haven't thought about it enough to straighten out my thoughts but there it is, some food for thought.

More about the Barnes foundations in this episode of Weekend Edition aired a few years ago. On an stranger note it is said that Barnes' ghost still wanders the halls of the galleries he built.

Upper West Side

April 30, 2006

Our dinner conversation with friends last night went something like this:

Annabel: You have a blog? I don't think I've actually read a blog. What do you put in it?

Me: Do you remember listening to college radio shows? They were usually just some girl or some guy putting stuff out there that they found kinda cool. I try to make my blog like that.

Annabel: Didn't some girl get a book deal from a blog writing about her sex life?

Jenn: Raul's blog isn't like that. He mainly writes about our life.

Rob: But why would anyone find the things you say interesting?

Me: I have no idea.
(a bit later after Rob and Annabel have bestowed godparenthood on another guest, Albert, who as it turns out is already the godfather to 5 including one of his sister's kids.)

Me: I don't really think that's right. I mean a sister is already an aunt. The whole point of godparents is that you are reaching outside of the family. An uncle is an uncle already.

Rob: I disagree. My godfather was my uncle and there was something special between us. He really looked out for me. I'm especially fond of him. My parents friends came and went.

Me:But maybe they wouldn't have if they were godparents... My godfather has been my dad's friend since they were 6. He taught me how to grill steaks and roast a pig.

Albert: My godfather was just the best guy...

Annabel: My godmother killed herself.

[a long pause...]

Me: You see. That's perfect, exactly the type of thing I might put on the blog. This conversation.

Annabel: So if we check in tomorrow it will be there.

Me: Hey look at the seed in your water, it just floated to the top for no apparent reason and then dropped back to the bottom like a stone.

[and so on...]

14 Year Old film

April 29, 2006

In my endless quest to reorganize the attic, I came across a rucksack with some unexposed film from the early 90s, at least 14 years old. I expected some radical color shift or fading, but the images were crisp and clear. They are from Ladakh. I am in the last frame and in it, I'm almost unrecognizable, the product of too much time on the road. I still have those boots--leather Vasques with a steel shank... possibly the best trekking boots ever. They don't make them anymore of course. Everything now is high tech-carbon fiber covered in goretex etc... but there is nothing like good old fashioned leather.

First Hour of the Day

April 27, 2006

5:45 I am poked gently in the fleshy parts of the face. I ignore this and keep my eyes closed. A small body climbs all over me.

5:55 Two tiny fingers are shoved in my nostrils.... Ok already I am awake.

5:57 We wave goodbye to mommy who disappears into the blankets, we close the door, and head upstairs.

6:02 My son has selected an apple. He is still a sleepy and keeps resting his head on me. We sit on the floor upstairs in the dim early light. Wordlessly I bite the apple and hand it to him. He bites the apple and hands it back. This continues until we are gnawing at the core. We watch the sky outside change from purple to red to orange to blue. By the time we are finished the sun has risen.

6:13 My son crawls over to a large cardboard box we have over in the corner of the room and he scoots himself in backwards. His hands reach out and close the flaps sealing it all up. He is waiting for me inside the dark box. A hand emerges from a hole in the top of the box. The fingers wave. I hear the smallest of chuckles as he detects the approach of my my footsteps.

6:20 We read. Previous favorites like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Animal Alphabet are ignored. Goodnight Gorilla is still at the top of the rotation (and why not as it keeps me amused even after a thousand reads), Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear is still a fav (the secret to effectively reading this one is to whisper what the animals are hearing). We're Going on a Bear Hunt and the simply titled Trucks are gaining favor fast.

6:36 While sitting on my shoulders Raul Andres likes to bounce a ball to the floor so that I will run and catch it. This is usually followed by a healthy bout of spinning around until everyone is dizzy.

6:45 My son plays quietly with his trucks on the floor allowing me to catch up on the news. Occasionally he'll run over to show me a particular feature of a particular truck and will then go back to zooming them around (double fisted) on the ground. We're having fun. Happy Times.

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