One Two Journal Project, an update

April 26, 2006

The response my little journal project has been most gratifying. In fact so many of you have signed up that it will become a Two Journal project with one book traveling roughly clockwise across the map, the other counterclockwise [red hat and yellow hat as it were for you Tibet aficionados]. If everyone does their part and sends the journal off in about a week each one should take about a year to make the full rotation. When the journal arrives on your doorstep you will find complete instructions on what do do inside. There are a couple of slots left so if you are interested email soon because once I put them in the mailing envelopes the list will be closed.

UPDATE: The project is now closed. The journals are traveling.

In which I am a bad parent...

April 25, 2006

It was raining yesterday so I headed to the Brooklyn Museum with my son. If you happen to be in the neighborhood and happen to have a toddler this is a good outing as the Brooklyn Museum is a) kind of empty b) full of interesting objects, and c) a large enclosed space in which to roam. Raul Andres delights in veering from room to room checking out the art along the way. He is particularly attracted to the European Renaissance paintings and African sculpture. The draw in both cases is simple: boobs. He pointed out each and every pair (actually triples on some of the African sculptures) for me over and over again.

At one point in the museum we encountered an escalator and something caught his eye. Right away I knew what fascinated him, not the stairs themselves, but a big red button on the bottom labeled 'push in case of emergency'. I am well acquainted with this particular class of button. When I was a 3 or 4 we lived in Houston. Mothers in 1970s Houston did not go to parks (Houston is unbearably hot, unbearably humid), they went to air conditioned department stores: Foleys, Joske's, Sakowitz or they walked around the ice skating rink in the then new Galleria. All these stores had escalators and all the escalators had those friendly red buttons labeled "Push in case of emergency".

I don't remember the first time gave into temptation, but I remember the effect. One punch and the escalator stopped short. Everyone riding up made synchronized "oooh" sounds and rumbling motor went silent... I remember a feeling washing over me--exaggerated joy coupled with fear. Nobody noticed my crime so I quickly stepped away and became very interested in my shoes. Soon every chance I could slip away from my mom (which wasn't difficult as there were 3 of us), I would scurry over to an escalator (always the up escalators so as to not be seen by people coming down) and make my move. Eventually of course, I was caught. Eventually we were all banned from Foley's. Eventually the fear of god was put into me should I ever again push one of those buttons. And one day I stopped caring passing the bottoms of escalators with only the slightest of downward glances.

So yesterday I found myself, a good 35 years later looking at my son, recognizing the want and glee in his eyes as he studied the button. Seeing him circle the obviously forbidden object I thought to myself, "Just go for it. I'll pretend I didn't see."

Brian Ulrich

April 25, 2006

I noticed an image by Brian Ulrich in a magazine some time ago. Tonight I finally tracked down his website. Of his many projects, the one titled Copia really gets me.

Via Mr. Ulrich's site I discovered Greg Stimac's work, The project titled 'Recoiled Portraits' is the vision of Americans held by most Europeans I meet these days. In polyglot Brooklyn it has the shock of the foreign and yet for me all the images are familiar. These are the Americans of my teenage years in East Texas.

One Journal Project

April 24, 2006

A few years ago I became fascinated with the 1000 Journals Project. I signed up, got my journal (Number 768), worked on it for while during a trip to Tibet, and passed it on... then after it changed hands a few times it vanished... (Damn you Matthew Skvasik!) This has always bugged me.... So today I was driving down Flatbush Avenue when I had this thought: "people from around the world read Heading East, I'm sure some of them would enjoy this sort of thing... why not start my own personal journal project both because it would be interesting and because it would be a tangible way to get to know some of you out there."

So here's the deal: if you want to participate, send an email with your name/address to >. When I get enough names/addresses I will drop the journal in the mail to the first person on the list. When you receive the journal you are asked to add something to it, ideally including at least one image of yourself, and send it on to the next person on the list within one week. If you have a digital camera send me a picture of the journal before sending it off to the next person and I will post it here. When journal has made it's way back to me I will scan and post all the images.

I'm thinking of using a small moleskin journal which should be easy to mail.

UPDATE: This project is now closed. The journals are traveling.

Things I have learned today

April 21, 2006

1. If your kid throws up (all kids spectacularly and unexpectedly throw up at some point. Our kid isn't much of a vomiter, but when he goes, it's all out) and you clean up the vomit with a towel, don't throw the towel in the laundry with other clothes, and then let the mess fester for a week or two because if you do this you will end up with an entire load of vomity smelling laundry.

2. One should never answer the question, "Hey did you take a picture of my dog?" with "You call that a dog?"

3. Even though you think you can zip out on the stoop in your boxer shorts without being seen (because it's early in the morning and who in their right mind is up at 6:00), you will invariably be seen by people you know. The embarrassment is magnified when, as you lean to pick up the paper, your 16 month old decides it would be funny to tug your boxers down causing you, in your flailing attempt to preserve dignity to twist and fall flat on your face.

4. It is not a good idea to let your son play with week old easter eggs just as he is developing his throwing skills.

5. When absentmindedly hitting your own head with a wrist guard beanbag that your wife made for you, watch out and don't swing it too hard because you might knock yourself right out of your chair.

6. Commenting on the size of another kid's head to his mother is never a good idea.

Daily Show Correspondents and Contributors on the web

April 21, 2006

John Hodgeman: his blog, his book site, drawings of his 700 Hobos here and here, hislittle grey book lectures, songs on his ipod, on the mirror project, on This American Life, in McSweeney's.

Demetri Martin: his website, on myspace, series of Slate diary entries, Gothamist interview, jokes on Wikipedia, on Letterman, Believer interview.

Ed Helms: his surprisingly dickish official site, clips from the Daily Show, CNN interview, the comical interview.

Rob Corddry: blacktable interview, suicide girls interview, his official site is screwed up, AV club interview.

Samantha Bee: Gothamist interview, on wikipedia.

Dan Bakkedahl, Nate Corddry, and Jason Jones don't have much of web presence, most of the links are for video clips from the show...

Friday Linkarama

April 20, 2006

Hard to resist Meg Whitmark's yeti art. (via Lena Corwin)

Simon Norfolk's images of Afghanistan manage to be beautiful and terrible at the same time. The Liberia set also has the same breathtaking/heartbreaking quality. (via Conscientious) Note to the graphic designer: Never take over my screen. In a gallery of photographs always provide a back button. Flash is obnoxious & pop out windows are obnoxious.

Mac users can geek out over this tour of Microsoft Mac Business Unit Lab.

The a new version of Vimeo just launched. Looking very slick. My pages here.

Nice post about marriage and other stuff by Kristen.

My wife has been loving the fabrics at reprodepot and has been busy using them to make neat stuff like a cowboy wrist rest for my computer.

Jenn is also a big fan of Saelee Oh. Her show 'I walk and rivers run' opens April 27 @ Giant Robot. I hope GR's New York store develops to be as cool as their LA homebase.

Sabrina Ward Harrison's journals are spectacular. (via Swissmiss Tina shouldn't you be busy giving birth instead of blogging!) I'm a big fan of journal art. Check the journal's and letters flickr group I created.

If you've ever hung out with Israeli girls in their 20's you've probably noticed how their army tours of duty have made them ferociously tough. Rachel Papo documents the army experience of these women. (via Kottke)

My friend Olivier Laude just relaunched his website showcasing the portraits he has been taking for the past few years. The navigation is still a bit wonky but I'm sure things will get sorted out when he's back from Panama. I hope he includes lots of his editorial work which is totally different than these portraits or his commercial work.

This video makes me want to speak to Jenn in French.

The most common Chinese characters in order of usage.

Since my Werner Herzog post may of you have emailed mentioning a big article on him in the New Yorker this week. After seeing the various documentaries about him I now hear all his interviews in that great soft German accent of his.

Enjoy the weekend. Looks to be almost summery.

ReGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow

April 20, 2006

Photo by Angela Strassheim

On Tuesday by chance I ran into Pieter Hugo the South African photographer I have mentioned on this blog. Being a fan I introduced myself and he invited me to a show he's a part of: reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow. The opening took place tonight at the Aperture Gallery. Of the 50 the photographers, the ones whose images grabbed me most included Mieke Van de Voort who shoots the homes of people who died alone, Natalie Czech's interiors, Angela Strassheim's creepy playful portraits, Jaret Belliveau's intimate family record and of course Pieter's 'hit you in the solar plexus' images from Africa.
I met several of the photographers and all turned out to be interesting folk. I was particularly impressed with Ms. Van de Voort. In a very short conversation we covered topics including transformative power of death to confer meaning on objects and the loneliness of children. An email she wrote about her work can be found here. (I had a hard time finding her images online so you'll have to check out the show). Jaret Belliveau is a young soulful Canadian whose pieces in the show documented his family's struggle with cancer and it's aftermath. His current work (not in the show... he showed me his book) is equally unblinking and personal. He follows his little brother's friends through their chaotic high school years. And of course Pieter had interesting things to say about his work and his process. All in all a nice evening I enjoyed hanging out with everyone over beers. The show runs through June 22. 547 West 27th Street, 4th floor

A Theory

April 19, 2006

Think of 3 scenes from your life-inflection points from which you defined things as before and after. Describe the moments and why they are important. My theory is this:

If you are a man, you will describe the overall scene often including your geographical location. Then you will move smaller until you get to yourself. At this point you might throw in a few details: the smell of the summer air, the crackle of the car radio... When you explain the before and after you will tell it as a story.
If you are a woman you will start with the personal details, the sweater you were wearing, the feeling of the wind on your face, and then move outward. You will gloss over details of place but will locate the memory precisely in your emotional history. When you explain the before and after you will tell what the moment meant ignoring narrative.
It's just a theory, but in my tests so far it's been accurate. I don't know why.

3 Inflection Points (without the descriptions):

1. It is 1979. August in Texas. I am in the corner of Tim Almond's living room on Live Oak Lane. The sofas and chairs have been pushed aside to make a ring. 10 boys are chanting "fight, fight, fight!" Bill Melton is standing on the other side of the ring without a shirt on cursing me at the top of his lungs daring me to hit him. Angry and scared as I have ever been, I step forward.

2. I am on the 53rd floor of the Citicorp Building in an office looking out onto the Chrysler Building. It is January 2, 1990. A secretary tells me I have a phone call and the person on the other end is speaking in Spanish. It is my uncle. When he hears my voice he can barely speak. He tells me my mother and brother are dead.

3. New York City, the Lower East Side many years later. I have a dinner with a girl named Jenn. We had met the night before. We talk through dinner. We walk around the city. Hours pass. We end up at the Cloister Cafe in the garden. Flowers from a tree are falling onto our table. We have been talking for 8 hours now. A strap on her blouse falls off her shoulder. She is still talking but I am not listening anymore. I reach over and replace the strap with my index finger. I say, "I'm sorry I couldn't concentrate." She smiles.

Notebook fragment

April 18, 2006

I have a large stack of notebooks I've been keeping since high school. This fragment comes from one dated July 22, 1988. No recollection of the context (story idea, overheard conversation, etc)...

The girl: You don't know what you are doing, how could you, because if you knew, you would not walk away, not like this. The truth, the real truth is, you are terrified because I make you feel something and after what happened you have grown comfortable in your numbness. You observe the world from afar but you are not in it. In these last hundred days, every morning while my head was resting on your pillow even before my eyes opened, I had this thought: I am not the girl you adore, but a subject of study, someone one should adore. You have used me so that one day you can write about the girl you once loved. But the girl in your story won't be me. You will change small details, you will forget things and you will make me say things I would never say. You will paint yourself as tragic and beautiful and you will make this moment seem inevitable, but it is not. I am asking you to say something. I am asking you to stop thinking. I am asking you to change.

Werner Herzog Recordings

April 17, 2006

I recorded a few bits from The Burden of Dreams Werner Herzog documentary for my ipod because there's no seriousness like German seriousness: Herzog on making art. Herzog on the jungle: Part 1 and Part 2. The sound level is low so you'll have to crank up the volume also note they take a few seconds to load up.

Elsewhere: Werner Herzog shot with an air rifle, The famous Werner Herzog eats his shoe documentary, Kinski on Herzog, and finally a gallery of stills from the official WH site. More information and fun trivia in his wikipedia entry.


April 16, 2006

It is 3:24 AM.

I am in the attic office and it's raining out. A minute ago I heard heavy footsteps tromp across the roof from somewhere around the chimmney. Wind? No steps. Step, step, step. Must be a man, a big man. It, no correction-he, pauses seemingly right above my head. Chills. My first thought: "The shovel is right over there and I can get it before he can." I edge over to the shovel. Pause. Listen. It's late I must be imagining things. I should be asleep. A big rat maybe? Then, unmistakably, more heavy steps. He stops at the skylight (all the townhouses from the early 19th century have skylights over the stairwell). I am a few feet from the skylight and I am furious that this person is on my roof. I creep over to the opening with my shovel to see what I can see. There is a face and two hands peering down through the thick 19th century glass. He doesn't see me yet. At this point, it gets hazy because I am in a rage, but I bang the shovel against the frame like a madman and in a full terror, yell, "GET OFF MY ROOF!!" The face vanishes followed by the sound of quick footsteps slipping and sliding over to the next house. Now silence.

Ahh Brooklyn at night. I will sleep with one eye open.

Philip Kwame Apagya

April 15, 2006

Mr. Apagya is photostudio photographer based in Accra in Ghana. He takes studio portraits in front of hand painted backdrops. I find the text in the accompanying article a both mildly patronizing and silly (and obnoxiously all in lower case), but ignore the text, enjoy the images. More images here and here.

Photostudio portraits from other places can be found in the flickr photostudio group. BTW if anyone who loves photostudio portraits should watch the Burden of Dreams, a Werner Herzog documentary about his epic Fitzcarraldo and wait until the very end when you can see a the entire process by which a local Amazonian photographer makes his beautiful black and white prints. I would kill to have some of those... almost worth a trip to the middle of the jungle. The documentary is running on some of the independent film channels this month...


April 13, 2006

About half an hour ago I was standing in the middle of our kitchen in the semi-darkness eating an apple and thinking about stuff. These are all things I do often: apple eating, hanging out in the dark, thinking.

The scene: The family is asleep downstairs, the house silent save for the occasional blast of Arabic from the baby monitor picked up from the mosque down the street . Rain is falling pulling flowers from the tree outside the window. Across the road my neighbor is watching TV as she often does at this hour. Blue light flickers against the back wall of her room. In the brighter flashes she is revealed spread out across the bed in her bra, panties, and socks. She hugs a pillow and eats some sort of cracker. Woman relaxed.

There have been times when I have caught her in her window looking over at us... my family at dinner, Jenn and I on the couch reading in the living room, sitting on the stoop with the baby. She always runs off or pretends to be doing something if we look in her direction, but she's not very quick and her staring is pretty obvious.

It is rare to see strangers so completely unwound hanging around their houses late at night in their socks. Rare indeed, and the knowledge of seeing such moments is necessarily private. I mean it's not like I can say anything if I happen to run into the woman on the street. What would you say? Anything said would sound terribly inappropriate. Possibly creepy. And yet there is that desire to say something: "I have seen you in repose. I know you exist." But of course I never do. God no. We smile, say 'hello', and leave it at that.

Related: Neighbors on This American Life

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

April 13, 2006

Our son is (finally) starting to walk on his own, but he's fairly stealthy about it all. For example I'll catch him in the mirror and turn from brushing my teeth. Like a wild animal caught in the highbeams he will freeze and quickly drop to the floor. Jenn says seeing him walking is like spotting a unicorn.

La Jette

April 11, 2006

One of my favorite films La Jette, is available (temporarily I'm sure) in it's entirety on Google Video. This is the original version in French without subtitles. Download it for your computer/ipod while you can. The subtitled version of the film is available as part of a compilation on CD but it's expensive. I am happy to report (as I own a copy) that a book made of the movie's stills has become a collector's item.

How guarantee I will not give money to your alumni association

April 11, 2006

1. Call when I am in the tub.
2. When I tell you I'm in the tub and not to call back for a while, call back a minute and a half later.
3. Ask about my wife, who you have met, and then refer to a girl I last dated in 1992 and haven't spoken to since.
4. Call me Ricardo. Twice.
5. Refer to me as a "buddy" after you've called me Ricardo (twice).
6. Ask the question, "What'dya say chief?"
7. Hang up because you have to take a "really important call".

Momus on Photoblogging

April 10, 2006

"The girl is very handsome, but what's so magnificent about this picture, apart from its immediate beauty, is that it takes me to a world where groups of friends re-enact scenes from Godard films. That's already a very bold, sexy and interesting world. It reminds me that an image is not just remarkable for itself, but also for the parallel world it invites us to imagine and enter, the world in which the anomaly it depicts is normal."

From an essay on photoblogging by Momus. (describing this page)

The Girl in The White Dress

April 10, 2006

We all have images stuck in our heads that drive us towards something or away from something. Indelible images that come to us at odd hours of the night.

Bernstein in Citizen Kane: " A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl."

I am haunted by a dozen and a half such memories several of which I did not actually see with my own eyes, but images I picture clearly nonetheless. My own constitution is such that no one vision dominates and they are equal parts pain and pleasure. Having a child has certainly added to the inventory and perhaps colored the collection in memory.

When I was a boy I was fascinated, as most boys are, with fireworks. In Mexico there was a grandmother in the neighborhood who sold bundles of gunpowder extracted from bullets. They would be delivered neatly wrapped in small brown bags through her bedroom window. She also sold handmade watermelon popsicles. I visited often. For a few pesos we would amass quantities of the dark powder, hiding it in cigar boxes in the back of a dresser. With a bit newspaper, a wick from a candle, and some wax you could make a pretty good firecracker. We would sneak out to abandoned lots and experiment. A stolen can of gasoline, rubbing alcohol, and motor oil were used to turn our small firecrackers into larger bangs and eventually we were blowing up rocks and cans.

One sweltering August afternoon after a particularly satisfying round of explosions things went wrong. A little girl, someone's young sister who had been watching from a distance, was upset by a fire burning in some trash. She picked up what she thought was was a cup of water but was actually a cup of rubbing alcohol and threw it on the fire. In a flash the flame raced back up the liquid and she ignited. She fell to the ground, rolling and making screeching like an animal. The fire was out in a few seconds but the damage was done. The skin on her legs and arms was melted and she screamed. The other kids ran away leaving me standing there alone.

For many years I saw the image of myself standing there immobilized with fear, guilt and horror. I remember her eyes and I remember closing my eyes before I could summon the will to do something. But now my memory has shifted. While I see the little girl, my primary image is now of the mother. Weeks after the accident I went to the girl's house to apologize. The mother opened the door but would not let me in. I understand now what she must of have felt in that moment and I know why she could not meet my eyes when I told her I was sorry.

The Last Few Days in Brief

April 9, 2006

1. Explored the High Line with Jake.
2. Took the Chinatown bus to Philadelphia. (tickets $5-$12)
3. At long last went to visit the Barnes Collection.
4. Reported to my wife that I might have lost my wedding ring.

Me: I think I lost my wedding ring. The last time I remember wearing it was in the Dominican Republic.
Jenn: This is a good one. Novel. Emotional and hard hitting. Very good. A few years ago you would have had me, but I know you now and I'm not going to get involved in one of your psychodramas.
Me: I've turned the house upside-down. It's gone.
Jenn: Stop. How many times have we done this? I know how it goes. The fear, the self loathing, the ever more implausible theories... and then the inevitable, "oh, here it is."
Me: But...
Jenn: I'm not listening.
Me: It's...
Jenn: Nope.
Me: I'm..
Jenn: Next.
5. Passed many accidents on the NJ turnpike. Stopped at the Grover Cleveland Travel Plaza.
6. Was in the subway (in the corridor that connects the F to the 2 at 14th Street) and heard a great rendition of Cool Water as a spiritual in the manner of The Mighty Clouds of Joy by a blind musician named Sleepy Joe.
7. Missed a picture through a subway window of a couple making out behind an umbrella.
8. Went to a party where I ran into a guy who was one my best friend's prep school roommate. The two haven't spoken in 20 years and both have sons named Harry.

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