I always forget how much I love Raymond Carver

February 9, 2006

Two Worlds

In air heavy
with odor of crocuses,

sensual smell of crocuses,
I watch a lemon sun disappear,

a sea change blue
to olive black.

I watch lightning leap from Asia as

my love stirs and breathes and
sleeps again,

part of this world and yet
part that.

-Raymond Carver

Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

February 8, 2006

Jenn and I snuck out to watch Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story at the Angelica tonight. Perhaps we were just in the right mood, but we were both cracking up throughout (much more so than the rest of the people in the audience). The movie doesn't add up to much, and you have to be a fan of a certain type of English humor, but I recommend it nonetheless. How often do you actually guffaw? At one point I almost did a spit take. That's worth the admission price for me. Jenn's summary while walking out, 'I think Michael Winterbaum started shooting and at some point just said, "You know what, I've got nothin'... let's wing it", and you know what I don't hold it against him.'

Adendum: To the person who emailed me that "snuck" is not proper English. Not exactly proper, but popular.

How not to take an impulsive road trip

February 5, 2006

1. Don't do much research.

2. Leave kind of late in the day.

3. Annoy your wife.

4. Drive 3 hours north away from sunny weather into cloudy weather.

5. Arrive to find the place you were going to visit closed.

6. Have your kid play on a rock before realizing your kid doesn't want to play on a rock.

7. Decide to make the best of it by taking a walk down a country road.

8. Have the country road lead to a garbage dump.

9. Get your wife carsick on winding roads.

10. Drive 3 hours back.


February 4, 2006

Mark Powell aka locaburg on flickr now has a proper photoblog. His images of Detroit and Mexico City are some of my favorites anywhere. You can view them at locaburg.com and markalor.com.

RAW file demystified

February 2, 2006

This pdf file (found via digg) has a good technical explanation of the creation and structure of a RAW file. If you don't know what a RAW file is, please ignore this post.


February 1, 2006

Leon Bittick a man who worked for our family as a yardman for almost 20 years died last week. He was almost 90 and insisted on working right up to the end. Leon was a humble man who spoke with a honey-rich East Texas accent untempered by exposure to the outside world. His language indeed the world he lived in is fast dissapearing. A few Leonisms:

Lick by lick, that there cow ate the grindstone (nothing is impossible)

We've howdyed but we ain't shook. ( I know you but we're not friends)

He's studyin' to be a half-wit and I'm afraid he ain't gonna make it

There's something seldom about that ol' boy (the kid is a bit weird)

It's still as a pig a wettin'. (very very quiet)

He'd brag about the number of holes in his outhouse

We used her biscuits to chunk the dog. (bad cook)

He walks too slow to catch a cold.

Oh it was tasty. Tasty as day old lard.

Still as a bowl of spit. (calm)

When she says frog, he jumps. (man run around by his wife)

She buys crutches for lame ducks. (spendthrift)

Figures don't lie, liars sure can figure

That fella would drown a widow woman's hen. (mean)

Talk is cheap, but money buys whiskey.

She's so ugly she has to sneak up on the mirror

What in cornbread hell is going on?

Congrats Mike and Rion

February 1, 2006

Photobooth Fun

I've always wanted to do a photobooth project with my wife in which we go from frame to frame across two strips. But sometimes Jenn has no patience for me and my photobooth projects so it has never happened. All was not lost though because today I got a chance to realize the idea and art directed this set of shots for my friends Mike and Rion on their wedding day. If I do say so myself, it looks great.

Congrats guys. Exciting times.

Farm & Ranch News

February 1, 2006

From age 5 to 18 I lived in Lufkin, Texas. There was only one television channel. The first show of the day was Farm and Ranch News with Horace McQueen. The report always began at 6:00am sharp following the Star Spangled Banner (played over military jets) at 5:55. Abruptly the screen would change to a shot of a tiny desk in a cramped room with fake wood walls (later there were opening titles and music from a fiddle). Horace, a big man, would enter the room and sit uncomfortably behind the desk. He wore dusty western shirts and always gave the impression he had just arrived from birthing a calf. His deep bass voice projected assurance, but would always fidget. There were often technical problems with the steer report, so he would sip coffee and ruminate on the weather with lots of little observations about fishing or hunting. Sometimes he would play with his string tie.

After settling in he would take off his cowboy hat at throw it onto a hook on the wall. He would do this without looking back or breaking his verbal stride. He never missed and after throwing the hat, he would start speaking faster and faster until he reached an auctioneers gait...he would talk about soil and steers and grain prices with authority and passion. He seemed to know a lot about how the world worked.

It always bothered me that I could not see his eyes. He wore those glasses that turned brown in bright light, and the studio lights made the lenses really dark. Once he took off his glasses to wipe his brow and his eyes looked older and more confused than I had imagined. For years he was held an important place in my imagination, not because his reports had any bearing on my life, but because my brothers and I would watch because there was nothing else on and because cartoons would follow his show. His patter became part of the rhythm of our lives and even today I miss the conviction and joy of his weather reports. Cable arrived to my town in 1985 just as I was leaving for college. The town changed. Now with CNN, MTV, and 24 hour cartoon channels I can't imagine that anyone watches old Horace any more. The last time I checked a few years ago he had been moved to UHF 37. It must be lonely over there but I don't think Horace minds. I'm sure he's always awake before sunup and I doubt he ever misses that hook on that fake wood wall.

2.8 Interview

January 30, 2006

I recently did an interview with Michael David Murphy of whileseated.org for his 2point8 project, a blog on the act of photography (as opposed the photographs themselves). Mr. Murphy is a thoughtful guy and his questions made me put into words ideas that rarely make it out of my head. The interview can be found at 2point8.whileseated.org. And stay tuned because he has new interviews with much more interesting photographers than myself coming up.

Seth Thompson

January 29, 2006

Tonight I attended an opening for Seth Thompson at my friend Nelson's gallery in Dumbo. Mr. Thompson's show is titled "Interiorismo Popular" and features images of Mexican homes and churches taken with a 6x7 camera and natural light. Beautiful work. This image of a church was one of my favorites as it reminds me very much of the church in which Jenn and I were married. Don't judge the image by the website jpeg which is washed out. In person these photographs are spectacular. The show will be up until March so I recommend heading over to Dumbo to check it out.

update: Another Seth Thompson link. (annoyingly also with washed out jpegs!). Mr. Thompson your work is fantastic make some better scans!

Having a Kid Does Strange Things to Your Internal Dialog

January 27, 2006

Bears in the kitchen
Bears in the den
Bears take over
Now and again.

Bears love honey
Bears love trout
Bears day in
Bears day out.

Bears Bears Bears

Bears on the subway
Bears in the tree
Bears in traffic
On the BQE,

Bears Bears Bears

Bears on their tummies
Bears on the phone
Bears on safari
In the land unknown.

Bears got rhythm
Bears got game
Bear in the mirror
One and the same.

Bears Bears Bears

Bears slip away
Bears disappear
Bears gotta sleep
Until next year.

Sleep sleep sleep.
The bears go to sleep.
Snuggle up. Snuggle up.
Zzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzz. Zzzzzz.

Places I've Lived

January 25, 2006

Places I've lived for more than one month (in the order they first appear, repeated cities asterisked):

Monterrey, Mexico *******
San Antonio, Texas
Houston, Texas
Lufkin, Texas ****
Burnet, Texas ***
Cuernavaca, Mexico
Princeton, New Jersey ****
Austin, Texas
Boston, Massachusetts
Eastbourne, England
Oxford, England
Shanghai, People's Republic of China
New York, New York ***
Amagansett, New York
Leh, India
Jaisalmer, India
Hanoi, Vietnam
Phenom Pehn, Cambodia
Langmusi, People's Republic of China
Beijing, People's Republic of China *
Ulaan Batar, Mongolia
Prague, The Czech Rebublic
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Los Angeles, California ***
Beverly Hills, California
Paris, France
Santa Monica, California
Orlando, Florida
West Hollywood, California
San Francisco, California
Brooklyn, New York

Seydou Keita

January 23, 2006

A few months ago I posted a link to some of Sedou Keita's (the great Malian photo studio photographer) work. Last weekend the New York Times ran a long story on Mr. Keita and the convoluted tale of how his photographs went from being small images meant to be mailed to rural families in Africa to wall sized images sold in the Gagosian Gallery.

The Undivided World

January 21, 2006

They say a child doesn't realize he is a separate being from his mother until a few months after birth. And considering the child lived inside her, his brain bathed in hormones that produce a constant state of ecstasy, this makes perfect sense. There is no time in there--just the dimmest twilight, the loud machinery of the mother's body, muffled noise from outside, and the occasional poke. For the longest time, she is everything. And then the world divides.

Suddenly cold and bright and in pain, outside is too much, so the newborn reverts to the one source of comfort, warmth, and food he knows. He has eyes only for his mother and he stay like this while his body and brain catch up to the endless want... Want with a capital W.... He notices little, smiles little, but his brain is crackling with activity. Eventually after what seems like an eternity of sleep his eyes, ears, and brain are ready, and then one day, suddenly, he notices there are other people and the child smiles.

Later there are animals and plants and the hundred hundred other things that must be noticed and cataloged for the first time: the smell of snow, lizards on the windowsill, asparagus. With each classification the known universe cleaves. The impossible becomes possible. One day he is immobile, the next he is crawling. By the end of the first year he is naming things and testing every corner of his world. (Our son has just become aware of of the concept of "underneath" so as he makes his way around the house he now throws himself on his belly and checks the below each and every couch, chair, and desk because you never know what might be under there.)

In college one summer I worked for a professor of Ethology. He had names for so many things. Bumblebees were bombus terrestris, Honeybees were apis florea, and leafcutting bees were megachile rotundata. A monkey was not a monkey, but a marmoset, a tamarin, or a Barbary ape. An unknown bug would cause him to stop in his tracks like a pointer, his brain running furiously in the search for the unnamed. I was thinking about the professor today and about how he was always looking to destroy his previous understanding and redefine his field. I think as we grow older it becomes harder and harder to do this. We get comfortable with our knowledge and stop naming new things.

My wife studied hermeneutics in graduate school and as is common with people of that discipline she occasionally gets into moods where we discuss the "so what's" of life. I don't know what the answer is for her. But for me it's not terribly complicated. Being a traveler I know the first time I step foot on some unexplored territory will also most likely be my last. And even if I visit again everything will have changed in the interim. This is true of so many things, of friendship, of love, of death... So the important thing is not to hold onto that moment, but to be in it and let it change you, to let the world divide.

Artist Portraits

January 18, 2006

I remembered this portrait of Mark Ryden when reading this essay on artist portraits in the Village Voice. I've seen Ryden in person a couple of times and he was always somewhat non-descript. The portrait tries to create mythology... and perhaps it is successful because now when I see a Ryden image I instantly picture of him in his studio by that portrait of Lincoln... Similarly while reading the article I could only think of one or two iconic images for each artist mentioned. For me the same is true for musicians whether they be Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, or the Cramps. For each, one photograph eclipsed all others creating an indelible image in my head. This holds true in the personal sphere... My Tia Elva will forever be in her flowing wedding dress, her stern rancher husband standing uncomfortably behind her... I wonder if, in this age where digital images are so cheap, where so much of our lives are catalogued, whether this phenomenon still holds true... Perhaps our own personal iconic images are just that, the pixel icons we use onscreen to represent ourselves... Sad really. They seem so small.

We all want to be Hikikomori sometimes

January 16, 2006

Everyone I know seems to be talking about this weekend's New York Times article about Japan's Hikikomori. This phenomenon has been widely covered on the Web. Watashi in Tokyo provides some context and links to a good BBC article as well as Hikikomori blog (love the Hikikomori ascii art).
Few articles show juse how demonized the hikikomori have become in Japan. They are portrayed in Japanese popular culture as evil hackers and violent misfits.

Anyway it's an interesting phenomenon... even aljazeera.net is writing articles about it. Some other links: A quicktime documentary, a Japan Times article, a pdf research paper, and a site studying the phenomena. That's probably enough hikikomori for now... What's missing from all these are good photographs of hikikomori in their rooms... Project perhaps?

Teddy Roosevelt Recording

January 12, 2006

I was looking for this song about Teddy Roosevelt, when I happened upon a recording of the man's voice. I would have thought he had a big booming voice instead he sounds like this... (From the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.) Taft's voice is oddly modern sounding.

Other recordings of early presidents:

Franlkin Delano Roosevelt
Herbert Hoover
Calvin Coolidge and also here
Warren Harding
Woodrow Wilson
William McKinley
More Teddy Roosevelt
More Taft
Grover Cleveland
Benjamin Harrison

and that's about as far back as it goes, nothing for Chester Arthur, "Elegant Arthur", one of the great etceteras of the American Presidency. Hard to believe a man with such fine mutton-chops would be completely forgotten today.

Update: My friend Hal had sent a link to an early Lenin recording.... (there are many early recordings on this site via Free Information Society)

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