January 1, 2006
My flickr friend yellowhammer turned me on to Future Perfect, a thoughtful and visually rich blog by Jan ChipChase (real name?), who travels the world analyzing culture, design, and human behavior for Nokia. The most recent posts happen to be on photostudios, one of my favorite travel subjects. This has blog has instantly moved up to the top of my RSS reader.
I am not anti gun, nor am I anti hunting. But I draw the line at shooting squirrels.
Henry Guns Mini Bolt .22 (with a review by Varmint Hunter Magazine).
One of my favorite outsider films, Multiple SIDosis by the great Sid Lavernts, is now online (alternate link). As noted on the WFMU blog, Sid is still around and will sell you music and video tapes via mail. You can email to get a list of available tapes here: sidchar@CTS.com (the list is always changing because Sid is always coming up with new stuff). If you are a camera person note that all the scenes with multiple frames were done IN CAMERA by filming a projected performance, rewinding the film and recording again! One can only image the number of takes. It's too bad this digitized version is such a poor copy, Jenn and I were lucky enough to see a first generation print at the American Cinematheque in LA a year or two ago.
(Note many browsers are not set up to properly view mp4 movies, in this case you will see text when you click on the above link. If this happens, download the link to disk, make sure it ends in ".mp4" and open it in quicktime.)
Update: Multiple Sidosis is now on youtube!
Merry Christmas everyone. The city is celebrating and you should be too, so put down your computer and get out there.
The scene: Jenn lying on the floor staring at the ceiling and talking, Raul Andres crawling around the room bottomless.
Jenn: "I know it's not rational, but there's something very satisfying about having a boy."
Me: "Some deep seated Korean thing?"
Jenn: "No, it's like- 'I made the other sex'. It doesn't seem that hard to duplicate yourself, but to make a man, that's something. I mean had a penis in my belly.
Me: That's weird.
We attended dress rehearsal for opera Wozzeck today at the Met. Wozzeck is a study in atonality, relentlessly depressing and usually staged with spare almost empty sets. Opera buffs love the complex expressionist music. My friends who love opera often cite this one as a favorite. I am not a sophisticate. I'll admit to sleeping through the second act. Hard for me to appreciate... After the performance I couldn't wait to leave, but I was in the minority. I overheard a delighted fan, a large man with a thick German-tinged English accent, "So dark. So tragic. The gloom, palpable. The production was a triumph.[Deep satisfied sigh] But... perhaps, wrong for the season, Wozzeck should only be performed in February."
As a work-at-home guy, someone with a car, and someone who walks the bridge regularly the transit strike shouldn't have affected me that much... but it has been annoying. Driving in the city has become a nightmare, not because traffic is that bad, but because the police have blocked off both 5th Avenue and Madison making getting around anywhere above 14th street a real pain.
Yesterday we at lunch in Koreatown and then Jenn drove off with the baby & my brother in tow leaving me to fend for myself. Walking down an empty 5th Avenue a few days before Christmas was eerie. The whole city was dead feeling like a summer holiday when everyone decamps... but it wasn't summer, it was the first day of winter with December's blue light blinding everyone who was walking south. The only part of the city that seemed totally normal was Chinatown. Once I got to Canal Street a sense of normality returned with people hawking umbrellas and christmas lights and cheap radios. Past Canal Broadway became clogged with walkers heading for the Brooklyn Bridge.
At the base of the bridge an encampment of transit workers glumly shouted slogans and the masses trudged by ignoring them for the most part, but cursing the group under their breaths. In the words of one policeman, "Why does that fatso think he deserves more money than me for sitting in a tollbooth when I'm out on the streets breaking my neck." The bridge crowd was shoulder to shoulder. Bicyclers had to walk it. People were chatty. I heard several say this was the first time they had walked the bridge since September 11th. Wall Street guys fell neatly into their stereotypes with their Gordon Gekko hair, big cigars, and obnoxious talk (re the union leader's personal fine of $1000: "I wipe my ass with a G.")
I'm a fast walker, but most in the crowd were moving faster than me, perhaps because the wind was blowing making it very cold up there. Many stopped to admire the views and I heard several say "We should do this more often." In the middle of the bridge a girl in her 20s stood with a big "talk to me" sign. Nobody was talking to her and she looked sad. I said, "Hello there skinny." to make her smile and she did. News reporters kept pulling people out of the crowd trying to get someone to say something interesting... but this blog post notwithstanding what to say really? On the far side of the bridge several Brooklyn politicians welcomed people home with bullhorns and a girl in a skimpy Mrs. Santa suit doled out Christmas tea. She was really really cold.
I'll be glad when I can hop on the subway again. I'll be glad when I can drive from 34th and Lex to 35 and 7th without taking a detour to 8th Avenue and I'll be glad when I have the bridge to myself again.
I swallow a gigantic hamburger bigger than my head. The hamburger inches slowly down my esophagus like a rat through a boa constrictor. Try though I might, I can't squish it flat. I wake up in a cold sweat when it gets past my stomach.
I'm sitting in my 4th grade class when I hear Bill Little, a kid who always hated me (and who I once secretly beaned with a good sized rock), giggling in the back of class. I hear him muttering my name. He's making fun of me. My face is hot. Then I taste something bitter. I know what's going on. Bill Little has poisoned my bologna sandwich with glass and lye. My stomach starts turning violently.
A nickle drops through a hole in my pocket into a puddle. I reach after it and find the puddle deeper than I thought and very cold. Something in the water pulls me in. Suddenly I am under water and I can feel it crystallizing around me. Popsiclization is inevitable unless I can shiver myself out.
I am on fire. My hair, my clothes, even my toes. The only way to stop it from hurting other people is to eat it, so I force myself to eat the fire pushing my face onto it. I eat it all but inside it still burns leaving me smoky from my seams. I cough soot.
I wake up on an empty beach. The sky is blue, the water clear. I think, "This is pleasant. Ahhh. I must be better." S t r e t c h. I watch the waves lapping at my feet. And then I notice that the sand has been washing over me leaving me partially buried. I am immobile. "Still not too bad," I think. Then tide recedes and small black ants come marching in from the tall grass. They climb my belly and disappear into my bellybutton. I know then that this isn't over.
Back in August I wrote about revisiting a small village in Tibet after many years. I had brought photographs of my previous visit and the villagers told me that a teacher I had met there who had befriended me and helped guide me around had died.
Well today I got this message "hello, Raul!
it is nice to see that you went to back Amchok this year and it is good to see that you wrote things about your visit to Eastern Tibet. Though it was sad to see that you mentioned I was died! I am alive and live in Austria. I am the one who guided you Amchok some 11 years ago.
The BBC recently did a 4 part documentary on the building of modern Beijing. Some of the stats thrown out are incredible. Right now the city is consuming half the world's production of steel and a third of its concrete. Take a listen here: The City Ate The World..
Our entire clan has been struck down by a stomach bug our child picked up at the pediatrician's office (this is my theory, Jenn thinks it could have been picked up anywhere). Last night was a non-stop vomit-fest with the three of us abandoning the soiled bed and parking on a futon which was easier to clean up. I haven't felt so bad since had dysentery in India. Jenn was writhing around with cramps and our son would sit up with a scared look on his face and projectile vomit all over us. We didn't sleep much. Despite his suffering at 6:30 as usual the baby was in a remarkably good and ready to play. Jenn and I were less well. These were the respective comments of our parents when we called in for reinforcements.
Me: Dad, Jenn and I can barely make it out of bed we need your help.
My Dad: How are you going to have a second child if you can't take care of one?
Jenn's Mom: Hallelujah!
Jenn: Omma all three of us are sick with a stomach bug. We were all throwing up all night. Can you come up?
Jenn's Mom: But I don't want to get sick. You'll be ok, just pray to Jesus.
It is 4 in the morning. Outside it is bitterly cold. Rain is blowing in sheets and there is thunder. The weatherman predicts sleet by morning. In the street below a young woman without an umbrella has just passed by for the 3rd time in as many hours calling for her dog Samson who has apparently run off. This my friends is love.
My friend Gabe got me all jazzed about seeing the new Edward Burtynsk show at the Brooklyn Museum. I've been a Burtynsky fan ever since I saw his shipbreakers show a few years ago. My plan is to make it out there this week. Do any of my photo geek friends care to join?
I've always claimed Santa is more than a little scary... a big chubby guy in a red felt suit with an unkempt beard and rubber boots. Chills.
Witness my son (who seems to love everyone and is generally all smiles when he meets new people) encountering old St. Nick for the first time:
1. Wind is your enemy.
2. 4 Dozen balloons generate a huge amount of static electricity.
3. Static shocks hurt.
4. Low lying trees pop balloons.
5. Concertina wire pops balloons.
6. People will say "Happy Birthday!" to which you might answer, "It's not my birthday" to which people might say "go to hell."
7. Young kids might ask you "Can I have a balloon mister?" to which you might answer "I'm sorry these aren't my balloons." to which a child might reply, "Then what do you care, give me one."
8. The ribbon on the balloons can get wrapped around your neck.
9. When 4 dozen ribbons are wrapped around your neck and the balloons are blowing around, you might get strangled.
10. If you call out for "a little help" nobody will help you.
Striking images from a local photostudio in Mali by Seydou Keita.
Hard to believe in a few hours it will have been a year since our son's dramatic entry into this world. Noting the date early this morning the dizzying speed which time reels us through life felt overwhelming, but the room was still dark, Jenn and the baby were still asleep, breathing in unison, and I was reminded that this year has also taught me to appreciate the slowness of things .
Even though he was large as far as newborns go, in looking back at 12 months of pictures I ask myself that phrase that comes to all parents at some point, "Was he really ever that small?"
One per month.
Combine mail, pinhole cameras, ebay, and cross continent collaboration & you've got yourself a pretty cool little art project. Check out the Camera Obscure 2005/1-Inf project.
found in the archives:
I can't remember how old I was,
but I used to stand in front
of the bathroom mirror, trying to imagine
what it would be like to be dead.
I thought I'd have some sense of it
if I looked far enough into my own eyes,
as if my gaze, meeting itself, would make
an absence, and exclude me.
It was an experiment, like the time
Michael Smith and I set a fire in his basement
to prove something about chemistry.
It was an idea: who I would
or wouldn't be at the end of everything,
what kind of permanence I could imagine.
In seventh grade, Michael and I
were just horsing around
when I pushed him up against that window
and we both fell through -
astonished, then afraid. Years later
his father's heart attack
could have hit at any time,
but the day it did they'd quarreled,
and before Michael walked out
to keep his fury alive, or feel sorry for himself,
he turned and yelled, I wish you were dead!
We weren't in touch. They'd moved away.
And I've forgotten who told me
the story, how ironic it was meant
to sound, or how terrible.
We could have burned down the house.
We could have been killed going through
that window. But each of us
desereves, in a reasonable life,
at least a dozen times when death
doesn't take us. At the last minute
the driver of the car coming toward us
fights off sleep and stays in his lane.
He makes it home, we make it home.
Most days are like this. You yell
at your father and later you say
you didn't mean it. And he says, I know.
You look into your own eyes in a mirror
and that's all you can see.
Until you notice the window
behind you, sunlight on the leaves
of the oak, and then the sky,
and then the clouds passing through it.
You know the Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday classic Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer that plays on TV every year around this time? It was on CBS this evening. I love the show as much as the next guy, but a couple of things have always rankled me.
1. Skinny Santa is mean, really mean.
2. The Burl Ives snowman plays his banjo during some of the songs, but there is no banjo on the soundtrack.
3. Charlie in the Box is terrifying.
4. Owls at the North Pole?
5. The Abominable Snow Monster should be bloody after having all his teeth ripped out.
6. Hermey is a terrible name.
7. There's nothing wrong with the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys so why is she on the Island of Misfit Toys? (according to this site the problem is psychological)
8. King Moonracer is an Aslan ripoff.
9. Yukon Cornelius is a Yosemite Sam ripoff.
10. Did I mention Santa is kind of an ass? Also, he only has 4 fingers. Terrifying.
As an aside what in the world was up with the "Ronald McDonald and I'm loving it" ad that appeared during the middle of the show? Ronald McDonald is frightening enough on his own, but hard rocking Ronald stage diving into the crowd is terrifying? Is the McDonald Corporation trying to hurt my mind?
So you're a Jewish Orthodox kid and you love salsa. Dilemma. Not cool with the folks. But you want people to know about this passion so you have a shirt made that says says "Salsa King" on the front and has an airbrushed picture of yourself (complete with your sequined yamica) in a dancing embrace on the back. At home you hide the shirt under your long dark coat and listen to salsa real low on the Puerto Rican radio station at night, but when you go out, you remove the coat and let the world see what you're all about. When a guy on the street give you a thumbs up, you grab your girl, a hot Latina, and do a few steps with her. You are the Salsa King.
About a year after I graduated from college I was on a train out to Amagansett when I realized I was sitting next to Andre Gregory. Fellow cinephiles will know that Andre Gregory is the Andre from My Dinner with Andre, the Louis Malle film beloved amongst a certain circle of film geeks. I'm not one to be starstruck or the type to chat up a famous person for no reason, but in this case I had to say something. He was listening to music with headphones, it was playing loudly and I knew the recording, so when he was changing tapes, I asked him if it was the Bulgarian Women's Choir. He nodded. Then I asked asked if he was Andre Gregory. "Why yes, yes I am, " he replied seeming pleased. For the next 40 minutes or so we had one of those intense convoluted conversations that I can best describe as being something like the one in the movie covering topics ranging from Japanese cinema to the polar bear in Central Park to the suicides of friends. For every question I asked, he asked two more. It was thrilling... my own private conversation with Andre. He exited the train before me, but before he left, he invited me to his production of Uncle Vanya at the Victory Theater. He gave me a date a fortnight in the future and told me not to be late.
Now this was the early 90's and Times Square was in it's last throws as the old dirty Times Square of lore. The transformation into a sanitized tourist mall had not begun. The Victory Theater (as well as most of the other theaters on 42nd street) was a decrepit ruin. In the twenties the theater then known as the Belasco featured the A-list of vaudeville: Mary Pickford, Tyrone Power and Lillian Gish.
Houdini built a swimming pool under the stage to catch his elephant Jennie after he made her "disappear". Houdini's act later moved to the Hippodrome, a much bigger house, but he was said to have always had a soft spot for the place. Later the theater housed the first burlesque house on Broadway. During World War II it became a B movie palace, and then for many years the Victory was a XXX skin flick palace. By the 80's it was shuttered.
When I arrived for the play that fall day in 1991 I had to step over a sleeping junkie to get to the theater door. The lobby was dark and smelled of urine, but upon entering the theater there were a small group of actors on stage around a dinner table. Mr. Gregory welcomed me like an old friend. A few more guests arrived, but the actors outnumbered us. We sat up on the stage and so began a production of Uncle Vanya so intense that it was as if I had unwittingly stepped into the living room of a very dysfunctional family. In my memory I held my breath most of the two hours. I don't think I've experienced a film or a play since that begins to compare. Wallace Shawn played Vanya.
I mention this now because we saw a play this weekend at a theater a few doors down from the Victory, now the New Victory ("The Ultimate theater for Families!" proclaims a sign outside) this weekend. 42nd Street is unrecognizable with crushes of tourists so dense navigation is difficult. We saw a play that was competent and polite, the out of town audience applauding nicely. Afterwords we had dinner with one of the actors, a friend of Jenn's. As they spoke I kept thinking about the Victory and how lucky I was to have been on the train that November day and to have witnessed one of those small scenes that make New York New York.
For most of my life Thanksgiving meant going somewhere. Going home, going to someone's parents house etc.... But yesterday I realized that we're now at the point in our lives where our house is the one people come to. As usual Jenn spent days putting together an incredible spread. And now that the day is over, the Gutierrez family tradition of turkey tacos. Yum.
This is the season of birthday parties for my son's little buddies-many of the parents we hang out with have kids who were born plus or minus a month of our kid, so the tide of fiestas has begun.
Birthday parties for one year olds are strange as the kids themselves have no concept of time. A friend of mine, half of a childless couple, on hearing of the party, snorted, "If you ever find me at a birthday party for a one year old take me out in the back and shoot me..." While I was never quite that cynical, as I navigated the line of strollers to get up to the apartment I heard David Byrne in my head "How did I get here..".
The scene was surreal... 15 or so kids and twice as many adults mostly crawling around on the floor. As is usual at any party I found myself in the corner observing the scene (apparently I was bouncing a balloon off my head and according to my wife "looked like a crazy person"). Anyway at these parties kids crawl over each other and touch each others faces, as the parents ever watchful compare their relative progress ("my kid eats peas and broccoli!" "Well my kid eats asparagus!") and swap tips on sleeping problems and baby gear. There was one little girl who called all men "dada" and all women "mama" (well except for the short haired woman who was taken for a dada) and there was a boy who called everything "cat" or "not cat" and one boy who spent the whole time on his back staring at the balloons on the ceiling. Some kids clung to their parents for dear life whereas others explored everything, invariably seeking out the things that could potentially electrocute, maim, or smother them. I played peek-a-boo with my son who was across the room but still checking in on me. And I with my balloon was thinking how good it was to be one of these kids, in a world that is divided into cat and not cat and ma's and dada's and where a guy hiding his eyes with a blanket brings so much unencumbered joy.