Things to note while carrying 4 dozen balloons down Atlantic Avenue

December 10, 2005

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.

one year

December 7, 2005

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.

Happy Palace

December 2, 2005

Boing Boing calls Happy Palace, a blog of found images, music, and text hypnotic. I agree. The editor has a keen eye (and ear).

found in the archives:

Poem by Lawrence Raab, originally published in The Virginia Quarterly Review.


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.


December 1, 2005

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?

Why I love Brooklyn

December 1, 2005

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.

The Elephant Vanishes

November 29, 2005

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.


November 26, 2005

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.

balloon man

November 23, 2005

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.

North Korea Links

November 20, 2005

Probably because of Christopher Norris' excellent photoessay on North Korea in last week's Time Magazine (Real Audio interview with the photographer), I've had lots of traffic to my North Korea links... so I thought I would throw up a few fresh ones:

A FAQ about North Korea from the official DPRK website. My favorite question (because it implies people are asking it): Q: Can I join the Korean People's Army? A: No, only Korean nationals with DPRK citizenship Also interesting the FAQ is dated "Juche 94".

The site also features CDs by the People's Army Chorus for sale.

North Korea Stock Photography - These basically cover all the stops on the official tour.


A North Korean Travelogue Collection.

Changing the Engine

November 18, 2005

Since 1999 this site has been run by Blogger. Administration was mainly trouble free. But lately blogger has been breaking down. More often than not over the last month or two I've had to publish posts multiple times in order to get them up on the web (the tool hangs at 50% or 75% etc and has occasionally been leaving me with no site at all). These problems seem to be getting worse and worse. This all goes against my "spend little or no time on administration" credo.

Google's buyout of blogger from pyra bought blogger enormous popularity and the popularity is the poison pill. Blogger's feature set has been stagnant for years and my guess is that most of new engineering is going into dealing with the massive numbers of new users. Blogger's limitations have always annoyed me.... little things like the lack of a simple way to include a "back" link to get to the previous post and lack of categories for posts.

For me the obvious solution is to switch to Moveable Type. I already have MT on my server (it is the engine that runs my photoblog), it's free, and it adds many of the features Blogger lacks. The only downside I see to migrating is that I will probably lose all the comments people have made over the years. It will take a day or two to make the switch, but in the end the site will return just as it was. I will try to maintain the url structure and keep everything in the same place (rss feeds and so on). So in a few days there should be a better more flexible site complete with search, categories, and a back button. Until then.


November 16, 2005

did you yawn? You know you want to. Hard to resist the word. YAWN. Annoying isn't it. Why is yawning a such an addictive reflex unlike say blinking or coughing? I've read it's so catchy because it's a herd instinct. Wikipedia compares the sympathetic yawn to howling in wolves... That explanation doesn't really do it for me but I haven't found a better one. Other facts: the first yawns are in the womb; contageous yawning doesn't usually occur in babies until around 12 months; pandiculation is a word meaning a yawn + a stretch; yawning is contagous between species; men yawn more than women.

Mysteries of State Street

November 13, 2005

There's an old guy who lives down the street from me. The outfits vary, but he wears sunglasses and a tweed hat year round. Now that it is fall he also wears a trenchcoat. On sunny days you can find him sitting on his stoop or hanging around outside the deli on Henry & State reading the newspaper or chatting up the little old ladies. I've never seen him without a camera-usually a little Olympus, but sometimes a Leica. He fires off pictures inconspicuously, fast and smooth. Yesterday I found myself next to him at the deli "Why the camera every day?" I asked. "Because I want to remember." he said with a slight smile. Today I noticed him down the block. He snapped my picture, tipped his hat, and continued on without breaking stride.

The Motel Chronicles

November 11, 2005

I'm a big Sam Shepard fan. This is an excerpt from the Motel Chronicles, a book I reread now and then:

They caught him with a stolen print of a cottonwood tree. He was in the parking lot cramming it into the bed of his pickup. When they asked him why, he told them he wasn't sure why. He told them it gave him this feeling.

He told them he saw himself inside this picture lying on his back underneath the cottonwood. He said he recognized the tree from an old dream and that the dream was based on a real tree he dimly remembered from a long time ago in his childhood. He remembered lying down underneath this tree and staring up through the silver leaves.

He remembered voices from those leaves but he couldn't remember what the voices said of who they belong to.

He told them he was hoping the picture would bring the whole thing back.


November 10, 2005

When I was in Marathon, Texas last week I talked to a guy named Sam at an auto body repair place. He was a tall quiet fellow wearing a jumpsuit with the name Juan stitched over the pocket. He was covered in oil and he tended to cover his brown teeth when he smiled. The furthest he had ever been from home was El Paso which was about 2 hours away. "Far enough for me," he said.

As Marathon only has a few hundred people he instantly recognized me as an outsider. "Where did you come in from?" he asked. When I replied "Brooklyn" he almost started. "I watch movies. I know Brooklyn. I dream of New York sometimes. It looks like paradise." He went on to ask many questions about my life and I about his. He said one day he would drive to New York in his truck, that he would drive over the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park and eat a hot dog. I asked him what he would do after that. "Walk," he said. "Look at all those people." He was particularly curious about brownstones, the subways and girls ("There must be a million different types! I imagine it's something.")

Today while walking around town I tried to see the world through Sam's eyes... All the faces outside the taxi window. The umbrellas and the rain. Everything new and exciting. Something indeed. I hope he makes it here one day and somehow I think he will.


November 9, 2005

Happy 6:02AM. Or not so happy 6:02AM. Why am I up at this ungodly hour? Well, I fell asleep while reading (The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes if you must ask) and woke up a few minutes ago, book still in hand. Lights on. Clothes on. Arms dead asleep rendering me floppy.

It was dark a few moments ago but the light came into the sky with startling speed. Why is it that sunrises are so fast while sunsets linger? I have a dilemma. Our baby will wake up in about 45 minutes. Should I wait until he sits up and starts calling for me to rescue him from the bed or do I try to squeeze in an extra wink of sweet sleep, knowing that I will wake up more tired than I am now? I think I chose sleep.


November 7, 2005

The problem with waiting until you kid is 11 months old before baptizing him is that he might just want to jump in the water.

Firefox G5

November 5, 2005

A Canadian by the name of Neil Bruce Lee has been compiling G5 optomized versions of Firefox. If you are a Mac G5 person, you want to use this. The speed (especially on duals) is almost startling. There are still a few bugs (the google search box is dead on my machine), but the speed is worth the tradeoff. And while you're optimizing, why not check out fasterfox as well.

Nikon D200 vs Canon EOS 5D

November 2, 2005

Nikon shooters around the web are abuzz about Nikon's new D200. In general the response to the specs has been positive (I don't know anyone who has actually handled one). Am I the only Nikon guy disappointed by the package? To me it looks like D70 with a slightly better chip/software. I've never been a Canon guy, but the EOS 5D has a couple of features that make me look over to the other side. Specifically I like:

1. The chip in the 5D is the size of a 35mm film frame so there is no lens focal conversion factor. On the Nikon the conversion factor is 1.5x. Because the chip is bigger the image in the viewfinder is also bigger. On the new Nikon they put a magnifying lens in the viewfinder to make the view seem bigger, but that's no substitute for the real deal.

2. The 5D is 12.8 megapixels... a step up from the D200's 10.2. Many people wills say, so the 5D has 2.6 extra megapixels, is that worth the extra $$$.. I would say no if megapixels alone were the deciding factor, but...

3. My photographer friends are all reporting the 5D has much better low light resolution and significantly better noise than the D200. I'll have to test this out myself...

Of course the 5D is almost a $1000 more than the D200 which is already expensive... so ultimately I'm not that tempted by either camera. The Nikon isn't enough of a step up from my D70 and the Canon is much more expensive especially when considering it would be all new lenses/accessories for me. If Nikon (or Canon) or anyone else really wants me to plunk down for a new high end digital I want a camera that is the form factor of an FM2 or Leica M6 ie small. I want a big chip with no lens conversion factor. I want at least 12 megapixels. i want much better handling of high dynamic range lighting situations. And I want a relatively simple camera without a ton of modes. Manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority is just fine with me. (As an aside you might ask why I don't consider the Nikon D2 as it is close in price to the's simply too bulky.)

To see what really gets my camera geek heart racing step on over to bostick & sullivan's site and check outthe Hobo.

Marfa, Texas

October 30, 2005

I forgot batteries for my D70 so no instant gratification photowise...

These are a few things that struck me today:

In response to the question, "Where can I find a drugstore?" asked in Marathon: "Drive down 90 about 27 miles."

Ants so big they feel like pebbles if you accidentally step on them.

A group of cowboys and their wives at saying a prayer before dinner, heads bowed, hats bunched together: "Dear Lord, thank you for the land and it's bounty..."

A weeping willow in the wind catching the last rays of sunshine, and then turning dark against the sky.

The judge whose eyes moistened when he told me his son had died.

A man who when asked how long his family had lived here, crinkled his eyes, tipped his hat and said, "Siempre. Siempre vivimos aqui."

Mars in the night sky so red it felt you could touch it.

Jackrabbits. First one then 20 more darting across the road in the headlights.

The silhouette of lone man standing far out in the desert, a tree on fire.

Tomoko Sawada

October 28, 2005

I've been a big Tomoko Sawada's amazing self portraits ever since I saw a show of hers in Osaka in 1999. Tonight I happened upon her website. Check it out.

Marathon, Texas

October 26, 2005

After escaping the hell that is Midland and forking off the main road, the journey to Marathon was quiet, the roads empty. This is my kind of driving. Open country. Deer. Hawks. The occasional coyote lurking in the cacti. As one heads south the landscape gradually becomes more spectacular. First one seemingly out of place mesa. Then another, then, suddenly you are in a John Ford movie. Painted skys. Rays breaking through the clouds. Dark streams of rain in the distance. All the stuff that makes me swoon.

If you ever find yourself here, I can heartily recommend the Gage Hotel: fireplaces in the rooms, millions of stars in the sky, a decent pool, wireless. Perhaps some photos tomorrow.

Nixon Era Carpet

October 26, 2005

This is me at about the same age my son is now. Two things strike me about this picture. One: My mom was wearing heels in the house. Two: The Nixon era was so... well... Nixonian looking.

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