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.

Verio Hosting's Lousy Customer Service

October 24, 2005

Yesterday Verio, the company that hosts this website, had a massive failure bringing down with it the many thousands of websites they host. In my case it also took down my email. This happens. Computers and networks are unreliable. Annoying, but no big deal. But what was less forgivable was Verio's customer service. Calling in to the customer center the hapless customer would be routed through an hour long mechanized tree of options eventually ending in either a busy signal or an endless hold. No status page was posted on Verio's main site. There was no explanatory message on the phone message. Annoyed, did a bit of research and called the Verio corporate headquarters (303-645-1900 btw).

I didn't even have to explain.

The woman who answering the phone was tense. "All our servers are down. They're trying to get the backup system up, but it's not working."

"You know it would help if someone just left a recorded message or put up a message on your support page," I suggested.

"Well so many people were calling we just shut the phones off. Everybody's in a panic."

Indeed I could hear what sounded like panic in the background. Then the phone died.

Now my curiosity was peaked, what in the world was going on? A call to another office revealed that hurricane Wilma had struck the data center and knocked out the generators and the backup generators.

I don't fault Verio for getting hit by a hurricane. It happens, but knowing that a hurricane is coming don't you think it would be wise to at the very least have a couple of pre-recorded phone messages allowing for the possibility that things might go south?

Almost 18 hours later updates started appearing on the Verio home page and now of course all is back to normal. Me being in the dark for 18 hours is no big deal, but imagine if your company's ecommerce site had blinked out and you had no information about what was going on... Not good.

408 Edwards, 1988

October 24, 2005

The image below was taken on this day, Oct 24th, 1988 in my senior year dorm room. I'm embarrassed to reveal that still have most of the stuff pictured. That kilm is sitting in our kitchen floor. The Tibetan mask is staring at me here in in my attic office. The postcards in a desk. Etcetera. I haven't even throw out the Macintosh IIf sitting on the desk (it still boots!). I never throw away books.

There is so much I did not know back on that date. Within a little more than a year a series of tragedies would turn my world inside out and send me reeling... So much I could not have imagined standing there looking at my tripod... but I should not feel smug in what little I know now, because that moment of complacency is when life's broadsides can do the most damage.

I do wish I could go back and talk to my college self and tell that guy that it all works out. That all those years in between are worth it. That you can end up exactly where you want to be, in love with your family, enjoying life more than should be legal, and looking forward to what's next.

Things to Do in LA

October 21, 2005

I lived in LA for 10 years. For 8 years I hated it, comparing it unfavorably New York. I would say annoying and pretentious things like "there's nothing sublime in LA" and spent way too much time being miserable. But then just as I was leaving I got it. I'm not sure why or how, but suddenly the place made sense to me... Now I often find myself missing the place and pitching it to skeptical New Yorkers... but it's a hard pitch, because LA is at least for me is all about private spaces, little pockets of magic hidden from public view... hanging around someone's pool on a hot summer night watching some minor movie starlet doing cannonballs in the deep end... Hard to explain.

But that's another post.

A buddy of mine asked what to do in LA when he visits. Here's a very partial list compiled with the help of my friend (and master seeker-outer of all that is fantastic) Julien Nitzberg:


Uzbekistan @ 7077 Sunset Blvd - go at night when all the Russian gangsters are there

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles the one on Gower- fantastic fried chicken, open late. I prefer it to the equally legendary (non-fried) Zankou Chicken (some LA folk complain Roscoe's is too touristy, but for me that's part of the fun).

Hirozen - Delicious Japanese. Cucumber sunumono salad. Yum. 8385 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, 90048

Thai Elvis at the Palms -one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. A Thai Elvis impersonator sings nightly. The food is spicy and delicious.

Chung King in Monterey Park - double spicy and double delicious and you get to check out Monterrey Park.

Ktown Restaurants - I particularly
love the Prince @ 3198 1/2 W Seventh for it's lounge lizard off-kilter oddness.

Nanbankan on Santa Monica Blvd (a few blocks past the 405) - My #1 favorite restaurant in LA. People come from Japan for the bacon wrapped asparagus.

And if you want more good eats, pick up Jonathan Gold's Counter Intellegence: Where to Eat in the Real LA. It, and the associated column in the LA Weekly, are indispensable starting points for diving into LA's culinary stew. He writes about food with such enthusiasm that I inevitably would find myself heading out on an adventure after reading his reports.


Free brunch at the Police Academy in Elysian Park on Sundays

Catalina Island - Often overlooked, but a a fun day or overnight trip.

Magic Castle - Where all the kids who wanted to be magicans (and some actual magicians) hang out.

Museum of Jurrassic Technology

Horse Riding in Griffith Park

Black Facts & Wax Museum- 3742 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, Telephone: 323.299.8829 call to make sure they are open, but don't miss this.

Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale - 5110 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91204-1006

Marty and Elaine - Still cool despite their popularity.

Naked Trucker at Largo

Steve Allen Theater

Silent Movie on Fairfax - Try to catch some Buster Keaton.

Watts Towers

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Forest Lawn Cemetery

RoseBowl Swap Meet 2nd Sunday of every month

Barbata's Steak House 20001 Ventura Woodland Hills 91634 818-340-5914; geriatric swing band on Fridays and Saturdays. Dancing 9-2a

The Derby - Non geriatric swing

Club Los Globos - 3040 W Sunset Blvd, This place will blow your mind. Dress sharp. Be prepared to dance.


Cindy Club Thai Restaurant - (4273 Beverly Blvd., Koreatown, 323-906-1640)

La Lucha Libre - In East LA you can sometimes find Lucha Libre matches fought in parking lots and backyards. Ask around the Luchaworld boards to find out where/when.


October 20, 2005

This is Jenn's grandfather in a photo from this date, October 20th, 1958. He was a translator in the military (both Korean and American) for much of his young life before emigrating to the states in the 70's. He looks pretty much the same today, a bit smaller perhaps, but the same bearing. He misses his wife terribly and talks to her every time he visits her grave. Breaks your heart.

Back From the Dead

October 15, 2005

The third act of last week's This American Life (Real Audio) brought tears to my eyes. The accents of the people interviewed might sound foreign to some of you, but they are the accents of everyone I grew up with. As usual This American Life's reporters got right to the heart of the story.

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