April 24, 2005

My wife and baby are in Philadelphia this weekend and the silence in the house is loud. I spent much of my life alone and it never bothered me. I had no problem eating alone at restaurants (always a chance to catch up on reading!) or being in a quiet house... but today I felt their absence with every bone in my body.

All this said, I was able to catch up on some sleep and crank up the stereo which is something I haven't done in a long long time so it wasn't all doom and gloom (New York Dolls, Television, Ramones, Germs, Peaches, Los Crudos, Velvet Underground, Camper Van Beethoven etc if you care).

The rain and cool have returned. There was exactly one lightning flash followed by a single thunderclap. Thunder is another thing I missed in LA. There it is so rare that on the rare occasion when it happens all the dogs in Silverlake would bark for a good 20 minutes.

. . .

I ran across an excellent blog about phtotography today. It's called Coincidences: Discussions on the art and craft of photography and other digressions. The title pretty much sums it up. Sadly it hasn't been updated in a while, but there's plenty to read in the archives.

. . .

Mexican Pictures

April 21, 2005

Feel like seeing some great photography? Head up to The Museo del Barrio for "Mexico: The Revolution and Beyond, Photographs by Casasola 1900-1940" It's at Fifth Avenue at 104th Street, (212) 831-7272, through July 31.

These photographs are especially interesting to me because my grandmother's father was one of those guys in hats. He was a major in Pancho Villa's army and was famous (infamous?) for his sword work.


April 21, 2005

Jenn and the baby are asleep. I hear them both on the monitor-the reassuring repeat of dual breaths over staticy air. Today it was hot for the first time. People were out in shorts. I broke a sweat.

The windows are open and the sounds Brooklyn are wafting in. The room is dark save for the computer light. Music arrives on the breeze, Hayden I think. More music somewhere further away. Radio in an unknown language. A couple talking. TV sounds & blue flickering light on the brick wall in the back yard. Rain keeps threatening but right now there is only silent mist. Best of all: the breeze is full the first smell of a summer night. It's not actually a full summer smell yet, but it is so mixed up in 100 memories that it overwhelms. In an instant I am in Texas stargazing, wandering around a Beijing hutong finally anonymous in the dark, getting into trouble at Princeton, out in Amagansett on the beach... I missed this smell in LA. LA is a desert and even on hot summer days it is usually cool at night. There is the over sweet smell of palms and green and dew but it doesn't smell like summer, it smells like LA, and it's a year round thing. So I will enjoy the dark for a few moments. Take a quick picture of the flowering tree lit from below and say goodnight.


April 16, 2005

I spent Saturday at Coney Island with fellow photobloggers Keith, Go, Fredrick and Joe. It was interesting to see how differently everyone shot... Excellent time all around except that I have returned sunburned within an inch of my life. My face glows radioactive.

I've never gone out with other people to shoot. It was a bit weird and I think a bit intimidating for people caught in our sites. Think about it, one minute you're enjoying some sun with your fellow retirees and the next minute you're surrounded by a group of guys with long lenses. Only Go was nice enough to ask people if they would agree to be photographed. Go just got married last week so send him some congrats.

One thing about Coney Island I can't get out of my head. There was a carnival barker and all day long he shouted "Shoot the freak. Shoot the freak. Shoot the freak in the freakin' head. Shoot the freak, shoot the freak.. Shoot the freak in the freakin' head." It's been running nonstop in my brain. This is less than ideal.

tax day

April 16, 2005

Inevitably I ended up at the post office today trying to get my taxes off. Every year try as I might I always end up in long lines on the 15th. But today was a bit different.

I was at the Atlantic Avenue station (The one across from the "Islamic Fashions" shop offering books on fun headscarf ideas). The crowd was your normal Brooklyn multi-ethnic stew. Women and their girls in full chadors, West Indians in bright colors, and your basic yuppies. Only two glum slightly mustachioed Chinese ladies were attending to us. Progress was painfully slow. Inexplicably on The Sound of Music was playing on the television, sound cranked up. Everyone was fairly quiet resigned to the wait... Nobody paid attention to the television even when the first musical number started, and but I noticed the little girl in the chador was transfixed.

Doe a deer, a female deer, ray a drop of falling sun.... By the second verse the little girl in the chador started singing from under her robes. The post office went quiet. And it was as if someone filled the room with oxygen. Everyone, suddenly awake, looked at the girl and up at the TV. Before you knew it two other people joined in, a Jamacian man, and another young girl. Even the glum clerk squeaked out a slight grin.

New Google

April 16, 2005

I'm always been a fan of the little variations google does on it's logo. It's one of those little things that personalizes the company and makes it fun to visit every day.

Today's logo is particularly good:


April 14, 2005

I know virtually nothing about the Irish side of my family. My mother didn't talk about them much. When she was alive I didn't know enough to ask the right questions. The rich and complex history of the Mexican side of my family has been a life long project... unraveling their mysteries, tracking family traits physical and emotional through the generations, archiving pictures and letters... In all of this I never really considered the Irish and Americans who are half of my story. Today I found a small tin-type in one of my mom's photoalbums. I have seen it at least once before when I was a child and remember asking about it. I believe they are my great grandparents or great great grandparents... I'm not sure on whose part, nor do I know their names. Their faces are unfamiliar and try as I might I don't see reflections of my mother or myself or my brothers in the faces, but the image has started me wondering...

And so another project begins...

Costco Reaction

April 14, 2005

There are certain places - crowded malls, busy Kinkos, Walmarts, suburbia, that inspire in me intense feelings of panic. My wife named the syndrome "Raul's Costco Reaction". Upon entering a Costco I feel ill, suffocated and slightly crazy and have the strong urge to run away. Jenn on the other hand LOVES Costco. She deems shopping there 'thrilling' and can spend hours comparing/weighing/and figuring out how to get the best deal on a pound of butter. Normally this would not be a problem (I would simply stay home), but now with our #1, I'm forced into service. If you ever want to see a miserable Raul, picture me pushing a heavy shopping cart filled with giant tubs of random food, baby strapped to my chest, wife slowly going through her long list. That was me today. If I end up in hell, I'm pretty sure it will look like Costco. That or the old Kinko's on Lexington and 77th run by Samoans where the lines were always out the door, the heat always cranked to unbearable, and the toner cartridges always empty. After a few minutes in there I would find myself muttering, "Death of the soul, man. Death of the soul." Sigh.

. . .
p.s. To the nice lady reader of this blog who said hello while we were at Costco today. I hope I didn't seem abrupt or startled. See above for an explanation of the green tinge in my face.


April 12, 2005

I was scanning a children's book I picked up in Mongolia for some of the illustrations, when I began to notice that the images taken together give a portrait of a somewhat harsh life:

. . . .


Notes on the Bashgali Language by Colonel J. Davidson of the Indian Staff Corps, Calcutta 1901, a collection of 1,744 common Bashgali sentences with English translations. The sentences give a disturbing impression of life in Chitral at that time. I originally came across these in Eric Newby's excellent travel adventure A Short Walk in The Hindu Kush.. Chitral is in current day Pakistan/Afganistan.

Some of the sentences in Notes on the Bashgali Language

-If you have had diarrhoea many days you will surely die.

-Don't drink water; a snake will grow in your bowel.

-I saw a corpse in the field this morning.

-Thy father fell into the river.

-I have nine fingers, you have ten.

-The dwarf has come to ask for food.

-I had an intention to kill you.

-A gust of wind came and took off all my clothes.

-An eagle came down from the sky and took off my cock.

-You are a very jabbering man.

-Why do you kick my horse? I will kick you.

-Why do you push me? I will kill your son.

-I will sleep now. If you try to kill me I will curse your children's children.

-How long have you been a leper?

The book ends with a short section of dialogs. They also are slightly unsettling. An example:

-I have seen your yellow dog by the river.

-My dog is spotted and is scared of water.

-That spotted dog maimed my child.

-Your child is stupid and should not have provoked it.

In Rhyme

April 10, 2005

Our kid likes it when you sing, so we sing. Songs are made up on the fly... things like:

He's a chubby chubby chubby bear
He doesn't have a single single hair.
He's a chubby chubby bear,
He doesn't have a hair,
He's a chubby chubby chubby chubby bear.

(it goes on but I will spare you)

Anyway once you start doing this EVERYTHING becomes a little ditty in your head.

It's time to write my blog.
My mind is in a fog.
I should be asleep.
Why am I a freak?
Time to, time to, time to write my blog.

Quite maddening really.

John Hinde

April 9, 2005

If you feel you feel the need for some concentrated visual eye candy, head over to Dumbo and check out a show of John Hinde's work at Wessel + O'Connor Fine Art at 111 Front Street. Hinde was apparently a postcard photographer for English Holiday resort camps. His deep focus minutely detailed images are gorgeous and weird and worth seeing blown up. The phrase that came to mind while viewing was "Hieronymus Bosch, but jolly and English, and at camp." A book of his work is available on Amazon, it's called Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight (a large sign at one of the resorts).

A review of Hinde's work can be found here. Many Hinde links can be found on I like John Hinde.

running errands

April 9, 2005

Has anyone noticed the odd little mosaic of the bat hat at the 23rd St. N & R? Does anyone know the story?

The station is decorated with blowing hats, an homage to a time when the Flatiron Building (which is just outside) was the one of the tallest buildings in town. Back then the building's triangular shape and exposure to 2 broad Avenues caused great gusts of wind to blow away hats (and blow ladies skirts up over their heads). The windiness gave rise to the term "23-skidoo" which described the hotfooting women covering their skirts and men chasing their hats. As the other buildings grew in size, the winds vanishished, but the term 23-skidoo stuck around until the 60's. But again, I digrees, so what's the deal with the bat hat?

I'm not sure what was going on here:

Tall skinny buildings like this, like frighten me a bit:

Always nice to see the Statue of Liberty on the way home:

. . .
Our baby is 4 months old today. He took his shots smiling. Literally. I felt proud. Tough little bastard.

Mexican Lullaby

April 8, 2005

My grandfather always sang this one to me:

Mira la luna
Comiendo su tuna;
Echando las cáscaras
En la laguna.

Aquel caracol
que va por el sol
en cada ramita
llevaba una flor
que viva la gala
que viva el amor
que viva la concha
de aquel caracol.

. . .

and while we're on the subject of the moon.... Luz de luna


April 7, 2005

I stepped outside this morning for a short walk and had the strangest sensation... couldn't put my finger on it... and then about halfway down the block I realized, for the first time in months I'm outside in a t-shirt without a coat on. Trees were budding. Birds singing. All the cliches. After years in LA, a city without weather, I was experiencing spring and it felt almost too good to be true.


April 7, 2005

need I say more...

flickr favorites

April 6, 2005

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that flickr was rotating in my favorites on their homepage (favorites are images from other photographers that I have marked). My guess was that they rotated in people's favs at random, but someone emailed me today (asking if I had done anything to be featured. [answer = no]) and I was surprised to see my favs still up. Apparently there are about 6 versions of the homepage which they rotate each time you click. My picks are on one of the 6. The current set of pages has been up about a month. Pretty cool. So check out some of my favorite photographers. You won't be sad.

Frederick Barbarosa

April 6, 2005

For some reason all this talk of the conclave electing a new pope has reminded me of a book I read in high school. Set in the time of Frederick Barbarosa the Holy Roman Emperor when there were rival popes, it follows a group of Robber Knights (unlanded German knights, who preyed on merchant travelers) on an adventure north where they encounter a group of Asian barbarians. The thing about the book that struck me is that these Robber Knights all thought of themselves as ruthless characters (they would often leave merchants nude and penniless by the side of the road), but the barbarians were infinitely more cruel. They would castrate their enemies and leave them nailed to a tree by their tongues. There is this great shift in the book as the hunters become the hunted. Anyway I don't remember the title, so it's neither here nor there.

As an aside, I always found it amusing that Frederick Barbarosa managed to unite the German tribes, captured Rome, and brokered the peace of Constance but drown in a river after he fell off his horse while wearing full armor.

google maps

April 5, 2005

Just when you thought google maps was almost perfect, they went and added something else totally cool: Satellite photography. And of course google being google, you can drag the sat images just like you can the maps. Unlike Microsoft owned Terraserver which is arcane/buggy/ugly, this just works.

Super super cool. And it was all done using good old DHTML and not some proprietary MS garbage. Blogger Joel Webber did an excellent job figuring out how they did it.

This is image of our old house in LA (the dot is actually on the corner, the house and pool are behind it). The detail is fantastic. Nice to see the old pool again and the shadow of the palm tree across the road. Gosh what I would give to have one of Jenn's organic meals made from vegetables from our garden.... Or a plum from our wonderful old tree... but I digress.

homeland security

April 3, 2005

Michael Chertoff scares me.

Also why does a military jet keep flying in circles over Brooklyn.

new directors festival mini-reviews of this week's films

April 2, 2005

Le Grand Voyage- A spectacular film the kind you wish they made in Hollywood and never do. Deeply funny and moving (so moving an audience member died. No really, he was quite dead).

Junebug-Southern, sexy & mildly funny.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston- top notch documentary, also really moving (I got choked up), but I'm biased, I love Daniel Johnston and the director is a cool guy.

South of the Clouds- WTF? Maybe I'm too dumb to understand but this film seemed like a meaningless mish-mosh. Couldn't wait for it to finish.

Starlit High Noon- This film obviously influenced by Wong Kar Wai is slow and beautiful . 3 people in love with the wrong person.

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