Tibetan Skull

March 17, 2005

I own two Tibetan skulls. Both were at one time used for blood ritual. One was bought by my dad in Venice from a Tibetan ethnographer who travelled in Tibet in the 50's. The other was given to me by a monk in a monastery in Dege in 1992 after I pointed it out as a match to the one my dad found. An artist named Benedict Carpenter does drawings based on descriptions of things. He then posts the results on the net. I submitted a description of the skull and he came back with this drawing. Surprisingly accurate considering the description.

Edward Tufte

March 16, 2005

I had dinner a few nights ago with Jakob Lodwick of College.Humor.com and Busted Tees fame. I think he's on to something big with his new project vimeo.com. It's ahead of the curve, and very unfinished, but when video phones finally take off here as they have in Japan this site is going to break out. Our dinner topic was metadata and content tagging, a subject I've been sort of obsessed with for a long time. Just talking out loud about this stuff forced me to organize my thoughts and Jakob had some interesting insights that have kept my brain charged for days. I've started to write a small manifesto which I will be posting with a wiki-type interface at some point in the future. If this subject is compelling to you, check out: Folksonomies. And be sure to go through all the links in the references.

Anyway none of that was the point of this post. I was surprised that Jakob had never heard of Edward Tufte and in polling some other design/web friends of mine who are Jakob's age, I found they had also never heard of the guy. Tufte has written 3 of the best books out there about the visual display of information, all written pre-web. The must-have books are The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations. If you are a designer or web person, you need these books on your bookshelf. While the titles are dry, the text is not and the books themselves are a delight, full of graphically interesting illustrations. Find them cheap on half.com.

Tio Raul

March 13, 2005

This is my Tio Raul on one of his ranches near Paras, Nuevo Leon in Mexico. The picture is circa 1984 right before he died. He was tough and many people were more than a little scared of him. He would always refer to me as a criminal or as that "no good" "gringo viejo".

One of his ranches had a big orange orchard. I would travel out there with him in the back of his truck (along with the dogs) and once we arrived I would go deep into the orchard and climb one of the trees. At lunch he would come out and try to find me. This was never difficult as the dogs always slept under my tree, but he would make a show of it, cursing my name while I tried to sit very very still. Eventually he would spy me and shout at me while I would laugh hysterically. Then he would say, "I guess you have to eat." and throw up tacos wrapped in foil. He would sit under the tree and eat his lunch keeping me company. I would ask long questions from up in my perch. He would respond with short gruff answers. Afterwards he would toss me a pocketknife so I could cut some oranges and mutter that only monkeys liked trees so much. Then he would go finish his work and I would stay up in the tree the rest of the afternoon reading and daydreaming...

I miss that world sometimes. I miss the long ride in the back of a dusty pickup. I miss the smell of orange trees on a hot day. And I miss being cursed and called "el gringo viejo" by my Tio Raul.

2 Years Ago Today

March 9, 2005

We needed to be legally married in advance of our Mexican wedding. So we drove to Vegas in the Mini and got ourselves hitched. We expected the drive through service to be silly... it ended up being kind of emotional. I'll admit we both teared up.

I feel this way too sometimes.

March 9, 2005

It is some ungodly hour. I hear screaming outside and go to the window. There is an elegant older woman wearing a long dark coat with a hood standing in the middle of Sidney Place braying at the trees. She catches sight of me in the lit window, throws back her head, and lets out a deep howl that sends chills up my spine. Then she runs towards Joralemon her coat flapping like a cape in the wind. She is silhouetted against the snowy streets and runs until out of frame. I hear her screams fade in the distance and decide it is definitely time for bed.

And they say nothing interesting happens in Brooklyn Heights.


March 8, 2005

My friend Julien (above) is enmeshed in a debate with his girlfriend about the value of having kids. He just doesn't think you can have kids and have an ounce of punk rock soul left over. To this debate I would like add this portrait of young Lila B sent to me today by her dad.

Little House

March 7, 2005

Date unknown:



One of the first homes that jumped out at me when I moved to Brooklyn Heights was 135 Joralemon. In an orderly neighborhood it is neglected. Then in January it was boarded up and now it is abandoned. I pass the house every day and virtually every day it makes me stop in my tracks. It evokes The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I've been a fan of Burton's work as long as I can remember. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was an early favorite, as was Choo choo: the Runaway Engine, but the story that most fascinated was The Little House which I knew as La Casita (one of the few children's books in my grandparent's house in Mexico). It's the story of a house built in a the country that gets swallowed up by the big city. I was compelled by that idea and still am.

A bit of research shows a house at 135 Joralemon was listed as "longstanding" in a survey done in 1830. Most of Brooklyn was rural back then with large wooded tracts, creeks, and farms. In the 1820's developers started building heavily in Brooklyn Heights with Federalist style rowhouses on 25 foot plots. It's possible 135 Jorolemon predates that first burst of development but a more likely scenario is that a house existed on the land and was torn down to build a the current rowhouse during this era. Stone and brick homes didn't appear in the neighborhood until the 1830's and 40's and it was in that era that most Federalist homes like #135 were torn town and replaced with brownstone. While this house had probably been swallowed up by it's neighbors by the mid 1800's, it's clear the owners tried to keep it up to date. The metalwork and porch date from the Civil War when these 'southern style' details were in vogue. The earliest photo I could find was labeled 1870 (although there is some doubt as to the date) showing the house much as it is today, although obviously in much better shape. By the 1930's it was already looking run down and slightly haunted (the picture from that era shows a "for sale" sign outside). Today the house seems abandoned. I know it won't happen, but part of me wishes it could be put on a truck and sent out to the countryside where it could breath again.

Nomadic Museum

March 5, 2005

I spotted the Nomadic Museum today on my way uptown and had to stop. The museum/exhibition opens tomorrow. I know I'll be visiting first chance I get. The museum is only here until June when it will head to LA.

NY Public Library Digital Archive

March 4, 2005

If you are a New Yorker (or just someone who loves New York) with any sense of history, check out the NY Public Library Digital Image Archive. It's a treasure trove of amazing images.


Here's a shot of the original breathtaking Penn station before it was destroyed to make way for the colossally ugly Madison Square Garden:

I suggest you start searching by plugging in the name of the street you live on. :)

broken toe

March 3, 2005

I'm pretty sure I've broken my toe. It's purple and is unnaturally large. This is less than ideal as we're having a party for about 40 people this weekend. I've gotten weaker in my old age. A few years ago I broke a toe while trekking and just kept on walking (didn't really have another option). Right now this stupid thing has me nearly incapacitated. How did I break it you ask? While running to get a camera I almost tripped over my new ukulele and put the full weight of my body on my big toe. It made a nice crunching sound. Ignominious. Grrrrrr. Happily the uke was spared.
. . .
Seems like one of those days. My dad just called to say his wallet was stolen while boarding a bus.

Mrs. Yunisms

March 2, 2005

A quote from Jenn's mom, "Don’t let anyone stay at the house more than one week. Even me. I only stay one week, maximum two weeks."


March 1, 2005

For some odd reason last night in my cold-induced dream I was recalling one of my 2 trips to Cambodia. The first in 1991, the second in 1992 or 93. This was back before the political situation was stable and there was always the sense that danger lurked just around the corner. Ankgor Wat was empty back then, the domain of former Khmer Rouge soldiers, pythons, and rather unfriendly spiders. When you visited you were always alone... In the dream all the giant heads on the statues were whistling 'Yes We Have No Bananas' as I tiptoed through an unmarked minefield. Creepy.

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything... but there it is.

around town

February 27, 2005

amongst strangers on the train:

ada (on left) & raul. due the same day. born a week apart in the same hospital:


February 24, 2005

On the left, my grandmother Olivia Aurora. She was 13.
In the middle my great grandfather Jose Dolores. On the right my grandfather Rodolfo. My grandfather was 18 and tired of being a cowboy. During this year, as he had since he was 12, he would ride cattle to Monterrey with his brothers. In Monterrey they would be paid in gold and each of the brothers would hide coins to protect against robbery.

After Christmas this year he left for New York City by bus starting from Roma (now Rome) Texas.

In New York he would enjoy two exciting years which he would talk about for the rest of his life. After he left in 1929 he never returned.


February 23, 2005

My dad and Magda left for Spain today. They'll be gone a few months. We'll miss them.

Jenn and the baby on the R.

rules to live by

February 22, 2005

In the margins of a book I never finished reading I listed a manifesto of sorts, 100 rules to live by. The date was March 18, 1992. I won't bore you with all 100, but many years later the list would pretty much the same although the order would be somewhat different. Here are the top 10 by my 25 year old self.

1. Travel someplace that scares you.

2. Paint your walls even if it's not allowed. White is for sanitariums and prisons.... unless you are one of those people really really into white. Then explore the color white, there are endless shades.

3. Have mysterious projects.

4. Keep a journal. Write some of what you did...ie the facts of your life, but more importantly write how you experienced it.

5. Take more pictures than you think you need to. You're already older than you were a moment ago.

6. Vary your route. The most interesting stuff is around the corner.

7. Keep secrets (but on quiet nights after many years tell the person you love).

8. Don't worry about traffic.

9. Zero your debt.

10. There is more tragedy in the world than you know, but there is also more beauty. Do not ignore tragedy. Accept it, but accept joy with equal intensity.

6 months

February 21, 2005

We have been back in NY almost 6 months now. It feels like much longer (but in a good way). Rain is falling on the snow and everything is mushy. This was the view from the stoop last night:

Here is a picture from 6 months and a few days ago when the world was greener.

It's in that little park in the East Village on Houston St.

Duke of Uke

February 20, 2005

With my new ukulele my great hope is that I can learn a few songs and be 1/10 as cool as the Duke of Uke. Make sure to listen to his cover of Anarchy in the UK.

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