Proper Attire

May 10, 2006

As I'm on a digital archive kick, check out these early Korea photographs from the New York Public Library's digital gallery. I found them while doing research for my wife's secret web project. The first is labeled "Woman's correct street costume-1906". The second is labeled "trial" with a date in the 20's although it looks to be earlier.


Bloodlines

May 9, 2006

When I become friends with someone I am always interested in going through their family albums and looking for faces or traits that appear generation after generation. A childhood friend came from a family of women with large floppy ears and arrow straight noses. The other features would be re-arranged, but the ears and noses were on face after face. In my own family my father and I are of my grandmother's line and are marked by our noses, and expressive eyebrows (my son has the eyebrow as well, but so far seems to be of Jenn's dad's line) whereas my brother is of my great grandfather's line of tall men with of strong chins. Some photographic evidence below. The images below are of my great grandfather, my grandfather, my uncle, and my brother.

Whose face do you carry?

Lisa's Seutonius Series

May 8, 2006

Tonight I discovered the blog of Lisa Eisenbrey and I did something I rarely do which is read it all the way through. (Hello there Lisa if you happen to be reading this, you made me a) laugh b) miss Austin). The whole blog is great, but I was particularly taken by her Seutonius series (Caesar V, Caesar IV, Caesar III, and Caesars I & II) which distills The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius into amusing lists. (More on Suetonius at livius.org).

Often historians interpret these emperors' erratic actions as madness or inbreeding and of course that was sometimes undoubtedly what was going on, but my thought is this: Is it possible to look at the lives of these some of these emperors and not see madness, but a kind of extreme logic born of a life in which you are told you are a living god ruling over the known world. Aren't many of the extravagences and cruelties of these men simply the capricious whims of the id unchecked by the ego? Don't all ugly bald men like Caligula secretly want to kill the handsome well coifed men they encounter?

Petty Booka

May 6, 2006

AAARRRRRGGGGG!!!!! Tragedy! I missed Petty Booka's recent New York gig. I fell totally in love with the Booka girls years ago when I heard them sing My Baby Don't Dance To Nothing But Ernest Tubb at the Silverlake Lounge. Sigh I suppose I'll just have to put Ukulele Lady in heavy rotation and resolve to be more vigilant about concert dates.

Document

May 5, 2006

The "spy page" of my mother's address book, circa 1956 when she was 11 years old. She was D.M. The guy she liked was L.S., aka Leonard Stango. Stango is a fairly unusual name and a little searching around reveals a Leonard Stango of my mom's age in Corona, NY which is one of the places my mom lived as a kid. There is a another Leonard a few years younger than me in the same location. Did he stay there, marry and have a son? I've often thought about calling and seeing if he remembers anything about my mom as her childhood is a blank to me. But then of course I would have to explain her death which would be difficult and perhaps an unfair thing to put her childhood sweetheart... would I be unfairly disturbing his memory? Anyway I've never done it... but perhaps I will one day.

The City at Night

May 4, 2006

I walked home to Brooklyn from Central Park South tonight... about 6 miles. The city was rainy and quiet and strange. Even the rain was preternaturally misty, a downpour without raindrops. In front of Rockefeller Center a woman with a red cape brushed past, soon after a man leading a white horse walked against traffic up Fifth Avenue. Through the window of the empty 24-hour Macdonalds (the one in front of the Empire State Building) a worker stared up at a framed painting of whales in outer space in rapt contemplation. Whales in outer space is the theme of the restaurant; anything to sell a burger I guess. Oblivious to the rain, three men in tuxedos chased each other around in Madison square park and then for a long time it felt as if the sidewalks were totally empty.

On Leonard and Broadway a cab slowly followed me down the street perhaps hoping I would tire of walking, the driver blasting Arabic prayers inside. I did not slow down. A few moment later a flurry of cabs passed each one empty, each one slowing and then speeding up when I did not raise my hand. Seeing each driver I felt I could almost hear their mumbled thoughts ala Wings of Desire. But by the time I hit the Brooklyn Bridge those imagined inner dialogs went silent. The brige was deserted. By this time the rain had cleared and the clouds were hanging low over the river--and the loudest sound was that of the East River rushing by beneath.

Walking down Henry Street most of the lights in the brownstones were off save for one or two people tapping away at their computers always on upper floors. On my street a teenage couple was making out on the next stoop. I tried not to disturb them, but a jangle of my keys sent them scurrying... and now of course time to close my eyes. Good night New York. Good night.

Sergey Maximishin

May 3, 2006


I love the camera in this image from Afghanistan by photojournalist Sergey Maximishin. More images from Afghanistan from Mr. Maximishin can be found on the stories section of his website. Be sure to check out his recent North Korea set.

Where I go when I sleep

May 3, 2006

I was responding to a friend's query about Pakistan the other day when I came across this image in my files taken way back in 1991... A girl in white was standing in the foreground but it was a long exposure and she had only paused for a moment before wandering home. Not even a bit of a blur remains... so it's a failed shot, but the place often comes to me at odd hours of the night.

Consider the Lettuce Maker

May 2, 2006

In Japan most restaurants feature lifelike plastic displays of the the various items on the menu. Low end restaurants use prefabricated dishes heaped with noodles or sushi or veggies, but better restaurants will actually have their dishes custom sculpted. The realism is startling. Soups practically shimmer, rice is slightly wet as if fresh from the pot, edamame come complete with plastic fuzz. At a Mexican restaurant in Osaka a display of tortilla chips featured individually molded pieces complete with a slight dust of salt. Artificial noodles sometimes drip from their bowls onto plates. American places show hamburgers complete with individual plastic sesame seeds on the bun. I asked everyone I knew about how such individualized displays were made. "Plastic food is art and science," my friend Daiki explained. He told me of high end studios where apprentice artists worked their way up from the lowly lettuce to American food and finally to fish and octopus. "Of course only masters create delicious looking octopus."

A few years ago while in Tokyo I sought out one of the most famous studios in the Kappabashi district and managed to talk my way in. Specifically I wanted see the apprentice lettuce makers in action, and after some confusion I was led by a secretary to a big windowless room full of small desks with men and women hunched over them. Over in the back sat an old man wearing a dirty smock over a dark suit, his workspace covered with paint tins, bits of plastic, and sharp modeling knives. Several pieces of lettuce in various states of completion had been carefully positioned on a plate. Before I could get started in precise English he explained, "to you, all lettuce looks same, but variety is infinite and each piece is unique. Our competitors try to copy life perfectly which is of course impossible. They make molds. Ha! I look at these an am ashamed. We do not even look at photographs. Our employees visit restaurant, eat each dish without taking notes. Afterwards our memory is the guide. We return to eat if we forget this thing or that. For lettuce to look like lettuce or fish to look like fish it must be better than reality but it also must be imperfect. This is the most important thing. If you make things perfect of course they will look fake. Think of American women and their plastic breasts. Of course breasts are never the same size! "

I asked how long he had been making lettuce. "36 years" was the quiet answer. I asked if he ever wished to do something else (a woman nearby was putting the finishing touches on a pastry that looked like a jelly donut). Of course I am a master, once I made a snake for a Chinese restaurant so full of life it was removed from the window for scaring customers, but lettuce is my passion. I would never start an artist on lettuce. Only someone with years of experience can get it right. Our artists start with rice which not easy, rice is just as difficult as anything else, but people are easily fooled with rice. And then maybe they move on to meat. Only then do sit with me and learn lettuce."

"And then they go on to fish," I added helpfully...

"After lettuce they can do anything," he smiled.

Albert Barnes on art education

May 1, 2006

From a radio address by Albert C. Barnes on the establishment of his foundation.

"Stated in simple language, the fundamental ideas of our educational program are:

Art is not a phase of life apart from work-a-day world, to which one may turn in moments of leisure or perhaps in the name of so-called 'culture', or in a spirit of worship. In the Foundation's courses art is taken out of its usually detached, esoteric world and is linked up with life itself, because all the qualities which give painting its value are those which are found in various phases of everyday life; and art has value only because it expresses those qualities. In other worlds, 'art is a fragment of life presented to us enriched in feeling by means of the creative spirit of the artist.'

We do not teach students how to paint, for that would be like teaching an injured person how to scream. We teach them how to learn to see; that is to perceive the meanings in events of everyday life, as well as in paintings, sculpture, music, furniture, objects in wrought iron, trees and flowers.

We try to eradicate the almost universal, bad, confusing habit of looking at a painting for what it is not intended to be - information about subject matter, reminiscence, likeness to familiar objects, etc...

We endeavor to create new habits of perception by means of objective observation of the relationship of line, light, color, and space that constitute form. We study the artist's language and how at all periods of time it has been affected by his environment in other words, we study the great traditions."

Is this kind of pragmatic idealism dead in today's world? Haven't thought about it enough to straighten out my thoughts but there it is, some food for thought.

More about the Barnes foundations in this episode of Weekend Edition aired a few years ago. On an stranger note it is said that Barnes' ghost still wanders the halls of the galleries he built.

Upper West Side

April 30, 2006

Our dinner conversation with friends last night went something like this:

Annabel: You have a blog? I don't think I've actually read a blog. What do you put in it?

Me: Do you remember listening to college radio shows? They were usually just some girl or some guy putting stuff out there that they found kinda cool. I try to make my blog like that.

Annabel: Didn't some girl get a book deal from a blog writing about her sex life?

Jenn: Raul's blog isn't like that. He mainly writes about our life.

Rob: But why would anyone find the things you say interesting?

Me: I have no idea.
.....
(a bit later after Rob and Annabel have bestowed godparenthood on another guest, Albert, who as it turns out is already the godfather to 5 including one of his sister's kids.)

Me: I don't really think that's right. I mean a sister is already an aunt. The whole point of godparents is that you are reaching outside of the family. An uncle is an uncle already.

Rob: I disagree. My godfather was my uncle and there was something special between us. He really looked out for me. I'm especially fond of him. My parents friends came and went.

Me:But maybe they wouldn't have if they were godparents... My godfather has been my dad's friend since they were 6. He taught me how to grill steaks and roast a pig.

Albert: My godfather was just the best guy...

Annabel: My godmother killed herself.

[a long pause...]

Me: You see. That's perfect, exactly the type of thing I might put on the blog. This conversation.

Annabel: So if we check in tomorrow it will be there.

Me: Hey look at the seed in your water, it just floated to the top for no apparent reason and then dropped back to the bottom like a stone.

[and so on...]

14 Year Old film

April 29, 2006

In my endless quest to reorganize the attic, I came across a rucksack with some unexposed film from the early 90s, at least 14 years old. I expected some radical color shift or fading, but the images were crisp and clear. They are from Ladakh. I am in the last frame and in it, I'm almost unrecognizable, the product of too much time on the road. I still have those boots--leather Vasques with a steel shank... possibly the best trekking boots ever. They don't make them anymore of course. Everything now is high tech-carbon fiber covered in goretex etc... but there is nothing like good old fashioned leather.

First Hour of the Day

April 27, 2006

5:45 I am poked gently in the fleshy parts of the face. I ignore this and keep my eyes closed. A small body climbs all over me.

5:55 Two tiny fingers are shoved in my nostrils.... Ok already I am awake.

5:57 We wave goodbye to mommy who disappears into the blankets, we close the door, and head upstairs.

6:02 My son has selected an apple. He is still a sleepy and keeps resting his head on me. We sit on the floor upstairs in the dim early light. Wordlessly I bite the apple and hand it to him. He bites the apple and hands it back. This continues until we are gnawing at the core. We watch the sky outside change from purple to red to orange to blue. By the time we are finished the sun has risen.

6:13 My son crawls over to a large cardboard box we have over in the corner of the room and he scoots himself in backwards. His hands reach out and close the flaps sealing it all up. He is waiting for me inside the dark box. A hand emerges from a hole in the top of the box. The fingers wave. I hear the smallest of chuckles as he detects the approach of my my footsteps.

6:20 We read. Previous favorites like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Animal Alphabet are ignored. Goodnight Gorilla is still at the top of the rotation (and why not as it keeps me amused even after a thousand reads), Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear is still a fav (the secret to effectively reading this one is to whisper what the animals are hearing). We're Going on a Bear Hunt and the simply titled Trucks are gaining favor fast.

6:36 While sitting on my shoulders Raul Andres likes to bounce a ball to the floor so that I will run and catch it. This is usually followed by a healthy bout of spinning around until everyone is dizzy.

6:45 My son plays quietly with his trucks on the floor allowing me to catch up on the news. Occasionally he'll run over to show me a particular feature of a particular truck and will then go back to zooming them around (double fisted) on the ground. We're having fun. Happy Times.

One Two Journal Project, an update

April 26, 2006

The response my little journal project has been most gratifying. In fact so many of you have signed up that it will become a Two Journal project with one book traveling roughly clockwise across the map, the other counterclockwise [red hat and yellow hat as it were for you Tibet aficionados]. If everyone does their part and sends the journal off in about a week each one should take about a year to make the full rotation. When the journal arrives on your doorstep you will find complete instructions on what do do inside. There are a couple of slots left so if you are interested email soon because once I put them in the mailing envelopes the list will be closed.

UPDATE: The project is now closed. The journals are traveling.

In which I am a bad parent...

April 25, 2006

It was raining yesterday so I headed to the Brooklyn Museum with my son. If you happen to be in the neighborhood and happen to have a toddler this is a good outing as the Brooklyn Museum is a) kind of empty b) full of interesting objects, and c) a large enclosed space in which to roam. Raul Andres delights in veering from room to room checking out the art along the way. He is particularly attracted to the European Renaissance paintings and African sculpture. The draw in both cases is simple: boobs. He pointed out each and every pair (actually triples on some of the African sculptures) for me over and over again.

At one point in the museum we encountered an escalator and something caught his eye. Right away I knew what fascinated him, not the stairs themselves, but a big red button on the bottom labeled 'push in case of emergency'. I am well acquainted with this particular class of button. When I was a 3 or 4 we lived in Houston. Mothers in 1970s Houston did not go to parks (Houston is unbearably hot, unbearably humid), they went to air conditioned department stores: Foleys, Joske's, Sakowitz or they walked around the ice skating rink in the then new Galleria. All these stores had escalators and all the escalators had those friendly red buttons labeled "Push in case of emergency".

I don't remember the first time gave into temptation, but I remember the effect. One punch and the escalator stopped short. Everyone riding up made synchronized "oooh" sounds and rumbling motor went silent... I remember a feeling washing over me--exaggerated joy coupled with fear. Nobody noticed my crime so I quickly stepped away and became very interested in my shoes. Soon every chance I could slip away from my mom (which wasn't difficult as there were 3 of us), I would scurry over to an escalator (always the up escalators so as to not be seen by people coming down) and make my move. Eventually of course, I was caught. Eventually we were all banned from Foley's. Eventually the fear of god was put into me should I ever again push one of those buttons. And one day I stopped caring passing the bottoms of escalators with only the slightest of downward glances.

So yesterday I found myself, a good 35 years later looking at my son, recognizing the want and glee in his eyes as he studied the button. Seeing him circle the obviously forbidden object I thought to myself, "Just go for it. I'll pretend I didn't see."

Brian Ulrich

April 25, 2006


I noticed an image by Brian Ulrich in a magazine some time ago. Tonight I finally tracked down his website. Of his many projects, the one titled Copia really gets me.

Via Mr. Ulrich's site I discovered Greg Stimac's work, The project titled 'Recoiled Portraits' is the vision of Americans held by most Europeans I meet these days. In polyglot Brooklyn it has the shock of the foreign and yet for me all the images are familiar. These are the Americans of my teenage years in East Texas.

One Journal Project

April 24, 2006

A few years ago I became fascinated with the 1000 Journals Project. I signed up, got my journal (Number 768), worked on it for while during a trip to Tibet, and passed it on... then after it changed hands a few times it vanished... (Damn you Matthew Skvasik!) This has always bugged me.... So today I was driving down Flatbush Avenue when I had this thought: "people from around the world read Heading East, I'm sure some of them would enjoy this sort of thing... why not start my own personal journal project both because it would be interesting and because it would be a tangible way to get to know some of you out there."

So here's the deal: if you want to participate, send an email with your name/address to >. When I get enough names/addresses I will drop the journal in the mail to the first person on the list. When you receive the journal you are asked to add something to it, ideally including at least one image of yourself, and send it on to the next person on the list within one week. If you have a digital camera send me a picture of the journal before sending it off to the next person and I will post it here. When journal has made it's way back to me I will scan and post all the images.

I'm thinking of using a small moleskin journal which should be easy to mail.

UPDATE: This project is now closed. The journals are traveling.

Things I have learned today

April 21, 2006

1. If your kid throws up (all kids spectacularly and unexpectedly throw up at some point. Our kid isn't much of a vomiter, but when he goes, it's all out) and you clean up the vomit with a towel, don't throw the towel in the laundry with other clothes, and then let the mess fester for a week or two because if you do this you will end up with an entire load of vomity smelling laundry.

2. One should never answer the question, "Hey did you take a picture of my dog?" with "You call that a dog?"

3. Even though you think you can zip out on the stoop in your boxer shorts without being seen (because it's early in the morning and who in their right mind is up at 6:00), you will invariably be seen by people you know. The embarrassment is magnified when, as you lean to pick up the paper, your 16 month old decides it would be funny to tug your boxers down causing you, in your flailing attempt to preserve dignity to twist and fall flat on your face.

4. It is not a good idea to let your son play with week old easter eggs just as he is developing his throwing skills.

5. When absentmindedly hitting your own head with a wrist guard beanbag that your wife made for you, watch out and don't swing it too hard because you might knock yourself right out of your chair.

6. Commenting on the size of another kid's head to his mother is never a good idea.

Daily Show Correspondents and Contributors on the web

April 21, 2006

John Hodgeman: his blog, his book site, drawings of his 700 Hobos here and here, hislittle grey book lectures, songs on his ipod, on the mirror project, on This American Life, in McSweeney's.

Demetri Martin: his website, on myspace, series of Slate diary entries, Gothamist interview, jokes on Wikipedia, on Letterman, Believer interview.

Ed Helms: his surprisingly dickish official site, clips from the Daily Show, CNN interview, the comical interview.

Rob Corddry: blacktable interview, suicide girls interview, his official site is screwed up, AV club interview.

Samantha Bee: Gothamist interview, on wikipedia.

Dan Bakkedahl, Nate Corddry, and Jason Jones don't have much of web presence, most of the links are for video clips from the show...

Friday Linkarama

April 20, 2006

Hard to resist Meg Whitmark's yeti art. (via Lena Corwin)

Simon Norfolk's images of Afghanistan manage to be beautiful and terrible at the same time. The Liberia set also has the same breathtaking/heartbreaking quality. (via Conscientious) Note to the graphic designer: Never take over my screen. In a gallery of photographs always provide a back button. Flash is obnoxious & pop out windows are obnoxious.

Mac users can geek out over this tour of Microsoft Mac Business Unit Lab.

The a new version of Vimeo just launched. Looking very slick. My pages here.

Nice post about marriage and other stuff by Kristen.

My wife has been loving the fabrics at reprodepot and has been busy using them to make neat stuff like a cowboy wrist rest for my computer.

Jenn is also a big fan of Saelee Oh. Her show 'I walk and rivers run' opens April 27 @ Giant Robot. I hope GR's New York store develops to be as cool as their LA homebase.

Sabrina Ward Harrison's journals are spectacular. (via Swissmiss Tina shouldn't you be busy giving birth instead of blogging!) I'm a big fan of journal art. Check the journal's and letters flickr group I created.

If you've ever hung out with Israeli girls in their 20's you've probably noticed how their army tours of duty have made them ferociously tough. Rachel Papo documents the army experience of these women. (via Kottke)

My friend Olivier Laude just relaunched his website showcasing the portraits he has been taking for the past few years. The navigation is still a bit wonky but I'm sure things will get sorted out when he's back from Panama. I hope he includes lots of his editorial work which is totally different than these portraits or his commercial work.

This video makes me want to speak to Jenn in French.

The most common Chinese characters in order of usage.

Since my Werner Herzog post may of you have emailed mentioning a big article on him in the New Yorker this week. After seeing the various documentaries about him I now hear all his interviews in that great soft German accent of his.

Enjoy the weekend. Looks to be almost summery.

ReGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow

April 20, 2006


Photo by Angela Strassheim

On Tuesday by chance I ran into Pieter Hugo the South African photographer I have mentioned on this blog. Being a fan I introduced myself and he invited me to a show he's a part of: reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow. The opening took place tonight at the Aperture Gallery. Of the 50 the photographers, the ones whose images grabbed me most included Mieke Van de Voort who shoots the homes of people who died alone, Natalie Czech's interiors, Angela Strassheim's creepy playful portraits, Jaret Belliveau's intimate family record and of course Pieter's 'hit you in the solar plexus' images from Africa.
I met several of the photographers and all turned out to be interesting folk. I was particularly impressed with Ms. Van de Voort. In a very short conversation we covered topics including transformative power of death to confer meaning on objects and the loneliness of children. An email she wrote about her work can be found here. (I had a hard time finding her images online so you'll have to check out the show). Jaret Belliveau is a young soulful Canadian whose pieces in the show documented his family's struggle with cancer and it's aftermath. His current work (not in the show... he showed me his book) is equally unblinking and personal. He follows his little brother's friends through their chaotic high school years. And of course Pieter had interesting things to say about his work and his process. All in all a nice evening I enjoyed hanging out with everyone over beers. The show runs through June 22. 547 West 27th Street, 4th floor


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