Farm & Ranch News

February 1, 2006

From age 5 to 18 I lived in Lufkin, Texas. There was only one television channel. The first show of the day was Farm and Ranch News with Horace McQueen. The report always began at 6:00am sharp following the Star Spangled Banner (played over military jets) at 5:55. Abruptly the screen would change to a shot of a tiny desk in a cramped room with fake wood walls (later there were opening titles and music from a fiddle). Horace, a big man, would enter the room and sit uncomfortably behind the desk. He wore dusty western shirts and always gave the impression he had just arrived from birthing a calf. His deep bass voice projected assurance, but would always fidget. There were often technical problems with the steer report, so he would sip coffee and ruminate on the weather with lots of little observations about fishing or hunting. Sometimes he would play with his string tie.

After settling in he would take off his cowboy hat at throw it onto a hook on the wall. He would do this without looking back or breaking his verbal stride. He never missed and after throwing the hat, he would start speaking faster and faster until he reached an auctioneers gait...he would talk about soil and steers and grain prices with authority and passion. He seemed to know a lot about how the world worked.

It always bothered me that I could not see his eyes. He wore those glasses that turned brown in bright light, and the studio lights made the lenses really dark. Once he took off his glasses to wipe his brow and his eyes looked older and more confused than I had imagined. For years he was held an important place in my imagination, not because his reports had any bearing on my life, but because my brothers and I would watch because there was nothing else on and because cartoons would follow his show. His patter became part of the rhythm of our lives and even today I miss the conviction and joy of his weather reports. Cable arrived to my town in 1985 just as I was leaving for college. The town changed. Now with CNN, MTV, and 24 hour cartoon channels I can't imagine that anyone watches old Horace any more. The last time I checked a few years ago he had been moved to UHF 37. It must be lonely over there but I don't think Horace minds. I'm sure he's always awake before sunup and I doubt he ever misses that hook on that fake wood wall.

2.8 Interview

January 30, 2006

I recently did an interview with Michael David Murphy of whileseated.org for his 2point8 project, a blog on the act of photography (as opposed the photographs themselves). Mr. Murphy is a thoughtful guy and his questions made me put into words ideas that rarely make it out of my head. The interview can be found at 2point8.whileseated.org. And stay tuned because he has new interviews with much more interesting photographers than myself coming up.

Seth Thompson

January 29, 2006

Tonight I attended an opening for Seth Thompson at my friend Nelson's gallery in Dumbo. Mr. Thompson's show is titled "Interiorismo Popular" and features images of Mexican homes and churches taken with a 6x7 camera and natural light. Beautiful work. This image of a church was one of my favorites as it reminds me very much of the church in which Jenn and I were married. Don't judge the image by the website jpeg which is washed out. In person these photographs are spectacular. The show will be up until March so I recommend heading over to Dumbo to check it out.

update: Another Seth Thompson link. (annoyingly also with washed out jpegs!). Mr. Thompson your work is fantastic make some better scans!

Having a Kid Does Strange Things to Your Internal Dialog

January 27, 2006

Bears in the kitchen
Bears in the den
Bears take over
Now and again.

Bears love honey
Bears love trout
Bears day in
Bears day out.

Bears Bears Bears

Bears on the subway
Bears in the tree
Bears in traffic
On the BQE,

Bears Bears Bears

Bears on their tummies
Bears on the phone
Bears on safari
In the land unknown.

Bears got rhythm
Bears got game
Bear in the mirror
One and the same.

Bears Bears Bears

Bears slip away
Bears disappear
Bears gotta sleep
Until next year.

Sleep sleep sleep.
The bears go to sleep.
Snuggle up. Snuggle up.
Zzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzz. Zzzzzz.

Places I've Lived

January 25, 2006

Places I've lived for more than one month (in the order they first appear, repeated cities asterisked):

Monterrey, Mexico *******
San Antonio, Texas
Houston, Texas
Lufkin, Texas ****
Burnet, Texas ***
Cuernavaca, Mexico
Princeton, New Jersey ****
Austin, Texas
Boston, Massachusetts
Eastbourne, England
Oxford, England
Shanghai, People's Republic of China
New York, New York ***
Amagansett, New York
Leh, India
Jaisalmer, India
Hanoi, Vietnam
Phenom Pehn, Cambodia
Langmusi, People's Republic of China
Beijing, People's Republic of China *
Ulaan Batar, Mongolia
Prague, The Czech Rebublic
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Los Angeles, California ***
Beverly Hills, California
Paris, France
Santa Monica, California
Orlando, Florida
West Hollywood, California
San Francisco, California
Brooklyn, New York

Seydou Keita

January 23, 2006

A few months ago I posted a link to some of Sedou Keita's (the great Malian photo studio photographer) work. Last weekend the New York Times ran a long story on Mr. Keita and the convoluted tale of how his photographs went from being small images meant to be mailed to rural families in Africa to wall sized images sold in the Gagosian Gallery.

The Undivided World

January 21, 2006

They say a child doesn't realize he is a separate being from his mother until a few months after birth. And considering the child lived inside her, his brain bathed in hormones that produce a constant state of ecstasy, this makes perfect sense. There is no time in there--just the dimmest twilight, the loud machinery of the mother's body, muffled noise from outside, and the occasional poke. For the longest time, she is everything. And then the world divides.

Suddenly cold and bright and in pain, outside is too much, so the newborn reverts to the one source of comfort, warmth, and food he knows. He has eyes only for his mother and he stay like this while his body and brain catch up to the endless want... Want with a capital W.... He notices little, smiles little, but his brain is crackling with activity. Eventually after what seems like an eternity of sleep his eyes, ears, and brain are ready, and then one day, suddenly, he notices there are other people and the child smiles.

Later there are animals and plants and the hundred hundred other things that must be noticed and cataloged for the first time: the smell of snow, lizards on the windowsill, asparagus. With each classification the known universe cleaves. The impossible becomes possible. One day he is immobile, the next he is crawling. By the end of the first year he is naming things and testing every corner of his world. (Our son has just become aware of of the concept of "underneath" so as he makes his way around the house he now throws himself on his belly and checks the below each and every couch, chair, and desk because you never know what might be under there.)

In college one summer I worked for a professor of Ethology. He had names for so many things. Bumblebees were bombus terrestris, Honeybees were apis florea, and leafcutting bees were megachile rotundata. A monkey was not a monkey, but a marmoset, a tamarin, or a Barbary ape. An unknown bug would cause him to stop in his tracks like a pointer, his brain running furiously in the search for the unnamed. I was thinking about the professor today and about how he was always looking to destroy his previous understanding and redefine his field. I think as we grow older it becomes harder and harder to do this. We get comfortable with our knowledge and stop naming new things.

My wife studied hermeneutics in graduate school and as is common with people of that discipline she occasionally gets into moods where we discuss the "so what's" of life. I don't know what the answer is for her. But for me it's not terribly complicated. Being a traveler I know the first time I step foot on some unexplored territory will also most likely be my last. And even if I visit again everything will have changed in the interim. This is true of so many things, of friendship, of love, of death... So the important thing is not to hold onto that moment, but to be in it and let it change you, to let the world divide.

Artist Portraits

January 18, 2006

I remembered this portrait of Mark Ryden when reading this essay on artist portraits in the Village Voice. I've seen Ryden in person a couple of times and he was always somewhat non-descript. The portrait tries to create mythology... and perhaps it is successful because now when I see a Ryden image I instantly picture of him in his studio by that portrait of Lincoln... Similarly while reading the article I could only think of one or two iconic images for each artist mentioned. For me the same is true for musicians whether they be Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, or the Cramps. For each, one photograph eclipsed all others creating an indelible image in my head. This holds true in the personal sphere... My Tia Elva will forever be in her flowing wedding dress, her stern rancher husband standing uncomfortably behind her... I wonder if, in this age where digital images are so cheap, where so much of our lives are catalogued, whether this phenomenon still holds true... Perhaps our own personal iconic images are just that, the pixel icons we use onscreen to represent ourselves... Sad really. They seem so small.

We all want to be Hikikomori sometimes

January 16, 2006

Everyone I know seems to be talking about this weekend's New York Times article about Japan's Hikikomori. This phenomenon has been widely covered on the Web. Watashi in Tokyo provides some context and links to a good BBC article as well as Hikikomori blog (love the Hikikomori ascii art).
Few articles show juse how demonized the hikikomori have become in Japan. They are portrayed in Japanese popular culture as evil hackers and violent misfits.

Anyway it's an interesting phenomenon... even aljazeera.net is writing articles about it. Some other links: A quicktime documentary, a Japan Times article, a pdf research paper, and a site studying the phenomena. That's probably enough hikikomori for now... What's missing from all these are good photographs of hikikomori in their rooms... Project perhaps?

Teddy Roosevelt Recording

January 12, 2006

I was looking for this song about Teddy Roosevelt, when I happened upon a recording of the man's voice. I would have thought he had a big booming voice instead he sounds like this... (From the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.) Taft's voice is oddly modern sounding.

Other recordings of early presidents:

Franlkin Delano Roosevelt
Herbert Hoover
Calvin Coolidge and also here
Warren Harding
Woodrow Wilson
William McKinley
More Teddy Roosevelt
More Taft
Grover Cleveland
Benjamin Harrison

and that's about as far back as it goes, nothing for Chester Arthur, "Elegant Arthur", one of the great etceteras of the American Presidency. Hard to believe a man with such fine mutton-chops would be completely forgotten today.

Update: My friend Hal had sent a link to an early Lenin recording.... (there are many early recordings on this site via Free Information Society)

Year in Cities, 2005

January 12, 2006

Following the example of Hanna and Kottke:

New York City *
Brooklyn *
North Wales, PA *
Philadelphia
Monterrey, MX *
Catorce de Real, MX *
Lufkin, TX *
San Francisco
Menlo Park
Beijing, PRC *
Chengdu, PRC *
Lhagang, PRC
Manijiaguo, PRC
Litang, PRC *
Nyarong, PRC
Kanze, PRC *
Pelyul, PRC *
Dzongsar, PRC
Pelpung, PRC
Derge, PRC *
Dzogchen, PRC
Sershul, PRC
Zechen, PRC
Donggu, PRC
Serta, PRC
Baima, PRC
Jigzhi, CN
Aba, PRC *
Maniganngo, PRC
Oliverea, NY *
Gage, TX *

Interesting exercise... without that China trip it would have been a boring year indeed, but a new baby is a good excuse for immobility. We'll do better in 2006.

The World, pt.2

January 12, 2006

Way back in October 2004 I saw a film called The World (Shijie in Chinese) by Jia Zhangke at the New York Film Festival. The film's US tour is winding down but if you live in Philadelphia, Chicago, or NY you still have a chance to catch it (dates here). The trailer doesn't really capture the sophisticated moody feel of this film, but you get some idea of it's lovely weirdness. Of all the movies I have seen in the last 2 years this is one the few that stuck with me. The DVD will be available in February.

Gross candy ( I can't get enough of)

January 11, 2006

1. Chuckles (jenn brings them to me when I'm feeling blue)
2. Boston Baked Beans
3. Candy Corn
4. Nekko Wafers (normal)
5. Chocolate Nekko Wafers
6. Pixy Stix (always loved that Breakfast Club scene with Alley Sheedy)
7. Spice drops
8. Wax lips
9. Grape pop rocks ("entertainment for your whole mouth!" and no they did not kill Mickey).
10. Nik-L-Nips

from an old notebook, labeled "phoenix 1/10/97"

January 10, 2006

Walking in a dark forest I see a small fire burning and have the strange desire to eat it. It is an irrational desire, I know that, but the attraction is overwhelming--like a child to ice cream.

I pick up the fire and hold it in my hand and am surprised by the cold it gives off even as I see it turn my skin black. The decision to taste seems inescapable. I do so quickly with one motion forcing it down with a gulp as I would a pill. All the way home I feel it in my stomach, but I feel ok.

In the bath I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My stomach glows, it’s now hot to the touch. A cold shower does nothing to control the problem. My skin steams.

Lying in bed I can feel the fire spreading throughout my body and in the stillness of the night, I hear it. The fire is louder than my heartbeat and breathing combined. My arms are starting to glow as are my legs. Then the hands. Remember when you, as a child, would hold a flashlight to your palm and look at your bones through the other side? It looked like that. I am sweating.

Flame bursts through my fingertips and then in an instant I am engulfed in an inferno. I am inside the fire. Oddly, I feel no pain, but worried about the house I run to the middle of the yard.

My skin sloughs off in large hunks. I fall. The fire burns through my muscles and innards until I am just bones. At this point I just want it to stop. The agony is more emotional than physical, but it is agony. The noise and smell are overwhelming. But even the bones burn. They separate; lose their form; and slowly I turn to dust.

The dust burns. I wonder how I can still feel. Is this what you mean when you talk of the soul? I ponder. Time passes impossibly slowly, but the fire will not die. Strange people live in my house, then new people, then more, then too many to count. At some point, without noticing how, the house is gone. The neighborhood is gone. Trees have grown up all around. I am in a deep forest… waiting.

Daisy Hill Puppy Farm

January 9, 2006

I don't think that one really becomes a New Yorker until you've been in the city long enough so that one night you go to a place you love only to find it has been turned into something else entirely in your absence. There is that strange feeling as you stand outside. You try to fool yourself into thinking that you are at the wrong address saying, "Maybe it was one block over, or maybe it was around the corner." But on some level know: the slate has been wiped clean. This experience is exaggerated by time and because I spent a full 10 years away in Los Angeles, I find myself having these moments much too often. The favorite bar with the singing waitress on 22nd, the little restaurant that served a handmade strozzapreti ragu on 77th, the hole in the wall specializing in antique maps on Mott, the saddle shop on Madison, etc, etc... Fellow Peanuts fans will understand when I call this the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm effect.

You've probably figured out by now that this happened to us tonight. We went on a trek to a favorite little Italian place where everything was made by hand and only to find another restaurant there. The other restaurant was actually pretty darn good, but throughout dinner I kept feeling sad that I would never have the original restaurant's piping hot bread. Of course we're always finding new favorite places, building new networks, but the ghosts of the missing are out there and sometimes they weigh heavy.

I was thinking about all this as we were driving home when we were hit from behind by another car on the Brooklyn Bridge onramp. Then that car was hit, and then fourth car hit that one. With each crash we were banged hard forward with increasing velocity. We were not hurt, just shaken up although the woman behind us was not so lucky. She was taken to the hospital. Two of the cars involved were totaled.

The first impact was a shock, no time for anything, but in the seconds between the subsequent bangs I had a hundred thoughts. First I was worried for my wife and baby who were in the back getting thrown forward with each smash. Then I was trying to remember what to do (I eased off the brakes to let car move with the impacts). Then I was thinking about the people in the cars behind us because i could see that they were violently shattered. In the middle of that flurry of thoughts in the uncertainty of how bad it might or might not be for a brief moment I thought about how people and places come in and out of our lives every day and how holding on to the past too tightly might be a mistake because tomorrow we might be the ones who are missing and there is too much to do in the meantime.

So it's my birthday...

January 6, 2006

As I noted last year, my birthdays tend to pass uneventfully. Of course there were exceptions. When I was in the fifth grade my mom surprised me by gathering up my entire 5th grade class in the early morning. They surrounded my bed, as I slept and woke me with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. This would have been wonderful had I not been sleeping in the altogether.

My seventh grade party was also pretty good. We took over the Lufkin Skates Roller Rink Ranch and a kid named Mickey broke his arm while doing the roller limbo. I was kissed behind the rink by a girl named Pam (a fact which later led to my first real fight) and one of the older girl's boobs fell out of her shirt while roller discoing. It was a grand time.

But perhaps my most memorable birthday was the actual day I was born. Every year in certain parts of Mexico old footage of that day is played on the local news because on that January 6th it started snowing and the snow continued for 3 days. Snow in Dallas or Detroit would be no big deal, but in the state of Nuevo Leon snow was unheard of. Any snow would have been memorable, three feet was just unimaginable. The snowfall was the first in recorded memory and everyone went a little nuts. My mom always remembered it like this (from one of her letters back then):
[a little background, my mom was just learning Spanish and was in Mexico with my dad's family. He was in Vietnam. finishing his tour of duty]
It was very early maybe four or five am. I half sleeping, tired from the birth. Baby Raul was next to me in an bassinet, when a nurse came in the room saying "nieve, nieve!". I didn't understand. I said "no, no nieve." Nieve is the word for ice cream in Mexico and I didn't want ice cream. "No no" I kept saying. But she wouldn't stop pulling my arm. I was getting angry "No. Quiero dormir" but she wouldn't take no for an answer. I didn't want to leave the baby so I picked him up and the three of us shuffled to the window. Then I saw it. I saw the snow pouring from the sky in big fluffly flakes like it does at home New York. I felt it was all for me. For us. For me and the baby. A Christmas present. I stood there and for the first time began crying. Good tears. The baby looked at me with big eyes as if to say, don't cry, it will be ok and I knew that we would be ok. I stayed at the window all morning long.



boombox

January 5, 2006

A few months ago I posted this image on flickr:

Then today I received this email:

hi. recently, i came across your Flickr photo sets while searching for pictures of boomboxes. i'm a boombox collector, and a member of a community of avid collectors/enthusiasts. i was wondering if perhaps you had any other pictures of the man with the boomboxes powered by the battery? the red boombox is very strange, and i don't think any of us have seen one like it before. it has piqued everyone's interest. :)

Boombox enthusiasts? A trip to inquisitor and I found Pocket Calculator, an online boombox museum. This led to a gutterslide, a site about a PC modded out to look like a boombox and stereo2go a boombox message board with discussions such as "Boombox sightings in TV/Film/Print". Inevitably there is a Japanese store that sells nothing but vintage boomboxes. How is it that the Japanese manage to have such great design sense? I mean what other country has such beautiful manhole covers? But I digress...

UPDATE: After writing this post I was reminded of another picture from this summer. I had wandered up to a nomad tent and all the kids wanted their picture taken. But just as I was about to take the picture, the oldest girl stopped me. She ran into the tent and pulled out her boombox. This was the final image:

Jan 2 1998

January 2, 2006

Two shots from my old webcam taken on this date in 1998. These were in Los Angeles at the house I shared with 3 friends on Lincoln Terrace.


Hello 2006

January 1, 2006

2006? Already? Seems impossible. Wasn't it just yesterday that I wrote an entry dated 1/1/05? I'm not sure I'm ready for 06. Hell, I'm not sure I was ready for O5. In fact the last year I was really comfortable with was 02. 06 seems like the future. But the future isn't really working out the way we expected is it? My kid doesn't know any of this. His days are still unburdened by time or thoughts of what could be or what might have been. He really enjoys eating oranges. Hard to explain how very much he enjoys them. The pure joy. Right now the only thing that compares is climbing up and down the stairs. Climbing is happy time... but no, right now at least, oranges rule...epecially Clementines. For him the future will be 2100 or 2200 which is funny because neither of those dates seem as far away as 2000 was from 1980. But here we are. 2006.

Here are ten free wishes for you:

I wish someone whispers you a secret for your ears only.
I wish you a good night's sleep being held by the person you love the most.
I wish a new song so good it makes you get up and dance on the first listen.
I wish you find forgotten money (at least a twenty!).
I wish you read a book that changes your life.
I wish a stranger will say something to you that will make your day.
I wish you do somthing you always wanted to do but never thought you could.
I wish you see a falling star.
I wish you a foot massage.
I wish you love for something as much as my son loves oranges.


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