Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Curator



I went to this show with Q sometime around the turn of the century.  I took this photo with my old Voigtlander rangefinder.  I think I will quit posting my own photographs here and use the photographs by others from now on.  I am disappointed about everything at the moment.  I am not getting good feedback on my creative life and think it might be better done in secret to be revealed only after my death.  I'm tired of the world and tired of expecting anything good to come from it.  I'll be a curator here.  I will reveal a wonderful world to you without any cost to my own psyche.  I'm tired of arguing my case.  It costs me too much.

I took this picture, though, somewhere back in time.  Now I'll go and begin my collection, though my choices will probably get me into trouble, too.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Literalism



Used up a week's worth of photos in yesterday's post.  Don't know when I'll get to make more.  I was on my scooter when I saw this stuffed dog hanging out of a garbage can in front of a house in a row of houses that obviated the lives within.  I wanted the picture, but knew the types and knew that I risked drawing some very big ire.  Still, it's not like I am in Syria or Iraq.  A man with a camera, though, is a very suspicious thing.  I parked the scooter and reached into my bag as a neighbor with a blower stared at me with that dirty bearded, dixie-capped, hard gaze of the secretive and suspicious.  Quick, I thought, but he was walking toward me.  I was waiting for the neighbors to start pouring out of their houses into their sandspur lots.  Rather, I was not waiting, and I looked the fellow in the eye with certainty as I got back on my scooter.  It was probably the scooter that confused him.

It's not much of a picture, and I am learning.  I mean it is just too literal.  I should have looked at the design possibilities rather than the subject, but shit, with T-Bone breathing down my neck. . . .

Still, it is a lesson learned.  Aesthetic vision is learned through practice.

And I need to think more metaphorically, too.  This pup isn't even symbolic, it's just garbage.

Oh, well.  I liked a number of the pictures I posted yesterday.  I should have saved a few.




Sunday, March 25, 2018

March




I didn't go to the play or to the hog calling yesterday.  Rather, I went to the March to End Gun Violence.  Ili said the play was o.k. and my mother told me the hog calling was a bust.  Now, as I am sure you know, I am a liberal, but group activities are not my idea of a good time, and I find that the voice of the masses is often confused.  That is not to say that I am pro-gun.  I hate the NRA as much as anyone, and I don't own guns.  I dislike gun culture and hunting by people who buy their food at the grocery store.  I shot a gun once when I was in high school.  My father and I took a trip back to Ohio where he grew up, and we went rabbit hunting with my cousins.  We were in a mowed corn field that was covered in snow.  I was given a .22 caliber rifle that used to be my father's, I was told.  I'd never shot a gun before and nobody gave me any instructions.  I was on the end of a line of hunters who walked through the cornfield scaring up rabbits.  One ran in front of me and I swung my rifle around after him.  Everybody hit the ground as he rant through them.  Oops.  A bit later, a rabbit ran out front and I took aim and fired.  The gun came apart in my hands, the stock separating from the barrel so that it came up and hit me in the forehead.  I was done.  I've never shot a gun again.



I'm sure I could, though.  I am a natural athlete.  I am also a hippie, though, trained in the ways of peace and nonviolence.  That was much more to my liking.  It was more fun.



Ili asked me about the march and wanted me to explain what the kids were asking for.  I gave a vague, inarticulate explanation.  So this morning, I went looking through the Times to find the answer.  This is what I got:

The young people delivered an anguished and defiant message: They are “done hiding” from gun violence, and will stop at nothing to get politicians to prevent it. 
The most powerful, and impassioned, moments came from the surviving students of the Parkland shooting, who declared themselves angry, impatient and determined to stop the slaughter. 
“Today, we march,” Ms. Tarr said. “We fight. We roar. We prepare our signs. We raise them high. We know what we want, we know how to get it and we are not waiting any more.”
 It sounds a bit jejune, as might be expected.


Still, it is as specific, I guess, as arguments on the other side.  Should we all be packing to prevent the bad guys from taking over?


There is a lot of chanting on both sides.  I am guessing, though, that both agree that shooting school kids is a terrible thing done by very bad people.


There were a lot of bumper sticker style slogans which are attention grabbers, but I am not a sloganeer.


There was much of the "either/or" argument signs.  Some were non-non-sequitors.


But before I get reamed, let me say that I am all for protecting children.  Most of you have them, and so it is very and deeply personal.  I get that.  You could see it in the crowd.  This was not a parade of children but of parental-aged marchers.  I heard much talk of the generational thing, old hippie-looking people wanting the streets filled with student protests once again.


And they were.  All across the land.  People surely felt a sense of unity.


And so I went out to try to capture the moment, the mood of the thing, the historical importance of it, for surely these are historical times.


I had my Leica with a 50mm lens attached.  For those of you who do not know, trying to capture moving things with a 50mm manual focus lens is hard.  But I've learned to zone focus and to accept a marginally focused picture and even love it.


I decided on black and white rather than color as that is what the issue has instilled in us, I think.  It is more graphic as is the issue.


I was lost in it all, trying to distill something from the moment, trying to decipher the crowd, trying to be both in and out of the thing at the same time, but over and over, I heard my name called out.  I knew many people marching, it turned out, something that unnerved me a bit as I try to stay invisible.  I was proud, however, to recognize and be recognized at such an event.  I even posed for pictures holding other people's signs.  I mean, how can you not be on the side of non-violence?


And, of course, it is always good to find a place where kids and their parents agree.  


Friday, March 23, 2018

Leicas and Hog Callers



I have an offer to trade in my Leica M262 and my Leica M Monochrom for a new Leica M10.  Oh, and I give them $1,400 cash.  The deal is really both good and bad.  I have until the end of the month to make up my mind.  I am tempted, but I don't really want to give up the Monochrom.  I do and I don't.  I will struggle with this decision for some time.  I want the new M10, though.  I feel cool when I am carrying a Leica.  That is a deep but obvious confession.  I don't feel cool with a Sony or a Canon and to a lesser extent a Nikon.  I feel kind of cool with the Fuji, but the picture quality is probably the one I like least.  There is something shallow about them, at least the cropped sensor ones that I like.  I get sick of all the things I have to do to take a picture with the Leica, settings and focussing, but still, man, it is cool.  Some people get old and buy Porsches and Maseratis, so I don't feel so bad about buying a camera.

But I don't know for sure.

I mean, I have a Vespa and a beautiful Ona bag and some expensive Italian sunglasses.  I'm decked out like a Masai tribesman when I go out.  Even in the bleakest environments, people distinguish themselves with accoutrements.  And I can't afford a Maserati.  Hell, I can't even spell it.  I had to look it up--twice!

So it is Friday and the weekend will be beautiful.  My mother and cousin said they are going to a hog calling contest on Saturday.  For real!  I asked her how she found out about it, and she said she read it in the paper.  Apparently my cousin is pretty good at it.  How in the hell do I NOT go to a hog calling contest?

Maybe I'll pick up a new personal style that doesn't involve Vespas and Italian sunglasses and expensive bags.  I've always wanted a pair of shrimp skin boots.

But now I must away.  I overslept this morning and the wrecking crew is coming to break some things in the house for me, and there is much to do to protect the most expsenivest shit, as they say.

Leicas and hog callers.  It is almost irresistible.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

For a Good Time



I can't believe that the fate of a Free America lies with a porn star and an ex-Playmate.  Oh, and a contestant on a reality t.v. show.  Mueller can't get him, but they can.  Jesus Christ.  I am fascinated and appalled.  It really is the clown fucking the monkey.  C.C. was right.

My concerns, however, are more personal.  I forgot to buy milk, and I am out.  Little things like this matter.  I try to avoid suffering.  I will not have cereal this morning.  I must use an artificial creamer in my coffee.  These are what the media have loved calling an existential crisis.  Perhaps.  It might be phenomenological.  What bugs me, however, is knowing that Trump is not out of anything.  Ever.

I had an early meeting yesterday that was cancelled after I had already skipped the gym, so I had to go after work.  That pushed the evening back a bit, and with Ili out of town, I really didn't want to cook, so I decided to get a barbecue sandwich.  Mmmm, are those things good.  It is a sort of hipster fusion barbecue packed with different cuts of meat, coleslaw, other things.  Stuffed.  Huge.  I know what I'm in for when I eat it, but it is such a treat.  Old men, however, are not built for barbecue.  I don't know that anyone is, really, but digestive systems with a million miles on them are delicate things.

If I had some milk, I'd be back to porridge.

That, I think, is a good reflection of how people perceive the world.  Trump, porn stars, forgotten milk, a good meal and the suffering that ensues.  It all get blended into a postmodern smoothie.  The larger things do not supplant what's personal.  Life is personal.  It resides in the gut.  It is the gut reaction, as they say, to what is happening around you.  "Trust your gut" is an old maxim.

Still, for a good time, we will occasionally overlook it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Last Sinatra



Spring came in ferociously.  It brought high wind and hail and oceans of rain.  Nature speaks loudly.

I think I was effected by the turmoil.  I was, literally, as my two-year old roof leaked.  There is that with which I will be forced to deal, and I don't want to.  I hate such things.  And repairs have been on my mind as my mother's plumbing has had to be redone at great emotional and financial expense.  She is too old to want to deal with that, and it reminds me that being a loner with no children, I will be dealing with such things on my own.  And so my waking and sleeping moments have been haunted.

Ili has been gone this week, and so I have had the luxury of time to do what I like which is little but annoying for someone else to have to share.  And this morning, if morning it could be called, in the pre-dawn blackness, I woke with the horrors, the usual ones with some others thrown in.  Mostly they were horrors of my own making, the late-life realizations of what I did and didn't do, the crazy choices and weird privileging of ideas, the self-delusions and grandiose confidence, then comparing my life to others I know and coming up shorter than I've ever thought.

And so I fell back into my old routine.  I got up and drank some water.  I turned on a nightlight and put on some music and crawled back into bed to think more pleasant thoughts and to finally fall asleep.  It felt good to do that which I can no longer do and reminded me of some things I miss.

But the nightmares cling and Sinatra sings "I Did It My Way," and I think, "Yea, that's how I got here," without glee.  Trump, it seems, is The Last Sinatra, a larger than life being in a world of small things where people are made to feel small, too.  In The Age of Hypercriticism, one can't afford a mistake.  I watched a colleague taken to the carpet for using the term "flyover states" yesterday by one of the Hypercritics who told him that the statement bordered on racism or classism or something reproachable.  I told her that she was the reason that Trump is president, that she and her ilk more than anything else put him in the White House.  But it is too late now.  We have Trump and Putin and Jinping and it is her fault.

The Moral Order is as fucked as the climate.  And I can't sleep.

But in the end, there was only the spring and me, stormy and disruptive, incapable of calm.  In like a lion, perhaps. . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Waste Can



Vernal equinox.  
It is difficult to conceive.  

That is my take on "The Waste Land."  It is a pretty good one, and I did it by accident.  Read the poem.  You'll see how perfect it is.

I woke up with Spring Fever.  An interesting phrase.  Does it mean you have a desire for spring or that you have hay fever?  Apparently, it is both (link).

Now that that is settled. . . .

What should one do on the first day of spring.  I am certain that one should prepare to do one's biological duties.  I'll need to eat some wheat germ and take some vitamins.  One's best defense is good preparation.  Always be prepared.

It is a hell of a day to read that old Sudan died (link):

At 45, Sudan was elderly in rhino years and suffered from problems associated with age.
During his final years, he was not able to naturally mount a female and suffered from a low sperm count, which made his ability to procreate difficult.

His daughter Najin, 28 and granddaughter, Fatu, considered young by comparison. Najin could conceive, but her hind legs are so weak she may be unable to support a mounted male.

Lesson taken.  What is there to be done, though.  The Circle of Life and all that.  Terrible, really.  It all makes sense if you believe Nature has a plan.  

But we must wait and see what Spring will bring. 

I welcome renewal with open. . . . 

Monday, March 19, 2018

In Bloom?



These sort of places fascinate me.  We were driving back from a wedding in a distant town and passed this ice cream shop.  I had a camera.  I turned around.  It is the thing I should always do and the thing I rarely do.  Modern life, I guess.  Always on a beeline to somewhere.  I parked in the lot and picked up my camera and went to the front and tried to shoot quickly.  We were in Redneckville and people were looking at me in a funny way.  I snapped two photos and went back to the car.  I could feel eyes poking me in the back.  Back at the car, however, I found that I had pulled out the Leica Monochrom instead of the M262, meaning I had just taken black and white pictures.  I told Ili.  She glibly told me to go back and do it again.  "I can't," I said.  "Those people don't like it."  "Oh, they don't care.  Go back and take the picture again."  So I did.

The picture could be much better.  It would be better if there were not cars in the parking lot.  The thing would just float in an emptiness as the light fell off.  Still, I feel a "Nighthawks at the Diner" quality in it.  O.K.  Grandiose.

Winter ends this week.  Tomorrow.  It will be spring with the water beginning to flow and the sap starting to rise.  Soon there will be love in the air.  Or pollen.  We, here, have been inundated by it.  Even people without allergies are complaining.  Each morning, the cars are covered in it.

Ili is anxious about the garden.  It is not growing quick enough for her.  Only a few of the seeds have begun to sprout.  None of the garlic bulbs nor the potatoes.  No onions.  I keep telling her they will come, but she doesn't believe it.

If you were of age in the late sixties or early seventies, you remember gardens.  Everyone was going natural.  It was like living in Middle Earth.  Communes and farms and earth shoes and stoneware and hairy underarms and legs and beards and bushes.  I had a garden and earth shoes and all the accoutrements.  I am sure the garden will grow.  But that was a long time ago and while I was tilling the soil and protesting polluters, people like Trump were buying and selling and making the future what it has become.  What happened to all the Middle Earthers?

Oh, well.  It was a fantastical idea that people wanted to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining.  It was ridiculous to think that everyone wanted to go back and live in the forest.

In just a few years, it had all given way to disco.  What can you do?  Even the seasons are not the same as they were.  We will see.  Will love still bloom?  Surely.  There is enough pollen.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nada y Pues Nada



The weekend already feels half over.


I have much to do without desire.  I have eaten.  I'll return to bed.  


Friday, March 16, 2018

Such Is Life



The town's big Art Festival begins today and runs all weekend.  It used to be my favorite time of year, but satnav has made this once beautiful hamlet a tourist destination, and this weekend it will be overrun with the hoi-poloi.  That's o.k., though.  I'll make hay with my camera.

The worst part of it is that I will be missing my favorite party of the year.  It is my favorite because the entertainment is usually a Django Rheinhardt gypsy trio.  I take a seat in front of them until I get up to leave.  But my secretary is getting married that night, so I will go to another town and sit with people I don't know for a couple hours.  I'm sure there will be music, but most likely it will not be anything I like.

Such is life.

Ili and I have a garden that is beginning to grow.  It is Ili's first, and she is amazed that it works.  She thinks it weird that you can cut up a potato and put it in the ground and it will make a lot more potatoes.  The same with garlic.  The same with the stump at the end of celery.  All of it, even that seeds grow, seem somewhat unlikely.  I sure hope it works.

I thought the sick season was over and had started eating out again, but suddenly half the people at work are sick with a variety of things.  It is not all flu.  Yesterday I began to feel punky, but I hope I am fighting whatever it is off.

I only want a happy and healthy life.  I will change my ways.  You will see.  You will see.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Too Much



Just a picture today, or a fragment of one.  I really can't do more.  Life, as they say, is too much with me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Stuff of Pulitzers



Oh happy days.  It is staying light so long now, I have to adjust.  I came home after work yesterday at my usual hour, tired, of course, or more correctly worn out, but the sky was so bright and clear and the air not quite so chilly that I couldn't ride my scooter, so I decided to take a ride.  I didn't know where to go, really, so I ran an errand.  To the liquor store.  I bought a scotch I have never tried before, and when I got home, I lit a tiny Cohiba cheroot and poured a little of the afore mentioned whiskey, and went to the deck to smoke and drink and soak in the day.  This would be o.k. on standard time, but it just felt wrong with all that tremendous light falling all about me.  I can't do this, I thought.  I have to begin a new way.  And having thought this, I let the cheroot go out and put aside the new scotch and got my camera and drove to a part of town that I had been thinking of walking with a camera.  And for the next hour or so, that is what I did.

I must take advantage of the light.

The thing is, I took a black and white film camera, but everything was in color.  Why oh why do I make these mistakes?

Today's posted picture would have been alright in black and white.  I've been looking at the early color work of Eggleston and Shore and Leiter, and I've noticed one similarity in their works.  Almost every photograph has some very saturated red in it.  Most often, there is red and green, but red and blue is fairly common.  But red and green is the thing.

I'm not saying everything they did is that.  Two of Eggleston's most iconic photos are of people, the boy pushing the grocery carts and the white and black men standing at a funeral, and neither has those colors.  I hadn't really thought of that until now, and I will go back and see if the red/green theme is mostly non-portraiture.

Uh. . . I just went looking, and I might be wrong.  Maybe those were the pictures that most stood out to me.  Never mind.  I'll have to think about this more and get back to you.  I'm just trying to figure things out.

But how does one go wrong with a picture of a happy boy, especially one with curly hair?  All this photo needs is a dog to win a Popular Photography award.  It is one to make people believe in life again, one to make people smile and to dwell on the goodness of things.  The kid looks like a throwback to a different time.  He reminds us all of our shared history, when life was good and times less troubled.  Kids.  You know what I mean?  Baby On Board.  Kids playing soccer.  Kids winning awards.  It is the stuff of Pulitzers.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Clown and the Monkey



I can't stand the Trump/Daniels scandal.  It is proof that there is no liberal left.  Who am I supposed to cheer?  Or is this a "gotcha" moment that I am supposed to seize with a of carpe diem fervor?  What is my stance supposed to be on strippers and porn stars?  Are we fer 'em or agin' 'em?  Am I supposed to relish the fact that people's sex lives are now fodder for public arousal?  Am I to cheer for a woman who took $130,000.00 to not speak about a private affair?  Should I cheer for the press who wants the pictures?  Is sex bad?  And is the left only in favor of it when it is sanctified by marriage?

There is no logic to it except for the shaming.  We are Puritans, left or right, and we believe in punishment for anything with which we don't agree.  We are all now Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Public.

Trump is a dope.  I don't need a porn star to tell me that.  If THAT is what I am relying on to show the alt.right Christians that Trump is a hypocrite, then I am lost beyond redemption.

Don't get me wrong.  I am twisted and would like to see the pictures.  I want to see the Russian piss tapes, too, but just once and maybe not all the way through.  I forget who was peeing on whom, though.  If I want to see Trump pissing on someone, I just have to watch the news.

Everyone knows that the Russians and the Chinese are winning.  Nobody likes Americans any more.  Nobody.  Hugging up to us is like cuddling a cactus.  We have become a nasty people.  We are all addicts of one kind or another.  We smell of our own feces.

That's it.  I just wanted to point out the obvious.  As C.C. has pointed out to me several times, it is a classic diversionary tactic.

"Hey, everybody, look over there!!!  The clown is fucking the monkey!!!"


Monday, March 12, 2018

No Need to Say It



I won't go on about the shifting of the clocks.  We are all against it.  I've never met anyone who likes it (but maybe that is just the crowd I run with).  And even though I don't really have a set time to be up, my body is all jacked around by it this morning.  Maybe it is my brain.  I don't know.  Unfortunately, however, I return to the factory today and must be there at an earlier than "normal" time.  Not the factory, actually, not where my office is, but at an off-site version.  It will be a long day.  That is the perfect way to end a vacation.

My nose is sniffly and my throat a little scratchy.  My body feels like cement.

But I won't go on about it.  No, not me.

It is to be a rainy day.  The sun will not come up making the entire ordeal worse.

Oops.

Let's talk about aesthetics.  Or something else.  What do YOU want to talk about?

I like these blurry pictures most, I think.  Or at least "a lot."  They are more dreamlike, I guess.  They seem universal.  It is like trying to say something without knowing what it is, a mystery shrouded in an idea.  Riffing on Arbus there.

But I must begin my day which will lack all aesthetic qualities.  Back to the land of the living dead.

And I really don't like the changing of the clocks.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

No Accidents




I am cursed, of course.  I am charmed, yes, and have been very lucky in some ways, but I am careless and often must pay for that sin.  Maybe I am just becoming incompetent with age, though, which is a universal curse, I guess--Adam's Curse.  But old age and death are not my topic.  Nope.  It is Freud, I think, who said, "There are no such things as accidents."

I have been shooting film this week, a lot of it.  This is probably because I bought the Leica M Monochrom, the only black and white digital camera.  I am like that.  I buy a thing and feel guilty and don't use it for a long time.  It is a flaw, or maybe two flaws, the desire and the guilt.  Nonetheless, I took myself to the streets and shot lots of black and white film in four different cameras.  I was using up some rolls that had been sitting in my Olympus XA and in my Leica CL for far too long.  Those are teeny-tiny little film cameras that are wonderful, and I took them to the big downtown main drag and shot for an afternoon.  I also shot with my Leica R5 which is an SLR and is wonderful fun, a beautiful camera.  I also finished up some film in my Leica M7.  Then, just for fun, I shot some rolls with my medium format Mamiya 6.  So you see, I had been busy.  And on those rolls were many images I knew in my soul were going to be great.  That is the way of film, of course.  You can't wait to see the greatest images you have ever shot.

Film is precious and delicate.  You have to keep track of film rolls.  I've lost plenty in the years I've been shooting.  You have to keep track of it and you have to keep it cool and dry.  And when you develop it, you need to be precise. And this is a problem for me.  I mix the chemicals approximately.  I mean, I am not a stickler.  Same with temperature.  Again, you need to be precise.  For me, however, a degree here or there. . . .  Time is of the essence, as they say, and when you put the film "in the soup," timing must be rigid.  As with temperature, however, a minute here or a minute there. . . .

But I was excited to develop some film yesterday.  Ili was out of town, so I had the entire day to shoot and develop film.  I mixed up some new developer and stop bath and fixer, then went downtown and finished up a couple rolls and shot some more that I wanted to experiment with.  When I came home, I put my big changing tent on the table on the patio and grabbed two rolls of film that I was least concerned with, the ones from the Olympus and the CL, the scissors, the tank, the reels, etc.  And, of course, I had trouble getting the film on the reels.  I am not a dextrous person, I think.  I don't draw well, and I was never good at coloring books when I was a kid.  Most of all, I am impatient.  Putting film on reels is a test for me, so I try to think it is like therapy.  After far too long putzing around, I got film loaded, though, and into the tank.  Half an hour later, it was hanging in the bathroom to dry.  Everything looked fine, the chemicals were good.  There was just one problem.  I had forgotten to mix the developer 1:1 with water.  I had the developing time wrong.

So. . . I took my two most precious rolls of film into the changing tent.  These were the ones I looked forward to.  These were the ones that I had changed my shooting style, no longer shooting from the hip with a wide angle lens but putting the viewfinder to my eye and focussing the 50mm lens.  I shot a little ballerina on the street.  I shot a well-dressed woman standing and talking on her cell phone in a vacant lot full of bums.  These were among the things I could not wait to see.

And everything in the changing tent went swell, and this time, I was ready to mix the developer as it should be.  I had all the times written down.  No mistakes.  I pulled the developing tank out into the light and set it on the edge of the table.  Then I did something in the tent, I don't remember what, but the tent shifted and bumped the tank off the table.  It hit the deck and the lid popped off.  Just like that, 72 exposures were gone.

I won't try to explain the dizzy, despairing sickness I felt.

I got Zen.  This was a life lesson, a good thing.  Yup.

Etc.

Get back on the bicycle/horse, whatever they say.  I did.  I had three more rolls, and I wanted to experiment with another developer, Rodinal.  I had never used it before.  It is the oldest of all film developing formulas, and it give sharp images and a lot of big grain.  It is O.K. for the bigger medium format film, but I wanted to try it on 35mm, too.  So I mixed up the chemicals and put the film in the bigger tank and began.  Halfway through, I realized, though, that I had only used half the amount of developer I needed.  I measured it out for the smaller tank.

Jesus Christ, I am an idiot!  I had ruined all the film I had shot during the week.  I had spent the day fucking up.

There are no such things as accidents.


Here is an image I didn't ruin that I shot through the viewfinder with the little Leica CL.  And here is one from the Olympus.


They are not all that, but they are two of the few I didn't completely ruin yesterday.  They are what I have.

Sick from failure, I poured myself a drink.  I would start again, I thought.  I loaded the cameras with new film.  It was early, but I was hungry.  I took a shower and got on the scooter and headed up to the hipster noodle shop.  I took my cameras.  I thought I might shoot something, that it would make me feel better.  But the little noodle shop was full.  I wanted noodles, though, and put my name on the list.  I sat and looked at the crowd and wondered at the things I didn't know.  Can you just wear anything?  Is there a fashion book I haven't seen?  Why am I the only fellow with long hair?  I watched overly confident people having what looked like a lot of fun.  I sat on a stool clutching my camera bag knowing that the cameras weren't coming out.  I waited to be seated at the small bar looking into the kitchen next to another fellow who was eating alone.  The bowl of ramen and chicken and eggs and spices would be perfect, as would the conversation with the young man who worked for GE as a field engineer all around the country developing power plants.  And then I would go home to have a whiskey and fall asleep.

Shit.  I have to do better.  I have to quit making mistakes.  I need to quit making my own misery.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mother



This photo was taken by Ili from the back of the Vespa.  Everybody's an artist. Speaking of which, we watched "Mother" last night.  Don't.  It is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.  "Waterworld" was ten times better.  The movie is dominated by close ups of Jennifer Lawrence walking through an old house breathing and sighing and giving little starts of horrific surprise.  The main line in the movie, and it had to be repeated thirty times, was, "Excuse me!"  It should win an award for worst screenplay.

The movie is said to be a Christian parable, but I don't care about that.  For me, the movie was about the incredible ego of the artist and how success is measured in admiration for his/her work.  That's a nice theme, if uncomfortable, but it needed a better vehicle.

Who doesn't want admiration?  Can you trust someone who says s/he doesn't?  Yesterday, Ili and I went to one of the famous restaurants in our own hometown.  Call it Fauntleroys.  I have known Fauntleroy for decades, since before he opened his first restaurant and had a little wine and cheese shop on the Boulevard.  He came from mommy's money, or so it was told, and was married to the all-time money winner on the old t.v. gameshow, "Concentration."  She was a nice woman with a good brain who was also attractive.  But Fauntleroy fucked that up when he opened his new restaurant that was all windows.  He needed better cover, it seems, for one night, after the place was closed, his wife drove up to see him screwing another woman at the bar.  How such a thing can happen. . . well, who knows.  But his wife, being a clever woman, drove her car through the glass double-doors, then backed the car out and entered the restaurant.  Now no one was there but the three of them, but I got this tale from the girl who Fauntleroy was screwing, so I think it is accurate in the main.  Fauntleroy's wife took up one of the big chef's knives and came after him, and he, even though drunk, was deft enough to escape and avoid being carved up like the swine he, at that moment, seemed to be.  He did, however, leave my friend there to fend for herself all alone, and she, having been blocked from the escape route taken by Fauntleroy, ran naked into the bathroom where she put her back against the sink and both feet against the door.  She was a big girl (ahem), and, though admittedly quite scared, she was able to prevent the wife from entering.  She said she stayed there for a long time, naked and afraid, but after awhile, she ventured to peer out into the darkness of the restaurant.  Everything was still.  She was alone.

By opening time the next day, the doors were replaced and the wine cleaned up so that no one would ever know what had happened.

But nothing ever stays secret long.  Ho-ho!

I don't go into Fauntleroy's much any more, but Ili and I had mimosas and sandwiches there yesterday, and Fauntleroy was there, too.  He came over and said hello and we talked for a bit.  Then his business partner came out to say hello, and the barmaid, remembering me as well, was very chatty.

The point of this sordid story is that I enjoyed the attention.

Really?!  That's the point of this story?

Sure.  And I would take more, too, if I could get it.  I would like to be an admired artist, but, as Aranofsky's film so poorly illustrates,  they are such assholes.

It is a pretty day, and I must figure out how to spend it.  Such is life.  Such is a very good life.

Friday, March 9, 2018

IWD



Critics abound.  The number of critics is amazing.  If you try creating things, any things, you will get to meet them.  Unsolicited.  The moment you try to get "out there," though, is the make or break period, and without positive reinforcement, some people can't continue.  Others do. . . for awhile, at least.  Some we hear about.  Some we hear about too late.  Some are never "discovered."

Yesterday was International Women's Day.  To celebrate, I revisited some of photography's great women photographers.  They had varying degrees of success, or didn't.  Vivian Maier, of course. Diane Arbus.  Francesca Woodman.

Of the three, only Arbus had any recognition.  Yesterday, the N.Y. Times ran an article on women who had been overlooked in their obituaries.  Here is Arbus's:

1923-1971
Diane Arbus
A photographer whose portraits have
compelled or repelled generations of viewers.
BY JAMES ESTRIN

Diane Arbus at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970, holding a copy of “Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962.” Stephen A. Frank

Diane Arbus was a daughter of privilege who spent much of her adult life documenting those on the periphery of society. Since she killed herself in 1971, her unblinking portraits have made her a seminal figure in modern-day photography and an influence on three generations of photographers, though she is perhaps just as famous for her unconventional lifestyle and her suicide.
Her work continues to spark fierce debate among photographers and intellectuals. Are her portraits — of circus performers, transvestites, mentally disabled people and others — empathetic acknowledgments of a shared humanity, or are they exploitative depictions that seize upon their subjects’ oddities to shock her audience? After her death, many critics who fancy themselves armchair psychiatrists have tried to analyze her impulses, searching for the role these encounters played in Arbus’s psyche.
She was born Diane Nemerov on March 14, 1923, to David and Gertrude Nemerov, and had two siblings. Her family owned Russeks, an upscale Fifth Avenue department store founded by her maternal grandparents. Raised in spacious apartments on Park Avenue and Central Park West in Manhattan, she was attended by nannies, maids, a cook and a chauffeur. At 18, she married Allan Arbus, an aspiring fashion photographer, and together they started a fashion photography company with the family store as their first client.
After having two daughters, Doon and Amy, she quit the business to go off on her own as an editorial photographer and artist. Though the couple separated and eventually divorced, they remained close. Allan Arbus later became an actor and played the psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman on the television series “M*A*S*H.” He died in 2013.
Arbus worked for publications such as New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times Magazine, shooting portraits and occasionally fashion, all the while barely cobbling together a living even as her artistic success and reputation in the photography world grew. During her lifetime, there was no market for collecting photographs as works of art, and her prints usually sold for $100 or less. Today, the same prints garner hundreds of thousands of dollars. After suffering prolonged bouts of deep depression, Arbus killed herself on July 26, 1971, by consuming barbiturates and slashing her wrists. She was 48.
Throughout her career, Arbus broke taboos — in her portraits of people pushed to the edges of society, and in her personal life. She often befriended her subjects and even seduced them on occasion, according to her most recent biographer, Arthur Lubow, in “Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer <https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/03/books/review-arthur-lubows-diane-arbus-biography-recalls-an-underworld-voyager.html>.” Starting in the mid-1960s, she photographed couples in bed as well as orgies in which she sometimes participated, according to Lubow.
John Szarkowski, the influential director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art from 1962 to 1991, championed her work and included it in his groundbreaking 1967 exhibit “New Document. ” A year after Arbus’s death, he curated a posthumous exhibit of her work that heroicized her and helped to create a legend around her. In the wall text for the show, he wrote that her honesty was “a reward bestowed for bravery in the face of the truth.”
“Arbus did not avert her eyes,” Szarkowski went on. “She stuck with her subjects, exploring their secrets (and thus her own) more and more deeply. She was surely aware of the danger of this path, but she believed that her bravery would be equal to the demands she made of it.”
Her critics were equally passionate. Susan Sontag savaged her in a 1973 piece for The New York Review of Books.
“Anybody Arbus photographed was a freak — a boy waiting to march in a pro-war parade, wearing his straw boater and his ‘Bomb Hanoi’ button; the King and Queen of a Senior Citizens Dance; a thirty-ish Westchester, NY couple sprawled in their lawn chairs; a widow sitting alone in her cluttered bedroom. In ‘A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970,’ the parents look like midgets, as freakish as their enormous son hunched over them because the living-room ceiling is too low.”
Still, many others embraced her after the 1972 MoMA exhibit and the publication of “Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph <https://aperture.org/shop/diane-arbus-an-aperture-monograph-book/>” the same year. Her fame seemed only to grow as subsequent biographies delved into her private life. For some, she became the Sylvia Plath of photography, admired in part because of the tragic elements of her life.

Arbus posing for a portrait in the Automat on Sixth Avenue between 41st and 42nd Street in New York City, circa 1968. Roz Kelly/Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty Images
As a young photographer shooting street portraits at 16 with my father’s East German-made Exacta camera I, too, struggled with Arbus’s work. Attracted to her bold images of those outside the margins of respectable society, I was also repelled by what I perceived to be an underlying coldness toward her subjects.
My father, a physician, saw me looking through the Aperture monograph and told me he knew something of her work. Eddie Carmel, the Jewish giant who was photographed with his parents by Arbus, was my father’s patient and over the years the two had become friendly. My father described him as smart, sensitive and very funny but living a tragic life and unable to fulfill his most cherished desire. Carmel wanted to be a standup comic but could not break into mainstream show business because of his size. Carmel liked Arbus as a person, he said, and this wasn’t the first time she had photographed him. But Carmel didn’t care for the image with his parents because it didn’t capture who he was inside — just what he looked like outside.
Arbus did not have a social justice agenda like her contemporaries, the embedded documentarians Danny Lyon <https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/danny-lyon?all/all/all/all/0>, Bruce Davidson <http://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53ZTH6> and Larry Clark <https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/larry-clark?all/all/all/all/0>, who also photographed outsiders, and she was a portraitist who often spent time with her subjects, unlike the street photographers Garry Winogrand <https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/arts/design/when-images-come-to-life-after-death.html> and Lee Friedlander <https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/lee-friedlander?all/all/all/all/0>, who were also pursuing their personal visions. Her beginnings in fashion and magazine portraiture honed her ability to produce instantly captivating, straightforward images, Matthew Witkovsky, chairman of the photography department at The Art Institute of Chicago, said in an interview.

“She was moving toward something that could be seen as art-world acceptable, though that didn’t really exist for photography then,” Witkovsky said. “She somehow managed to take all of the conventional categories that you could put photographic work in at that time and then crosswire them without short-circuiting them. She opened the door so you can be a photographer and have the highest art aspirations.”
After decades of intense examination of her work and life, perhaps there is room to understand Arbus as a woman driven by artistic vision as well as personal compulsion, and her photographs as documents of empathy as well as exploitation. Arbus herself hinted at the difficulty of understanding and interpreting images.

“A photograph is a secret about a secret,” she said. “The more it tells you the less you know.”


They did her no favor here, I think.

Last night, I watched a documentary on Francesca Woodman. Like Arbus, she committed suicide, but unlike Arbus, she gave up at 22 (link). She found no success, and perhaps too much negative criticism. That is what happens, perhaps, when you believe too much in what you do.

I'll tell you about my own experience sometime, but it is not International C.S. Day, so it will have to wait. Once you submit yourself to their opinions, though. . . .

Vivian Maier, of course, was the bomb. She knew what to do. Keep it to yourself. All that great work. . . . 

But then again, how'd that work out for her?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What Was Exotic?



I'm frustrated and bored and can't find real meaning in anything.  Is it me or a sign of the times?  What's called for is some really bad behavior, but that will only get you tased or worse.  You could end up on the local news and your family and friends would shun you.  Everything sounds like fun until that happens.  So we all simply medicate ourselves and live safe, drab lives.  Not all of us, I'm sure, but all the people I knew who were fun now tread softly.  Wouldn't want to end up alone and broke at this age.

And so I look forward to a little workout at the track, a quiet breakfast, and some gardening.  Soon the boredom will kill us, though, or will cause us to kill one another.  There is nothing much that can be done, really.  What do people do?  Watch movies, drink, eat, go shopping, go somewhere to be amused.

Yesterday, Ili and I, bored and crazy, decided to go canoeing down one of the areas rivers.  Canoeing is a well known way to break up.  Ili wanted to be in the back of the canoe.  She likes to steer, she said.  And so we drifted over the clear shallow waters of the spring fed run winding through the curving banks of trees and fallen logs over the grassy river bottom, the occasional turtle or alligator sinking below the surface as we approached.

Afterwards, we went for sushi.

And then we were home.  It wasn't even seven o'clock.  What to do?

We watched the movie "Tangerine."  It was over by eight thirty.  We putzed around for half an hour, then heads filled with cheap trannie images, we went to bed.  Who knows what horrible dreams we probably had.

We've villainized all the old ways and valorized everything that was once sleazy.  I don't know what is exotic any more.

All we have left is this.



It will have to do for now.  Old movies like "Red Dust" and "Morocco" aren't available for streaming.  I can't even find "La Dolce Vita."  All we are left with are films from the Academy Awards, and they suck.  I'm not watching "The Shape of Water."

I guess I'll go work in the yard.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pissing Away


Monochrom just before dark.  

Pissing away my vacay gardening and eating and drinking and watching movies and not much else.  At night I sleep awhile and then wake up and worry.  I wake up because my body hurts.  I will have already tossed and turned this way and that finding new positions that will not pain me for awhile, but by the time I wake up to worry, I am in too much pain to even try to sleep.  I should never have played basketball, should never have touched a weight.  I should never have done a lot of things.  

After the first cup of coffee, things begin to settle a bit.  In my mind, I mean.  By the time the sun rises, I am ready for bed again, but I usually wait until afternoon when I will have a glass of wine and take a little nap.  I look forward to that nap the way I used to look forward to other things.  

Jesus. 

Monochrom just before dark.  


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Things



Breakfast in a Grit City diner.  What isn't in the photo is the picture of Elvis on the wall.  Should have thought about that.

People say "experiences, not things."  You know what I mean.  People try to buy happiness, I guess.  That won't work, but experiences are no guarantee, either.  There are some pretty rough experiences out there.  And I do like things.  Yesterday I think I had an interesting look.  Nothing special, just the way I like to look.  Black t-shirt, white Oxford, jeans, a beautiful Ona canvas bag, a Leica, and some big, expensive sunglasses.  I was on the boulevard, and as I was climbing on my Vespa, two boys in a slowly passing car shouted out, said love, and gave me two thumbs up.  I think I looked like something out of an old Italian movie.  It wasn't me, exactly, just the things I'd chosen. And none of it was expensive, I should say, but all bought at bargain basement prices.  I just know what I want, and the things I carry shape my experiences.  You see?  They go hand in hand.  Everything I buy, from the  art on the walls to the books on my shelves and the 19th century nomadic tribal rug on the floor--all of it, is to shape the way I experience the world.

Yea, I'm a prick.  But most of the time, I'm happy.  And I have experiences.  Lots of them.  More than my share, I think, though not so many recently.  It is that I hope to remedy.  Soon.

Still, things define us.  We are "thing" makers.  Many of the things we make are shit.  Most of them.  But there are some things that are so beautiful they make you ache.  Not so many, but enough.

My family were settlers.  No, they didn't settle the land.  They settled for what they got.  Easter, for instance.  I hate it.  It is a bad memory of cheap, waxy chocolates and overly sugared candies and gaudy plastic eggs.  It was so bad, it hurt.

Maybe one nice piece of good chocolate would have done it.  Maybe just that.  Or a nice pair of shoes.

Etc.

I'm not complaining about my family, but that was an experience that surely shaped me.  Things, no matter what, define us, whether we live in a mansion or a dormitory or a commune.  A hippie with a nose ring is proud.

Anyway, Wallace Stevens says it better in "Anecdote of a Jar."

I placed a jar in Tennessee, 
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.