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April 16, 2012

Lima: Public Displays

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In the park up above the Lima waterfront, this statue stands as a monument to the Peruvian proclivity for showing affection. Any doubts about how accurate this was was erased by a walk through the park. It was impossible not to pass at least one pair of entangled teens sucking face for all to see.

February 17, 2012

Analog Returns: Terminal 5

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Last week, I was chatting with a friend and he referred to a time when I "used to shoot film." It took me aback for a moment. My analog experiments have slowed down considerably, but, I never really thought of myself as not shooting film anymore. In fact, the five rolls of film in my coat pocket for the last couple months will testify that I at least shoot film occasionally.

What I haven't been doing is posting any of those film photos. So, here goes. This week, I've started posting again on my analog tumblr. I'm starting with some photos from an Open House New York tour I took last year of the old TWA Terminal Five at JFK.

Enjoy!

September 20, 2011

Peru: Aguas Calientes a.k.a. Machu Picchu town

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The closest town to Machu Picchu was historically called Aguas Calientes, but apparently has recently taken on the name of of its main attraction to avoid confusion.

It reminded me a lot of a smaller Siem Reap: full of travelers and an entrenched tourist economy that offers a little too much of a variety, little of it particularly great. Still, it was interesting to explore. See a bit more about it after the jump.


Continue reading "Peru: Aguas Calientes a.k.a. Machu Picchu town" »

April 30, 2011

Analog Food Photography

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A couple weeks ago, when I posted about my lunch at Boqueria, I started thinking about analog food photography. I don't often shoot food with film for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the difficult lighting in most restaurants means that I usually need to extended iso and nearly unlimited shots that digital provides. Being able to take 50 photos in a minute or two is often essential in food photography because usually someone is waiting to eat the subject.

Beyond that, digital is sharper, more crisp in a way that many film aficionados aren't so into, but that we tend to desire in images of food. The textures and grain that you get on film are more complex and a bit less sexy that digital - but are really interesting in their own way. I only shoot food with film from time to time, but have gotten some interesting results.

This week on Analog UltraClay, I've decided to explore the topic a bit by spending the next week or so posting an Analog Food series.

March 29, 2011

Brooklyn: The Bed-Stuy Tour Part One

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The weather may not quite feel like spring, but despite the cold, the longer days are inspiring me to get outside and do some exploring. Tammi's been taking some classes at the YMCA on Bedford Ave and it's given us an excuse to spend some time wandering that end of Bed-Stuy a bit more.

That's meant brunches at Peaches HotHouse and Black Swan, but also the discovery of a few new places that have been popping up on the radar of late. Last weekend, Tammi and I spent our Saturday over in the corner of the neighborhood that borders Clinton Hill and Williamsburg that's become known as the "Pratt Area" or even, irritatingly "West Bed."

We stopped in some cafes and bars and generally wandered about, meeting up with friends and seeing what's new and noteworthy. See the beginning of our tour after the jump.

Continue reading "Brooklyn: The Bed-Stuy Tour Part One" »

March 28, 2011

Barcelona: History All Around

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Directly across from our hotel in Barcelona stood this plaque honoring Salvador Segui. He was an anarchist and part of the republic that was overthrown by Franco in the Spanish civil war.

I don't know enough about the war to be able to regale you with facts about it, but suffice it to say that it was significant and fascinates me for its context in history. Seeing reminders of those events around us while we traveled reminds me of the other fascinating

March 15, 2011

Barcelona: Agua Con Gas

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I took a liking to sparkling water back on our honeymoon in Paris. There, as in Barcelona, every meal begins with an offer of water with or without 'gas.' Tammi prefers her water flat, but I found that I really enjoyed the sharp bubbles and, in the case of the Vichy Catalan water that I had nearly everywhere, a slightly salty flavor.

March 4, 2011

Barcelona Observations: Broken Benches

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Walking around Barcelona, I noticed that instead of benches in public spaces, there were sets of three chairs bolted down slightly askew and spread out. I suppose it stops anyone from trying to sleep or spread out over them.

March 1, 2011

Barcelona: Sant Jaume Sunday Danceparty

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We got to Barcelona on a Sunday morning. While we waited for our room to be available we wandered the Gothic District looking around and seeing what's what. Somehow, we missed the dancers of San Jaume until later in the evening as we were searching for the Picasso museum.

I'm glad we did. It turns out that the plaza hosts a weekly musical performance, along with some sort of traditional circle dance by some of the older Spaniards. It was a fun little glimpse beyond the busking and nonsense of the Rambla.

February 28, 2011

Barcelona Observations: Spanish Time

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Since we were only in Barcelona for four days, we didn't try to acclimate to the time zone too much. Except the first morning, when I woke up early and took this and a few other sunrise photos from the roof of our hotel, we rarely got out before 1pm.

Most often, we'd start the day with lunch in the early afternoon, then tapas around 6-7pm, then dinner around 10 or 11pm. Occasionally, the night was finished with a late night doner kebab from one of the Turkish spots in El Raval near the hotel.

Our only real issue with the local schedule was the siesta period from 2 or 3pm to 5pm - invariably the exact times when we were hunting down a shop. We also had some difficulty finding open restaurants and bars Sunday night - the hazard of visiting a catholic nation.

We usually managed to get back to those places, but sometimes it took a few attempts.

Barcelona Graffiti

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My last trip to Barcelona was back in 2002. I was already taking a lot of photos, but not nearly as seriously as I have been in recent years. Using a borrowed point & shoot, I shot scenery and my sister, who I was traveling with and, for the first time, lots of graffiti.

The street art scene was starting to pick up here in New York, but it wasn't until I saw all the interesting pieces up in Barcelona that I started to really consider photographing it.

This week on my non-analog Tumblr blog, I'll be posting my pics of the local artwork I came across.Enjoy!

February 19, 2011

Hong Kong: Darlie

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With all the flights between Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and The Philippines, we ended up needing to replace toiletries during an overnight stopover. Tammi found a Darlie toothbrush, the descendant of the Darkie brand and just had to get it. I had never heard the story before, but she had. Apparently, back in the day, this brand had a top hat sporting Al Jolson-style logo, seen here. After the obvious uproar, they changed it to Darlie and adjusted the logo, although apparently in Chinese, the name of the brand is still "Black Person."

January 18, 2011

Vietnamese Coffee

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One of the delicacies I read about before heading to Vietnam was the local style of coffee brewing. It's sweet and milky and usually served on ice. I don't really drink coffee, but I do like to at least experience distinctive foods and drinks of a place, so I tried it a few times.

Most often we got it served already 'brewed,' but when we went to Pho 24, we received this brewing contraption that filtered the coffee out at the table into a cup with condensed milk.


Continue reading "Vietnamese Coffee" »

January 10, 2011

Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Destination

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Like the rest of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat was filled with tourists and those seeking the tourists' dollars. Wherever we went we were nudged and jostled by tour groups and picture-takers. I counted German, French, Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Japanese groups over the course of the day.

Continue reading "Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Destination" »

January 6, 2011

Cambodia: Travel by Tuk Tuk

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The primary mode of transport around Siem Reap was tuk tuk, a motorcycle-driven rickshaw that was much sturdier that I'd expected and cost a buck or two to get us pretty much anywhere. We even ended up taking one to the airport.

Cambodia: Fish Pedicure

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Based on what we saw, the entire economy of Siem Reap is based on tourist traffic and dollars. Besides the kids hitting everyone up selling books and postcards, everyone around us called our attention to massages, restaurants, tuk-tuks and ... fish pedicures.

Giant tanks sat all around town full of small fish that suck the dead skin off of your feet. Tammi tried it for about 10 seconds before freaking out. I stuck my hand in and have to say it is a rather strange sensation.

January 5, 2011

Cambodia: Kid Hawkers

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Throughout Siem Reap, pretty much wherever we went, kids of all ages approached us to sell us something - anything. Persistent as they were ubiquitous, the tourist economy of this area was most obvious watching them follow and harass visitors with offers of guide books, postcards, bottled water and god knows what else.

My instincts as a New Yorker stopped me from even considering making a purchase from them. This apparent heartlessness was validated after seeing one lady swarmed upon after buying postcards from one child. Seemingly a dozen of them flew over demanding that she buy something from them too. No thanks.

Interestingly, the one exception for all hawking was within the bounds of the temples of Angkor Wat. Outside, they badgered and encircled potential customers, trying everything from striking up conversations to offering compliments - I was even told by one that I look like Obama. Yet, as soon as you walked in the ruins, it all stopped. Some of the kids were inside, but they sat and rested or napped.

I won't read any reverence or respect into this and just assume it's just not tolerated there. Regardless, it provided a much appreciated break for all of us.

January 4, 2011

Cambodia: Shellfish Street Cart

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I saw a few carts like this while walking around town in Siem Reap, but I didn't partake. They were selling what looked like tiny clams tossed in spices and hot pepper flakes. Get a closer look after the jump.

Continue reading "Cambodia: Shellfish Street Cart" »

January 3, 2011

Cambodia: Car Logos

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I have no idea why, but many of the cars around town in Cambodia had the automakers' logos on the side.

December 30, 2010

Vietnam: The Cu Chi Tunnels

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As an American traveling to Vietnam, the elephant in the room is clear. We sort of had a war here. And we sort of lost. And we've sort of been arguing about it ever since.

When Tammi told my father in law about out trip, he was baffled. "You're going to 'Nam?" he asked. He's just young enough to have missed the draft, so the idea of spending a couple days visiting scenic Saigon probably didn't make any damn sense to him. I expect that my little godson, only a few months old will go somewhere like Afghanistan or Iraq in decades to come and that I'll be equally perplexed.

To see more about the local perspective of the war, we went to the Cu chi tunnels. A network of what amount to crawl spaces spread miles around the town of cu chi and as far as Saigon. Built to fend off the French, the US went and built a base right on top of it, having no idea that the enemy was literally under their noses.

Continue reading "Vietnam: The Cu Chi Tunnels" »

Vietnam: Sidewalk Culture

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I risk losing any credibility I might have by gushing over and over about how 'fascinated' I am by one aspect or another of Vietnamese culture, but I can't help it. The scooters zipping around Saigon clearly got my attention. And how could I not be obsessed with the myriad banh mi carts serving up any number of variations of pork on pork deliciousness?

Similarly, how could I not be fascinated by the sidewalk culture we saw there. Day and night, people sat out on little plastic stools talking, eating and generally gathering with their communities.


Continue reading "Vietnam: Sidewalk Culture" »

December 29, 2010

Vietnam: Scooter Cabs

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When getting around Saigon, Tammi and I didn't really think much of hopping a cab to get around. Considering a ride rarely cost more than a dollar (except when the driver is ripping you off - which happened coming from the airport).

For locals though, the cheapest and easiest way to get around is to hop on the back of someone's scooter. Guys like this hung out on nearly every corner waiting for a 'fare' to come by looking for a ride.

December 28, 2010

Vietnam: Hotel Bars

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At the end of our first day in Saigon, Tammi and I decided to get a little western hospitality at the roof bar at the Sheraton Saigon. The view was gorgeous and the wine list wasn't bad. What we didn't really realize until we got the check was that the prices were also quite western. The typically high hotel mark up is dramatically higher here compared to the wine bar across the street we discovered later, which stocked plenty of good wine for as low as $5-8 a glass.

Whoops.

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December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

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Having spent most of the holiday season in Asia, it hasn't felt a lot like Christmas to me this year. While folks have been going to holiday parties and catching up with friends, I've mostly been catching up on my Midtown Lunch beats, scrambling to stop in at some of my favorite places before they close up for good and hunting down Vietnamese Sandwiches like the ones I had from the banh mi carts Saigon.

But here we are, with a day left until Christmas. I've got family in town that Tammi and I are hosting with some seasonal touristy sightseeing and then I'll be cooking dinner tomorrow night. With all that in mind, I'll take my leave for the weekend and come back next week with some more observations, food and stories from Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and The Philippines.

In the meantime, please enjoy your holidays with good food and good company.

December 23, 2010

Vietnam: Crossing The Street

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Before going to Vietnam, a friend who'd been there had one piece of advice about crossing the street through the swarm of scooters: Don't hesitate, don't run, don't panic.

Just as the scooters manage to (seemingly safely) zip this way and that without and sort of rules or order, they can ride around you as long as it's clear where you're going and how fast you're going. Adjust your pace as necessary, but don't break out into sprint unless you want to get run over.

December 22, 2010

Vietnam: Controlled Chaos

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As I've said, the scooters of Vietnam really fascinated me. Traffic rules are out the window and everyone just gets in where they fit.

Vietnam: Colonial Decay

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Walking around Saigon, it was interesting to see all the old deco-era buildings that have fallen into disuse and decay. The scenes around town were so vibrant and active, yet many of these old buildings looked as if they hadn't been touched in decades.

Continue reading "Vietnam: Colonial Decay" »

December 21, 2010

Vietnam: Scooter Helmets

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While we were in Vietnam, Tammi coveted these helmets, fashioned after baseball caps. She'd hoped to buy one but couldn't find one while we were there.

December 20, 2010

Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon

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Going to Vietnam, I was excited more than anything else for the street food. I mean, obviously. After all, I even made a lunch expedition to Chinatown ahead of the trip just to pre-game it at Banh Mi Saigon.

So, while in Ho Chi Minh City - which everyone we spoke to continues to call Saigon - I made a point of seeking out as many of these sandwiches as I could find. In the process, I came up with a few tips for the hungry traveler seeking out this particular deliciousness while in Vietnam.


Continue reading "Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon" »

Vietnam: Scooter Madness


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My first view of the streets of Saigon were dark, blurry and in constant motion. I'd heard that nearly everyone in Vietnam gets around on scooters and motorcycles, but I didn't really 'get' it until we were surrounded by them.

Apparently, government taxes and restrictions make buying a car prohibitively expensive, so pretty much everyone gets around on two wheels.

I have to say, it fascinated me. As much disdain as I may have for cars, I don't think I could ride around the way they do out there. It definitely captured my attention though, I couldn't stop taking pictures of them. See more after the jump.

Continue reading "Vietnam: Scooter Madness" »

December 19, 2010

Hong Kong: No Dog Fouling

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Mid-Levels, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: Smog

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On our first morning in Hong Kong, I looked out at the gorgeous view from our friend's apartment and peered through the haze across the harbor to Kowloon.

It reminded me of San Francisco and the fog that comes in in the morning off the bay. It seemed pretty cool until our host mentioned that it was actually smog coming off of the mainland. Apparently this time of year is the worst. Above is the view of the Hong Kong Island from the Star Ferry terminal on the water. It reminds me of how clean the air is in New York, even if we can't always tell it on the ground.

December 18, 2010

Hong Kong: Just Married

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Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. 2010.

Hong Kong: Spanish Hourly Hotel

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Apparently when it's not inundated with shoppers, Kowloon's Mong Kok area hosts any entirely different marketplace after hours. It wasn't the first time in Hong Kong we saw some blatant signs of prostitution, but I have to wonder what makes this place 'Spanish."

December 17, 2010

Airport Security: Toner Cartridges

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It's easy to criticize, I know it is. Easier than securing a nation, certainly. That said, it seems ridiculous the piecemeal rules that get put into effect indefinitely after a threat is discovered. I just feel like there should be a smarter way.

Christmas in Hong Kong

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The timing of our annual trip means that every year we end up seeing the Christmas season kick off in some place far from home. From the unfamiliar displays in Paris to the cognitive dissonance of sun and palm trees in Hawaii, it's always interesting to see how different cultures handle the holidays.

In Hong Kong, that's entails playing Christmas music in every subway station and shopping area as well as putting up these huge decorations in Kowloon near Victoria Harbour.


Continue reading "Christmas in Hong Kong" »

December 16, 2010

Hong Kong Food Finds: Cream Flavoured Collon

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Found in a Hong Kong supermarket. I'm pretty sure there's nothing I can say that will make this more ridiculous.

Hong Kong: HSBC Protest

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Protest at HSBC office building, Central Hong Kong.

December 15, 2010

Hong Kong: 7-Eleven

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When we had our little TV Dinner adventure on our first night in Hong Kong, the idea of 7-Eleven there was secondary to the urgent need for something to eat.

7-Eleven has always been something of a mystery to me. There are a few in New York now, but growing up in the land of bodegas, it was a fairly foreign brand. It existed in the suburbs and on television - comedians joked about it and I didn't really get it. So, it was pretty funny to find this brand of Americana on nearly every block in Central and the Mid-Levels.

Hong Kong: Bamboo Scaffolding

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I'm all for using sustainable materials as a way of cutting down on waste, pollution and all that. It's a noble effort and we all ought to be involved. That said, I have to admit to being totally freaked out by the use of bamboo for scaffolding just about everywhere in Hong Kong.

Continue reading "Hong Kong: Bamboo Scaffolding" »

Hong Kong: Rush Hour

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Rush hour at the Admiralty MTR Station, Hong Kong.

December 14, 2010

Hong Kong: Makeup on the Subway

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Apparently, this happens in Hong Kong too.

Hong Kong: The Mid-Levels Escalators

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This is one of the Mid-Levels Escalators. It is remarkably useful for getting from sea level in Central to up in the hills where we are staying. It is remarkably less useful after midnight when it shuts down.

At the end of our first day in Hong Kong, we hung out in SoHo and drank wine and took advantage of the fact that our bodies thought it was the middle of the day. When the bars closed at 2am, we discovered that we had a long climb ahead of us.

This was all days before we found out that the cab ride up the hill only costs US $3. Even so, drunkenly hiking up the side of a mountain making our way home after a day of exploring was a fun experience - just not one I plan to do again soon.

Hong Kong: The Mong Kok Market

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A couple days after we landed in Hong Kong, Tammi and I went on an expedition for a yarn shop. We made our way up to the northern part of Kowloon to an area called Mong Kok. This turns out to be the big shopping neighborhood - not the fancy shopping of Central, with the Louis Vuitton and such, but the real Herald Square/Fulton Street-type of shopping. We made the mistake of going on a Saturday afternoon, which lead to an hour of fighting a tide of humanity searching for a particular address, hidden behind rows of street stalls.

Not recommended. On the plus side, there was some great looking food around that I'd have loved to have tried, but never got the chance to.

December 13, 2010

Analog: Airport Security

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Tammi and I landed back home in New York yesterday from Hong Kong. I've got plenty to post about and hope to get them flowing out of there next week or two.

Over the last couple weeks, we've been on 10 flights through six countries and dealt with countless different stages of airport security. Ever since I started shooting film, one of the biggest potential hassles has been dealing with airport security.

X Rays can severely damage the emulsion on film in a way that can totally screw your images. Now, the first thing any screener will say is that it'll only affect film that's faster than ISO 800 or even 1600. What none of them understands is that slower film isn't invulnerable to X Rays, it's just that it takes more passes to do the same damage because it's less sensitive.

I've read that it takes five passes to damage 100 speed film the way one pass damages a faster roll. Given that we've passed through maybe a dozen security checkpoints on this trip, the hazard is still there.

In one of the few compliments I've ever really considered about the TSA, I will say that they invariably will do a proper manual swab of my film without giving me a hard time.

Less so in Japan, above, where the security guy at Narita insisted on opening up and visually inspecting each of my 20+ rolls. In the end, it's better than the Cambodian guard who insisted that I put my one roll of 1600 speed film in the x-ray because the sign said it was 'film-safe.' I haven't shot it yet, so we'll have to see how it comes out when I get home.

Hong Kong: 13 Hours

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When Tammi and I went to Japan three years ago, the huge time difference was significant. It took us a few days of waking up at 3am before we finally adjusted. This time around in Hong Kong, it's been more challenging.

I think what's made it harder this time around is social media. Back in 2007, we'd check email once or twice a day but otherwise be pretty disconnected from the world at home. Now, we're so wired to Twitter, Facebook, tumblr and everything else that make us constantly aware that we're not on our usual schedule. Every evening we'd get back to our room and as we were winding down, a slew of posts and tweets and updates would start flowing in. It could be a little disorienting.

I also put together a couple Midtown Lunch posts while away and had to keep in mind what time it was at home - and when communicating with Zach, what time it is in California as well. That's not including the changes between Hong Kong and our stops in Vietnam and Cambodia to the west and The Philippines to the east.

I'm not complaining or lamenting, I think it's been really interesting to have to juggle multiple time zones like this. Now that I'm back on EST, I'm of course jetlagged and sitting here writing this at 4am and getting updates in the middle of the night when you can't sleep suddenly seems much more appealing.

December 10, 2010

Hong Kong: Bubies

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In Central Hong Kong, there is a bra shop called Bubies (pronounced boobies). If that weren't awesome enough, the display in the window lists names for many of the 'models' of bra. These names include Chocolate Glory, Tempura, Pepper Steak and Gelato.

So. Wonderful.

Hong Kong: No Napkins

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One odd thing we found nearly everywhere we went in Hong Kong and to an extent in Vietnam and Cambodia: Napkins are few and far between. Except for the most Westernized restaurants, no one provides napkins with your meal. Even here at Yung Kee, a well known and popular Chinese place in Central, when we asked for a napkin, they brought us a box of kleenex-style tissues.

At other places, I noticed that people walked around with packs of tissues and used those. It made for interesting improvisation after long messy meals to have to figure out how to clean my hands without making a mess of my clothes.

December 9, 2010

Hong Kong: San Miguel Beer

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Asia doesn't really have much in the way of great beer. Pretty much all of it is light, yellow and fizzy. It's a bit sweet and most often indistinguishable from one another. You may eventually notice differences between Tsingtao and Asahi and Sapporo, but mostly they're very similar. Given that, San Miguel, a Filipino beer became my beer of choice. Again, it's not significantly better, but you take what you can get.

December 8, 2010

Hong Kong: CraftSteak?

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Walking through one of the restaurant strips in the SoHo area of Central Hong Kong, Tammi and I came across CraftSteak. I hadn't known of Colicchio and co having another branch of the now closed restaurant, so I looked closer.

According to the card, the CraftSteak Hong Kong as a whole family of familiarly named restaurants including Blue Smoke, BLT Burger, and Olive among others. I'm presuming these are all licensees and not some crazy joint venture that somehow flew under the radar.

December 5, 2010

Hong Kong: Brunch Club

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Apparently brunch is a thing in Hong Kong too.

December 2, 2010

Hong Kong: McDonald's Red Bean Pie

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While in Hong Kong, we made an emergency bathroom run to a McDonald's in Kowloon. I tend to avoid such Americanisms even at home, but really try to avoid them when I'm out of the country. That said, I'm very intrigued by this Red Bean Pie dessert they sell there. The fried pie shell reminds me of the old school apple pies of my youth and I'm curious how it all works with red beans.

We'll be back in Hong Kong twice more before we head home, so maybe I'll give in and try it out.

Hong Kong: Do Not Misuse

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SoHo, Central, Hong Kong.

Saw this on the side of an ambulance the other day. I don't know how bad a problem false alarms are in Hong Kong, but I love the use of these cute little characters to bring home the point.

December 1, 2010

Hong Kong: Jackie Chan Approved!

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"Effectively Reduces Hair Fall" - Hong Kong Supermarket, Mid-Levels.

November 4, 2010

Photography: For Love of Money? Can't I have both?

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As challenging as the technical aspects of photography can be, the business side is the part I hear most people have the most difficulty with. I totally understand that. Putting a price tag on something you enjoy doing is hard enough, but how do you make a living when everyone wants you to do it for free?

Recently, I've been approached by no less than a half dozen people, friends, strangers, organizations asking for copies of my photos to use on websites, newspapers, and books with no offer of compensation other than being credited for the use of the photograph. Given that credit seems to be the legal minimum anyone can offer, I'll stick with the analogy I've heard before of it being like offering an athlete the chance to play on a major league team strictly for the honor of getting a jersey with his name on it.

If you've spent any time contemplating the viability of life as a photographer, you have almost certainly heard the above lead into a diatribe about why amateurs are ruining the field, why photographers should always be paid for any work done and how working 'for credit' is a violent act against the entirety of the photographic community.

I've got nothing nearly so dramatic or black and white. In fact, more than using this post to state an opinion, I'd really like to hear from people in and around the field about how they feel.

Continue reading "Photography: For Love of Money? Can't I have both?" »

October 26, 2010

NC: No Escape from Condo-mania

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I guess I wasn't terribly surprised to find the familiar figure of a shiny new condo development in college town North Carolina, but I was a little disappointed.

Hearing stories of landlords and developers gentrifying an area in order to attract the more lucrative middle class market is commonplace here in New York, but the idea of it happening around Chapel Hill was a little jarring. I just hope that my own little college town doesn't have such issues.

June 8, 2010

Another Year Gone

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The last year has been intense. I turned 32 in the middle of my big push to really dedicate myself to pursuing photography seriously. A year later, I've worked my ass off, gone out shooting when I'd much prefer to be at home in bed with Tammi and spent a huge amount of money on classes, equipment, film and lab fees.

It's been a busy year, but one of the most fulfilling I've had to date. My efforts have yielded a column on Examiner, a regular blogging gig for Midtown Lunch, photos in three different books and magazines, I placed in a contest - I was even on TV! And finally, a photo show all of my own. My new camera, that I've been ogling for a year, is a part of the harvest, largely paid for with blogging and photography funds.

Now it's time to go further, to push harder to make things happen on purpose instead of by happy accident. This is where it becomes for real. It's the hard part: pitching, cold calling, making contacts all the while continuing what I've been doing. It wont be easy, but given the success this last year has brought - with the incredible support from my friends and family, especially Tammi, I know that the work will pay off. It'll happen so long as I keep pushing forward.

So, with that thought I mark 33 years under my belt and welcome the next.

Cheers.

May 28, 2010

Bed-Stuy: Boardwalk Empire

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Another example of Bed-Stuy 'coming up' in the world is that we're getting things like film production in the neighborhood. Over the last couple months, HBO has been filming an upcoming show called Boardwalk Empire. It's set in Atlantic City in the 20's, I believe, but they took advantage of the gorgeous old houses in this area.

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Mostly they've been filming out of a shuttered old folks home on the corner of Stuyvesant and Decatur. The building is old and beautiful, I've always wondered what it looks like inside. Not, I guess I'll see it on TV one day.


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Walking past the film crews, extras and props has certainly been interesting. Some days there's fake snow piled up, others there's a row of antique cars. It's been fun, to me.

Not so much for the car owners that have had another wrinkle in their alternate side parking dance with dozens of trucks and vans taking up spots up and down the blocks. Being a non-driver, that's no big deal to me.

May 16, 2010

Pig to Pork: Hair Removal

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As part of my butchery project, I attended "From Pig to Pork" hosted by Fleisher's. There we witnessed the transition from animal to meat and the prep that takes it from the farm to our table. I'll be posting with observations about experience both at the farm and in the shop. Just a heads up, some of the photos are pretty graphic. The point here is to appreciate the value of the process through potentially challenging images, not to gross anyone out, so feel free to skip this post if it's not your thing.

So, the first thing to know is that all pigs are not pink and hairless like what you've seen on TV. Heritage breeds in particular often have hair, which makes sense since the idea is that they haven't been cross-bred for convenience. The pig slaughtered at the event had red, spotted hair.

One of the reasons we've come to expect pale, pink hairless pigs is because the factory farms have engineered breeds to reduce the effort needed to process their animals. They're inbred and have to live in clean rooms because of how susceptible they are to disease, but once they're dead they don't need a haircut.

That's not to belittle the effort that goes into the process. It's not so pretty. More on that after the jump.

Continue reading "Pig to Pork: Hair Removal" »

May 11, 2010

Bed-Stuy's Blowin' up

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I moved to Bed-Stuy in 1986. Over the nearly 25 years since then, my relationship with the neighborhood has had its ups and downs. As a kid commuting to Brookln Heights every day, It bugged me that we didn't have bookstore and ice cream shops like on Montague Street. When I was a teenager, I was deeply embarrassed when hosting a visiting exchange student to have to walk him through a bloody crime scene on his first morning with us.

After college, my perspective changed, I still wished for amenities found elsewhere in New York, but I certainly appreciated living in Brownstone and paying the same price as friends in Fort Greene for twice the space - with a backyard, no less. Bars, restaurants, ice cream shops were all things I'd have to commute for, but the alternative was gentrification.

That subject, especially in Brooklyn can lead to some heated debates. While I'm certainly enjoying many of the perks gentrification provides in other neighborhoods, i understand that it can also leave an area unrecognizable and worse, unaffordable. That said, everything changes over time and there's no predicting how things will go.

New places are popping up all over the neighborhood and a few concerns aside, I'm very much enjoying it. There are restaurants, a book store, a wine bar and an art gallery. There are places for community to come together besides churches and places to imbibe besides the street corner. I'm pretty excited about it, truth be told.

This is all my wordy way of introducing a series I'll be doing over the next couple weeks highlighting places, new and old around Bed-Stuy that I haven't given a lot of attention to on the blog.

May 4, 2010

Butchery: Pure Ground Awesome!

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Sadly, I didn't end up buying this when I was at Fleisher's for the Pig to Pork trip, but a burger made of ground beef with ground bacon mixed in is something I have to try. Seriously.

April 5, 2010

Cruising: Vegas at Sea

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The decor of the ship was straight out of Las Vegas, shiny and gilded. Amazingly gaudy.

Given that, it made sense that there was actually a casino in the middle of it all. We didn't go in for more than a minute or two.


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March 27, 2010

Cruising: Big Ass Boats

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So, yeah. These ships are big. Sorry, these posts can't all be deep pearls of wisdom.

March 22, 2010

The Spoils of Gentrification: Beer!

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The upside to demographic change in Brooklyn? Better beer.

March 15, 2010

Cruising: Sea Legs

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Before the cruise, I was mildly concerned about adjusting to being on the water. The only boats I've been on for the most part have been riverboats. I wasn't sure how different the motion would be or how sensitive I'd be to it.

Turns out I didn't have much trouble at all. Every now and again, I'd suddenly be aware of a wobbly feeling, not unlike the earthquake I felt in Los Angeles a couple years ago. It typically subsided quickly and didn't usually really bother me.

What's weird is that for hours after leaving the ship, I was still getting that 'wobbly' feeling. I'm sure there's plenty of inner ear science that explains this, but I have no idea.

Again, it makes me wonder what it's like for someone who spends months at sea to return to solid ground.

March 14, 2010

Cruising: Dining Hours

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In the months before taking this cruise, I found more than a few boosters who were happy to tell me how much they love cruises. They went on to dispute the various complaints and stereotypes about cruises. High up on that list was the dining situation.

Assigned tables and set dinner times they assured me are a thing of the past. Many cruise lines have multiple restaurant options and don't require a set seating time every night. Carnival didn't get the memo. The Imagination sports a single restaurant with table service, Spirit. Our seating was set for 6pm. Every night.

To those unfamiliar, here's how it works. The restaurant only does two or three seatings a night and between them, they have to accommodate for all the guests on the ship. The times are assigned, so some people get to eat at a reasonable hour and the rest of us eat five minutes after lunch. Similarly, guests are assigned to large round tables, wedding-style. The same folks eat together every night. In our case everyone at our table was a part of our group, but if you're with a smaller group or just a couple or family, you share the table and all the awkward conversation you want with strangers.

If you miss your seating and want a later dining time, you have to wait until the whole dining group has come in and then be placed in at any vacant spaces that are left.

I'm sure it all makes sense from the logistical perspective of trying to feed thousands of people, but it's definitely not so friendly for anyone who wants some flexibility in dining.

March 13, 2010

Cruising: At Sea

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Pardon the obvious observation, but being at sea means being in the middle of nowhere. Look in every direction and there's nothing on the horizon in any direction. It's a first for me. As a city-dweller, the idea of being surrounded by essentially nothingness is fascinating. Particularly, it makes me think about sailors through history surrounded by a blue void for days or weeks or months at a time.

There's a weird cognitive dissonance being so isolated from the rest of the world, yet still surrounded by a thousand people.

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March 1, 2010

Analog: Appreciating Digital

You'll notice that there's no photo here. That's because I've been all analog for the last week and a half.

In all my recent experimentation over the last couple months, I've enjoyed the process of shooting film and the excitement of seeing the results. I did my best not to overly glorify film, but I certainly have been finding film more interesting. Not enough to replace digital, but I've definitely been talking up film a lot more.

I'll take it as a rebuke from fate or the photography gods that my digital camera crapped out on me a week ago exactly when I needed it for quite a few things including a photography class, a couple events I was covering for Examiner and of course the wedding and cruise this past weekend.

So, yes, I miss digital. Let me count the ways:

• Changing rolls of film in the middle of shooting an event sucks. No ones going to stop walking down the aisle or hold that pose long enough for you to swap rolls.

• Along the same lines, being able to take 1,000+ exposures on a chip allows you to catch more moments just through sheer volume. Everyone wants to think they're going to catch the Decisive Moment through skill, but sometimes skill still needs 30 attempts to get it right.

• Trial and Error. Seriously. You have no idea how scared I am that some setting was off and half the photos I took are screwy because I couldn't glance at the LCD to see that I shouldn't have used that aperture or didn't see that someone was totally backlit.

Finally, there's developing cost in both time and money. Between the snowstorm and the travel, I now have nearly two dozen rolls of film to develop. That's going to cost a lot and I won't get them for a couple days.

February 25, 2010

Adventures in Travel, Snowstorm Edition

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Tammi and I are supposed to be going to a wedding this weekend. This involves us being in Miami tomorrow to catch a ship to take us to Nassau.

Besides my friends wedding, I'm also curious about this whole cruise thing. I've never thought highly of them, but from what I hear it might be a good time.

Of course, this all assuming that we can get through yet another snowstorm to hit the Northeast.

So far, we've got canceled flights, downed check-in servers and scrambling to pack for a flight a day earlier than planned. Not to mention skipping out on a photo shoot and a class I was supposed to do tonight.

So, yeah. I'm bitching. But if I make it to Miami before the night's over, I'll be fine. If not, I'll have dumped quite a bit of money into the travel industry for absolutely nothing in return.

Wish me luck!

February 23, 2010

Vancouver: Homelessness

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One of the striking things about Vancouver to me was how much homelessness there is. Like my first visit to San Francisco, it was a stark reminder of how much less drug abuse and poverty we see in New York these days. Even now, recession and all, the presence of homelessness is nothing like it was when I was growing up.

So, seeing so many panhandlers out and about, not to mention the sketchy scene in Chinatown was jarring.

I hear that many groups are up in arms about the money going to Winter Olympics. It's said that that money could be used to ensure that no one would have to sleep on the streets again.

I have no idea. As a U.S. citizen, I'm certainly in no position to call out Canada on its funding of social programs.

Further, I think that the argument judges that sports aren't important. I'm not much of a fan myself, but I'd be deluded to say that sport doesn't pull people together in a way few other things can. And I'd be arrogant to decide that my disinterest trumps the overwhelming support sports have worldwide.

As far as homelessness goes, I don't have a solution, but I don't know that throwing money at it necessarily resolves it either.

February 22, 2010

Vancouver: On The Water

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New Yorkers take the water for granted. We're a city of islands, but we rarely set foot in the water. Even at our great waterfront views and sightseeing locales, we are looking past beyond it to see our skyscrapers and bridges.

Yes, there is the pollution issue, but that's more a symptom than a cause. Our busy city culture tends to focus getting over, under or through the waters surrounding us.

In Vancouver, I was surprised at how many people were out on the water. Besides those who were fishing or landing planes, there were people rowing crew and kayaking. Instead of the big water taxis and giant circle line boats we have in New York, tiny boats that would fit now more than a dozen people traffic passengers from port to port.

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We sat at water level and waved as this lady passed us by. Yes, this totally freaked me out. Don't mistake this for pining. I won't be kayaking around Manhattan any time soon. It's just an observation of something that is seemingly entirely different to me.

February 19, 2010

Vancouver: Feeding Time

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Walking down the waterfront in Vancouver after lunch at Kitaro, I had one 'city-boy' moment after another.

We saw this guy gutting a fish down by the marina. I was annoyed that he was just chucking the bits he didn't want back into the water. With this gorgeous view around me, it ticked me off a bit that this guy was littering like that.

Then I jumped a little when I saw a blur under the water.

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He wasn't littering, he was feeding the local wildlife. Apparently, there are tons (literally) of sea lions that live in the area and share the water with all the boats and planes that use it daily.

A crowd had gathered to watch and one of the other tourists tried to get in on the action. That was all well and good until the sea lion got a bit friendlier than expected:

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Vancouver: Distance

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I'm not so great with the metric system, but I'm pretty sure Vancouver was the closest I've ever been to the North Pole (on the ground).

February 18, 2010

Snapshots from Vancouver

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I haven't really been following the Winter Olympics. I rarely do. But reports and discussion tend to be inescapable.

The other day, I saw Brian Williams reporting from Vancouver with the bay behind him and I was brought back to the few days I spent there last year. One of the best things about travel is how it resonates with you long after you've returned. I heard another report on NPR where the correspondent was drowned out momentarily by a landing seaplane. Before he said anything, I knew what that sound and remembered the city-boy awe at airplanes that land on the water!

Over the next couple of days, I'm going to try to catch up on some of the posts I never got around to writing from my trip to Vancouver. Enjoy!

February 15, 2010

Travel Observations: Mountains

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Growing up in New York, my idea of mountains has always been giant triangles sticking out of the ground. Even spending 4 years living in a valley didn't really properly convey the concept of what a mountain was in my head. It wasn't until going out to Aspen and actually being in the mountains that I really began to comprehend the size and shape of real mountains.

To this day, I'm still a little shocked looking at them. Flying over them, they're shapes are weird, almost violent.

February 4, 2010

Analog: Developing film while traveling

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A challenge of my exploration into shooting analog is that outside of the New York area, I have no idea where to go to get film developed by real professionals. So, I have to go to the few one hour photo spots left in whatever town I'm in.

The upside is that invariably they are cheaper than the $13-15 I spend per roll for developing and scanning my film. The downside is that the people doing this are almost invariably incompetent.

In Seattle, the guy at the Ritz knew what he was doing for the most part, but the hi-res scans aren't nearly the quality of my typical scans, meaning that I'll have to go back and rescan if I want to use the images for anything in the future.

In Hawai'i, the staff rotated nearly every time I showed up, meaning that I had to re-explain what I wanted every time to a worker who basically had no idea what to do with film.

Most recently, in Aspen, I got little bit of everything at the Wolf Camera, a part of the Ritz Camer chain. Everyone there gave me something different. No one was familiar enough with film to know what their standard procedure was supposed to be. I got charged different rates (all pretty low), scans at different resolutions and worse, one of my negatives got so beat up that I got scans like the image above.

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And on another set of rolls, the scans were all cropped to 4x5 cutting out the edges of the frame.

Oddly, based on resolution, they also split up the images from a roll into as many as 5 discs. Something about the software they use decides that a CD should only be up to 20% full and after that, the data has to go on to another disc. And another. And another. Better yet, they charge you for each disc. Sometimes.

It's a bad scene all around. But, if you've got no other choice, you do what you have to do. Just keep in mind that who handles your photos can be very important.

January 31, 2010

Aspen: That X Games Glow

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You can see the glow coming from the Winter X Games from the middle of town, two and a half miles away.

January 15, 2010

Philly: Creepy Cat

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In another plaza around the corner from the Piazza in Philly's Northern Liberties, there was a pet shop with this creature in the window. At first I couldn't tell it was alive. It was sitting there like a statue, creepy and forbidding. Then it moved and Tammi and I both jumped.

Best part: The Bitch and Stud doggy bowls in the background.

January 8, 2010

Beaten by the hordes

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This was the scene at The Metropolitan Museum last weekend when I attempted to go catch the Robert Frank exhibit. With New York seemingly empty of locals, I didn't expect to see the tourists numbered quite so highly here. It was very disappointing since I had really wanted to make it to that show, but there was just no way I was going to make it through this mob.

Seattle: Fog

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Nearly every morning I was in Seattle, the fog enveloped the waterfront. I waded through it one day and took the ferry out to West Seattle. As we pulled out of the dock, I got to see if from afar. It looked like a band across the lower section of downtown, with everything above perfectly clear.

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January 6, 2010

MTA Unlocked

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You've got to love the MTA. For all the fare hikes, service cuts and security rules they keep pushing, they still can't manage to keep their staff from leaving turnstiles unlocked, open and with the keys still in them.

Brilliant.

January 4, 2010

Analog: Diana Mini

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The holidays brought me more photography gear that I'm looking forward to playing with in this brand new year. I've already mentioned the Lensbaby Composer that Tammi got me, but that's not strictly analog and I haven't really used that on my film Canon yet.

These photos are from the Diana Mini that my aunt gave me. The camera is a miniaturized version of the popular Diana toy camera from Lomography.

Unlike the 'grownup' Diana, the Mini takes 35mm film, which is much more convenient to find and get developed. It also has two frame sizes, square boxes, like you see here or rectangular half frames that effectively double the number of exposures you can make on a roll. I have only just started shooting half-frame, but check back here for an update in the next week.

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I'm still learning how best to use it, but these are some of the test shots I took last week. Lesson number one for me was that it's all but useless inside. I'll have to either only use it outdoors or get really good at timing my shots to the fraction of a second in 'bulb' mode.

This is my second foray into toy cameras, the first being the Holga, the mastery of which continues to elude me. Between being put off by the medium format film, the lack of metering and the larger shape that makes it more difficult to carry around, I've all but given up on learning how to make good photos with it. I'm hoping that the easier to manage Diana Mini can work as 'training wheels' to get the hang of shooting with a toy camera. One day, maybe I'll be ready to graduate to the medium format goodness of the Holga.

December 31, 2009

That's a Wrap: A Personal Reflection on the 00's

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This is it folks.

Not technically the end of a decade, but that's not a fight I'm going to pick. The naughts, the aughts, the double O's, I just made that last one up, but it doesn't matter. No one ever called this decade either of the others. In fact, I heard the terms again for the first time in 10 years just a couple weeks ago. It's a silly label, but everything needs a name.

Whatever it's called, it's not been the easiest ten years, that's for sure. It's certainly been the most eventful on a worldwide scale in my lifetime. All I've been hearing over the last few days has been how terrible both the year and the decade have been. It's been rough, that's true, but I can't complain.

The 00's was an essential period in my life. I came into the decade as a kid. I was 22 and just out of college. I hadn't begun to cook or travel or do much, if any of the things that define my life these days. My career in Technology was only five months old. I went into the field as something to do until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, but had no idea what that would be. Along the same vein, photography was something from my past, a hobby from high school that I enjoyed but didn't plan to pick up again, not this craft that I try to pursue and improve upon every day.

Ten years ago I was also very lonely. My life in college had gotten me accustomed to being surrounded by friends at all times. I was never more than a few minutes away from someone to drink with, talk to or watch TV with. For all the confusion and growing and pressure that college brings, after four years things start to make sense. By this time in 1999, I had no idea what the 'real world' was about. My friends had either scattered to the four winds or were still in school, the working world had borders and barriers that I just didn't get.

Over the ensuing decade, I experienced a lot and hopefully learned from it, I met great people, eaten amazing food and set foot on four continents. I discovered a life I wouldn't have dreamed of as a 22 year old and I met a beautiful, passionate and intelligent woman to share that life with me.

Without being either saccharine or gloomy, I can say that the decade has been an important one in my life and, while a lot of it could have gone better, I'm grateful for what it's brought.

Happy New Year.
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December 30, 2009

Hawai'i: Military School

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One morning on The Big Island, we walked out of our hotel to find an honor guard from a local Military School welcoming guests. We were told that they were 'VIPs' but when we saw them, neither of us recognized them.

When I think of military schools, I think of the kids who get sent away after getting into trouble. The last option for parents looking to teach their kids some discipline. But in Hawai'i, I saw a different context.

The big story in the news while we were there was the severe budget cuts that led to closing down all public schools on Fridays. Throughout the state, Furlough Fridays left kids with an extra day off every week. Considering that, I suppose uniforms and flag carrying becomes a more attractive option.

December 29, 2009

Train Locator Console

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There are (rightly) many complaints about the MTA these days, particularly with draconian cuts in service looming. My neighborhood in particular is about to be totally screwed by some of the cuts in bus routes.

That said, this is pretty awesome : The Train Locator Console lets you know where all the trains are along the entire line. No more peering into the abyss of train tunnel, squinting for a glimmer of light reflecting off the tracks. Of course, this is just on the L Train and the price its riders paid for these spiffy new features was several years of service interruptions and weekend shuttle buses.

Hopefully one day the MTA will be managed and funded properly enough to have these kinds of features throughout the system. As of right now, that sort of wide-scale infrastructure investment seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

December 28, 2009

Vancouver: Gas Station

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As if the Seaplanes weren't enough to wow me, I was completely amazed by the idea of a gas station on a river. I mean, it makes sense, right?

December 21, 2009

Snowfall

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So, yeah, there was a snow storm. I guess winter's definitely here. Insert "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" joke here.

December 17, 2009

Vancouver: 3 Door Boarding

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So, the Western notion of a Public Transit system paid for by the honor system is apparently applied to buses as well as the subway in Vancouver. This 3 door boarding process caught my attention when I was out there over the summer. Each of the doors has an automated payment system that riders are trusted to swipe when they board.

Craziness.

December 10, 2009

Hawai'i: Tiki Torches

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Visually, I've always loved the tiki torches that light up every night throughout Hawaii. The rounded triangular shapes anchoring the wildly blowing flames just draws me.

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December 4, 2009

Kauai: Jungle Fowl

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Chickens run wild all throughout the island of Kauai. We saw them from the moment we left the airport and on through the rest of our time there. They were on the sides of the roads, in backyards, even along the side of a waterfall that we hiked a mile to get to. And you can hear the roosters crowing nearly everywhere.

The locals call them 'Jungle Fowl" It's unclear exactly how they came to be so prolific, but most of the stories we heard indicated that the population skyrocketed after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. The most plausible involved cock-fighting birds that were freed in the havoc the storm wrought.

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Regardless, I found myself inspired by all this wandering poultry. Between that and my vacation reading of "My Life in France," I find myself wanting to try my hand at Coq au Vin.

November 27, 2009

Hawai'i on Foot or "I Never Learned to Drive!"

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I'm an unapologetic pedestrian. I can't drive and I can't say I particularly care to learn. Honestly, I prefer places that driving isn't necessary. And the places I might want to get to by driving are places like Napa, Provence or the Italian countryside where I really want to go to sample wine and have 3 hour lunches wouldn't be especially conducive to responsible driving. Tammi can't drive either, although she actually wants to learn and has been taking classes in pursuit of that.

Regardless, neither of us currently have a license. That proved a bit of a limitation in getting around on Hawai'i's more rural islands. Neither The Big Island or Kauai are particularly accommodating for the non-drivers.

The Big Island, being more rural and, well, Big, was the most challenging of the two. Taxis cost about $5 per mile to get around and I ended up dropping $100 just getting to our hotel from the airport. Besides the tour we took of the island, we didn't get beyond the grounds of our resort and it's sister hotel.

Kauai was a bit easier, with towns only a couple miles apart and a bus system that could get us up to the north shore of the island. But it only runs until 6:15pm and doesn't run at all on Sundays, which led to some rearranging of plans. Even with that, we put in more than a mile or two walking while we were there.

Coming from New York, it's funny to see the reactions of locals and hospitality folks when asked about getting around without a car. They initially assume we're being cheap and try to convince us that it's worth it to get a car. When we explain that that's not an option, they just think we're weird.

I'm writing this back in Honolulu, which though touristy and laden with hi-rises and Waikiki Wackos, is more familiar terrain for a city boy like me.

November 24, 2009

Hawai'i: Around The Big Island in Ten Hours

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I'm generally pretty dubious of tour buses. In New York, they represent those visitors so clueless that they can't be bothered to take the subway uptown or downtown and actually see the city through their own eyes. It's Nebraskans and Octogenarians that are too scared of our reviled city to actually get to know it first hand. I'm probably too harsh.

That said, there's no way we could have seen so much of The Big Island if we hadn't gone on the Island Circle Tour from Roberts Hawaii that we did last week. It was a wonderful and interesting experience.

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The Big Island is amazingly diverse. I spent the last 20 minutes just trying to figure out which picture to lead with. We stayed in the desert land of Kona on the Southeast side of the island. It's the windward side and, though hot and sunny everyday, had winds strong enough to slam doors and blow cups and flatware off of tables.

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Over the course of the day, we passed through and stopped in volcanic wastelands covered in cooled lava rock across from lush green pasture lands, down the road from a black sand beach full of warming Sea Turtles, minutes away from an active caldera spouting steam and sulfur, which in turn is virtually around the corner from a tropical rain forest. We visited a coffee plant, a bakery in the southernmost town in the United States, and we walked through an empty lava tube underneath a jungle.

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It was all very impressive and pretty amazing to cover so much in such a relatively short time.

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November 21, 2009

Hawai'i: Waikiki Weirdness

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One can only spend so much time in Waikiki before, apparently, your brains fall out of your head and you do something completely outrageous. This is my theory, at least. We've had the good sense to only ever go a few days at a time. But in our few days in Waikiki at the beginning of the trip, we stumbled across quite the oddities there.

Sitting at a hotel bar relaxing, Tammi and I looked up at the group of Japanese guys at the table over from us only to find this guy stripping down to what you see here. I've surmised that this was some Bachelor Party prank or something, but that's a wild guess. All the English we could get out of his friends between guffaws was that he had to wear that for an hour.

He made the best of it, hamming it up and posing with any number of people who wanted pictures of or with him.

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Converse to that guys personal exposure, there were no less than three guys we saw on our first night in Hawai'i walking around with 'inflated' self-worth. They drunkenly wandered the streets and bars and showed off their temporary enhancements to anyone who would look their way.

October 30, 2009

Feeling Autumnal

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I can't say I've ever been fond of Fall. The days are shorter, the weather is colder and historically, it was the time to go back to school and spend less time playing. These days, there isn't a ton of time for play one way or the other, but work (day job and otherwise) does seem to intensify around this time or year. Everything seems busier and busier by the day, with very little time to figure out what's been done.

I'm trying to stop to take a breath from time to time to appreciate the beauty that the season has to offer and remember that all this work is an investment in future payoffs.

September 9, 2009

The Smoke Condition

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I understand that it's probably wise for MTA staff to avoid saying 'fire' on a crowded train during rush hour. But I still think that 'smoke condition' is a stupid euphemism.

August 16, 2009

Another Mystery: Jennifer Denapoli

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Much like the guys I saw in Fort Greene, I felt like I was walking into someone else's story when I saw these pages taped up to the walls at the exit of the walls of the Herald Square station on my way to work. I don't know who Jennifer Denapoli is or who it is that misses her so much, but maybe posting this will one day yield even a glimpse of the story behind it all.

August 12, 2009

Lunch: Shut Out of the Outdoors

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My favorite (read: only convenient) outdoor space near my office has been locked up and fenced off for the better part of a month. It's doubly disappointing as it seemed to coincide exactly with the arrival of seasonal weather.

There's no sign or readily apparent explanation as to why it's locked up, but it is certainly a disappointment for the many local workers, like myself, starved for daylight and seeking a mere 15 minute respite from the office to soak up a little sun. Being on a side street, the space benefited from being just out of the way enough to avoid the throngs of tourists that shuffle around the base of the Empire State Building.

But now there's nothing. We either have to wade through the crowds to get to Herald Square, the heart of the swarm, where aimless tourists and shoppers meander or the benches in front of the old B. Altman's building where you can vie for spaces with the homeless.

Or, it's back to shoveling food into your mouth at your desk before someone says, "I don't want to interrupt your lunch but..."

August 9, 2009

The Highline and What's Wrong with New York

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If you haven't heard, the Highline is a freight rail line that used to run through the warehouses of the lower west side of Manhattan, delivering meat and such to the meat-packing district long before the neighborhood's primary appeal became Sex & The City tours and douchebaggery. In recent decades, it's been abandoned and overrun with weeds and become the hidden gem of The City. The only way to access it was to climb up random fire escapes or scale walls.

Flash to the present, after much lobbying from locals, the Highline has been turned into a park and it's the new 'It' spot in the 'It' neighborhood downtown. After opening in early June amid the deluge that just barely missed the rainfall record in city history, the droves that plague any and everything worth attending have invaded.

So, yeah, I'm bitter. The day that Tammi and I tried to go up there and found the scene above. There was a line to get to The Highline. A line. To get to a park. We weren't down.

_MG_2720 - Version 2

So yeah. We still haven't been to the Highline. I guess I have to wait for the most undesirable time to go and hope that no else has the same idea.

August 6, 2009

LA: How To Hail A Taxi

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Apparently, Angelenos require instructions for this very complicated task.

Update: LAist linked to this image the other day. Since holding out your arm is so difficult, texting may be the answer...

August 4, 2009

LA: Hannibal

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I love it when a plan comes together.

August 1, 2009

LA Observations: An Industry Town

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Even the parking lots in LA reference the movie industry.

July 30, 2009

LA Observations: Preserved Cars

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I can't take credit for this observation. Honestly, I'd never noticed it until my colleague pointed it out: Cars seem to last longer here. Everywhere you go there are older cars. And not necessarily classic, iconic cars, but also entirely forgettable beaters like Hondas from the mid-80s.

According to my travel companion, this is related to the climate. In the Northeast, we've got moisture all year round, whether in the humid, stormy summers like this one, the rainy springs and falls or the snowy winters. It's a desert out here. In my experience, it really doesn't rain in Southern California. Presumably this means less water and rust damage.

The longer I'm here, the more I start to notice the random mixture of cars on the road. I suppose the fact that cars last longer makes it more affordable to live in a town where you have to have one.

July 28, 2009

LA Observations: Power Lines

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Most power and phone lines in New York have been underground for well over a decade. So long that I tend to forget that the entire world hasn't done the same. In LA, these towers are everywhere, cutting through the landscape for miles.

July 27, 2009

DC: America - The Store

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Reagan National Airport.

July 26, 2009

LA Observations: Parking

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Besides all the smog and traffic, one of the effects of the car culture out here is the amount of space taken up by parking lots.

I'd never really thought about it, but those cars have to go -somewhere- when people aren't in them. And those places take up a ridiculous amount of space.

Being from New York, the idea of wasting all that space on empty cars is unfathomable to me.

June 4, 2009

Amherst: 10th Reunion

_MG_9780

Somehow, ten years have passed since I graduated from college. Last weekend I returned to Amherst College for my class reunion. It was my first time on campus since the last reunion, five years ago.

For all my travels, I've only ever lived in two areas in my thirty-odd years. As such, I find myself very tightly bonded to this small town that is so contrary to everywhere else I'm ever drawn to. Returning was comforting, yet jarring.

As a New Yorker, I should be more than a little familiar with the change and progress that transforms the world around us all the time. But seeing it in Amherst fwas slightly traumatic. Dorms were gutted and renovated and the old, decaying bits we thought of as character were replaced with more practical features.

Regardless of the other differences around campus, it was reassuring to take in the same view from the top of Memorial Hill that blew me away as a prospective student 15 years ago.

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April 27, 2009

DC: Coal is Dirty

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Here's some more political graffiti I found off 18th Street in Adams Morgan. Maybe I'm seeing a trend where one doesn't exist, but I found it interesting how directly political some of the graffiti in DC was.

This collage of paste-ups pieced together slogans and imagery in protest against the coal industry, including fliers for a rally last month. There's a fair amount of graffiti that references politics in New York, but in my experience they tend to be broader anti-establishment messages rather than specifically regarding policy.

April 26, 2009

That New Train Smell

IMG_0286

Good signs from the MTA are few and far between, so I'm going to hope that this is one of them. A couple weeks ago, while standing on the platform at Jay Street, this brand-spanking new train parked at the Manhattan-bound A/C track for a few minutes.

It was pristine. The bench seats were still covered in plastic and the cars looked unsullied by the hazings of rush hour.

Now, this was the only sign I've seen of such a thing on my line, but here's hoping...

April 23, 2009

DC: Post-Election Clearance Sale

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Found at the gift shop at DCA.

April 22, 2009

DC: Thanks Mayor Fenty

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I found this in an empty lot off U Street. It's always interesting to catch a glimpse of the local politics when traveling.

In the case, The Franklin School, which has served as an emergency shelter since 2002, was shut down by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. This stencil appears to be a part of the Reopen Franklin Shelter Now campaign.

April 11, 2009

CT: The Great Outdoors

_MG_7164

Whenever I go out to the hinterlands, I'm struck by the irony of suburban life. For all the talk of being 'closer to nature' and having tree and whatnot, I find that the only time anyone spends outside is going to or from their car.

In the office park, you may take 5 minutes to walk from building to building, but now you even have bridges between buildings so you don't even have to do that.

February 22, 2009

Paris: Pork Spread

IMG_9655

At Au Pied Cochon, as one would expect of a place named after a Pig's foot, they don't sully bread with a pat of butter. Instead they provide a small bowl of pork pate to spread. Much like everything else here, it's profoundly rich.

February 20, 2009

Bodega Toys: Benign Girl

Benign?

You find the most random toys for sale over the counter at the neighborhood bodega...

February 13, 2009

Paris: Scarves

IMG_0951

Of the many observations in Paris that Tammi made that I would never have noticed was that everyone wears scarves. Nice scarves. I don't really understand the concept, but Tammi certainly appreciated it and picked up quite a few for herself and as gifts.

These were beautifully displayed at Diwali a chain that we came across a few times.

February 1, 2009

Paris: Sunday Shutdown

IMG_8626 - Version 2

I know I have been in Paris on a Sunday before, but somehow I didn't remember dealing with the fact that on Sunday all the shops and many of the restaurants are either closed all day or close up early in the afternoon.

I knew places might be closed and so did a walk through of Montergueil when I first left the apartment. I saw that everything seemed to be open, so instead of shopping for the groceries I needed, I wandered around more and took photos. Then I noticed the line below in front of a boulangerie waiting for bread. A few minutes later, I noticed vendors cleaning up. Finally I started piecing together that the reason all those crates and boxes I had been shooting were out on the sidewalk was that the sellers were wrapping up early that day. I scrambled to pick up what I needed and was mostly successful. Within half an hour nearly all the markets were closed.

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January 23, 2009

Photo of the Day: Art or Something Like It

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Downtown Aspen, CO. 2009.

I've mentioned that Downtown Aspen is heavily populated with Furriers and Art Galleries before. What I didn't mention was that many of these galleries draw in their customers with symbols of their rustic surroundings. More than one place is guarded by life-size statues of Grizzly Bears and other animals including this humble foal.

Perhaps this is just a limitation of my citified imagination, but I can't fathom an appropriate place in any home for statues of wildlife.

January 12, 2009

0 Bags Free!

0 Bags Free!

You have to love the airline industry's ability to try to put a positive spin on their money-grubbing ways.

Apparently Delta has given up on the 'higher ground' of not charging for all checked luggage. But they still want you to know that some options are free - like not checking a bag at all.

What's hilarious is the implication that if they wanted to, they could apply a fee for not checking bags. It reminds me of a recent Onion article about American Airlines charging non-passengers a fee for not flying with them.

Who's to say they aren't already thinking up a way to do either.

December 31, 2008

Paris Obervations: Flamel

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Here's a little something for the Harry Potter fans. Our Apartment in Paris was a block away from a street named after Nicolas Flamel, someone I had no idea had been a real person until I saw this sign.

December 30, 2008

Paris Observations: Smoking

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When I heard that France had barred smoking in bars and restaurants, I assumed that this law would be flouted in Paris, much like traffic laws tend to be. Shockingly, I found that people really followed it.

On the one hand, seeing the familiar site of smokers huddled in the cold in front of bars, restaurants and office buildings reminded me a little too much of home. On the other, I was profoundly happy to spend the entire trip without tobacco smoke infesting my clothes and hair.

December 29, 2008

Paris: Sarko Paste-Ups


IMG_8232, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The French may love Obama hands down, but Sarkozy doesn't have quite the popularity. One morning these paste-ups were all all over central Paris. I still only have vague notions of what the messages say, but could tell they weren't particularly flattering. I eventually figured out that one translates to "Yes We Can outsource thousands of jobs from France."

By the evening, they were shredded. I don't know if those were fans of Sarkozy or Obama acolytes offended by the comparison

Paris Observations: Obama Love

IMG_0831

Everywhere we went in Paris, we saw our new president looking back at us. There were signs and life-size cutouts and T-shirts all over.

Tammi bought a bobblehead there that says "Yes! We! Can!" when bobbled or otherwise nudged or jostled, which now greets us when we walk in the house.

December 23, 2008

Paris Observations: Legends of Christmas


IMG_0575, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This display in the windows of BHV, a department store in the Marais, Paris, was labeled "Legends of Christmas." Personally, I don't remember any Christmas stories about dragons or unicorns, so I'm guessing this is something culturally specific.

December 4, 2008

Paris Observations: La Mode


IMG_8278, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Yes, even the kids in Paris are stylish. Check out the little boots matching her mother's.

Paris: VeLib


IMG_6694, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Nearly everything in central Paris seems pretty close to everything else, but isn't quite. The Metro seems to stop every 5 blocks or so, but rarely in quite the right direction for where I want to go, so we usually end up walking.

The walking often adds up though, and what seems like a quick walk around the corner ends up being a whole day on our feet.

Enter VeLib, the free bike rentals that are ALL over the city. Everywhere we go there is a VeLib 'station,' a dock of 10-30 bikes and a machine to purchase a rental from. The best part is that it's free for the first half hour which is about as long as we'd ever need them to get from point A to point B.

The downside: We've never managed to get them to work. For whatever reason, they just won't accept any card that we've tried to use. We've been trying for the entire time we've been here with no success. Unfortunately there seems to be no support for them to speak of. The website has just about the worst English translation I've ever seen, so it's no help at all.

So, our 'great' disappointment of our honeymoon is that we weren't able to ride around on our little bikes to go shopping or to get to a museum. All things considered, not that big a deal.

December 3, 2008

Paris Observations: RollerBlading Police


IMG_7420 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

One night in Paris we came across cops cruising around on Rollerblades. A few minutes later, we say them giving a driver a ticket. Sadly, we didn't see how they pulled over the car, but that would have been a sight.

September 9, 2008

SF: Muni Passport


IMG_3698, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I've raved about various parts about San Francisco and how I wish I had certain aspects of the Bay Area readily available where I live. Eventually I was bound to run into a few things that didn't make any sense. And here it is. The most ass-backward thing I saw while in SF was the Muni Passport.

It's a 3 day pass that allows the bearer to get on the buses, street cars and trolleys around the city. It's obviously something that you'd want to carry around. But it's huge. Instead of being a wallet sized swipe or proxy card, like everywhere else in the world, this pass looks more like a lottery scratch ticket that should be tossed out after losing your money than something you would put in your wallet. In fact, there's no way this thing would fit in anyone's wallet. I've put it next to a standard sized Metrocard here for scale. It's very silly.

August 4, 2008

LA Observations: RV Living

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There are tons of Winnebagos and like vehicles in LA. I don't get it.

August 2, 2008

Random Observations: Hotel Meetings


IMG01031.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

There are things you know have to happen somewhere, but never quite expect to run into. . .

Biking LA


IMG_7467, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Amazingly, I've seen more than a few people on bicycles here in Los Angeles. Each time I've pondered how unpleasant an experience that must be. I'm not even comfortable riding around Manhattan.

Riding in place where everything is a half hour drive away, boulevards have 8 lanes and no sidewalks and the temperature is invariably in the 80's seems ridiculously dangerous.

Apparently, that's pretty accurate. This morning I glanced at the Wall Street Journal in the hotel lobby and found a piece discussing the difficulties biking Angelenos face. It gets pretty ugly. The most severe hazard seems to be belligerent drivers, which isn't particularly surprising.

Last month, a pissed off driver slammed his brakes ahead of a couple of riders, sending them to the hospital. It's a toss up whether this story is more disturbing because the driver had been in a similar accident a few months earlier or that he's a physician, who knows exactly the type of damage that sort of behavior could lead to.

Predictably, this incident rallied the biking community, but it seems to have also begun a long-needed conversation about sharing the road.

Hopefully it all works out, but I won't be renting a bicycle out here any time soon.


July 30, 2008

Photo of the Day: Atocha


Atocha Station, Madrid, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Madrid, Spain. 2003.

Atocha station has an interesting significance in my memory. My sister and I stayed a couple blocks away from Atocha station when we were in Madrid on our Euro-Trip. It's a big beautiful station and strikingly, it houses a climate controlled rain forest in the remnants of the original station.

It was one of the landmarks that we both remembered very clearly. A little over a year later, it was at the center of the March 11th bombings. It was jarring. One of the great benefits of traveling, as far as I'm concerned, is that it tangibly connects us to places we might otherwise only see or hear about abstractly on television or in movies. The flip side of that is that when someone happens to try to blow it up, it hits closer to home.

July 29, 2008

LA: On Shaky Ground

This morning in Chino Hills, a place I'd never heard of before today, there was an earthquake of 5.4 magnitude. 37 miles away, where I was, the ground wobbled for a good 15 seconds.

Sadly, I have no great story about my first earthquake. I didn't really noticed it until one of my co-workers pointed out that the ground wasn't actually supposed to be shaking.

It was sort of cool.

I don't need anything more severe than that, but I thought it was a pretty cool thing to experience. I've always wondered what it would be like. The answer: wobbly.

July 28, 2008

Celebrity Sighting: Brad Dourif


IMG_7726, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I hadn't even gotten out of the airport before seeing my first 'celebrity.' Brad Dourif stood behind me in line for a taxi. Who? Yeh, I didn't know his name either but I imdb-stalked him and found his name and his rather lengthy filmography.

I initially recognized him as having been in the second The Lord of the Rings chapter, but later discovered that his career goes all the way back to playing Billy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. If you were to see him and recognize his face, it would be for his creepy, piercing eyes, but his most well known work is probably as the voice for Chucky in those terrible Child's Play Movies.

I had planned to write this post more tongue-in-cheek, about how ridiculously obscure this guy is, but really I have a lot of respect for character actors like Dourif. These are actors who go in, do their jobs and go home. We don't have to hear about who they're sleeping with or which parties they attend or what their political cause is. Because he's just an actor doing his job.

July 10, 2008

France: Paris Train Show


IMG_5247, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Champs-Elysee, Paris. June 2003.

There was a Train Show on the Champs-Elysee when I visited Paris during the summer of 2003. The obvious cultural difference here is that the French were having a public show boasting the technology of rail transportation while the US, even now sees 'starve the beast' as the best way to deal with such alternate transportation. You'll rarely see anything like this in the States as it is.I've gone on my tirades before while discussing the shinkansen in Japan, so I'll leave that alone.

More jarring that that was this train car, above. It's a cattle car, which was used during The War to deport Jews, among many others, to concentration camps. This was amazing to me. I can't imagine anything like this taking place here in the US.

One of the most fascinating parts of visiting Europe to me is the remarkable perspective they have on history. Europeans live surrounded by institutions and structures older than the United States. Something that happend 60 years ago is considered a recent event and something worthy of continued remorse. Here we consider 30 years of Affirmative Action sufficient to counter 400 years of oppression. Perspective is not something we do so well in the land of "You're either with us or against us."

Much can be said about whether the French are really admitting any culpability here. There are a million perspectives on history. Regardless, the mere acknowledgment strikes me as more mature than anything I've seen here at home.

July 6, 2008

Graffiti of the Day: Choose


IMG_4506, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

18th Street and Valencia, The Mission, San Francisco. 2008.

"A white mouse pokes its head out of the sewer grate and gives him an inquisitive glance. He swears the mouse winks before it scurries up 18th

a. Intrigued, he follows the mouse.
b. Dismissive, he shrugs it off"

I was a huge fan of the "choose your own adventure" books as a kid. Sadly, I didn't take the adventure, so I'll never know where it would have led. . .

June 12, 2008

Photo of the Day: Hands


IMG_9729, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

For whatever reason, my latest photo fascination is 'hands' I've been shooting them more lately.... These belong to Rani.

June 7, 2008

ATL: From the Depths


IMG00912.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

When we arrived at our station on the MARTA yesterday afternoon and the train whined out in that distinctive way that BART trains and many of the new models in New York do, I notice the walls of the station. They weren't tiled or covered for the most part, instead it was just exposed rock. I said to Tammi, that I felt more 'underground' than in the subway at home and I wondered if that was because of the aesthetics. I vaguely noticed how high the ceilings were when we were going up the first escalator, then we got to this behemoth and realized that we felt more underground because we were considerably father underground that at home. For the record, there was one more escalator before we returned to the surface world. ::c::

June 6, 2008

San Juan Observation: Cat Zone


IMG_8230, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Stray cats roam all over Old San Juan, especially in the more residential blocks. People feed them and nearly every block you'll see a tin platter out with cat food. I'm not a fan of the little creatures myself, so it's all lost on me.

June 1, 2008

Gothamisted: Weekend Service


IMG00899.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Gothamist picked up this quick cameraphone shot I took of the crazy handwritten signage I found at Fulton Street yesterday morning. Much can be said about how irritating the poorly communicated service changes impact New Yorkers and the tourists who get in our way, but really, the saddest part is that this sign mostly makes sense to me.

May 28, 2008

What's Old is New Again on the A Train


IMG_8754, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

For the uninitiated, please excuse the subway geekery, for the subway geeks, please excuse the lack of precision. I'm into subways enough to notice when the MTA changes hardware, but not enough to memorize model numbers.

In the last few weeks, I've been seeing this relic circulating around the A line, my local train. The first time ,I thought it was a part of a movie shoot at Hoyt & Schermerhorn, where I believe they have been shooting parts of the Taking of Pelham 123. But then I started seeing it again and again to the point that I'm seeing them almost everyday now.

i mei on Flickr posted some shots of one and we've discussed this sudden mystery, but neither of us has any clue to it's reappearance.

It's an odd thing, because I haven't really seen this model around in years, yet suddenly it's back in rotation. I have to wonder if this is a money-saving attempt on the MTA's part. I'm all for it if it means more trains in the schedule, but somehow I expect the answer to be less in the interest of the riders than that.

February 25, 2008

Mexico City: Viewing the Virgin of Guadalupe


IMG_5021, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I know, I still haven't posted about have the stuff we did in Mexico City. Here's my attempt to catch up a bit.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is a big deal in Mexico. The guide who took us out here explained that Mexicans aren't really Catholic, they're followers of Guadalupe. I'm sure this is slightly hyperbolic, but only just so.

Clearly there is much to be said about native appropriation of Christian icons to represent facets of indigenous religions, but I'm trying not to go down that tangent.

Really, I just want to point out that they installed a moving sidewalk underneath the pulpit so visitors and pilgrims can see The Virgin without the obstruction of the clergy.
::c::

January 29, 2008

Words of Wisdom...

"Monday's just like a Friday, except we got to work tomorrow."

-The (very drunk) Hillbillies down the bar at Little Annie's

January 27, 2008

Seeing Green


IMG00555.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

What annoys me most about the Green movement is that most businesses only seem to give a shit about the environment when it'll save them a buck.

Some say that the best way to get big business to be environmentally responsible is not through regulation but to show them how they can profit through it.

Enlightened self-interest may be at the heart of conservationist conservatism, but its logic still dictates that if polluting is cheaper, there's no reason not to do it.

::c::

Aspen Observations: Hardware is Hardeware


IMG00547.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Apparently in Aspen, Computer, Audio, Auto and Kitchen hardware is all the same. It's an odd thing, this one store sells everything from USB cables to drills to gardening equipment...
::c::

December 18, 2007

Photo of the Day: In Too Deep


IMG_4466.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Just a reminder that this terrible weather could be worse.
::c::

November 24, 2007

Mexico City Observation: Elevation

Mexico City has an elevation of 1.3 miles or 7350 feet. For those with no scale of such things, that's really high. New York has an elevation of 33 ft. I was reminded of this about two or three hours after we landed when I was trying to figure out why I had a splitting headache. Thankfully this passed, but I have to say that trying to counter dehydration in a place where you aren't supposed to drink the water can be a little tough.
::c::

Mexico City: Ninja Crusader


IMG_2547, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

A busker on the Zocalo mixing cultures: a goth kid dressed like a ninja carrying a katana, but wearing the symbols of the crusaders.
::c::

November 6, 2007

'Tis the Season?


IMG_9507, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I really can't believe that the holiday shopping season is starting already. Last week I heard a story about Walmart starting their Christmas sales with the first weekend of November, I didn't realize that everyone else would be following suit. How ridiculous.
::c::

October 29, 2007

What is This?


IMG_8389, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Ok, someone please answer this for me. I have no idea what this is but I've noticed them out on the top of poles on the street. I was talking to some folks the other day and we were trying to figure out what it was. Someone suggested asking the internet, so here we are...

Anyone? Anyone?
::c::

World Famous Murray Hill

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Found at Duane Reade, across from the Empire State Building. Is this a thing? Do people come to New York to see famous Murray Hill? Is that at the top of the list above Yorkville and Kips Bay?
::c::

October 27, 2007

Graffiti in Nashville


IMG_9048, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This is the only notable graffiti I found in the entire downtown area of Nashville. Robot guy, I salute you.
::c::

October 26, 2007

Nasville: Viva NashVegas


IMG_8960, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This afternoon, after I checked in, I walked down the Broadway strip, past some of the 'Honky Tonks" that made this town famous and, presumably a bunch of others that jumped on after the fact. It seemed a little surreal to me. Odd, because I've never seen a honky tonk before, much less a dozen within a couple blocks, yet the scene seemed familiar.

So much of the street appeared to be commercialized and contrived to sell to tourists. Crazier to me was that the sign above was proudly proclaims that this strip is becoming a little Las Vegas.

It made me a little sad, even though I don't have any allegiance to the music or its history. A little scared too... I imagine The Bronx in 40 years made into an amusement park for hip-hop, complete with stores selling fake gold chains and 50 Cent or Kanye West blaring over the PA system on every corner.

::c::

Nashville Observations


IMG_8931, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

So far, I've only seen the area around the convention center on Broadway, but this is what I've noticed so far...

They have country music piped out on the sidewalk near the convention center.

Every bar/restaurant I've passed on Broadway has live music advertised. Some of them were already performing. At 11:30am.

Apparently attendance is low for the Nashville Predators, the local Hockey team. The restaurant across the street from the stadium, Rippy's, has a campaign to help increase ticket sales so the team doesn't leave town.

The weather here is not any warmer than home. In fact it's exactly the same.

CMT, the Country Music channel is based here.

October 24, 2007

Post Earthquake Internal Meeting Place

Office Building. Glendale, Los Angeles, CA. 2007.

Gee, the things you don't think about when you live on stable ground.
::c::

October 23, 2007

Photo of the Day: God-Fearing


Out West Trip 021, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC. 2004.
::c::

October 9, 2007

Fall Has Returned


IMG_6867, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

And like -that- it's Autumn again.

Yesterday Tammi, Dorla and I spent all afternoon sitting outside hanging out and drinking at The Red Lion, today, I'm wishing I had brought my jacket up to Connecticut. Seemingly this is it, I can't imagine it's really going to go back up to the 80's again before the end of the year. We'll see.

October 8, 2007

84 Degrees in October


IMG_7649, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

There are Halloween decorations out and it's 84 degrees. I've never been a fan of fall, so I'm not complaining, but it is a bit surreal.
::c::

Halloween Season?


IMG_7708 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

When did Halloween stretch out so long that decorations are up a full 25 days before the 'big day?'
::c::

September 23, 2007

The World's Gone Mad

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I woke up this morning to find the talking heads on TV discussing Rudy Giuliani's speech to the NRA.

I just don't understand.

I mean, seriously. Strip down all the things that make him one of the most terrible people in the world and it still doesn't make sense. Ignore the fact that he was arguably the most divisive mayor in the city's history. Ignore the fact that before being elected, he led the police union in a riot on the steps of city hall, then made a point of barring any and all protests on the same steps when he was elected.

Ignore the fact that he married his cousin.

Ignore his callous disregard of abuses on the part of the NYPD toward the black community. Ignore that this 'hero' released the irrelevant juvie record of a man murdered by police officers. Ignore that much of the carnage happened on September 11th 2001 because he outfitted his Fire Department with shoddy equipment and because he chose to create an emergency operations base in the only building in the entire city to ever be the target of terrorism.

Ignore every terrible thing that he has done and said in and out of office. Forget all of it.

If I had never stepped foot in New York and all I knew about the man was that he was mayor the day that the towers were attacked and that he carried a bullhorn and soothed many in the city and the country, I would think that he deserves a medal. Maybe even a statue.

I can't fathom thinking that these actions on one day would merit the leadership of the United States of America. Those actions on one day did not make him competent or qualified to lead the free world. It does not mean that suddenly he has an understanding of international politics, domestic issues or the federal tax laws.

It doesn't make any sense to me that this man is really, genuinely considered by anyone to be someone that might deserve a single vote for the presidency.

My faith in American common sense diminishes every day that Giuliani is considered a 'frontrunner,' even this ridiculously early in the primary race.

August 30, 2007

The Larry Craig Scandal


IMG_4771, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Now, I'm not typically one to protest when a scandal takes down a Republican candidate. But I just want it to be clear that Senator Larry Craig from Idaho is being asked to resign because he's gay.

You can't actually say, "You should resign because you're gay" anymore, so everyone talks about 'lewd' and illegal behavior, but that's all code for the things those people do, isn't it?

What's tragic about all of this is that, like Foley, Craig has spent a fair amount of his career supporting anti-gay legislation just to prove he's got no sympathy for the "homosexual agenda."

August 3, 2007

LA Observations #1

Last night, the shuttle driver and a co-worker were talking about smog in LA. According to the driver, the smog's only in the valley. He said something about the wind from the ocean blowing it away every where else.

He followed that up by talking about how much more smog there is in New York because of the humidity and the concentration of traffic in a much smaller space.

I left it alone, but laughed to myself a few minutes later when we passed through a tunnel getting off a highway:

The walls were black with a thick layer of soot collected from the exhaust fumes of the million cars that had passed through it. The only clean spots were scrapes and graffiti that industrious taggers carved out of the filth.

June 23, 2007

Japanese Ear Cleaner


Japanese Ear Cleaner, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Did you know there are two types of earwax?

From Wikipedia:
"There are two distinct genetically determined types of earwax: the wet type, which is dominant, and the dry type, which is recessive. Asians and Native Americans are more likely to have the dry type of cerumen (grey and flaky), whereas Caucasians and Africans are more likely to have the wet type (honey-brown to dark-brown and moist). Cerumen type has been used by anthropologists to track human migratory patterns, such as those of the Inuit."

I heard about this on The World a while back and was fascinated by the concept.

I had no idea that there was more than one type of earwax before hearing that story. It's one of those things I think most people presume is the same in everyone else.

The reporter talks about a childhood ritual common in Chinese families at least, where her mother scraped the hard, crunchy earwax out of her ear with a tiny spoon.

I decided I had to track down one of these ear cleaners myself while we were in Japan. I got this from a rather large selection in the hygiene section at Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku, Tokyo. I didn't see any shaped like a spoon, but there was a pretty large variety, many much more ornate than this little one.

Ramen Shop Vending Machines


IMG_3630, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Another rather cool thing we happened upon were these vending machines in front of a number of small ramen shops in Tokyo. Before you walk into the shop, you decide which dish you want, buy a ticket from this machine and hand it to the person behind the counter.

Again, brilliant!

This was incredibly helpful to us, since it meant avoiding most of the language difficulty involved with ordering food. All we had to do was look at the pictures and press a button.

Besides being a convenience for tourists, it's a great business idea. It frees up space inside the tiny shops and time for the workers. They don't have to waste half the staff taking orders because it's dealt with already. Every place we went to with this system had only two people running the show.

The corollary, of course, is that it's just replacing workers with machines, passing the work on to the customers, something I'm usually firmly against. In this case though, the places are so small that I can't imagine where a cashier would even go.

June 18, 2007

Random Observations: Keep to the Left

IMG_4404


You'd think the hardest part about visiting a place like Japan where they drive on the left would be trying to avoid getting hit by a car. It turns out that that part is relatively easy.

What I've found to be more difficult is getting used to walking on the left. Over and over again, I've found myself walking against traffic after I've veered right without noticing.

Random Observations: Brilliant!

IMG_3607

Everyone talks about the big technological differences that are vastly superior in Japan. What struck me were these random little things I saw there that I loved:

*When you hit the elevator call button, the light goes off on the elevator that is going to come. I don't know how common it is, but we saw this in a few places.

*In our last hotel, the Cerulean in Shibuya, Tokyo, the center of the bathroom mirror is heated. After taking a shower, everything is steamed up except for that.

*Next to the bed a couple of the hotels had controls to open and close the drapes and curtains.

Kyoto: ATMs

All throughout Japan, we found that there weren't as many banks as we see at home. There certainly are not so many that accept American bank cards.

Well, Kyoto has even fewer. In fact, I only found one. After walking in the rain for nearly an hour. With a bar tab waiting to get paid.

Lesson learned: stock up on your yen.

June 15, 2007

Bars in Japan

A few things I've learned in the last week about the bars in Japan:

1. Most don't open until 6 or 7. Even the hotel bars and the Irish pubs aren't open until 4-5pm. This makes it difficult when all you want it a beer after schlepping around town lost for a couple hours.

2. There just aren't that many bars, in the sense that I'm used to. Most are at least partially restaurants. Apparently a lot of the drinking here is done in restaurants. It's cool, but can make it a bit more difficult picking a place out.

3. They are often hidden in otherwise anonymous office buildings, making them a lot more difficult to find.

June 14, 2007

Random Observation: Check Please!


IMG_3324, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Apparently, in Japan, the way to signal that you want the check is to make an 'X' with your two index fingers as demonstrated above by my lovely assistant.
::c::

Random Observations: Cell Phones


IMG_2559, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

It's no surprise that the cell phones in Japan are more advanced than ours. Or that the Japanese are fixated on their phones, perpetually staring into them on the train, in the street and just about everywhere else.

I was surprised to see how big the phones are here. Nearly every phone I've seen, including the hot new phone pictured above, is huge compared to the phones we carry around at home. I guess when it comes to features versus size, they choose features.
::c::

June 12, 2007

Random Observations: Smoking


, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

The Japanese smoke a lot. Maybe not as much as the French, but pretty close.

Harajuku Greasers

IMG_1933
IMG_1835, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Just around the corner from the cosplay girls, a totally different type of dress-up was going on. These guys were dressed up like 50's greasers, complete with the leather, the motorcycles and the bouffant hair-dos. The women looked like they were going to a sock-hop. The guys mostly hung around in a circle looking cool while a few of them danced in the middle.

Tammi and I had the same idea when we saw this: At home they'd be charging for this. In the states or in Europe all of this would be busking and we'd never think anything about it. Just someone trying to get some money from us. In a culture with no tipping, these folks just do it for fun.

Random Observations: Kids


IMG_2501, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Kids are great. They have no superego telling them, "Don't look at the great big dark man who doesn't look like anyone you've ever seen."

I don't really know the proper reaction, but I'm amused nonetheless.

Hibiya Park


, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

On our first day in Tokyo, I wandered around the area while Tammi napped and came across Hibiya Park, just a couple blocks away. Shortly after getting into the park, I started to hear yelling and chanting coming from one corner. I followed it to discover these guys flailing about singing and gesturing to each other. I have no idea what it was.

On the way out, I found another set of guys doing the same thing, this time making stabbing motions towards themselves. It was very strange.

Japanese Baseball

IMG_2227

Tammi and I went to see the Tokyo's Yamuiri (sp?) Giants play last night (Monday).

The baseball ritual in Japan is fascinating. The stadium is split between the two sides and each side has songs and chants and rituals for each player.

The entire experience was fun and culturally very interesting, but the best part has to have been the beer girls. Unlike stadiums in the US where pisswater beer is poured and then carried around until when you finally get it, it's warm and flat, this beer is always fresh. That's because they pour it in front of you... from a keg... on their back! Yeah, really.

I love this place.

Harajuku Girls

IMG_1651

On multiple recommendations, Tammi and I headed out to Tokyo's Harajuku on Sunday to see the show at Yoyogi Park. Every weekend teenagers into 'cosplay' show up dressed in elaborate outfits, wearing layers of make up and freaky custom contact lenses. They sit out at the entrance to the Meiji shrine and hang out. This has become a tourist attraction and when we got there, at least half the people out there were taking pictures of these kids.

I was very apprehensive about the whole thing at first. My photos of people tend toward the candid. I feel like there's a sort of purity in catching people unaware. Seeing subjects as they are, without the pretense of a pose or a primp, is equal parts honesty and voyeurism. It's real.

Further, I've known more than a few angsty teens in my time who view their outrageous styles as expressions of their true beings and, regardless of how disingenuous as it may have seemed to everyone else, insisted that they did not want everyone's attention.

So the idea of walking up to someone and sticking a camera in their face seemed inappropriate.

I hung back for a bit, shooting from afar, watching the tourists pose with these kids. Then I noticed that all of the cos-play kids were eager to pose. They held up signs, in English to attract attention, they sat through photo after photo as Americans and Italians and everyone else pointed and shot. They loved it and were actually there for the attention.

Out of everything I saw there, that was probably the weirdest thing about the entire experience for me.

Transport Rant

Forgive the upcoming soapbox tirade. I'm sitting on the bullet train to Kyoto from Tokyo and thinking about some of the inadequacies of home.

While I watch the Japanese countryside zoom by at hundreds of miles per hour, the first thing that comes to mind is 'why can't we do this at home?' I've been avoiding ranting on this subject for a little while now, but those who have known me for a little while have heard me sound off about the concerted effort of various lobbying groups to keep our rail system antiquated. Amtrak should be so much better than it is. When politicians go on about the agency needing to be self-sufficient, I always wonder what they would say about ending subsidies to the interstate system.

Economies run better when people can get around. It's just a fact. That's why we have public transportation. Mayor Bloomberg has said that he wishes the subways could be free because it's such a necessity to us all. The national rail system could be like that, if anyone wanted to do it.

June 11, 2007

Random Observations, Part 2

I can't get to Google.com from here, only Google.co.jp, which is in Japanese.

June 8, 2007

Immersion

A couple hours ago we crossed the date line, which means I'm officially 30 years old. We've got just over an hour left until we land and I'm a little too excited to sleep. It's a few minutes to midnight at home, but I can't keep my eyes closed.

I've been passing the time with a little immersion. I went through some Japanese lessons, trying to get a handle on grammatical structure and such. I've also been watching a bunch of anime I haven't seen in years to get used to hearing it spoken. Every now and again I'll hear a word I recognize, but mostly it's outside my reach. I'll just have to get by as best I can.

I've come across an interesting obstacle. Whenever I try to put together a sentence, I find myself thinking Spanish words in the place of Japanese words I don't know. It's an odd thing. Spanish is the only language, besides English that I have more than a passing knowledge of. I've studied it on and off for over 15 years, so it's my default 'other' language.

April 23, 2007

Dispatches from the Shuttle Zone

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This weekend the neighborhood saw it's third weekend without A train service.

(I think the MTA does this sort of thing periodically to show us how poor service could be. )

Anyone trying to get from Utica Ave (where we are) to Jay street or anywhere between has to take a shuttle bus, braving crowds of hundreds of other passengers. You don't quite realize how many people fit on a subway train until you try to fit them on a bus. It just doesn't work.

We've detoured and worked around in order to avoid taking the shuttle buses, but this weekend there was no other way.

Shockingly, the MTA actually had their stuff together. There was an army of fluorescent-vest-clad minions doing everything they could to let everyone know where they were going. They yelled "EXPRESS TO JAY" and "ONE STOP TO JAY" and "THIS BUS ONLY GOES TO JAY STREET" over and over again. They chanted and gestured and pointed.

This didn't stop people from running off of the bus at the last minute saying, "This _only_ stops at Jay?" and wandering around bitching that they didn't know which bus to take.

People are dumb.

We've got two more weekends of this nonsense. Once it's all done, I hope my commute gets faster. The trains have been crawling through the areas where the track work is being done.

April 14, 2007

The Breakfast of Champions


Nathan's, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Where else can I get a chili cheese dog at 8:30 in the morning? I had that wonderfully nutritious breakfast after cheering Tammi on the boardwalk in coney island. Now I'm on the train heading to borough park, to hit the halfway point before going to the finish line in prospect park.


::c::

April 10, 2007

Change






Dojo Closed, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.


"No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, ''That used to be Munsey's'' or ''That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.'' That before the Internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now."

-Colson Whitehead, The Colossus of New York

I went down to St. Mark's Place during lunch last week. It was surreal. The place was unrecognizable.

Getting off the train at Astor Place, I wasn't surprised by the more egregious changes: the giant shiny condominium across from the cube, the Walgreens sign where Astor Wines used to be. Then in the corner of my eye, I saw a hole in the ground just down 3rd Ave. I don't remember what was there, but the absence was jarring.

Continue reading "Change" »

April 5, 2007

Sometimes it Snows in April


IMG_3265.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This morning, I walked out the door to find gray skies and flurries falling.

I don't have anything good to say about this.
::c::

April 4, 2007

No New Commute


IMG_3257.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Taking the L into Manhattan turns out not to be as speedy as I had hoped. It took me just over an hour to get to work today. That's no good.

On the plus side, I did see these guys performing on the train.
::c::

March 18, 2007

St. Patrick's Day


IMG_3842, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I just happened to be in midtown yesterday morning, just in time for some of the festivities on 5th Avenue for the St. Patrick's Day Parade. It reminded me of the little rant i wrote in the Photo of the Day post the night before about immigration.

It was an interesting experience: soldiers, cops, firemen, state troopers and law enforcement officials from all over the country were waving another nations flag and wearing another culture's traditional garb. Their kids stood out in the cold, bare-legged, wearing kilts and playing bagpipes to demonstrate their allegiance to their ancestral home.

And they've been doing it for 251 years. So much for assimilation.

More photos after the jump.
::c::

Continue reading "St. Patrick's Day" »

March 17, 2007

Photo of the Day: Yiddish Advertising


IMG_1408, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I always liked this shot. I took it last spring on a walkabout in Williamsburg. I discussed this image and a few of my others on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC our local NPR station last summer. It was very exciting. I listen to the show nearly every day, so actually being a guest was a great experience. This was about a year ago, when protests were erupting all over the country.

I come from a family of immigrants. So does nearly everyone else in this country to some degree. It's always been inexplicable to me the way some people can call themselves 'real' Americans and judge or exclude others because they aren't from here. The foundation of this nation has always been immigration, people have come here from everywhere for opportunities and freedom. There's always some group that somebody doesn't want here. Now it's the Mexicans, before that it was the Jews or the Irish or the Italians or the Germans. And it's always the same arguments. "They don't assimilate into our culture;" "They stay to themselves in enclaves speaking some foreign language;" "They don't have our values." It's always something.

So these signs in Williamsburg struck me. Every immigrant community has the same sort of experience. They come in and form communities for support. They bring some of the comforts of home with them, the food, the language, the music. It's normal. Yet it really pisses some people off - when some people do it.

Those trying to crack down on immigration complain about 'these people' not learning 'our language.' But I've never seen the Minutemen patrolling these enclaves, harassing these immigrants or telling the Hasidim to speak 'our language.'


Continue reading "Photo of the Day: Yiddish Advertising" »

March 16, 2007

So Much for Spring...

IMG_2685

Wow, thankfully I escaped the weather for most of the day. I didn't realize how bad it was until we went out to grab a bite. We got beaten down by frozen rain as we trudged through the snow and ice. I guess our little taste of Spring earlier this week was just a tease. It was almost 70 degrees on Wednesday, now they're talking about a foot of snow in some places.

::c::

March 9, 2007

DST! Y2K2!! OMG! STFU!

Sad Mac

I just want to reiterate the fact that the tech industry totally dropped the ball here.

Our mail admins had to send out an automated script to push all appointments ahead an hour because no fix was going to get this working soon enough. it also reissued every appointment invitation ever sent. People received hundreds of them this week.

It's totally ridiculous.


::c::

February 23, 2007

Managed Risk, Managed Expectations

Wow.

On Morning Edition they've been discussing how prepared we are for disaster as a nation. In a series of interviews this week Stephen Flynn, a security expert basically said that we haven't learned anything from September 11th and Katrina: That there are clear and obvious weaknesses in our port security, the levee systems and our medical system. Flynn discussed reasonably possible events that we can anticipate right now that we could prepare for in advance, but for which we have no real infrastructure in place to handle.

We hear these things all the time, so it doesn't surprise us that DHS isn't quite on top of things. But the idea is that they plan to be, hopefully before the next 'event' occurs.

Today they gave George Foresman from Homeland Security a chance to respond. Much of it is to be expected, he played down some of the risks still present and he played up the degree to which the government could actually handle these situations.

But an underlying theme that was repeated a few times was this: the American people have to manage their expectations. So, if an earthquake or bomb results in seawater contaminating the water supply in California, the people need to know that they aren't going to have water for a while. If there is a pandemic or a biological attack, people need to understand that they may not be able to get medical care.

Flynn pointed to economic forces for our poor preparedness. The medical industry in particular has been cutting back staff and resources for over a decade. The result is a health care system that has the single goal of maintaining the status quo. It hires just enough staff and maintains enough space to handle an average load. Sometimes less, but never more. It's not economical otherwise.

In response to this, Foresman pretty much agrees. He says the American people are not willing to pay the cost to keep the reserves necessary to provide the support services that might be needed.

Think about that.

Someone from the agency that is supposed to keep us safe and secure is saying that our safety is prohibitively expensive, so we need to lower our expectations.

That's frightening.

::c::

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February 19, 2007

Philadelphia: SEPTA

Philly
The only time that a SEPTA train seems fast...

I like to walk a lot when I travel. It drives the people I travel with crazy. My sister damn near collapsed after two days of me dragging her around Lisbon a few years back.

What I like about traveling on foot is that it connects places in my mind. It turns a city into more than just a collection of points on a map.

Given that this is my 8th trip to Philly - and that its ridiculously cold out - I've been allowing myself a little latitude in this area. In the interest of finding a quicker, warmer way to get around, we've been taking the SEPTA more. Well, it's warmer at least.

Going down Market, the Blue line stops every 3 blocks. Seriously: there are stops at 15th, 13th, 11th, 8th, 5th and 2nd Streets. Really. I've never seen anything like it. And there are no express lines. How does that even work? Admittedly, it somehow runs pretty quickly, but I didn't have to ride during rush hour.

::c::

Continue reading "Philadelphia: SEPTA" »

February 16, 2007

DST

I deal with technology all day, so don't expect to hear too much about it here. That said, I can hardly ignore one of the most challenging idiocies that I've faced in my career.

In 2005 Congress passed an energy bill, which was primarily written by the energy lobby. The one thing I know about it that doesn't make me angry is that Daylight Saving Time will be a month longer starting this year.

I love it. One of the worst things about winter is the immersion in darkness we have to endure. I wake up, it's dark, I leave work, it's dark. The only windows at my job are hidden behind office doors. It's a season without sunlight.

Daylight Saving Time let's us get that much more light when we aren't stuck at the office. I can't wait.

Unfortunately, in typical myopic fashion, the technology industry for the most part flaked on this. Some quietly fixed the latest releases in the last couple of months, neglecting the older versions that nearly everyone is still using. Others came up with wildly complicated workarounds. Most haven't said much of anything until badgered repeatedly.

In the last two weeks or so message boards and email lists have lit up frantically with messages about how to handle this. The good news is that it's been like a reunion lately. Everyone's reaching out to colleagues and former co-workers, looking for someone who's gotten a vendor to call them back and give them some straight answers.

Less that 10 years after y2k freaked everyone out, no one seemed to think of this - with a year and a half lead time.

If you are still looking for answers, I'd suggest you look here for Mac related questions and here for everything else.

::c::

Continue reading "DST" »

Trenton Makes...

I'm sitting on the SEPTA regional train waiting to start moving again. Out the window, off in the darkness, are the words, "TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES" in bright red neon letters. I've passed that sign maybe a dozen times at this point. It still seems pathetic and self-pitying.

You have to wonder about the culture of a place that would collectively choose to identify itself by laying a guilt trip on visitors and asking locals to wallow in their own perceived suffering.

::c::

February 9, 2007

The Pottery Barn rule


London, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'm going to take the opportunity of an unread blog to vent an unpopular opinion:
Bush is right, we can't leave Iraq.

There, I said it.

I'm not a fan of this administration, I'm one of those still arguing the 2000 election. I'm a dyed in the wool liberal from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

Here's the thing, we broke that country. Iraq was a terrible, repressive regime, but it worked. It doesn't work anymore. And we're responsible. I know many people who will jump up and down yelling, "Not My President" but the fact is that we live in a democracy and we are all responsible for the actions of this government. Even if we didn't vote for it. Even if we're in a blue state.

We, as a nation, broke Iraq and it's actually our responsibility to fix it.

The current discourse on Iraq bases everything on the revisionist claim that we went to war in Iraq to free the Iraqis. We know that's not true.

Ted Koppel commented on this on NPR the other day:


We've been given so many bad reasons for why we went to war in Iraq — those weapons of mass destruction, Hussein and his neighbors, Hussein and al-Qaida, establishing democracy — that we've actually convinced ourselves that we did it for them… for the Iraqis; not because it served the U.S. national interest.

That makes it easy to depict the Iraqis as a bunch of underperforming, ungrateful wretches; and if they don't start shaping up, we're pulling out.

That's bullshit. And we know it on the left. The oppressed Iraqis became the justification for the war after all the others turned out to be lies. And considering how poorly things are going for them, it's not a very good justification.

We know this is hypocrisy. We're blaming the victim. But we're so focused on getting the hell out of there that we haven't spent any time thinking about our responsibility to fix what we broke. There's this idea that we're incapable of doing anything right here, so we should just bail.

Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule says, "You break it, you own it." We 'own' this mess regardless of our individual political affiliations. If we have to send in more troops to clean it up, then that's what we have to do.

Leaving Iraq to burn after we lit the match and poured the gasoline is wrong. I don't know how to fix it, but I know it would be irresponsible for us to just walk away.

Continue reading "The Pottery Barn rule" »

February 1, 2007

The Splasher


IMG_9853, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last week there was more talk of the splasher. A friend emailed me about it, here's my take:

Yeh, I've seen a few. It's crazy.
I saw this great swoon piece in LES that was splashed with green paint.

This old guy who you'd never think would be into such things saw me shooting it and told me what a shame it was that someone would do that.

I don't know how I feel about it. It's sort of the nature of putting up anything like that.
I mean, you put it up and eventually someone - the owner, the mta, whoever, is going to take it down. It's ephemeral - that's why we shoot.

That said, I think running around calling yourself an artist and destroying other folks' art because it's not authentic is pretentious bullshit.

Continue reading "The Splasher" »

January 29, 2007

Aspen: Las Vegas in the Mountains

Because 'Goodfella's' would be too ethnic

Whenever I travel, I like to seek out the local foods. I look for food that either I can't get anywhere else or that is fresher or more authentic than anywhere else. Aspen has nothing like this. Every restaurant, high end or low, serves food that is culturally or physically imported. Fancier places offer lobster, sushi and oysters while the cheap 'dives' sell pizza and cheesesteaks, or facsimiles thereof.

Great effort has obviously been put into making the place look like the old mining town it probably was 100 years ago - a little too much effort. Aspen is up there with Vegas or Times Square in terms of pure artificiality. The historic aspects of the town are played up to the point of caricature. A walk through downtown Aspen reminds me of the town in Northern Exposure, except it's spotless and the shop windows sell art and discount furs for $5000.

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January 28, 2007

Aspen, the winter home of entitlement

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Aspen is surreal. The aura of raw, unabated entitlement emanates from every corner. I've never seen anything like it. I grew up surrounded by white folks with money. But I had never experienced anything like Aspen before. Conspicuous wealth abounds and no one seems concerned.

This is my second trip here, so I knew what to expect. It's still jarring though. The sense of entitlement is pervasive. It's implicit in the full length furs hanging off of so many of the women here, it's in the expensive snow gear everyone wears and the unavoidable giant SUVs. It's there in every interaction you have with anyone who doesn't work here. Whether they aren't slowing down at the intersection for you to cross the street or they aren't getting out of the way when they're blocking the sidewalk. It's there when a bunch of teenagers are yelling at the driver to take an overcrowded bus faster down a steep icy road so they can get to their snowboarding.

I'm here for business. I don't ski or snowboard. I hate the winter, truth be told. That said, I do enjoy exploring new worlds and Aspen is definitely that. I've been here for a week now, which has been plenty of time to observe. I'll put in some more posts about my experiences and observations in the next day or two.

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