I merely record moments with a camera.
But if I could imagine what song was playing in those headphones…


Fun with the Prelinger Archives

So I’ve been experimenting with film recently. I happened upon some YouTube videos that combined Creative Commons footage from the Prelinger Archives and music from artists like Boards of Canada. I liked the concept, and I soon began to explore the Archives myself. After fumbling with the editing process for several hours (iMovie kind of sucks in that way), I finally had a complete video. This got me excited, and over the next few weeks I made two more videos. Here they are, with way too much commentary:

Can – Mushroom

I’ve listened to Can’s album Tago Mago many, many times. I found a lot of great atomic footage right away in the Archives, so I decided to go with “Mushroom” as my first video. The lyrics, as is the case with most Can songs, are ambiguous and somewhat hard to decipher, but I’ve always felt that they were talking about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Damo Suzuki, the vocalist, was raised in post-WWII Japan, so it seems to make sense.

I primarily used footage from an old Civil Defense film called “Survival Under Atomic Attack.” There’s a clip I used towards the end where a father is washing his son’s hair as a precaution against radioactive dust. I followed the clip with some footage of Japanese civilians, which I believe was shot after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The junxtaposition of these images made me think of America needing to cleanse its soul after bombing the Japanese. It also provides a nice contrast between vain attempts at preventing harm during atomic attacks (using shampoo) versus the reality of an attack (Japanese civilians wounded in a hospital).

There was a point in “Survival Under Atomic Attack” where the narrator mentions that if the Japanese had been prepared for an Atomic attack like Americans, there would have been many lives saved in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This seemed akin to beating someone with a baseball bat, and then lecturing them on how they could have suffered less broken bones if they only took calcium supplements.

James Pants – KA$H

After the very serious subject of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I wanted to lighten things up a bit. I bought James Pants’ album Welcome during the start of the financial crisis/ bailout. Everytime Paulson would come on the news–veins bulging, voice cracking–I would laugh, thinking about the song “KA$H.” The lyrics are silly, but in a way they sum up the absurdities of American capitalism.

I found two films that ended up being perfect–one on the dangers of counterfiet money called “Doubtful Dollars” and one on the perils of communism called “Make Mine Freedom.” The former supplied some great shots of cash and the workings of the U.S. treasury, and the latter offered some great cartoons that illustrate the basic workings of capitalism. If I had to choose a favorite part it would be a tie between the grandpa/miner pulling up his matress to reveal a bunch of cash and the blueblood sitting on top of a pile of coins while the less fortunate members of the globe struggle.

The Magnetic Fields – Three-Way

Once upon a time I was chatting on gmail with a female friend. We both realized that another mutual female friend was online, so I proposed doing a three-way chat. It was fun for a while in a junior high kind of way but it quickly got annoying. I had been listening to the album Distortion a lot, and I had this song stuck in my head. When my girlfriend asked what I was doing, I yelled “three-way”! She got kind of upset, not so much at the fact that I was chatting with females but that I had referred to it as a “three-way.”

In the archives I found one of those classic commercials that would never be allowed to air these days. Then I spotted a film which attempted to recreate a “woman’s dream.” I think was meant to sell cars/home appliances, or at least support American consumerism. I decided to take my “three-way” chat experience and make a video about how advertising/consumerism has helped to shape the fantasies of men and women. The song “Three-Way” happens to be quite, for lack of better words, symmetrical, in that it is broken into three distinct parts by the shouting of “three-way” which also can be heard as “freeway.” So based out of all that, here’s the video.

An Afternoon at Coney Island

The F train stops on corner of my street and continues all the way to Coney Island. Today I decided to get on the train with a few cameras in tow. I couldn’t tell how long the ride was because I was engrossed in reading The Dog of the South. I think it took around 45 minutes. I knew I was there because the train made this horrible screetching noise–the same howl that trains in Peru make when they have reached the end of the line, oddly enough.

I exited the train, walked down the stairs, and spotted this creepy painting on a glass wall inside the station.

I felt a sense of excitement when I passed by this foreboding image. I figured if MTA managed to post this green monster on the wall, there was more oddity in store once I walked out of the station. And boy was I right. When I spotted the dilapidated carnival rides and graffiti-covered game booths, I felt at one with the strangeness of Coney Island. It might not be strange for a New Yorker, but for someone from the West Coast, it may have well been Mars.

So please allow me to walk you through my Coney experience, in pictures:

I was happy to see a game called “Shoot the Freak” set in a sketchy abandoned lot, where you can shoot a man with a paintball gun 75 times for $20! However, upon further examination, I realized that the booth may be closed down. As my friend Nick’s grandpa always said: “you know the economy is really bad when the live human target shooting gallery has closed its doors.”

Along the boardwalk I encountered this elderly gentleman skipping rope on a bench in the sand. Legend has it he had all the ladies he wanted in his youth, due to his abnormal clam spinning abilities.

Sometimes I wonder where the 21 million people in the New York City metropolitan area hide away. Then I remember there are buildings like these everywhere.

Just soaking up the rays by the palm tree. Wait, this isn’t a real palm tree. Is it a cell phone tower? Are the authorities watching us beachgoers? Are they watching this young man feverishly shooting a carnival rifle? I think yes.

And now I leave you with a touching black and white landscape.

New Bookshelves

My girlfriend spraypainted the wood on the fire escape. I helped arrange by color. Overall, I have to say I’m quite pleased.

Dining Options

Window Seat

I really enjoy shooting photos during flights. I realized that I have never witnessed someone else do this. I think it enhances the flight, at least for those passengers with an interest in photography. I suppose most would rather watch the latest Pixar film, and I’m therefore not enhancing the flight in the least by refusing to kindly lower my window shade.

Here are two shots from a San Francisco to D.C. flight. Both were taken on the east side of the Sierras. I remember, many years ago, shooting a whole roll of film on a flight from Las Vegas to Oakland. There were high winds over the Sierras, and huge plumes of snow were tearing up canyons and exploding over ridges. Sadly, I was young, dumb, and hungover, and I lost the roll. This was an attempt to make up for it.

Update 2010:

from over the Atlantic

And again over the Atlantic (Long Island) in 2011:

So Much Larger Than Life!

After a string of random appearances on blogs under my beloved anti-capitalist pseudonym Uncle Bartleby, I finally hit the Big Time. Two of my photos went up in SFMOMA, sharing space with greats like Adams and Avedon (technically speaking). Here’s a picture of me looking happy at the exhibit and donning plaid & stripes (laundry day).

I am pleased to have my photos be part of an amazing project. I took the shots while on one of my “intuitive bikerides” (I made this term up myself) through West Oakland. I heard an announcer in the distance, and I rode a few blocks to discover the end of a graffiti/skate contest. There were kids carrying huge blocks of graffiti! (see below) I also met K-dub, the creator of the park–he seemed like a cool guy. All-in-all, I was happy to have images included in a project that was for and about Oakland.

Thanks to SFMOMA for hooking me up with free tickets that day. It enabled me to purchase one drink at the nearby W Hotel afterwards. But before enjoying libations, I snapped a few shots inside the museum.