Tuesday, August 25, 2009

once again, summer

i've added a few songs to the right, which may add or subtract from the experience of viewing these fine summery photos.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

sights and sounds!

highly recommended summer listening:

check out some art from Sigur Rós and listen to their new ambient side-project, riceboy sleeps

i've been thinking about what might be a typical summer "beach" read.  paper-back, of course, bulky and pulpy, cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter: the literary equivalent of a soft, red delicious apple (that's a bad thing, if you weren't sure).  when it is finished, you wonder why people eat (read) these things in the first place.  well, somehow they fit the season while others do not. 

over the past five years, i've read quite a few memoirs, primarily about coming to terms with faith and Christianity.  Donald Miller wrote one called Blue Like Jazz which became wildly popular, a sort-of-mandatory-reading for being a Christian college student.   A few others that I have gone through over the years: Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner / The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning / Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton... the list goes on.  In fact, I read almost all of these in a book group, creatively titled "Group," in college.  good times. 

I wonder if these books fall under that summer reading category, or if they merit a bit more attention?  Are they just bantam-weight bathing suit reading, fun and forgettable?  I would like to outline a few areas where these books become important, or at least engaging.  
  • a sense of time passing.  all of the above take us through a season in the author's life.  most notably, Lauren Winner's book progresses through a year based on the orthodox jewish calendar.  in this way, these books are existential- focusing on the present as the space where choices are made toward a more authentic belief, and the future as an open book that is constantly being written.  
  • no specific point and no definite conclusion.  although the author comes out with a different mind by the end, the lesson learned is not necessarily stated.   Donald Miller would say that living with faith was something intuitive, not that he learned A, B, and C and put them into practice.  the lack of a definite meaning leaves an interpretive space in the text, where the reader can draw a number of conclusions; none completely right, none completely wrong.  
  • a sense of incompletion and possibility.  another existential staple- living in the "not-yet"- is a common thread here.  Lauren Winner writes "...I pray that the Lord our God will save us.  And I watch the Torah scrolls dance by, and I know that I have already been saved."  She constantly writes about not quite having this faith, but in trying to articulate what she doesn't have, she catches a glimpse of what she already has.  maybe i could italicize small epiphanies as well?
  • conversations and daily observations as a substitute for heavy-handed doctrine.  the bible is referenced in the story, but is not the primary focus.  the window is wider, with cultural, artistic, and historical references.  thomas merton is all over the sixties in Seven Storey Mountain, joining a communist youth league and reading Freud and Jung.  The idea is that finding the right path involves detours, which in turn are important to how the author reconciles two different worlds.  
my thought is that most of these are easy books to go through.  but given a bit of pacing, you start to think with the authors, taking in their story with a breath of expectation.  you wait and expect- and the stories take on a bit of gravity.   
and on that note, just say "no" to dan brown and janet evanovich this summer.  


Friday, June 19, 2009

news (!)

lots lots lots happening.  
i worked at a bakery as barista and and and the world hummed a bit.  the coolest people in chattanooga are at niedlov's.
i moved out of chattanooga on sunday.
i moved to chapel hill, nc on monday.  
i am working in durham at counter culture (!)
i am not sure how any of this happened, but here i am.

i am still formulating some big ideas, but moving eight hours away has taken precedence.  i suppose being a consistent blogger comes in waves.  ideas come in waves.  you've got nothing and still nothing and everything is just a bunch of stuff happening.  and then somehow it makes sense, it is resolved, it gets a word to stand in the place of raw material.  waves, swell, synergy, crest...

other news:  i was published in the sequoyah review (the prints above), although they are almost a year old.  the first was heavily influenced by antoni tapies, one of my favorite spanish artists.  the second is on broad street in chattanooga.  

just for fun, i'd like to include a few videos:

a commercial by michel gondry      (about airplanes) 
and a white stripes video    (about taking the long way home)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Colors, finally!

...summer has its own thick light, and the air is saturated with it.  it comes downs in harsh angles in the late afternoon.  it is the kind of light that made me dizzy in little league baseball games. it is the kind of light that reflects off of a swimming pool and hurts your eyes.
i've been thinking a bit about the immediate sensation of the world to a kid.  there's this philosopher, hume, that talks about how we build up our ideas of things from the simplest sensations, like tastes or smells.  an apple is first red, and then sweet, and then tart, and it gets more and more complex.  you start to pull these sensations into comparisons with other similar things (how do you describe a new taste except by comparing it to some other, more basic flavor?) so anyways, there's this immediacy with the world that kids have, where everything is still new, and still surprising, and they soak it all in.   i've heard that our sense of smell is the sense most strongly linked to the brain, and you probably know how certain smells can echo way back into our early years.  
i spent some time in chattanooga as a kid, and it's weird, but i get that echo feeling, like i've been here before.  it's fascinating, though, when i show people my photos, and they know exactly where they were taken.  i randomly showed my art teacher photos from the past posting, and it turns out her first studio was in the same corridor.  and one of the dead factories (2 postings back) was where my dad worked before i was born.  i had no idea!
stories are wrapped up in places, and i'm happy to be finding both.  


Saturday, May 9, 2009

a few more...

i like shooting in between buildings.  it feels compositional to me- the different shades of black and white, the geometric dimensions, the sense of position within the space, and the lack of direct light makes you really notice light when you see it.  in a sense, photography is about finding light.  
i am copying what i have seen before.  for example, John Cohen.
the black triangle at the top left is important, i think, in situating the viewer.  it puts the building into some perspective, and also balances its angles and colors.  

i'm not sure how successful this shot is... it looks better close up.  i do like how the ladder is in focus and straight, but the background is off-kilter and off balance.  

i've been looking at how giacometti creates space.  the frame is really important- it informs everything inside.  without it, you would be looking all over the piece without knowing where to start.  he puts you into the space by cutting out the foot, and makes you want to look in from the right at the angle of his knee to his waist.  i think.  it is sort of starting to make sense to me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Look up! Edges and angles!

>>listening to this super-rad band called The Microphones>>
>>trying to be observant<<  
>>looking for what i already know in things, but then again, trying not to reduce everything to what i simply know. << 
>>identifying new things with new words, or with new meanings tagged on to old words. << 
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>photos from recent excursions<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

finally, I have the internet at my apartment!  


Monday, April 20, 2009


I just returned from a heavily-caffeinated weekend at the World Barista Competition and Coffee Conference in Atlanta. An interesting mix of people showed up, most falling somewhere in between the lazily cool baristas with big glasses and conglomo-coffee guys with those silly blue tooth things in their ears. Oh yeah, and lots of internationals came out. I got to charlar with some Hondureños and Guatemaltecos about their coffee.

The most interesting part for me was the education. Counter Culture was constantly setting up cupping sessions and giving lectures on the farmers they work with. I'm starting to understand that coffee is incredibly complex. There is so much involved in turning a coffee cherry into a drink: soil and national borders and climate and processing methods and cooperatives and international economics and genetic varieties and birds and countless human hands and cultures... the world starts to open up a bit. (a thought: it seems like the world gets poorer and poorer as you get closer the equator. An over-generalization? But I think that agriculturally-based people are always getting the short end, which is why the transition to fairly traded coffee is so important.)

Other set-ups included huge roasters, espresso machines like 50's convertibles, coffee samples from dozens of countries and roast profiles, and so on. I'll spare the minutiae, except for this new way to pull espresso: the paddle group. Instead of pressing a button, which puts full pressure on the coffee from start to finish, the paddle lets the barista gradually increase the pressure of the water. The end product is way different, too. The espresso comes out thick and syrupy, and the flavor keeps swelling in your mouth.

The coloration above is called tiger-striping, and it shows a certain dynamic between the water and coffee, like they are humming in unison. It makes me think of fireworks.
I'm not sure why, but coffee continues to pull me along.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


...I was in a letterpressing course in Asheville a few weeks ago, at this really swank place called Asheville Book Works. It was really fantastic to be in western NC again, and especially to see some good friends. These first photos show the final prints I made:

Here is my first major project, a poster with inch-tall wood block letters. I tried not to deliberate over something cool to write, and just made a poster encouraging illiteracy or something like that. It is a two color print, which means I ran each poster through twice. The first run was the light blue color. Then I rearranged the text tray (which you can see towards the bottom of this post) by removing and adding letters and graphics, and then used a darker green for the second print. You can see where the text overlaps and where it doesn't. Also, if you flip a letter upside down, you get a square shape with the grain of the wood, which adds a nice effect. There is a double meaning that comes out with the two color process: in blue 'text is an endless train' and in green 'text is endless'.

...my final project, a combination wood/ lead type setup with a bunch of on-the-spot nonsense like portraits and upside down letters. I tried to use the woodblock as a geometric or compositional element rather than actual letters. Even the paragraph itself is somewhat vague and meaningless. I think it follows with the medium- outdated, overly difficult, processed manually. So the words feel like some misplaced morse code transcription or even worse, a quote from a crappy old communications textbook. But I think it works with the jumbled block letters and church registry photos from who knows when.

...you can see the impression from the lead type hitting the paper...

My instructor, Frank Brannon, who runs a small hand-publishing operation out of his house, cranks on the Vandercook press.

Here is the press, inked and ready to run a poster over the text.

setup is somewhat complicated: all the text has to be backwards, and packed so that it won't fall apart under the press.

...this is actually the beginning of the project, setting up type and filling in the empty spaces with hunks of lead.

and seriously, stay tuned. In the near future, you will find a quarterly photography update (lots of lost factories and the like) and some absolutely astounding theories on just about everything, but mainly about allegories and maps and bread rising.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Baristas and Impressionism

Last weekened I was in Atlanta for the South Eastern Barista Competition. I caught the finals, which showcased the top six baristas from the previous rounds. The venue was impressive: three espresso machines in a large gallery in the King Plow Arts Center, which is a beautifully renovated factory. Huge pieces of art hung from the walls, and the ceiling had glass panels, which let in natural light.

Four out of the six baristas were from Atlanta, one came in from Athens and one from D.C. Each competitor had 15 minutes to make 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos, and 4 signature drinks. It sounds easy enough, but they generally finished with less than a minute left. The first place signature drink was an espresso base, with a splash of root beer, then topped with a carmelized banana whipped cream. I was impressed by how they did not only make drinks, but as part of their presentation to the judges, they would explain where the components of their espresso came from, what it should taste like, how they made it by hand, why carob worked better than chocolate in a recipe, and so on.

I was telling some of my co-workers about the event the next day, and got an interesting response: "Why would I drive down to Atlanta to watch people work? I can do that here any day!" I think the difference is in the idea of what coffee should be. In Atlanta, there was so much attention to detail and creativity in the baristas' hands. In Chattanooga, there are buckets of supplies, slap-dashed together. Certainly, one has to work hard and a cafe has to make money, but if there is nothing in the drinks worth remembering, then you might as well get it at a gas station with spare change. If there is no virtuosity in the hand of the barista, then why not get a machine to pump it out? That is why latte art is the sign of hand-crafted coffee: it is the flourish that separates creative work from "just work".

...which reminds me: the light in my eye sees light

We see more than what is around us, and we see it with some tint of what is inside of us. That was a major motivation in impressionist art (Van Gogh, etc.): to not just show a field or a street scene or a vase of flowers, but to impress something personal onto that object. That's why seeing art (and reading good books and listening to good music and trying to understand difficult ideas) is so important. It makes us re-see the lines and colors and noises that we hear all the time. And hopefully, the world becomes more complex and textured in the process.

Here are some people who are rethinking trade and doing really great things for coffee and farmers:

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Belated update:

Quite a bit has changed this month so here's the scoop. I moved to a new apartment in Chattanooga, right after Christmas. It is part of a nice old house on the north side of the city, and I'm digging it so far. It is warmer, and has a unique style. Some of my walls are unfinished brick and mortar, which remind me of those crumbling monastaries I saw in Guatemala. In my last place, I never quite felt at home, always waiting for a chance to move. Here, I'm much more at home, with a sense of dwelling. I think our minds are structured much like a house is, and we can find better "fits", just as a hermit crab finds a shell that it can fill into a bit. I guess we seek out places that inspire us, or have a personality. In that sense, we are in a dialogue with the space we inhabit, conforming to it's shape and design, but also working with those boundaries.
Last week, the temperature dropped to 6 degrees, and the pipes in my bedroom cracked. The next morning, they thawed, and as I was brushing my teeth, I heard a trickle, and then a waterfall came through the tiles and filled my room with a few inches of water. The situation was further complicated because I couldn't rinse my mouth after brushing.
Oh yeah, I have no internet at the present, so things are a bit tricky with the blog. I'm doing my best, scout's honor.
Atlanta is becoming a hub for coffee, and the regional and world barista championships will be hosted there this spring!