Wednesday, October 28, 2009

fall, on spring

spring street, nyc. october 28, 2009

spring street, nyc. october 28, 2009

...i see it, a yellow leaf
among so many.
nothing distinguishes it,
nothing striking, striped, stripped,
strident, nothing
more than its yellow
on this day,
which is enough...

--from "a yellow leaf"
by alberto rios
via the american life in poetry project, by ted kooser, us poet laureate.
the project offers a free weekly column featuring the work of contemporary american poets (curated by mr. kooser) to newspapers and online publications, with the hope that editors will see that poetry can offer "a spot of value" to readers. details here...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

read a good poem: leaving early (and see a fine picture)

raymond saunders. this and that of what wants to be beauty, 2005.
mixed media on panel. 48 x 36 inches.
via the stephen wirtz gallery, san francisco.

on the occasion of sylvia plath's birthday, i present
leaving early.
(she had me at, "lady, your room is lousy with flowers...")


Lady, your room is lousy with flowers.
When you kick me out, that's what I'll remember,
Me, sitting here bored as a leopard
In your jungle of wine-bottle lamps,
Velvet pillows the color of blood pudding
And the white china flying fish from Italy.
I forget you, hearing the cut flowers
Sipping their liquids from assorted pots,
Pitchers and Coronation goblets
Like Monday drunkards. The milky berries
Bow down, a local constellation,
Toward their admirers in the tabletop:
Mobs of eyeballs looking up.
Are those petals of leaves you've paired with them ---
Those green-striped ovals of silver tissue?
The red geraniums I know.
Friends, friends. They stink of armpits
And the involved maladies of autumn,
Musky as a lovebed the morning after.
My nostrils prickle with nostalgia.
Henna hags:cloth of your cloth.
They tow old water thick as fog.

The roses in the Toby jug
Gave up the ghost last night. High time.
Their yellow corsets were ready to split.
You snored, and I heard the petals unlatch,
Tapping and ticking like nervous fingers.
You should have junked them before they died.
Daybreak discovered the bureau lid
Littered with Chinese hands. Now I'm stared at
By chrysanthemums the size
Of Holofernes' head, dipped in the same
Magenta as this fubsy sofa.
In the mirror their doubles back them up.
Listen: your tenant mice
Are rattling the cracker packets. Fine flour
Muffles their bird feet: they whistle for joy.
And you doze on, nose to the wall.
This mizzle fits me like a sad jacket.
How did we make it up to your attic?
You handed me gin in a glass bud vase.
We slept like stones. Lady, what am I doing
With a lung full of dust and a tongue of wood,
Knee-deep in the cold swamped by flowers?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

hear a little song (play a little guitar)

which music magazine was it that had the "if you were stuck on a deserted island, what 10 records would you take with you" feature in every issue? was it tower records' free mag? and was it 10 records? or 5? why can't i remember these details?

in any case, i have invested a lot of/too much time compiling and reassessing my own list over the years.
i am certain i would be unhappy to be forever without "to be surprised", so i guess that means the dan in real life soundtrack is coming with me.

wasting one on a soundtrack, you ask? i know, i know. but it's almost all sondre lerche material, sweet, lovely tunes, some of it written expressly for the film. of them all, "to be surprised" owns my heart. "i'm not gonna lie..." the song makes me want to fall in love.

it also makes me want to learn the guitar--especially that picking guitar intro (arranged and played by ole ludwig kruger). isn't it a brilliant and bright sound? i was so inspired i actually started looking into guitar lessons last fall, but it's going to a little while before i can pull it together. plus, i can't sing, so that makes the whole strumming my guitar bit a lot less compelling. but still, i aspire.

do you? watch this, and be prepared to...

Friday, October 23, 2009

testing testing: the sigma at cu

last night i joined a college friend, who's visiting from california, at a great teachers event at low library on columbia's campus. it was kind of a fancy affair. men in dark suits, and ladies in floor-length gowns, sporting big baubles, bangles and beads. i was decidedly more casual, though i tried to give it a little ooh-la-la: a favorite top that i bought a couple of years ago at a boutique in le marais, and slim black slacks and slate grey heels from comptoir des cotonniers. it turned out to be a smart choice, as one gentleman that we became acquainted with that night, mr. hooper (i think he said he was class of '68?), asked me to take a few photos for him. having only my 50mm portrait lens with me, i had to sneak my way up to the front of the room, crouch down, crawl around to have any chance at a decent shot. i welcomed the opportunity though the photos, in the end, were not great. but i couldn't have tried to oblige him if i'd been in any kind of gown.

mr. hooper is himself a serious photographer (he taught digital photography at parsons, while working at citigroup) but i'm pretty sure he wasn't looking for photos of the dinner we were served. so i took these for me! the light was acceptable, and the plating was pretty. i wanted another chance to see what i could do with this lens, since i'd been a little frustrated before.

all of these are at 2.0 (and btw, delicious)...

these are not classic food shots, and the focus is a bit off, but i sort of like the look of them...

thoughts? i'm open to critiquing.


a quick note about the event:
the great teacher honorees were professors austin quigley, who was dean of the college from 1995-2009 and zvi galil, who served as dean of seas from 1997-2007.
also in attendance was the college's new dean, dr. michele m. moody-adams, the first female and first black dean in the college's history...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

tripping the light fantastic: more from the gap

hip-hop! (choreographed by toni basil, featuring a very young wade robson)

go-go dancing (my specialty?)
song: wild elephants (blow up a go go) by james clarke.

a matthew rolston directed "swing" number (with marco mazzei, dp), to louis prima's jump, jive, an' wail...

have you ever tried country line dancing? actually quite fun...

hear a little song: lovely day

this song, lovely day (aka dan and liz's wedding song, and "the ricky ledée song"--hear it? loveledéeloveledéeloveledée love le-dée) is one of the most played on my ipod.

the bass line, and the cymbals? oh, those cymbals.

feeling blue? it might help.

and here's 30-more seconds of joy, via the gap khaki soul commercial, directed by hype williams and choreographed by fatima robinson.

i've spent part of the morning looking at the series of spots from this campaign--
will post more later...

see a fine picture: herman leonard

dizzy gillespie and sonny stitt, nyc, new york, 1953. © herman leonard, 1953. via the morrison hotel gallery.

almost forgot to mention in "catching up" with professor o'meally, i found out that there's an exhibition of beautiful jazz portraits, photographed by herman leonard, at lincoln center. (the professor is part of the curatorial group.) it will be on view through february 14, 2010. admission is free.

address: peter jay sharp arcade, 5th floor, frederick p. rose hall. jazz at lincoln center, broadway at 60th street, ny, ny.

hours: tuesday through sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and monday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

the photographs are also on sale via the morrison hotel gallery. have a look at the set...

a portion of proceeds from the sale of photographs will benefit jazz at lincoln center.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

tgtt (too good to title)

while searching for information about a "great teachers" event that i'm supposed to attend uptown on thursday, i found my way to the jazzman testifies, an article about one of my favorite teachers, professor robert g. o'meally. professor o'meally is the zora neale hurston professor of literature at columbia university and the founder of the university's center for jazz studies. it's fair to say that barnard and columbia had its share of celebrated professors, some who strutted through bi-weekly lectures and others whose amazing dullness belied their stellar scholarly reputation.

but professor o'meally was of a different class. the kind of person who made you relax, but also sit up straight. he was smooth--quietly elegant in every manner, from the way he dressed to the way he addressed us. his lectures were instructive of course, but he seemed to want more to guide and inspire conversation.
the class wasn't merely about listening to music-- it was about a culture that was alive. and he presented it with an urgency and earnestness. if you listen to this npr interview, "the intersection of jazz and social protest," conducted by farai chideya in 2008, you'll have an idea of what he's like.

i remember how well he listened--leaning in, ear-first, sometimes nodding, as if we were musicians trading fours. i loved that he often said "agreed!" instead of "yes!" (for a time i tried to adopt that exclamation as an o'meally homage.) i don't know how much i excelled in that class, but i felt encouraged in the inquiries i attempted (not surprisingly, sometimes about sports and photography and improvisation).


i've spent that last couple of nights looking though my notebook (yes, i still have it. and boy, was my handwriting
nice back then). i'll need to refer back to the texts for a proper de-coding of some. i do wish i had taken better notes about the music that he played for every class intro.

t.g.t.t. (too good to title), performed by alice babs, one of duke ellington's favorite singers, has been a favorite since he played it for us (unfortunately, i don't seem to be able to find a link with the full track). so, too, with heaven which ellington wrote expressly for her. i teared up the first time i heard it--and i still can't comprehend the notes she hits for this number. she may be just a touch off in the live recording. sadder to me is this video doesn't show the full performance of johnny hodges on alto sax. you can hear him on the cd recording of the second sacred concert.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

saturday shoot



we ran in to mollie, who is featured in a couple of chaos theory episodes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

oh captain, my captain

"jeter" in brooklyn. may 2009.

let's go yankees.

following up, and from out of the past

janice lucena is nike's tennis design director. i didn't see her discuss nadal's blue checked shorts anywhere (but i also didn't google around for too long. i did find that his shorts are a fairly hot topic amongst super fans--but i guess this is nothing new? even ny mag got into the act last month).

anyway, ms. lucena is quoted in sarah thurmond's piece on about color and design in tennis clothing. she also gave a couple of good lines about rafa's style to a new york times blogger during the us open.

this reminded me that i never posted any photos from my second trip to this year's US open. it's been one month, but it feels like 2 seasons ago, thanks to today's forty degree weather.

shall we reminisce
about one of my favorite nights of the summer?


my first trip to the 2009 us open on labor day was so cheerful, so nearly perfect, i nearly convinced myself that i didn't need to go back.

but as the second week progressed, the matchups and the storylines were just so...beguiling. oudin, clijsters, pennetta, wozniacki still in...murray already out, and most meaningfully (to me): nadal was making a good show of it, despite his injury. by the time wednesday rolled around, i was getting ideas. nadal v. gonzalez on thursday night was a tempting ticket...
it was pretty easy to talk myself out of the opportunity from a purely practical perspective (did i need to go all the way out there a second time? shouldn't i just save the money? or at least spend it on a class or a workshop? and: if i'm going to all the way out there, flying solo, shouldn't i just watch it from home). but really, the ride would seem long and lonely, and the ticket price would really only sting if in the end nadal lost. i didn't know if i could take being there for the losing.

and then i solicited and received some advice: if it doesn't rain, go see rafa. he was born to play at night.


within the hour, i hopped on the train. it wasn't possible to tell from the us open site at that late juncture in the afternoon if there were still tickets available. i figured, if i go, and there are some available and i can afford them, great. if not...then it wasn't meant to be...

by the time i arrived, the first set was well underway. but i wasn't the only one running late.

luckily, there were still tickets available. and the cost didn't break my bank (completely).

the seat i purchased was good--no squinting required. but i was sitting on the south side of the stadium. which meant, when he was on my side of the court, i would be looking through my zoom lens at nadal's back and backside. not an unattractive view, but very limiting in terms of composition. i was able to take a couple of decent ones, from the far side...

then came the mists that turned into sprinkles. it was enough to halt play.
the first time this happened, there was still a kind of hopeful buzz that play would resume...and it did.

nadal was pumped and primed to take the second set.

pretty good hops

i have many shots similar to this, his service motion well-documented.

can you tell how the wind is starting to pick up and swirl around?

i kept picturing nadal standing at the bow of a ship...bracing for wind from all sides...

nadal would lose a set point for the second set, on a let, after something blew onto the court. we were in for another tiebreaker (nadal won the first, 7-4)

and it started sprinkling again. full-throated boos rained down on gonzalez as he tested the lines, serving at 2-3, and they stopped play. and then the real rains came.

so i bought a hotdog. and then met up with a friend who was covering the match. he brought me some press notes and a big fat brownie. and then i went back to sit in the mist, with my magazine. i had a good feeling that play would resume.

the techs took their slow drive onto the court and there was wild rejoicing. people danced and lip synced for the television cameras.

i love this drying method. i've seen my mom clean floors like this. i am excited for her to see that this is how they do it at the slams, too.

after a short while, i noticed many people rushing toward the exits: we were officially allowed to move down, waaay down. i hotfooted it, not believing my luck. all the waiting was paying off. i was already picturing the kind of photos i would be taking from courtside...

and just as i was texting my friends ("4th row!"), i was getting incoming messages ("sorry, babe." "whoops. that sucks...") and after thinking, babe? when did my friends start saying babe? i realized they heard the news before i did: no more tennis for the night.

but let me just say that even with this resoundingly "bad" news, people were in good spirits. many lingered to take photos of each other courtside because like me, they couldn't believe just how close they came to close.

i took this picture of the perfect stranger who had been posing courtside with his friend--it would be "the closest i got to rafa." my camera was drawn to the colors and stripes he was sporting.

i met them shortly afterwards (he is alexei, a filmmaker, and she is kiara, a singer). see what i mean about people being so happy?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

shanghai surprise

today, b.c. (before coffee), i turned on the tv. it was already set where i needed it to be: the tennis channel. lo and behold, rafa! i have only seen a little tennis this week, and none of it involved him, so this woke me up quickly. then the camera pulled out wide--and i saw his get-up.

i howled.

i'm going to have to do a little googling later this afternoon, to figure out who at nike is responsible for nadal's on-court uniforms (which are anything but).
tweaking nadal's traditional look with bold color, and now...pattern. (did they recently poach someone from the nike golf team?) they clearly have a sense of what nadal will look very good in--i can imagine other people that can actually wear this ensemble without looking like a clown.

(ok, someone is gonna say he looks like one, too. but it won't be me.)

one day ago, nadal v. blake. ap photo/andy wong, via nadal prevailed, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4.

nadal. october 15, 2009.
photo: philippe lopez/afp/getty images.
via yahoo sports.

nadal defeated robredo 6-1, 6-4. october 15, 2009.
photo: philippe lopez/afp/getty images via
yahoo sports.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

read a good poem: (celebrating ee cummings' birthday)

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

--ee cummings
from 100 selected poems
bio from
today's writer's almanac notes (do read "i like my body." i like that one, too)

"bikini, moscow, 1959." william klein. via the laurence miller gallery.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

celebrating "the athlete"

photo of greg lougains via's walter iooss, jr. photo gallery.

"louganis was one of the biggest stars in the olympics. i had photographed him three or four times, but i never seemed to get the picture i wanted. so i went out to mission viejo, calif., where he trained, and i asked him to go off the platform at twilight. when I started to edit the chromes, there was one i'll never forget. the lights that illuminated the pool had made streaks, and the sky -- the red and the black -- mixed together. of course louganis was diving down, but i flipped the photo so it looked as if he were coming out of the flames of hell, like dante's inferno. i thought it was one of the best pictures i'd ever seen. when i brought this picture to show louganis, i was so proud of myself. i said, "greg, look at this." he said, "i'm bent," handed it back to me and walked away. where i saw a once-in-a-lifetime picture, he saw failure in his form. i was humiliated by the world's greatest diver."
--walter iooss, jr.

many years ago, there was an exhibit at newseum/ny called "replay! great moments from sports illustrated" -- i actually can't remember if it was a grand exhibit or a tightly curated one. i only remember that it was a big deal for me--all those very familiar images from the magazine presented in the "museum format" gave the photos--and the stories they told--their proper due. i was in awe.

sadly, the newseum no longer exists here. but on view at the newseum in washington, dc from now until the end of this year, is a similar exhibition, celebrating the career of sports photographer walter iooss, jr.

if you're any kind of sports fan, you know his work. he's been a sports illustrated photographer for more than 40 years, earning more than 300 covers (his first one at the age of 20, of phillies pitcher art mahaffey). if you're curious to see just how prolific he's been (and maybe how many of your favorite photos he's taken), check out a small sampling:

walter iooss jr's favorite shots, featuring maria sharapova (he caught one of the nicest expressions i've seen on her), bernard "the executioner" hopkins, dwight clark (his most famous shot?) and my favorite tennis player (i like his notes on the day)...

rafa, in 2006. photographed by walter iooss, jr. via "the walter iooss jr.'s favorite shots" gallery on

''we did this one in a studio in new york, just before last year's u.s. open. we put a strobe on the floor to create the shadow behind him. he showed up with no wardrobe, so for an hour we shot him with no shirt on. then they finally brought some tennis clothes, so we had about five minutes left to get him in this outfit. he was a great kid with great energy, despite the language barrier. fun to watch.'' - walter iooss, jr.

bonus note: this was shot with a canon eos-1ds mark II, ef 24-105mm

and the more recent "
walter iooss jr. gallery" (which specifically promotes the newseum exhibit), starring kg (yay!), kobe (eesh), a very flattering shot of serena williams (interesting commentary too), ali/frazier, and louganis.

there are a few more on the newseum site, as well as a bonus short video interview...

if you're interested to see much more, check out the companion book, the athlete...(or any of the others).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

smile, and wave

i'm easing into wednesday, a little later than i had planned (i've been having a little trouble sleeping).

maybe i was in the mood for something warm and sweet--i decided to listen to the jobim songbook (i always start with track 11-- ella swinging desafinado) while i brewed some coffee and checked emails and news.

after a time, oscar peterson's "wave" came on...i've heard this before of course, and i've posted different versions of this song before, but i'm not sure it has sounded more beautiful to me, than at this hour, in the half-light of this apartment.

(sweet photo of oscar peterson, too)

happy wednesday...

Monday, October 5, 2009

building conventions and conversation

abores laetae. liverpool england. via diller scofidio +renfro.

in an ongoing effort to use my free time wisely, i've peppered my calendar with several events related to architecture week.

as an outsider to the profession but someone with a growing interest in preservation and planning (and an abiding love for this town), these lectures represent an opportunity to hear the architects/artists/designers articulate their intent for a project, in the language of their discipline. i always expect there to be moments where i'm overwhelmed by the architecture jargon, but i always hope to come out with a notion or two for how to re-consider a structure or a space.

the week's festivities kicked off this morning, with the center welcoming elizabeth diller (of diller scofidio +renfro). her presentation focused on the firm's new york projects, from their earliest site specific art installations (which culminated in a 2003 mid-career retrospective at the whitney) to the grander architectural collaborations (recently, the high line and lincoln center). she spoke very little if at all about the projects' architectural or structural details, and more about their interest in the conventions of theatrical space and "visionality" (the culture of vision, "framing" vision, how architecture can allow or deny vision).

i've attended community board hearings for the preservation of the high line and felt like i "knew" that project pretty well from a preservationists' perspective, and i've had the hallmarks of the "new" lincoln center pointed out to me on a recent tour, but it wasn't until today, after listening to ms. diller and looking at the drawings and animations that i started to understand and appreciate the intent of the firm's work: to gather an audience through design that is both theatrical and ultimately democratic.

the team also presented designs for other architectural projects, some accepted (the museum of image and sound in rio), others rejected (the national museum of african-american history in dc), and installations like these joyful trees, in liverpool.

this bioengineering experiment created for the 2008 liverpool biennial is meant to turn the idea of public parks on its head. 3 trees within a grove were planted at a 10 degree bias on turntables that were set to rotate at different speeds. sometimes the trees kiss, or brush up against each other. as you stand in the space, the trees move past you....

this is growing on me...
what do you think?


tomorrow at AIA:

parks and recreation commissioner adrian benepe, discusses nyc parks...
parks & recreation manages 29,000 acres (14% of nyc), including nearly 4,000 properties ranging from washington square and east river parks to community gardens and greenstreets. custodian of 2.5 million trees, parks commissioner adrian benepe has emerged as a design catalyst in the bloomberg administration.

6-8PM (exhibition opening): context/contrast: new architecture in historic districts
new york is often imagined as a perennially new city, yet in the four decades since the 1965 passage of the new york landmarks law, it has become one of the strongest forces for historic preservation in the country. context/contrast asks how the commission’s charge of ensuring “appropriate” new architecture in historic districts has allowed neighborhoods to evolve without endangering the essential character that contributes to their public value and makes them worth protecting.

and, wednesday:

a tour of greenwich south
a lecture and guided tour of a newly installed exhibit in zuccotti park, depicting a visionary future for greenwich south. the area below the world trade center site, sandwiched between battery park city and the financial district, offers both immense challenges and unique opportunities for intervention and design, from subtle to grand, in scale and intention. leading design consultants from the architecture research office and beyer blinder belle will guide participants through the exhibit with bold provocations for the planning of lower manhattan.