I can’t think of a better way to start off the new year than with another quote from Miller — yes, another quote from Nexus which I’m just about finished with, but lingering over… but which line to quote? I’ve taken to marking passages and underlining words I never even heard of, much less understand…
“What could be more considerate — better manners! — than to treat thoughts, ideas, inspirational flashes, as flowers of delight? What better work habits than to greet them with a smile each day or walk among them musing on their evanescent glory? True, now and then I might make so bold as to pluck one for my buttonhole. But to exploit it, to send it out to work like a whore or a stockbroker — unthinkable. For me it was enough to have been inspired, not be perpetually inspired. I was neither a poet nor a drudge. I was simply out of step.” Henry Miller, Nexus
* * *
Finally got around to printing Flying Leaf. What an odd shot. If you squint at it, it seems to be Jupiter with a moon floating by. The texture of the ground is sharp enough and barren enough to give that lunar feeling. I’m not sure if you would grasp exactly what was going on without the title, but if you stared at it long enough, it might hit you after a few drinks.
* * *
This left on my answering machine by my dad…
“For the new year, would you like all your wishes to come true? If that’s what you want, then I wish for that too.”
My silent answer — “No thank you, dad. I’ve had plenty of trouble when anything I wished for came true… Let’s let some greater or wiser being do the wishing.” Remind me the next time I wish for something to leave well enough alone. Reminds me of those ‘Monkey’s Paw’ stories we used to tell at camp. You know, a guy finds a magical Monkey’s Paw which has the power to grant all wishes, and the poor guy usually ends up dying a horrible death, or just losing what he started off wanting. I guess this is the Bedazzled theme. Although that was a variation, in that the guy never really did get exactly what he wished for…
* * *
I really don’t do much experimenting in the darkroom — every few years I might change papers just for the hell of it. So, a few weeks ago I picked up a pack of Ilford warmtone (5 x 7) and I did a print on it today. Untoned, the paper looks pretty much the same as a cold-toned paper, or at least nothing dramtic. But toned — yikes. I have selenium sitting around that I haven’t been using, and I mixed up a batch at about a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part rapid selenium toner, and threw the one scrap into the tray and waited. Didn’t take long, and the thing began to change to a nice coppery tone. I toned the print for about 8 minutes, and honestly, I was too tired at the end of the printing session to measure carefully — but I saw, as of course have many others, that some of my prints might benefit greatly from this paper/toner combination. Especially, nature, trees, etc. I guess its some of the shots of both the east side park, and Central Park that it would be fun to tone this way.
* * *
Harry Sharp, Part 3
Harry, one foot now in his slipper, the other foot halfway in, his head turned towards the mirror, was finally turned enough to see the reflection of the clock in the dresser mirror. And sure enough, the clock’s second hand, was moving quickly enough. It was reversed in the mirror, but he could see that time was marching on. The only thing not marching on was Harry Sharp.
A tremendous rumble nearly causing him to pass-out. And now, standing in front of him, moving frenetically like a spinning top, was Harry’s twin 90-year old brother, Laurence Sharp.
Laurence tried to grasp his twin brother, but his arms went right through Harry, and Harry felt a woosh of air, like a frozen daquari had been spilled down his pants, and Laurence, finding that he was grasping thin air, lost his balance, and toppled down on the unmade bed, where his hearing aid popped out and got lost in the blankets.
Harry knew what he wanted to say to his twin brother, but also knew that by the time he said it, they’d probably both be long dead. Harry felt that he was about to burst out laughing, but he couldn’t remember about what. The situation was serious enough. His mind was still working at the normal speed, at least he thought it was. Now how long does it take to think a sentence? He tried thinking some sentences and watching the second hand on the clock, but his mind kept wandering. Instead of thinking of a sentence, you was thinking of the clock. Let’s see, now. What would be a good sentence…
How now brown cow? How now brown cow? What an odd thing to think about, but it took less than a few seconds on the clock, so I’m probably thinking o.k. Its just that my biological clock has slowed down a considerable bit.
Laurence emerged from the blankets with his hearing aid — and brought his face quite close to his brother’s. Harry seemed real enough. It was just that when he tried to touch his bathrobe, he lost his balance again, and found himself back on the unmade sheets. It was as if there was a magnetic repelling force between them…
Got the rest of the orders out that have been sitting around in that in-box, and now I can rest, or can I? I must admit, that I’m getting bored with the packaging and matting process. Given that I’m still at work, and its January (who would have thunk it), I think its time to start thinking about a nice little trip somewhere. I don’t know why, but Ireland keeps coming to mind. I mean, I’ve been to Paris twice and could go back there a third time — but you’ve got to try something else, don’t you? And I know, Tuscany is amazing. Maybe too amazing. Well, whatever — airfares and hotels are really cheap, and this is the time to do it. Just pick something. No, you don’t want to go to the Bronx and photograph the old neighborhood — that’s not a vacation and you’ll get killed. But what about that idea for the photo essay on the Bronx River? There really is such a river, and it starts up in Westchester, and you can follow it right through the Bronx. Mt. Eden. Riverdale. Always looking for some theme I guess. My world doesn’t have a theme. Well, I’ll take out my guide book about Ireland and thumb through it again.
* * *
Yeah, I know. None of my asp pages are working, which means no pictures. It might have something to do with the fact that Interland (my ISP) is in Atlanta GA and they are under snow. I filled out an online support form with them, and tried to call, but I couldn’t wait on the line and listen to, “An agent will be with you shortly…” Five thousand times. Hopefully, things will be working in the morning.
* * *
This has been a fairly busy start to the year — a few sales through eBay, and through the site, and through the phone, and the order box (which is the top of a photography paper box turned upside down), which had been nice and empty, is now filled up again.
* * *
Spent most of the morning near the Mayor house (Gracie Mansion) where there was the swearing in of the Police Commisioner. Didn’t get to see much. Security was so tight I was afraid to put my hands in my pockets for fear that a sharpshooter on the roof would take me out. I’m not kidding. I mean, there are three guys on the roof of Gracie Mansion which is this really old colonial building, maybe three stories, and they’ve got binoculars, and rifles, and they constantly seem to be trained in my direction. At one point, one of the cops walks up to me — he’s got an ear-piece in, and is talking into his cuff, and I figure that’s it. But he walks by me, and tells some little kids to move.
There was a police boat in the East River. And all my favorite parts of the park were filled with police cars, and officials cars. There were bagpipes playing non-stop. I could just catch a glimpse of Curtis what’s his name — the Guardian Angels guy, in his red jacket and bright red beret.
There were one or two odd moments. Gracie Mansion is right next to a hospital, and at one point there were people with broken legs getting into a cab right in front of me, and they were sort of surrounded by police, and it was odd, although not really odd enough.
And before that, I walked uptown, to about 98th street, where I found a series of very, ugly buildings, and photographed them for a while.
On the way back from Gracie Mansion, I stopped by this historic house on the corner (I remember reading that it was one of the oldest homes still standing in New York and all that), and you walk into this cul-de-sac, and it is very colonial, and beautiful, and there at the entrance of the cul-de-sac, is a moving truck, filled with very, 21st century stuff — you know, t.v.s etc. sort of sitting in the middle of this colonial alleyway. So I took one or two shots of people moving — in or out — I wasn’t sure. And pressed on homewards.
* * *
I’m thinking of starting a page called, “Prints That I Can’t Give Away” or perhaps, “Prints That Absolutely Nobody Wants”, and I would sort them by least popular first… something like this:
Sleeping Man, Steps— New York, 1995
This is by far the absolutely least popular print on the site. I don’t think I ever sold one. Nobody emails me and says what a fascinating print it is. Nobody wants this poor orphan. And yet, I like it which is why it stays. First off, in the actual print, you can count the hairs in the man’s beard — if you want to. And his pants have a sense of being slept in for months. And then there is the composition which always reminds me of a Bosch painting. But if that weren’t enough, there is the beatific smile. Nevertheless, this is the most unpopular print.
Subway, Man and Woman— New York, 1994
This is the next most unpopular print. And it was so hard to do. I was sitting with a Medium Format Twin Lens on my briefcase, and the tones are all there, and the feeling of utter boredom, and the gleam of the train… And as I say, it was so hard to accomplish. Maybe that’s why I like it… But there’s even the irony of the movie poster in the background — Stakeout — sort of how I felt at the time.
On the other hand — Most Popular — that’s easy: Promenade, Night Storm, Benches, and I understand this. But there is one that has been neglected in this category that is equally beautiful, but somehow I haven’t’ managed to get the feeling right on the web. And that is… Bike. I’m going to try and re-scan this one today.
* * *
Under the heading of ‘You can’t make this stuff up’:
A couple hail a cab on the upper west side and ask the cab driver to take them to Washington Heights. Along the way, the cab driver decides to stop and buy some cigarettes. While he’s in the store, the couple jump into the front seat and steal the cab. The cabby, runs out of the store where another cab is parked, and a high speed chase ensues. During the chase, the couple crash the cab into a guard rail. The woman is killed. The man escapes on foot.
* * *
Anyway, they’re making a big deal about a snow storm that is approaching NYC. I have my fingers crossed that it hits hard, and that I can go play in the park on Monday. But my guess is that there will be a bit of rain, and the thing will veer off. This has been the absolutely dullest most unwintery winter that I can remember. Sort of like a long never-ending Autumn. At any rate, was in Central Park yesterday morning for a few hours, and the light was fantastic. I just spent a lot of time photographing near the bridge that leads to the resevoir track. I guess the phrase from Paul Simon, “A hazy shade of winter…” describes it best.
* * *
I’ve been over this ground before, but I find it fascinating that people, as people, don’t sell well (unless they are celebrities). Maybe its my treatment of them. But let’s try and get a little more philosophical about it: nature prints are always more abstract. They allow you to read or project your own feelings into them. The people shots that sell the best, are usually where you don’t see the person’s face. For example, ‘Holding Hands’ does sell. No faces. An abstract design. Mystery. Who are they. Steps of Met, sells, but the face of the man is a small part of the image, its really the lighting that makes it abstract. And Girl With Ball, sells pretty well. It has an innocence to it that is non-threatening, and you can feel the excitement of the little girl bouncing the ball, plus the row of trees separates the girl from the adults in the background. But she is rather small in the frame. Pizza Place also sells pretty well, but the guy in the window is again small in frame, and its the surroundings, the signs, the steam on the window, the gray tones, etc. The two most unusual shots, Good Careers, and Man with Mouthwash, which are in my mind the most unusual shots, have almost never sold. On the other hand, Groups of People, do sell. Here’s a new one — that is so New York, and really odd enough, but let’s see what happens with it.
* * *
Anyway, I’ve been matting all morning. Its going well for a change. Secret seems to be to change the blades after each mat.
* * *
Harry Sharp, Part 4
Laurence and Harry were not identical twins. Although they were twins, they had almost nothing in common.
Laurence had been a great athlete in his youth. During WWII he had once placed first in the backstroke out of five thousand soldiers in the European theatre of operations. He still had very strong hands that were now useful for opening jars of pickels for Harry.
Harry on the other hand was frail, and intellectual and had been a college professor for most of his adult life. Laurence wasn’t even sure what exactly Harry had taught, some crappy course about Shakespeare’s sonnets he thought.
Well, there was nothing to do at this point but to call the police.
Laurence felt funny about talking to his brother in this condition, but he came close to him and said, “Now just take it easy sonny, I’m gonna call the cops.” He looked to closely at Harry to see if there was any sign of recognition. It seemed as if Harry’s head turned ever so slightly to face him and just the touch of a smile was coming to his lips.
Laurence picks up the phone and dials “0” A taped voice answers: “New York police emergency line, if this is an emergency, please hold the line, an operator will be with you shortly…” And then that crazy music he hated starts up… not exactly elevator music, but maybe it was the Beatles… There were no words to the song, but he was pretty sure it was “When I’m Sixty-Four…”
Well, no snow in the city. There should have been, it snowed all around us, but not here. Nice quiet day planned. Wait for fedex delivery of paper and chemicals — and develop some film.
* * *
Frank was sitting in front of the t.v. when the commercial for “Plastics Make Life Better” came on. He had seen this commercial at least twenty times, and suddenly felt the urge to go out and buy something made of plastic. Yes, that would really his life better22. He walked down to the closest store which was a newstand, and asked the Indian proprietor if there was anything plastic that he could buy. The Indian proprietor looked at him oddly, and then handed him a Bic pen. Frank held the pen in his hand. Yes, certainly it was made of plastic. I’ll take five of those, he said.
Seriously though — what is the point of these commercials? This is beyond my comprehension this morning.
[response from J.C. If they can convince you that plastic makes your life better, then you can justify ignoring the pollution that the production and disposal of plastic causes. Or the amount of petroleum that is wasted producing plastic that will eventually fill up our land fills.]
* * *
Been reading ‘The Air-Conditioned Nightmare’ by Henry Miller — and its the first book by him that I cannot stomach. Miller comes back from France after ten years to go across the United States in search of something… but he hates everything and everybody. Given that in later years he takes up a very happy life in Big Sur, California, the book is hard to understand. Here is a typical quote:
“The American park is a circumscribed vacuum filled with cataleptic nincompoops.” [This juxtaposition of cataleptic and nincompoops is what makes Miller so much fun to read. Catalepsy is a psychiatric term in which the patient has a rigidity, and fixed posture. Nincompoops are, well, we know what they are… So this would amount to rigid fools. ed.]
“Like the architecture of the American home, there is never an ounce of personality in the park.”
“Of all the little man-made parks I think the one in Jacksonville, Florida is perhaps the meanest, drabbest, shabbiest. It belongs in a George Grosz picture. It reeks with tuberculosis, halitosis, varicose veins, paranoia, mendacity, onanism and occultism. All the misfits, the unfits, the has-beens and the would-bes of America seem to drift here eventually. It is the emotional swamp which one has to wade through in order to get to the Everglades.”
Wonderful writing, but slightly jaundiced?
* * *
A couple of new things: I was watching this mom reading to her kid, and the kid, totally bored, was sticking his tongue out at her when she wasn’t looking.
And on the same train ride…
* * *
Mixed up a fresh batch of xtol today — 5 liters — and everything that I developed in it (two rolls) looked flat. It was a low-key day, but I don’t know… Anyway, nothing on those two rolls looks printable, although I will say I had a great time shooting them.
* * *
Harry Sharp, Part 5
Now you might be wondering what Harry was feeling while his brother popped through him and landed on the bed, and the truth was that he was thinking about what he had eaten last night. Chinese take-out from the Lun-Su Dynasty. He had gotten sick twice before — horrible stomach cramps — from the General Tso’s Chicken. And Harry was thinking that this was just another example of bad Chinese food. He was allergic to MSG, and probably what had happened was that the crazy cook had made some horrible mistake and dumped a couple of spoonfuls of MSG into the Lo Mein instead of corn starch. When he got out of this mess, he was going to have a couple of choice words with them. After all, how many times could they poison him and get away with it?
Harry tried to focus his eyes again on the mirror, where he could just make out the remains of the Chinese dinner sitting on a t.v. tray near the bedside. The Lo-Mein was sitting in an aluminum plate, half-finished. Good. When they police came, maybe they could send that Lo-Mein off to the lab and have it tested.
That must have been a ton of MSG to cause something like this, he thought.
When his brother, Laurence, had whooshed through him and landed on the bed, he had felt a kind of weird vortex open and close in his mid-regions. Like a bad draft. Strange enough feeling — and slightly nauseating. As he watched his brother waiting on the phone for the police to respond, his mind began to wander. It wandered more than usual. It wandered back to the first time he had ever had Chinese food…
* * *
Well, today I need to actually make an appearance at work… so this nonsense will have to wait.
* * *
Had an extremely boring day at the agency today. Called all my friends and asked them to tell me stories about the most boring jobs they ever had. One friend told me a story about working for Nynex, many years ago as a support person, when there was apparantly nothing to support. He just sat in a room, hour after hour, waiting for the phone to ring. One day, his boss comes by with a carton filled with rubber bands and paper clips, and asks him to separate them.
At that point, I was so bored that that sounded like fun. I looked through my desk drawers for rubber bands and paper clips, but couldn’t find any.
You would think that I could at least write while I was there, but I don’t seem to be able to function at all in that office. I think its because there’s no window. So I called another friend and said, ‘you’ve got to tell me a couple of funny stories, at least for a half hour. He said he didn’t have any funny stories, so I hung up and sat there staring at the computer screen. Then the phone rang. Someone had given out my name to a cold-caller who was trying to sell Nynex equipment or something. I kept her on the line for some time, asking about various models before I finally said I probably wasn’t the right guy and wasn’t in charge of purchasing telephone equipment. Who was, she asked. I picked someone in the company that I didn’t like and gave her his name.
* * *
One more day of total boredom on tap, and then four days of freedom. What a great feeling when I walk out on Weds afternoons. It feels like the whole world opens up for me. Sales have slowed down during the last week, so I’m going to put up a few more things on eBay today. I am still wondering whether it wouldn’t be better to stop selling this stuff from my site, and just open an eBay store. Its cheaper, and I think people are more comfortable buying through eBay. If I was smart about it, I might be able to put links from my images directly to the images on the eBay store. Is it cheaper? Well I have to pay the eBay fees on sales, but right now the payment processing system I’m using charges me $50 a month, plus there’s the fee for the secure certificate which is a lot each year. The thing that I don’t know is whether the links would remain the same from my site to the items on ebay store after they have to be re-listed. I think I read that the listings are only good for 30 days at a time and then need to be re-listed. Someone else told me this wasn’t true. The thing about eBay is that the feedback mechanism is very good. Its something that I can’t easily do on my own site. Well, its something to look into. The other thing about eBay is that it is more sophisticated in terms of charging sales tax, which so far I’ve been paying out of my own pocket because I haven’t wanted to go through the trouble of checking what state its being shipped to. Maybe that’s what I’ll do at work today. I think you also get a bit more exposure by using an eBay store.
The other thing is that it would tremendously simplify the coding that I use for the shopping cart and all that. Then again, there are some people who don’t have eBay accounts, and just want to click on the thing and buy it on the spot.
Anybody who has an opinion on this, let me know what you think?
* * *
Came across this piece of code… thought maybe I’d add it to some of the picture pages…
Change the background color:
Got around to putting up a few things on eBay yesterday, and they mostly sold. There’s even a bit of a bidding war on Promenade. So it wasn’t a totally wasted day in the office.
* * *
All four prints arrived safe and sound and they really are quite stunning. Nary a dust speck or surface imperfection. Needless to say, I can hardly wait to get them framed and up.
It’s too bad that it’s so difficult to get your work seen out here on the west coast, because trust me, your images are equal to and in some cases better than what I’ve seen for sale in galleries in Carmel and San Francisco. (And personally, I think the hot dogs and beer idea is a concept who’s time has come! Imagine the turnout you’d have!) J.
[I had written that instead of Wine and Cheese I thought that hotdogs and beers should be the eats at a gallery opening.]
* * *
Today is my Promenade printing day. I’m determined to at least print eight 16 x 20’s. I can’t do too many because there really isn’t enough drying space in the apartment.
* * *
Decided to try ‘Fountain’ at 16 x 20. Wow. I like it a lot. There are these little sparkling highlights that I never noticed in the water droplets. I don’t usually do 35mm things at this size, especially not from 400 film, but this one really holds up well. Well, at least wet. Let’s see what it looks like when it dries down. Made some interesting choices, decided to let the drain in the center stay burned out rather than try and darken it. It just sits there are blazes.
* * *
Put up a few more things on eBay, the last batch sold. Even put up Fountain in the 16 x 20 size. That’s unusual for me, I usually only post the tried and true prints. No one has seen this one yet.
Started this dumb interview idea…
Interview with Art Forum Magazine
AF: Good Afternoon, Mr. Beckerman.
AF: Well, let’s start off with a few simple questions about your work. Many of your images, seem to fit into a post-modernist, pre-super-modernist modality, and it seems as if you are consciously attempting to merge your sub-conscious ideas with the historical methodology which has been promulgated by the new proponents of historical melodrama. Would you agree with this?
AF: In other words, you’ve brought a new twist to the old idea that photgraphy is an obejective almost shall we say neo-objective art form. In fact, some of your images seem to fall into the gap between these two monumental trends.
And then went to take the prints off the drying screens and forgot what was supposed to be funny about this. I can usually only write in the mornings. Now I’m on the way to see some cousins that I haven’t seen in a year or so. There’s been a lot of family stuff this week that’s kept me hopping around. Was up at Columbia University last night for a forum that my dad arranged on health care…. Spent most of my time looking at the back of the head of the guy in front of me who had glasses on, and I could see the person in front of him through the edge of his glasses and kept trying to get close enough to take the picture… Then I wasn’t sure what to focus on? The guy, or the glasses, or what the glasses were focused… anyway… also took some shots out the windows which had an amazing view of New York.
* * *
Old Man Winter seems to have skipped New York City this year. Why bother. New York’s already had its troubles, might as well let us be for now.
* * *
Today was pretty much of a wasted day, or let’s call it a day off. Actually had to go to the office to fix something with one of the computer programs, and then walked a bit. Was pretty tired. I think that the flurry of family affairs these last few days has drained me. Seeing nephews and nieces that you haven’t seen for five years is a shock. There’s no doubt about it, none of us are getting any younger. And then there’s a sort of endless quiz thing that people seem apt to do when they haven’t seen me for a long time… What do you take pictures of? What kind of pictures exactly. And from this you’re making a living?
Well sort of.
Talking about photography is actually pretty boring to me. I kept turning, or trying to turn the tables and ask what the other person was doing, but generally that was equally boring.
And then at one event, I saw friends of my parents that I hadn’t seen in twenty years. The woman, now must be in her 70’s, was wearing the same glasses she wore when she was thirty. It was as if I was recognizing people by the things they had on their face, not by their face anymore. And there were lots of jokes relating to the passage of time. What’s new? Well, last time I saw you wasn’t there some trouble about Watergate? And the adults all looked at the children and kept talking about who they took after. I kept putting myself in the kid’s place, with all these old people talking about whether they looked like this grandpa, or that grandpa. As if they weren’t really people in their own right.
It’s true, that this triggered a sadness in me as people aged, blossomed, changed in front of my eyes. And it made me think that a big part of photography is trying to freeze time, trying to make it stop, trying to preserve these moments and things and people so that we can stop them from changing and ultimately dying and disappearing. This is not a very zen-like impulse. Zen would not wish for you to be so attached to these things and people. But sometimes, the photography goes beyond just trying to capture what is there, and can in some mysterious way, go beyond the physicality of the things it is copying.
* * *
Went through another Larry McMurtry book — All About Billy.
“The first time I saw Billy he came walking out of a cloud. He had a pistol in each hand and a scared look on his rough young face.”, Opening sentence in All About Billy.
I enjoy his Western’s, even the lesser ones. I doubt that there was very much that was factual in that one, but that’s the fun of it. After a while, they all blur together into one strange vision of the west.
Many years ago, I spent a good amount of time in the Public Library on 42nd street reading everything I could about Billy The Kid. I had some idea of making a factual movie about him, which as far as I know has never been done. One thing that I remember, was that any idea that he was ‘fast on the draw’ was untrue. He often shot people in the back. There was nothing heroic about him. McMurtry sticks to this idea — and even says that Billy couldn’t shoot well all. But the story that he weaves around these bare facts, is truly outlandish. So outlandish that you often find yourself chuckling at the sheer audacity of the author.
* * *
Do you ever feel like you’ve lead many lives? I don’t mean channeling, or Shirley McLaine, or Budhist re-incarnation — I mean in this very life. I was searching for something to read, in my meager library, and a dog-eared book plopped into my hands. When I say dog-eared, I mean literally. The front cover had been ripped to shreds by strong teeth marks of a dog. The back cover was gone, as were many of the final pages. It was Black Spring, by Henry Miller. And the poor dog that had chewed it up used to be my guest in a little basement apartment on Allerton Avenue, when I was working as a clerk in a book publishing company.
Every day, when I would return home, the poor lonely dog had chosen another book to devour. The poor dog’s name has long vanished, and I eventually gave him away to some people who lived in the country, where he could roam around and have kids to play with. But I can remember the steam pipes in the place as you walked into the narrow opening into the basement. And the pock-marked face of the landlady. And the arguments that filtered down through the steam pipes. And the Italian kids washing their cars every Sunday morning, or was it Saturday morning? And how I would sit up at night and try and place one word in front of another trying to write a story. What was the story I was writing? Even back then it was a story about a memory. So here I am remembering trying to write a story about something that I was trying to remember. And it was called, ‘Sunday in Mt. Eden’.
Mt. Eden was a stop on the elevated train. Even back then, a desolated, blighted neighborhood. But there were these long steps outside the Mt. Eden park that I was trying to use as a backdrop for the story. And in the book Black Spring, there is a passage that goes along with what I was trying to write so many life times ago:
“To be born in the street means to wander all your life, to be free. It means accident and incident, drama, movement. It means above all dream. A harmony of irrelevant facts which gives to your wandering a metaphysical certitude.” The Fourteenth Ward, Henry Miller.
* * *
Well, the G2 is now just a memory. I sold two bodies and a few lenses to B&H. Got $1725. Promptly used that to buy the 21mm for the M6, and also bought a Voigtlander Right-Angle finder. That’s quite the expensive lens, but what the hell… had to do it. The sales person didn’t want to unwrap the lens so I could look at it. “You didn’t say you were buying it” he said. “I’m planning to buy it” I countered. And then he let me unwrap it and look at it. Also bought, or thought I bought, a brick of TMY. In the cab on the way home, looked at the package and instead of TMY there was a mixture of Tri-X and SFX 200, whatever that is.
* * *
Ran across this site. Not sure what it’s based on, but they have given me a nice rank: bwphototop.com
* * *
I notice, in looking over my pictures, that the things that appeal to me, for the most part are not the hard-edged shots; many of which I’ve taken but never placed on the site – but the moments that bring back childhood memories. A woman jumping rope in the park — a little girl playing with a ball. But I can’t say that my childhood was all that great. There were constant fights. There was a kid who lived next door who attacked me whenever he saw me (yes, his name was actually Fat Junior, and he had a sister called Fat Linda). And yet now I look back on those days, perhaps trying to recapture something that never was. (This is starting to sound like that Streisand song — memories…).
I don’t think back with any fondness on my high school years. Those were terrible. Junior High — awful. But playing on the street corners of University Avenue….there was some magic there for sure. I can still feel the different types of street cement on my knees… some of it filled with pebbles, and some of it smooth and good for playing skully… There were very few real toys. Everything was made up from whatever was left over. Bottle caps got filled with melted wax to make them heavier and good for shooting other bottle caps with. Old pieces of Linoleum, turned into carpet guns… When the neighbors got a new ice-box, we kids found the giant carton it had come in and turned it into a space ship, and then into a submarine, and eventually into garbage…
* * *
Received some interesting comments about the idea of looking back on who you were years ago when you get that feeling that:
“God, that was a different life” or “That was a lifetime ago”.
I expect that everyone feels this at some time or other, especially as we get older. I can see my life in discrete segments:
Kid. This lasted until we moved to Gunhill Road when I was 13.
Teenager: This probably lasted until I got out of Graduate School.
Adult: I’m on the threshold of adulthood now 🙂
O.K. some kidding here — let’s try it again…
Kid: See above.
Teenager: See above.
Adult: Yep, I think that happened somewhere in my forties… Probably when I gave up the screenwriting career and buckled down to trying to make a living with computers. A Dylan line comes to mind from My Back Pages, “Oh but I was so much older than, I’m younger than that now.”
I can’t say that physically I feel younger as the chronological clock turns, but I feel closer to that kid who liked to play and have fun and wonder about things…
”These memory flashbacks feel like they were almost experienced by someone else but that some how I got the memories of
the event. ” (M.)
My father has talked often about this feeling. The army years. The kid on the streets of Cleveland. The professor. It’s almost like roles we play, masks we put on, where in some fundamental way our true selves are separated from what we’re doing.
* * *
Haven’t really felt much like writing in the journal the last few days… That’s probably because things are going well, or I can’t talk here about the things that are annoying me. Maybe a little of both. I’d like to keep writing that thing about the twin brothers, but don’t have the inclination. The dry-mount press is heating up (I use it to flatten the prints) and I have a bunch of 16 x 20’s that I need to stick in there one at a time.
* * *
Was talking with a friend this morning and for some reason he did a search for me on eBay (you need to include the titles and descriptions) and came across an old Movie Poster for ‘Alone in The Dark’ where I was listed in the credits as a second electrician. I don’t want to put a link to it since it will be gone soon…
But I also enjoyed finding myself in the Internet Movie Database
Look for me as the second electrician… all I remember from that experience was standing on a two story platform in a lighting storm holding some lights… hmmm… I may have put this in the journals before… well, fame is fleeting.
* * *
Well, it’s supposed to snow tomorrow… we’ll see. My camera bag is packed and ready.
* * *
As far as work goes, I’m pretty certain that I’m going to be finished with the place within two weeks, and then I will be solely dependent on the sale of these photographs. It will be tight going, but for the last few months I’ve made enough to pay basic living expenses, sort of. I was hoping to get some severance package, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Martin Luther King day is Monday, and it will be easy to remember this day as my own personal freedom day.
* * *
The die is cast.
“The first one now will later be last…” Dylan
I have to admit to being less nervous about the jump from the corporate boat into the artist’s lifeboat then I should be… Even my father, who was raised during the depression and who’s motto has been ‘make sure you know how to make a living’ has said that it’s time to move on. After all, it’s just a fear of poverty, of having to grub off of other people, that scares me, and I’ve done that before and survived. True, it was twenty years ago, but I once lived, don’t ask me how, for an entire year on $5000. Yes folks, somewhere back in the depths of time, I shared a railroad flat with another guy for $150 each in the East Village. It was quite the dump. There was one night when we heard scratching on the ceiling and rats started dropping in from the apartment above. No kidding. I remember being terrified, and in the middle of the night putting a big parka coat on, and boots, and going rat hunting in the kitchen with a broom. After a while I went back to a terrified sleep in the living room, and could hear the rats scratching on the ceiling all night.
Another time, the landlord decided to stop sending up heat during the dead of winter, and there was a rent strike, and court appearances. Again, we walked around the house in winter parkas, this time because of the cold, not because of the rats. The place became too cold for the rats which left to find warmer climes.
Another time, I was at one end of the apartment and heard banging from near my room. I was the only one in the house at the time. I went into the hallway to see what was going on and guy with a sledgehammer was trying to smash through the wall into my apartment.
And there were riots in Tompkin’s Square Park (which I slept through). The street outside my window was filled with cops on horseback, demonstrators, etc. and I went to the window and sat on the fire-escape and watched for a while, then went back to sleep. Just another day in the neighborhood. “Will you be my neighbor?” And when I went jogging around the park I would leap over the homeless… ah those weren’t the days.
* * *
It started snowing lightly, very lightly at about 2:15 pm. By the time it really starts sticking its going to be dark. I took a nice nap, and I’m going to go out to do some night shooting tonight. For the first time in a long time I’m actually going to stick the M6 on a tripod. Wish I still had my big boots but they fell apart last year. Of course its interesting that the very things that everyone complains about — snow, hurricaines, tornados (once in New York), bad weather in general, is the very thing that gets me out of the house. Last year, there was some snow and I went out with the FM2. Didn’t really get anything worth showing. So now you have decisions to make — for example, 400 film or 100 film. Here’s the trade off, with 400 film, you actually have a chance of capturing the snow falling, faster shutter speeds and all that. With 100 film, you of course get finer grain and all that. For example, in Night Storm, the exposure was so long that you don’t really see the snow falling, although that was a real snow storm and snow was piling up on the black blanket I had over my head (view camera and all that). You get a touch of that feeling in the lamp post… But with 400 film, and a nice f2.8 lens, you can get the sense of snow falling… You’d be hard-pressed to point out an Ansel Adams snow scene where you actually see snow falling. It might have been, but the exposures with his 8 x 10 camera and slow film obliterate that sense.
* * *
I forgot how cold it is when you are shooting in the snow. Was out for about four hours and came back frozen. Shot two rolls with the 21mm. Not sure if I stuck with the 21mm because I liked it, or because I was too cold and wet to change lenses. At any rate, the right-angle finder is turning out to be very useful for composing. We’ll see how the stuff comes out, it was pretty frosty by the river after an hour or so.
* * *
One thing I may have forgotten to mention is that the East river and the FDR were more beautiful last night than I have ever seen them. There was a velvet purple mist over the river. The light house across the way was glowing like a firefly. Even the traffic on the FDR seemed cleaner and more pastel-like than I can remember, as if a fine purple gauze had been gently dropped over the stalled cars. And as I was standing on the overpass, looking down towards the 59th street bridge, shivering, and wondering whether it wasn’t foolish to get my new expensive 21mm lens soaked, a couple walked by, and stood next to me for a moment watching me, and then said, “It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?” And I said, “Yes. Beautiful.” And for just a moment, the city had it’s former beauty back again and there was no thought of the missing buildings downtown, or of the war or terrorist alerts or anything but the glow of the traffic, and the brief companionship of these two strangers. I was glad that I had turned left when I walked out of my house and headed towards the river rather than right towards Central Park. Today will be a day for Central Park.
* * *
Put up some tips about Night Photography. I still feel a little funny giving technical advice — so much of what I did was through trial and error — but for the beginner this might be helpful. For example, Night Chess was the result of going out night after night to the park and keeping very careful notes (not easy in the dark where I was standing) and then making corrections the following night.
Today seems to be the day when worry has set in. I woke up early, and took all the bills from the last year and spread them out on the floor in nice little piles. Why was that electric bill so high? Why was that insurance company only paying 60% of such and such bill? Where could I cut down? Three months ago or so, I had stopped buying bottled water, stopped buying iced tea, stopped eating out… I must have felt this change coming. I got rid of the premium cable stations, saved a few bucks there alright. But cable is still about $50 a month. Maybe I should turn it off. All sorts of fretting which I guess had to come. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a degree of real concern, and a degree of irrational fear and they meet somewhere on the floor of my apartment in these little stacks of paper.
A while ago, when I was first starting the business, I bought all these books on small business. And the only thing that I remember was that it is easier to cut your overhead, then to raise your price. Of course I began cutting most of my own mats instead of buying them pre-cut… mostly… I found BrassPack which really gives great value for packing supplies… Light Impressions is pretty expensive for matting supplies, but great service… Of course, I never moved out of this little apartment — even when I was making lots of money — and I must have known years ago that this day would come — even though everyone was advising me to buy a co-op.
Anyway, the little stacks of paper are growing, and I haven’t even found what I was looking for to start with — which was exactly how much the insurance company was paying on certain doctor’s visits… But I did find out that last year at this time I was sick with the flu, and that in the next month at this time I had bought a heck of a lot of film… Well, once it’s organized, I’ll feel better and it should make doing the taxes easier.
* * *
After all these years, Henry Miller still offers a kind of solace when one is about to make dramatic moves…
“Few are those who can escape the tread-mill. Merely to survive, in spite of the set-up, confers no distinction. Animals and insects survive when higher types are threatened with extinction. To live beyond the pale, to work for the pleasure of working, to grow old gracefully while retaining one’s faculties, one’s enthusiasm, one’s self-respect, one has to establish other values than those endorsed by the mob. It takes an artist to make this breach in the wall. He does not respond to the normal stimuli: he is neither a drudge nor a parasite. He lives to express himself and in so doing enriches the world.” The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
* * *
Finished going through the little stacks which grew quite large. Here are some fun facts to know: I had 76 fedex receipts and 25 post office receipts. Including various other sales through galleries, on the street, to friends, etc. I probably had about 150 orders last year. I can only estimate the actual number of prints — most were for single copies, but maybe ten percent were for 3 or 4 prints, and there was that one big one for 33 prints. My guess is that I sold about 200 prints in 2001. Now alot of these, especially in the beginning of the year were for small prints at $30 each or even less. But as the year went on, I began to sell larger prints pretty frequently. At any rate, it’s pretty encouraging. From all those sales, there were two that were returned, and both because either I had sent a larger size than the person requested, or the dimensions were slightly different than what the person ordered, and in both cases I simply sent the right size print to the person and that was that. I know that I’ve been wearing my little.green for the last few days, but now is the time to take a good hard look into the black abyss of finances…
* * *
And just as I’m getting myself into a real stew about quitting tomorrow, as if to give me a nice cosmic send-off, an order for four prints arrives! Yes, no questions left. Just the wording of the resignation letter.
* * *
Was falling asleep last night and for some odd reason, the phrase Day For Night photography popped into my head.. Why that should have come up at this time I don’t know… but I remember doing it while shooting motion picture film.
As I vaguely remember: a #23A medium red filter, plus a #56 green and under-expose by 1 1/2 stops. Something like that.
* * *
I did give notice today. A little scary, but also a great feeling. More about this later…
* * *
Added a few new pictures…. Talk about a shot where absolutely nothing is going on with a boring title like Subway Interior. But I would love to see this print at 16 x 20.
* * *
Four days of work left. Had the following conversation with my friend Chuck. A little background on Chuck is necessary. He’s been starting a one-man campaign to introduce the word ‘Bastard’ as a greeting. So every time he calls me, he says, “Hey Bastard, how’s it goin'” And the phrase has caught on. I call him a bastard, and other people who are in the so-called joke. Sometimes it gets out of hand and you call your sister a bastard and she might say, “Huh, what did you call me?” but for the most part its a term of endearment… perhaps… But anyway, yesterday when I told him I had quit, he says, “Now you are an unemployed bastard, an UB”. You know how computer people like to make everything into acronyms. UB, Unemployed Bastard… And I say, “No, I’m not an UB, I’m an SEB.” There’s a pause, and then he catches on and says, “Ah, Self-employed bastard!”
And then and there, I realize that I am now Self-employed. The owner of a business. As they used to say in Second City Comedy, “Ooooh, scary stuff”.
But bids continue to be good on eBay, and orders come in, and I’m half-terrified and half- thrilled. At my advanced age of 50, given the computer market, it certainly wouldn’t be easy to get back into computers again.
The other revelation I had was that for the last fifteen years I was pretty much seduced by the money in computers. That I had some degree of love for programming, in an abstract way, but that the day-to-day grind was particularly nerve-wracking to me, and unfulfilling. In nine years at this last place, I don’t think a user ever came up to me and said, “Wow, that timesheet application you wrote was really great. Thank you.” Yet in the photography world, this type of thing happens every day. So have I replaced the lure of money with the lure of apprecation?
I can remember the pride my father evidenced when I told him I had been made vice president of technology at one of the largest ad agencies in New York. That was certainly the return of the prodigal black sheep. The prodigal, ne’er do well that had never been able to really make a living. Which took me down the path of what is money, and what does it really mean to me. And it is closely related to that adolescent feeling of independence. You make money. You can move out of the house. You are now separated from the parents and can make your own way in the world. And so what if the lure of money which you think brings independence, actually makes you into a wage-slave. Ironic for sure. I’ve probably been influenced too much by that “Follow your bliss” credo by the mythology guy (can’t recall is name so early in the morning.
Anyway, change involves terror. At least for me. But that may be the sign of growth. No growth without pain and all that sort of mumbo-jumbo.
Some of my co-workers approached me when they heard I was leaving, and asked sheepishly, why I was leaving now. Why didn’t I try and stay a few months and try for the fabled package. I understood where they were coming from. There are only three of us left from the original programming group, and they were unsettled that I was leaving. Why exactly was I leaving. What did it mean for them. And then there were two. One person opened up to me and said that the computer world was really a thankless souless place. That all you ever got were complaints. Problems. Deadlines. Things that went wrong. She said that after 18 years she was thinking about going into real-estate. There was a general feeling of sadness as the group was dwindling to nothing. The new guard was coming in. The twenty-five year guys with there heads full of ambition and quick fingers, and corporate ladder climbing were now in place. I wish them luck in their endeavors to reach the top. But the top is pretty empty for most of us. A desolate place, where promises of big-money and big-titles enslave you. I don’t really know any programmers who live a decent life. There desks are filled with problems. Their minds are filled with phoney titles and dreams of changing the world. But the world doesn’t become better due to their efforts, just more frantic. Sour grapes? I don’t know. I was at the top for a while, and it seemed like buzzing, places where the nature of computer chips were making people into their slaves…
“I am Sparticus…. No, I am Sparticus”
* * *
The tomb of the unknown programmer.
* * *
Bought something called the ReAir mini-compressor yesterday. It’s a gadget for filling a canister with compressed air. Cost about $70. The idea is not to have to keep buying compressed air, which I go through a lot of. The thing is fairly small, and plasticy, but so far seems to work o.k. The only thing is that when you fill the can, it sounds like a jackhammer. It fills the container to 100 PSI. I don’t know what a normal can of compressed air is pressurized to, but this thing is probably about 75% of that, maybe less. Figured it was worth trying.
* * *
Just wanted to let you know that I received your photo today (Promenade). I can’t begin to tell you how much I love the picture. It is fabulous. It was better than I had expected. I can’t wait to frame it and hang it. I’ll definetly let you know what the feed back is from everybody who sees it. (S.H. 1/23/02)
I’ll put this up on the Praise page. Wish I could come up with a better name for that page. Praise? Testimonials? Feedback? Nice stuff? Satisfied customers? Customers is a word that sounds too formal… The purpose of the page is clear, which is to give the potential purchaser some idea of what other’s have thought…
Put the LightImpressions link back on the home page. A friend said he was going to order some things from them. Now I’ll get a chance to see if I get some percentage of the sale or not.
* * *
Now that the decision to leave has finally been made a reality, I’m starting to feel better about it. And of course, they came to me and asked if I would be interested in re-signing the consulting contract I had when I was on leave of absence. Sure. I doubt that much will come from this, as most of the systems that I developed have been moved from Notes to a web-based system, but you never know. Sent out an e-mail to about twenty-five people at work that I had grown to like over the years, and received all sorts of nice letters back. And then there was a lot of shmoozing with people, who, all expressed deep feelings that they could do the same thing. All of a sudden, nobody seemed happy with where they were. One woman said that she had always wanted to open up a restaurant. Another talked about leaving to go into real-estate. Another said, she would give anything to get out. But these were the workers. The people who were paid badly to work long hard hours with little reward. The people who keep the place going, shoveling coal in the boiler room. Not the people at the top, or on the way up. I guess these were what we called the blue-collar type worker. I suggested to the woman who wanted to open a restaurant that she think about bringing her cooking into work and selling it to other workers… and her eye’s which are usually dark black lifeless pools, lit up. What an idea. Would they let her do something like that? She could wak around with her pushcart selling home-cooked food. People could place orders ahead of time. And someone else said that at the last company they had worked for there was a woman doing this. On and on the conversation went. What type of food. Do you need a food license… and finally petered out into, well, maybe someday.
* * *
Some ideas to keep track of:
– Open eBay store
The idea behind this is that some people seem more comfortable buying from eBay than from the site. Also, they give you a little icon next to your listing. Good idea or not, its cheap enough to try and see what happens.
– Make a poster
Probably a bad idea. The poster, even a high-quality duotone, would be relatively cheap. Every time I’ve tried to do something cheap I’ve been burned. It may actually hurt sales.
– Charge for shipping. I’ve not done this so far because it means more programming for me, but of course if you start charging for shipping then you can offer things like ‘free shipping with all orders of three prints of more’ etc. Does that make sense? I’m just thinking out loud here.
– Re-scan a bunch of images so that they are bigger on the site. I could be wrong but it seems to me that the better a person can see the image they’re contemplating buying, the better chance they might buy it. Could be wrong about that.
– Allow user to change the color the screen (something I’ve been fooling around with) so that they can get some idea of what it would look like on their wall. A gimmick? I don’t know, I sort of enjoyed fooling around with it on some of the pages.
– Coffee table book. This has been suggested my numerous people. Down side is that its a lot of work, and I don’t know if anyone would publish it.
– Oh yeah, continue to shoot and print once in a while.
* * *
Added a few pictures from the little snow storm we had :
“Frozen Trash” is “the” black and white picture! [C. B., Rio de Janeiro, Brazil]
Walk In Snow
I like Walk In Snow a lot. When I was sitting in the house thinking about where to go once it started snowing, this was the shot I had in mind. You can see the light house on Roosevelt Island, the Bridge, and the blurred guy gives just the right touch to the foreground.
Dogwalk At Night
Sled is a tough one to show on the web. You can see the expression of excitement as the kid flies down the hill, but not in a jpg this size. I’m going to take a crack at printing this one really large. Maybe.
* * *
I received the prints several days ago and they are fantastic! (Benches, Birch Trees, Promenade) More than pleased. So thanks. So pleased was I with the prints that I am considering obtaining a couple more of them. (J.S.)
* * *
“Your Journal had me mesmerized for some reason (guess there’s more voyeur in me than I thought).”
Something clicked when I read this. Of course, aren’t photographers voyeurs? Boy, there is a strong connection there. You walk around watching. You watch other people. You watch trees. You are in some way thrilled by the idea of crossing the line into the lives of strangers. O.K. Maybe the nature photographers are off the hook. But the street photographer? Hitchcock made a fantastic movie about this with Rear Window. James Stewart, sitting there with the broken leg and the long telephoto lens. And then the danger of it. And reminds me of another film that played with the idea — Antoniono’s Blow Up. I can remember seeing that as a teenager and completely identifying with the photographer.
* * *
O.K. Dave has sold out. l’m going to put up a few of these Light Impression banners. I’m part of the affiliate program whereby I get a small percentage of each sale when the user clicks on the banner and buys something. I wouldn’t do it but for the fact that I really do like these guys and it seems like a natural place for people who are buying prints here to pick up frames etc.. Maybe this particular banner is a bit too large and I may just go back to a link on each page… I had joined the affiliate program a while back, there were all sorts of problems with the link not working… then it started working again… then I got bored with the idea and didn’t get any clickthroughs so I commented it out, then a friend said he was going to buy something, an album from them, so I put the link back…
Most of my marketing ideas are hit and miss. The nice thing about the web-store is that it’s so easy to try stuff out. Nobody clicks through — get rid of it. I remember when I started the site, I did the Banner Exchange thing. That was a waste of web real-estate. Sure, traffic went up a bit, but it wasn’t worth having those banners from who knows where all over the site. At least in this case I can say that these are people that I use, and maybe that is worth something.
* * *
Oh, and I put up the idea of ‘Love Notes” instead of “Praise’ on the home page. Thanks for the suggestion (B.H.).
* * *
Today’s a printing day. I have a bunch of new things that I want to get to.
* * *
Well, once again, I gave in to market pressures, and have decided that all new prints and prints that have never sold will be limited editions. There just doesn’t seem to be any way around this. It’s almost impossible to sell large prints that are not limited. I think, as I’ve said before, that this feels odd to me, and that there is really no intrinsic difference between a limited edition and an open edition, but what are you goin’ to do? Even on eBay, the Limited Editions simply get more hits than the open editions. The other thing that I’ve learned in the last two years, is simply that you need to be able to sell the larger prints in order to survive. Do any of you remember when I first started? I sold 8 x 10’s and 5 x 7’s for $18. And you know what, this was an abject failure. First off, it probably cost me $15 to get the matted/packaged print out to the person. Second, people often saw the $18 and I guess figured that the stuff was junk. As my prices went up, so did sales. Go figure.
* * *
I finally saw some of the sales through the Light Impression link show up. I get 5% of the sale, not including taxes or shipping. Makes sense. So I think I got about $15 or $20. Not sure exactly since there is this lag in when sales commissions show up. I’ll let the thing run for a month or two and see how it goes… Ah, now I understand how it works. Linkshare records the fact that there was an order, but its not really shown until Light Impressions gets back to them and confirms that the order went through o.k. So there is a lag between when the order is placed and when it appears in your report.
* * *
Haven’t put anything interesting in here for a while, so I’m going to pick a passage at random from Air-Conditioned Nightmare:
“The study of crime begins with the knowledge of oneself. All that you despise, all that you loathe, all that you reject, all that you condemn and seek to convert by punishment springs frmo you.”
Yikes. That’s pretty insightful. I remember thinking this same thing when I was a kid. The things that we hate in other people are really things that we’ve hidden from ourselves. In my own case, this would mean that this despising of the corporate life, the climb to success, the love of power and money, is really something that I too lust after. And there is a kernel of truth to that. For example, after I had been at the ad agency for a few months, my boss abruptly quit. They asked me if I would become the new manager. “No, no, I don’t want to be a manager,” I protested. Then they told me that if I didn’t take the job, which meant managing four or five people, that I would be managed by an outsider — someone that I knew from the corporate office — and didn’t like. Well there was a conundrum all right. Stay in my place in the food chain and be managed by someone that I couldn’t get along with, or jump into that position myself. Needless to say, I jumped into that position.
At first, I was uncomfortable there. Telling people what to do. Bawling out people for coming in late. Meeting deadlines. But after a while I told myself that I wasn’t such a bad boss, as far as bosses go. I began to place my own stamp on the place. No dress code. Odd sorts of rewards and punishments. I was sort of the un-boss of bosses. I became good friends with everyone that worked for me. Gave raises to the undeserving as well as the deserving. I was the Marxist boss. But I was still the boss. Then the other side of nature kicked in. I began to give away power as fast as I could to people who were hungry for it. I told everyone the ins and outs of every program. Let everyone else take charge. And, like King Lear, after a few years, found myself without any power at all, sitting in the crappy office, with not much of anything to do. The people that I had given my power to, were glad to get it. And eventually, some of them learned enough to jump ship and be powerful someplace else.
Another example in my life would be the disdain that I’ve shown for the gallery experience. On the one hand, I’ve tried, perhaps not that hard, to get a couple of good gallery shows. On the other hand, I make fun of the whole scene. The truth is that I both want that kind of acceptance and recognition, and am put off by it.
I swear — that quote was purely at random.
* * *
A little political commentary. Enron or End of Run feels like the final cap to the nineties, the dot-coms, the exuberent euphoria, the get rich-quck, the anyone with a dream and a buck can win it, the unwavering belief that technology is God, and a few other things. And don’t think that I wasn’t caught up in it for a while. After all, I was a programmer. I knew what was going to happen. I invested almost 10,000 dollars in companies like Syquest (now worth 2 cents a share) and Iomega, because of course I too knew that technology was the new beneficent God that would bestow riches on those willing to believe. Now web designers are standing on the unemployment line looking for anything. The big shiney bubble that would suck up all our dreams and spit them out in little gold coins has evaporated and the lust for gold has burst, and showered us with little nuggets of fool’s gold.
I remember when I was first applying for my photography business license down at city hall, and they were putting us through the omnipresent metal detactors, and I heard the guy who was checking the scanner talking about how much money he had invested in xyz technology, and it reminded me of a remark that Bernard Baruch supposidly made before the big crash of ’29. When he said he was having his shoes shined, and the shoe-shine boy (probably what we would now call a man) was toting stocks and Baruch realized that things were out of control and sold his holdings. When people who knew nothing about the stock market were so heavily invested, something was wrong. One of the few to escape that bursting bubble.
My belief at the time was tempered. I like to gamble. I considered the $10,000 money that I could afford to lose. My 401K was in the most conservative retirement bonds I could find. And that was lucky. But every day I would walk around the agency, and see people glued to the screens, watching what had been fortunes evaporate.
My $10,000 is now worth $348. But the experience wasn’t that bad. If you go to Atlantic City and gamble, you have to expect to lose eventually. Everyone loses eventually. Unless you can walk away with your winnings. I remember sitting at the roulette table with some system I believed in, a sort of psyhic feeling that I couldn’t lose. I began with $20. By the end of the day, I had parlayed it into $900. And then, as is my nature, after gambling for 20 hours, I took the $900 and placed it all on RED. My friend, who was standing nearby tried to pull me from the table. But I was so sure that I knew the little ball would fall into a red slot, that I couldn’t be pulled away. And it came up BLACK. That was the last time I gambled with any certainity that I knew what would happen. And left and had a cold buffet breakfast.
* * *
1 a.m. Two days of work left. Doing nothing is by far the most enervating activity known to man. After sitting in the office for 8 hours doing nothing — well make it 7 hours — no, it was six hours, I came home and fell asleep. I knew it was a bad idea to fall asleep at 6 pm, since I would just wake up in the middle of the night and have the night to get through, which is what has happened.
The Xerox machine outside my office, which at first was just flashing lights continuously, flashing in over the wall of my so-called office — began to make odd groaning noises today which everyone was complaining about. “Can’t you get that thing to stop making noise — it’s horrible.” Every time the thingamajig slid across to make a copy, it emited deep, low, groans that rattled the paper on my desk. The monster machine was coming alive! Groaning, and flashing lights, and then it started beeping uncontrollably. High pitched screeching beeps. I left my office and gave it the big re-boot. But when it came back on again, more groaning, more flashing. Every few days, the Xerox guy is there, tinkering with it. He obviously can’t fix the damned thing. No one can. Not exactly planned obsolescence, but daily obsolescence.
So I sit there in my little pen, calling everyone I know again. Talk to me. Tell me a story. But everyone’s busy feeding the machines with their lives. Cell-phones are not answering. I’m being put on hold while other programmers in other parts of the world fiddle with code. Sorry, Dave — this thing keeps blowing up on me. Do you know the API call for….
I leave the office and go downstairs to the book store and wander around aimlessly killing time. “Not with a bang, but with a whimper” shall I depart the agency. A few handshakes, a few “I’m sure we’ll be in touch,” and good riddance is all I can say. I still get e-mails saying that something is wrong with some system or other. I reply back, I’m no longer responsible for that system, see so-and-so. So-and-so seems quite content to fix the problem. So-and-so sits in a dingy windowless cube overflowing with papers and scribbling, and phones ringing off the hook, and e-mails pouring in like greased lighting, and looks up once in a while and says, “Has it really been nine years since I started here. Do I look older?” You look the same, I say. He feels the edges of his eyes where crinkles have started to appear and says, “No, I’ don’t look the same.” The scene in Papillion, where Steve McQueen, half dead thrusts his head through the tiny window of his cell and turns to the next prisoner and says, “How do I look?” “You look fine, the other half-dead prisoner replies.
How did I stand the dungeon for so long? It was because there were fellow prisioners that I was chained to that I truly loved. Lifers, like myself. But they are all gone now. New prisoners have taken their places, but I am no longer chained to them. I say, hurray, and cross off the days on my little calendar of misery. Hurray to never get another irate phone call or email from a user. That’s what we call them, users. “Oh, he’s a bad user.” But what are they using? They’re using us. Using us up. And for what? What end? Money? Lucre? The new house where you are chained to a beeper? They should just put those ankle bracelets on us. We look up after ten years and are surprised at how fast it all went. The things we made are no longer used. They’ve been replaced by the latest and greatest widgets. And the Xerox machine, half-mad, flashes on and off and groans as a portent of our future. I mean, is it any accident that they actually named the database Oracle!
* * *
Cleaned up the front page a little. It was starting to get too cluttered, even for me, and I like clutter. Took all the articles and screensaver links and moved them to their own page. Now I have to clean up that page — looks like a neon sign.
* * *
7 a.m Last day at work.
* * *
I’m still thinking about adding some more info to the site about the limited editions, maybe a range of what a particular edition is up to. Seems to be of interest to collectors. It’s a little tricky to do when a print is up for sale on eBay, because I don’t know if it will sell or not. But I can give a range.
* * *
There have been a lot of inquiries lately about purchasing prints, but no real sales in the last few days. Still, January has been by far my best month to date. Mostly through search engines, but a lot of inquiries from people who have seen the prints in someone’s house.
* * *
A Taste of New York
There’s an over-turned tractor-trailer truck on the lower-deck of the GW Bridge, use the upper deck. There’s a thirty minute wait at the entrance of the Holland tunnel. The Lincoln tunnel is temporarily closed in one incoming lane due to a three-car collision. Don’t use the FDR between Houston street and 51st street due to a police investigation. Use mass transit. There will be a frozen zone between 5th avenue and 1st avenue, between 43 rd street and 67th street for five days due to the meeting of the World Economic Council. Riots are possible. Use mass transit. The D line is running local from 161st street through 59th street because of an ongoing police investigation. The F train is being replaced by the V train, and will no longer stop at 61st street. If you fall asleep on the F train expecting to awaken in Brooklyn, you may be surprised to awaken in Queens. Use mass transit. Mayor Bloomberg has asked all New Yorkers to get their leaks fixed because of the water drought. The department of Water has asked New Yorkers to discontinue shaving, or at the very least to shave every other day. They state that that in accordance with the Equal Protection Council of New York, this applies to women as well as men. The Council has also mentioned that the Water Council for Manhattan Children will be established and that children who find their parents watering lawns in Manhattan should be turned in…
* * *
Favorite quotes of the morning are from Mike (don’t you want to look like Van Gogh?) Tyson, testifying in front of the Las Vegas Boxing commission:
“Sure I’m crazy. But I’m not crazy like that! I wouldn’t rape or kill no one…”
“I think Lennox is a coward. I’m going to fight him any time I see him in the streets.”
“I’m no Mother Teresa,” Tyson said. “I’m not Charles Manson either. Just treat me equal. In case anyone had any doubts, I never thought that Tyson would make a good stand in for Mother Teresa, though it’s true that they are both relatively soft-spoken, and if you close your eyes, there is a smilarity in the timbre of their voices. Perhaps, when Disney does the Mother Teresa story, Tyson could do the voice-over.
The site for the proposed fight would have been the MGM Grand, where Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ears in 1997.
* * *
I should stop putting stuff on eBay for a while. The in-box here is filled with orders, some of them for several large prints.
* * *
Left work for the last time at about 11:30 am. Yeah, a big day. Shook hands with a few people, some talk about what was going to happen to my computer. Handed in my badge, and the key to my cell, and the only thing of my own that I took back was an old hat that had been sitting in the bookcase for about three years. Funny thing about that hat. One day, when I was still doing the ‘long walk’ to work (about five miles), I stopped into a fancy English hat store on fifth avenue and for some peculiar reason bought the most expense tweedy british cap in the place. I think I wore it once and then put it in the bookcase to collect dust. Today, I took it back, put it on my head and walked out. On the way to the subway, I began taking pictures with the wide angle lens and noticed the bill of the cap sticking into the frame, and remembered why I had stopped wearing it. A guy was painting a big EYE for an ad on the side of the Flat Iron Building and I struck up a conversation with him. Or rather, he asked me what I was taking a picture of, and why. What do you want the picture for, he asked? I was looking down into the right-angle finder taking a picture of him as we spoke, and seemed at a loss for words. He said, you’re a free-lancer? Yes, I replied. I’m a freelancer. He says, So you should just turn around and walk into the building and sell ’em dat picture. Big money in it, I’m sure. Why would they want a picture of their own sign, I asked. Ah, you know, dey’d buy dat stuff right up. Buy it right up.
Well, I decided that a guy putting up signs might not know anything about this, but I walked away happy that I had gotten something interesting…
* * *
First day out of work was a pretty busy printing day. I need to buy more drying screens, that’s holding up my production. Orders continue to come in regularly. Someone asked if it felt any different to be on my own and I would say ‘not yet’. It will take a while to sink in. Probably Monday when I would normally be going into work will feel weird.
I’m still on the trend of doing larger prints. Did Subway Interior at 16 x 20, and it really holds up well. Also printed Flat Iron and Tree. I like that one a lot. I couldn’t keep going because I knew I wouldn’t have enough drying space, so I still didn’t get to do anything new today.