30 July 2005

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29 July 2005

Playing Anyway

I was taking a walk in my neighborhood when I heard the sound of a clarinet being played very, very badly, all squeaks and no melody. It took me a little while to locate the sound, but finally I came around a curve in the street and looked down into the backyard of a house. I had found the source.

The yard was surrounded by chain link fence. Inside the fence, a very small person, a young boy, not much taller than his clarinet, was standing. He was looking through the fence, up the driveway toward me. His clarinet was in his mouth and he was struggling through some very badly executed scales. It sounded terrible. But at the same time, it seemed like one of the most wonderful things I had ever heard.

I guess I'd explain it like this: you may not have a stage to stand on, in fact, you may be locked in your own backyard, unable to escape. You may be just a beginner. You could well be very, very bad right now. Or maybe you're doing okay, but the situation is making you feel useless, claustrophobic.

Whatever the situation, here is my advice: keep playing. You never know who's going to hear it. You never know what's going to come of it. You just keep playing.

26 July 2005

What Los Angeles Is Like

This is what it is like to live in this town:
[1] Almost anywhere you go, you have a nice view.
[2] The weather is usually quite cooperative, with pretty sunsets.
[3] The neighbors seem alright. You even feel like you might have a lot in common with them if you were to ever actually meet them.
[4] Every now and then on lazy Saturday mornings, you get the vague feeling like you don't really have all four corners on the ground. But then you hop in your SUV and run down to the local caffeine and lifestyle store and get a nice chai latte and soon the feeling passes.

25 July 2005

Angels In The Tall Grass

I think sometimes angels are really small, so small that you might trip over them if you aren't watching where you walk, and even after you've noticed them you'll have to bend down and look closely to really see them at all. And while you're down there, yeah, that's when the mosquitos will come out and attack you like bandits, up out of the grass where they've been waiting for you. And the bites will itch like hell and make you dance around like a wild indian rain dancer, but you'll still know, somewhere down inside, that it was worth it to stop for awhile, that what you heard while you were kneeling down there will someday change the world.

24 July 2005

C.S. Lewis on Holding On

Faith is...the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.

23 July 2005

Good Use Of Text Messaging

Received this text message last evening:

We are crossing the Amity Pass at the moment. There is a beautiful pink glow over the coast range.

7/22/05, 9:30PM

22 July 2005

Mastering The Art Of Conversation: All The Time In The World...

...is not enough sometimes to know how to answer a question, to know which thread to pick up, or which signal to read. And time goes by so fast. If I say this, what will it mean to you? Sometimes it feels like driving with the headlights out. Press the gas. Hope for an open road with no curves.

I thought of all of this while I was shooting a wedding this past weekend. And also at lunch while I sat in a restaurant, eavesdropping on the conversations around me. And on the street. And in the songs playing on my iPod.

It's a little like this, I think: part of the human problem is that we often find ourselves shouting across great distances, island to island, and so we stand on the beach and peer across the water. Is there anyone over there? Are they paying attention? Maybe the words are getting through or maybe they've been blown away out to sea by the salted wind. How can I know?

This is an important question to ask, because sometimes words are just noise, but sometimes they are much more, carrying inside the imprint of life, like little seeds tossed into the wind. Sometimes it matters a great deal to me to know whether they are getting to your shore and whether they are finding a purchase in the soil around your feet.

When it comes down to it, we've all got something to say. I know I do. And I know you do. So, under the circumstances, do you have a minute or two to spare? This might take awhile. I want to be sure to not step on these little seeds we've planted...

18 July 2005

Giraffe On My Back Step

There's a hummingbird outside my front window who has claimed rights to the feeder that is hanging from the eaves. He sits in the tree a few feet away and chatters away all day long, zooming up to chase away any other hummingbirds that come near. He even makes irritable noises at me when I come to the window. Never mind that the feeder is 20 times his size or that he drinks only about a tablespoon of sugar water a day. This is HIS feeder.

I used to have many hummingbirds coming to the feeder. Now there is only one. It bothers me a little. I've considered throwing things at him, shooting rubber bands at him, but I suppose chasing away the birds that come to the feeder I put up is a bit contradictory.

Also, there's a giraffe on my back step.

16 July 2005

Steve McCurry On Photography

Photography involves as much contemplation as action and, at its best, yields insights which transcend surface description.

- Steve McCurry, South Southeast

15 July 2005

Thinking About: Fitting In

I don't know who Robert Jenson is, but apparently he said this:

Scripture's story is not part of some larger narrative; it is itself the larger narrative of which all other true narratives are parts.

In contrast to that, a few days ago I ran across the lyrics of a song called "I'm So Postmodern" by someone called the Bedroom Philosopher which is funny and clever but describing something completely different than the above:

I’m so postmodern that I just don’t talk anymore,
I wear different coloured t-shirts according to my mood.

I’m so postmodern that I breakdance in waiting rooms,
play Yahtzee in nightclubs, at three in the afternoon.

I’m so postmodern I only go on dates that last thirteen minutes,
via walky talky, while hiding under the bed.

I’m so postmodern I went home and typed up everything you said,
and printed it out in wingdings, and gave it back to you.

I’m so postmodern I held an art exhibition -
a Chuppa Chup stuck to a swimming cap, and no one was invited.

I’m so postmodern I only think in palindromic haikus -
(insert palindromic haiku).

I’m so postmodern that I cut off all my hair,
and knitted it into a beanie, and threw it off a bridge.

I’m so postmodern I wrote a letter to the council
…I think it was ‘M.’

I’m so postmodern I write four thousand-word essays
on the cultural significance of party pies.

I’m so postmodern I wrote a trilogy of novels
from the perspective of a possum that Jesus patted once.

There's something in the air these days that loves the random and the nonsensical, the death of reason, something in the culture, in the extreme sports, in the music, in the arts, that tells us that there is no meaning outside of the now, this moment, this feeling.

I can sense it in myself and so I am trying to learn to be aware of the larger story, conscious of the the Great Narrative of which I am a part. Through each choice, each word and action, I am writing the story of my life. This is life, not like a grain of sand in an endless desert, but like a brick in a wall or a cobblestone in the street.

Johnny Knoxville is entertaining but I'd rather be a part of something bigger than me.

11 July 2005

Gallery: Cambodia 6

I shot some film on the Cambodia trip too, which in my opinion is still more satisfying than digital. Here's a sampling of what I got back. In case you're interested, the 120 was shot on Kodak CN400 in an old Rollei twin lens and the 35mm on TriX in my beloved M6. The sepia was rather irregularly achieved in Photoshop.

And so we present Cambodia Gallery 6.

Gifts From The Night

There they were this morning like fresh snow, arranged in a perfect circle under the tree and on the back of my car, as if I'd been visited overnight by some generous, obsessive, insomniac florist. Presents (or presence?) in the darkness. Like food and drink and good conversation. Like friendship. Like God.

In any case, good for a Monday morning.

09 July 2005

Progress

For those of you who have been tracking the progress of my backyard horticultural experiment, you'll be happy to know that it's WORKING, as can be seen above. Or, at least, I assume you'll be happy to know this. Unless you're an evil person who wishes ill fortune upon strangers. In which case, I'm glad I don't know you. Also in which case, you should get a new occupation. But I'm going to assume that most of you out there are either happy about the above success or you don't give a hoot. I'm fine with both.

In any case, the tomatoes are doing quite well, thank you.

Gallery: Cambodia 5

Are you getting tired of these yet?

Here is Cambodia Gallery 5. In which we wander about the neighborhood taking random pictures, a large number of which are of monks for some reason, I think it's the bright colors that get me, and some more kids, and some miscellaneous pretty (or pretty strange) things that can be found when you're out and about in Cambodia.

05 July 2005

Gallery: Cambodia 4

This one has to do mostly (and rather schizophrenically) with an idyllic morning spent in Kampong Cham, an AIDS hospital, and a whole flock of kids that I ran into one afternoon in Phnom Penh.

Go to Cambodia Gallery 4.

03 July 2005

Reality

...is better dealt with when it includes a few quiet moments along the river every now and then.

01 July 2005

Gallery: Cambodia 3

In which we walk around Phnom Penh, visit a sick friend, and spend time on the street at rush hour.

Visit the Cambodia Gallery 3.