Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poo on your christmas wreath


Today begins the great christmas migration. You know what I have to say about christmas? I say phooey. Bah humbug. Shark farts. Blerg. Pick your outburst. That's how I feel about christmas.

Now it's time to go run the last 9 errands I need to get done before we board the bus for the first leg of our centipedinal* trip.

*yes, I just made an adjective out of a disgusting many legged pest. google said it was okay.

Today's picture is of Beaky, the famous prospect park goose that is missing the top half of his beak. He was being fed by a friendly lady that comes to the park almost every day in the winter. When he ate, his tongue mushed around like a baby gumming a bagel. See a larger version here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

fumbling in the snow

like ants to a bowl of cheerios

Last night when I closed my eyes to go to sleep, all I could see was the mottled surface of snow. I spent a few hours walking through prospect park with my camera(s) yesterday morning, and it seemed like nearly every square inch of snow was disturbed by the feet of crying children and the parents trying to console them. It was almost comical how many kids were walking around bawling over how cold they were or whatever inane reason that shattered their world of the moment. I felt especially bad for one guy who had not one but three kids around the age of eight crying their eyes out as he ushered them to the grand army exit.

One of my favorite things about snow is the quietness of it. The other day someone told me that I fetishize austerity, which I of course denied, but the more I think about it, the more I agree. Less "morally strict" and more "markedly simple" (although if you ask charrow, I make everything a lot more complicated). Anyway, it's hard to find quiet in a city with about 35,000 people per square mile. But the sledders thinned out as I slogged my way further into the park, and I could finally hear the sound of my own footsteps. The only people willing to cut through the midsection of park were the cross country skiers, the occasional runner, and a friendly horseback rider. It was nice to feel like I was actually alone in the woods instead of like one more member of a congested snow globe.

Speaking of austerity, I brought 3 cameras to the park yesterday (there's a difference between fetish and execution): the holga, which I promptly dropped in the snow the moment I took it out of my bag, a canon F-1 SLR from the 70's and my regular digital SLR. I felt like a technowhore at one point because I had both SLRs slung over my shoulder for easy access. I haven't used a film camera since I was about 16, and it was a run of the mill automated squint and click camera. Using an SLR that required manual focusing and film advancing took some getting used to. Several times I had a shot lined up and pushed down on the shutter button only to find that I hadn't advanced the film since the last shot. It's kind of like driving a stick for the first time. You have about 5 different things to think about at any given moment and when you're first learning there's no fluidity to the process. Towards the end of my walk, I started to get the hang of it, but my digital reliance reared its head again when I tried to rewind the film. Having spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to even open the film door (talk about IQ test flashbacks), I thought I knew how to rewind the film. But when I started cranking the rewind lever, I heard a few creaks and then the lever lost its tension, spinning around like a stripped screw.

In order to get the film out of the camera, I had to take it into the closet and figure out if it was jammed or if I could roll it up manually by turning the top of the film canister. As I fumbled around in the dark, I realized that the film had completely separated from the canister, so I had an empty canister on one side and a used roll of film on the other side. Not so useful. I called LTI, the photo lab I used to develop the Holga prints, and Justin walked me through the process of hand rolling the film so I could bring it in for development. This involved another trip to the closet and duct taping the cheap plastic film container because it wasn't the usual opaque version. Long story not so short, I am grateful that Justin was patient with my complete lack of knowledge once again, and hopefully my ridiculous efforts will be rewarded with a few decent photographs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

the minimalist grinch

double yellow

It's so cold outside that I could barely smell the clump of pine trees sitting outside of the market on the way home from the Q train. Back when I used to carry a wallet, I would stick a piece of christmas tree in one of the credit card slots so I could hold on to that tangy clean smell into the month of January. It lasts longer than you would expect.

My holiday smashup interlude: Deck the halls with boughs of credit cards. Tis the season to be whiney. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride in a bumpy crowded bus. Hey!

I don't recommend reading The Road right before or after any major American holiday (especially 2 in a row that have morphed into times of rampant consumption/consumerism). It's strychnine for holiday cheer, not that I'm generally brimming with cheer this time of year. I finished The Road on a marathon bus ride home from Thanksgiving in MD. 4 hours turned into 6.5 thanks to a very clogged jersey turnpike. It was just long enough to make it through the book and then be thoroughly exhausted from the stress of worrying over the two main characters. Within the first 5 pages, I wanted to skip to the end just so I could have some peace of mind about where things were headed. I held off for maybe 30 more pages, but then I skimmed willy nilly at the beginning of each new situation because I just couldn't take the suspense (not that the knowledge made it any less stressful).

I'm not sure I should have read this book, given my tendency toward nihilism, but 2 people within 4 hours of each other basically threw it at me. I went to a friend's for dinner the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and she mentioned how great the book was. Then when charrow and I got back to her parents house, her sister told me (with no knowledge of the friend's recommendation) that she had just bought The Road at the airport because she needed something to read and I had to borrow it when she finished. Coincidence and masochism made it impossible to resist.

Among the many residual feelings I've had about the book is a hyperawareness of waste. Just last night, we made a squash vindaloo from a reliable cookbook that turned out to be almost inedible. The amount of clove the recipe called for was the culprit. There is absolutely no way to cover up too much clove. Blech. After eating our small portions (neither of us could force ourselves to eat very much of it), we decided, with much regret, that we would have to throw out the remainder of the disaster. Short of leaving it outside for a desperate passerby to take, there was nothing to be done. I guess we could have thrown out half of it and added more of the ingredients to even out the clove, but the nausea induced from eating it the first time made this a very unappealing option. We will not be cooking with clove for a very long time. Anyway, the point wasn't to berate clove, it was to say that throwing out perfectly good (but oh so bad) food was horrifying.

Do you know what else is horrifying? Christmas stores. The ones that only sell christmas decorations and wrapping paraphernalia. The frenzied consumerism of Christmas in general is pretty appalling. Now, I'm not saying that I'm immune to materialism. If you put a striped object of any kind in front of me, I would probably salivate and rip it from your hands. But this reflexive consumerism is definitely something I'd like to temper. Knowing that there are people out there that don't even consider the concept of moderation is seriously depressing. So many of us are governed by an overriding sense of entitlement coupled with a definition of success that hinges on the act of having. I can't handle an environment as stark (or as terrifying) as The Road, but I would definitely like to move in the direction of minimalism. I know there are a couple of you that just shook your heads in dismay. That's right, I said minimalism. How this can be accomplished living in a city as overwhelming as New York, I'm just not sure.

I'm also not sure where I'm going with this gripe session. I intended to write about The Road* and now I'm off in ascetic grinch land. This time of year always puts me in a wonky mood for so many more reasons than consumerism. Write this one off to an extremist frame of mind and an overwhelming sense of guilt after having tossed out enough food for 4 people.

*I know The Road has nothing to do with the minimalist lifestyle, but the whole time I was reading it, I couldn't stop thinking about the simplicity of having everything you own and need with you in a bag or a shopping cart.