Archive for May, 2008


Mom’s Western Holly

Mom’s Western Holly, originally uploaded by neocles.

A bit tragic. The stove was in mom’s house in Fresno. The renters swapped it out with the Wedgewood that I had stored in the garage there, and left it out in the elements for a couple months. When I found out, I brought it up to the Bay Area and stored it at my work place for a couple years. I fretted about it and wondered where I could move it. I called some old stove restorers to see about having it serviced and cleaned up. They didn’t want to work on it, but said they would take it off my hands for parts, for free. I said “no”. I eventually had to it move out back of the shop wrapped in plastic for several months. But eventually the wrapping failed, and it got wet and started to rust. The other day, a couple scavengers from the neighborhood came by in an old Datsun pickup and asked if we wanted to get rid of it and a crappy old refrigerator that was sitting with it. At this point, I was no longer able to justify spending a lot of money trying to fix it up, and I had no place to install it, or to store it. I gave it to them. Another little piece of my life lost in the mists of time.


Smart Car Monster Truck

All of sudden, like the past month, Smart Cars having been popping up in my neighborhood like mushrooms in a cow pasture. It looks like they could overtake Priuses on the roadways of Berkeley. But behold how awesome this is! It perfectly combines the sensibilities my old home town (Fresno, CA) and my new town (Albany/Berkeley, CA). Leave it to a Greek…


Dented blue Chevy Impala parked on the street in Oakland

The path my photographic work has taken and this whole thing of my shooting old cars is difficult for me to understand. The thing is, i don’t really like cars that much. Well, that’s not completely true. I like the idea of cars, just not the reality. While i have threatened to buy an old ’63 Ranchero and drive around listening to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys really loud, I guess I’m too practical and environmentally conscious to actually do it.

And I am not really a “car guy” just like I am not really a “sports guy”. I’m not quite butch enough for that. I’ll be perfectly happy when cars no longer have internal combustion engines, don’t accelerate as quickly, and generally seem more like wussy cars than muscle cars. I’m fine with that.

But the idea of owning my first car again, a black ’69 Firebird with blah, blah, engine, and turbo-blah-blah transmission, and so on, just has an enduring allure. Old cool cars just are still cool to me.

When i reflect on this for more than three or four seconds, I start to worry that it’s really just the result of getting old. The maturation process. The way of nature. I am reminded of being in my 20’s and being into contemporary design and avant garde everything with a zeal akin to that expressed in the manifestos of the Italian Futurists. I saw older people, parents of friends, with “antique” furniture, and thought, “yuck. how could anyone stand to fill their house with this absolutely hideous stuff”. This might seem curious considering that even then I was getting into deco, which I thought of as closely related to modernism.

And it still holds. A Model T is not particularly interesting to me. Not to photograph, not to own, not to daydream about. A Chevy Impala like the one above, on the other hand, is incredibly sexy. Those fins are amazing, the curves, sublime.

Thus one question is, is my appreciation for mid-century design, vintage (or what gets called “retro” even if the object discussed is an original piece) cars, houses, diners, lamps, matchbooks, etc., perfectly analogous to my friend’s parents’ penchant for 19th century Colonial Revival? Yikes! Has the next generation moved on to the next tidal wave of futurism rising up to inundate the 20th century and its nostalgic devotees? Somehow, I can’t help thinking that design from generation to generation, it’s value, and the social patterns that allow for succession to take place, are not simply subjective. That some things are just better than what came before or after. That it’s not just my pathetic nostalgia for the icons of my childhood that leads me to value these objects more than those.

This little mid-life crisis has deflected me from the original question at hand: why cars? It doesn’t appear I’m much closer to answering this. There are number of candidate answers: since I like the idea of cars more than the reality of cars, taking pictures of them wholly satisfies my desires regarding them; or having accepted, even embraced, the demise of the car as we know it, photographing them serves as a way to honor and document the final days before their disappearance; or perhaps they are just easy to shoot–especially when one routinely crops off one end or the other–making for easy points on flickr; or perhaps all of the above. It’s hard to say…. I suppose before too long i will have found every cool car in and around Albany and I’ll have to figure out something else to get fixated on.


Love Seat Commute Diversion

Love Seat Diversion, originally uploaded by neocles.

Thursday is bike to work day, and that seems to be setting the tone for the week. My friend David wonders why anyone would live the automotive life after witnessing Seattle’s hellish cross-town traffic from the speediness, if not safety, of the bike lane.

I have been back in the saddle biking to work for a couple weeks now. I can definitively say the exercise has improved my disposition tremendously. But that’s not all. The opportunities for amusement are boundless, especially if you live in a place like Berkeley. This morning I found this enticing rest stop at one of Berkeley’s famously infuriating traffic diverters. Everybody I know hates these things designed to keep you on the slow crawl main arteries. But I love, I mean LOVE, riding through them on my bike.

I came across this a few minutes after coming across a medium-bad car accident just a couple blocks from my house, where a couple of Honda’s fought over the right-of-way through an intersection. (Sorry, no pics of that.) That’ll wreck your commute.

Of course, KQED’s morning news and traffic reports have been making much of how light the commute is becoming and attributing it to gas prices. I can certainly confirm the relative emptiness of the roads. It’s even making biking to work easier.


Of carbs and men

Miranda and Theophanis at the water\'s edge at Agate Beach.

This last weekend we travelled to the Marin coast to see my friend’s, Seth Dickerman, show at Bolinas Art Museum. I had a number of revelations.

I love his work even more than I thought I did. There is something genuinely mysterious and magical about the process that results in these deep, soft, obscure landscapes. I wonder if it can be achieved digitally. Seth both shoots film and is also a master printer, and so there is a physical process that occurs that produces special results. What I find particularly interesting is the simultaneous presence of both the blur and softness of hand-held long exposures, and some very sharp details that echo back into the depths of the image. There is also a way in which these images convey a tremendous sense of motion–not the motion of the photographers hands, but of a vast, wind-swept earth, sea and sky. I have experimented with my own handheld long exposures with the digital, but had only limited success. I am now more committed than ever to at it and someday learn to speak this wonderful language of unseen motion.

A more mundane but very important revelation I had was the this beautiful stretch of coast is so close to my home that there is no excuse for not visiting every other week. We stayed in Point Reyes Station, a mere 60 minutes from Berkeley. Somehow we forget how close it all is and how lucky we are to live in this part of the world. So, we are renewing our efforts to get out to Marin, Sonoma, and beyond at least a couple times a month.

Finally, a conversation I had over the weekend got me thinking again about how I regain the crispness of mind and energy that I used to have. That led me to two courses of action. The first is to get back to commuting by bike. I notice that really do have a better disposition and more energy when I do. The second more radical course of action is change my eating habits–in a way that will test my willpower like nothing has since I quite smoking many, many years ago. Basically it amounts to drastically slashing my consumption of high-carb food.

The problem is I LOVE bread. I mean I love it. I mean I could easily eat a loaf a day. In my Mediterranean culture, every meal is eaten with a fork in one hand and a piece of bread in the other. I eat several pieces of toast for breakfast every morning, with cheeses, yogurt, fruit, jams, eggs, whatever. How I am going to turn this around, I don’t know, but I have got to try.

I started today. Cheese, fake sausage patties, and fruit for breakfast. It was good and I somehow made until lunch time. For lunch I had, don’t laugh, a salad from Subway. It is one of the few places, and the only inexpensive one, to eat near my work in Emeryville. So, I have been going there on certain days for the six-inch special sandwich ($2.99) loaded up with veggies. So, today I had a turkey and cheese, hold the bread, extra veggies. It was actually pretty good and I made until dinner. At dinner I ate my first bread product of the day. I survived my first day with almost no bread!