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January 31, 2008

Basel, Switzerland

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CameraISO 400 Disposable w/Plastic Lens

Shot from near Münsterplatz in Basel, Switzerland.


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January 22, 2008

Der roten Stühle

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CameraISO 400 Disposable w/Plastic Lens

I was able to see the exhibition "Rot. Wenn Farbe zur Täterin wird" (Red. Hot on the Trail of a Colour) at the Basel Museum der Kulturen. A few sets of these table and chairs were in the courtyard of the museum. The chairs were tipped forward no doubt to avoid pooling water from collecting in their seats should while it rained.

The original print was very underexposed. I scanned the photo at my friend Mika's and was able to play with the color curves and contrast to recover this image.


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Main > Diary

January 20, 2008

The Liquid Smile

I was sick yesterday.

I was supposed to meet a couple of co-workers by the cathedral in Freiburg before catching a train to fly out of Frankfurt to Paris. I woke up early to pack up my hotel room but I found that I had to keep taking breaks. I would sit down at the end of the bed and stare at my shoes. All I thought was that I really needed to get some breakfast.

I wandered down to Starbucks, the closest place to the hotel to get something small, and I bought a piece of lemon loaf and a cup of tea. I brought it back to the hotel room. After finishing the tea I felt even worse.

I checked out of the hotel and got a taxi to the train station. I collapsed into my seat and was awoken about half an hour later by the agent wanting to validate my ticket. She told me that the train I got on didn't go to the Frankfurt airport station but went to the Frankfurt main station instead: I would have to transfer at Mannheim.

My stomach was in knots. I was hot and cold and hot and cold. There was no doubt about it. I was really ill.

An hour into the train ride I couldn't keep it together. I ran for the bathroom and smiled a liquid smile.

"In two minutes, we will be arriving into Mannheim station," said the conductor.

And there I was, smelling like half-digested lemon loaf, in the train bathroom. I was barely able to rinse myself off before I got to my bags and stepped off the train.

I had ten minutes before the next train was to arrive. I wanted to find a bathroom and clean up. I struggled as fast as I could only to find the station's bathroom was guarded by a turnstyle much too small for my luggage. It wanted 50 cents. I had no change. I couldn't have even asked someone to watch my bags if I had wanted. I resigned myself to smelling pukey for 10 more minutes before I could clean up on the next train.

Finally, I had made it to the Frankfurt airport terminal. I'll I had to do was to check in and wait for the plane.

"Sir, your bags are 9 kilograms over the limit."

"Yes, but I am gold elite status, isn't there an allowance?"

"No sir, Air France does not have a weight reciprocity agreement with Northwest Airlines. I can give you a plastic bag to carry on items from your baggage."

I moved the bulk of my clothes to a large plastic bag, checked in, and went through security. I slept for 30 minutes before the plane came.

As soon as we were able to move about the cabin I moved right into the bathroom again and joined a different set of folks in the mile high club.

At the airport I took a taxi to my friend Mika's house and said hello to her mother. Within minutes, I was asleep at 6:30. I slept clean through until 7:30 this morning.

Now I feel well enough to eat again. Hopefully I'll feel better for this busy week!

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CameraBlackberry Pearl 1100 Cameraphone
LensCheap Plastic

Hello from Deutschland!

Yes, it means "Jewelry" in German. It made me smile with how boldly it was written.


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January 18, 2008

The Knife

A couple of nights ago myself and two of my North American colleagues were getting ready to leave the office in Breisach, Germany and go to dinner. It was about 7:30 in the evening. Most of the Germans keep a fairly regular 9-5 schedule and most of the office had already packed up and left for the evening. We didn't have keys to lock up and so I went searching to see if there was anyone besides us who was left aside from us.

I found someone and asked him if he wouldn't mind locking up behind us. He said, "no, problem."

I jokingly replied, "great! I can tell this is a dangerous neighborhood and I didn't want to leave the place open." The office is surrounded on one side by a cornfield. The city is filled with old people with yellowing fingernails.

To my surprise he raised his eyebrows and said, "you heard?"

"No, heard about what?" I replied.

The Knife (source unknown)

He said, very seriously, "once I found a knife on the ground, in front of the building."

I chuckled a bit, "a knife, that doesn't seem so bad." I imaged from the amount of hunters in the area it would not be all that uncommon to find such a thing.

"...and a few meters away a dead Frenchman."

He went on to tell me that such things are not uncommon in Breisach because, after all, Breisach is a border town separated from France only by a single bridge over the river Reine. There is a disco not far from the office and sometimes it seems people take their grudges with them across the river.

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January 14, 2008

Impressions of Switzerland

After only a short while spent at home for the holidays I find myself back in Europe again on assignment. This time I am in southwestern Germany; I am staying in Freiburg and working in the small village of Breisach.

In many ways Southern Germany has surpassed my expectations. It seems the farther south you go in Germany the sweeter both the beer and the people become. I wanted to see if this pattern held true for all of the German speaking world and so I decided to head south to Switzerland. I chose Basel, only an hour south of Freiburg by high-speed train.

This trip to Switzerland was truly the first international trip I have ever taken without any preparation whatsoever. I just packed my passport (remember fellow Americans: ever neutral Switzerland is not in the EU!), put on my hat and hoped for the best!

As the train pulled into the Basel Deutsche Bahn station I felt as though I had made a mistake. From the windows of the train, the area surrounding the station looked drab, commercial, and post-peak. I was back in 1980s except it was the 1980s and cloudy. Certainly there must be something more to Basel?

I was waved through the German customs office and I pulled some Swiss Francs from the ATM machine. Outside the station there was a sign in German, French, and English which showed a map of four suggested walking tours of the city. The sign instructed me to travel to Marktplatz and to follow the signs from there. I hopped on a tram from the station and away I went.

As the tram passed over the Rhine, it was as if an entirely new Basel appeared to me. I was out of the 80s and back to another era entirely: beautiful and colorful Swiss buildings crowded each side of the river while smart looking Swiss men in black suits and black hats casually strolled with their sophisticatedly dressed ladies for a leisurely lunch.

I exited off the tram at Marktplatz directly into the middle of an active farmer's market. People were selling fresh produce, cheese, olives, & bread from bright yellow stands. All of the vendors were well dressed, nobody looked as if they were doing this out of necessity. Although it probably wasn't true, I was given the impression that may of these folks were just off the hobby farm.

At one end of the market two stalls were setup and grilling fresh sausages. They smelled delicious! A large crowd of people, their hands filled with bags of vegetables, were waiting their turn to be served.

I stood in line for awhile and placed my order for a large beef and cheese sausage. I received it fresh from the grill on a paper plate with a daub of mustard and a little token piece of brown bread. Price? US$6!

I needed something to drink and I saw a stand selling bottled juices. I asked for an orange juice. "That will be 8 Francs please." That is US$7.20 orange juice!

I looked over the sign of the walking tours near the square and decided to memorize the big land marks and sort of meander about in my own fashion. My general direction was up elevation, with the aim of seeing a view of the Rhine from Münsterplatz.

On may way I passed by the Basel Museum der Kulturen. The exhibition was "Rot. Wenn Farbe zur Täterin wird" (Red. Hot on the Trail of a Colour). I handed over the equivalent of US$15 (ouch!) and I was given a rather thick exhibition guidebook. A red lit, red carpeted, red fiberglass tunnel led me up to the main door of the gallery.

Red Exhibition Flyer

Even within our own cultural confines, red is associated with a wide range of meanings, from life, love and eroticism, to aggression, danger and death. In other cultures and societies this is no different. There too symbolism, meanings, and contexts in which red steps into action are founded on a broad variety of different ideas and beliefs.

From the introduction in the Rot exhibition guide.

The exhibition was excellently arranged. Rooms and rooms of ethnographic objects highlighting differing aspects of the color red were spread from room to room and from floor to floor. Objects from Mexico, Brazil, Austria, India, Java and New Guinea were arranged in groupings titled "Death & Life," "Belief,' "Power," or "Identity."

The Swiss Flag

In a pair of opposing galleries a bright red 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC was set on contrast across from a 16 m. (52 ft.) high red-painted sago palm ceremonial house from Papua. How on earth did they get it through the museum door?

Nothing red-related was left undiscussed: there was even a gallery devoted to telling the story of how red dyes were harvested, developed, and traded from early times. Each item in the gallery was carefully numbered and indexed in the guidebook. Each entry in the guidebook was informative, clear, and insightful. I was very impressed! When I left the museum, my red-tired eyes gave the already rainy day an even bluer tint.

I roamed around Münsterplatz a bit more and noted the menus of some nice looking places (and noted them as right out of my pocket book: US$55 for the bargain entrées are too rich for even my blood!) I continued to walk the streets of Basel, observing and listening.

After an hour or so of roaming about I came to the Kunstmuseum Basel which was featuring an exhibition on Andreas Gursky. Call me a boob ("you boob!") but I had no idea who Andreas Gursky was.

I hemmed and hawed at paying another CHF 15,00 entrance fee and my hemming and hawing was richly rewarded. The woman working the counter said, "you know, you should really go and see the exhibition" and she gave me the admission at the student rate even through I was several years past their student age.

The Gursky exhibition was incredible. Momumental. Life changing. What Chuck Close does for faces Gursky does for landscapes. Read this quote from the Saatchi Online:

The images appear clear and ordered. Through the repetition and variation of individual elements, decorative structures are created that lend the works a graphic appearance when viewed from a distance, while details provide an overabundance of information when seen close up....The physical presence of the images alone changes the way they are received. The fact that one's entire perspective is filled when stepping up close to the picture results in an unusual viewing experience and the feeling that one is being engulfed by the image.

I had two favorites from the exhibition: the series of images called "Pyongyang" and "F1 Boxenstopp." The images from North Korea are as culturally fascinating and gaudily beautiful as they are utterly terrifying. The conjunction between the grand, stadium sized unity seen from afar in contrast to the differences among the individual participants was eerie. How do they organize so many people?

The "F1 Boxenstopp" images were of pitt crews. The images, although impressive on their own, really stand out in series. Each image features two pit crews adorned in the bright, primary color of their racing team working on a car. In between the two team there is a scantily clad woman. Topping the image is a row of observers watching the scene below from an observation deck, impossibly clear for being behind glass windows. Both of the photos share the exactly the same composition. The combined effect has you standing and scratching your head and asking, "how did he do that?"

Gursky Pyongyang I (2007)

Andreas Gursky, 'Pyongyang I', 2007
307 x 215.5 cm, C-Print

Looking at these photographs gave me a sort of superhuman feeling. It was as if I was given eagles eyes. I was able to see the whole scene and yet I was also able to get in close and see incredible details I should not have been capable of seeing.

I loved this exhibition simply for its scale. I find myself having a growing affinity for art that must be experienced outside the home. Cinema is now viewed from the couch, concerts from the iPod, photography on the computer. Gursky's work must be seen in person in order to be fully appreciated.

I hung around the museum until closing time looking at the works of the other artists: there were Rembrandts, Van Goghs, Warhols and so many more. There were no crowds. It was really nice experience.

Finally I made my way back towards Marktplatz and stopped the first restaurant that looked nice. It was quite early yet, about 5:45 but I was really hungry. My nearly US$14 sausage lunch just wasn't tiding me over.

The Maître d' told me they had no more reservations for the evening and so I would have to sit in the bar. The place was called Restaurant Schlüsselzunft and the entire time I was there only two tables in the spacious restaurant section which ended up being filled. Either the Maître d' was a liar-liar-pants-on-fire or there was a major outbreak of E. Coli that kept nearly everyone home.

The bar menu was much less exciting than the restaurant menu posted outside but hungrily I ordered the only non-pork item I could make out on the menu: roasted chicken with vegetables and Knöpfle . Not that I don't eat pork. I love pork! I love pork the way most people love their mothers but between four months of Spain and nearly a week in Germany I had nearly been porked to death.

The meal, it turned out, was fantastic. The chicken was browned and crispy, well seasoned, and sitting in a delicious savory herbed brown gravy. The vegetables were freshly steamed and attractively presented. Even the Knöpfle mangaged to be delicious. Somehow they managed to crisp brown the outsides so where once there could have been pale chewy lumps of starch there were now crisp delicious dumpling goodness.

For desert I had a dome of chocolate mousse. The Schokoladendome. Chocolate bin Laden trapped in a dome of deliciousness. It was served inverted on a plate with slices of roasted nuts. It was a perfect ending.

An entrée, water, wine, & desert totaled CHF 61,80, about US$55.00. Not inexpensive by any means and certainly not cheap for bar food, but I reckoned that Switzerland let me off easy.

With only a few Francs left in my pocketbook I made my way back to the station to have a cup of coffee and wait for my train. Onboard the IC express back to Freiburg I couldn't help but thinking about what a nice day it had been: from the nice old man in Marktplatz who followed me to return that hat I had dropped, to the numerous Swiss who offered to help translate with their less English savvy shopkeepers, to the lady who gave me a discount at the Kunstmuseum: Switzerland was great. Great for daytripping. I'll have to re-evaluate my earnings strategy if I ever plan on being able to afford to stay the night!

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January 11, 2008

Dad Under a Pier

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Some photographs only improve with time.

Recently my father was visiting a friend of the family and she gave him a number of photos of my father, some almost 40 years old. This photo was part of a series of photographs taken under a pier. I am going to guess that this photo is circa 1977. My father was around 30 years old.

I believe this photo was taken in Los Angeles, but I cannot be sure. I like my dad's animated expression, as if he was caught mid sentence. I like his larger than life hair, obnoxiously open shirt, and rolled up shirt-sleeves. Most of all, I like that I would have scoffed at this photo as a teenager. Now I just find it cool.


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January 3, 2008

Cigarettes, Evan, and Coffee in Logroño

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While eating at La Chatilla restaurant on Calle de San Augustín in Logroño my brother Evan and I were playing with the panoramic stitching mode of his new camera. We decided to make triptics. As I was looking at them tonight I decided that they would best go together as a triptic themselves.

If you are ever in Logroño I highly recommend eating at La Chatilla. They have the best carpaccio I've ever eaten. First they take beef tenderloin, pound it flat it then and roll it with foie. Next, they slice it thin as paper. Last they artfully arrange it on a platter and drizzle it with cold pressed olive oil and balsamico. If it is possible for carpaccio to melt in your mouth, this carpaccio one does.

You might need a cigarette afterwards.


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