Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To Chew, to Gnash the Teeth


I would like to dismiss the audience.

When we were in Bulgaria, on the coast of the Black Sea, we were served a strange liquor, a cousin of Raki I think- it was as clear as a bell, but when you added ice, it formed diamond-like crystals, glittering floating shards like mica fragments thick in your cocktail.  Like a snow globe, but more elegant, and less kitsch.  It tasted like liquorice. 

The audience, tier upon tier, and in the balcony seats too, with opera glasses and strong opinions.  I would much prefer an empty theater, where even the ushers are off duty, where I can hop the backs of the red velvet seats, and run across the cushions, balancing on the armrests and laughing.

The Bulgarian drink- I can't remember the name- but I have been searching for it here ever since, and have never found it.  I brought one bottle back with me- a great party trick, that, to pour this clear liquid over ice and watch everyone's delight as the mica fragments swirled.  I found Pastis, which comes close- the approximate flavor, but no snowflakes.  A slight scum on the surface when ice is added, but no clear glittering shards filling the glass.  I have found virtually everything else I might require here- fourteen kinds of German mustard to go with bratwurst.  Absinthe. Mysterious camphor products from India, which have no business being sold next to food products, but there they are, next to the candy-coated anise seeds and the lentils in the enormous asian grocery store.  Persimmons.  Spotted dick.  No,  seriously, that's an English pudding, it comes in a can and you eat it for dessert.  Best of all, in the midst of an extended camping trip we once stopped in the tiny town of Trinidad, Colorado, an absurd Hollywood back-lot of a stage set, except that this is a real town that has been raked by the sun and forgotten by the rest of the world.  We stopped at the (drive-through!) liquor store for a six pack for the camp fire.  And low and behold, they had a bottle of Akvavit, which was covered with dust and had surely been there for many years.  What was it doing there?  I had never had it, but had been mildly obsessed with it ever since listening to the Steig Larson novels (Larson's hard-bitten detective consumes either black coffee or Akvavit on virtually every page of the series).  We drank it by the campfire, and it tasted like a loaf of rye bread and it was very, very strong.

I don't mean the blog audience, of course.  I don't think that there are any of you out there anyways, and if there were- well, perhaps I prefer not to know.  It's rather nice to collect only for myself, and then toss it out into the either.... like writing a message in a bottle and chucking it into the ocean.  At eleven, I might have had some romantic idea that someone might read the message, and at fourteen, that someone might have been a stranded sailor, his sunburnt muscles rippling in the etc., etc., etc.  The internet is the strangest place.  Because everyone has a voice, it becomes harder and harder to get listened to... you'd have to be a wonderful tactical thinker to get anyone to pay attention to your particular internet thing.  And the speed of the turnover- the flash in the pan quality of the next big new web phenomenon- is rather intimidating.  How are we all supposed to keep up?  And then you realize that everyone is trying to keep up, to figure out the algorithm for cultural success, and that the most interesting people- and perhaps the happiest, or at least I'd like to think so - are tho ones who are just doing what interests them without giving a fuck.  The ones who have dismissed the audience.

I suppose that on some level I must be talking about sincerity.  Because otherwise, why do it?

Oh, and the wanderings about Bulgarian liquors and Pastis- that's 'cause the consumption of the latter is what brought me to this particular ramble.  Hopefully it will still seem coherent tomorrow.

*Mastika Greek: μαστίχα, mastícha; (Bulgarian: мастика, mastika; Macedonian: мастика, mastika) is a liquor seasoned with mastic, a resin gathered from the mastic tree, a small evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region. The name of the resin, whence the name of the drink, is derived from the Greek "to chew, to gnash the teeth".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The wonderful photographs of Céline Clanet......

Since 2005, I have been traveling regularly to Máze, a small Sámi village located at the highest point of the European map, far above the Arctic Circle, in Norwegian Lapland. There, I met quiet people, sometimes melancholic, captivating, who are very proud of their village and territory. They often have binoculars at hand, even in their homes, to gaze at these beautiful landscapes.

I have photographed Sámi people, houses, land and reindeer that were almost not here today. They barely escaped being flooded by the waters of a hydroelectric dam project that the Norwegian government planned in the early 1970’s and thanks to Sámi people’s protests and resistance was fortunately aborted.
But I have also photographed a reality that will undoubtedly transform in the coming century, due to global warming and cultural integration.

To me, Máze is an ambivalent symbol of resistance and helplessness.

Pride as well as suspicion, solitude and great beauty prevail there. In the most beautiful tundra of the Arctic region, I tasted Ante’s and Ole Ailo’s favorite season, when days get longer and temperatures become milder. The perfect moment, when time doesn’t exist anymore and night is gone, when they immerse themselves in their favorite activities: fishing through ice holes in Lake Suolojávri and riding thesnøskuter in the tundra. And all these hours spent with friends, family, outside on a reindeer skin, in a hytte or under a lávvu, talking, joiking, or lying down doing nothing, saying nothing. Just being.

Monograph published in December 2009 by PHOTOLUCIDA (USA): SEE "


Monday, October 24, 2011

Liquid font

Click on these....

Liquid font by Ruslan Khasanov via Change the Thought.   Found on "I'm Revolting" blog at

more fun....

Tales of the Unexpected from More Soon on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Prokudin-Gorskii Collection

This morning I wish that I was somewhere else.  Perhaps at the local cafe, eating a buttermilk biscuit with egg and chorizo- but I haven't yet found the motivation to make it out of my pajamas.  Or better- I wish that I were in a small, light-filled room somewhere, with unfamiliar sounds at the window, languages that I don't understand and morning racket that doesn't make sense to me.  A bag over my shoulder, and a walk out onto cobblestone streets, perhaps, in some narrow alleyway.  Old women are frying things curbside, unidentified foods in vast black metal pans, and the buildings are a little tilted, a little handmade, a little lumpy where human fingers shaped the walls.  I will eat something greasy and hot while I am walking, wrapped in transparent oily paper by one of the old women, and I am heading for some city square, where there will be a cafe and urban sorts in eurotrash black jeans drinking espresso.  I will also drink espresso, and write, and make decisions about how I will spend my day- what castle I will see, what museum, what I will carry- just enough to have everything I need, but not so much that I am cursing my overly heavy pack by the end of the day.  Or maybe I will sit here, at this cafe, listening to the foreign languages and drinking too much coffee and watching a foreign world go by.
Nope.  I am here, and I actually have to spend the day grading, which is rather different than exploring castles.  But I will travel for just a moment- I'll send some postcards- from Russia, found in the Library of Congress archives.

Images of Russia: The Prokudin-Gorskii Collection
"The Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection features color photographic surveys of the vast Russian Empire made between ca. 1905 and 1915. Frequent subjects among the 2,607 distinct images include people, religious architecture, historic sites, industry and agriculture, public works construction, scenes along water and railway transportation routes, and views of villages and cities. An active photographer and scientist, Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook most of his ambitious color documentary project from 1909 to 1915. The Library of Congress purchased the collection from the photographer's sons in 1948."


The following photographs are in this month's National Geographic, in an article about the Sami people. The photographer is Erika Larsen.