Ten minutes in the year…

So, it’s Friday evening, on the last working day of the year. The office is clean, my bags are packed, and it’s just a few minutes until we all go out for dinner. Considering the occasion, I’m wearing contacts and my corduroy blazer with the suede elbow patches. I’ve received comments ranging from “cool” to “lit professor.”

Tomorrow morning I head out early for Narita, and then it’s just about the shortest flight you can get to the eastern seaboard; twelve and a half hours direct to Dulles in a new 777. If I can score a window seat, I’ll be set.

Goodbye, 2008. Goodbye Lips and Disaster. From here on starts the bounenkai, the annual year-end party to forget all the troubles of the past. Sayonara.

Done. Finally done.

So all of the blog-synching and photo-adjusting madness is finished. As you’d expect, going through and touching up hundreds of Venetian photographs was as monotonous and stressful as scanning them. I could very well have made many more interesting photographs out of the material with the right adjustments, but in the end it was too repetitive and too much tedium. In any case, a so-so batch of seventy-nine shots are in the gallery.

Here is the equally dry set of journal entries from the second leg of my European trip, mostly for record-keeping purposes:

Ah, Venice
Old, new, and always the music
The islands
A little bit of everything
Pensive; tea
In Soviet Russia, beard grows you
In Soviet Russia, security go through you

Bit by bit

Tonight I finally finished scanning all of my film from last month’s European vacation. I haven’t run through the dust-and-scratches phase of Venice yet, but Vienna is complete, so now you can check out the photographs. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of variety in the material, you may very well give up half way through the album. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I still haven’t eaten dinner so a detailed analysis will have to come later. For now, here’s a summary of the blog posts from the first half of the trip.

In Soviet Russia, plane boards you
In Soviet Russia, drink consumes you
In Soviet Russia, subtitle reads you
In Soviet Russia, baggage check you
Vienna smells of autumn
Wet and the colds
Quest for the Crown

bossa nova saturday

Traditionally I’ve always thought of bossa nova as a Sunday morning thing, something to have on slow, sunny days like croissants or thick socks. But this morning the sky is so blue, and the clouds have a dreamy kind of depth, gliding by in whales and hippopotami. It still doesn’t feel like December, in general it’s been warm and clear. In the convenience stores Christmas goods have appeared, but my mood is still miles away from holiday.

In three weeks I will be going home. I’m not sure what it’ll be like, but it’s clear that there is a rift between us. I’ve spent five years in another world, and here though time has moved on for me in the States it’s still 2003. I don’t know any of the bands, television personalities, or pro football players. The price of gas is $1.26 a gallon and traffic in my home town is still light. I am a faded anachronism, tinted with strokes of sumi-e.

I hope the past a good bridge to build from, and music will take care of the rest. But for today, I will ride my bicycle slowly, and suck the marrow out of life.

Media and cold

Without circumstance, November has come to an end. My annual review and company retreat are over, Thanksgiving has passed sans oven-baked bird, and the cold permeates all.

I am awash in media, after finishing last week’s after parties for Natural Smile, Drop, and Fukushi. I have a collection of CDs from new acquaintances DJs Funnel, Slam, and Sugluma. Also, I’m not quite sure how, but French band Air has been really in the back of my mind lately, so yesterday I picked up Pocket Symphony, Talkie Walkie, and a limited edition DVD set of Moon Safari.

Now I am shivering in my home trying to fight my way through the mountains of film from Europe, sipping Asahi and contemplating how much more comfortable reading books in the park would be.

Natural Smile and Drop albums are up, so feel free to take a look if you like. You also may notice that European blog posts are trickling in as well, so check the feed or scroll back to October.


WordPress has been updated to 2.6.3. Maybe now WPG2 will actually work so I can stop making custom-sized images for posts with Gallery content. [Notice the sidebar image block is NOT working anymore…sigh.]


Jaded with smiles

Thus, the six weeks of work overload retaliation ended. Two raves, two exhibitions, two European countries, one jaded and mildly dissatisfied me. Hertzberg was nice, but I rushed into it and tried to make it more than it should be. Natural Smile was much of the same, but on a grander scale, and I got some good shots (torn through eight rolls). Drop went as well as could be expected, and was probably the most well-rounded of all my pursuits. Europe was different, edifying, and I think I have a couple interesting photographs from the six hundred or so I took. Blog entries and photographs will trickle in over the next several weeks as I water down the diatribes and cut through the massive amounts of awesome repetition.

This iteration of Fukushi was better in some ways logistically (read: experience), but artistically I think it was a significant step backward from my production in the spring. Yet, I had friends there to support me, and I think Hirota-san had a good time. It was good to see him enjoying himself.

So, my muscles are sore, my head aches, my house is in a shambles, and I swear off all photography for a month. This lasts about fourteen hours before salivating at the massive stack of negatives on my desk drives me quite nearly insane.

Everyone should be playing more Disaster: Day of Crisis.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I am back. For those who were out of the loop I was in Austria and Italy for a week. I have something to the order of 20 blog entries and 600+ shots from the trip. It will take me honestly weeks to get through them all, so please be patient. Right now I have to spend the next 144 hours at least focusing on Design Festa 28, which is this weekend. I am in complete ordered chaos as nothing is done, but somehow I will assemble a show with unique and original content. In the meantime, enjoy this corny picture of St. Mark’s Square and keep your eye on the blog.


In Soviet Russia, security go through you!

So once again I have the displeasure of visiting Sheremetyevo International Airport, an establishment of mixed purposes and systems. New Russia wants Western money, but the long lines leading to a single makeshift teller in a terrible mood don’t exactly say, “Добрый день.” (Dobry vechar) The Russian travelers are pushy and impatient, you can set your watch to the number of times you’re cut off five minutes.

Not to mention the entire place is like a cave. I’ve seen rat warrens that are better lit. I’d take a picture but I’d probably have my camera confiscated by one of the many very bored looking guards. It wouldn’t turn out sans flash anyway.

Transfer doesn’t happen without a queue up at a disgruntled teller in a dank, dust-encaked booth. Then you have to go through a single security line with every other transfer flight at the terminal. The monolithic 50s era flip-letter departure board still hovers overhead, unused, while a series of new LG plasma televisions occasionally report departure times in between a maddening loop of the same six 20-second commercials. The shopping is duty-free and bright, but the toilets are overflowing.

Of course I couldn’t come back from Mother Russia without a huge fucking bottle of vodka. This is Russian custom, of course. Virtually every man, woman, and child on my Aeroflot flight from Venice had at least three one-litre bottles of import liquor. The guy sitting next to me was reading a tabloid with the headline, “Dementia time bomb for binge drinkers”. The irony was not lost on me.

In Soviet Russia, beard grows you!

So my precious Targus Stowaway appears to be on its last keys, so to speak, and I am relegated to typing one handed, wwith the occasional key studder. I am on an Airbus packed with Russians and dicey ticketing has me required to check-in again at Sheremetyevo before catching my flight to Narita. I can only hope we don’t have any of that circling/deplane on tarmac nonsense again at Moscow, I’ll probably end being seated smack dab in the middle of the plane as it is

So, my first trip to Europe in two years is ending, and as usual very few of my anticipated celebrity meetings did not take place. There were no Von Trapp family singers in Austria, nor sweet long kisses goodbye in the Austrian way by girls named Elsa. I did meet a nice lady named Caroline and her daughter on the train to Venice.

I’m still not sure if people assume I’m European, I think that nearly everyone just wants to assume that I speak whatever language they speak natively. In Venice I spoke Italian to Italian merchants, French to French tourists, German to Austrian tourists, and Russian to Russian flight attendants.

When checking in for my flight to Moscow, a tall, attractive Alitalia clerk looked at my passport and remarked mock disapprovingly, “A name like Ventura and you only speak English?” I felt the blood rush to my face and managed a half tongue-in-cheek retort that I did in fact speak a little Italian. If I was James Bond the response would have been in Italian and suggest that she could perhaps help me work on native tongue.

Actually, most of my success seemed to come with French elementary school girls. In addition to my hangman partners yesterday morning, today I got into a face-making match on the vaporetto with another little French girl, and later told her mother which station the airport bus was at and how to find it.


Anyway, I’ve veered off into another personal diatribe. The issue here is what I bought for myself: two small form factor books from the MAK, two John Lennon buttons, and a Beatles badge for my jeans jacket. That’s all. Tomorrow I will buy a couple bottles of wine at the Piazzale Roma Coop and squish them in my rucksack, but they’re consumables so they don’t count. As for the books, they both have at least one-time utility… one is on art nouveau pattern samples, the other on an avant garde rural art installation in the 1970s. To balance out the book purchases, however, I think I will recycle/sell a couple novels I currently have at home with low reread value. Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man comes to mind. I had such high hopes but it really let me down. Too preachy, too Catholic. ::grin::

So net material possessions on this trip will come down to the badge and buttons, but they are meant for my jacket so household-wise are virtually negligible. As they say, take only photographs, leave only footprints. Speaking of which, the shot breakdown for the trip is ready.

tmax 36×3, 108
presto 36×2, 72
centuria 4 27×3, 81
centuria 2 27×3, 81
superia 24×1, 24
film 366

5d 261

Total 12 rolls, 627 shots, 125.4 / day

I already have ten rolls of developed and unscanned film from October raves, so with this incredible amount of material I will very easily be busy through the end of November and very likely early December getting through it all. I can’t even start though until after Design Festa is over (no doubt this post will also go up after the fact). To be honest, I think that bringing twenty rolls of film was a bit of an overkill. I didn’t want to run out but in the end some of it just is making unnecessary trips through crummy Russian x-ray machines. Though I did want to get a good breadth of lighting conditions and lens combinations for the Venetian architecture, in the end I did get a little sick of it. I should have been doing more of that original interpretation I was talking about earlier, but the fatigue and pressure to see stuff kind of sapped the creative energy from me a bit. Though you’ll probably see less than twenty percent of the shots from this trip, upwards of seventy percent or so look the same. Different buildings, different exposure values, same viewpoints and impact. This was a good lesson in volume, though. I think this is the first time I’ve ever gotten sick of taking pictures in a single thematic session.

Oh I forgot to mention that I did buy a piece of clothing, a scarf in Vienna but that was for utility as it was cold and I don’t know where my other scarf is. Additionally, I’m down a sock that I think the guy I met on the train to Venice wound up with.


So Saturday evening has come and my European tour draws to a close. It feels like I’ve done a fair amount more writing than usual, but maybe that’s just the scale of the trip. As usual I’m under budget, but I really haven’t done anything extravagant so I guess that makes sense. The motivation to eat in a restaurant with courses is rather low when traveling alone. Still, it is my last night in Europe, so I think I’ll eat at the restaurant run by the hotel owner’s husband. I just hope I can eat everything I’m given. Traditionally I’ve been more of the “eat often with smaller portions” kind of person. The frequency is due to my metabolism, and the portion size is probably just habit from years of being frugal. In the end, I think it’s healthier this way, anyway. Eating a lot at once causes significant discomfort, which one could say is my body’s way of telling me I don’t need anymore.

Anyway, I’m a customer not a guest at a family’s house, so I suppose it’s not a crime if I can’t eat everything I’m given, especially if I don’t decide the portion size.

I also hate buying non-consumable (food) products. My home is only so big, and I don’t like having stuff that I don’t use. It feels wasteful, it collects dust, and it’s a pain when moving. Technology I can forgive because I make heavy use of everything I own photography related. Music is best downloaded so plastic CD cases don’t have to be thrown away. Clothes I do not buy unless something in my small wardrobe wears out to the point of being unusable (and sometimes not even then). So I guess the biggest problem I have it books. I love reading, I love having books for reference. However, books are heavy, they take up a lot of space, and chances are they only get touched once a year if it all. this drives me mad. if I wasn’t so fanatical about a lean lifestyle, I’d probably have tons of books. I have the disposable income, and I have a burning desire to learn and digest media for reference. Only the common sense that I don’t have any more free time to read keeps me in check.


But that’s my problem. I go abroad now and I judge. I judge instinctively, without though, just looking at appearances or quickly estimating the situation. Fake, processed, fat, indulgent. No thanks, I’ll pass.

I wonder, could I do it again. Could I rip up roots and start in something completely different in a whole new atmosphere? Could I be happy like I am now in Japan? Is Japan my place because it really does fit me? Or did I just decide that it did, and change myself to fit it, because I was twenty-two, felt ostracized from the society I spent twenty-one years in and needed an identity so bad it burned?

It makes me wonder, and I think this is a very important issue in my life. Because it’s going to dictate what I do with my adulthood, who I choose to share it with. And most importantly, whether or not I’m fake.