WRLD: Grandmaster, Magic, Big Star, Townes, Creation, Cutie, 1-800-MICE, H Day, Abandoned Futures, Coin Locker Babies, Satellites, Mogwai, Exploding Star Orchestra

Watching

The Grandmaster
Last month Martin Scorsese interviewed Wong Kar-Wai about his 2013 film, The Grandmaster. The cinematography is amazing, and overall the film is pretty good [Amazon]. ★★★

Deceptive Practice
The best documentary I’ve seen in ages is Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay [Netflix, Amazon]. Ricky Jay’s dedication and artistry are inspiring, and the film is riveting from start to finish. Highly recommended. ★★★★★

Big Star
This documentary profiles the Memphis rock band Big Star from their early years to post-breakup. Essential viewing if you’re a fan [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★★

Be Here To Love Me
Be Here To Love Me is a portrait of singer songwriter Townes Van Zandt. A haunting look at a tortured artist [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★★★

Upside Down
Upside Down is an uneven documentary about the UK label Creation Records. Selling records and partying with Scottish accents, it’s half entertaining and half annoying [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★

Cutie and the Boxer
Cutie and the Boxer profiles an 80 year old Japanese artist and his wife who are living in New York and barely making ends meet. I had high hopes for this one after the preview, but the film focuses too much on the antagonistic wife [Netflix, Amazon]. ★★

Reading

1-800-MICE
1-800-MICE is bonkers. Blurbed by Daniel Clowes and Matt Groening among others, but none of them get it quite right. Surreal, absurd, extraordinary, and utterly unique. Highly recommended.

H Day
I’ve been a fan of Renee French since 90′s comic books Grit Bath and The Ninth Gland. H Day tells parallel stories on facing pages without words. One side is about migraines, and the other is about an ant invasion. Mysterious, weird, and quite enjoyable.

Abandoned Futures
With a cover photo from the Pearsonville Junkyard, night photography workshop alum Tong Lam presents well crafted photos of some world class ruins. Tong doesn’t like the term ruin porn, and instead makes a case for the history of ruin lust. Abandoned Futures contains some of the best writing on the symbology of ruins in recent years, and is highly recommended.

Coin Locker Babies
I’ve read quite a bit of Haruki Murakami’s work, but hadn’t read Ryu Murakami until my book club selected Coin Locker Babies. This novel is the story of two orphans who are abandoned at birth in a coin-locker, and are raised in the shadows of a ruined factory town. While the violence was a bit graphic for my taste, there were some hypnotizing sections that gave me new insight into why I photograph abandoned places.

Satellites
Satellites is the result of an amazing 7 year journey exploring the forgotten outposts of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately this book is out of print, but it’s definitely worth seeking out at your local library.

Listening

Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Mogwai’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will has been in heavy rotation during January. Maybe because it’s good workout music? The Drowned in Sound review of the album is right on target.

Exploding Star Orchestra
The Exploding Star Orchestra takes a wild journey through large ensemble jazz improv with a wide array of field recordings. A wild but engaging sonic ride. Here’s a nice review on Dusted.

Doing

  • A wonderful English artist is producing a marquetry version of one of my photos. I’m excited to see how this turns out, and will share photos when it’s done.
  • I’ve switched from using a Really Right Stuff pano-head to a Nodal Ninja Ultimate M2. More on this decision later.
  • My office is loud. I tried a lot of noise-cancelling headphones. All marketing hype aside, the Bose QC 15 really do work the best. Audiophile magazine Sound & Vision nails it in this Bose review. If you need to shut out the world, this is 300 bucks well spent.
  • I’m shooting video at work. It’s way harder than shooting stills. But fun. I’m learning Premiere, too.
  • A couple of my Holga images are in a recently released color grading book. More info when I get a copy.
  • I’m online less and less these days. I still like looking at pictures on Tumblr. That’s about it. You wanna talk? Send me an email. And don’t be surprised if my online presence becomes a bit more sporadic this year.

WRLD: Stanhope, Motorcycles, Yakuza, Cults, Pynchon, Aerial Photos, Feral Teens, Origami, and Prog-Folk

Watching

Beer Hall Putsch
Stand-up comedy is like dance for me — I can’t watch 98% of what’s out there, but the 2% that’s good is really good. Doug Stanhope is in that 2%. His most recent 1-hour special is called Beer Hall Putsch [Netflix only], and it’s over the top. The Occupy Wall Street and NFL fantasy bits are nuts.

Long Way RoundLong Way Down
In 2004, Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman went on a 20,000 mile adventure on motorcycles in Long Way Round [Netflix | Amazon]. The series starts a bit slowly, but the hard travel segments in Russia and Mongolia are amazing. In 2007 they rode from Scotland to South Africa in Long Way Down [Netflix | Amazon].

Pale Flower
I recently watched the nihilistic 60′s Japanese yakuza film Pale Flower again, and it’s still astonishing. Now on Blu-Ray from Criterion [Netflix | Amazon].

The Source Family
The Source Family is a really great documentary about a 70′s cult led by Father Yod, who had 14 wives, a health food restaurant, a Rolls Royce, and a psychedelic band [Netflix | Amazon].

Reading

Bleeding Edge
The new Thomas Pynchon novel Bleeding Edge will be released on Tuesday, 9/17. The extensive 7,000 word piece on Pynchon published last month on Vulture is a must-read for fans of his work. And Jonathan Lethem’s review in today’s New York Times really nails what’s great about Pynchon.

Around the Bay
The new CLUI publication Around the Bay: Man-Made Sites of Interest in the San Francisco Bay Region is essential if you live in the Bay Area. The book pairs aerial photographs with a short history of the industrial sites around the Bay. The companion exhibit, Above and Below, runs at the Oakland Museum runs through February 23, 2014. The big, projected fly-over video of the Bay is fantastic.

Mira Corpora
Jeff Jackson’s debut novel Mira Corpora is a dark, surreal coming-of-age story that I could not put down. Featuring a section with feral kids living in the woods on the edge of an abandoned amusement park which is down the way from a crumbling house inhabited by a teenage oracle.
Ametsuchi
I’m really surprised Rinko Kawauchi’s new book Ametsuchi isn’t getting more attention. I picked this up in a book store and was blown away. Images of controlled burns, constellations, Buddhist rituals, and a unique design with inverted versions of the images behind the pages. Here’s a video interview with Kawauchi with a look at the book. Highly recommended.

Listening


The Master Musicians of Bukkake are back with a new album called Far West which delves into prog-folk and Morricone inspired soundtrack music.

Ghost Capital
Ghost Capital is still blowin’ up the spot with a great selection of hard-to-find world, African, and electronic music.

Doing

Despite the crowds, riding a bike on the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge is a lot of fun. Here’s how to get to the path.

WRLD: Steidl Books, Wayne White, Joe’s Junkyard, Black Maps, X-Planes, Black Lung, AAL, Battles, and Electric Wizard

Auto Detailing

Auto Detailing — by Joe Reifer

Watching

How to Make a Book with SteidlGerhard Steidl is one of the most respected photo book publishers of the last 20 years. Watch him work with famous photographers on their photo books. Subtle but fascinating. [Amazon | Netflix]
Beauty is EmbarassingThe wacky world of artist Wayne White. Troy’s review got me to watch this one – “he’s bitter and says fuck a lot.” [Amazon | Netflix]

Reading

Joe's Junk YardLisa Kereszi’s grandfather was a boxer turned junkyard owner in the 1950′s in Pennsylvania. Joe’s Junk Yard mixes historic photos with Kereszi’s images, and also includes her grandfather’s scrapbook pages. These elements come together to form a deep, multi-generational narrative of a family’s struggles. You’ve never looked at a junkyard this way before. Highly recommended.

Black MapsBlack Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime is a masterpiece of modern landscape photography. Absolutely astonishing. Over 100 aerial photos that explore open pit mines, clear cut forests, and human sprawl. If Google Earth was 1000 times sharper and more interesting and somehow turned into a painting that was a cross between Diebenkorn and Rothko, that’s what you’d get. This will most likely be my photo book of the year. Get this while it’s $55.

X-Plane CrashesX-Plane Crashes: Exploring Experimental, Rocket Plane & Spycraft Incidents, Accidents & Crash Sites - if you’re an aviation nerd, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. The crash site research from black ops programs at Edwards and Area 51 paints an interesting history of modern aviation. Required reading for Mojave Desert aficionados.

BlacklungThe graphic novel Blacklung is not for the squeamish. A teacher is shanghaied aboard a pirate ship, and much violence ensues. Dark and intense, Blacklung has haunted me for days.

Listening

I’m really impressed by Weightless, the second album from Animals As Leaders. AAL is an instrumental prog rock power trio with a strong jazz sensibility, but also with some heavy, almost Meshuggah-like grooves. Tosin Abasi is a really amazing guitar player without being a noodly show off. Heard this on Pandora.

I can’t stop listening to Gloss Drop by Battles. Proggy polyrhythmic post-rock dance music that’s completely addictive. The track with Gary Numan is fantastic.

Electric Wizard’s Come My Fanatics is a huge, heavy, sludgey, tripped out doom rock masterpiece. Turn your stereo up to 11 and don’t hurt your neck while banging your head.

Doing

I’m working on a few photography projects. I’ve been spending considerably less energy on the presentation layer of photography lately. I’m enjoying shooting more, and not worrying about the constant cycle of dribbling out images on social media. When the time is right, I’ll turn on the presentation layer again. Although it seems like the less I look at a computer screen, the more I’m smiling.

The Christmas Card Filter: Please Stand Clear While Dumping

360 Night Panorama: Stand Clear While Dumping

360 Night Panorama: Stand Clear While Dumping

When I was a kid, my Mom would get Christmas cards from far away family members and people we knew who had moved away. The card or Christmas letter recorded the peak moments in a family’s year. So and so got married. So and so graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth. This was more than enough news.

I want to bring the spirit of the yearly news report back. I want social media to be like a Christmas card. The volume is currently much too high. There needs to be a Christmas card filter for Facebook.

I’m willing to make a compromise between current reality and the Christmas card filter. How about a monthly update from everyone you know that tells you the one big thing that happened. Look at this awesome cat photo. I had the best Sazerac at this bar. You’d have to pick the best thing that happened all month, and that would be the only thing you could post. Facebook — limited to 1 post per month, and everyone could see your post without filters or promotions.

I’d even make a further concession. Using my Watching Reading Listening Doing (WRLD) formula, you could make 4 posts per month on social media. The best movie you saw, the best album you heard, the best book you read, and the coolest thing you did in real life. Once your posts were done for April, you’d have to wait until May for the next ones.

Think about how much time you’d save. You wouldn’t have to hide or unsubscribe to so many of your “friends.” The world online would be a much of a better place with some editing.

But I’m an idea guy. I’m not going to start my own social network. So you’ll have to continue to please stand clear while dumping. Break your own rocks online if you want to. It’s optional.

Take a 360 virtual tour of the industrial plant at night

WRLD: Indians, Road Movies, Apocalypse, Trance, Deadpan Fables, High-Rise, Math Rock, and Winogrand

Medicine from the 30's and 40's at Ruddy's General Store in Palm Springs

Medicine from the 30′s and 40′s at Ruddy’s General Store in Palm Springs

Watching
Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians [AmazonNetflix]. Amazing photographs, and a story of dedication to a photography project like no other. Highly recommended.

Reading
Driving Visions is an academic book about road movies that’s organized by decade. Laderman does a superb job of showing the evolution of the form from the 60′s through the 90′s. The analysis of 70′s existential classics like Two Lane Blacktop is particularly good. The book concludes with a chapter that analyzes the European road film, including a nice look at Wim Wenders’ Kings of the Road.
Beta Testing the Apocalypse is what would happen if J.G. Ballard could draw comics. Kaczynski has set the bar really high with the 10 stories in this dystopian graphic novel. Highly recommended.
 Trance profiles Patty Hearst’s time with the SLA using a blend of history and fiction that often gets compared to DeLillo’s Libra. I couldn’t put this book down. And I also couldn’t get the Camper Van Beethoven song Tania out of my head. Trance has really great characters, Bay Area settings, and gave me new insights on the activities of the radical left during the 70′s.
Three to See the King is a simple fable by the author of the ultimate deadpan novel about work, The Restraint of Beasts. The subtle themes about home, relationships, and community have really stuck with me over the last few weeks. Recommended if you’re already a fan of Mills’ work. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, start with Beasts or  All Quiet on the Orient Express.
 I realized after reading Kaczynski’s Beta Testing the Apocalypse that I’d never read Ballard’s High-Rise. Wow, that was demented.

Listening
 Sleeping People’s Growing was a Pandora discovery on the Don Caballero station. If Fripp riffs haunt your dreams, you may want to give this great math rock band from San Diego a listen. Reminds me of Rumah Sakit’s great self-titled album on the same Temporary Residence label.

Doing
Venice BeachIf all of the press and crowds have scared you off, visit the Garry Winogrand exhibition at SFMOMA in April — when members get in 1 hour early on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.