Nothing Profound

March 31, 2005

You could make all sorts of assumptions about me from this image: that I watch Southpark, that I'm making a jab at consumerism, that I enjoy photographing televisions, or perhaps that I'm attempting to seem younger than I actually am by referencing the pop culture of the moment (at least, pop culture of the moment in 2005, and by then I think Southpark was already fairly passe). You'd be wrong on all counts however.

Kenny was there and I filmed him. It really is that simple. No profundities implied.


LA Decor

March 30, 2005

A banal shot of our sitting room in Southern California. To the left you see a cord leading up to another Ben Ediger creation. In the lower right hangs the back piece to the bleached plywood and astroturf settee I created in college.

This was a lovely room. It had a vaulted ceiling and a peculiar hunter green carpet that we ended up quite liking once the primer white walls had been painted with a sage tone. On its best days it looked like this:

And on its worst days it looked like this:

Let this final image serve as warning to all artists out there who think that a home studio might be a workable solution.


Graveyard of the Poorly Exposed

March 29, 2005

As March 29, 2005 also seemed to be too packed to take 60 seconds and make a Photo Phazer movie I've included a few more images from Cherry Canyon. 

The above image was shot using a roll of film that I was rightly very dubious of— a C41 process black and white. For you non-photo people out there that means that this is a roll of "black and white" film that's actually processed using the same chemistry as color film. The results are predictably flat, with dramatic differences in contrast and not much subtlety through the gray tones. As I didn't have access to a darkroom at this time I had no way to produce black and white images using standard black and white film, so in a fit of desperation I picked up some Kodak BW400CN and decided to give it a try. The resulting images turned the thickets of the canyon into jumbles of indistinct black and white lines (although it didn't do too badly at capturing the gray tones of the smog or the glint of noon light off the top of a porta-potty), and I haven't used it since.

These images were created by cross-processing slide film or, in layman's terms, shooting with slide film but then insisting that it be developed with the chemistry used for color films (the c41 process mentioned above) as opposed to the chemistry intended for developing slides (known as the E-6 process). Cross-processing slide film yields images with an odd color shift and heightened color saturation. You can really see this effect in the grass image above, where the sky is an ungodly blue and the pale dry grasses have taken on a peculiar greenish yellow cast. In the image below of an abandoned oil tank, the actual yellow should be more of a school bus tone, not the strange chartreuse cast seen here.

On the back of these two photographs I've written in pen, "pushed 2 stops w/normal exposure." Such valuable information was obtained the hard way when I shot what might have been my most perfect roll of film one autumn morning in the canyon. I took it to the photo shop that very day and had them cross-process it. What I neglected to tell them (as I assumed they already knew) was that you have to over-develop the slide film when you choose to cross-process. Otherwise, that collection of 35mm masterpieces will be little more than dingy under exposed slides. I still feel physical pain when I think about looking through the loop at those negatives and seeing what could have been. Perhaps someday my Photoshop skills will be strong enough to raise those photographs from the binder that serves as graveyard for the poorly exposed.


Cherry Canyon

March 28, 2005

I have been away. After tallying up the number of years I've been married and comparing that sum to the number of times my wife and I had taken a vacation together I determined that we were long overdue— so we left for Seattle and spent the week not thinking about work, blogs, computers, or creative commitments.

* * * * *

When living in California I would often feel the need to escape into some natural setting. The closest bit of nature that you didn't have to pay to enter was a spot called Cherry Canyon. It was a scrubby little canyon amidst the La Canada hills that housed not only a few majestic oaks, but the hulking steel towers that supplied Glendale with its electrical power. When standing near the welded legs you could hear the buzz of power crackling through the thick cables overhead. It seemed a peculiar edition to the dry grasses and crab apple trees. 

Tension, Polaroid photograph, 2004

I often went to Cherry Canyon to take photographs and, in theory, my familiarity with the place should have led to ever more confident and subtle images of that locale. But this never quite happened. Instead I developed a mish mash of stills on a variety of films; all of which look like the work of an ungrounded personality flailing about for some sense of peace.

Sunburst, Polaroid photograph, 2005






March 22, 2005

Diagonals occur frequently in photographs that are shot without much concern for composition. Often, it is just those diagonals that grant the image a touch of life— a sense of movement that keeps the eye moving along and around the picture. 

When you think about handwriting, the majority of people don't write in mechanically parallel lines. Script slants up or down, forward or backwards, depending on all sorts of variables ranging from pencil grip to paper placement. Nature doesn't work nearly as much in parallels and perpendiculars as it does in diagonals. The diagonal line is active. It grows and falls at different degrees. It speaks to speed and development, as well as time. And, ironically, as Buckminster Fuller would point out, it is far more structurally sound than the 90 degree connections humans have concocted to erect their world.


The Post

March 21, 2005

I can still recall the crispness of the flags cracking in the Santa Ana winds as I crossed the street to the post office. Inside I would take a number and watch the people mailing tubes, parcels, and bills to all the remote and mundane places that make up everywhere else. When my number was called I wouldn't mail anything at all. I wanted to know about field trips and tours of the facility. I wanted to know that I'd get support in sharing the local things— the infrastructure of the present place. That is what civics education should be about; the awakening of awe towards the complexity of that which we take for granted. That, and a sense of responsibility for it all.


By Way of Excuse

March 20, 2005

What happened in March of 2005? Why did I lose two days of my daily practice only to pick it up again for another month? While I can't provide any solid answers to these questions, I can give you a supposition based upon recent experience: I was probably busy producing a play.

For four weeks I've been a slave to Shakespeare. He's invaded polite conversations and swallowed my afternoons. I've been absent from home and reason. Periodically I've even caught myself using terms like "methinks" and "rash wanton." But all that is over. I've played the mighty duke and now I'm to take on another enterprise: sleeping.


Inside the Mausoleum of Horticulture

March 19, 2005

In Southern California, one of the finest places to be is in a walk-in floral shop refrigerator. This mausoleum of horticulture is an environment in every way opposite from the one beyond its walls. The air is crisp. The air is fragrant. And, most importantly, the pulpy greens of plant life overshadow those materials that constitute life in the LA basin: concrete, glass, and metal.


Silhouettes and Light Pollution

March 17, 2005

Silhouettes have always captivated me. There's something about the complexity of form being reduced to a flat shape that I find visually compelling. I'm sure my Pavlovian response to high contrast is another factor in my strong admiration of the backlit form. Over the past few years I've created a number of drawn silhouette works; a few of them deriving from photographic sources that weren't silhouettes in the first place. In each instance I believed that an image of a silhouette would require less work than other imagery, and in each instance I was wrong.

I think the finest silhouette work I've created to date is a night time version of Blossom, in which the sky behind the cherry tree has been stained with a red wine color to mimic the light polluted night of a dense urban area. As a city kid, I always considered the night to be a purplish expanse that occasionally sported a few pin pricks of light at the uppermost part of the dome overhead. Only during those instances where I would go camping, or drive myself out to the Pacific and look out over the water, did I get a sense of how dark night can actually be. 

I never succeeded in photographing this dark version of Blossom— the low contrast between the sky and silhouette made it unbelievably hard to achieve sharp focus, and the silver sheen of the graphite couldn't be eliminated entirely in order to obtain an accurate representation of the drawing. The best I ever got was this small detail:


Phazer: The Missing Years

March 16, 2005

The Photo Phazer may not be the highest fidelity camera, but it periodically produces images that possess a mysterious quality absent from the real world subjects. This shot of flowers under the garrish florescent light in our California bathroom is a respectable example. Here are a few others from the pre-2005 archive:

Magnolia Rain, La Canada-Flintridge, CA

Cedar Hills Car Port, Portland, OR

Library Sunday, Portland, OR 

The Bottom, Portland Zoo, Portland, OR



March 15, 2005

Who knows what would become of Southern California without the Colorado River? Perhaps it would have to devise an actual infrastructure of self-sufficiency to ensure its own survival. My first suggestion might be to catch the raging torrents of rain water that flow down the concrete streets during the periodic Spring rain. Every drop that is pictured here was destined for only one fate that March day: an underground journey to the neighboring Pacific Ocean. 


Progress in the Studio

March 14, 2005

My life isn't all children's theater, small film production, and blogging. Take a gander at the most recent fodder for my studio practice:

Riparian Grass

Boise River


Friday the 13th

March 13, 2005

There's always something sinister about shooting an interior scene from outside the house— even if the subject is your wife doing the dishes. Being outside looking in is simply invasive. A wall, a window, a door; all of these create barriers to consent, and such physical barriers establish a distinctly uncomfortable emotional space. 


Artificial Light

March 12, 2005

Variations on a theme.



March 11, 2005

I'm bad with names and faces, so I can't tell you much about this young lady. I remember that she came from France to observe our school as a partial requirement for her teaching certification program. She was only with us for a day. During that day I managed to explain that I was shooting a daily movie as part of a personal art project that was meant to document my new life as husband, teacher, and prodigal Californian. If I said all that in French then God only knows what I actually said. After a long pause, she agreed to stand in the alley outside the 1st grade classroom and speak French for the camera. 

Taken out of context I suppose it could have all the makings of a French film: chance encounter leads to an awkward moment meant to affirm life— miscommunication and expressions of faulty memory ensue.


Not So, Baker

March 10, 2005

Some of you may be wondering at the disproportionate amount of images related to food that I've been posting. Those who don't know me personally might surmise that I'm an avid chef, or that I attempt to live up to my last name— but alas, neither are true. While it is certainly not beyond me to follow a recipe or put together a meal, I tend to do so at the same protracted pace that I create artwork. It has taken me two hours to make a salad with smoked salmon on top (and I didn't use that time to smoke the salmon). 

When I plan on making dinner I set aside the entire day.

No, the truth is I married into a family of cooks. They love to cook; to try new recipes, to share culinary tidbits, and to consult the food "dictionary" for all the history anyone could ever hope to know about chicory root. I am simply the appreciative diner. I'll eat and enjoy most anything so long as if follows one simple rule: it is correctly cooked (i.e. free of food borne pathogens).* 

My fear of food poisoning is a long and pathetically amusing tale for some other time. 

For now it is enough to know that when I post a picture of food it is as an observer of a craft I cherish, but don't excel in. My passions are placed in the eating and the complimenting of food well made. And, periodically, I do the dishes as well. People who fear bacterial contamination tend to make excellent dishwashers.

*Or, with a few rare exceptions, correctly not cooked; as in the case of sushi or seared Ahi.   



March 9, 2005

The lights are going out over at CNET music; my source for free legal music downloads for well over two years now. In the past I've tried to offer some thoughts about the tracks I suggested you download, but today I operate under a heightened sense of urgency, and present you just a linked list. For when CNET goes dark on Wednesday, March 11th they will send all of their site traffic to last.fm. From what little investigation I've been able to do, last.fm has little desire to provide free downloads— they are interested in running a social networking site centered around music. Yet another social networking site, just what the world needs. 

So get cracking people. You should know that any other tracks available by the musicians below are worth having as well; so don't just stop with my favorite, download them all.

The Best of CNET (R.I.P.)*
*You may discover at some point that CNET often suffers from glitches when certain pages load. Patience and persistence are the keys with this particular problem— hit the back button and try reloading the page a few times. Occasionally, it helps to load the page by clicking on the image or the "See all free tracks" button rather than by clicking on the musician/group name.


Passive-Aggressive Landscaping

March 8, 2005

We walked to the crest of La Canada-Flintridge and looked down towards downtown Los Angeles. A few skyscrapers scratched a skyline out of the smog while the sun set out over the Pacific. This cul-de-sac used to offer a better view, but someone had built a house off to the left and planted this large palm to block the view for any pedestrians or parked cars. This "house" leaned out into open air, the hillside falling steeply away below it as scrub brush and grit raced towards the valley greenery of the Chevy Chase Country Club. I watched the palm swim about in a gentle ocean breeze and thought about how we'd come to a place where people could both own, and deny, a view of chemical haze.


The Edges of Life

March 7, 2005

My favorite pictures of people do not involve faces. I prefer to see the figure in passing; swallowed by the promise of a continued reality beyond the edge of the composition. Someday I will devote myself to a series of such portraits— where shoulders, arms, necks, and feet orient your mind away from personality and towards an implied experience.


Milk and Blood

March 6, 2005

Beauty underwrites almost everything in the world. It is not always perceivable in the simple or repetitive things. In dark moments it can be lost entirely from view; but that doesn't mean it has ceased to exist. The subjective nature of beauty lends it the multiplicity required to be present in everything, and perhaps it is that individual quality of each "beholder" that should really be remarked upon.

* * * * *

You can pour milk into a glass thousands of time and, every single time, a violently beautiful unique landscape is revealed in the splashes of viscous white. The other day, I passed the carcass of a freshly killed coyote. It had been sliced in half by some car which had also moved on down the road. In my headlights it glowed a brilliant flash of red before being swallowed up by the inkiness just beyond my tail lights. Tomorrow we will all awake to another dawn; some will be gray and some the most vivid hues of atmospheric interference. For every person, just that act of waking is a profound invitation to a grand design made grander by the part they will play in it.


The Force

March 5, 2005

Build your own lightsaber resources:

You'll have to sign up to be a member (free) but it's worth it if you want to really have the most authentic Jedi weapon reproduction dangling from your tunic belt.

No joke, right below some lightsaber clip art a line of text reads, "I've chopped this page into two pieces to improve the load times." At the bottom of the page you can, "Hyperspace Jump to Part 2." Awesome. Also contains a link to some thoughts about the veracity of The Force. As a person who has actually lost sleep contemplating the strength of my midichlorian count, I found this page especially enlightening.

Finally, you're no full fledged Jedi until you have your rotoscoping powers fully developed. Learn from Master Kin-Char Bamin:

Believe me, there's nothing cooler than being a Jedi.


The Power of Absence

March 4, 2005

The abandoned object is an easy out for the visual artist— it's wistful, and sad, and deep. You're pretty much assured that the viewer is going to wonder about the story that led up to the abandoned moment displayed. Such knowledge is power in the hands of combat photographers, needy non-profit organizations, and conceptual artists who feel alienated from the present.


On Target

March 3, 2005

Whenever I think of Target I think of a few things:*

1. Gemco— In my early childhood Gemco was the store in my neighborhood that went out of business and became a Target. I don't remember there being much difference between them at the time as they both carried Robotix.

2. Some wickedly good advertisement campaigns. 

That half-and-half campaign where an object from the store is divided in half with something fun and natural making up the other half. Brilliant. I still think about it. 

Buying all the ads in an issue of The New Yorker so as to feature ad based illustrations honoring the vibrance of the city. Also brilliant.

3. Those big red cement balls near the entrance of every store?

4. Cheap toilet paper.

*Presented in order of importance.



March 2, 2005

A record of my domestic inability. The spirit is willing, but the schedule each week. . .


You Mean We're Made of Meat?

March 1, 2005

When I was a young child I made a horrifying discovery. The vehicle for that discovery? Television, of course. Where else do children get to viscerally experience the ugliest parts of humanity with the full endorsement of their culture and parents?

Now, to be fair, my parents were quite strict with our television viewing. The programs my sister and I enjoyed were closely monitored (with the exception of Saturday morning cartoons, which apparently were given a pass because they allowed my exhausted mother and father a chance to sleep in). We were not allowed to view anything that preached jingoistic pride in the military complex (G.I. Joe), nor were we to spend any time with debased pop-culture sensations (MTV). When I take stock of the television landscape now it is hard not to chuckle at how vigorously my parents worked to protect us from trifling animated depictions of Reagan-ear foreign policy fears and Prince videos. What would they do with Dexter or The Girls Next Door?

On one occasion my mother decided to let me watch a cheesy 80's film called Romancing the Stone when it aired on television. As my parents didn't seem to have the time or funds to get away to the movies much (VCR players were still astronomically expensive) they often relied on the television to bring the megaplex of two years ago home to them. This is how I'd seen much of 2001 before a small plane crashed three blocks away and took out all of the power lines to our neighborhood. I spent many years after that wondering if the evil computer that shared my birth date had felt badly about turning against the humans. It would take a late night double feature in Berkeley ten years later to answer that question.

In Romancing the Stone, the baddie ends up falling in a pool with some alligators or crocodiles. They immediately proceed to munch on him. In a fit of agony he holds up a bloody stump of an arm, and it was at that point that little Jeffrey just lost it. Hot tears of terror raced over my cheeks as I turned to my mother and screamed out the dreadful epiphany granted me by the TV:

"You mean we're made of meat?"