Selling Toilet Paper

May 31, 2008

Today was the opening of the “What’s the Hook” exhibit at the Kentler Gallery. The photo I submitted to the show, entitled Keeping the Toilet Paper Safe, was sold before the opening.

Keeping the toilet paper safe

Kentler Gallery
Kentler Gallery: About

What’s the Hook?

May 30, 2008

Last summer, while strolling through Brooklyn, I saw a colorful little card pinned to a wall. I read it, saw the words “photographers wanted” for a “community project,” and was, well, hooked. Soon I was involved with What’s the Hook, a all-volunteer effort to create a photographic time capsule of Red Hook, one of the most rapidly-changing neighborhoods in New York City

Now the project is ready for public viewing. The first selection of What’s the Hook photos have been hung at the Kentler Gallery (also known as the Kentler International Drawing Space), a non-profit artist-run space that exhibits drawings and other works on paper.

If you are in the neighborhood, please stop by one (or more) of the exhibits and see how over 120 people have answered the question, “What’s the Hook?”

*** F O R·I M M E D I A T E·R E L E A S E ***

What’s the Hook?
A Community Photography Project


Kentler International Drawing Space
353 Van Brunt St.
May 24 – May 25
May 29 – June 1
(Noon – 5 pm)

Open Reception – Sat. May 31st, 3-5 pm

Join us at the Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, for the first of six summer exhibitions of photos taken of the Red Hook community by the Red Hook community.

What’s the Hook? is a community-based photography project designed to document a single week in the life of Red Hook, Brooklyn, one of New York City’s most unique and rapidly changing neighborhoods. Last summer, What’s the Hook? asked people of all backgrounds to submit images captured during the week of August 12th – 19th 2007. Kids at PS #27 and their neighbors at the Senior Center were given single-use cameras. Other people used their own.

In seven ordinary days more than 120 people produced over 1000 extraordinary photos of what Red Hook means to them. Images of all kinds, from all kinds of people.

From the pupusa vendors at the ball fields to the crew of the Crown Princess at the Container Port. Old-timers and newcomers, professionals and amateurs, dog-walkers and drivers, shopkeepers, chefs, artists, vets — even the UPS guy.

What’s the Hook? was created in part to bring the community together to RECORD, REMEMBER and REDEFINE the changing face of Red Hook.


Kentler International May 24, 25
Drawing Space May 29-June 1
353 Van Brunt St. (noon – 5 pm)


Hope & Anchor June 14th – June 29th
347 Van Brunt St.

Mark Van S. Studio June 16th – June 18th
384 Van Brunt St. (projected slide show after dark)

Fairway Market Café June 16th – July 13th
480 Van Brunt St.

The Sovereign Bank June – July (TBA)
498 Columbia St.

Red Hook Public Library June – July (TBA)
7 Wolcott St.

Brooklyn Waterfront
Artist’s Coalition (BWAC) July 26th – Aug. 17th
Beard St. Warehouse
499 Van Brunt St.

What’s the Hook? is sponsored in part by the Greater New York Development Fund of the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council.


What’s the Hook card

What’s the Hook? project
Photos for What’s the Hook? exhibit series
Gowans Lounge: What’s the Hook

Memorial Day Surprise

May 26, 2008

The plan was to attend a massive Memorial Day parade in Queens, but the directions I’d received were incomplete and left me stranded in a sketchy neighborhood where there was no sign of a celebration. The store fronts on the street were closed, few people were out, and those I found knew nothing about a parade. Feeling discouraged, it seemed the best recourse would be to return to Brooklyn and head for the beach.

Back onto the train, Brooklyn-bound, I noticed a brightly painted building in the far distance. I’d spotted it before, of course, while traveling through Queens (it was impossible to miss), and had always intended to explore it, but I’d never had the time. On this day, however, time was unlimited. I got off and just followed the colorful splashes of paint until I arrived at the place known as 5 Pointz.

Located in an industrial complex that houses artists’ studios and several garment factories, the building serves as a gallery of aerosol art. With the enthusiastic approval of the building’s owner, graffiti artist Meres One is the curator and absolute ruler, deciding who may paint here, where, and how long their work will remain before it is painted over by another.

Graffiti aficionados from around the world regard 5 Pointz as a mecca, arriving with “black books” of sketches, bags of paint, ladders, and cameras to immortalize the work they hope to produce here. Everything that happens on these walls (and floors, fire escapes, and roofs) is up to Meres, who grants permission to photograph or add to the display.

It was a clear, sunny day, a national holiday, and dozens of graffiti writers were arrayed around the building, spraying the walls with intricate, colorful, sometimes beautiful designs. I circled the enormous building, wishing that I had a better camera with me (I had an unreliable old cheap-y that I’d found in a thrift store for $5.00), admiring the skill and probably annoying the painters with my questions, until I arrived at the main entrance/loading dock.

There, amidst the paint and dumpsters of discarded fabric, a group had gathered for a great American tradition: a Memorial Day barbeque. They greeted me as though I was an expected guest, presented me with food and drink, and urged me to return. And, when I get a new camera, I certainly will.

View from the street

Front of the building

Another section of the front

Painter at work

Painter working on painted sidewalk

Painter working

Tools of the trade

Portrait mural

Finished fairy mural

Completed skull mural with calligraphy

Another side of the building

Mural with calligraphy

Paint over metal doors

Painted metal shutters

Sign at loading dock

Trash bin filled with fabric scraps

Models, photographers and artists enjoy the barbeque

Painters with Meres One

The view from inside

Spraying to prepare a clean “canvas”

The fire escape

Painted lamppost

5 Pointz Official Web site
MySpace: Meres One
NY Times: Museum With (Only) Walls

Faces of DanceAfrica

May 25, 2008

Some people attend the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual DanceAfrica festival because they are enjoy the dancing. Others go for the music, films, or the food and crafts that are sold in the African marketplace that is temporarily erected for the duration of the event.

But me, I go to see the people.

They come here to greet summer, to celebrate art and culture, to form a colorful, diverse international community. They come to have a good time, and their excitement and exuberance is contagious. It is, I think, just about impossible to spend time at DanceAfrica without breaking into a grin.

smiley photo
Mother and daughter

Friends shopping in the African Village

Girl with red punch on her nose

Girl drinking red punch

Good friends

Pair in purple

Black like Jesus

Man and his best friend



Author with his first book

NYPD on duty

DanceAfrica at 30
Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
Wikipedia: DanceAfrica
Wikipedia: Brooklyn Academy of Music

Feeling a Little Squirrely

May 23, 2008

More from the archives.

This fluffy grey fellow was people-watching on a sunny day in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park.

Grey squirrel

Big Green Faces

May 22, 2008

More from the archives.

I took these photos on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a bastion of hipsterdom. The big green faces are painted on a couple of old wooden doors on Ludlow Street. I have no idea who painted them, or when, or why.



Lower East Side
Wikipedia: Ludlow Street

Bay Ridge Buddies

May 20, 2008

More previously unpublished photos from the Blather archives.

This man and parrot were hanging out on sunny 86th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, when I asked to take their photo. They had the same reaction.

Man & parrot on 86th Street
Somber man and parrot

Man & parrot laughing on 86th Street
Laughing man and parrot

Wikipedia: Bay Ridge

Looking forward, looking back

May 19, 2008

Well, it looks as though I have to buy a camera. The repair shop examined the one I broke and gave me the bad news: fixing my old camera will cost about as much as purchasing a new one.

I haven’t shopped for a camera in years, and I do have a rather small budget, so I think I’ll have to do a lot of research and investigation. Do you have any ideas about the current crop of cameras? Any and all suggestions and advice are welcome.

In the meantime, until I have another camera in my life, I’ll be posting older images that for one reason or another never appeared in this blog.

This photo was taken last summer. It shows a mural entitled “Red Hook Works,” which is painted on the side of a brick building on Van Brunt Street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

Red Hook Works

The 23rd Annual AIDS Walk New York

May 18, 2008

This morning, on the streets in and around Central Park, 45,000 people participated in 23rd Annual AIDS Walk New York. Despite the rain that drenched some of the walkers, today’s event was the largest and most successful ever, raising $7,058,497 in donations.

Due to the size of the crowd, this was also the busiest year ever for volunteers, who sometimes struggled to keep up with the size and passion of the crowd. This year I signed on to help set up a checkpoint at 83rd Street (marking the 3/4 point) and distribute snacks and drinks to the walkers.

An executive from one of the companies that donated food joined us, bringing along his son and some of his staff. Since some of the snack items they supplied have mascots, he also brought their costumes along. When the person who was supposed to portray one of the mascots didn’t show, the exec’s son cheerfully donned the much-too-big costume and became the Quaker Oats Man (never mind that all the walkers thought he was supposed to be “the Sam Adams beer dude”).

Before long, the walkers began to descend upon us and the volunteers’ activity kicked into high gear. Walkers were greeted and cheered on (you’re almost there!), truckloads of refreshments flew, lines outside the port-a-potties grew, and those assigned to the checkpoint didn’t cease working at top speed until the final bag of chips was gone and the last cup of water gulped.

Since its inception, AIDS Walk New York has raised a total of over $100 million for dozens of HIV/AIDS organizations. Despite all that money and all those footsteps, the epidemic continues to rage around the world. Every penny brings us a bit closer to finding a cure. Today was the 23rd annual walk; I hope this one will be the last.

Setting up tables with cups of water

Two mascots before the crowd arrives

Walkers grabbing snacks

Friends walking together

A family walking

From a team of walkers
A group of walkers

The last walkers. The woman in the gray hoodie is 9 months pregnant. She insisted on completing the walk.

AIDS Walk New York
AIDS Walk New York: Results
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)


May 6, 2008

Did you ever look at something displayed in a gallery or museum and wondered why on earth the experts had chosen to show that? Ever think you could do a better job of selecting works worth displaying?

Well, now you can. Yes, you, too, can judge an art show in a major museum.

Here’s the deal: the Brooklyn Museum, the second largest art museum in New York (and one of the largest in the country) is holding a new photography show that allows the public to participate in the exhibition process.

The exhibit, entitled Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, was inspired by a book, The Wisdom of Crowds, which says that a diverse crowd often makes wiser decisions than those made by the so-called experts.

For Click!, anyone who is interested can go to the museum’s Web site and, until May 23, rate how well the photographs reflect the theme: The Changing Faces of Brooklyn. The crowd’s ratings will determine which photos will be exhibited at the museum and how they will be displayed.

Um, yes, in case you are wondering, I did submit a photo and no, I cannot link to it on the museum’s site.

From the museum’s Web site:

What do you mean by “the changing faces of Brooklyn”?
Brooklyn, like most of New York City, is in a constant state of change. Population growth and environmental causes have altered the borough’s terrain, transforming commercial and residential areas and impacting the borough’s residents and activity. Considering Brooklyn’s transformation over the years, its past and its present, please submit a photograph that captures the “changing face(s) of Brooklyn.” We welcome a wide variety of visual interpretations of this topic.

Who is on the jury?
Anyone and everyone! We are asking as many people as possible to evaluate submissions. In crowd theory, it’s important that the crowd be diverse, so we encourage people from all backgrounds and geographic locations to participate.

Why can’t I send a link to a friend and tell them to vote for my work?
We don’t allow linking directly to works to avoid having the results skewed by promotional methods. Your work will be displayed without attribution [my name doesn’t appear], and all evaluation data will be withheld until the exhibition in June. Although you can’t send a direct link to your work, we want you to encourage friends, family, and colleagues to participate in the evaluation process. Please help us spread the word.

Want to give it a try? Start here: Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition and register on the museum’s Web site. The rating period ends May 23, 2008.

PS: If you do come across my photo (below) I’d appreciate a good rating. Have fun!

Legalizacion Para Todos Los Inmigrantes
Legalizacion Para Todos Los Inmigrantes

Brooklyn Museum: Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition
Brooklyn Museum: Click! exhibit blog
TechCrunch: The Brooklyn Museum Lets the Crowd Curate a Show
Museum 2.0: Brooklyn Clicks with the Crowd: What Makes a Smart Mob?

Tribeca Movies 2008

May 4, 2008

The 2008 Tribeca Film Festival ran from April 23 – May 4. Compared to last year, the event featured fewer movies, lower ticket prices and a return to theaters located exclusively in downtown Manhattan.

Once again, I neglected laundry and cleaning for two weeks while I took advantage of the opportunity to attend the festival’s screenings. Here’s what I saw in the order in which I saw them. The descriptions below are taken from the Festival’s Web site. My favorites appear in red.

  1. Thriller (short)
  2. The Making of Thriller
    Join filmmaker and “Thriller” video director John Landis for a special 25th anniversary screening of Michael Jackson’s epic 1984 music video, plus the classic Making of Thriller.
  3. Squeezebox!
    Like the weekly pansexual party it pays tribute to, SqueezeBox! immortalizes the no-holds-barred, anything-goes attitude that its denizens embodied. The legendary club where the Toilet Boys and Hedwig were born gets the ultimate rock-and-roll tribute where all are welcome.
  4. Gotta Dance
    The inspirational story of the New Jersey NETSationals, the NBA’s first senior citizen hiphop dance team. Against all odds, these energetic and dedicated seniors prove that even in their golden years, they’ve just Gotta Dance!
  5. Live Long Love
    When Oscar®-nominated Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) was invited to film the Gumball Rally, the famous high-speed race in Istanbul, he decided instead to craft a raw and intimate film that exposes the effects of an unexpected sexual encounter and the high stakes of the race on two strangers. For seven days, Figgis shot in his signature run-and-gun style—the result is a courageous new work that blurs fact and fiction and probes the unsettling consequences of infidelity, loneliness, and life in the fast lane.
  6. A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy
    Culled from direct cinema pioneer Robert Drew’s unparalleled behind the-scenes footage of JFK at work in the Oval Office, and the events that brought him there, this remarkable film proves a timely update of the Kennedy mythos and an eerily intimate portrait of the man himself.
  7. Green Porno: Bee (short)
  8. Green Porno: Praying Mantis (short)
    A short short-conceived, written, directed by, and featuring Isabella Rossellini (who co-directed with Jody Shapiro)-providing a comical but insightful glimpse at how bugs and insects “make love.”
  9. The Caller
    Frank Langella gives a tour-de-force performance as an energy executive who tries to expose his corporation’s corrupt practices in this quiet yet chilling neo-noir thriller. He hires a private investigator (Elliott Gould) to forward his efforts, but who is investigating whom? Winner of the “Made in NY” Narrative Award.
  10. Conessionsofa Ex-Doofus-Itchy Footed Mutha
    Melvin Van Peebles, still our most playfully inventive filmmaker after nearly 50 years, returns with a boisterous adventure that ranges from Harlem to the high seas, following the exploits of a man (MVP, natch) who’s always on the move–but always returns to New York.
  11. So Beautiful (short)
    Sonia, an elderly lady, treats herself to a day at the beach. Soon she is approached by a young woman who asks her to keep an eye on her bag. Time passes and Sonia wants to go home, but there’s no sign of the girl. By opening the girl’s bag to have a look before she leaves, she starts longing for her younger days. She goes away, leaving behind a surprising gift for the girl.
  12. 57,000 Kilometers Between Us
    A provocative yet charming take on digital communication, this debut follows a teen caught between her stepdad (who records the family’s supposedly perfect life online), her real father (now a transsexual), and the refuge of her online life as she searches for meaningful connections.
  13. Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot
    Rucker Park. The mecca for all street basketball players. In Beastie Boy Yauch’s super-energized documentary, eight of the country’s top 24 high school players participate in the first “Elite 24” tournament on the same court that helped turn Dr. J, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain into legends.
  14. Green Porno: House Fly (short)
  15. Green Porno: Firefly (short)
  16. Green Porno; Worm (short)
    A short short-conceived, written, directed by, and featuring Isabella Rossellini (who co-directed with Jody Shapiro)-providing a comical but insightful glimpse at how bugs and insects “make love.”
  17. Toby Dammit
    A gorgeous new restoration-supervised by its cinematographer, Giuseppe Rotunno-of Fellini’s adaptation of a Poe short story has Terence Stamp as a British celeb struggling through a haze of booze and drugs to make sense of the paparazzi and produttore who welcome him to Rome. Presented by Taormina Film Fest. Co-hosted with Italian Cultural Institute of New York.
  18. Kassim the Dream
    Kassim “The Dream” Ouma went from Ugandan child soldier to world champion boxer. In this gripping tale of survival and determination, Kassim proves that even against all odds, a man can achieve his dreams and turn tragedy into inspiration.
  19. Lioness
    U.S. policy bars female soldiers from engaging in direct ground combat, so why were the women of Lioness sent out routinely with the marines into the some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the war? Co-hosted with Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.
  20. The Dalai Lama: Peace and Prosperity
    An amazing experience for those unable to attend the ’07 live event, this film is a visual record of the Dalai Lama’s visit and presentation to a sold-out Radio City Music Hall. With photographic montages by Richard Gere and music by Tom Waits and Philip Glass.
  21. Going on 13
    Ariana, Isha, Rosie, and Esme are young girls who are followed for four years as they navigate the precarious path to womanhood and, in Valadez’ and Guevara-Flanagan’s expert hands, breathe new life into the coming-of-age story. Co-hosted with New York Women in Film & Television.
  22. Eau Boy (short)
    A young man who has suffered from excessive sweating since birth is blown away by a strange encounter. Directed by Eric Gravel.
  23. When I Become Silent (Watashi ga chinmoku suru toki) (short)
    Aspiring writer Kyoko has a problem. She wants to begin writing a novel, but her mind is not into it. Is it because Rie, her girlfriend that she has been with for more than a year, has proposed they move in together? As the moving day approaches, Kyoko’s uneasiness grows.
  24. I Think I Thought (short)
    Joe’s life threatens to come apart when he begins thinking too much: at home, at work, on the train, in the bookstore. Luckily, he discovers Thinkers Anonymous, where he learns that thinking is best left to professionals like politicians, religious leaders, and the news media. After all, they’re the ones who know what’s best for us, right? Directed by Matthew Modine.
  25. Shift (short)
    Fifty-year-old George Komann and his colleagues face the possibility of being laid off by their company without even receiving decent compensation. Knowing that no one will rehire people their age, Komann risks everything by asking his boss for 15 minutes to discuss a delicate matter, the outcome of which will be either the making or the undoing of each man.
  26. Irish Twins (short)
    Despite being born within a year of each other, Michael and Seamus Sullivan have become very different men. On the night after their father’s funeral, Seamus drags Michael to the local pub in their small hometown in Northern California and attempts to convince his brother that they must take their father’s ashes to Ireland in tribute. Of course, it isn’t long before Seamus’ true intentions surface, and Michael must confront how much he is willing to sacrifice for his Irish Twin.
  27. Tournament (Il Torneo) (short)
    In the suburbs of Rome in 2007, an outcast group of teenagers dreams of participating in a soccer tournament but does not have enough money to buy the team uniforms.
  28. Sikumi (short)
    Apuna, an Inuit hunter, is driving his dog team on the frozen Arctic Ocean in search of seals when he becomes witness to a violent murder. With no anonymity in the microscopic communities of Arctic Alaska, Apuna realizes that he knows both the victim and the murderer. The latter claims self-defense and is desperate to avoid punishment, so Apuna finds himself forced to navigate the uneasy morality between honoring the body and memory of one friend while destroying the reputation and life of another. Shot on anamorphic 35mm at temperatures of 20 degrees below zero, Sikumi is the first film ever made entirely in the Iñupiaq language.
  29. A Donkey in Lahore
    An unusual love story that follows the quixotic courtship of Brian, an ex-goth puppeteer from Australia, and Amber, the traditional Muslim girl he met and fell in love with in Pakistan. Can this unlikely couple survive the challenges they are about to face?
  30. 7 Cities (short)
    Striking painted visuals evoke the encounter between the great 13th-century Sufi poet Mevlana Rumi and the wandering dervish Shamsuddin of Tabriz, who would become his mentor.
  31. My Marlon and Brando (Gitmek)
    They fell in love on a film set-but she’s a Turk living in Istanbul, and he’s a Kurd living in Iraq, which US forces have just invaded. The lovers play themselves in this captivating film, based on their true story.
  32. Yonkers Joe
    A small-time con man’s search for the perfect scam is disrupted by unexpected family challenges. This heartwarming drama features memorable performances by Chazz Palminteri and Christine Lahti.
  33. Two Mothers (Meine Mutter)
    At age 58, award-winning filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim found out he was adopted. The search for his biological mother leads him-and the audience-on a dark and engrossing journey into a world of Nazi occupation, prison hospitals, and the SS.
  34. Sita Sings the Blues
    Using a variety of colorful animation techniques, writer-director Nina Paley wittily interweaves the story of Sita, the leading lady of the ancient Sanskrit epic Ramayana, with the story of a modern American woman struggling to keep her marriage afloat.
  35. Worlds Apart (To Verdener)
    The world of a dutiful daughter and Jehovah’s Witness unravels when she falls for a nonbeliever. She is torn between her conscience, faith, and passion-and forced to make a choice between a love and a family that are worlds apart. Based on a true story.
  36. Lake City
    When her family is threatened by violent criminals, a mother and son must reconcile the past in order to save their home. Powerful performances by Sissy Spacek and Troy Garity highlight this potent drama, also featuring Dave Matthews and Rebecca Romijn.
  37. A Story of the Red Hills
    The story of a disheartened dancer and a disabled boy–both of whose lives are transformed by the magic and power of Chhou, a traditional Bengali dance of great spectacle and color-is recounted movingly, if improbably, by a renowned Bollywood choreographer.
  38. Under Our Skin
    Arguably the most overlooked and misdiagnosed ailment currently verging on epidemic throughout the United States, Lyme disease and the shocking controversies surrounding its identification and treatment are the focus of this provocative and often terrifying documentary.
  39. Baghdad High
    Four classmates (Kurd, Christian, Shiite, and Sunni/Shiite) in Baghdad are given cameras to document their last year in high school, resulting in a rare firsthand view of what it’s like growing up where sectarian violence rages right outside the classroom window.
  40. Secrecy
    In the years following September 11, the black redaction stripe has become a familiar sight to most Americans. Secrecy probes the roots of the United States’ culture of classification-and its consequences.
  41. Zen of Bobby V
    Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine took his baseball expertise to Japan in 2004. This film follows a season in the life of an American who has become an admired icon-and a primary reason that baseball remains Japan’s most popular sport.

Director Mike Figgis

Director Adam Yauch

Director Melvin Van Peebles

Director Dori Berinstein

Director Robert Drew

Tribeca Film Festival
57,000 Kilometers Between Us
7 Cities
Baghdad High
The Caller
Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha
The Dalai Lama: Peace and Prosperity
A Donkey in Lahore
Eau Boy
Going on 13
Gotta Dance
Green Porno
Green Porno: Official site
Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot
I Think I Thought
Irish Twins
Kassim the Dream
Lake City
Love Live Long
My Marlon and Brando
A President to Remember: In the Company of John F. Kennedy
Sita Sings the Blues
So Beautiful
A Story of the Red Hills
Thriller Night
Toby Dammit
Toby Dammit’s Inspiration: Edgar Allen Poe’s Never Bet the Devil Your Head
Two Mothers (Meine Mutter)
Under Our Skin
When I Become Silent
Worlds Apart
Yonkers Joe
The Zen of Bobby V

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