pond in "the forest" pt. 2

Several weeks later, it appears as if winter has indeed loosened its grip.

Tech note: this photo comes from a 25 year old Nikon 24mm lens on a Canon 7D body. The Nikon glass, with an adaptor, is a lot less expensive than current models of Canon lenses. But this was purchased primarily for use as a video device, an example being the previous entry.


Man From Harlem

This guy can play!


Gary Lettan plays and sings. You can find him at:


nothing's changed


Being rather out of the loop musically, it's only last night that I first heard this song by James McMurtry. It dates from 2004, some years before the current problems of the world were quite so obvious. Of course it's a simplistic analysis of what was going on at the time. It's only a song. But the raw pain, and complexity of the situation presented is something that few writers of music seem willing to go anywhere near.

An English version, of sorts, is here. Thanks to Dave Leeke for the reference.



Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore

Music and lyrics © 2004 by James McMurtry


stage 4


More to  come, 180º from this spot.



pond grassA beautiful gray day - a fabulous walk in the woods


still in winter's grip

pond in "the forest"


apropos nothing whatsoever

winter market


russ warren video

I want to thank Russ Warren and Lyn Warren again for helping to make this happen.


desolation relieved

Gray Winter Morning

Feels like I might recover after all.

Last night I subjected myself to a reading of The Road,  Cormac McCarthy's most recent (2006) book. It feels like he resorts to frequent usage of invented language. Or maybe my vocabulary's not very good. But his imagery is clearly striking, and obvious why his books have been adapted by Hollywood in recent years. As always, they get the imagery, but jettison the language. And it is the language that sets him apart from other story tellers of the land. Its sparseness, especially revealed during the few encounters that take place during The Man and The Boy's journey from inland to the coast, is remarkable for its precision and truthfulness. He has a penchant for descriptions of the most evil acts imaginable, so a story set in a post apocalyptic world seems a natural fit.

What is our fascination with end-of-the-world stories? It certainly has a long history, from the Book of Revelation (69-90 C.E. - itself probably based on Hebraic revelations from 165 B.C.E. and earlier) to The Book of Eli (2010 C.E.), and beyond. The cinema in particular is enamored with the genre.

In a world where the ordinary has been destroyed, and only a few strong survivors prevail, the central story gains power from the focus. External concerns are jettisoned. How to live in a complicated world of daily compromise amongst those we know and love becomes irrelevant. Existence is reduced to the level of survival. All that counts is how clever you are about using the tools and few resources that can be scavenged. Life and Death amongst the few.


The focus achieved, at the core of The Road is a simple message of Good vs Evil. The Good Guys don't eat people, the Bay Guys do. Maybe they each "carry the fire" for their continued existence, but at least in this world of destruction, the end of humanity in its most noble dimensions is not definitive. They may not prevail, but at least the Good Guys will continue to exist. Through resourcefulness and complete self sacrifice to ones progeny the continuation of the morality of the species will be assured.


In the bleakest of wasted landscapes imaginable, a glimmer of hope prevails - an affecting tale of parental love.

insurance regs to the rescue



Once again, I've been busted for entering and carrying a camera around "private" property. The question that I am asked most frequently: "Who are you with?" I find it increasingly difficult to not look around me, throw up my hands, and give my questioner a look of incomprehension, wondering if their senses are fully functional. Instead, I answer in the manner I know is expected. My response might not be what they expect, since I am always alone. This curious assumption, that an individual with a camera could not possibly be simply an individual with a camera, leaves me wondering. What are the expectations for picture taking? Does it (the picture taking) always have some ulterior profit seeking motivation involved?

The next question tends to be, "What are you doing?" An explanation of the aesthetics of New Topographics and its relationship to the ManMadeWilderness in twenty-five words or less is not what they are looking for. Nor would they expect me to ask what they are doing to the land we are standing on. Even the slightest objection to their authority is not usually necessary to hear the rationale for exclusion, the inevitable "If/when you fall down and break your head open, you're going to sue for damages."

It is interesting that the camera - the cause for the exploration of the private property - is not a contested item.  It is mere bodily presence that constitutes offence. Land owners don't object to photographs of whatever they are doing to the land. They are concerned that trespassers will injure themselves and come after them (the owners) for damages. We have become a nation of litigious land owners looking out for our individual rights to exploit that land however we desire. The guy who got there first(?) or has the biggest pile of cash gets to control access. We've reached the point that there are no common areas, other than park lands owned by the State, and small tracts along roadways and around water features that are owned jointly by neighborhood associations, all courtesy of our common law heritage of land tenureship.



another decade

click 'er for biggerAt last there is some thaw from the past few weeks of freezing temps. Enough that the ice on the Loftlands pond has mostly disappeared. A gorgeous gray day reveals the intensity of the colors of the landscape.

This may be the first image out of the 7d that I'd like to see printed on paper, but instead I'm using it as a sketchpad for what else it might be: yesterday I took the Linhof out and used film to record the same location. Although another day of warmer temperatures has melted the ice almost completely. And of course the light was quite different, so it's hardly the same photograph. This is good enough for now.


3 sibs 2010


Only a year ago, this is what we looked like. Remarkable progress, I'll have to say.

I asked for readers to share their family photos last year. Unfortunately no one took me up on it. How about this year? Anyone?


pierrot le fou

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, 1965.

w/ Jean-Pierre Belmondo & Anna Karina

A fractured mixture swatted back and forth - much like the tennis ball in the opening shots of the film - between art and pop, comprehension and abstraction, and subtlety and cliche, Pierrot is Godard's tenth feature. Apparently it was largely improvised during the two months of shooting, with the dramatically confusing later sections on the Mediterranean filmed first. With this in mind, it becomes understandable how the early sections of the film become a necessary clarification for where the characters and the film must head in order to end up with what they had already filmed.

The film begins with the narrator, presumably Ferdinand as played by Belmondo, reading from a book about Diego Velazquez to his daughter while sitting in a bathtub smoking.

Past the age of 50, Velasquez stopped painting definite things. He hovered around objects with the air, with twilight, catching in his shadows and airy backgrounds, the palpitations of color which formed the invisible core of his silent symphony. Henceforth he captured only those mysterious interpenetrations of shape and tone that form a constant, secret progression, neither betrayed nor interrupted by any jolt or jar. Space reigns supreme. It is as if an aerial wave, sliding over the surfaces, soaked up their visible emanations, defined and modeled them, then spread them about like a perfume, an echo of themselves, a scattering of impalpable dust.
The world he lived in was one of sadness, a degenerate king, sickly infants, idiots, dwarfs, cripples, a handful of clownish freaks dressed up as princes, whose function it was to laugh at themselves and to amuse a cast that lived outside the law, in the meshes of etiquette, plots and lies, bound by the confessional and remorse, with the Inquisition and silence at the door.
A spirit of nostalgia pervades his work, yet he avoids what is ugly, sad, or cruelly morbid about those oppressed children. Velasquez is the painter of evening, of open spaces and of silence, even when he painted in broad daylight or in a closed room, even with the din of battle or of the hunt in his ears. As they seldom went out during the day, when everything was drowned in torrid sunshine, the Spanish painters communed with the evening.

While Ferdinand appears to be reading from a published book, the text more probably belongs to Godard, with his claims that the 17th century painter abandoned his typical court scene paintings in later life and “...captured only those mysterious interpenetrations of shape and tone that form a constant, secret progression...” What is most probable is that Godard had edited his film, found it wanting, and decided that his final attempt to solidify the pieces would be to add this description to and about a film that he wished to make but had eluded him.

It's difficult to watch this post modernist “classic” with the eyes and sensibilities of a “modernist,” trained as we are to expect the elements of the MAVM to distract our attention from the artifice of the presentation in front of us. Godard as well as anyone within commercial cinema knew the conventions that were expected of someone in his position, wielding as much money as he certainly did for this feature. Which creates a tension that propels us forward, into what the characters say is either an adventure or a romance. What else does Hollywood know in its continual insistence that “the story” is the only use to which film should be put? Godard progresses onward using a variety of the conventions of commercial cinema, but regularly drops the mask of artifice in order to remind us that we are watching a movie. At the end, after a literally explosive conclusion that is a mixture of comedy and cliché as well, a pair of whispered voices are heard over a pan to the right over the vastness of the ocean.

She: It's ours again.

He: What?

She: Eternity.

He: No that's just the sea. And the sun.


It's neither an adventure nor a romance, there's nothing omniscient or religious in the experience. But in it's way it is. It's only a movie. But it's a Jean-Luc Godard movie.


how much more expert do ya want?

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Ever the wise-ass, and having a hard time taking seriously any serious taking voice of authority, my recent chance encounter with a member of the local fourth estate was one of the more enjoyable random moments that's taken place recently. Probably suspecting that I was a barely compliant participant, my interviewer kept the session short. Probably best, in the long run. After all, they're looking for entertaining sound bites, not memorable wisdom. I was rather incredulous that I was being requested to voice my thoughts about the topic of snow shovels. I mean, really. This passes for journalism? Where can I get one of these jobs?

It goes to show that there is next to no chance of being "discovered" in a big box store. This is the reason I patronize my local hardware store, in this case being Martin Hardware, in Charlottesville. You never know quite what sort of an encounter will take place there. But you can be pretty certain that you'll get the item that you need.


f-o-r-d pt. 212

What does happen to road kill? No doubt some have wondered what became of Mephitis mephitis. It doesn't go to waste, that's for certain.


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The day after taking this photo, when I passed by again, there was nothing left. The system was doing it's part to clean up the remains. The only evidence of the demise of this animal is an odor that lingers in the area, not from any body parts, but from residual oil deposited on the pavement at the time of death.


signs of the times

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Our local plaza, within walking distance of the house, used to be a lively assortment of small businesses. When we moved to Earlysville 11 years ago there was a moderately sized food market, a pizza restaurant, a lawyer's office, all generating a fair amount of traffic. Through the go-go Shrubbery years the market changed hands and was given some updates, a furniture business sprouted across the street run by an energetic young couple, and traffic was substantial enough for the landlord to banish yard sales from the adjacent parking lot to accommodate parking for the corner businesses. Fast forward to 2010: there isn't a single business presence in any of the space.

Of course no one is blameless. There was a fair amount of intrigue surrounding the coming and goings of the furniture store proprietors, as in divorce, rumors of embezzlement, etc. Nor should one ignore the outside influences brought to bear: a large supermarket chain opened a massive new store only about five minutes away. Were people willing to forgo the better choice and pricing in order to support the smaller more local market? It didn't seem so, myself included.

Curiously enough, the much smaller country stores scattered around the area appear to still be doing fine, specializing as they do in pickled eggs, chaw, beer, and the white necessities (toilet paper, white bread, eggs, milk) always required prior to a snow storm. As seems to be the case in so much of commercial enterprise these days, there is little or no middle ground. We have Mega Marts in every town, or one location bodegas.


Trial of John Mosby - the Movie

The Trial of John Mosby from Man Made Wilderness on Vimeo.

At ten minutes, our piece of the Albemarle/Charlottesville Historical Society's annual Spirit Walk fundraiser is the longest by far. This is a compilation of several of our performances from the final day. Please excuse the substandard sound. There is still the possibility of looping all the lines. I might talk to the cast about doing that.



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Really, I'm not searching for this stuff. I go out walking in the morning, and this is what I find. Along with some beautiful scenery. But who cares about that, right? We want sensationalism. We want fires, and murder, and car crashes.  But in presenting it here, on a landscape site, am I not falling prey to the same cheap motives that the rest of the media employs? I've wondered before how far one can go with representational photography before you have entered the zone of exploitation. These images are pretty tame: they simply report the incident. As victims of road killings, there was likely little suffering involved. If I was to trap animals, run over them or butcher them, and then photograph the results, it would be a different matter. But can anyone really determine that I wasn't in fact the cause of these animals' deaths?

BTW - nothing has been moved in order for clarity. The final photo, of Mephitis mephitis, shows an animal that was killed on the road and moved into the brush by someone else.




Conceived and directed by Godfrey Reggio, I remember seeing this remarkable film at the New York Film Festival in 1983. Two more films, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi, complete the trilogy. These are words from the Hopi language, with Koyaanisqatsi being translated by Reggio as meaning "life out of balance." In his commentary - as a separate piece on the dvd - the director explains that his unique combination of image and music is a way to examine the modern world, the world of technology. He feels we are no longer living in a natural state, but are now living "above" the earth, isolated from our historical connection by the layer of technology that encompasses the globe.


The film's role is to provoke, to raise questions that only the audience can answer. This is the highest value of any work of art, not predetermined meaning, but meaning gleaned from the
experience of the encounter. The encounter is my interest, not the meaning. If meaning is the point, then propaganda and advertising is the form. So in the sense of art, the meaning of KOYAANISQATSI is whatever you wish to make of it.


On the surface level of mechanics, the film consists largely of time lapse images created by the cinematographer Ron Fricke. By now we have seen these images repeatedly - the accelerated traffic flows in New York and Los Angeles; production lines in a Twinkie factory, a hot dog factory, an automobile factory - but there are others of the earth and individuals in the mass of humanity that are perhaps more striking for their inclusion in a vision of machine technology.

This powerful combination of images and music, the latter by Philip Glass, is like few others: there is no linear story, there is no narration, there is no actual subject. It is an experience waiting for a viewer.



Carving from Man Made Wilderness on Vimeo.

 A time lapse from last night's pumpkin carving. Concept mostly by Claire, then we edited together this afternoon. Pushing up against the limitations of my knowledge of Final Cut Pro's abilities to do text credits without descending into Motion, we opted for none.