Saturday, April 14, 2007


I've been thinking about photographic composite panoramas. Generally, I'm compelled to take photographs for two reasons. The first is when I'm experiencing something I wish to share, or revisit, another time. The second is when I've noticed something interesting--an item or viewpoint--within a given environment. Lately, this second situation has resulted in these composites. This means I take a number of pictures in sequence and place them together into one image. I'm thinking I do this for the following reasons. It offers me a limited opportunity to recreate the environment in which my subject appeared. I assume that one of the interesting things about my subject is its juxtaposition with its surroundings so I try to present this context. In the process, however, interesting things happen to the environment. First, the notion of photographic verisimilitude is reduced as parallax warps my context into something new. Secondly, I am able to decrease my forced control over the viewer by manipulating the exposure and focal plane of individual parts. Imagine one example: a photograph, or photo-realistic painting, where the narrow depth of field forces tangential aspects of the image out of focus. Even attractive images made like this cannot naturally preserve environmental context. People do not perceive their surroundings in this way. Looking around a room, we perceive things in equal focus. Working within this illustration: I'm trying to capture the whole rooms around subjects that spark my interest. I'm also interested in how this process opens closed spaces (by distorting them) and how paneling reinforces vertical areas within these widened spaces. Anyway, I was thinking these things because I've been making these composites today. Check 'em out here. Lastly, some admin: our dear Ellie comes to town this evening, so I won't be updating again until Sunday. [Cavin]

Friday, April 13, 2007


Yesterday's Jacques Tati double-feature included, first, Jour de fête* (1949), one of Tati's very early movies, and then Trafic* (1971), one of his latest. In the first (the title loosely translates into "the Big Day"), a one-carousel carnival comes to a provincial town in France, inspiring whimsical slapstick from the backward town postman, François. When he peeps in on a screwy movie purporting to document the high-flying daredevils of the US Postal Service, the disparity between his relaxed mailman style and the brave new future is a gap he feels he must bridge. Visually, this movie is modest by Tati's later standards: shot in black-and-white with clever use of hand-tinting, the rural setting lends an intimacy completely shed by 1967's Playtime* (a film I saw recently*). The jaunty slapstick is a warm physical comedy of human interaction, not the landscape of balletic Golbergian visual patterns to be found in Tati's later work. But here is the bourgeoning of the theme that drove Tati through his career: the interplay between traditional lifestyles and the modern mechanism seeking to quash it. Trafic, made after Playtime, extends this juxtaposition between a stultifying unnatural world and the innocents inhabiting it. His characters endure an actual plot: several designers make their way from Paris to an Amsterdam auto show with a gimcrack camper car prototype: a stubby woody with a Swiss Army Knife's-worth of spring-loaded features. The rhythms of the roadway play easily into the filmmaker's choreographed interests even as the passing nod to road-movie episodism renders it the most narrative of the Tati films I've seen. But intermixed between the stuffy old-fashioned M. Hulot, Tati's recurring character, and reports of the Apollo 12 moonshot reverently displayed on each passing TV screen, the movie finds optimism: maybe there's a better future than this. [Cavin]

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Today was another movie day: a double-bill of Jacques Tati titles in Silver Springs. When I go out to the movies in the middle of the week, Sunshine rarely accompanies me. She takes advantage of the time I'm out of the house to get uninterrupted work done on her book or to watch the sort of TV I'm uninterested in. Today, however, she had a movie of her own to see: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003),* a documentary about the April 2002 coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. She was planning to meet a friend somewhere on 18th St. near Dupont Circle for a six o'clock show. We headed to the Circle and grabbed a quick dinner together before heading our separate ways. Then my metro luck kicked-in: since I was running late, I'd decided to actually walk down the long escalator at Dupont south; so it felt karmic when I discovered the train squealing in just as I stepped onto the platform. I ducked quickly into the car before the doors could close, and even found a seat on the rush-hour train, somehow. And then I sat there. The doors stayed open, and I slowly began to tune-in the PA announcements: something happened today at Gallery Place/Chinatown, some train gone bad, and we were staged at the platform until further notice. During the five o'clock hour, that's a train every two minutes being stopped along the whole line. It took a while to sort out, but eventually we headed on north, stopping frequently. While passing through Chinatown station, I didn't see any bodies or wreckage. I suspect everything turned out okay. It did for me: I still managed to somehow get to my movie with enough free-time to order a chai at the concession stand. [Cavin]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Last week, Sunshine and I finally managed to eat at the remarkable Kaz Sushi Bistro.* We'd tried to get in a week before and been turned away for lack of reservations. After Monday's wonderful meal, we decided then and there on our big anniversary plans: to get dolled-up tonight and spend an exorbitant amount at this very restaurant. Last Monday, reeling from our excellent meal, we made reservations for tonight on the spot. We drove the half-mile to the metro because of our fancy shoes, so we arrived at the Farragut West Station, one block from the bistro, with forty minutes to kill. We can't walk past the corner of I Street and 19th without having a mojto in Karma Bar, anyway. At ten till eight, we were seated at Kaz, and for the next two hours we ate one of the best meals I've ever seen. I ordered all the same things I got last week, minus eel rolls. I also ordered: wild mushroom miso, seaweed salad with ginger dressing, huge soft-shell crabs templed over diced oshinko with ponzu, and a sixteen-piece chef's selection of sashimi including thick fatty toro and seared albacore chunks beside the usual: tuna, salmon, clam, whitefish, and yellowtail.* I also ate one of Sunshine's tuna-with-truffle rolls, a few of her toasted baby octopuses (traditionally barbecued, but charred at the tips of their tentacles rendering them both crunchy and soft), and some of her salmon carpaccio--a Japanese simplification of the thinly-sliced caper/tomato/oil-marinated Italian appetizer. For dessert, I had green tea tiramisu, and Sunshine had a special Cherry Blossom Festival concoction of fine plum and green tea ice creams with a cherry wafer. Leaving, I felt stuffed but not bloated, and we only exceeded our insane special-occasion budget by seven bucks. Happy anniversary. [Cavin]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Tomorrow is the ten-year anniversary of our first "date." I met Sunshine at the end of October, 1996, and we became friends over the following half-year. After an April's Thursday TV line-up (we were E.R. devotees at the time), I needed a ride home. Instead of being taken to my own house, however, I was whisked away to a freshman girl's dorm in Roanoke, Virginia (with a brief stopover to buy a toothbrush). Tomorrow is the anniversary of that night. Now that we're married there are more dates to celebrate, but I suspect this one will remain our "real" anniversary. What's this have to do with today? Initially, when fantasizing about what we wanted to do this April tenth, we decided to have a big party with all of the friends. This hasn't panned out, owing to the strict attendance policy at Sunshine's school. Our grand plans boiled down to dressing nice for a fancy dinner on Tuesday. I thought I'd wear the suit I got married in (this being our "real" anniversary and all). So this afternoon I got the thing out of hiding and headed down to the convenient dry-cleaning place in the exercise yard of our Oakwood compound. The lady there said I'd be unable to retrieve my pressed and starched stuff before Wednesday evening. "No," she told me, "they pick-up tomorrow, then bring back the next day." There was nothing to be done. Luckily, the suit jacket I wore* at Sunshine's swearing-in was plausibly wrinkle-free. Still, a twenty-four hour turnaround doesn't seem like asking too much for a half-hour's worth of laundry--in this of all cities. But it isn't like I didn't have nine years, eleven months, three weeks, and five days to get this done on time. I'll be ready in twenty-seventeen. [Cavin]

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Sunday

First, an admin note: last Monday, I was to meet Sunshine in the District after a language workshop. With some time on my hands, I took pictures around the National Mall. I have spent today putting some of those pictures together and posting them here. There are more to come whenever I have another day to devote to them (more from that Monday, and some from Tuesday, when I saw Act of Violence* and Ugetsu* at Maryland's Silver Theater*). I'll make another note when that happens. So now: Happy Easter! I spent the vast majority of today working on my own computer, and Sunshine did the same on hers. While I was up to my neck in photo software, I could hear her across the room: intoning in Vietnamese or translating taped interviews with people critical to the Venezuelan beauty industry. We broke only for lunch (bowls of soup while watching one episode of the top-notch Venture Bros.*), and for dinner. Since our goal was to make up for yesterday's television-on-DVD marathon, dinner was a less elaborate affair than is sometimes the case. We opted to drive a little way down Wilson Boulevard to a little string-lighted El Salvadorian slash Mexican place on a corner between here and Ballston. This place is pretty homey: large, dark, tinted windows with those twinklingly merry little year-round Christmas lights. We’ve frequently noted this restaurant while driving past it to other places, and it just seemed as if it would be perfect for a snappy repast in the few moments stolen from our getting-stuff-done day. And it was. The staff was friendly, the food (pupusas and tamales and platanos) was tasty. Unbelievably: we managed to stuff ourselves for only twenty-two bucks in Arlington. Then we came home and got back to work. [Cavin]

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Today was a day of modest accomplishment: we hung out and watched the third season of the Sopranos. As modest as that is, we accomplished hours of it. Yesterday we met another couple for dinner at Eden Center, where all the parking rows have authentic street signs with Vietnamese names. Sunshine ordered her food in Vietnamese to the waiter's delight; I ordered by number which made the waiter laugh. I ate good curry fish so rapidly that we made the eight pm Grindhouse.* I think we get seventies heaven points for seeing it the first day. New as it is, I'm not talking about it here. Suffice to say I expected the world and got more than that. I want to talk about previews. Between Grindhouse's double-feature, the movie presents ersatz previews made by several different filmmakers. One of these filmmakers is Rob Zombie, responsible for the pitch-perfect preview of an ersatz movie I'm a little sad won't ever really get made: Werewolf Women of the SS. But before Grindhouse there were real previews, just like in any other movie. One of these was also by Rob Zombie, and it's for a movie I'm altogether sad really has been made: Halloween.* I like Mr. Zombie, and I appreciate that he's revitalizing a gritty horror format otherwise out-of-style in today's theaters. But for what reasons are movies remade? Either to be exploited for new revenue by soulless Hollywood film machines, or because some new perspective feels the original didn't live up to its potential. Which answer fits here? Mr. Zombie is a bona fide fanboy throwback, churning out pure-B grind nastiness--he isn't some slick reprocessing corporation. He must feel he can do the original better. And yet Halloween* is its genre's masterpiece: a nearly perfect movie. What gives? [Cavin]