18 August, 2007

Random Reads

I am finishing my application for the CELTA in Cairo and interviewing with the Istanbul program today. Just some things of note from the last few days, including a the loss of a great sound, the power of the image, and paddling out for peace.

Doc Rocks!
Even I've heard of Doc. Some people may say his gift is frivolous. To me, it's someone who saw a need, knew they could help, and helped. Simple as that. And, there's no telling where this could lead. When I was a kayak guide, working with kids from the rougher parts of town was the best part, to see their confidence and smiles grow as they learned the strokes and managed to handle a 3 meter long kayak. Who knows what can come from teaching the children of Gaza to surf.

The drumming circle in heaven got sweeter last week. R.I.P., Max. You will be missed.

I attended the exhibit Annie Leibovitz, A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005 at the High Museum on Friday. Leibovitz is most well-known for her celebrity portraits. In fact, until Friday I only had a vague idea of her other works. I'd heard she was in Sarajevo during the war, but didn't know much about her journalistic or personal work. That's why the show was a revelation to me. In her artist's statement she states her professional and personal work should be considered one body of work because she considers her life unified; that there's not this part of her life over here and that part over there. That's my philosophy of life, too, or at least what I strive for, so I appreciated that and the way it was reflected in the staging of the exhibition. Most striking, one wall is bracketed by a large print of Johnny Depp and Kate Moss formally posed in bed and the chilling image of a yellow wall in a Rwandan Tutsi school streaked with bloody foot and hand prints, the remnants of a massacre. In between are small, intimate images of Leibovitz's partner, the late writer Susan Sontag, on a trip to Venice, and a series of four simple images of Leibovitz's parents' morning routine in their kitchen. I sat in front of the the wall and watched people's reactions. Most people were drawn to the Depp print and repulsed by the Rwanda print. One woman walked up to the Rwanda print, gasped, snapped to attention, and scampered away. The personal photos, being much smaller, required closer inspection. The arrangement struck me somehow. This is life, or at least how it is presented to us: while people are being butchered in some far off place, a woman makes coffee for her husband, people go on vacation, and the press tries to wave celebrity in front of us as an ideal. I even have to give Leibovitz credit for her celebrity work, which isn't really of interest to me. There was a photo of a shirtless Mick Jagger sitting alone on a bed, staring at something outside the frame, that managed to convey a sort of vulnerability that one doesn't normally associate with Jagger. My favorites were a photo of the slot canyon at Petra opening onto the site, a bright crack in the dark rock walls leading your eyes into the image, with Sontag standing in silhouette at the entrance for scale; the fallen bicycle of a boy killed by a mortar in Sarajevo, his blood arced across the pavement conveying the brevity and fragility of life as well as the brutality of war; a bold, high contrast image in close-up of a pregnant woman's belly with the father's hands resting on the woman's belly in the form of a heart and the woman's arms cradling his. The exhibit closes September 2, so if you're in or around Atlanta, be sure to catch it.

Sadly, the U.S. is losing one of its most important publications of record. Who will cover Batboy, the alien members of the U.S. Congress, Bigfoot and Satan now? And what of their vital reporting on religious issues? Om-Taromeet and I used to buy issues to read aloud on long road trips, an unparalleled form of entertainment. Be sure to check out This Week in History.


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