Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stretch Out and Wait

She reached over and gave me a kiss, told me she loved me, and let me fall back into a dizzy stream of dreams. Again I awoke. Was it moments later or hours? She held me close and told me it was her grandfather’s birthday. I tried to quickly assemble everything I could remember of her deceased grandfather but nothing surfaced in time for her to continue: “I’m going to watch TV. I can’t sleep.”


When I awoke, I found the sun had already started its ritual. She was curled up next to me again, dreaming heavily. I reached for my phone to see what time it was, as is my habit, though these days it doesn’t much matter. Neither of us have jobs to go to and each day is very much like the last. My shuffle roused her from her slumber and she peered at me curiously through half-closed eyes.

“How long were you awake last night?” I asked.

“From 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.”

“You must be very tired.” I said.


“Honey?” I added. “I love you.”

This is part of the ritual. We’ve greeted the day this way for 20 odd months and it still hasn’t lost anything. She repeated the same and we made our way out of bed.

Our morning hours are usually spent at our respective computers, reading our preferred media and occasionally sharing something interesting, insightful, funny or disturbing. If there is coffee to be had, I am the one to make it. If there is toast, she takes the helm. We have simple patterns that we depend on, simple gestures that communicate something larger, something unspoken. It’s the source of our playful portmanteaux – the namesake we take in which we combine our first names to create our singular identity (“Melieter’s Ultimate BBQ” and the like). And it’s not just cute and silly, though that’s certainly a part of it.

I said that neither of us have jobs to go to, but that isn’t to say we don’t work. Melissa works from home, assisting her clients sail the high seas of investor relations. And while I’m awaiting a permanent position, one no doubt requiring a buttoned shirt and tie, I pass the days writing freelance for advertising agencies. Financially, things could be much better, have been in the past, will be in the future, but while we are where we are, we have the luxury of letting time slow down, of taking moments to thank each other for coffee and toast, of sitting across the room from each other while we quietly earn a living. It won’t always be like this. Things will get better, things will get worse, but it won’t be like this.

The phone rang. It was for Melissa and it revealed that money might be coming soon. An email arrived. It was for me and it said that money won’t be coming soon. But there will be more emails and more phone calls.

I decided to head down to the gym. While sweating away on the elliptical trainer, a heavyset shirtless man of Mediterranean descent ambled in, turned on the lights despite the abundant natural daylight, and heaved a heavy sigh. He appeared to be in his late forties, almost completely bald, lost in vacant thought and panting. A younger man walked in, I presume his son, sharing the same build and unfortunate hairline. The son immediately took to the bench press. His father then pulled out a small pink digital camera and started taking photos. While framing his shots, his expression remained motionless, still lost, still panting. After three or four flashes from the camera, the son took to the stationary bicycle and began pedaling furiously. Again papa bald man took a few snaps, this time smiling vaguely, perversely.

Finally the son decided to pose on the treadmill, despite the fact that it had been broken for several weeks with a massive belt tear. While the son was idiotically hopping up and down on the disused equipment, the father took a few more action shots and they then repeated the whole process again, this time with the son assuming the role of photographer.

There was no way for me to escape their lens in all of this, but I couldn’t participate, I couldn’t acknowledge their presence. This was not easy or comfortable. They had somehow transformed the gym in a way that made the air strange, and all I could do was stare at the wall in front of me, exerting all my energy while remaining effectively motionless, pretending as though this was the most natural thing in the world.

Having completed my workout, I returned upstairs to find Melissa beaming. She has the remarkable ability to smile in such a way that leaves me frozen in my tracks, and I doubt I will ever tire of it. The room had turned gray in anticipation of the approaching storm. I showered and changed, and by the time I finished, the clouds had broken and it was time for dinner.

Our daily budget does not allow for an extravagant menu, but in Thailand you can always find something remarkable just around the corner. So we set out with an umbrella and did our nightly forage. Melissa found a grilled fish and Thai papaya salad. I returned with fried thin noodles mixed with chicken and greens. We plated our food and sat by the TV to watch a movie about a mute quadriplegic that manages to find hope. The previous night we saw a documentary about a blind artist that loses his vision in a vicious attack and manages to find insight. Melissa stretched her legs and rested them on my lap. The movie played on, but we didn’t pay much attention. We simply let things slow down, trying to make time stop as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Flickr Thinks You're Interesting

So far this image has had a grand total of 0 views but yet somehow ranks as my most popular photo as determined by flickr's patented interestingness ranking system. Hardly seems fair to the pictures in my photostream that actually get viewed. That said, vignettes are interesting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Cool Kids

It's no secret that I'm out of touch. Aside from that one good friend of mine in Chicago that occasionally feeds me the feel good songs of summer, I have to rely on my own hard work and research to get some semblance of a hip stylish groove on. Of course the one-stop shop for aging hipsters such as myself seems to be the always dependable and hopelessly stylized pages of Pitchfork, though prodding through their album reviews is no easy chore. I'd go into more detail, but I haven't the time or talent. Take a look though; you'll see what I mean.

The nice thing is that they have this handy 1-10 rating system (and for reasons I can't yet digest, they recently reviewed the entire Beatles canon – some solid 10s in there, which should come as no surprise to anyone) but even better are the 15 second audio clips. The writing is generally more clever than insightful, but I don't want to hate. There might be a good reason I never took notice of the Dirty Projectors and found The Knife utterly forgettable. There's not accounting for taste, and that definitely includes me.

In any event, it is thanks to Pitchfork that I'm now pleasantly ensconced in the warm, dulcet, and highly sexualized tones of The XX, and this is me sharing the love. Give 'er a listen.

I'd also like to send a shout-out to young Russell for pointing me in the direction of the Handsome Furs, playing live in Bangkok tomorrow. I am looking forward to establishing my indie cred one melancholic jangle at a time.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I can definitely see why this might upset a lot of people. Sure, it flies straight in the face of the 10 Golden Rules, but then I don't have a lomo that fits in my pocket so what can I do? The below shots were taken with my Samsung phone, so at the very least it adhered to the Don't Think philosophy. The rest was Photoshop.

Phrakanong Vespa

Friday, September 04, 2009

Early Adventures in Chronophotography

Ekamai Sub Soi
Reading Roth in Siam Square
View from my balcony

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I had a present waiting for her on the coffee table. We'd only known each other for about three weeks leading up to that fateful and exciting day that she consented to move in with me, which by anyone's standards would have seemed impetuous at best, but it felt right, somehow, and so we decided to just plunge right in.

Two of the three weeks leading up to our cohabitation, we weren’t even in the same country. Having left for Manila to see her family during the Christmas holidays, we went directly from second date to long-distance relationship. We spent long nights pining for each other’s company via the conduits of googletalk and skype. It was thoroughly modern and unsatisfying, but it was all we had.

During this skype-based courtship, I devoted a great deal of time to stalking her online. With a little tenacity and luck, I stumbled across her twitter account, myspace page, and few blogs in which she revealed her likes and dislikes, and in particular her uncommon affinity for cameras. Moreover, she revealed that she was by all senses of the word a complete and utter camera nerd. I was overjoyed.

But it was more than just a love of optics that struck her fancy; she was enamored by imperfections caused by old cameras (faithfully reproduced) and administered with a “shoot, don’t think” ethos. This strange new old-world photography even had a special name: Lomography.

 Here we see me holding one of the more popular lomos on the market, the Diana+. This camera is a bit deceptive, as it appears to be extremely simple (and light and, frankly, a bit flimsy), but in reality it is quite challenging to use. Fully manual, you have to do a lot of guessing to get a decent photo, or even to get a photo at all. From our first roll with the Diana+, I believe we were able to recover no more than four pictures. Now sure, some of that can be chalked up to ambitious double or triple exposures, forgetting to check the zoom length, or relying too much on the viewfinder, but I maintain that for the vast bulk of our failures were due to not adjusting correctly to the lighting conditions, which is just something you have to keep guessing at. This shot was taken with a Colorsplash, which makes lovely saturated images that are pretty much perfect the first time around.

The Colorsplash is elegant, easy to use, and a great deal of fun for just about any occasion. It looks like this:
So back to that gift. On one of her blogs she wrote a Christmas list to her Secret Santa asking for a wide range of possible gifts to suit any budget, including a lifetime supply of her favorite candy and even a brand new laptop.

Among the more attainable items that made the list, she asked for a 35mm back for her Diana+, which would allow her to use cheaper film and thereby take more photos with this highly temperamental camera. So upon her arrival, sitting nicely wrapped on the coffee table was a brand new 35mm back. She was overjoyed.

Over the past several months we have taken the lomos out with us on many different occasions, with mixed but generally amusing results.

Dream World's Angry Baby

Pretending to be Backpackers on Khao San Road

Today she returns from a four-day business trip, so I have decided to surprise her with the newest addition to our shelf of broken clocks, antique cameras and lomo-optics. Right now, wrapped neatly and resting on the coffee table, is our brand new Supersampler.

There are just so many cool things people are doing with this camera. I can’t wait to be one of them. Viva la lomo!