The Belkinators

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I'm tired. And I just drank a 24 ounce Rockstar energy drink (aka poison).

Why subject myself to such a chemical invasion, you may ask (spell check wanted to change that to saki, hmmmm)? Well it has been brought to my attention that my last few posts have been, well, a bit morose. A bit sad. Even boring. I don't like boring. Boring is boring.

My favorite post (from a writing perspective) was typed on an iPad (annoying would be an understatement), while being in stage 5 exhaustion (on a made up scale without defined parameters), and under the neuron firing, stomach churning, nerve shaking effects of some sort of coffee/Rockstar combo.

I don't want to die. Dying sucks. In the past 30 years and 4 months I've existed as a body/soul combo outside of my momma's belly, there were three times I could have died (obviously not including every second of every day that an alien could have zapped me, or a really large elephant could have fallen on me from a passing airplane). First time I was 2 and some crazy dude kidnapped me and tried to take me to the desert. He took a wrong turn, found his way to Mexico, ran a red light, was chased by some poli?ia, had his tires shot out, and ended up in some Mexican jail.

The third time was when I was swiped by a truck on the 110 and spun across three lanes hit the center divider and ended up safely on the left shoulder.

The second time (and this is the point. Yay!) was towards the end of August 2002. Back when my email address was draebehtykreb@yahoo.com (until it was hacked and shut down a few years later after logging in at some internet cafe (remember those?) whose homepage was aljazeera.com), and my AIM handle was puffkdragon (I made both of those accounts that summer). We (the counselors) were up all night and day for the past week. The days were of course spent by use counseloring, the nights by us making these elaborate constructions depicting either how many days were left to this great camp (to paraphrase the annoying, yet remarkably addicting song we were belting out constantly), or some other clever contraption for the kids to remember. In retrospect we should have just slept, but we were young and probably drunk. Thursday was Knott's Berry Farm day. Which is basically a Six Flags for those too lazy or poor to drive out to an actual Six Flags. Being all sleep deprived and such, and still needing to stay up until 6 AM making some sort of rock sculpture (followed by an insane alcohol+exhaustion induced moon dance (I don't actually recall if we were clothed or not)) two quadruple espressos and 6 red bulls sounded like a wonderful idea. Coupled with the mandatory quota of Millers Genuine Draft (thank G-d my tastes have evolved since then), the next day had me flat out on the grass, contemplating calling 911 every couple of minutes. My heart was doing double speed, skipping beats, and doing all sorts of trickery. I didn't call 911, and thank G-d I didn't die. Notwithstanding my taurine induced grass kissing, that summer was the first time I met Estee, so overall it was quite a success. But I did stay away from energy drinks for a very long time, and still only use them when I absolutely have to (usually driving home from the cow farm at hours of the morning that really shouldn't exist).

Yet since I enjoy writing, and my most interesting writing seems to come about while being under some sort of mental irregularity, I'm trying to induce such states. Legally.

This monologue didn't end here. It ended up wandering into some oddly serious pastures, and that was against the rules, so I just chopped out the rest (it meandered into some incoherent mashup of capitalism, advertising, social media, moral, blah blah blah). I have muzzled my fingers against those tempting fields. This time. But in my delicate trappings down over-thinking lane, I did decide to head back to social media. I may do another post about why, for now suffice it to say that I miss my friends out in the cloud, and unless I am going to do some hardcore alternate marketing, ignoring all the potential clients eyes out there seems a bit naive.

Experiment failed. Exhaustion + energy drink has been ruled out as a harbinger of good writing. Maybe I'll have to apply to jury duty again. Or some other situation in which I have nothing else to do besides write.

My site is undergoing some overhauling, and I'm contemplating breaking up my blog into two; a more photo-centric one, and a journal (or whoever I end up calling it) as a home for my rambling mind. Theoretically I would either have to link this somehow to the photos below (which would be quite a stretch) or put in some sort of break symbol (maybe a /// or a *** ) and write a bit about the photos. But I'm going to do neither and just plaster the photos below. As such:

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Serendipitously, this was shot on their one year anniversary. Check out their wedding, and then check out Yossi's ridiculously awesome design skills.

My 2012 (and a bit). Paid and personal.

My 2012 was 15 months long. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but it started sometime last October. I sold my Mamiya 645, bought a Contax 645 (read: ridiculously overpriced medium format film camera), and shot my first all film session. I fell harder in love with it and stuck my digital gear in some farflung corner of my beautifully junglistic garage. I still reach for it now and then, for dark receptions, for photos of gear, to test lenses. I kind of feel bad for it's mass produced, machine made feelings. (Of course I know digital cameras don't have feelings, it's residual mental scarring from Disney movies.) November came and I took my oversized backpack to the Genesis workshop in Memphis. I thought I was going in order to learn how to build a wedding photography business (which was the main thrust of the workshop, both the creative and the business side). Instead I came out with 50 awesome friends, and a thoroughly confounded outlook on what and how I wanted to shoot. The instructors were very encouraging, even inspiring, but when I put forth my purported goal of becoming a hot-shot wedding photographer I received some raised eyebrows. Not because anyone thought I wouldn't be good at it, rather they saw something very unique in my family work that I didn't.

I didn't see it. Not for a while at least. But then I started


I was planning on finishing the thought and possibly thinking up more thoughts. But being as it is now Sunday, 11:09 PM Pacific Standard Time, there are other, more time-specific thoughts to think.

Tonight begins the tenth day of the Jewish month of Shvat. On this day 63 years ago the Previous Chabad Rebbe (leader of the Chabad sect) passed away, and exactly one year later, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (known as "the Rebbe") accepted the mantle of leadership.

The Rebbe was always a large presence in our lives.

Way back when, my father grew up in Boro Park, Brooklyn (on top of Rubashkin's butcher shop). One day the Yeshiva he went to called his parents house wondering why he hasn't shown up for the past few weeks. Turns out he casually left and went to the Chabad Yeshiva in Crown Heights. (That was the good old days, nowadays we can't seem to go anywhere without the whole world knowing where we are and what we are doing.)

My mother, on the other hand, did very much of her growing up with Chabad. Her father (along with his twin, Shlomo Carlebach) was a Chossid (follower) of the Previous Rebbe, and when he passed away had a very hard time transitioning. Whereas the Previous Rebbe was very personal, the current Rebbe was more brusque (possibly due to the sheer amount of Chassidim and work that had to be done). He connected very much with the Bobov Rebbe and tried to get his family involved. Didn't happen. Being that my grandmother (whose birthday it is today) is a Schneerson and second cousins with the Rebbe, Chabad was too much of a presence to be sidetracked by any Bobovers :) (If you've got a few minutes, you could read all about my hotshot lineage.)

After my parents married the Rebbe sent them to a few places to teach and spread Judaism. After some time in Nashville (where my two oldest siblings were born), Palo Alto (where my brother was born), Long Beach (my sister and I were born there), and Westminster, we finally settled in Huntington Beach, where they established a wonderful community.

Growing up, in school, and later in Yeshiva, we had it hammered into our skulls, how very important we were. Not as Rabbi's kids, as Lubavitchers (another name for Chabad Chassidim), or even as "Orthodox" (can't stand that word), but as Jews and as people. How G-d has a mission and if we weren't an integral part of that mission then we wouldn't be here (G-d does nothing in vain).

We were taught not only not to judge others, but to respect everyone, for who they are, and who they can be. To learn from them. The Rebbe taught us to be real, and to make G-dliness a real part of our lives. Not just doing what G-d wants, but to work on ourselves until we feel it. Until the fact that G-d is everywhere and everything, is not just an intellectual concept but something we see with our own eyes.

The Rebbe taught us to be real. He showed us (along with the previous Rebbes) that G-d and his Torah don't have to be foreign concepts forced upon our consciousness. That we don't have to fight our inner nature, rather we have to reveal it.

And that is why a Rebbe is so important. We all may know, and even believe. But we don't see G-d. We see tables, clouds, beer, mountains, buildings, tar pits, and flashlights. And we may know that behind all the physicality is a G-dly animating force. But we don't see it.

The Rebbe does.

The Rebbe sees the world as G-d does. He doesn't see a hand, he sees an instrument to give charity. Not beer, but something to allow us to open up more freely and talk about things that actually matter. Not a table, rather something by which we can learn and eat. For in fact, a hand is nothing but the expression of G-ds will that charity should be given, and tables were created out of G-ds will that books be learned, and food be eaten (uplifted). And when we connect to the Rebbe, through his teachings and directives, we connect to that level. And now and then, even get a glimpse of that perspective, that truth.

Be real. Live truth. That is the goal. And that's the mission.


My thoughts, beer, and chia seed pudding, are all running low. The AM has laid down it's chilly fingers, and my brain is all athunked.

Below is my year. And a bit (and most of December is at the lab). Both paid and personal work (my family work I'll save for a later date). I've learned how to take pretty photos, and sometimes even good ones. I'm posting this more for myself, to see next year how much I've grown, how much I've learned. If I did at all.

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Important notes: Tonight's beer is Firestone Brewery, Union Jack, India Pale Ale. Full bodied and bitter, though slightly boring. Decent and overpriced. Chia Seed Pudding is made from Chia seeds, water, raw honey, unrefined coconut oil, walnuts and raisins.

Rachel + Andrew (+ Neville)

Back in yeshiva when I was either very bored or very tired (the latter happened a good deal more than the former) I used to press really hard on my eyelids. Until I saw stars. Or comets, kaleidoscopes, and spinning rocks. And they were all moving. Sometimes coming at me. Sometimes going away. I don't recall the actual point of this exercise but it's a memory nonetheless (and frankly, one of my more disturbing ones).

Memories (I spelled that wrong and Mr. iPad thought it should be "mom Orion's". Go figure.) are a hard thing to capture. But it generally is a good thing to try. Somehow with either words, a song, maybe a smell, a food, or a photo. Or possibly a combination.

(There is a cockroach running around. Not cool. What is it about them that inspire such disgust?)

The thing is memories aren't really of events they're more of how said events made us feel. We don't see life, we experience it (hopefully). And that's what needs capturing. It's why not all photos or songs are created equal. Some can even make you remember things that never happened. They'll pull on some strings deep down. Maybe bring a sigh or a tear. There's a bit of magic and alchemy involved.

It's something I've been trying to think about for a bit now. To think of the eventual resting place of a photograph. What do I want it to say. What emotion(s) needs to be hidden in there. Somewhere. Somehow.

I'm writing this at a ridiculous hour of the night/early morning. The hour of the drive by chuckage of rolled up papers that no one reads. Some time between wine and coffee. Steak and bagel. So if there is a seeming lack of connection between the content of this wordy mess and the memories recorded below, I plead insanity, lack of caffeine, too much caffeine, and an overabundance of alcohol abstinence.

We started at home with some milk, cookies, and a slightly aged (ahem) wine. We then moved on to dog food (well Neville did at least). Onto a favorite bar/restaurant for some more wine, beer, and coffee (water is for the meek). Followed by a walk around town, past the magazine stand, across some streets, and finally down the intergalactic sidewalk. 'twas wonderful.

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Cassy + Chad + Film = Epic

I started my photographic journey around two years ago when I picked up my first SLR and a copy of Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson (absolutely required required reading for anyone starting out with photography). After some time I was getting quite decent photos of my kiddos and people starting asking me to take pictures of their families. And so it grew. But I never really got the chance to work with people who were willing to give me a large chunk of time and be willing and able to pose for me (kids are great and all but you are very much limited to their whims). And in order for me to grow as a photographer and actually find my vision this is something I am going to have to do more often. My wife has some awesome friends from her high school days that were kind enough to help me out. Cassy and Chad are really cute people and make a beautiful couple. They grew up and live in Huntington Beach so I figured we'd keep it local and keep it real. Thanks! I have a lot to learn in regards to posing but I think I did a pretty decent job (though of course I see all the mistakes :))

Also, as of late I've been using more and more film and recently picked up a fantastic film camera (another one!!) so I wanted to try it out and see what it could do. This was my first all film shoot (I didn't even bring my digital camera). I did not yet have an external light meter (though I have bought one since) so I used the the built in spot meter and a good deal of guessing. My biggest mistake was loading a slower film at the end of the day (dork). Live and learn.

I was quite nervous as I've never done a shoot like this and I really wanted to make a good impression so I promptly locked my keys into my car, and had Chad drive me around (it's quite scary how easy it is for AAA to open a locked door). Good job Zalmy.

I'll be posting soon what it is I really like about film, but it seems like it's going to be in my bag for quite a while (and might even drive my digital equipment out for a bit).


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Aron + Dani = ?

A long time ago, In a place not too far away (from me at least), there lived a young dork. His name was Zalmy Berkowitz. He wore oversized sweaters and tucked his pants into his sneakers (so everyone could see the "pump"). He was also a lot cuter than the adult version (and he actually had a chin!). He had two very good friends. One of them, David Goldblatt, lived close by in good 'ole Huntington Beach, so they ended up spending quite a bit of time together.

Fast forward a decade or two and his younger brother is engaged!! Woopee!! So his dad ("Uncle Ken"), being a big "chassid" of my photography (his words, not mine) asked me to document the "vort" (engagement party).

It seems like I'm doing quite a bit of these nighttime events, I should probably learn how to do them properly (i.e. off camera flash). But then I'd have to charge more :) (just kidding).

And with a bit more ado, here are the photos:

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And for some film (note: this was my first time using film at an event, and I was working quicker than I'm used to. Hence all the misunderexposures.)

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Peace. Love. Harmony. & Coffee.