True Feet

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There is a custom among some Jews to eat foods made from feet on our Sabbath. Okay that sounds gross, but fellow earthlings (and mom), please, let us open our minds to the cultures of the world...

Right then, as we were. So feet. Not human feet mind you. Maybe chicken feet, or cow feet. Some time back I was in Switzerland and had some jelly made from cow hoofs. It was pretty darn good.

One of the reasons given (in the big book of reasons that I've been skimming through) is that Shabbos is the day of truth. All week long we're involved in the world, a world which covers over G-d and makes it sometimes hard to remember and live the truth. But on Shabbos we are able to remove ourselves a bit and look at the big picture.

Now here comes the cool part. The way falseness gets its sustenance is from having a veneer of truth. No one believes straight up lies, there has to be some sort of truth woven in, usually from the part that matters least. The end so to speak. Well not the end end. That is usually a summary. Almost the end. The Hebrew word for falseness is "Sheker", as such:

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Notice how it's made up of 3 of the last 4 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet (Aleph Bet), namely, Kuf, Reish, and Shin.

Truth on the other hand is “Emes”, as such:

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There is Alef (the first letter), Mem (the middle letter), and Tuf (the last). For truth is always true, be it at the beginning, the middle or the end. Now or later, here and there.

“What does that have to do with feet?” you ask. Sheesh, I’m getting there, just because this is the internet, doesn’t mean I have to be brief.

Another aspect of the falseness, is that while it may look imposing and impressive, it’s quite easy to knock over. In Hebrew there is an expression “it doesn’t have legs”. If you look at the first word, all the letters are precarious. Perfectly balanced on a web of deceit, just one breath of truth and all those letters come crashing down. “Emes”, truth, on the other hand “has legs”. Each letter is firmly placed on a plateau of time-tested axioms, principles, and good ol’e facts.

And that’s why we eat feet on Shabbos. Truth, Legs, Feet, Sabbath. You got it.


In our recent move and the life-changes that have come along with it, I’ve been working hard at making sure the truths in my life stay in the foreground. It’s easy to forget why we do the things we do, and to get lost in those things themselves. It’s how many of us just keep on doing what’s done, instead of asking why at each junction. And it’s what I’m been trying to fight.


In an entirely unrelated vein, here are some photos of the truly lovely family.

Peace, love, and sautéed, sustainably-harvested, organic chicken feet.

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This is their “don’t make me get my shotgun from my pickup truck” face.

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At the corner of Brave and Crazy

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“Wiley, you could do it! You just weally need to believe in yooself!!”

Owen watches Sportacus, exercises daily, loves chia seed (because they have a lot of protein), and doesn’t eat sugar. He’s 5. He’s brave, and crazy (kind of how we feel now). And we’ll miss his family.


Berkeley is amazing and I’d love to write about it, but things are are happening so quickly that I need to sort out my thoughts. Until then here is a wonderful family just living.

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Documenting Grace

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I should write something pretty here. Pretty people, pretty place, pretty words would fit. But I ain't in no pretty mood (this humidity is doing a number on m beard) so random it's gonna be.

In 2001 or so my mother (after making sure the whole Y2K thing was over) decided to move to Israel (one of her lifelong dreams). I was in Yeshiva there at the time and, suddenly, for no apparent reason, I became Mr. Popular (I wasn't a Rabbi yet).

At the time we lived in the Yeshiva which was in Bnei Brak. Bnei Brak is the perfect place for learning. There's really nothing else to do. Besides buying Cholent on thursday nights, and this really good Baguette place. And a decent falafel joint. (Yes my life surrounded around food. At times in Yeshiva all we ate was Chummus and bread. Three times a day.) And while bus #400 left every hour to Jerusalem from across the street (though we used to choose a further one so the administration would't catch us), we still had to either come back that night or find somewhere to stay. Enter my mothers apartment on 37 Azza Street, Rehavia, Jerusalem. Perfect location smack in middle of the city, wonderful neighborhood, walking distance to the Old City (and of course Ben Yehuda, which in retrospect wasn't that cool after all), and everywhere else (anything under 10 miles is walking distance in Israel).

Speaking of walking across town. Combine this with my healthy aversion to spending any sort of money (especially since, well, I didn't really have any) and you get some crazy walking stories. I've walked 8 miles at 2 AM after a concert (I had no clue where I was going) to save a taxi fare, and another time walked 6 miles to the Dr. for a jaw issue and 5 miles in on the return I tweaked my back and had to crawl the last mile (almost literally). I knew shortcuts across every neighborhood, oh man I miss that place.

Next door (39 Azza Street), lived this dude by the name of Benjamin Netanyahu. Yeah, that one. He lived in this unpretentious house with some uzi-toting muscled sunglasses in front, on the side, on top, down the block...

Summer vacation in Israel is 3 weeks long. So instead of counseloring, or camping, or skiing in New Zealand (though I really wanted to make that work), a few friends and I camped out at my mama's place. Until we got kicked out for not sweeping or something and slept on towels in the mountains for a week. But before that we had a grand ole time. One balmy evening we spent an hour or two making paper airplanes and chucked em over the porch in Netanyahu's direction, hoping they'd shoot some down. They didn't. I'm still ticked about that.

You may think I'm rambling and you'd be right.

When (okay, if) I grow up, there is no way I'm going to be regurgitating old stories (again and again) that happened way back when when life was interesting. I don't buy that whole "the best years of my life" happened between the years of 18 and 24.

Which is part of why we're moving. Life has seemed a bit, well, stagnant. Like we're just floating along the streams. Yeah we're working hard, raising a cackle of kids, yada yada. But man, I feel like we're just waking up. Like we just read the other day "until this day, God did not give you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear..." It's time to see, hear, and know.


I photographed Amy Grace and her beautiful children last year when she lived down in SoCal and I was able to do so again now that they moved to the bay area (it's what all the cool people are doing). She has a fantastic way of seeing her world and family and is blessed with the ability to share that view, both with words and with photographs. You could see her work at A Beautiful Life and Motherhood With A Camera.

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Two Thousand and 13. And my adieau to social media.


I wonder if there are those who play the keyboard (the computer kind) the way others play music. Their fingers typing, not just their thoughts, but their emotions. Writing with soul. No, not with soul, that seems as if one employs his soul as a tool. More like the soul itself is writing, the hands and fingers moving to an inner song.

I've been listening to "If It Be Your Will" by Leonard Cohen on repeat. It's the lone occupant of my iTunes library and is enjoying endless loopage.

This is doing three things to me. A. It makes me want to just type out the lyrics, as there is nothing I can write that comes close to the raw beauty of his words. B. It makes me want to play music with my fingers, type with rythm, and C. Puts me in a slightly morbid mood. Though I do find his music oddly uplifting.

I'm writing to say goodbye (well I'm actually writing because my posts need words). And Hello.

When embarking on my blogging voyage and subsequent entrance into social media I was greeted with:

Hello World!

Such are the words knighting those embarking on the holy mission of bloghood.

Hello World.

A new world, built on the rubble of the first, greets you joyfully.

"Hi!" with a showing of bright #fffff teeth, it joyfully proclaims.

Hello World.

Little did I know that this voyage would lead me to where I am now.

I feel as if I am that figure in "The Scream", my face being pulled by an invisible force. That force is social media. And it's eating my face off. Beard and all.

Social media has been slowly draining my life, this giant blue and white vacuum sucking my energy, slurping my time. It's time to say goodbye.

I refuse to play the game. I will not post meaningless questions to which I do not care the answer in order to get people commenting.

"Which photo do you like better?" As smug as it sounds I do not care which photo you like better. I put an enormous amount of thought into photography, and gosh-darn it I have an opinion. A strong one.

"If I get 100 likes I'll post more!!" No. No. I will not play the game.

Addicted to the high engendered by strangers' praise. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

The endless stream of time wasting links and videos. Look here! No, Look here! Wow! Dogcathorsebaby doing funnyweirdamazingthing.

And the more insidious sharing, commenting, and making friends all with an undercurrent of selfishness. It scares me.

Of course, social media isn't intrinsically evil. I'm just not at a place where it's good for me now (notwithstanding the many, many benefits it brings).

So I'm saying goodbye. Goodbye meaningless internet browsing. Goodbye mind-numbing visits to the computer. Goodbye to the 86% bad and the 14% good. Goodbye snarky commenting and late night chats. Goodbye noise.

Goodbye World. It's been real (#irony).

It's a bit scary. I have gotten wonderful feedback, a fan base, and clients through Facebook. Much of that will be gone, and I don't even know where to start looking for other ways to advertise. But I know this: Never again will I make decisions based solely on money. I believe in divine providence, in fate, karma, whatever you want to call it. If I do what is right for me and my family, then it will be good.

Hello World.

Hello wife. Hello Kids. Hello G-d. I'm back.

First we take Manhattan. Then we take berlin.


What does this all have to do with my 2013 in review? No seriously, I'm asking.

I could make up something but it would be just that.

It's just what's on my mind and while I was waiting to post this with my personal year in review, I still have something around 40 rolls to develop and scan and Facebook needs quitting before then.

For all those wonderful people I met on Facebook, please email, call, send roses (code for beer), or just come over for some pancakes. That's what we do in the real world (I think, it's been a while…).

The past year has been great to me. I 've had wonderful clients, and seem to be getting better at this while photography thing. Most importantly I've thought. About stuff. More than I think I've ever thunk before. And that's a very good thing.

So I raise my glass (Redtail Ale) and wish myself an amazing year in the real world.

Bring it on!!


Practical speak. I'll be keeping my Facebook account active and all messages will be forwarded to my email. All updates will be posted on my photography page (which will be run by my lovely wife). I don't want to cut out all the wonderful people and friends I met on Facebook so please, if you want to chat, have a question, comment etc. just shoot me an email.

Peace, love, and quinoa brownies.

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Instant Aerial Jury Duty

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I'm sitting here in the jury antechamber (or whatever title this pre-jury room inspired), exhausted, in that thoroughly putrid state of nervous nauseousness caused by that unique chemical reaction of a sleepless night combined with a Rockstar.

The wifi is broken, the stomach is empty, but the heart hums joyously. Deep in the recesses of my manly man-purse is a recently purchased, just repaired, polished metal, leather encased beauty of German engineering. Along with this mechanical, battery eschewing, photon-recording device, is its dubious cousin, another German wonder, with a a dark and lugubrious background.

We must, dear reader (I've been on a free ebook rampage, Main Street, done; Ann Veronica, done; Siddartha, done; Rights of Man, working on it; Walden, working on it; Winnie the Pooh, done; Treasure Island, done. I now find myself one third of the way through Les Miserables. Holy tangents! I thought I was bad! Just because this Mr. Valjean dude walked by a house on a the corner of "fancy french street name" and "equally fancy french street name" that don't mean I need to know the life story of the previous sixteen tenants. Ain't no one got time for that!) close our eyes (okay now open them again, you can't read with your eyes closed),

(Wait right here, I'm being called up (I'm the row opposite the row under the televisions) to validate my parking ticket. Yeehaw! Things are HAPPENING! Make way for juror number 120817647!)

and take yourself back seventy years or so, before hippies roamed the earth, back when the cars were pretty, and the world was on fire. Bombers lumbered and the Lord seemed to slumber. In secret rooms in secret buildings, secret people sent secret pilots on secret missions. In the front sat the hotshot aviators, in their dashing leather jackets and wonky goggles. In the back, nerds with pocket protectors were manning large camera with huge lenses. Flying high to avoid enemy fire, they captured hundreds of images per flight; army bases, weak points, bridges, convoys.

These aerial lenses were commissioned by the armies, specially manufactured to take in as much light as possible. Now they are prized for their speed, not for photographing the night, but for the speed, the larger the diameter of a lens is the smaller the plane of focus is so you get that crazy front-of-eyeball-is-in-focus-but-the-eyelashes-aren't look. But I bore myself. This particular chunk of glass, in a neighboring pocket of my manly man-purse, keeps for itself the stately title of "Schneider-Göttingen No57610 Xenon 1:2 f=12,5cm".

(Roll call. Schnorrer Berkowitz. Here. Downstairs I go. Past the out-of-order drinking fountain, past the garbage can with the Warning: Garbage and Lid Sold Separately, past two more non-working water fountains, past the cold drink vending machine and into room number 520 in department "M". Juror number 3987, 2870, 8430, 2101… I've heard many stupid things as a Judge. Lunch break. Reconvene at 1:30. Of course I am late. I run upstairs, freshly egged, smoothied, and watered. Judge is later. Gary J. Ferrari is his name. With that name I knew we'd be finished quickly. Right)

So the lens is made by Schneider, from the Göttingen division, which in 1936, either broke off from the Kreuznach division on its own to build aerial lenses for the Luftwaffe, or was forced to by the Nazi Government. Serial numbers are odd, but it seems that most of them are between 55,000 and 65,000. It's a Xenon designation which is a modified double gauss design (and we all know what that is). Its diameter is half of the focal length of 12.5 centimeters. And it's heavy. Very heavy, a lovely chunk of glass.

Leica (the big German camera companies were Rolleiflex and Hasselblad, the big lens makers were Zeiss, Schneider, and Zeiss), was also supposed to be designing optics for the Reich. They had this huge blueprint and prototype that they showed any official who came to check up on them, it took them until the end of the war. It turned out they just blew up the design for a tiny 35mm lens they were working on for their small rangefinder cameras. Sticking it to the man since 1936. In the early stages of Nazi Germany they gave hundreds of Leica's to Jews so they could be designated as journalists and be able to leave. They're cool like that. I really should buy one.

(Are you going to be prejudiced against this man because of how he looks? No, ma'am. Whisper whisper, whisper whisper. I wish judges still wore wigs. More whispering.)

I don't know which camera these lenses were supposed to be mounted on (they were probably specially made for this lens), I bought it from some friends in LA who stuck a SL66 mount on the back (that's the aforementioned camera in my aforementioned manly man-purse). The lens doesn't have a focusing hellicoid (that part of the lens you turn to focus) so it can only be used on a camera with a bellow focusing system (which is one of the reasons the SL66 rocks so hard). But this wasn't enough, no, not for the intrepid Wright Brothers, they had to modify a Speed Graphic to shove the lens onto, calibrated the rangefinder (NOT easy, and NOT fun), and modified the back so a Polaroid back would be centered (for some ridiculous reason (stuff like this is why Polaroid went belly up) the Polaroid back is off to the side, which in this case (where the lens doesn't properly cover 4x5), that just wouldn't do).

(Juror number 2 knows one of the lawyers. More whispering. My lip reading skills could use a brush up. Dismissed. Next. No speak English. Next. Juror number 5 dismissed. No speak English. Dismissed. Dang I got to try this.)

What's a Speed Graphic? Please! I'm trying to get to the point of this pointless diatribe. Okay sheesh, fine. The Speed Graphic was made by Graflex (in the good ole USA),

(Juror number 8 dismissed. I still haven't been called up and while I do pay myself for Jury duty, no one pays me to pay myself, and I REALLY can't do it, even though I kind of want to.)

it can be used either as a rangefinder, or through the ground glass in the back. It also has a remarkably complex shutter system(as opposed to the Crown Graphic which can only be used with lenses that have built in shutters) with 4 shutters and 12 tensions giving 48 (!!) speeds between 1/10 and 1/1000 of a second. And it's remarkably annoying to use. Let's say you see a scene you really want to photograph, you must:

(Juror number 8 dismissed.)

1. Get a meter and figure out how you want he Polaroid exposed (you have to be very exact with Polaroids).

2. Figure out which combination of shutters and tension will give you the shutter speed you want (noooo, no easy obvious numbers. Shutter A is 1/10-1/80 with 6 possible tensions (I.e. a large slit with 6 speeds), "B" is from 1/90-1/200, etc.).

3. Uncover the lens.

4. Compose your shot in the viewfinder (which is way off to the side and completely inaccurate).

5. Focus in the tiny rangefinder window.

6. Fine focus in the viewfinder.

7. Release the shutter.

8. Pull out the Polaroid.

9. Cover the lens to cock the shutter.

You have to do that each time. EACH TIME!

(Juror 11 dismissed.)

Is it worth it. I'm still not sure. The image it produces is delightful and unique. But it's so. Darn. Annoying.

To find out the exact awesome/annoying ratio and how much I'm willing to bend in either direction, I shot an all Polaroid session with a friend of mine in Redondo Beach. I actually screwed up a lot less than I expected but I did realize in middle that I was pulling the Polaroids form the camera too quickly and that was doing weird stuff (white, or magenta dots, and unexposed corners). I took the Polaroids home with me to scan, but normally I'd give them to the clients and just scan the negatives.

So here it is, some positives, some negatives. Just like life.

(Juror 4 dismissed. After five days you can go on twitter and all that other stuff young people use. Kids these days. Juror 4 dismissed. Wiser whisper. Juror number 6471 please come up. That would be me. Did you read the questionnaire? Yes. Did you answer "yes" to any? Yes. 4. Do you, or any relative, or close friend, have any formal legal training? Yes, of course I do, I'm Jewish. 5. Have you or any relative, or close friend, ever been a victim of a crime? Yup! I was kidnapped when I was 2 (nope, you don't get that story now, one day…). Did you testify in court? No, I was two…12. Do you have a personal reason to have a bias either way in this case? Yes (it was a child molestation case), I have 5 kids age 6 and under, so this would be hard for… 5 kids under 6! That would be hard for anyone! Everyone laughs. Sir, I would like to be excused due to financial hardship. Yes? I have 5 kids, one who is a newborn, and I freelance so... Whisper whisper. Juror 4 dismissed. Juror number 3071…)

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