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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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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Capturing Grace

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It seems that I tend to write about writing and doing more than I write and do. And now I'm writing about writing about writing. Lame.

I've been doing a bit of soul searching and I'm discovering that I'm a serious right-winger. Not in regards to politics or religion (though admittedly I'm pretty hard-core in regards to both) but in the soul-character spectrum.

Kabbalah teaches that there are ten soul faculties. Three intellectual, and seven emotional. There is a right side, a left side and a middle. It goes right, left, middle, right, left, middle, right, left, middle, middle.

The right side is outgoing, challenging, always looking for the new, restless, visionary, revolutionary, fast, and furious.

Left side is calmer, reserved, disciplined, organized, submissive, evolutionary, focused.

Big plans excite me. The minutia of actually implementing it, not so much. And that just ain't cool.

I like me some new cameras. Holy moly I like new cameras. I've gone through more in the past three years than most have seen in a lifetime. I have this weird aversion to what's popular. "If everyone likes it, it must be really bad." Which oftentimes is true, but it's a bit (a bit?) elitist, and you know, sometimes it's good enough that even the proles (sic) get it.

I wonder if everyone shot film would I shoot digital? I don't think so, but it's hard to know the working of the subconscious. Who is deciding here?

So I raise this cup of ice coffee to the lefties of the world. The plodders, the planners. The ones who get stuff done, and are able to focus the crazy ideas out there and actually implement them. And a special sip for Estee who holds my feet to the fire.

Not that I'm boxing myself in. One isn't "either or". There's always some sort of balance and we can always work on ourselves. It's just important to know one's merits and faults. Both to capitalize on what you've got and to work on the other half.

Truth is I'm getting better. Slowly, but it's happening folks. One day I'll be a picture of orderly submissiveness. With a huge side of rebelliousness.


One of the good things about being a righty is the questioning of things that are. The why. And the why behind the why. In between checking ebay for new cameras and expired film, I do my fair share of thinking, especially in the field of photography. What I really wish I had from my childhood (besides Microsoft, and later Apple stocks) is an album or two, from different stages of my life, of how we lived. What we did, how we interacted, what our house looked like. I want to know what we wore, and how many dishes were in the sink. What was in the fridge and what we did at the park. I'd want a beautiful family photo every once in a while.

I had the recent pleasure of photographing Amy Grace and her beautiful children. Amy, besides being a beautiful person inside and out, is a wonderful artist (and I don't use that word lightly) with both images and words. And she gets it. Her photography is quite different, but it is much more of "this is how it feels" than "this is how it looks".

So here is just a normal day at the Graces. Breakfast, chillage, playing, getting food, park, ice cream, back home for some more chillage, reading, back to the park, bathtime... You get the gist. I also busted out my new polaroid machine made by some good friends of mine in LA (it's a modified Speed Graphic with a huge old aerial lens). That thing is annoying, huge, slow, and challenging, but that's why I like it. Nothing normal allowed here. Oh, and the images it produces are spectacular.


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And some instant film. I gave the prints to Amy, these are scans of the negative (which are cool, but not as pretty as the actual prints).

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Please check out Amy's work. You'll be happy you did.


If you haven't heard... I'll be having two (or more) quickshoot days with all the profit going to help my brother in law who has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). One in LA and another in NY. It's a wonderful chance to get amazing photos of your family and help a family who could really use it. You could see the details here. Thanks!!

I'll be wandering around the East coast towards the end of October, so if you want to book a session do so before the fat cows sing (that's the deadline).