Unpacking my brain


I was dreaming about knives. It was 2005, summer was winter, and I was 21 or so, living in Pretoria, South Africa, studying to become a Rabbi. There was this book I borrowed (indeterminately, none of the other students knew of its existence) from the school titled Minchas Yitzchak (or Minchas something-or-another). For almost a week, all day, in school and out, I was trying to understand (never really did) why exactly a knife had different kosher laws than any other utensil, and how each possible reason fit into how the differences manifest themselves in actual law. Before falling asleep I’d get comfy, open up the Minchas Yitzchak and try to wrap my mind around the knife issue.

Well, since that year, my mind hasn’t been doing too much wrapping. Yeah, I think here and there, maybe post a snarky status on Facebook about my purported thinking, but thinking ain’t no wrapping.

Recently, in addition to all the regular Dr. Seuss’s (and now a whole bunch of bird books), Estee took out a biography on Albert Einstein. The fact that most of the physics and math are beyond me doesn’t bother me as much as the realization that I haven’t really grappled with any concept in years. I learn here and there, but most of the time, when coming across some obtuse concept, I don’t really chase after it and actually figure it out. Or try my heart out.

Chassidus explains that every concept is like a river, with depth, breadth, and length. The breadth is understanding the concept with all it’s facets, particulars, details. Its length is being able to bring down that topic with examples, parables, and analogies, until you could explain it to a child. It’s also the ability to apply the concept in day to day life. The depth is the essence of the concept, from which all the details flow out. It’s understanding the principles behind the concept.

The conceptual river is one I haven’t sailed, swam, or drowned in recently. And Landsickness is quietly taking its toll.

It’s time to reach up, bring down the box, and unpack my brain.


I’ve been a bit obsessed recently with instant film. It seems to me the truest medium for capturing memories. It not only captures the moment but it even captures the fleetingness of it. All you’re left with is one print and one funky negative, an imprint, a memory of the print, and the memory is never the same as the actual moment.

There are some major ideas brewing in my prefrontal cortex involving polaroids, aerial lenses, and some ancient cameras. Prepare to be amazed. You’ve got time.

In the meantime, here are some recent Polaroids, some prints some negatives, (okay disclaimer, Polaroid is pretty much defunct, these are actually Fuji instant peel away prints (same tech as Polaroid) but if I called them by their real name (Fuji FP3000b) no one would have a clue as to what I was referring to) of my fambly.

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Thanks for visiting, and come back soon! Free digital cookies (and beer) for all.

the Bar {Mitzvah} // Temecula camera-wielding crazy man (take that google!!)

It’s not working. The “it” inside, which is somehow supposed to guide my typing until I somehow catch on, is either lazy, drunk, sleeping, or just out of town for a bit. I seems as though I may have to think in advance (I hear the word for this ridiculus concept is “plan”) about what to write here. Which may be a good thing. The way things normally work around here is first we have a lengthy unrelated preamble, possibly followed by a very short amble, and sometimes concluded with a postamble. This time there will be an actual amble.

Thirteen years and thirty five days ago (somewhere around there), a cute and chunky nephew was born to my sister in Temecula. Well, she didn’t have the nephew, and I’m not sure who did, she had a son. The first child born in their new place of living (numero uno was born in the city of New York, and numero dos was born in Boulder, Colorado). Much excitement, joy, bustle and hustle was had by all. Number three was followed for four, five, six, and seven. Well, number three grew up (actually for the first few years most of his growth was sideways) into a remarkable young man (made even more so by his love of Estee’s sourdough bread), whose good cheer, cute cheeks, crazy humor, and pure heart reminds me of myself at that age. And though I don't really remember much of myself at that age, I do assume I was awesome. Nothing has come up to disprove this theory (and the fact that I used to ask an adult to tuck my pants into my sneakers just made me cooler).

In the months before Eli Chaim’s Bar Mitzvah, his family has been hit by some pretty intense challenges. We don’t know why G-d does what he does or what His plans are, but we do know that He never gives anyone something they can’t handle. We also know that life itself is a miracle; to be cherished, guarded, loved, and lived. And somehow, we have absolute faith that all will be good. Not only in the macro but in the micro. In my life and in yours.

Challenges have the paradoxical tendency to bring out the beauty in life, the truth in friendship, and the pure awesomeness that is family. The Temecula community and the Chabad community both near and far have been immensely inspiring in their support and friendship. And we are incredibly thankful. You could check out my inspiring sister's inspiring blog for inspiring posts in inspiring topics. And now I can't use that word for a month.

I wasn’t the official photographer here, and if I wasn't family I would have loved to have been. Loved the sunniness (which is funny because I used to be terrified of it. I would beg and pray for clouds to make the photographing easier. But easy doesn't equal interesting), the outdoorness, the vineyardness. But it's good I wasn't; the food was too good and my kids were going bananas. Until they found the one thing that will forever be the joy of any and all children. Dirt. Loads and piles and mounds of it.

Here is a small glimpse of some of the festivities, captured on a bunch of random expired film stocks on some random cameras and all scanned by me.


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A few weeks ago I left my lightmeter at my sister's house. When I went to pick it up she gave me a roll of film that she thought I left there.Turns out I didn't. It was some random roll of film from (I'm assuming) a cheap point and shoot or disposable camera from almost thirteen years ago. This is Eli Chaim (the Bar Mitzvah dude) when he was a wee li'l lad, and his two older siblings. I had no clue what it was until I scanned it in (a few minutes after I scanned the photos above). I love random lost film!!

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Soulwise. Chanukah edition.

Chanukah is about humility, accepting something beyond you, and allowing it in. It's about spreading the light of truth, justice, and freedom (and good photos). Once upon a time, in a kingdom down the block, I designed graphics. It came about in a kingdom even further away, in a 400 year old house made of stone. Where an iMac stood glittering under a bare bulb, in stark and beautiful contrast to the walls around. Upon this machine there magically appeared a copy of Photoshop.

How it got there, where it came from? Trying to understand magic is akin to sucking the beauty out of life. Like a giant psychotic mosquito. I'd like to think it was planted by the sock fairy (you know, the one that takes socks from the drier and puts software on your computer instead).

I met some wonderful people in the magical kingdom of Safed, Israel, and one of those fellows was putting out his first musical album. Google searched I did, a tutorial I did find, and a cover did I make. It wasn't even that bad (it wasn't used though).

I did that for a few years (among other things), and at some point I was frustrated at the lack of quality Jewish stock photos available. I then made the best unwise decision ever. After wasting way too much time doing some intense research on DPReview (never again!) about the differences between two identical systems, I picked up my first fancy shmancy camera. A few weeks later I bought a (what i then considered) fancy lens (which I paid $100 in cash so my wife wouldn't freak out). Eventually I realized I liked photography much better than design, and I was actually good at it (graphic design on the other hand...:) ).

I still do some odd jobs here and there, and this magazine is one of them. Lucky for me (and them) I get to pretty much use whatever images I want.

Here is the latest SOULWISE magazine. Decent design. Good photography. Awesome articles.

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Roids. The curiously instant film.

Somewhere between here and New York, my RZ67's mirror system decided to suddenly and irrevocably die. Annoyed, angry, sad, befuddled, and slightly bewildered (these things aren't supposed to break!) , I procrastinated a week (mourning my loss), twiddled my thumbs a bit, and ordered her replacement (which was actually an updated version. Yay!) . Today FedEx delivered said replacement and I went on a polaroid shooting spree. Too lazy to get my lightmeter from the car, I decided to activate my ninja mental-exposure-guesstimator. She was a bit rusty, but did her job well enough.

Who said film shooters can't have some instant gratification?

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a fleeting dream, a passing cloud

Southern California weather. It's the stuff of legends. Always 75 degrees and sunny.

Or so they want you to think.

It's a ponzi scheme. It's a well known phenomenon, that once people pay an over-the-top amount for something, they defend it's worth. "Yeah, I got this camera strap for $389. There's another that does the same and looks the same? Nope, mine is better." Because I paid more for a luxury item, I must defend it's worth (usually subconsciously)

So there were some marketing geniuses (Jews of course) that decided to sell Easterners on California's awesome weather. They bought out all the weather stations, and started reporting that "Sunny skies this week in the mid-70s". Over and over again. Until some people said "hey why the heck are we living in this crazy cold and snow, and humidity and heat. Let's head to California!!

So the real estate goes through the moon, and everyone is so heavily invested in this place that they all tell their friends how beautiful and perfect it is.

It's all a conspiracy.

It rains, and thunders, and lightnings (yeas, that's a verb) all the time.

And my kids love it.

We were supposed to meet up at this apple picking/cider making/hike situation with some other health freaks, but it ended up pouring, we came late and most didn't show. Which was fine, because my kids just wanted to dance in the rain. So we ate. And Danced. Then cleaned up and danced some more. We made some cider, jumped in puddles, danced a bit more. Than we headed across the street for some intense apple pickage. I think we ate more than we picked.

Good times.

It was also my first time scanning film on a real scanner. The Brothers Wright (check 'em out, they are amazing) were kind enough to let me scan some stuff on their Frontier Scanner (it's this huge massive scanning machine). I also used some heavily expired film (Kodak 160VC) so there was some really wonky colors going on (more due to my inexperience with scanning). But I did shoot some new Portra 400, and that stuff scans like a beast. There's a reason they come out with new films.

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There was some crazy thunder going on, and the kids were laughing like crazy (and Estee was like "Zalmy!!! Get that shot", and I'm trying to keep Zusha from eating all the apples, and trying to focus wide open at 1/60 of a second... Not easy).

I got the shot.

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Not sure what happened here (actually I am, but I doubt you'd be interested), but I figured some film peeps would like it (I don't. I want my stuff to be predictably awesome).

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Capturing a family outing is a great way to preserve real memories. Interested? Shoot me an email, or give me a call.

And If you didn't hear the news, I'll be on the East Coast for some time towards the beginning of October. Check out this post for the details.

Geek Speak: RZ67, 110mm, Portra 160vc, Portra 400, Scanned by Superman at the Brothers Wright.

Rachel + Yitzie // Los Angeles, CA

I have typers bock. It's a rare yet harsh malady where although one may have much to say, or even write, those tiny muscles in fingers refuse to translate the impulses sent by the brain into action. Instead somehow I end up in front of the fridge, wondering how long I've been there for.

So I grab a beer (or, if there isn't one in the fridge, I storm away fuming), head back to my computer and type with my toes. Yes, this blog was typed with my toes.

I also used seven cameras for this wedding. Seven. Why? That is a very, very good question. My back and shoulders would like to know the same.

Rachel and her family were part of our community since, well, I can't remember when we didn't know each other. It's amazing to see people grow up into truly unique and special people. Yitzi was always grown up. He may have been a child once but we only met a few months before the wedding, so I have no proof. I do know that he is über smart, witty, and kind. Not a bad combo. There's a lot to tell about this beautiful wedding, with beautiful friends, and beautiful families, but I'll let the photos tell the story.


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