Archive for culture crit

Flash Lamp Photography: Behind the Scenes of an NPR Interview

I met Race Gentry standing with his antique camera and vintage flash lamp outside his mother’s home in La Jolla. I was there to record audio for an All Things Considered story and shoot video to accompany the interview on NPR’s website. Race is one of the few people around who uses the 100-year-old technique.

Screenshot of NPR media player

In typical tape sync fashion, Robert Siegel spoke to Race by phone. I stood next to Race, holding the mic six inches from his mouth — my recording of his voice would later be combined with the host’s voice by NPR editors, giving the conversation a higher quality, natural sound. Unfortunately, we had to stop the interview every few minutes because of the military flights going in and out of MCAS Miramar. We were also interrupted for trash collection. And again for recycling.

Race explained the process of pouring the powder in the tray, setting the percussion cap in place, pulling the trigger to ignite the cap, and the explosive flash that follows. The first flash lamp he demonstrated with wouldn’t fire. He was using toy paper caps, but the humidity or bad luck kept it from firing. He switched to another flash lamp that uses rare, original percussion caps. That definitely did the trick. The massive smoke cloud was pretty impressive.

Take a look at the final video, listen to the interview and hear the flash lamp sound. Race Gentry also has his own flash lamp videos on YouTube.

Death to Elmo (Piñata)

Whatever lingering cultural history may have once enshrined piñatas, I don’t think these kids are learning about its pre-Columbian heritage:

Principal Svadean: Look, Pedro, I don’t know how they do things down in Juarez, but here in Idaho we have a little something called pride. Understand? Smashing in the face of a piñata that resembles Summer Wheatley is a disgrace to you, me, and the entire Gem State. (Napoleon Dynamite, 2004)

You can’t help chuckle at the iron of a child bashing their favorite cartoon character with a stick only to be rewarded with candy. While I agree with Cindylu that piñatas are problematic, I can’t help smiling when everyone dive-bombs the ground, scrapping over Blowpops and Smartees.

Piñata Song

Dale, dale, dale
No pierdes el tino
Porque si lo pierdes
Pierdes el camino
Ya le diste una
Ya le diste dos
Ya le diste tres
Y tu tiempo se acabó!
Hit it, hit it, hit it
Don’t miss
Because if you miss
You lose your way
You hit it once
You hit it twice
You hit it three times
And your turn is over!

Tijuana / San Diego Driving Time-lapse

Heading north through Tijuana on the Via Rápida, getting gas for $3/gallon, crossing the border, driving on the I-805 in San Diego.

Memories of Guanajuato

For a few days in November of 2006, we visited Guanajuato. In this video, Rosario reminisces about her first childhood trip to the state’s capital city.

Saturdays in TJ: Los Futbolistas

It’s impossible to point a camera in any direction in Tijuana and not find something interesting. It’s a cultural war zone, the mezzanine between two worlds. But in the middle of this political purgatory, there are people. And my Saturday routine is about family.

The song used in the video (On Our Own by September Malevolence) is available as a free download on Last.fm.

Documenting a Deported Teen in Tijuana

This summer, I met a 17-year-old boy named Jay at a DIF shelter in Tijuana. He had spent 15 of his 17 years in the U.S., brought from Mexico at age 2. Working alongside KPBS reporter Amy Isackson, we recorded his story and photographed him (all except his face because the shelter administrators wouldn’t allow it).

View photos from the Tijuana youth shelter on Flickr »

Jay's PerchIn the CourtyardAmy Interviews JayMusicPersonal BelongingsJay's DrawingWatching TVPassing the TimeIn LimboFootball ScarScarThinking of Home

Off Mic screenshot



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