Making a List

Here's one list for starters, not perfect, there are others out there. Adjust or make your own checklist. No need to quibble too much about each action item, the basics are pretty clear.

Plenty of people are worried, but there are those who say that individual actions are pointless, delusional, that the level of change required has to come first from business and government.

BS. How will it ever come from the top? If it comes from the bottom first. Stop waiting for the perfect political leadership to save us, it will never come. If enough people think differently and are willing to act, to leap fervently into action, we've got a shot. It will take time to build but the top-down changes will follow.

It's especially required of us in the DC area to push a cultural shift, with our combo of knowledge, resources, and access to policy-makers who may live right down the street.

We are all both the problem and the solution. Each of us needs to own that and act, everyday, not just leave it for some other sucker. It’s like traffic: everyone wishes others would get off the road.

Everything we do supports the systems that are leading us rapidly down the wrong environmental path. We don't need to be perfect, and we can still have fun, noble, full lives and dreams - even as we strive to change everything. We do need to try harder, to understand better, multitask, think beyond ourselves more, and to keep at it. Not just in the short-term, but forever. Accept that the right to privileged lives of thoughtless abundance and carefree comfort and convenience is already revoked.

Dutch street photography - in the 1890s!

Tremendous work, the 1890s like you’ve never seen. Great instinct for both the moment and the whole frame, like if Cartier-Bresson had been around 40 years earlier. Also striking is the sense of place and mood. Like you’re there. But how was he shooting so quickly with the film limitations of the time?

Tesla Girls

Yes, we bought a Tesla. I won't try to become a car reviewer, but a few thoughts and initial impressions:

It's an incredible car, electric or otherwise. I feel like performance, design, engineering, tech are all astounding, unbelievable, better than anything I thought I would ever own in this lifetime. Fun and beautiful and sturdy-feeling. No cons except not cheap. Some 'asset management' was required to make it happen, which took some doing and even sacrifice.

More than anything, it feels like an investment in the future. Meaning getting onboard with where things are going and need to go, with the goal of helping to get there quicker. Nudging the market. It's amazing how quickly you pass gas stations and notice how crummy and archaic they seem.

I was actually somewhat of a naysayer. I was all for an EV in theory (both of us were), but worried about the car’s cost and the logistics of charging. Neither one of us wanted a fancy car for the sake of fancy. In fact the minimalism of much of the Tesla design approach suits us. For the purchase cost we found a way, in part because it became a matter of living our values. For the charging, charging cost, and range, now that I get how it all works I have zero concerns. Especially for a Tesla EV, since they have their own slick 'supercharger' stations all over the place, with many more on the way soon.

And yesterday as I was tooling around solo for a bit, I had the bizarre, surreal experience of blasting God Save the Queen (on the great sound system with its own unlimited streaming service):

"No future, no future" - a decades-ago fit of nihilism, as I simultaneously found myself in that future that wasn't supposed to happen, in a world already radically different from back then; wondering/worried about our own future, yet feeling just a little clearer on how we might get there after all; and gliding along in what it might look like. Time-travel.

4th of July 2014

[Last year’s 4th of July post is here]

One thing I’ve noticed myself doing lately in conversation is finding excuses to bring up how far back I can trace my ancestry in America.

On my father’s side (hey look, I’m doing it again!), the Crandalls go back to Elder John Crandall, who came over from England in the early-mid 1600s. He was apparently an associate of Roger Williams, who established the state of Rhode Island. John Crandall — same name as my father — was among a group of two dozen souls that settled Westerly, RI (amazingly his homestead still stands, not far from a Wal-Mart). He seems to have been at least somewhat of a dissident-minded pilgrim, which would have endeared him to Williams, who sounds like my kind of guy for his progressive attitudes on slavery, native Americans, and religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson was known to quote Williams. So I reckon that gives me only a few degrees of separation from the Founding Fathers.

On my mother’s side, our first ancestor was 7-year-old Hugh Fraser. In 1707, legend has it little Hugh was kidnapped off the street in Paisley, Scotland and shipped off to America as an indentured servant, ending up on a Maryland tobacco farm. Basically a trafficked child. As traumatic as it must have been, Hugh grew up to marry the owner’s daughter and take over the place. (I guess white privilege extends pretty far back as well, but that’s another discussion.)

The farm was on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, just across the water from where my mother lives now. The memorial for my mom’s companion Ed Becke, who passed away last year, was held in old St James Church, which existed during Hugh Fraser’s life 300 years ago. Maybe he heard of it, or went there at some point. Maybe I was sitting/standing/walking where he did the same. I find that incredible.

So there are two family links to pre-George Washington America. Not too shabby, as my father might have said.

I love thinking about history in ways that make it more personal and resonant.

Lincoln would often ride his horse from his summer cottage to the White House, passing quite close to where I now live. He surveyed the burial of Civil War soldiers in the cemetery I pass going to my daughter’s ballet lessons. Lincoln’s son Robert died a few years after my house was built — within the house’s ‘living memory’ if you will — which somehow brings Lincoln himself closer.

My parents were married by James Reeb, a Unitarian minister and civil rights activist who would later be murdered by white racist thugs in Selma in the early 1960s. Another reason I haven’t quite forgiven the South yet. His death sparked a national outcry that helped bring about the Voting Rights Act, which Lyndon Johnson signed into law, it so happens, on the day of my birth. Reeb officiated the wedding at All Souls Church, where my parents first met, and where more recently we had my father’s memorial service.

So why bring all this up, aside from a kind of bragging? I certainly believe America belongs to those who arrived yesterday just as much as 400 years ago. Seeing photos of the kids coming across the Mexican border lately, and imagining their plight, made me think of Hugh Fraser. As our country seems more and more unhinged, perhaps it just helps me feel more anchored in where we came from. And since many on the right often lay claim to the legacy of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, maybe I as a progressive feel compelled to point out that distant history is mine too. And not even that distant. I can learn about Roger Williams and his brave, ethical, humanist stances and think, yeah, I’d associate with that guy too.

Enjoyed being interviewed the other day for a book project on the intersection of photography and spirituality. Took me back to advice I got many years ago from the great Viktor Kolar, “to take your work to a more spiritual level as an artist, you must first develop your sensibilities, then learn how to make them visual”. We talked about receptivity, attentiveness, letting go, channeling instead of contriving photos. All so much more important than gear or technical considerations.

The Waiting Room is in great company at Politics and Prose! Thanks to staff for putting it out front and center!




I’m happy to have won 2nd place in FotoweekDC’s 2013 International Awards Competition, Contemporary Life category, for my recent work from Tallinn, Estonia.

The work itself was a long time coming - but a very short time in the making!

I’ve been shooting in Eastern Europe since 1998 for my project East, and I’d been considering how to put a bow on things. I thought about various countries’ transitions over the long term, and realized - where does it end? Does it end? When can a country finally stop being referred to as post-Soviet, post-communist, former Yugoslavia? What happens when Country 2.0 ‘arrives’? Ding, transition complete, please remove from microwave.

I decided Tallinn might be an example of what post-post-Soviet looked and felt like. Estonia moved early, quickly, and aggressively to get out from under the shadow of the Soviet era. Over the summer I was in Finland for a month-long residency, so at the very end of my stay I hopped on the short ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn.

I only had two days, which is absurdly short if your goal is even limited insight into a place. So I kept things as simple as possible, barely set foot in the beautiful old town, and worked only in the bustling new business districts. That seemed to be where I could at least capture an impressionistic sense of the new landscape, and explore the question of whether the past is actually fully past.

The first view at the ferry port was a bit ominous. In front of you looms the massive, moldering Linnahall event center from the Soviet days. The city has no idea how to get rid of it. You climb long steps to get up and over the squat mass of concrete and proceed across a vast weedy plaza, Tallinn’s modern office buildings on the horizon.

These pictures are simply fragmented impressions, which is all I really set out to capture. I wouldn’t try to pass too much judgment from such a short visit. Walking and biking around, I did find the city vibrant and interesting, even in the areas with some pleasantly ragged edges. It feels more dynamic than sleepy Vilnius and more self-confident than I remember Riga in the 90s. In a strange way it reminded me of a mini-Berlin, in the sense that you can feel how yes, the pieces somehow feel all in place, but perhaps only recently, and you’re aware of the gaps.

I’d love to spend more time there. I learned a lot from my kind and urbane hosts Aleksei and Katrin about not just the history but the current mentality of Estonians. Locals may have psychologically moved on since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and may even scoff at the question of whether they are still 'post-Soviet’. And young people have no memory of that time. But to me a bit of vapor lingers in the crevices. Not necessarily Soviet vapor. Just a sense of the long arc of history still playing out. Just across the Baltic, Helsinki is a Nordic urban wonder but feels a bit staid at times, like fully settled business. Tallinn is a more tumultuous organism, still mutating. Definitely post-post-Soviet, but not quite done yet.

Once I came off the road after Zeppelin it was such a major part of me missing. I had no vehicle to play in and I had such a reputation for playing live that I got frightened about doing it. If I did four bad gigs, nobody would want to know and I had a few more things I wanted to say in music. So now I’m past middle age. But what do you do when you get to middle age? The music press say you are fucked after you are 30. But I’m not and there’s a lot more for me to do.
— Jimmy Page ~ mid-1980s (via snortleme)


Evocative photos of men who were around for the American Revolution. They make you imagine those times, before pretty much everything we now see around us even existed.

Fast-forward 200+ years. I look around and I see a nation of flinty, hard-working, well-educated, modest people. Who are proud of their nation’s gains but constantly work together to improve, resulting in a country ranked at or near the top of most quality of life surveys. Who have civilized, highly-advanced, safe, cultured cities, which people enjoy yet also crave the rustic life of their rural cottages, where they can get their hands dirty and enjoy the simple, even austere, pleasures of their ancestors. You can really sense the thread back to our early founding fathers in these people, and appreciate the fine results of those long-ago sacrifices.

Then I remember I’m in Finland.

Then again, they’ve only been independent for almost 100 years, so still time to make a mess of things. But it’s impossible not to notice how Finnish society gets so many hard things right and we seem to get even the easy stuff wrong these days. Of course I understand we are infinitely different countries, and the complexity and size of America makes everything more difficult.

On this 4th of July abroad, I think about what I love about my country and wouldn’t trade for anything. But being away also gives quite of bit of perspective. Yes, many things have improved in the big picture over our long haul, not least the situation for minorities and women compared to past generations. And I know what you’re thinking, yes, the US even with its flaws can be a pretty exciting (ahem) place compared with the sometimes bland perfection of the Nordic countries.

Yet we are up to our eyeballs in so much that shames the legacy of those who created this country. I don’t have to list our ills. Frankly we probably wouldn’t even agree about what the ills are, though that would be a helpful first step.

Instead of (or at least in addition to) an annual spectacle of mindless whoosh-bang-bang, I wish we could use the 4th of July as a annual reminder of the need for self-improvement, for reexamining priorities, shedding petty baggage, and renewing our internal sense of the social contract. Not to be a buzzkill, but it would be great if we could get in the habit of remodeling ourselves as worthy heirs to this country. I used to think of the US as innately tending toward continual, almost compulsive self-improvement.

We certainly seem to have gotten away from that in many regards, to put it kindly.


At an intersection in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood that I pass through practically every day, where now there’s a rather bland bank-and-plaza combo, there used to be the largest cinema in the city. The Knickerbocker was built by a theater magnate by the name of Harry Crandall (no relation as far as I know). For you Washingtonians - from this angle, looking northeast toward 18th and Columbia, notice the BB&T bank building in the background. The building a little to the left, next to the trolley, has the current Starbucks.

In January 1922, a snowstorm collapsed the entire roof of the Knickerbocker during a packed screening of the comedy “Get Rich Quick Wallingford”, killing more than 90 people and injuring more than 130 others.

Today, 91 years later almost to the day, as a light snow fell on DC, the Washington Post had a great series of images from the snowstorm and the theater tragedy:

How the Knickerbocker Storm Got Its Name

Here’s a nice shot of the Knickerbocker Theater in 1917:


Harry Crandall went on to build the Lincoln Theater, which still stands at 12th and U Streets, and the Tivoli Theater in Columbia Heights, which after many years of decrepitude is restored and an anchor of the revitalized neighborhood. My dad said he remembered going to see movies there when he lived in Mt. Pleasant in the late 1950s.

Harry Crandall committed suicide in 1937.