Monday, April 30, 2007


Toshiro Mifune was one badass motherf***er. Sure, there are other tough guys in film - but Mifune-san did it with more complexity than most. He played sensitive, troubled characters and he had a range like that of a great vocalist. His longstanding collaboration with Director Akira Kurosawa makes for an extremely varied and impressive body of work, and that would be the case even if he never made a film with another director (and he made plenty with other directors). A few of my fave roles with Kurosawa are Stray Dog (a post-war rookie cop whose pistol has been stolen and is being used to commit crimes), Yojimbo (a masterless samurai with a conscience), High and Low (a wealthy industrialist despised by a working class madman), and Red Beard (a doctor selflessly treating the poor). He, along with Kurosawa and team, beautifully expressed universal themes of human experience often missing from many of today's performances.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

big & smug

No, not the gentle little creekmouth sandbar pictured above. Big, windy, and lonely Smugs. I caught a few outside bombs (thank you rip current for your assistance - never could have done it without you), and took a couple on the head. There were never more than four out beyond the impact zone at any given time, often I was alone. Humbling, scary, and beautiful...all at the same time.

Photo of Garrapata State Beach, CA - Spring 1999

Friday, April 27, 2007

order in the garden!

Photos copyright 1995 Gazelle

Le Grande Canal de Versailles and The Palace Garden

It's ironic that the French, known for their laissez-faire (literally translated as "let do") attitude toward many things in life, have a tradition of very ordered landscape design. They completely prevent nature from doing its thing. At least Japanese gardens, meticulously planned as they are, strive to give the illusion of being natural. But the French don't bother with that - highly manicured and sharp angles are the standard.

It's also ironic that the nearby British have a much more "let do" attitude toward landscaping. Their gardens are typically wild and thick with growth. In spite of the fact that if I designed a garden it wouldn't look like the photos above, I enjoyed exploring French parks and gardens. After all, variety is the spice of life, no?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

psychedelic rocketfish

They took down my height and weight and the colors I wanted and this is what I got: a plump, 5'10" rocket for speeding ahead of sections and riding waves like a skateboard. When I picked it up, the color job immediately reminded me of the giant jawbreaker candies I was addicted to as a kid. It's one of those boards even non-surfers like to look at...

Monday, April 23, 2007


Photo copyright Gazelle 1995

Mojave Desert, California

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Photos copyright Gazelle 1995

N. Venice and S. Santa Monica have been through many transformations in the last 100 years. From sand and weeds to resort development to seedy beach ghetto to gentrified yuppie and celebrity haven. Although the area is now more expensive and crowded than ever, it still has character. One side benefit of all the recent changes is that the gang wars have become mostly ancient history on the westside (in large part because gangsters have actually been priced out of their traditional hoods). In spite of it all, historic Dogtown remains a self-contained district where residents can (and do) easily walk and bike and skate to everything they need. Unfortunately, that's not as common as it should be in LA.

And when the next wave of urban decay sweeps over the area, who knows what new artistic incubations and social transformations are in store for Dogtown?

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Photo copyright Gazelle 2000
Siena, Italy

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Photos copyright Gazelle 1999 & 2000

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Photo copyright Gazelle 1992
Bob lived in his van in front of my apartment building in Santa Monica. The building manager kindly allowed him to park his van in the driveway in exchange for some handyman work on the property. The manager also let him use her bathroom. Bob was hard of hearing and difficult to understand but I learned a few things about him. He liked cigars and enjoyed visitors in his van 'living room.' He always greeted me with a wave if he wasn't slumped asleep over his steering wheel. After I got to know him a little better I asked if he would let me take some portraits. The photo above is one of the results.

After a couple years, I moved to a different location across town. Sometimes I would pass by and see Bob and/or his vehicle. Then, not surprisingly, Bob was gone. He was very old and he passed away peacefully in his van. The manager said he had no family that she was aware of. Not long afterward, the van was taken away.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

the lighthouse keeper

Highland Light, Cape Cod

"He spoke of the anxiety and sense of responsibility which he felt in cold and stormy nights in the winter; when he knew that many a poor fellow was depending on him, and his lamps burned dimly, the oil being chilled."

Henry David Thoreau, writing about the keeper of the Highland Light, on one of his visits to Cape Cod in the 1850's.

Thoreau wrote that the oil provided to the keepers at this time by the government was low grade 'summer oil', entirely unsuitable for freezing temperatures and causing the keepers additional difficulties and anxiety during cold weather. No doubt this situation led to more lives lost than necessary...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


If you have never visited Jalama Beach Park and the surrounding coastline in northern Santa Barbara County, put it on your 'to visit' list. Isolated and without a reservation system, it can be a pain in the ass getting a campsite on a summer weekend (you won't get a spot unless you arrive by Thursday midday). But the rest of the year is mellow, and if you're lucky the afternoon onshores won't be too strong (although the kiteboarders are fun to watch).

Jalama Beach is a wonderful example of hybrid southern/central California coastal environment relatively untouched by humankind. Aside from the simple campground and store, there are only train tracks a couple hundred feet above the beach, wide open ranch land, and just one road in and out. Otherwise it's all pretty wild and natural with no civilization in sight.

There is beachbreak directly in front of the campground, a few funky reefs to the north and south that sometimes come alive, and the powerful lefts of Tarantulas, about 1/2 mile to the south. I highly recommend walking the 8 or so miles south to Point Conception. The last stretch to the base of the point is only possible at a solid low tide but it's a GREAT walk and you're likely to be all alone, a rarity (at least on the coast) in southern California...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

salt of the earth

Photo copyright Gazelle 2001

Her homemade vino blanco comes from backyard vines, fermented just a couple months, proudly served in pint glasses that will be refilled regularly and insistently. Saying no is not an option. Guests will be drunk in the early afternoon, hungover by evening...

Laza, Galicia, Spain

Monday, April 9, 2007

capt. watson comes to town!

If you're in the Portland area, come hear Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson talk next week about his organization's current campaigns. For example, ramming Japanese whalers in international waters and spraying their crews with pie filling! And it's legal under United Nations law! (Well, maybe not the pie filling part.) This man is the real deal - a committed lifetime environmentalist and friend to the seas and the creatures that live in them.

Wednesday, April 18th in Room 7 of Wood Hall at Lewis and Clark Law School, 12:00-1:30PM. Admission is FREE and donated food will be provided by Blossoming Lotus of Portland. Hell, yeah! Mosh pit in front of the podium!

Capt. Watson will also be speaking that evening at Pirate's Tavern but you'll have to make a minimum $5 donation to attend that event.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

t street

T Street: a normally sloppy reef break just south of the San Clemente Pier, pictured above during one of its finer moments. As sloppy and as full of lumpy sections as it usually is though, this spot and other relatively low quality beach breaks in S.C. have been a breeding ground for very good surfers. Not only do the breaks in town have their moments, it doesn't hurt that Trestles is just south of town and Salt Creek is just a few minutes north. That said, what I like most about T Street is that it can hold some size. My favorite combination of conditions there is a hefty SW at low tide. The rights may be ridden the longest then, all the way onto the inside sandbar where you can sometimes get royally shacked.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


Photo copyright Gazelle 2001

Independent granny, living alone. Getting all her stuff done. Cute as a button.

Galicia, Spain

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

home for the holidays

Photo copyright Gazelle 2001

Picture this: you live in the big city 6 hours drive from the tiny village where you grew up. Almost everyone your age and younger lives elsewhere now, but most are home celebrating this week. This is your chance to return temporarily to the way of life you wish wasn't fading, as the village shrivels into a quiet spot where the old folks pass away, one by one. You're probably an alcoholic, especially this week. Next week you'll be back at work in the big city, surrounded by millions of strangers.

Carnival 2001, Laza, Galicia, Spain.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

old school recycling

"The objects around us, the make-shifts of fishermen ashore, often made us look down to see if we were standing on terra firma. In the wells everywhere a block and tackle were used to raise the bucket, instead of a windlass, and by almost every house was laid up a spar or a plank or two full of auger-holes, saved from a wreck. The windmills were partly built of these, and they were worked into the public bridges. The light-house keeper, who was having his barn shingled, told me casually that he had made three thousand good shingles for that purpose out of a mast. You would sometimes see an old oar used for a rail. Frequently also some fairweather finery ripped off a vessel by a storm near the coast was nailed up against an outhouse."

- from Henry David Thoreau's "Cape Cod", written in the 1850's

I am not sure what is so appealing to me about ripping parts off a shipwreck and making use of them, nor what exactly is so exciting about a shipwreck. I guess tearing apart a wreck is just plain interesting because you never know what you might find. With a shipwreck, I suppose the attraction is manyfold: the drama of a storm, the actual wrecking of the ship, heroic rescue and survival stories, and lives lost. But scavenging has its own thrills, too. It's old school recycling at its finest.