…Where The Thunder And The Rain Will Quietly Pass Me By…

I had somehow lost my primeval passion for photography. Communicating through this medium is my safe place. It’s the place where as the head line borrowed from Guns N roses “Sweet Child Of Mine” suggests, I can hide – literally and metaphorically speaking behind the camera.
But I found that passion again. And you know where it was. It was in two places at the same time: A camera store on Silom and then of course in Gear Wheel Alley, both in Bangkok. So, how did I find my passion again and why am I so sure that I found it again?

I got on my bike today – nothing like riding through Bangkok on a bicycle, pretending the cars and slow-moving traffic is just one endlessly winding single track. On my way to Gear Wheel Alley, I stopped by a local camera store and tried out a Leica M Monochrom. I will spare you the details but you’ll have to endure the nutshell version. The camera is off the charts, it is insane:

  • Black and white only, no color, not even a little
  • Sharpness out the whazoo. Most medium format cameras can only dream of, let alone 35mm FF or point and shoots.
  • Price: if $7995 for just a body without any lens give you wobbly knees, you should have sat down before you read this.

So anyway, after these ultra-informative 30 minutes in the store, I rode on to Gear Wheel Alley. I showed some of the pictures I had taken previously at JSV to the guys there and they loved them. They showed me around their shop and I took a few more images. And because I am in a transition in my life again, I challenged myself – by photographing people! Here we go:

PressureCleanerDarkThis image is grainy, because I shot it at a high ISO. It was essentially pitch dark deep in the bowles of the shop. There is a small area – a former bathroom or shower – which is used to degrease shafts and all sorts of other oily parts that used to make a car go.

CleaningThen there is more cleaning of larger parts – here a clutch bell. These guys sit there and work by cleaning automotive power train parts all day long. What may look to Western eyes like menial is actually a career. As I said last year, I think every engineering student should work at this shop for 4 weeks and learn hands on about engineering. What it means to design for manufacturing and assembly. Because every engine and transmission that comes in here get rough cleaned, disassembled, fine cleaned and components sorted and then re-assembled in to re-sellable properly working engines and transmissions.

AssemblyShaft assembly – here the secondary drive shaft is assembled with bearings, cogs and synchronous bodies – very cool.

BreakTimeThe lady on the right is in charge of the transmission sub-assembly on the left. Think of the stuff on the left as the heart of the transmission and this lady makes sure they all work properly. She is very careful and skilled. She works like a physician when she checks that the gear wheel pairs are all meshing properly and the that the sychronous bodies engage correctly – quality work.

NextStepsMore secondary drive shaft assembly. Him and his co-worker were shooting the shit while I clicked away. The working climate among the probably 10 employees or so was also very friendly and collaborative – that was almost palpable.

When I got home I went to processing my images and found confirmation that I had found my passion again. See, for me black and white is about stark contrast – strong blacks with strong white contrasts and the occasional gray. Some people say, I print too dark. I disagree. My friend Joe once told me when I just started printing in the dark room:”It’s called black and white photography, not shades of gray photography.” I like punch in a black and white picture. And that’s how I know I have found my passion again. I see punch in these images again.

And with that, stay sharp and keep searching for your passion, it’s probably somewhere close by.

Markus \m/

 

P.S.: If there is someone with a good line into Leica, can you hook a brother up with a M Monochrom, so that even I can afford it. $7800 for a body only will not be tolerated even by my usually very liberal and supportive wife. Her comment:”NO!”

 

 

 

 

 

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Quiet Time…..

I am out for dinner tonight. My department is throwing me a farewell dinner – very sweet and I am very much looking forward to it. After all, I hand-picked quite a few of them and helped them grow into the top shelf design department I am leaving.
I got to the restaurant early and walked around a bit, sort of enjoying the calm and quiet before the noise and excitement of the party begins.
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The restaurant has a pond with Lotuses growing and since it’s sunset time you do the math.
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This image I like because it is so wonderfully upside down as life is sometimes, too. And even when it’s upside down there is beauty in it.
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And we are closing with a stark mirror images. Even at the expense of getting too philosophical tonight, just like in life, there is a flip-side, a mirror image to everything, but it does not necessarily mean that that’s a bad thing.

Stay sharp
Yours Markus \m/

“I’m On A Bus” Or “Local Man Plays Traffic”

Last week we did what people sometimes do when they are bored and they are not driven by hormones exclusively anymore – parents relax, this entry is totally G rated. We went and watched the traffic. Bangkok is ideally suited for watching traffic as it avails over bleachers and luxury lounges conveniently placed right over where the action is – the busiest intersections. As we were staring in awe about the ant hill like traffic, one man in a bus became courageous and demonstrated the might of his vehicle without any regards to the world. I give you a “Man’s Man U-Turn”.

BigBus

He did a U-turn, car horns honking, tires screeching and Barbara and I staring in amused amazement.

I salute you, Unknown Bus Driver.

And I challenge you dear reader to stay as sharp AND dedicated to your mission in life as this bus driver to his.

With deepest admiration

Markus \m/

“No More Alice” Or “Damping”

One of my favorite fairy tales is Alice In Wonderland. I like it so much, because it shows how unlimited human fantasy and spirit can be. One of the key thoughts that moments to me is when Alice says to her self:” Sometimes, I am thinking of six impossible things before breakfast.” When you actually challenge yourself to think of just one impossible thing, you see how difficult it can be. Just imagine yourself to be expanding and shrinking in all three dimensions in a normal staff meeting at work – say you triple in each direction and now imagine the regular normal possibly boring flow of that meeting with you expanding and shrinking. It is quite hard imagining that while maintaining normalcy around this impossibility. But there is another key scene happening much earlier, which is when Alice is jumping after the rabbit into the rabbit hole and just falls down in it. This to me is a great metaphor for dealing with the unknown and for not being in control or for not having a plan. I felt like that on Thursday and a bit on Friday, but as I have made up some make-shift plans which i follow to instill some purpose, The fall has ended.

Another much more technical way of explaining what happened is the idea of vibration damping a structure losing control at resonance because it is underdamped. Imagine that the graph you see is your emotional state over time, with a horizontal straight line the ideal and in an instant (t=0) you have just received unexpected news, regardless if they are good or bad. For most people this means a “shock to the system” as we engineers say and that system now responds. For a healthy person that response of his or her mental system should look something like this:

Damped

The emotional response decreases with time – this is what you call coping. That’s what I have been doing when I created a plan and stuck to it. The of course there are events that”hit a chord”with people and the system response looks more like the graph below. We want to get that person help the quicker the better.

OutOfControl

 

And that concludes our little excursion into the fascinating world where engineering, philosophy and psychology overlap.

As part of my plan to avoid the second graph I always resort to photography because it gives me ultimate creative freedom. Near the luxury shopping mall Siam Paragon is a vacant lot from where I have shown picture before. There is one image I want to call “The Living Room:

LivingRoom

All the ruins of the buildings are covered in graffities and paintings. The fact that it is a patchwork makes it to me that much more attractive, because where ever I look my eyes discover something new.

LivingRoom-BWWhile in color it is almost sensory overflow, I prefer the black and white version of this image, because it reduces the visual stimulus to shape and shades of grey (no pun against lonely house wives intended, honestly).

A few meter on towards the Klong, there is a little metal shop where a craftsman was working with grinder. My mind is a wondrous thing, because what popped into my head as I watched? Rolling Stones: Sparks Will Fly. There you have it, my mind at work associating freely and without limits. I see a man doing metal work in flip-flops and my mental soundtrack is the Rolling Stones.

Workingman

 

Alright, this will do for today. We have learned something….something, A LOT!, I’d say. Some people think of six impossible things before breakfast. Engineering can provide a quantitative and graphical representation of how people feel. Watch people work and listen to your favorite band in your head.

 

With today bringing you almost too much insight, I still have to ask that your stay sharp.

Yours Markus \m/

 

Does Idyllic Derive From Idle?

On Thursday, I told you about my lack of a plan for a whole day to myself. For Friday I had a plan. I did the Codea and Javascript programming on Codeacademy (absolutely great concept. All you parents who you are annoyed about your kid doing nothing but play on the iPad. This is your ticket to make little Timmy learn AND have fun). I yoga-ed and processed a few photos. We also had a cup of coffee at type RMA Institute – a small gallery between Soi 16 and Soi 22. And I took a few photos, while we were waiting out the afternoon downpour over a cup of coffee – actually it was orange juice.
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See the fern – idyllic, right? Nonetheless, I am having a much harder time with being caught unprepared for what should be just the most awesome sabbatical. I’ll manage and will eventually enjoy it, but forced idleness is not my cup of tea at all. It reminds me too much of my time in the military – hurry, hurry, wait!
I also took notice of a man eating his breakfast under a tree. Why would I write about something like that? Because he sat on the vast visible root network of that tree. That got me thinking about LinkedIn, which is also a network where everyone knows everyone and everyone is simply super-dooper-awesome. The metaphor, I saw in the image below is that this man is really carried by “his” network, something we all hope our +500 contacts at LinkedIn will do for us….which I somehow doubt.
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And with that profound insight, I say farewell for today and stay sharp. And always have an emergency plan in your back pocket, should you receive unexpected time off.

Markus \m/

When Life Means Too Well

You won’t believe this I woke up tomorrow and I had absolutely no idea what to do. No sense of purpose, direction. Miles away from having a plan. And then I stumbled and fell – metaphorically speaking. Today was the first day of the sequel to the 2010 hit “The Summer Of Markus” – ” The Summer Of Markus 2 – Hotter’n’Humidererer”.
So, I went running. It was hot, but I got my head cleared and determined the purposes on Thursday, August 22nd 2013.
1. Finish running
2. Talk to bank to get iPad for credit card points – prepare for disappointment, because there has to be a catch AND there was.
3. Get haircut
4. Take a few pictures off-off Sukhumvit near Siam.
5. Watch “Despicable Me 2″ – fall asleep on the couch

But you know it is highly dissatisfactory, to have a whole day, waste it away because it wasn’t planned for. And it’ll be a few more days before I start my new work in the toy factory – I am not kidding. A toy factory, how awesome is that. I’ll be working late and tell Barbara:”Honey, we have a shipment of five thousand Porsche 911GT3RS-es Type 991 and their driftability-on-a-breakfast-table-surface requires testing with all hands-on-deck. We don’t want to have any disappointed faces of heaven forbid tears in the key customer demographics of 5 year old and 45 year olds.” Of course I will have a sore through the next day from making the engine noises with gear shifts and tire screeching noises. It’ll be a tough job but someone’s gotta do it. And that someone will be me. But until then it’ll be a little longer and we will have to seize the time.

Now, so much for the update on the work front. City updates next

I love a good burger, I really do. My buddy Nick from Minneapolis makes the best ones. But everytime I am jonesing, he is 12 time zones away….I know inconsiderate of him. Anyway, there is a great little place on Soi Ruamrudee off Sukhumvit near BTS Ploen Chit. The place is called “Hide And Seek”. Although, I have called it “Behind The Wall” because it is behind a wall. These guys make the best Burger in town – indisputably, no doubt whatsoever. AND it is vegetarian, believe you me. Guilt-free burger chowing, can you believe it? And here it is with rosemary fries.

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Please trust me, it is the Toppest Top Shelf. Barbara eats and swears by the chocolate marinated Porkribs.

On to the local art scene. Noctural sprayer beautified this wall near my house. And I like it.

20130822-185951.jpgMore graffity art is visible just behind Siam Paragon. There is a vacant lot that has lots of great and big in size wall-art.

MickySkullMickey Mouse’s skull again. I love that the artist took something iconic and made it his own.
DogAndMuralThis is the image with the big wall art. The dog you see in the lower left was tearing something out of the ground. He was very timid and kept at least 15 meters distance from me. While he worked what ever it was out of the ground he kept an eye on me. Once he had it he walked swiftly across the parking lot and vanished.

Now, let’s recapitulate. What does this entry’s headline have to do with the actual blog entry. It is not about a spoilt rotten jerk who is bitchin’ that his life is just too awesome, by no means. I guess, that when live means really well, but you are not prepared, it can cause more confusion than it does good. However, this will not happen tomorrow, saince I have a plan, I am prepared.

Get up and practice Yoga for 60 minutes.

Continue with my CodeAcademy JavaScript class.

Write one program in Lua in the Codea environment

Ride with Barbara to RamKhamHaeng Road and take photos of the old 747 sitting there on an empty lot.

 

Until then, stay sharp.

Yours Markus \m/

A Lazy Weekend In Bangkok

It’s Sunday evening and this weekend is almost over again. Time to provide a little summary of what a lazy weekend looks like. Friday evening marks the start of the weekend. And it started with the younger sister of the mother of all traffic jams. I got out of the car near Victory Monument and hailed a motorcycle taxi. As I walked to the motorcycle drivers, I saw this mural of the Mickey Mouse skull.
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I got to the drivers and interrupted them during their own Friday evening wind-down – silly me. Not wanting to disturb them I just waited for the next “less wound down driver” to take me home.
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10 minutes and a 100 Baht later I was home. We had dinner, talked about the past week, went for a swim and then watched a movie.
Saturday, we went shopping. On the way we walked past an exhibition on bamboo…..I love bamboo. I really do, it’s a demonstration of nature’s perfection in every aspect: aesthetics, material, appearance. It’s long slender, sways beautifully, yet, it’s strong and hard to yield or fracture. it grows at insane speeds – about thirty feet in ninety days.
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On our way back home we walked down Soi 22. At night this is an entertainment area with massage parlors, restaurants and a few night clubs. About 50 meters down from Sukhumvit is Titanium, a cool club with a good All-Girls house band that plays covers all night long. Further down the Soi the clubs cater pretty much exclusively to the needs of Japanese customers. But during day day it’s just a Soi with a vivid neighborhood and an electrical grid that is conducive (look, a pun) to the suicider’s electrocution needs.
20130804-200359.jpg Evidently, anybody at 5 feet (1.5m) and above who wants to go out in a blaze can do so walking on this sidewalk. Of course, if like me you can’t get enough life, stay away and just take a photo. While it may be the sissy alternative, it is definitely the safer one…..even though you need to watch the cars when you stand in the middle of the road taking images.
This leaves us with Sunday. Today we rode on our bikes around south of Rama 4 and found a pretty well sorted bike shop, called Interbike. After strolling around he store we and rode on and stopped in the same Soi at Cafe November. November, because November is the best month in Thailand according to the owner. Both places are going south off Rama 4 in Soi Yen-A-Kat.
And now as I mentioned earlier, it is Sunday night and time to close this entry.

Stay sharp….

Yours Markus \m/