12.25.2008

Merry Christmas.

Wee snowman. © Ryan Schierling

We've been snowed in here in Seattle for almost a week now. It really gives you time to work on things you've been putting off – like making a tiny top hat out of black paper scraps, a tiny scarf out of leftover fabric and a "corn cob" pipe out of a white peppercorn, a rosemary twig and some superglue. Never underestimate the power of cabin fever, hard liquor and time.

12.20.2008

Cold snap.

Icicles on a dried sunflower head against the white sky. © Ryan Schierling

Schools and quite a few businesses were closed again yesterday, the snow-covered streets iced up like mad and, in addition to a majority of people banging their vehicles into each other like sugar-addled 5-year-olds in bumper cars, a pair of charter buses smashed through a guardrail at the end of a hill and hung precariously over a 30-foot drop to the already buggered-up northbound I-5. Certainly no shortage of drama for a town that has little sense when it comes to winter weather. 

Another storm is blowing in tonight, but I don't mind.

I am only a few blocks from two different grocers, a liquor store and at least 43 Thai restaurants. There is a certain Winnie The Pooh tack to adopt in this instance, I believe. 

"It's snowing still. And freezing. However, we haven't had an earthquake lately."


12.19.2008

Space Needle (12)

Day 2 of snow. © Ryan Schierling

You can't blame me. I already told you the story.

12.18.2008

"A year of snow, a year of plenty" - French proverb.

Julie, Seattle Center. © Ryan Schierling

12.16.2008

Should we talk about the weather? (Hi... hi, hi)


Freezing rain. Snow on picket fence. © Ryan Schierling

12.14.2008

Cosa sucia.

Bean Burrito #6, from the Ugly Food series. © Ryan Schierling

Cheesy Double Beef Burrito #2, from the Ugly Food series. © Ryan Schierling

[ Ugly Food is a photo series looking at processed and packaged food that anyone can purchase for one dollar or less. ]

When you carefully unwrap and lay out more than a dozen assorted burritos from the 79-89-99-cent Taco Bell menu, it's difficult to not be struck by the notion that they all look quite a lot like dirty diapers.

12.09.2008

Gallus domesticus simulacrum.

(L) Take-out bag (R) 4-piece McNuggets, from the Ugly Food series. © Ryan Schierling

[ Ugly Food is a photo series looking at processed and packaged food that anyone can purchase for one dollar or less. ]

When is a Chicken McNugget not a chicken nugget? When it's only made of (up to) 44% chicken.


"The ingredients listed in the (McDonald's Nutritional Information) flyer suggest a lot of thought goes into a nugget, that and a lot of corn. Of the thirty-eight ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, I counted thirteen that can be derived from corn: the corn-fed chicken itself; modified cornstarch (to bind the pulverized chicken meat); mono-, tri-, and diglycerides (emulsifiers, which keep the fats and water from separating); dextrose; lecithin (another emulsifier); chicken broth (to restore some of the flavor that processing leeches out); yellow corn flour and more modified cornstarch (for the batter); cornstarch (a filler); vegetable shortening; partially hydrogenated corn oil; and citric acid as a preservative. A couple of other plants take part in the nugget: There's some wheat in the batter, and on any given day the hydrogenated oil could come from soybeans, canola, or cotton rather than corn, depending on the market price and availability.

According to the handout, McNuggets also contain several completely synthetic ingredients, quasiedible substances that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but form a petroleum refinery or chemical plant. These chemicals are what make modern processed food possible, by keeping the organic materials in them from going bad or looking strange after months in the freezer or on the road. Listed first are the "leavening agents": sodium aluminum phosphate, mono-calcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are antioxidants added to keep the various animal and vegetable fats involved in a nugget from turning rancid. 

Then there are "anti-foaming agents" like dimethylpolysiloxene, added to the cooking oil to keep the starches from binding to air molecules, so as to produce foam during the fry. The problem is evidently grave enough to warrant adding a toxic chemical to the food: According to the Handbook of Food Additives, dimethylpolysiloxene is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigen, and reproductive effector; it's also flammable. 

But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to "help preserve freshness." According to A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause "nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse." Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.”

But, hey, the kids go crazy for them.

12.05.2008

Vitriol.

(L) Saf-T-Pop sucker. (R) Sucker punch. © Ryan Schierling

Or, what does vengeance taste like? Is it sweet, like poets, clich├ęd sportswriters and mystery authors would attest? Does it taste like tears and blood? Who put the sucker in sucker punch? Have you ever been sucker punched? So many questions.

I've spent a little bit of spare time over the last couple of weeks writing things down on a legal pad, mostly words that pop into my head during the day or concepts that are just vague enough to push me to want to see them realized in some fashion or another. That's one of my favorite things about being a photographer – sometimes you just take photographs, other times you
make them. And that process, the exploration of concepts from nothing more than a gut feeling in the morning when you wake up, to fully-realized images, is always an incredible learning experience. 

This pair of photos came from, among other things, three "V" words – vitriol, vengeance and violent. 

(Oh, and really, I swear, I am in the holiday spirit. Honest.)