Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Father's Day

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This is a video of our Father's Day trip to El Chiflon waterfalls in Chiapas, near Comitan. We spent the day swimming (actually trying to not get knocked over by the current), picnicking and hiking up to the larger falls above the swimming area. We saw lots of lizards, butterflies and even a small bird that had fallen from it's nest. The falls are spectacular. We went up to the last lookout, just below the falls, although I had to leave my camera with someone below because the spray from the falls would have ruined it. At the last lookout you are just below the falls on a smal rock outcrop. The spray from the waterfalls comes up at you from below. The wind from the falls was strong (this is the highest I've seen the water level there) and standing on top of this rock below the falls with the sun directly above we had a rainbow below us in a perfect 360 circle. Next time I'm bringing a protective cover for my camera so I can film that. It was a great Father's day.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Guadalupe Rockets Redux

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Back in January I posted a short video of the amazing rockets (cuetes) shot off during the Guadalupe fiesta (http://blip.tv/file/8548). Here's a video shot by my friend Bruce Ferguson of the same celebration. If you look closely about 19 seconds into the video, just slightly above center you can see me kneeking down, with my eye glued to the viewfinder, getting a closeup view of the rocket launches. The thumbnail for this video has a red circle superimposed so that you can see me. Bruce got a nice overall long shot of the celebration, but I was following the advice of war photographer Robert Capa: "If your pictures aren`t good enough, you aren't close enough." (http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901020708-267730,00.html)

Dolphins in the Bow Wake

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Well, my big project is over and I'll be able to spend more time on video. Here's some video I shot back in April when my son Norm was here visiting. We went down to Puerta Arista and did some fishing. We launched the boat through the surf and went out a few kilometers into the Pacific. We saw quite a few dolphins out there, doing the same thing we were: fishing. In fact the best fishing was when we were running with the dolphins. This footage is of a group of dolphins following us and playing in the bow wake of our small boat. I was hanging out over the bow and got some great footage. The fish my son catches at the end of this clip is a bonito, a type of small tuna.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Midnight Marimba: Santa Cruz Fiesta, Suchiapa

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My compadres Gil and Candelaria live in Suchiapa, one of my favorite places in all of Mexico. Why? Because it's a very friendly place and it has lots of very colorful and heartfelt fiestas. We've gone down for the Santa Cruz fiesta before, but this year Gil asked if we could come down and stay over on April 29th. That's when the rompamiento of the fiesta is and they start with a midnight marimba party, which this year occured in the street in front of my compadre's house. We had been working hard to finish up a publishing project and we worked until about 8:30 Saturday night. We arrived in Suchiapa around 10:45. The street was blocked off a couple of blocks from Gil's house. I told the cop that they had to let us through "Because my compadre lives there and he's waiting for us". The cop waved us on through. This clip shows the crowd in the street dancing to the marimba music at about midnight. You'll fisrt see my compadres Gil and Candelaria, then my wife Rocio dancing with our daughter Angie, then my friends Steve and June who are here on an extended visit, then I dance with Angie . More clips to come. Enjoy

Sunday, March 05, 2006


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We went down to see the Carnaval celebration in Ocozocoatla last Sunday. It's a spectacular parade with lots of very colorful costumes, music and pandamonium. A local custom is that the onlookers and the parade participants throw flour and talc powder at each other and spray foam at everone. You can see the foam and flour in the air in a lot of this video. It's a pretty wild time; very festive and just this side of chaos. Very Mexican. Hope you enjoy.

Spraying Foam

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We went to the Carnaval celebration in Ocozocoatla, Chiapas Mexico last Sunday. There's a huge parade with great costumes and the crowd and the people in the parade throw flour and talcum powder at each other and spray foam at each other. At first Angie, my youngest daughter (6 yr. old) was a little freaked out by the throwing and spraying. Then my wife Rocio bought her a can of foam to spray. She soon got over her anxieties. This footage is of my family. Angie sprays Rocio and then sprays me. Then I spray Angie and my oldest daughter Helena and Rocio.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Feliz Navidad

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Yeah, I know, it's almost February. WEll I was going through footage I took just after Christmas and I couldn't resist uploading this Dancing Singing Santa doll. Let me be the first to say Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bull Riding, Equipulas Fiesta, Chilil, Chiapas

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Last Sunday was the feast day of Esquipulas and we went to Chilil to see their fiesta. I've known a family of albaniles (masons) from Chilil for about 8 years now, but have never visited their village. It's a small village about half an hour from San Cristobal. I figured it was a small village and the festival probably wasn't that interesting
Well, I was wrong. It's a religious feast and there was a wonderful procession where the village elders got in a pickup truck with the Esquipulas cross (Esquipulas is a town in Guatemala where a burning cross miraculuosly fell from the sky in colonial times) and they drove slowly around the village as a large crowd followed them.
After the procession the elders sat at a table outside of the church and drank pox, a cane liquor used in the highlands. There was traditional flute and drum  music (pre-hispanic in origin), a German style brass band and a modern rock band, all playing at the same time. A very intense basketball tournament and a soccer tournament were also going on.
But we came to see the bull riding. There's a big corral in town and they brought in one bull at a time to be riden. They tied him to the rail fence and then a large group of men pulled his tail so he couldn't kick and move. The rider mounted him and then they turned him loose. After the ride they would lasso him and them tie him to the fence again so the rider, who was pretty much tied to the bull, could get off.
I met my friends and as it turned out a cousin of theirs was the first rider. Andres has been doing this for a few years and he did a good job. You'll also see Carmen, one of the brothers that I know, sitting on the fence and then entering the ring with a cape to get the bull to move. He's the one with the white shirt. 
We'll definately be going back to this fiesta again. 
The music is by the brass band that was at the fiesta. Sorry, I didn't get their name. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Guadalupe Fiesta: Rockets

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As part of the Guadalupe Fiesta in San Cristobal there is a Grand Quemada de Cuetes y Bombas (the great Burning of Rockets and Bombs). Once the 1000+ bombs have exploded (see previous post) the cueteros (rocket makers) gather on top of the hill beside the church of Guadalupe. About 15 men start launching home made rockets. Another 15 or so boys feed them the rockets. They fill the air with noise and smoke for over 15 minutes as the 1000+ rockets explode. I got some pretty close up views of this; so close that my lens was covered in soot and dust by the end


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As part of the Guadalupe Fisesta in San Cristobal there is a Grand Quemada de Cuetes y Bombas (Greta Burning of Rockets and Bombs). The same family has been putting on this exhibition for over 45 years.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, Todos Santos) in Xoxocotlan

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This is my second post for Halloween Vlogfest 2005. This is from about 4 years ago. I did a Day of the Dead tour for seven years; five years in Oaxaca and two years here in Chiapas. This footage was shot in the cemetary in Xoxocotlan which is a Zapotec Indian neighborhood on the edge of Oaxaca City. It has a 16th century ruined church right in the middle of the cemetary, in fact there are people buried inside the ruins of the church. It is one of the most beautiful places to see Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. It's a very peaceful setting, people are busy cleaning and decorating the graves. It has a very hushed, sort of reverant feeling about it. One of the things I love about Dia de los Muertos is that it is different in every single graveyard or home that it is celebrated in. It can be peaceful, sad, joyous, drunken, whatever; the whole range of emotions.

By the way, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in Xoxocotlan on October 31.

Music is by Lila Downs: Yunu Yucu Ninu from the album Yuta Tata, Arbol de la Vida

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sleepless Night

Well, I slept on a mattress on the floor of my office last night with a lead pipe ready at my side. Still pissed about the robbery. I have someone coming today to see what can be done to make the office more secure, but until then I'll be sleeping here.

I basically thought of two approaches last night. One was to leave on a light or two, maybe even leave some music playing so that any potential thieves will know that I'm here and not try to enter. The other was to turn off all of the lights and keep quiet, and let them enter. Then I'd "surprise" them with the lead pipe. After thinking it over I left the lights off and kept quiet. I obviously haven't gotten to the "acceptance" step yet.

It was a little frightening. I have a small fridge in the office and it makes this sort of death rattle every time it cycles on. It scared the shit out of me at least a half dozen times last night. I woke up for every car that went by, and there were at least two times during the night that I heard mysterious noises. Nothing happened, but being alone at night after having my property violated makes me a bit jumpy.

I have almost no video on my computer and no way to get the video I have on tape digitized. I might try to borrow a camera just to digitize some old footage so that I can get video up again. I'm already trying to figure out what kind of camera I'm going to get as a replacement.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Well, I probably won't be posting any video for quite a while. Last night someone broke into my office and stole all of my cameras. Lost three video cameras and a 35 mm still camera. I've been pretty bummed all day, but I guess it could have been worse; they didn't take my computers, so I can still work.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Comment Spam

Well, I too have been hit with comment spam. Comments such as "Hey great blog you have there. You might be interested in (insert worthless product here). Check it out!"

All bubbly and upbeat and blatant advertisements. I changed my blog so that only Blogger members could leave comments, but that didn't stop it; many had phony or not so phony accounts set up and who knows, maybe the spammers are using someone's legitimate account, much the same way they use valid email accounts to spread their garbage.

So I sent an email to Blogger complaining and copied the account info of some of the offending Blogger accounts. This morning I noticed that Blogger has a "Show word verification for comments" radio button now. I swear it wasn't there yesterday. I hate these things but I hate being the vehicle for these damn spammers even more. So now you'll get a gif with a warped set of letters to copy into a box before you can leave a comment. Sorry, I really am sorry; I didn't waqnt to do this but "the spammers made me do it!" I realize this will probably cut down on the number of comments I get, but so be it. I am not going to spread the spammers word for them and also increase thier Google rank. Think of it, every page they get their damn link on will increase their rankings.

Monday, August 22, 2005


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Here's the finished version of the movie I was the the DP of in NYC. This is the finished version (I posted an animation clip from it earlier)

This is a promotional film for the publishing services company that I work for. It will be shown to potential customers to show them what we can do. We shot this over a ten day period in June, with another very short piece shot in Mexico this month. It's seven and a half minutes long; kind of long for a videoblog, but I'm very happy with it so I wanted to share it.

It was written by Steve Zimmerman and Gerard Damiano, directed and edited by Gerard Damiano. Animation is by Ruth Schwartz. Photography Jack Nelson, Art Direction Mark Goodkin,lighting Chris Dixon, sound Steve Kashuck, sound engineering by Ken Takeuchi.

PDQ boardroom: Joel Farrel, Michael Cyril Creighton, Liz Forst, Susan Horowitz, Damion Dacosta, Leslie Cloninger

Everyworker: Steve Cuttler

As Herself: Belen Cookinham

The jefes: June Schwartz, Liz Villela, Steve Zimmerman

Booklinks staff: Angie Castro, Janeth Patarroyo, Steven Vasquez, Tassiana Larouchelle, Alejandra Gritsipis, Marty Fluger, Sean Riley, Elena Lee, Mark Shoffner, Humberto Schettino, Zeke Zimmerman

Quality Control: Jennifer Novak, Noah Zimmerman

Booklinks Mexico Office: Jack Nelson, Mariachi Azteca

"Mordisquitos!": Lyrics by Belen Cookinham, music by Matt Kaplowitz

"By Now": written and performed by Steve Cuttler


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Xochimilco is home to the last of the chinampas or "floating gardens". The Axtecs used the chinampas to raise the food that was needed for their capital city of Tenochtitlan. They were originaly artificial islands that were anchored to the lake bottom and didn't really float. The canals that weve amoung them are all that's left of the large lake that once filled the Valley of Mexico.

The chinampas are still used for agriculture, mostly the growing of flowers (Xochimilco is Aztec for "place of the flowers"). It's a very popular site for families on weekends. You rent a boat and travel through the canals where you can buy a meal, drinks, jewelry, etc. Meanwhile mariachis, marimbas and other bands travel up and down the canals and for a fee they will tie up to your boat and play for you. There are greenhouses to visit and a large market to visit, or you can just float along on the canals and soak up the sun.

Oh, by the way, we happened by chance to get a boat named "Viva Rocio" and my wife's name is Rocio.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Torre Latinoamericano 360°

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Another short clip from our vacation. The Torre Latinoamericano was the tallest building in Mexico City when it was built.It much higher than any other building near it, so you get a great view of the valley from the observation deck on the 42nd floor.

Music is Al Jolson singing "I'm Sitting On Top of the World"

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cielito Lindo

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This is another outake from the promotional film I worked on for the publishing services company I work for called Booklinks. They needed some comic relief and I was elected (thanks Cory). In this scene they are featuring the Mexican office which I manage. A document has been sent to us and I am translating it into Spanish. Behind me all sorts of wierd things go on, one of which is a visit by a mariachi band. Here the Mariachi Azteca plays Cielito Lindo while I (almost) ignore them. Hang in there until the second chorus. Sing along if you like. Enjoy

Here are the words:

Aye, aye, aye, aye
Cantar no llores
Porque? Cantando se alegra,
Cielito lindo,
Los corazones


Aye, aye, aye, aye,
Sing, don't cry
Why? Because singing makes the heart happy,
Pretty sky

Sunday, August 07, 2005


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UNAM is the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. It's the oldest university in the Americas (founded 1551) and the largest in Latin America (290,000 students if you include all of it's campuses). The main campus is the Ciudad Universitaria (University City) which is in the southern part of Mexico City, and it is enormous. It was built in the 1950's and has some spectacular buildings.

My daughter Helena wants to go there, so as part of our trip we visited the campus. The first building you see is the ten story high central library. It's covered in a mural designed by Juan O'Gorman. The other large building with huge sculptures is the administration building. The long sculpture that you see attached to the administration building (the one in the thumbnail) is by David Siquieros. There are also shots of the sculpture garden in front of the MUCA (Museo de Ciencias y Artes).

Cafe Tacuba

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We pretty much did our vacation on the cheap: we took the overnight bus to Mexico City, stayed in a fairly cheap hotel and ate mostly in economical places.

I wanted to take the family to one special place to eat, so we went to Cafe Tacuba, a very nice, very pretty restaurant on Tacuba a few blocks west of the zocalo. There was an estudiantina playing there the day we went. Estudiantinas are string bands, with guitars, bass, mandolins and only a tamborine for rhythym and they are a Spanish tradition. They would pay their way through university by playing music. In this clip they are playing a very romantic Mexican song called "Besame Mucho" (Kiss Me a Lot). That's my family at the table (in order of appearance, my daughters Angie and Helena and my wife Rocio. Note the colonial architecture and the colonial style paintings. Oh yeah, the food is great too.