Sunday, June 17, 2012

The "Best" Chocolate Ice Cream

 Summer means making time for more cooking and baking, for which it is otherwise nearly impossible to dedicate time during the school year. And with the warm weather, one of my favorite things to make is ice cream. I tried this wonderful recipe that claims to be the best chocolate ice cream ever, and it really is absolutely delicious. And one of the best things is that you don't even have to use an ice cream maker, because the consistency is thick enough that it sets without needing one. An added bonus, there are no eggs, which means you don't have to deal with troublesome custards and pouring mixtures through sieves and all of that. A very simple recipe with incredible results. I took lots of pictures, of course.

I use Baker's semisweet chocolate, both for its quality and its convenient one-ounce squares that make measurements a lot easier.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


On a much shorter and more superficial update, my blog hit 1,000 views just now, and I've only had it for a week. Yay! Thank you all.

The Difference with Writing

Writing has been my biggest passion since I was quite young, and while I have developed new interests over the years, writing has remained the strongest. It's funny because I am best known ~*~on the internet~*~ for my photography and my web and graphic design, and it would seem that writing has sort of been simmering on the back-burner, and in fact many people don't even know I love to write. But I would actually give up every single one of my other interests (of which there are many) in order to keep writing.

This doesn't seem like a very remarkable thing to post about, and naturally if I have a blog then it can be assumed I like to write. But what's funniest about the whole thing with writing is that it is one of the things about which I am the quietest. I don't like posting my writing online very much, and I don't like saying "I'm a writer," and yet it is my biggest interest. My strongest passion.

But it raises the question, what about other forms of art, like my photography? I share pretty much every photo I take; I have a Flickr; my website has my whole photography portfolio; I have a Facebook page for my photography. I'm not very restricted with sharing my photos. So why isn't it the same thing with sharing writing? And why is it easier for me to say "I am a photographer" than "I am a writer"?

For one, the -er suffix seems to raise the act of writing to a level of pretentiousness. I'm always afraid that if I say "I am a writer," it sounds so self-indulgent, as if I have given myself a title without justifiable reasonor rather without objective evidence. Maybe in a couple years if I hypothetically have some books published, I would feel a bit more at ease with the term "writer," but until then the word will always feel unnecessarily loaded for me, at least more so than if I call myself a photographer. I feel less mental dissonance when I use the latter, and perhaps it is because I do have a large body of photography that I have shared, whereas I have a large body of writing that I have not shared. I seem to have more support if I say I am a photographer than a writer.

But it's never that simple (especially with me), and I think the distinction between writer and photographer is a bit more deeply rooted in the very nature of the art forms themselves. Photography, which I started doing seriously about two-and-a-half years ago, involves a very different creative process. Taking a photograph means using a world that already exists, independent and irrespective of whatever ideas, visions, and processes I may impose upon it, and creating something based on that world. I don't necessarily have control of the content of a photograph. Sure, I can move objects around, change the composition, but the fact remains that the art of photography is an art acting upon a preexisting element. Lighting, coloring, contrast, etc. all give a photograph its heightened beauty, its sense of style, its originality, its distinctive lookbut the entire process essentially begins with something already there.

I suppose that makes it easier for me to share my photography, whereas with my writing, it is entirely different. Writing is the creation of something from absolutely nothing. A blank page is just thatblank. If you hold up a camera, you don't see a blank world (unless you forget to take off the lens cap). Writing is, to me, a lot more personal because each word is completely extracted from my own mind, from the repertoire of phrases and thoughts and ideas that are my very own and that live abstractly within the confines of my own consciousness, and even my unconsciousness. Photography is the manipulation of the world, whereas writing is the construction of it. It is for that reason that I have established a connection with writing that is more intimate than with other forms of artistic expression, which is why it feels vaguely strange to talk about my writing or broadcast it. Not because it is weird to share writing, but because sharing means exposure, and exposure creates vulnerability. I feel vulnerable and exposed if I lay out my writing for eyes other than my own, because each word has come from myself, and thus pages of my writing are like pages of myself, sprawled out, open to subjective scrutiny and poking around (for some reason my mind is fixated on the image of a cadaver, which is a rather morbid comparison). It's as if I cut off a limb and left it out for all the world to see. It is a part of meor at the very least, it was at one pointbut now it is on its own and while it is linked to me, it is no longer just mine. It exists concretely outside of my mind from where it originally sprung. It can be examined, it can be commented on, it can be seen for all its deficiencies which then hark back to me and reflect my own deficiencies. It must fend for itself and support itself, all the while mirroring my own abilities.

I think that's the inherent fear that comes with me calling myself a writer. The term automatically establishes the idea that a person with such a title must have something substantial, some kind of literary creation, that necessitates such a title, and it almost raises the level of scrutiny that one can expect. If I say "I like to write," then a short story I've written is just the byproduct of a hobby and can thus be taken lightly. If I say "I am a writer," then that same story is observed with sharper literary goggles, with a magnifying class or a microscope even, picked apart word by word, each letter weighed for its value and quality.

But I thinkand quite dearly hopethat one day I will be comfortable with the term "writer," especially since I want to devote my whole life to writing. More importantly though, I hope that one day I will be comfortable enough to feel I have something to share. A poem here and there is the most I have shared, but perhaps one day I can reach that distant, diaphanous goal of publication. Not for publication's sake, of course, because I only write for the sake of writing itself. But it is a dream nonethelessalthough I will first have to get over this whole difficulty-with-sharing complex that I seem to possess.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


So I actually love cooking and baking (mostly because I love eating so much, God bless my fast metabolism). I started really getting into culinary arts when I was around 10, and since then, Food Network has kind of been the only channel I watch on TV.

So now that it's summer, I have some more time (not a lot, admittedly) to dedicate to cooking and baking. Tonight, I made chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, a recipe by Ina Garten found here.

I've always loved cupcakes, and there's something childishly charming about them. They are so heavily associated in my memory with my elementary school days when I would bake lots of cupcakes and bring them to class on my birthday. Plus, they are just so quaint and adorable, and it's always comical how emasculating eating a cupcake can seem, especially with adults. Maybe I am just immature or have a petty sense of humor, but I think it's funny. Even the word cupcake itself sounds childish. I love it.

Anyway, I baked some cupcakes, and of course, I took photographs while I was baking. Because...well, because.

scoopin' some batter 
(Choosy moms choose Jif or something right? Am I the only one who finds this slogan mildly sexist? Are women the only ones who are meant to buy peanut butter? Hey I bought this jar all by myself, and I'm not a mother.)

peanut butter frosting, mmmmm

me being annoyingly, intrusively up-close while the cupcakes cooled

I only ended up eating just one, because I ate so much batter and frosting, but whatever, it was worth it~

Monday, June 4, 2012

On Style

I was once told that my photography has a certain distinct style to itthat even if a photo of mine is uncredited, you can tell it's mine. I spent a long time going through all my pictures and trying to figure out if there truly is any sort of stylistic touch that strings my photos together under a personal, quasi-cohesive, artistic umbrella. But the thing is, I really couldn't find one. But what really gives something a certain style? What does style even mean? 

We say Terry Richardson has a style, boldly defined by portraits of celebrities with high contrast and strong flash. Some imitate his style mockingly, but the fact remains that imitation suggests some kind of  inherent quality in the original work that is characteristic and thus can be imitated. So if his style is cohesive and distinct because of its visual similarity and technical consistency, is style just a visual technicality? 

"Parade" - Robert Frank, from The Americans (1958)
In a world of color photography, perhaps black and white can be a signature. But the concept of style outlives the lifespan of color photography: there was, after all, style back when photography was only black and white film. Two of my favorite photographers, Robert Frank and Jacob Riis, have bodies of work that are entirely black and white. Yet they have their own distinct styles. The former beautifully captured the awkward melange of social conformity and gnawing loneliness distantly observed throughout the various echelons of America, translated through his technical deviations from the photographic norm that was contemporaneous with the mid-twentieth century (many photographers and critics at the time were outraged by Frank's unusual focusing and the covering of subjects' faces with objects). 

"Street Arabs in their Sleeping Quarters" - Jacob Riis,
from How the Other Half Lives (1890)
Riis focused on a narrower cross-section of American society, taking photos of the poor living conditions of the Lower East Side in the late 1880s with a contrasting, almost perverse beauty that in fact highlighted the squalor he wished to expose. (In other words, he needed a bit of beauty in order to make sellable the ugliness he was photographing, because after all, he was trying to sell a certain lookthe right look that would be attractive enough to garner the attention and spark the interest necessary to mobilize the reform of an impoverished New York. Innocent and attractive children sleeping in a dirty alleyway serve to attract viewers and make the photograph pretty, while simultaneously demonstrating the destitution of the area. Perhaps under the name of "social reform," it could be considered philanthropic, and indeed Riis's photojournalistic work How the Other Half Lives was a crucial spark in spreading awareness of and even ameliorating the terrible living conditions he photographed. But Riis's true motives have on occasion been shown to be a bit more selfish; the welfare of the impoverished was important insofar as their poor living conditions had an adverse effect on those of higher social rungs, hurting the entire society and not just those living in tenements and suggesting a somewhat condescending desire to reform for the sake of others…but I digress. This isn't about ethics or photographers' intents and motives. That's a totally different subject altogether.)

But I return to my point on stylethat both Frank and Riis photographed in black and white but they have different, characteristic styles, namely because their subjects were different. So is style not just a technical aspect, but one of subject matter? Sally Mann is (albeit controversially) known for her photographs of her children, so is it the subject, the content, of the photographs that deems the style? 

If the subject denotes the style, then I can definitely affirm that my own photography has no style. I don't take pictures of the same things, and while some may find their niches in certain types of photographyfashion, conceptual, landscapeI can't sit still long enough in one without being devoured by the passionate desire to try another. When someone asks what kind of photos I take, I hesitate before I say "different kinds"I do still-life, I do landscapes, I do model/fashion shots, I do self-portraits. It seems almost taboo when I insinuate that I don't just do one type of photography. On one hand, perhaps it suggests the utility of versatility and adaptability to different subjects and different photoshoots. However, on the other hand, there is that paranoid, insecure feeling that if I don't stick to a specific kind of photography, then perhaps one may think I am not fashioning any kind of photographic style. I have a photo of a mountain here, a photo of a vase of flowers there, a photo of a model by a window here, a photo of a city skyline there. Are they similar subjects? Obviously notI like shooting different kinds of subjects. Do they have the same technical consistencies? Obviously notdifferent kinds of subjects call for different techniques, lighting, compositions. Perhaps there is no solid definition of style, or perhaps I am just looking to deeply into the concept. One thing that I can safely say is that style does seem to define some kind of consistencywhat is consistent is not the issue, as long as there is a kind of consistency. So if consistency equals style, then I suppose I don't have a style.

But then again, I am consistently inconsistent. I won't ever settle for one type of photography over another, and I will always try and dip my toes in other photographic worlds (although I don't know how to dip my toes and sometimes I fall right in, headfirst, but that is a personal qualm). So if consistency equals style, then perhaps I do have a styleand it is that I don't have any style at all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thoughts on the Inevitable

How do I begin to talk about age, and time in general? It's such an abstract concept and it seems almost wrong to even try to touch upon it, let alone at a time when I am still relatively young. Who am I to talk about age? But it is incredible how salient age is: our quotidian lives are completely governed by age differences. We are in this grade at school because we are this age, we can't drive until that age, we can't work until this age, we can't do this or that until we turn a certain age. Kindergarten and elementary school disputes between kids often desperately fell to the glaring differences of age in order to prove some sort of superiority: "I'm older than you!" was always the go-to argument (even if it is a bit too tenuous and pointless to mention). We know our age, we are seven-and-three-quarters years old, we are one month away from getting our driver's license, we are two months away from officially graduating high school, we are one semester away from finishing college. We are, quite simply, constantly aware of our age and the ages of others.

Yet it is so strange to truly think about age, at least in a mildly metacognitive way. We are aging, but what does that really mean? It means you are a minute or two or so older than you were before you started reading this post (depending on your reading speed or any potential distractions that may have arose, of course--I myself took a break to make some guacamole just now). We know we are getting older, and we make joking asides about how we can no longer do the things we could do as children. And we leave it at that--vague platitudes meant to fill empty gaps in conversation, banalities that stir no emotion because we gloss over the emotion that should be inherently rooted in thoughts of the loss of childhood and adolescence and young adulthood and whatever age you have just passed. What are these glossed-over emotions? And what stirs these thoughts of age in the first place?

I just got home from hanging out with some friends. We were at the park all day and then we made s'mores. Like kids. I mean, technically we are still young--"kids" in the eyes of those thrice my age, probably. The smell of browned marshmallows melting on a piece of chocolate, the dusty crunch of graham crackers, the blackening twigs on the flames--they remind you of similar times from the past, from your younger years. And you are flooded with the same carefree, childish sentiments as when you were little and you lied down on the cool summer grass and chased fireflies in the dimming night. But it's not the same, because you are aware of the arrival of that childish carefreeness, that reckless feeling that the moment will last eternally, that summer will be caught in a glass jar like a firefly and will glow forever. That's how it felt as a child, but as a child, you were not aware of that. It felt that way, but you did not know it did. It was merely a part of your mentality at that age.

But at this age, if you are reminded of childhood, and that feeling of youthful freedom returns, it is not the same because you are conscious of its existence and by extension, you are conscious of its ephemerality. We laugh while making s'mores because we feel "just like children," but even a remark like that is governed by an adult mentality, wherein childish nostalgia and happiness are noted in the present only when they are sharply contrasted from the present--in other words, we feel "just like children" only because the present does not otherwise feel "like childhood." Moments are noteworthy because they are different. Making s'mores feels like childhood because the real world is not like making s'mores, and anything that is happy as well as infrequent is linked to some sort of childish joy. In the back of our minds we have the gnawing problems of our daily lives outside of the flames that lick the marshmallows that will soon be gone; on the drive home from hanging out with my friends, my mind instantly reeled with thoughts of how I had a lot of academic and financial things to work out before the fall semester, which is a whole three months away. Worries, concerns, problems. We have other things to think about, and a brief respite is just that--brief, and a respite. It's not eternity, and we know it. We know it. And that's what makes the difference, I suppose.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Late AM Musings

ubiquitous mediocrity ≠ polymathy

(We are not all Renaissance Men.)


It's high time I made a legitimate blog. This will be a melange of personal reflections, life updates, photographs, rants, reviews, hopefully with some sort of coherence (but I won't make any promises).

Here's an update: there is a mosquito in my room and it is eating me alive, but it refuses to remove its Invisibility Cloak so I keep moving around to different corners of the room--in vain, of course, because the mosquito bites continue to multiply. When I was little, my mom used to tell me that I was so prone to mosquito bites because I had sweet blood. It seemed charming at the time, and made the mosquito bites seem like badges of personal superiority, but now it just sounds downright strange.

Anyway, hello, my name is Metin. As in "we met in the park" (my go-to pronunciation guide).