Tag Archives: Louie Psihoyos

Clip: Coffee and Portraiture and the Associations We Make

27 Dec

Associations are revealing.  This morning, as I was drinking a cup of horrid office coffee, my brain leapt from the specific brand and flavor of coffee my mom drank when I was growing up to a seemingly unrelated bit of biographical information about a photographer I’d researched while working on a blog post on his efforts to Save the Whales.  The photographer is Louie Psihoyos, the film director of The Cove, the Oscar Award-winning feature documentary that uncovers the horrifying mass slaughter of dolphins.  Psihoyos is from the Midwest, as is my mom (he was born in Iowa, my mom in Minnesota), and his immigrant parent came from the Peloponnesus, the same region of Greece my dad grew up in and where both of my parents now live.  That wasn’t the association I made this morning, though.  Instead, I was recalling that I myself had recently taken a photograph of my coffeemaker and a bag of hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee, while photographing some other food in my kitchen, and that I always associate hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee with my mom.  From there, I remembered I’d recently read about a photographer who’d photographed people with their possessions.  At first I didn’t even remember that the photographer was Psihoyos.  As I started to write the blog post about how I associate coffee with my mom, I kept thinking about the significance of Psihoyos photographing people with their possessions and what the objects we’re associated with impart about our identity.

Read the rest of the article on Burnside Writers Collective.

My Material World Project: Hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee

18 Jul

The coffee at my office is undrinkable.  It’s not just that it’s often weak, it’s that it tastes like old coffee grinds.  Maybe I got a little spoiled from my previous job.  Prior to this job, I worked for a company that had an on-site chef, who often whipped up fresh juice combinations and smoothies in the test kitchen.  Even the employees’ kitchen was well-stocked with a wide variety of flavored coffees so I could select blueberry or cinnamon roll, depending on my craving.

I’m not a huge coffee snob.  I can enjoy a good cup of diner coffee.  But the coffee here just doesn’t cut it.  There’s a great Swedish coffee shop called FIKA, which I used to stop into on my way to work.  We Swedes know how to make coffee.  Lately, though, I’ve been making my coffee at home before I leave for work.  I’ve been taste-testing my way through different brands and flavors.  The last three bags, though, have all been what I grew up on:  Hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee.

My mom is a coffee fiend.  I don’t remember ever seeing her drink water when I was growing up.  It was always a hot cup of hazelnut coffee.  With the coffee machine always on, the kitchen had a warm, sweet smell to it.  To this day, the smell of hazelnut coffee relaxes me and makes me feel comforted.  It makes me feel close to my mom.

Since she lives in Greece and I live in New York, I don’t get to see her all that often.  Maybe it’s silly, but drinking the same brand and flavor that she always drank has made me feel a little closer to her these past few weeks.

This morning, as I was drinking a cup of horrid office coffee (it’s been one of those days when a single cup at home just isn’t enough…), I remembered a factoid I learned when I was reading up on Louie Psihoyos for the post I wrote on the photographer/film director and his efforts to save the whales: he was a major contributor to the UN-sponsored “Material World Project,” a traveling show of portraits of families around the world with their material possessions.  The above photograph is a shot of the coffeepot that my friend Mario gave me one year for Christmas (thank you!) and a bag of hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee that I took the other day.  The only thing missing is my mom.

Gripster: Documentary Films, Dolphins & Pirates

11 Jul

Arion Riding a Dolphin, by Albrecht Dürer (ca. 1514; public domain)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Greek American photographer and film director Louie Psihoyos is the son of an immigrant from the Peloponnesus.  The Peloponnesus incidentally is where my immigrant family came from as well.  Whether it’s a coincidence or a matter of upbringing that Psihoyos was intrigued by dolphins, the Peloponnesus has a dolphin myth.

Arion, the poet who invented the song and dance (called the dithyramb) for the wine god Dionysus, was kidnapped by pirates while returning to Greece from Italy.  In an effort to save his life, Arion sang to the poetry god Apollo, before flinging himself off the ship.  His song attracted a pod of dolphins and one of them carried him to safety, bringing him to the sanctuary of the sea god Poseidon in Cape Tainaron.

A swashbuckling tale of pirates, wine, and poetry, you have to admit this is a pretty cool Greek dolphin myth!

It led me to study up on Cape Tainaron.  Also known as Cape Matapan, it is the southernmost part of mainland Greece.  It’s located in Mani, which reputedly has the world’s best extra-virgin olive oil, grown organically on mountain terraces, and is also known for its superior honey and syglino (pork with oregano, mint, and orange peel.)  There are also some stalactite and stalagmite caves, which are partly underwater, and can be visited by boat.

I’m putting Cape Tainaron on my to-do list for the next time I go to Greece.

For more on Poseidon, check out:::

Gripster: Portlandia, Hipsters, and Greek Myth

Gripster: 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade & Greek Mermaid Myths

Greek American Film Directory Louie Psihoyos Saves the Whales

7 Jul

Al Gore & co. made it trendy to go green in the millennium.  Back in the mid- to late-19980s, when I was growing up in a small suburb in northern New Jersey, America’s environmental concern was a little more specific.  We all wanted to Save the Whales.  In 1986 the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling.

For photographer and documentary film director Louie Psihoyos, that dream apparently never went away.  Psihoyos’ Oscar Award-winning film, The Cove, uncovers the all-too-real tragedy of dolphin hunting.  (Oceanic dolphins are part of the suborder Odontoceti, toothed whales.)

The film director more recently discovered that the Santa Monica sushi restaurant The Hump was using the meat of protected sei whales in their dishes.  Whale meat is illegal in the United States and was being imported from Japan, which is still a whaling nation (along with the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Iceland and the aboriginal communities of Alaska, northern Canada, and Siberia).  The meat was linked back to seafood vendor Ginichi Y. Ohira, who pled guilty for knowingly selling the whale meat for unauthorized purposes.  He faces arraignment in September.  As for The Hump, it closed its doors, saying:

The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species. Closing the restaurant is a self-imposed punishment on top of the fine that will be meted out by the court. The Owner of The Hump also will be taking additional action to save endangered species.

One such action will be to make a substantial contribution to one or more responsible organizations dedicated to the preservation of whales and other endangered species.

It’s nice to know that photographer/film director Louie Psihoyos hasn’t given up the cause of saving the whales.

Psihoyos was born in Dubuque, Iowa, one of the oldest cities west of the Mississippi River.  (Note to self: today publishing is one of the fastest-growing industries in Dubuque, Iowa.)   He is the son of  a Greek immigrant who fled the communist occupation of the Peloponnesos region of Greece during World War II.

Check back tomorrow to hear the story of a dolphin myth from the Peloponnesus!