Monday, March 22, 2010

Mexicali, Mexico

Mexicali is a desert city of over a million and is located two hours away from San Diego and Tijuana. It is a harsh and rugged place, as are the lives of many of the people living in Mexicali.
Below are images I photographed when I traveled with members of Los Ninos International, a community development organization operating on both sides of the border.

A boy sells hand-made bracelets at his village for $1. Minimum wage is $5 a day.

Some women in Mexicali promote nutrition, employment and education among underserved communities. Below, Los Ninos volunteers see a bee farm created to improve nutrition habits.

Metals and plastics are melted down for their scraps at a cacti farm.

A family of cacti farmers burn metals to sell the scraps next to their vegetable garden, with no way of filtering run-off.

A girl helps Los Ninos volunteers build a cement section for her school.

The owner of a tortilla factory grinds kernels into corn meal.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jason Vu: 14 Years Old and Missing For Over A Month

Watch the video here

Dinner at the Vu residence in Point Breeze is served in traditional Vietnamese style. Plate after plate of rice, fried fish, chicken stew and tripe are placed on newspapers spread over the cherry-stained wood floor. Praying before each meal has gained a painful new meaning for the Vu family. There has been one less member joining them for dinner since Christmas Eve.

Jason Vu, 14, evaporated from sight on the morning of December 24.. His family members describe Jason as a quiet, introverted boy who spent most of his time locked in his room on his computer. He made honor roll at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School and stayed out trouble, but his family said Jason had also shown signs of disturbing behavior since last summer.

“His whole computer screen would be taken up by the Ouija board, Satanism, things about finding new religion,” said Anthony Vu, 16, brother of Jason. “He relates to the occult and thinks he believes in this new religion.”

His family had to remind Jason to break away from his computer to eat meals. Jason refused to eat meat when he joined them, claiming it was poisoned.

“He closed his eyes all the time and said he was psychic, said he could read people’s minds,” said Kim Le, Jason’s mother.

Then Jason expressed his desire to drop out of school, believing everybody would die in 2012 anyway.
“I told him ‘if you die, you'll die a smart boy',” Le said. “Don’t worry about who dies, that’s God’s job.”

His father, Thuan Vu, recalls telling Jason to limit his computer time and socialize with other kids. His son always answered yes to and seemed to listen, Vu said, but it was hard to read such a quiet boy.

Jason’s last meal with his family on December 23 seemed happy enough to his mother. He ate fried chicken with carrots for dinner. It had been one of Jason’s favorites. Then he ran upstairs and fell asleep early, Le said. The next morning he waved good bye to his four-year-old sister, Diamond, and walked out the front door.

“I want Jason to come back,” said Diamond Vu. “I want Jason here now.”

Of the numbers of missing children reported each year in the United States, only seven percent remain missing for over a month, according to a 1999 study by the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children. But the faith of Kim Le and her family remain unshaken in the face of such odds. They still attend the Vietnamese Mass at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church every Sunday, where a prayer is said for Jason each week.

The Vu family is offering a $10,000 reward to the Citizens Crime Commission for information leading to the Jason Vu’s whereabouts. He is 5-foot-4 inches tall and weighs around 120 pounds. He normally wears glasses and has spiky black hair. People with information on Jason Vu may call 215-456-TIPS. Anonymous sources are protected.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rebuilding the Monster: An Interview with UFC Champion Kevin Randleman

Kevin Randleman addresses the media after his loss to Stanislav Nedkov at Sengoku 11 0n November 7th in Tokyo.

Despite a 3-7 record of mostly first-round submission and knockout losses over the last five years, Kevin Randleman’s most recent fight against Stanislav Nedkov at Sengoku 11 last November was supposed to be a return to the dangerous wrestler who rightfully earned the nickname “the Monster”. Fans still recall Randleman’s his memorable wars against Randy Couture and Bas Rutten in the UFC, and his highlight-reel displays of overwhelming brute strength fighting in the now-defunct PRIDE FC. Randleman's possessed the cordite-loaded fists to incapacitated dreaded kickboxer Mirko CroCop with a brain-rattling jab-cross combination and the raw power to lift up and flip undefeated heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko facedown in midair and slam him neck-first on the canvas.

Now training training full-time at the Tapout Gym in Las Vegas, and having recently married his girlfriend of six years, Randleman believed he had the discipline, experience, and consistent training partners needed to take out his opponent, Nedkov. Instead, the fight a misdirected grappling session. Randleman briefly showed an improved arsenal—he threw a few low kicks and reversed his opponent's position twice—but his unwillingness to trade strikes and aggressively engage his opponent cost him the judge’s after three rounds. Randleman, however, maintains his optimism and hopes to be in fighting shape by March, and he sees many of entertaining battles in the future as he was acquired by Strikeforce last year.

How has training been since your last fight in November?
I broke my foot. I had some minor injuries. My ribs are a little torn up. I cracked my foot kicking. But I’m plugging away at the Tapout Gym. Bottom line is you can’t take too much time off in this business because your opponent could always be training when you are not.

How did you get involved with your current training spot the Tapout Gym?
I moved out of Ohio six years ago. I started training with Marc Laimon, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, John Lewis, so I bounced around a little bit. Then injuries would happen and I’d have to take a step back to focus and be healthy. The owner of Tapout Gym owned a gym called Fightclub at the time. It was small, like 17,000 square feet, but it was nice because I got personal time. I had 24 four-minute rounds. Then they got down with Tapout people and it’s a really nice atmosphere. It’s very family-oriented. You have three year-olds come in who try to kick your shins.

Those three years-olds will be a dangerous breed if they stick to training.
Oh yeah. You talk about crazy jiu-jitsu like flying arm bars. Those kids will be so skilled in the future its going to be stupid. The Tapout Gym—4400 Hacienda Street, Las Vegas.

In losing a judge’s decision, why did your last fight again Stanislav go differently than you had planned?
I always think I’m ready [to fight]. The doctors made jokes a long time ago. They said it would be a long time before I was 100-percent ready. I looked like it like I was the monster and I thought I was going to be okay, but I needed more time to rest.

You hardly threw any punches in your last fight? Why was that?
I was apprehensive to throw punches because I didn’t want to rip my shoulders again. A shoulder injury means you’re out 18 months. I’ve had both of my shoulders injured so that is 18 times two. Now I’m to the point where I can finally do military presses over head without pain. It’s the first time in five or six years without pain. In my last fight I was feeling worried and nervous about my shoulders. But I like fighting. We’re going to train, train, train. End of February or March I will be 100-percent ready.

You seemed more comfortable fighting off your back in your last fight. Have you been working on more Jiu-Jitsu?
I got my blue belt [in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu] right before that fight. Blue belt is the hardest belt to get. Everything else comes with it. For me it was exciting. I concentrated more on BJJ and wrestling for that fight. I didn’t spar that much. Now I spar three times a week. My hands are better than everyone elses, anyone whose fought me will tell you how I hit the hardest, but I get apprehensive sometimes and don’t throw them.

Your friend and former Hammerhouse training partner Mark Coleman is fighting Randy Couture at UFC 109 in February. What is your prediction?
If Mark Coleman is in shape, Randy doesn’t make it past first round. Mark has got heavy hands. He’s got country boy strength. He’s got generations of strong country motherfuckers on his side. He’s excited. He’s going to surprise everyone.

If you could fight anyone right now who would it be?
I want to fight Stanislav again so I can knock him out. It really doesn’t matter. I know the organization I am now in [Strikeforce] has Mousasi. Babulu, Mo Lawal, and those are all exciting fighters.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from fighting?
The biggest thing I’ve learned has been patience and calm. Calmness is like a balance. Calmness is not sweating the small stuff. I’ve been knocked down and knocked out in practices and have had my ass whooped. But no one in your fight whoop your ass like in practice.

You said the Japanese fans have made you a better person and a better father in your post-fight press conference at Sengoku 11. What differences do you see between American and Japanese MMA fans?
American MMA fans boo and make you want to cuss them out sometime if a fight is boring. I understand that. We want more for our money. In Japan they understand that there are two guys who have agreed to fight for them. They don’t boo. They clap and they’re quiet. They know submissions can end a fight in a second. They are very aware and very knowledgeable of the sport.

It’s a difference of people. It has everything to do with their culture. And they’re just nice people. Everyone at the conbini stores are just nice and ready to help you. I go to a 7/11 back in the states and this woman at the counter is giving my wife attitude. I said "If you don’t your job you should quit." Bitch, you don’t want me to get an attitude. I got no problem waiting for the police to come. My son is 21-years old and he is studying Japanese to do business over there. I would say that the Japanese have taught me to be patience. I want to sit down and talk things out where as before I had no problems spitting or slapping you in the face.

Who have been the most influential people in your MMA career?
All those young fighters I am watching right now and my wife [influence me]. One young fighter I train with to look out for is Eric Smith. He’s 24-year old who is a big 240-pound kid can get down to 205. He whoops my ass every in practice.

Which fight do you think you learned the most from?
I really didn’t apply myself then [to my old losses]. Now that I’ve been applying myself I’m a dangerous 205 pounder but I just haven’t been pulling the trigger. I’m writing a book right now and I don’t want to get into my past too much but let me just say this--I loved women. If I had two girls in my bed I was not willing to work out. I’m not giving up the two in the bed for the one that might be hiding in the bush. But then I met my wife six years ago and I realized I could have something nice to work for.

Which fight was your hardest opponent?
I don’t go into fights looking for a knockout. I don’t care. I know I can wear out and beat everyone. And if the knockout comes it comes. The Randy Couture fight was one of my favorites. I did everything in my power to beat him, but then I got tired and he had the upper hand to beat me. Nakamura too, there’s just a lot. I know I may not be undefeated but if I had applied myself a lot more in the past but if I would have I would have 11 or 12 more victories.

Before MMA you were one of Ohio State’s most successful wrestlers. Why did you turn to wrestling initially?
I was poor. I didn’t have money. I had a big family. There were no presents during Christmas. Someone had said hey you can get out of this by going to college, so by eight grade I wanted to go to state wrestling championships and win and go to college.

Did wrestling keep you out of trouble?
There was no balance. I was a crazy fuck. I had a real long rap sheet. I was a militant black guy who grew up poor. The wrestling had people on my side because I was always learning good stuff. I was always in the paper doing volunteer work. I gave my time and whenever I got in trouble there were people to vouch for me who had my back.

When did you clean up?
I just met my girl six years ago. Before that I was partying, fucking girls, I had lesbians living with me. I was just, like, fuck it. I was partying, doing drugs, smoking weed, menagie...Then I met this girl and I said this could be a nice life.

Are there any closing comments you have for your fans?
Just hang in there with me. If I get knocked I’m going to get knocked out because I’m leaving it all in there. I might have lost my last two but I expect a streak. I’m working harder, training longer, running more. I’m doing everything right for the first time and I know I’m going to get my goal and get my title. I got to get my technique real good. Perfect practices makes perfect.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Skyscrapers and Bamboo

A collection of photographs from Hakone, a hot spring resort town outside of Tokyo, the Chichibu trail in Saitama, and the Nishi-Shinjuku skyscrapers.

Bamboo Buddha, Hakone

Buddha and Jizo group, Hakone

Cave Statue, Hakone

Statue of Kannon, Bodhisattva of mercy, Hakone

Leaning Bamboo Forrest, Hakone

Orange-Lit Sky Scrapers, Nishi-Shinjuku

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Building, Nishi Shinjuku

3 Kannon Statues in Different Poses, Hakone

Infrastructure, Ebisu

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, Nishi Shinjuku


Wayside Buddhist Statues, Hakone

Exterior of Photography Museum, Ebisu

Windows, Nishi Shinjuku

Night Light, Nishi Shinjuku

Kabuki Restaurant, Ebisu

Tower, Nishi Shinjuku

Metropolitan Government Offices Deco Detail, Nishi Shinjuku

Abandoned Vans, Chichibu Trail

Trees, Chichibu Trail

Clearing, Chichibu Trail

Red Flowers, Chichibu Trail

Caligraphy Monk, Ueno Koen

Cemetery Flower, Azabu Juban

Noon, Chichibu Trail

Burning Gingko Tree, Chichibu Trail

No Entry, Chichibu Trail