Brace yourself, reader.
Since last December, I've been quite busy, and it's time for me to share a bit of what I've been up to. This post is extra long, because I'm also sharing my reflection on the year 2022, which I probably should have posted at the beginning of the month, but whatever.
We've also got four weekly photography challenges, some tunes that I like, and a plethora of links for other things that you can read elsewhere.
Note: All images in this post are from January 2021 and are essentially unedited or edited in an extremely slapdash fashion.
2021 -> 2022
My goals for last year were simple: to settle into Seattle, to focus on living authentically, and to practice photography. Along the way, I got to go on a few trips, get cozier with a good friend, and find myself quite enchanted by being on boats, with water splashing in my face.
I've killed a record four pairs of glasses, and one cellphone. I've fooled around with a bunch of cameras. I've gone on longer trips to British Columbia and Suriname, as well as shorter trips to Redwood Forests and the Oregon Coast, Boston and New Hampshire, Pittsburgh, New York, Washington D.C., Vancouver, Osoyoos, Portland, Miami Beach, and over to Whitefish and back.
I'm very grateful for the memories I've made and the people I've gotten to spend my year with!
So, what is on the table for next year?
Well, I'm hitting a milestone age, and though I've tried the best I can to suppress my quarter-life crisis, the desire to unmoor myself, to untether myself to a set location, to wander more than I settle is strong in my bones. Finding a healthy, balanced, middle ground around which to achieve this goal is the question.
In the meantime, I would also like to work more on my artistic output. I'd like to finally finish the album, Concrete Apathy that I've ostensibly been working on since 2016. Basically, there's a few songs I need to record. But if it was that easy, I probably wouldn't have been punting on it for six years, right?
I'd also like for my photography to take on physical form. I mean, yes, I have some prints up on some walls, but I'd like to work towards incorporating some of it into a physical, bound, printed volume.
Given that most of my work is oriented around travel, I'm thinking of the title Here & There, (or alternate pairs of words with an ampersand in between, should I have a particular focus.) I also rather like the idea of a zine/magazine-style format, because I'd like to view my work as an unfinished part of a larger meta-project, a piece of a whole, and I think I would find it easier to compile within this type of framework.
I make no promises I'll actually follow through on this goal, though, as I am busy enough as is.
I'm also looking forward to learning the (non-existent) ropes of scrambling, and ideally getting a lot more backpacking and mountain-scaling in this year.
This blog's third anniversary took place in December of 2022. (It feels like it's been eons since I started it in 2019, gosh darn pandemic!)
Thanks to whoever is reading this. I try to write with absolutely no regard for you, the reader, so the fact that you're hanging around is remarkable.
I'm very grateful that I get to have experiences that I think are worth sharing, and that I have friends and family to share them with. There is so much astonishing beauty, and there are so many lovely people in this world, and I hope to convey more of that in the coming year.
January 2023 In Review
And with that out of the way, let's talk about that whole first month of 2023 that has already happened. What's been going on? The good and the bad...
Best of the Month
The Capitol Hill Wishing Tree is something I hadn't gone out of my way to visit, but it is a magnificent undertaking.
The Seattle Art Museum remains quite overpriced with its ~$35 admission fee, but the exhibition on Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue was an absolute delight. It's now closed in Seattle, but should be open in LA from April 4th to July 9th.
I'd like to give a shout-out to the Minolta Weathermatic a point and shoot 35mm film camera that I bought because it was cheap, obnoxious, and waterproof. It does not get rave reviews, and will be easily replaced if it ever breaks. But it withstood the elements quite well, and I look forward to abusing it more in the future.
We've been having an unusually sunny January. One partygoer on Saturday claimed they had seen "five sunny days," which is clearly above average. Fortunately, the following Sunday and Monday were sunny as well. Guinness Book worthy?
Also, it's been really nice to have a few out of town visitors brightening things up.
Archipelago Books released The Last Pomegranate Tree, a book I've been anticipating for years, and so far it is living up to the hype.
Outside of the city, I embarked on a journey along Washington State's coast, partially in emulation of last year's January trip to Redwood Forests and the Oregon coast.
No spoilers, but the Quinault Rainforest, Cape Disappointment, Neah Bay, and the time I spent at the beginning and end hanging with Chelsea, were also awesome!
In terms of things closer to Seattle, Tiger Mountain #3 is my favorite hike I've hiked this month.
Worst of the Month
R.I.P. Yukihiro Takahashi. The drummer from one of my favorite bands, Yellow Magic Orchestra, passed away at age 70. Here's an obituary.
As a musician and song-writer, he's left quite an impression on me. His composition, "Rydeen" has been my number one "get pumped up when coming home late" song for more than the last year. His energy in recorded live performances is infectious.
In terms of my own experiences, I'd easily rank getting pummelled by the ocean pretty close to the bottom of my favorite experiences this month. Being submerged in saltwater and fighting to get my head back above the surface was not something I enjoyed doing on a January Day.
The camera that I used to take pictures of birds, along with my most-used camera lens are now dead. My cellphone port filled with sand, and was damaged when I tried to clean it, so it's been shipped off for the last week or so. But I am okay, and that's what counts.
Never again will I underestimate the ocean's power.
I'll tell the story properly soon enough.
I've also been vexed by poor wifi. Admittedly, it has been in places where I could reasonably expect WiFi to be poor. It seems I cannot have my cake and eat it too. The point of preserving wilderness is perhaps not so I can get a strong internet signal on the outskirts, right?
Articles of Note
That's right! For the first time, since I ambitiously declared I was doing a weekly round up of articles that I found interesting on the web... well, I'm just sharing interesting articles I stumbled across.
Have you ever played around with ChatGPT? Maybe, if you're my friend Owen, you've succeeded in getting it to articulate reasons for and against the reconstitution of the Ottoman Empire with equal fervor. If you've ever wondered, How do AI's Political Opinion's Change As They Get Smarter and Better-Trained, then check out this article.
The short answer, is that it seems that they're more likely to imitate what they think the asker wants. Or, if they're trained to be a helpful assistant, to say things that a helpful assistant might say.
And speaking of political beliefs, ever hear of Turanism? It's a psuedoscientific belief centered around the idea that Turks and Hungarians share a common origin. Let me emphasize the lack of any scientific/historical basis for this belief.
But hey, it's a convenient belief to promote when the Orban regime seeks to turn its back on the European Union and turn towards autoritarianizm. And one element of this is the Kurultaj gathering, a spectacle of anachronistic horse games, Byzantine battle reenactment, and so on.
Katia Patin writes about Kurultaj at Codastory, and it is a really interesting story.
On the topic of TV, my friend Sara has started a Substack entitled "Thoughts on What I Watch." First up is her thoughts on The White Lotus Season 2 which get into quite a lot of heady themes:
"Why are Ethan and Harper at The White Lotus? Why is fifty thousand euros nothing for Dominic Di Grasso? The wealthy American guests at The White Lotus likely believe some version of their meritocratic success story — that they are at this five star hotel because they earned it. But who gets to be a prostitute, a hotel manager, or a resort guest is determined by circumstances that are about as random as dying—trying to escape from your murderers while unsuccessfully jumping off a yacht in the Ionian Sea."
It's a really well-written piece, and I hope that Sara keeps it up.
Continuing the theme of media criticism, I absolutely loved reading Gavin McDowell's review of the 2014 Saving Christmas over at Alternate Ending.
The film's premise is that holier-than-thou Christians are wrong to ignore trappings of the holiday like Christmas trees and Santa Claus, because everything is actually rooted in Biblical Christian traditions.
My friend Mike showed me the film several years ago, and we've made jokes about it ever since. ("The swaddling cloth!")
Never did I expect to find a review of it actually grounded in proper religious scholarship, and yet, here we are. Here's a taster:
"Although some of the arguments are rightly mocked, such as the claim that Christmas presents are the skyline of the New Jerusalem and nutcrackers are Herod’s soldiers sent to kill your children (the nutcrackers are from The Nutcracker), others are slightly more grounded in Christian tradition. They are undermined, however, by pointless casuistry, and, in the case of St. Nicholas, outright lies."
Music I'm Loving
After the death of my phone, my car music immediately shifted to KNKX, my number one choice for local radio station.
So, from listening to tunes in the car, the three that have left the deepest impression on me were:
"Groovy Samba" by Cannonball Adderly, a really nice piece of Latin Jazz
"Nothing From Nothing" by Billy Preston. I mean, this was a chart-topping hit for obvious reasons, but it hit me something good as I drove curvy dark roads from Neah Bay to Port Angeles.
Ditto for "Carry On" by Son Of Dave, apparently a side project from someone in a band I've never listened to. But whatever, the bass in my car speakers, and the general sentiment, mood and groove were perfect for that same curvy drive towards a warm shower.
These three songs, as well as three from the albums I mentioned last month can now be found on a Spotify Playlist.
(Tbd whether I get around to formalizing a "Where is Steve playlist" in a good, platform agnostic way that fits with my sensibilities.)
52 Frames (January 2023)
1. Self Portrait
Couldn't help but snap a shot of myself reflected in the storefront, next to a giant zesty front. Okay, so the store front is actually an art installation, but same deal. The resulting shot might be a bit busy, but I think it's an interesting and complex scene, and as good as any for opening 2023.
2. Blur the Action
One thing that I spent a fair bit of doing, at least on the early end of my trip around Washington, was sticking the weird camera I nicknamed squiddely-doop onto a tripod for some longer exposures at dusk.
Dramatic sunsets weren't really in store for me, the first night of my trip, but I did start out this tradition by taking a look at the Astoria-Megler bridge.
As I wrote at the time:
People hate on visiting the cold, gray seaside in the winter. I say bring it on!
This is a 5-second exposure, and yes, I swear, there is motion blur in here. Not just the water, but the strobe-like headlights on the bridge. I have some longer, ~30 second exposures, but the problem was that it was drizzly, and so I got some water on me lens. :) I can say for certain that it takes an automobile > 30 seconds to cross the bridge though.
It's rare for me to bother getting out my tripod, but I am looking forward to practicing more of what it enables. <3
3. Your Hobby
Here's where it all goes to shit.
You already know that I got soaked on a beach, but this is from before that happened. I was experimenting with mounting my camera to a trekking pole through a clamp with an integrated (feeble) ballhead. I was hoping for monopod-like stability, but found the whole thing unwieldy, and worse than handholding. So I abandoned the idea shortly thereafter, and left to take sunset pictures.
I forgot to take a better picture. But, the picture does at least show me mid-hobby.
As I wrote at the time:
4. Portrait of a Stranger
I was super stoked that this challenge is back on the agenda, so shortly after doing it last September.. The act of approaching strangers on the street and asking for a photograph is something I want to be more comfortable with than I am. I guess it comes with practice, so there's no reason not to get a little more in.
Freeway Park is not the most idyllic setting for a picture, but it is a great place to take your pet rabbit for a walk! I probably should have tried to seek out a less busy background, but I think the energy comes through.
Well, that's a lot of words on a page. I think I've already covered in due detail some of the things I'm excited to think about & do this year.
In terms of blog posts, I hereby commit to filling in some photos and details from some recent nice hikes, continuing to write about... last summer in Haida Gwaii, and hopefully filling in more details on recent events with less of a delay.
I'm very close to being able to digitize film negatives to my satisfaction in my apartment, and once that's done, that will make it a lot easier for me to intermingle analog and digital and really crank some of this out. (Well, if I'm also motivated to do the writing part.) You can probably tell which images in this post came from film, and can probably spot some of the issues I'm having. 🧐
I also have a bunch of book reviews to get around to finishing. I think I find them a lot easier to procrastinate than other things, because I want to actually have the book in front of me and I often don't. But, books are such a nice way to get a window into a different perspective, maybe a different place, maybe a different time, but each and every one is a learning experience of some kind -- even if you are just learning that it is possible for someone with a dearth of talent to still get published. So, that at least is my reason for thinking it's worthwhile to share them, and hopefully I will do that soon.
I am also going to embark on a somewhat more scientific look at some coffee and write about it. By this, I mean I have a fair variety of coffees that should be interesting and good, and plans to brew them all in very specific ways, jot down some notes, and think reflexively about both the coffee industry and my place in it as a consumer.
Also, I plan to do some more... Olympus Test & Wow. I mean, my main camera for bird photography is dead, and though I don't need to replace it, and I certainly don't need to upgrade to the fancy *cough* overpriced *cough* newer model, I am interested to try it out. Ditto the slightly different superzoom lens instead of my (tragically dead, deeply beloved) 12-200mm.
Till then, ta-ta for now!
This post was part of the following series(es):
|See All Posts
|Snow, Sunshine, & The Year of the Rabbit
|The Month In Review
|Looking Back at February 2023
Thanks for reading!
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