Check

If you are familiar with this website, or me, you’ll know that I am a data junkie. I love stats, statistics, metadata, and pretty much any other metric that will allow me to qualify and quantify everything around me. This is part of the reason I started using Fourquare, as a way to track the amount of travel I typically undertake. Before now though, I had to tally all that data myself to get any use out of it. Now though, Foursquare has introduced Time Machine as a way to calculate and display all that wonderful information.

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“You always grow up to be your parents.” Well, that’s what they say anyway. It’s one of those things you hear as a kid and immediately dismiss with a laugh and a battlecry of “Not me!”, unaware of the cosmic joke that is being kicked into motion with its mere utterance. The punchline, of course, isn’t that we actually do grow up to be our parents but that once we reach a certain age, a certain sense of self awareness, that we realize we actually are and, well, maybe that’s not so bad. We start to see, in ourselves, all those little idiosyncrasies that make them who they are; We laugh at the same things they laugh at, we find ourselves making decisions using logic they have used to make the same decisions, we cry, yell, smile, work, struggle, believe, triumph, and succeed for same reasons we have seen our whole lives in them.

It’s an inevitable manifestation, but not one devoid of choice. Part of that realization is that our parents are not infallible, that they, like all people, make mistakes. They have good sides and bad, positive and negative, their own mistakes and successes. They try their hardest to make sure we see more of the good and limit our exposure to the bad. They do their best to make us into better people with their experience. Such is the role of a parent. The choice we make as children is to understand that fallibility, to see and understand the good and the bad, and choose to let the good live on in us. To be not just an example, but a mirror for their lives. The choices we make, our successes, our failures (make no mistake, we inherit that same fallibility) serve as a reflection for their teachings.

So, in my life, I choose every day to try to reflect the joy, humor, creativity, love, hope, and strength instilled in me by Jean Mercury, my mother. I choose to be brave, to fight, to be passionate and tenacious in my pursuits because these are the life lessons she has taught me, and continues to teach me. This is what she chose to share; this is the good she has given to me. This is why I am proud to admit that I’ve grown, and am growing, up to be like her. And just as she is still teaching, I am still learning.

I am thankful for her, every day. For the lessons I learn, every day. For teaching me that I need to be honest and brave, every day. For the hope and love that I have, every day.

Today is Mother’s Day, a day for recognition, affirmation, and appreciation for everything you have done for me. I want you to know, though, that I hold those feelings in my heart, that love, always, every day.

Mother’s Day

Mom

“You always grow up to be your parents.” Well, that’s what they say anyway. It’s one of those things you hear as a kid and immediately dismiss with a laugh and a battlecry of “Not me!”, unaware of the cosmic joke that is being kicked into motion with its mere utterance. The punchline, of course, isn’t that we actually do grow up to be our parents but that once we reach a certain age, a certain sense of self awareness, that we realize we actually are and, well, maybe that’s not so bad. We start to see, in ourselves, all those little idiosyncrasies that make them who they are; We laugh at the same things they laugh at, we find ourselves making decisions using logic they have used to make the same decisions, we cry, yell, smile, work, struggle, believe, triumph, and succeed for same reasons we have seen our whole lives in them.

It’s an inevitable manifestation, but not one devoid of choice. Part of that realization is that our parents are not infallible, that they, like all people, make mistakes. They have good sides and bad, positive and negative, their own mistakes and successes. They try their hardest to make sure we see more of the good and limit our exposure to the bad. They do their best to make us into better people with their experience. Such is the role of a parent. The choice we make as children is to understand that fallibility, to see and understand the good and the bad, and choose to let the good live on in us. To be not just an example, but a mirror for their lives. The choices we make, our successes, our failures (make no mistake, we inherit that same fallibility) serve as a reflection for their teachings.

So, in my life, I choose every day to try to reflect the joy, humor, creativity, love, hope, and strength instilled in me by Jean Mercury, my mother. I choose to be brave, to fight, to be passionate and tenacious in my pursuits because these are the life lessons she has taught me, and continues to teach me. This is what she chose to share; this is the good she has given to me. This is why I am proud to admit that I’ve grown, and am growing, up to be like her. And just as she is still teaching, I am still learning.

I am thankful for her, every day. For the lessons I learn, every day. For teaching me that I need to be honest and brave, every day. For the hope and love that I have, every day.

Today is Mother’s Day, a day for recognition, affirmation, and appreciation for everything you have done for me. I want you to know, though, that I hold those feelings in my heart, that love, always, every day.

Somewhere Else To Be

Start

INT. STARBUCKS – SEBASTOPOL, CA – EARLY AFTERNOON

A man in his early 30’s is sitting in the back corner of the café, staring at his computer screen while sipping coffee. He has headphones in and is fading between where the music takes him and where he is at the moment. It’s obvious he’s been there a while (banana peel, napkin, empty sandwich bag) and is struggling with what he’s trying to write. This is because he’s trying to write about where he is, and he’s not even sure how he got there.

Well, that’s kind of a lie. I know exactly how I got here, but to get into it is to recap the entirety of 2012. Fortunately, that’s what this post is for.

data

Normally, at the end of the year I do a huge “human metrics” post. Last year I broke down tons of data about the previous year, everything from total text messages sent to minutes of music listened to. This year has been a little crazy, so I’m going to switch things up a bit. Some old numbers, some new numbers, some recap, so on and so forth. Along the way, hopefully, it will become clear how I ended up in a tiny highway town in California writing this.


Music:

TRON: Legacy

I’m going to start with music this year since it played (as always) a huge role in my life. At the end of last year I reset my iTunes play-count numbers and started fresh for 2013. Here are the Top 5 songs I listened to in 2013 based on number of total plays in my iTunes/iPod and Google Music.

  1. Setting Sail, Coming Home – Darren Korb
    • Total Plays: 647
    • Song Length: 2:55m
    • Total Time: 1887m / 31.5h / 1.3d

The End Theme from Bastion stands as my top track this year. It was my theme for the beginning of the year and stuck with me through most of it. Ethereal and haunting, with lyrics that resonated exactly how I felt at the start of 2012. Note: The version above clocks in at 3:36m even though the album version is 2:55m.


  1. Iron – Woodkid
    • Total Plays: 604
    • Song Length: 3:10m
    • Total Time: 1912.6m / 31.8h / 1.3d

My #1 from last year moves to #2. It’s here for the same reasons: brooding, powerful, and a brilliant lyrical journey.


<a href=”http://music.biggiantcircles.com/album/max-effect” data-mce-href=”http://music.biggiantcircles.com/album/max-effect”>Max Effect by Big Giant Circles</a>

  1. ArmageddoN7 – Big Giant Circles
    • Total Plays: 563
    • Song Length: 4:26m
    • Total Time: 2871.3m / 47.8h / 1.9d

Jimmy Hinson’s incredible tribute to Mass Effect comes in at #3 this year. This track is astoundingly inspiring, a nostalgia driven love letter to everything that is the experience of ME. It tears me in half though, since on one hand it inspires me to be be creative and productive and on the other, it makes me want to just play Mass Effect.


  1. Melting Sun – Pyro Paper Planes
    • Total Plays: 522
    • Song Length: 5:12m
    • Total Time: 2714.4m / 45.2h / 1.8d

This track came out of nowhere. It’s originally “Rundas Theme” from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, rearranged and performed on solo piano by Christopher Foss for the Metroid tribute album “Harmony of a Hunter”. It’s both deeply haunting and serene at the same time. I’d never heard it prior to this arrangement, but it is now easily one of my favorites.


  1. Too Close – Alex Clare
    • Total Plays: 463
    • Song Length: 4:17m
    • Total Time: 1983.2m / 33.1h / 1.4d

Pretty obvious that this track would be on this list given that the current version of my website is themed after the song. It’s here because the lyrics resonate so closely with my life, though not because I have said them, but because they have been said to me.


Once again, “Faded Memories – Promyvion” by Naoshi Mizuta get’s a free pass because I fall asleep to it.

In the Album department, the Assassin’s Creed 2 Original Soundtrack by Jesper Kyd stands far and away the most listened to. In fact, the 2012 playtime for the entire album clocks in around 25 full days. Runner up goes to the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Original Soundtrack by Jesper Kyd and Lorne Bafle. If it’s not obvious, I really love the music of Jesper Kyd and Assassin’s Creed. They are masterpieces of modern composition that resonate with me and have a unique ability to just take me somewhere else entirely, no matter where I am.

Other tracks of note this year include:

  • You Know My Name – Chris Cornell
  • Stopwatch Hearts – Delerium
  • Derezzed – Daft Punk
  • Blood On My Name – The Brothers Bright
  • Heartlines – Florence and The Machine

I also wrote about music this year for a website other than my own. Dig That Radio was a look into the amazingly diverse world of video game music, it’s impact on a generation, and a little of it’s modern evolution. Even just since it’s publishing, my library has dramatically increased in size. There were a lot of incredible video game releases this year and the music that accompanied them was just as amazing. Some stand-outs I added to my collection this year were:


Movies:

TRON: Legacy

Like last year, I didn’t keep a running tally of all the movies I watched. 2012 is notable though since it is the year that my default, go-to, movie changed.  For nearly 20 years, the film I can watch over and over without it getting old, or will watch when I can’t decide what to watch, has been Hackers. Last year though it officially changed to TRON: Legacy. Others in my regular rotation still include Casino Royale,  Sucker Punch, Scott Pilgrim, and Transformers: The Movie (1986). Beyond that tidbit, I didn’t actually see a lot of movies in theaters this year and there are still have some big ones I need to get around to.

Some of the movies I saw this year include:

Some of the movies I didn’t see, but still plan on seeing include:

Special Mention: Uncharted 1/2/3 [The Movie]. Andy Gilleand will forever have my undying respect for his film treatments of the Uncharted Series. I’ve never played any of these games (no PS3), but I watched these movies over and over all year. They are worth your time.


Travel:

TRON: Legacy

Unsurprisingly, I traveled a lot this year. I started the year in Dennis, MA watching the first sunrise and ended it in Oakland, CA at a Erykah Badu concert. Between those two events I criss-crossed the United States no less than 5 times. Highlights along the way included:

Running a café in Maynard, MA, photographing surfers in St. Augustine, FL, riding trains to Charleston, SC, photographing PAX East in Boston, MA, attending a graduation in Albuquerque, NM, partying with Cirque du Soleil performers in Las Vegas, NV, climbing the side of a hotel in Reno, NV, watching the solar eclipse from Independence, CA, finding a creepy old abandoned town in Goldfield, NV, camping under the stars in Yosemite National Park, riding bikes on the beach in Santa Monica, CA, breaking into a crazy old abandoned race track in Goodyear, AZ, getting to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO, wandering all over Pittsburgh, PA, catching up with all the amazing folks from TG in Brooklyn, NY, riding the Cape Cod Rail Trail, spending by birthday in a basement in Omaha, NE (not exactly a highlight), photographing an amazing wedding and driving through the mountains of Seattle, WA and Port Angeles, WA, whale watching in Newburyport, MA, attending my best friend’s wedding in Santa Cruz, CA, meditating on top of  a mountain with a yogi in Cazadero, CA, photographing artists in San Francisco, CA, and helping a friend move into a new house in Sebastopol, CA.

So here I am. This is just a handful (maybe 2) of the places I ended up this past year. In total? 37 States and about 32,000 miles of road, rail, and sky.


Can’t Go Home Again:

Can't Go Home Again

So, this isn’t nearly as much data as last year, but without context it’s still just data. As I mentioned, I began the year in my home state of Massachusetts. It’s not where I had intended to end up, but, well, it’s par for the course at this point. I’ve detailed before that I’m not really a fan of the state, especially in winter, so I won’t get into it here. It was a carry over from the year before… a crazy year. My café “job” was mediocre, more of a way to pass the time and help out a friend who really needed it. When the chance came to head to St. Augustine, FL to help out another friend, I took it without much hesitation. My time in Florida really opened the door to an opportunity to travel across the country again. The only real obligations I had on my plate were my wedding gig in Washington in July and my best friends wedding in Santa Cruz, CA in in Sept. As long as I ended up in those places at those times, the road was wide open. After Sept. I really didn’t have any kind of direction in mind and found myself, once again, back in Massachusetts to help out with the funeral of a close family friend. Beyond that, I didn’t have much of anything. My resources were dwindling and I knew I had to make some kind of move. Anything was better than wasting away in another New England winter. In November I decided to get on a flight and just head west. I knew myself well enough that I could pretty much drop into anything and be ok, and I had to do something to get some momentum building.

All of this gave me the chance to continue the journey I had started in 2010 after returning to the states from Paris; To travel around, visit my friends, make new ones, and really study how other people live compared to how I feel I should be living. The past 18 months or so have really been an exploration of values.

I so often found myself asking “Are my personal values really so different?” when experiencing how other people live, so I decided to start a list of everything I encountered that just seemed way off the mark to me. I lived through other people’s priorities and value systems, I studied them, and compared them to my own. I’ll have to admit though, aside from a few core values, my list was not very long. I knew more about what I didn’t like than what I did. Along the way I had dozens of conversations about why people live the way they do. I’ve experienced all ends of the spectrum along the way, from people in my life who are just as diverse. From ardent firearm’s rights supporters to pacifist yogis, starving artists to super-wealthy CEOs, devoted collectors to lifestyle minimalists, astoundingly humble to insanely egotistical, people secure and sincere about who they are and people who live the most duplicitous of lives, and everything in between. It turned into a study of not just the “how” they live, but also the “why”.

It’s been an interesting trip. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, lost friends, learned a lot of lessons, gained new friends, and, most of all, ended up with a much greater insight about who exactly I am and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.


Recognizer:

Recognizer

So now that I find myself close to the end of that journey, the real decision is what to do next. I have a much clearer vision of how I want to live and why I want to live that way. Even though I started 2013 making a lot of the same mistakes I always have, I did so on purpose, with a clear understanding of exactly what I was doing. Six days in and I’m already starting to turn that around though. They were my final burn down to zero. Now it’s time to really get the ball rolling back in the correct direction. To get things lined up and start living how I want really to, with clear values, purpose, and goals. San Francisco is the start of that, but who really knows where I’ll end up. This new journey is just starting.


Is there somewhere else to be?
Is there somewhere else to be?
Take me in
I want out
That’s all I need


Addendum: This whole personal mission would have been impossible without some of the truly extra ordinary people in my life, for good or bad. So “Thank You” to Troy, Marc, Peter, Jean, Brea, Kerith, Rachael, Kira, Paul, Caitlin, Constanza, Stephen, Nina, Josh, and everyone else who has made this an insane and enlightening 2 years.

Somewhere Else To Be

Start

INT. STARBUCKS – SEBASTOPOL, CA – EARLY AFTERNOON

A man in his early 30’s is sitting in the back corner of the café, staring at his computer screen while sipping coffee. He has headphones in and is fading between where the music takes him and where he is at the moment. It’s obvious he’s been there a while (banana peel, napkin, empty sandwich bag) and is struggling with what he’s trying to write. This is because he’s trying to write about where he is, and he’s not even sure how he got there.

Well, that’s kind of a lie. I know exactly how I got here, but to get into it is to recap the entirety of 2012. Fortunately, that’s what this post is for.

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Full of Fire and Mystery

It's only when I lose myself

South Carolina. Not exciting, but occasionally beautiful.

Although I am finding myself not particularly fond of the South, the light does fall here a bit differently from the North. For the first time since Paris I’ve also noticed the clouds conspiring to compose stunning, brilliant, skyscapes. It’s hard to compare though, since Paris has a way of caressing your soul into such a state of bliss the way no other city I’ve ever experienced can. You become aware of each waking moment so much more intimately. It’s such a strange sensation of euphoric, aimless, wandering and intense attention to all the details occurring around you. Speaking of Paris, a photograph I took there was just featured in a CNN.com special report about the city. You can find that here (#4). I’m working on some more projects, which is proving interesting because I can actually observe my photography and associated skills improving, especially my proficiency with Lightroom 4. Last year I attempted some photographic pursuits that were a bit out of my league. I’m slowly setting into styles and techniques that are coming to define my work. Something I’m planning to continue into this year, but a bit buffered by the realization that to truly shoot in the style I find most compelling and beautiful, I really need to move to either full frame or medium format. I know the Canon 5D Mk.III/X is so close and I’m doing my best to wait patiently for it.

MB - Faded Memories II
MB - Faded Memories II

Fun fact: My natural reaction to overwhelming external oppression is to fight back and persevere no matter the cost. I do not concede easily, if ever, and typically face severe challenges with a determination unbound, if for no other reason than to see how much I can take. To find the breaking point that always seems to elude me.

Fun fact: My natural reaction to overwhelming internal depression is to escape. Not so much to run away from it, but to leave, to wander, and to isolate myself. I usually use this time to plummet into the depths of why I’m feeling that way. To immerse myself in all that is with the belief that by experiencing those things their most raw, most consuming form, I can decipher the “why” and climb back out stronger than before. It doesn’t impact my ability to function, but it does change my demeanor. These are the times when I am most focused on escaping and either being alone, or surrounded by people I do not know, and who do not know me. This has been one of the underlying motivations behind my endless wandering for a long time. It is a part of that search. That’s probably why my sense of “home” starts to develop when I’m generally feeling pretty good about things. Those two feelings are just tied together in me. That’s also why “home” isn’t any particular, physical, destination for me.

This creates an interesting conundrum in the modern, networked, world. Not so much in the way that it’s difficult to disconnect, but more that in doing so you risk falling so far behind the rest of the world. I suppose for a while that’s fine if the internet is not something you, and I hesitate to use this word, rely on, but for the contemporary wired world just a few days out of action can have far reaching consequences. So the question starts to become “How do you step out of the stream without surrendering the necessary momentum?” As someone with extensive social media connections, it’s become an important consideration. Then again, it could just be a skewed sense of connectivity, but at the pace our world moves now-a-days disappearing from social outlets is a quick way to obscurity. In my line of work, especially at the start of a new business venture, vanishing from social outlets is tantamount to a digital death sentence.

JM - Faded Memories
JM - Faded Memories

Ok, that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. It’s tough to justify dropping off The Grid when that same system provides so many vital resources for successful ventures. So this is the current crossroads. In the past few months I’ve felt that pull to “escape” more strongly than I ever have, but given the current trajectory I’m on I can’t really afford to back off if I want this whole thing to succeed. Well, at least as I see it. I mean, I could be totally wrong and vanishing from the world to wander the far east or criss-cross the country on a motorcycle, disconnected from everything, may prove to be exactly what I need. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to Paris.

In the meantime, there is plenty of external work to keep me busy, things are looking up in that regard. I wonder though if I keep sidelining and chipping at the internal rather than just “reset” it like I usually do, that it’s going to just build up. Of course, this is not taking into consideration the idea that it can all be defused by a totally different scenario, but that in an of itself it a totally different topic.

Did I need to sell my soul
For pleasure like this
Did I have to lose control
To treasure your kiss
Did I need to place my heart
In the palm of your hand
Before I could even start
To understand

But Nobody Searches

Travel: Charelston, SC
Travel: Charelston, SC

Uh oh, a short, recappish (I just invented that word), post. That means I’ve either been really busy or really lazy. In this case, it’s the former. I’ve been working my way down the East Coast since leaving MA, had a couple stops in North and South Carolina, on my way to Ft. Augustine, FL, where I currently am. What was originally supposed to be a prolonged stop here has switched to a much shorter stay.

One of the reasons I decided to come here was to help out a friend of the family who has become too sick to travel and look after her apartment. I volunteered to head on down and handle some maintenance on the apartment so it can be either sold or handed off to one of her kids. It was a good opportunity to get away from the cold, hit the road again, and take some time for myself to get a few of my affairs in order. Well, the work was not much an issue, nothing out of my league, but… though I was told there was a stable internet connection here, there most certainly is not. Now, I’m not without my means, but that is just one of those things that grinds me a bit. Before leaving I had prepped a bunch of work online that I could pick up anywhere, as long as I could get online. Well, that didn’t go as planned, so offer to somewhere new. Maybe time to start my westward trek. In the meantime, I’m certainly enjoying the weather here.

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Far, The Wind It Will Take Me

Coming Home
I'm Here

The phrase, as it goes, is “No reason to stay is a good reason to go.” and, well, I’ve once again run out of reasons to stay. I had a handful goals in mind when I got back to Massachusetts, my reasons for being here, and while I didn’t quite get them all in order, they’re in decent enough shape for me to move on for the time being. Shadows from the last year are still drawn a bit too long and as much as I’d like to just be through with them, I’m not. So, I’ll do what I always do and keep searching for some place new.

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