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.

Continue reading

calamityjon:

The Avengers opens in theaters in the US on May 4th, and it’s going to do blockbuster business. The individual films featuring these characters have already grossed more than $2.2 billion dollars – that’s greater than the Gross National Product of almost half the countries on Earth – and it’s not unlikely that The Avengers will earn a hundred million dollars on its opening day alone.

This represents a pretty big payday to a lot of people – the actors, obviously, will take home pretty big paychecks. The director and the writers are well-compensated, and certainly the executives who greenlighted this project get to sit back and rake in large bonuses and healthy salaries.

Well, you know where this is going; shamefully, the people who aren’t making a big profit from these movies are the people (and the families of the people) who did the essential work of creating them in the first place. It’s not just Jack Kirby, either, or (Black Widow and Hawkeye co-creator) Don Heck, but also Steve Engelhart, Peter David, Herb Trimpe, Jim Steranko, Roy Thomas and dozens more – the artists and writers who refined and defined the characters appearing in this movie, who fleshed out the original creations and molded them into the figures we cheer for when we see them on the screen.

Some very sensible people are calling for a boycott of this film on those grounds, but I think it’s fairly obvious that a boycott of idealistic comic fans isn’t going to accomplish much – it’s not only comic book fans who’ll be dropping a collective billion dollars over the next eight weeks to see this movie, it’s going to be a lot of movie-goers who haven’t read a comic since they were kids, much less know anything of the controversy.

Plus, of course, you – the collective “you”, representing comic book fans all over the world – want to see this movie. And you’re going to, most likely, right? Even though you know of the morally shady practices of Marvel towards its creators, they’ve got you hooked. Don’t be ashamed, they’ve had you hooked for years. It’s what they do.

So how about this: You’re probably going to go see The Avengers and, judging by the early reviews, you’ll probably enjoy it. How about – as a thank you to the creators who brought you these characters in the first place, who gave you something to enjoy so much – you match your ticket price as a donation to The Hero Initiative

This is a charity which provides essential financial assistance to comic book professionals who have fallen on hard times; for decades, the comic industry provided no financial safety net to its employees, most of whom it regarded only as freelancers and journeymen, meaning they were offered no health insurance, no unemployment insurance, no retirement plans – none of the financial support most of us enjoy from our jobs and careers. A small donation will help this agency provide a valuable safety net in times of need to these beloved entertainers.

I don’t plan on seeing The Avengers, but I’ve donated $15 – the price of a 3-D ticket – to Hero. If every concerned comic fan – every superhero aficionado who learned to live by the lessons of altruism and sacrifice taught by these comics – donated the price of their ticket, well, it may not hit a billion dollars but it’ll bring in a lot of money for a good and relevant cause.

One last note: Remember what Spider-Man always says? “With great power comes great responsibility”. The lesson in that is that everyone has great power. Spider-Man’s great power is being able to lift a bus. Your great power is the ability to help good causes do good work for good reasons – so why not go be a superhero instead of just watching them on the screen…

(PS: “Liking” this post is nice, thank you, but reblogging/retweeting it helps get the message out and would be even more appreciated)

Watching Past The Day [Updated]

Magnetic North
Magnetic North

2011 fades away, and what a year it was. I’m going to be breaking this into multiple posts. A couple that are my year mostly in numbers, like books, movies, travel, etc. The other mostly made up of intangibles, life, love, lessons, and the like. This will be one of the former. I tend to document and record lots of data as kind of a side function of my everyday goings on. It’s not that I’m particularly stat focused or live life by numbers, but I like to keep track of where I go, how I got there, how much I did. It’s pretty easy to do now-a-days, especially since a lot of record keeping is automated. All you have to do is know where to look for the data. For example, I can look at my Verizon Wireless account and see that I spent 3289 minutes [52.4 hours / 2.18 days] talking on my phone this year. That doesn’t include Google Voice, GMail, or Skype calls, so the total is probably a bit higher. A more impressive number is texts. 20,608 from my phone and another 15,223 from Google Voice, for a total of 35,831 text messages. So, all the info is out there, it just needs to be added up.

Continue reading

Some Very Strange Birds

Unit Still

So last weekend I was in Olympia, WA and found myself shooting unit stills for an indie film, which was pretty amazing.

I’m going to try and recap this the best I can, since the reality of the situation is that I’ve been pretty distracted lately. A lot of things remain in question about, well, a lot of things. Vague, yes, but for the time being they have to be. Thinking about it all saps my motivation.

Anyway, Olympia.

Basil
Basil

So originally I wasn’t hired for any kind of photography, I was, well, I should say, my lenses were hired. I had spoken to filmmaker/producer, and friend of a friend, Basil Shadid, at the opening party for BedlamBedlam (see below). We got to talking about cameras and lenses and I mentioned the lenses I had with me while I was traveling. A couple days later he got in touch about renting my lenses for a film shoot he was going to be working on in Olympia, WA, specifically, my:

I was hesitant to let those lenses loose in the wild, especially my beloved 28mm (yes, I know the 10-22mm is like, 2x the price, but I love my 28mm so much) so when the offer to join the on-set crew was included, I wasn’t going to say no. Tack on transportation, accommodations, food , and free reign to shoot on-set and I couldn’t have really asked for a better deal. The experience alone made it worth it.

Om... nom?
Om... nom?

And overall it was. I shot about 2500 photos, with about 400 of them being select worthy, and about another 400 being passable (in my opinion). That’s a pretty good ratio and some of the selects came are really good, some of the best I’ve shot. There is no gallery up yet, and there won’t be, until I talk more with the director and the producer about them. They expressed interest in buying some of them from me (even though I was not the official set photographer), so that’s pretty awesome.

I brought along back-up lenses because I knew that some of my best primes would be used by the film team (seems funny to call it “film”), so I brought my:

I didn’t know what kind of environments we were shooting in, so I figured that would cover my bases. The film guys ended up using all of my lenses (including the 3 above) at various points in during the filming, which was pretty awesome. They also used my tripod and the ballhead off my monopod, which I was happy to offer. Even my Speedlite 320EX got put to use (finally got to seriously use the video LED). One of the cool flip-sides to having them use my lenses, was that I was able to test drive Basil’s EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. It’s a pretty nice lens, I live shooting on it, but I don’t know that I’d take it over my beloved EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM, especially since it’s due for a refresh soon, hopefully adding IS to the mix.

The lens that really saved my shooting though, was my EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. We ended up shooting on some really dark sets and the speed of the 50mm was just unbeatable. I tend to shoot wide open a lot, so I was used to framing and shooting at f/1.4, which can be a challenge when you’re trying to keep two or more actors in focus on different planes. f/1.4 is a pretty unforgiving depth, but knowing how to shoot that shallow really helped me grab shots that would have been impossible otherwise. I also tend to shoot with a -1 exposure bias, so my experience with that offered me a bit of extra shutter speed.

2nd Lead

I also learned a lot about what I am and am not interested in when it comes to being on a set. I also learned more about my personal strengths and weaknesses.

  • I really like set photography. It may not be glamorous, but I really, really, enjoy it.
  • A lot of my technical skills were put to good use. I know my equipment and what it can do.
  • My ability to creatively problem solve, especially in a production environment, is as strong as ever.
  • I’m still adaptable to fill pretty much any role that is needed in a production environment and my practicality still runs strong.
  • I feel like I could take on a DP role, especially with the combination of my eye and my knowledge, but I definitely need to study up.
  • I still love writing and creating. As I was photographing, I was also re-writing and directing in my own head. I kept a lot of notes during takes, I’m interested to see the final cut of the film.
  • I definitely do not know enough about light. I know how to utilize it effectively, but not create it as well as I should.

Another thing that is interesting is a conversation I had with the Gaffer, Alex Walsh. We were talking about light, how I wasn’t used to shooting in scenarios where the light was so perfect, and how it was making for some stunning photographs. We got to talking about “seeing things as a photographer” vs. “seeing things as a filmmaker”. For me, when I see a perfect scene, I imagine it as a perfect photo: how I would shoot it, what I would need to capture that exact moment. Alex talked about how when he looks through a viewfinder, he asks himself “Why am I taking just a photograph? I could be filming this.” It was an interesting conversation about how different people see the same thing, and it also represents the same way my brother Troy and I see things. It’s one of the reasons we work so well together when we collaborate. I really hope I get to work again with Alex in the future.

So all in all, the whole thing was a pretty excellent time. I met a lot of really cool people, learned quite a bit, and got to put a lot of myself back into practice. I haven’t been part of a production in a while, and never part of a film production, but it’s good to know that my skill-set is pretty much applicable across the board.

It was also nice to shoot in that environment (perfect lighting, all the time) and know that I don’t have to sacrifice quality for application. That I can integrate into a production in a capacity that I really enjoy. Photography has always been a part of my event production, but never the focus. I’m still not 100% comfortable with it being my main role though. It’s a bit difficult to detach from wanting to help out with all parts of a production or event (which I kind of did anyway), but I just had to assist where I could and remember that photography was the real reason to be there (though, I hadn’t been officially hired as the set photographer, I still treated my role as such).

The drive back to Seattle was fine. I rode with the producer and writer of the film, Brent. We talked a bit about travel, working, identity, and purpose in life. Talking with him reminded me that I am basically sitting on the equivalent of close to a thousand pages of writing. I’ve almost posted/published them here a few times, but for some reason I’m far more protective of my writing than I am of my photography.

I was only back in Seattle for a day, repacking and getting organized for moving on. I couldn’t finish this out without mentioning Steve Barta and Gennifer Holland, both of which showed me incredible kindness and hospitality during my stay in the Emerald City. My own personal Wizard and Glinda, though I’m not sure Gen will appreciate that reference. Ha!

I’ll have more on Seattle up, and an update on where I am now, next time.