Wherein I’ve Started To Take Pictures

A couple updates ago, I mentioned that I’ve been a bit busy, and not just with that science-fiction novel I keep vague-blogging about. Things like what, you ask?

Things like photography.

Broken Carbon
Broken Carbon – A self-important self-portrait.

I’ve had a good DSLR camera for more than a year now, but haven’t done a thing with it. I really only bought the damn thing as an excuse to get out more during the summer—the theory being that the allure of snapping wildlife photos would make me more inclined to leave my house—but that working about as well as expected, so the camera’s sat on a shelf this whole time.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I decided that owning an expensive camera, and not knowing anything about photography, was kind of like owning an expensive guitar, but not knowing how to play even one song by the Ramones.

(I came to this realization partly because I’ve been learning more about art and art history lately, but that’s a topic for another post.)

So, I started doing some research. Skimming the camera’s manual, watching a couple of YouTube videos on the basics of photography, reading some blog posts filled with made-up words like “f-stop” and “histogram.” All the things one does to pick up a new skill in this our digital age.

The result? Well, I can’t speak for what you might think of the self-portrait above, but I’m happy with it—and the handful of the couple hundred other photos I’ve shot since finally using this camera as something more than a bookend.

And holy hell, this is sort of fun!

Even considering how often I get absolutely lost in the maze of ISOs, apertures, shutter speeds, focal lengths, and the seemingly bottomless rabbit hole of concepts and numbers I’m still only slightly convinced I know anything about. Learning how to compose a semi-decent shot, learning how light works, learning which sorts of subjects I’m interested in—it’s all kind of awesome.

That last one’s especially thrilling for me, since I’ve only ever really considered photography from the more “journalistic” side, rather than the “creative” side. That is, I’ve always looked at photography as a way to record reality as it is. It doesn’t have to be about presenting what’s there in all its literal glory, and instead can be about pretty much whatever the hell you want.

You don’t have to take a photograph—you can make one.

That’s probably obvious to people who aren’t me, and who actually learned to appreciate the visual arts before age forty, but you know what? Better late than never.

Forty Trips Around The Sun

Yesterday was my 40th birthday, and while that’s the sort of thing which probably deserves a long, introspective write-up about the meaning of the middle of life, I’m far too focused on the tiny demon which is trying to claw its way through my intestines.

Let me back up.

I’m not exactly what you’d call “fit,” unless you’re trying to shove me into the gaping maw of a sudden tyrannosaur so you can make your escape, in which case I’d probably fit quite well. Rather, I’m sort of round, and while I’ve become less spherical over the past year or two, I still wouldn’t attempt to murder me and think you could get away with it by making it look like I’d had a heart attack while cycling.

I also have a back which routinely hurts, knees and ankles to match, and I smoke—rounding out the already-round image of a man to whom “good health” is as alien a concept as having sex with another person in the room.

That said, my health in the two weeks leading up to my birthday was legendarily awful.

It started simply enough, with a late-winter cold that took hold of my sinuses faster than I take hold of an unattended plate of pasta. Then, something between my shoulder blades decided I hadn’t had a good cry for a while and turned moving my arms, nodding my head, and sleeping into a special kind of torture.

And when you don’t generally get all that much sleep to begin with, well, I passed “tired” sometime around last Thursday, and am just wrapping up the “I hate life” phase of insomnia before settling into “motion hallucinations of clowns without pants.”

Which brings us up to yesterday, when I spent half the morning on the toilet. I began to suspect I’d maybe caught a stomach bug right about the fifth flush, and the white-hot agony I feel in my guts today seems to support that conclusion.

So, happy birthday to me!

But really, though, what could possibly be written or said about turning 40 which hasn’t been written or said before?

Do I make an over-the-hill joke? Write a self-deprecating stanza about my thinning hair, which actually started thinning a decade ago? Should I confess that the sense of creeping, existential horror I feel pales only to my apprehension of life’s end and the putrid promise of death hanging before us all?

How about none of the above?

Instead, I’ll leave you with a word of advice, the one piece of wisdom, that one bit of distilled truth which the Universe has so far seen fit to grant me in my forty-years-long, yet all-too-brief life…

Buy soft toilet paper.

 

Jeff Updated His Blog. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

Hey! It’s only been two months since my last update. Think I might be getting the hang of keeping this blog current.

It’s about 7:40am, my daughter just went off to school after spending a three-day weekend recovering from a nasty case of the flu, and I’m just sitting at computer waiting for my friend Shawn to log on so we can play video games. Specifically, so we can wrap up a Europa Universalis IV campaign that we started months ago.

So what, dear reader, has been going on in my life since the last time I condescended to post something?

A fair bit, to be honest.

I started working on a novel, for one thing. Science fiction, in a setting I’ve been developing with Shawn for the last couple of years. I’m really enjoying it, so I guess I’ve reacquired the writing bug I wrote about losing.

One thing I should mention about the novel—and probably the only thing I should mention—is that the way I’m writing it is a little different from my usual approach. Normally, I write the first draft like the hounds of hell are chasing me, getting it all down as fast as possible and never looking back. This time, I’m taking it slower. Incrementally. I’m writing a bit, then revising, then re-reading, and revising again.

Rather than a panicked, straight-lined sprint from start to finish, I’m taking a labyrinthine stroll. It’s a significant change, and one I’m really enjoying.

But that’s enough about that. The more you write about writing, the less you actually write.

Here’s where I’d normally list off all the other things I’ve been getting on with, and there are a few other notable activities, but Shawn just logged on and I have to go finishing conquering the world.

If You’re Good At Something, Never Do It

Yes, yes, I know. My last update here was back on August 9th. Five months of silence, bought and paid for. Huzzah!

I wish I could tell you with certainty that things’ll be changing around here. That I’ve turned over a new leaf, or made some unbreakable blood oath to post on something of a regular basis, but I haven’t and I probably won’t. This blog is what it is, and that’s less of a “blog” or more “a collection of static pages to which I occasionally add another of equal or lesser value.”

To be fair, I had planned on breaking my silence earlier this month. Two weeks ago, in fact. Alas, my hosting company had other ideas and decided a good, 12-day dose of downtime was what I really needed.

But let’s not get into that.

So, what have I been doing these past many months?

The summer turned out to be a mixed bag, friends and family have been stressed in one way or another, and the fall wound up being filled with all kinds of appointments and a more-than-usual amount of back-to-school shenanigans since this is my daughter’s first year of middle school.

And winter…well, it’s winter. The worst season if you live in New Hampshire and don’t give a rat’s testicle about skiing and whatnot. It’s cold, icy, and exactly the sort of environment which cries out for a warm blanket, hot coffee, and Netflix to keep out the chill.

(See what I did there? That’s quality, people.)

That’s the last five months in a nutshell. Busy, but not really. And the one thing I absolutely haven’t been doing is writing. Well, I’ve been dropping the occasional drivel on Facebook, and poked around at a few story ideas, but any time I sit down to knock out something of any real length, a whole lot of nada happens. Just not feeling it.

I suppose there’s a pep talk I should be giving myself now. Some kind of, “If you struggle through the dry spell, eventually you’ll get wet,” sort of thing. But really, I couldn’t care less if I wrote another serious word in the near future. Because I haven’t just been not feeling it, I haven’t been missing it either.

That’s weird, for me, but not especially unpleasant.

Anyway, this is the point where I’m supposed to hint about plans I have or projects I’m working on, and maybe drop a not-so-subtle call for you to come back soon for all the exciting details.

Well, I got nuthin’. And even if I did, there’s no guarantee I’d tell you.

Writing and Juggling and Magic, Oh My!

What? It’s time for another post? What day is it? Where am I?

Hey, how are you doing? You doing great? You getting things done? Good for you! So am I.

You know, maybe I misjudged sciatica. Maybe I wasn’t thinking it through. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a wonderful thing and I should be happy, grateful for the stabbing, tingling pains it planted in my buttocks.

You like that word, “buttocks?” Do you hear it in Forrest Gump’s voice like I do?

Butt-hocks?

Oh, this post is going well!

Isn’t this just what you needed to be reading on a Tuesday instead of working?

Yeah, so that sciatica thing. It’s still around, lurking, watching–like that weird neighbor who’s always peaking out his windows at you. I still can’t sit for more than about 20 minutes at a whack before I have to get up, stretch, and move around, but that’s maybe where the blessing comes in, ’cause since coming down with this crap over a month ago, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff done.

First, I’m writing. A lot. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case because I can’t sit whenever, wherever, and for however long I want, but I am just killing it on the page.

I do a bunch of humor/comedy writing I’m planning to turn into something I don’t want to mention just yet, then after about an hour of that, I move on to this project I’m working on with a friend of mine.

Which I can’t mention either.

Just take my word for it, there’s things happening. Big things. The biggest.

I also taught myself to juggle. Because that’s somehow a skill I needed to pick up.

I’ve talked about this a little on Facebook already, but since I can’t sit, I figured learning to juggle would be a way to stand in my living room without looking like some kind of weirdo who just doesn’t understand how chairs work. And so far it’s going pretty well!

Three-ball cascade, two balls in one hand, three balls in columns–there’s a lot of ball-handling going on, people, that’s what I’m getting at. And obvious jokes aside, I really enjoy juggling. It mellows me out. Like yoga, only I don’t have to worry about farting.

Then there’s the magic. You know, I’ve always been interested in illusions, slight-of-hand, that kind of thing–and I’ve tinkered with it a little–but never really, really got into it. And I’m digging it! Yeah, I’m just playing around with cards at this point, but I can sit or stand or walk around for hours, practicing moves, seeing improvement.

Like the juggling thing, I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything with magic, perform or whatever, but I can kind of imagine myself actually getting good at both.

Maybe.

We’ll see.

God this post is terrible.

Alright, on Saturday, I’ll be heading off with my daughter to my friend’s place to spend a glorious week out in the almost woods. I say “almost woods,” ’cause while we will, in fact, be surrounded by trees, we’re also going to be like a five minute drive from a city. It’s a weird situation. Woods with wi-fi.

I wonder if anyone’s been attacked by a bear while watching YouTube videos of other people being attacked by bears. That’d be ironic.

Wait, would it? Is that irony? Alanis Morissette messed that up for everyone with the dumb song and now no one knows what “ironic” means anymore.

Oh, that joke’s hackey. What do you want from me, my right butt cheek’s starting to tingle and I need to pee.

Anyway…my daughter and I go to my friend’s place every year, drag along the computer and a bunch of games, and have our own kind of mini-convention to wrap up the summer. It’s always fun, always chill, and I hardly ever bother to post things on whichever blog I’m writing for at the time.

So if you’re one of the three people who reads this disaster, I wouldn’t hold out hope for another post until I get back.

And with that, sir or madam, I hope you have a fantastic week yourself.