Not In The Past

Looking forward from 30

Archive for the tag “photography”

Ten Goals for 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, there are a few things I’m hoping to work on for the coming year.  I have a feeling the list will grow and evolve as the year goes on, but for now here are ten things I want to focus on:

  1. Write every day.  One thing I’m going to do to acheive this goal is to participate in #365poems, where I write a poem every day for a whole year.  They probably will not be great works of art, but the point is to discipline myself into producing every day.
  2. Submit work for publication.  Keep doing it until I get published, which may not happen this year.
  3. Get a new wardrobe.  I really feel like my clothing doesn’t really “fit” me in several different meanings of the word, and I want to get a few more nicer outfits for job interviews or more formal occasions. 
  4. Try a new bar or restaurant every month this year.
  5. Finally get my passport.  I put it by the wayside when I was unemployed and looking to finally get out of Miramichi, but now that I’m here in Halifax, it’s time to finally get it.
  6. Go to New York City.  My sisters are already planning a trip and they want me to come.
  7. Start doing volunteer work with a local organization.
  8. Cook two new dishes per month.
  9. Sell one of my photographs.
  10. Begin to make significant progress on reducing my personal debt.

I have a number of sillier, more trivial goals that aren’t really tied into what I want out of life, but I figure I wouldn’t include any of those as they would be a distraction.


Know Thyself

It hasn’t been a month since coming back from Toronto, but I feel like it was ages ago; too many late nights spent on pointless personal projects.   It doesn’t seem likely that the rest of my 30 before 30 is going to be fulfilled by my extended deadline of July 2.  Not that some of these goals matter much, but it just makes me feel like I really don’t have the discipline to keep at even the most trivial personal goal.  I had a job interview this week (don’t want to jinx it by talking about where it was), but I could not sleep the night before.  I’ll hear by the end of the week.

I actually have considered selling my camera from time to time.  For someone who calls himself a photographer, I really don’t take a whole lot of pictures.  I’m beginning to think that I got the SLR more to say I have one than for any potential photographic career I may have.  I feel pushed into molds sometimes, and while “photographer” was more appealing than some of the other ones I’ve found myself slotted into, I’m having doubts that it really is my calling.  I don’t know: maybe it’s another case of me knowing myself.  I feel like the two lessons I’ve been raised with are “settle for what you’re given” and “don’t do anything unless you’re obligated to do it”.

I’ve acquired so much junk in the last few years that I’m tethered to it.  I need to make massive changes, but I don’t have the means to do it.

Forgive my sour tone.


I’m thinking it’s high time I go around Miramichi with my camera and take a bunch of pictures.

I don’t explore enough.  I usually go from point A to point B.  Even if I take my time and soak it all in, I usually have a set goal in doing so.  Maybe I’m just concerned about getting lost.  This applies to even my photography: I have to play around more than I used to.  I’m struggling to remember advice given to me at the wedding regarding taking outstanding pictures, but one thing I got from it is that I’m just too content to just “take” the picture instead of building it or searching for a way to make it memorable.  I don’t disagree.

This comes to mind when I think about other areas of my life.  Career wise, I have always been looking for specific and easily-attainable work.  I first got into the call centre industry before I was even finished my BA.  My move outside of Miramichi was mainly through that same company.  When I finally decided I had enough, I ended up working for another call centre because I knew there were jobs around, and I knew I could do it; it was also one of those employers that advertise on the government’s job bank site.

I get intimidated by the open-endedness of things sometimes.  I should embrace it.

Under the weather

I’ve been fighting this cold for a few days.  I suppose nobody enjoys being sick, but the stuffed nose and sore throat is the worst.  I’ve always hated it.  Vomiting is more unpleasant overall, but it’s at least temporary and you do feel a little relief when you stop.  With stuffed noses and sore throats, they just linger until they just fade away.  You don’t even get the catharsis.

I suppose I am a little hard on Miramichi.  It’s mainly the town (still can’t think of it as a city) proper that’s the most frustrating, and I suppose some of the isolating aspects (especially culturally) are mitigated with internet access.  What I think it boils down to (besides economic issues) is that I’m the type who gets energized by the city, especially the diversity and opportunities for different kinds of experiences they provide.  A lot of Miramichi’s problems are also really New Brunswick’s problems in general: they’re just easier to mask in bigger cities.  (On a tangent, one of my complaints about Moncton is that they seem to think their vitality of a city is measured into how many generic big-box stores/restaurants they can attract.  Trying to copy every other place is easier than fostering and developing a unique city atmosphere, I suppose).

There are actually a few really nice spots even within Miramichi city limits.  Once you go out into the surrounding country, though, you get into the great scenery.  Once I’m feeling better, I’m going to grab my camera and try to get some pictures.  I hope the weather cooperates with me.

I want to explore the province a bit more and see a few spots I haven’t really visited, or just drove by on my way to somewhere.   New Brunswickers, recommend a spot to me to photograph.  I don’t really want to stick to the really overdone places that everyone goes to.

Sappy Reflections: Sunday and Epilogue

Author’s note: Part three in a series of recollections based on a trip to Sackville, NB the weekend of July 30-August 2 2010.  Persons and events depicted herein are based in reality but names and details have been altered.  Read part one and part two first.

I had a dream about an attempt to watch The Godfather scuttled so I could visit a fast food place with Philip, an old friend I hadn’t seen in about two years.  It was ostensibly Moncton but it also seemed a little bit like we were in eastern Winnipeg.   At the restaurant, Philip promptly cooked his roast beef sandwich himself for no discernible reason, as it were a completely normal thing for him to do.   We then headed downtown to a gay bar.  In the dream-world, the bar’s colored lights and dance floor was replaced with decor suggesting late 60s rec room with S&M apparati in the back bar, and one of the professors from Mount Allison was greeting us at the door.    As we walked home from what was either a really kinky den or some weird shopping mall I realized I was missing a shoe.

Buzzing from my cell phone woke me up, and while I was trying to make sense of the dream and reading my text messages, I could see that it was late in the morning.  I figured it would be a good time to finally walk to the Waterfowl Park.  I usually made it a point to go there whenever I took a pilgrimage down to Sackville, and I had several vivid memories of visiting the marshland park.  When Hurricane Juan passed through Atlantic Canada back in 2003, albeit a safe distance away from our town, I was there in a “hurricane party” with a couple of guys from my dorm.  In the winter of my last year at Mount Allison, watching the sun come up over the marshes capped off one of the wilder nights out I had when I was writing that screenplay with Phil and trying to tap into the characters’ mindset through nights at Ducky’s.

The Waterfowl Park also was a place of solitude, of peace and quiet.  Zen, almost.  At the very least it would be an opportunity to get some decent pictures.  I took a different path than I usually took through the park, but still saw the same level of plant life and same number of ducks as usual.  Maybe it was more.  Though I could faintly hear the music playing from downtown, it was too quiet to make out any discernible tune, and I cheated again by using my own iPod.  I relished the opportunity to get some pictures with my new picture, but what I got just disappointed me.  Everything felt too pedestrian.  They were essentially remakes of the pictures I took the first time I came here and not enough changes noticeably from year to year.  The number of ducks and what they’re doing at any given moment seems to be the only thing that really marks much difference from my previous sets.

Leaving the park, I turned past the festival to make my long walk towards The Bridge At The End Of The World, the eponymous bridge of “Bridge Street”: remnants of a former crossing of the Tantramar River that now crumble besides a railway bridge.  It was a bit far off, especially to lug a camera and tripod there, and combined with the heat of the sun it made for an exhausting journey…but completely worth it.   When you go there late at night, the place takes on an otherworldly quality and it’s an experience best shared with a few close friends and an optional small amount of a controlled substance.  During the day, though, it has a completely different energy, and when you’re there all by yourself and clear-headed, it pops.  This is one of those experiences I want to include in a story or screenplay but translating it into words somehow undercuts the power of what you’re seeing, and I run the risk of falling into cliché or making the experience more pedestrian than personal.  It’s hard to say why I felt this way.  It just happened, and I got some good pictures out of it.

I took my long trek back into town after rehydrating myself at the conveniently located convenience store and making small talk with another person I knew through mutual friends.  I headed into Ducky’s, passing by the drama clique taking residence on the patio and situating myself at the bar.  I noticed the bar had a new coat of paint and a new floor; further distance between then and now.  They still had their “drink of the week” promotion going, and that kept some continuity.  I heard another familiar voice to my right: there was Sophie.  We greeted each other warmly and she regaled me with tales of working far away in Fort McMurray, one of the most difficult places to live in Alberta.  I knew so many people who have taken off for there in the past few years and the stories they told made me figure out I wouldn’t stand it even for the kind of money they make, and Sophie’s anecdotes made that more concrete for me, but even without sugar-coating, her stories were told without regret.  As comfortable as it was to sit at the bar and down toonie drinks all evening, I realized I had other things I told myself I wanted to do.

There was a long line-up for the Old Man Luedecke show in the United Church.  Luedecke is actually a 30ish man with a banjo and gift for some of the best folk music in the country, and it was at Sappyfest two years ago that I saw him lead the crowd in a rendition of his anthem “I Quit My Job”.  That was a song that stuck with me as sort of vicarious wish-fulfillment because I was already burnt out on stupid questions from callers at that point.  But yet the two following years, I was still working at the job, which had become even more stressful, more oppressive in the micromanagement, and more of a dead-end.  I had originally wanted to go to see him and knew he would be a highlight of the weekend, but as I saw people standing end-to-end in a snake going from the church doors, around the parking lot and onto York Street, I didn’t feel up to enduring that long a wait and gave up after about two minutes.

With a little time to kill, I ended up going back towards the University, and took a turn to go down the hill where my old residence was.  It really hit me that the first time I was here was almost ten years ago.  I felt myself spirited to the time one night when after a less than enjoyable night out, I decided I needed to call a cab out to the Big Stop in Aulac for some alone time and clarity to help me plug away at yet another overdue essay.  As I waited outside for it to take me outside the Sackville bubble, Philip came up to me and asked if he could come along with me.  I obliged, and we ended up at the 24-hour truck stop about 15 minutes later.  When he noticed my discman and Sigur Ros CD, I let him borrow them for a little while, and he left the restaurant while I finished my Billy Bacon Cheeseburger and milkshake.  When he came back, he looked like he had seen the face of God.  It was the first song on the CD, he explained, and the audio stimulus combined with the atmosphere of isolation just off from where the truck stop was combined into a profoundly stirring experience for him.  A few years later when I went back to the same truck stop the first time I went to Sappyfest, I killed time waiting for a cab in a similar manner, but listening to XTC’s Skylarking.  I could feel hints of the same experience, but I wonder how amplified it would have been with more ethereal and dirge-like music.

After a solo meal at a Chinese restaurant in the present day, it was time to go back downtown.  The Sadies were ostensibly the headlining act of Sunday Night’s mainstage line-up, but the festival’s worst-kept secret was that Sloan was going to show up afterwards to run through their mid-90s “Twice Removed” album.  As the now middle-aged band members took the stage, something finally clicked with me with regards to the pictures I was taking, and for once they started coming through just right.  Being around other people didn’t seem to take a lot out of me anymore.  It was as if all the potential for the entire weekend had waited until that very moment to realize itself.

After Sloan’s set, there was the customary festival denouement soiree at George’s Fabulous Roadhouse, where a band worked its way through covers of AM gold from the 1970s.  The place was packed to capacity.  Julie Doiron was right next to me at the bar while I was getting my beer (actually a particularly mundane occurrence in this town).  I found myself getting some air every so often by going outside on the smoking deck, conversing with Brent and his girlfriend.  I’m not sure if the slight whiff of a controlled substance in the air made any difference but I could feel the music and celebration follow me  as I slowly trudged back to the dorms after closing time.  My legs ached and I took my time getting back, but I tried to soak in the joy all the way.

Waiting for the bus back home is always my least favorite parts of trips to Sackville.  You meet up with it at the gas station near the Trans-Canada, and I always feel the wait is longer than it actually is.  This is probably because I didn’t want to go back to Riverview, and back to my job that I had to beg permission to get a late start.  I think I remember listening to Sonic Youth this time around.  There were no sudden waves of overwhelming emotion like the last year, when The Pet Shop Boys’ “Being Boring” suckerpunched me through my ear buds and I had to keep from crying.  There were no last-minute run-ins with friends.  There was nothing left but me trying to gauge why I didn’t have such a good time the first two nights I was here.

I skipped Sappyfest last year, partially mindful of the disappointments of the previous year, and partially because I was hoping to save a little money to get back into civilization after spending the year at home.  I was no longer at the job I hated, but I felt like any diversions and trips that weren’t related to finding a new city to live in would have been a waste.  I regretted not going after hearing Arcade Fire were the “mystery guests”, but more for the chance to get out of the city I’m in and relax.

I’m planning to be back this summer.  I don’t care if the line-up has anyone I recognize or not, and the streets are overrun with pseudo-hipsters ten years younger than me.  If there’s a chance I can see some old friends, I’m sold.  I hope to not be as morose as I was that weekend, though.

30 Before 30: Update five

This is my last progress report on my 30 Before 30 list: my deadline is next Monday, the 2nd.


  • I have my learner’s permit.  So far I’ve been practicing going forward, backing up, turning and signaling in a church parking lot that’s a bit out of town.
  • I’ve decided that my old address (the one with my full name on it) is going to be where my portfolio rests when it is done.
  • Went up to Bathurst with Kyle and shot his entry for my Simple Portraits series.
  • Booked my trip out of town for the week before my 30th birthday (I leave tomorrow).
  • Applied for more jobs.
  • Did one free write for one hour.
Needs work
  •  I’m thinking of seeing a live music performance while I’m in Halifax.
  • I still need to finish my letters.  I’m going to work on them this week (I say that all the time).
  • I’m trying to think of a timeline to accomplish all the other goals I won’t be able to meet in the next week.  I decided to incorporate this into my 35 before 35.

So I’ll be in Halifax from tomorrow until Sunday, then up to Moncton for a night.  If anyone wants to meet up or get a bite/drink or have me take a picture of you, let me know.  Offer only open to people that I have an idea who they are (sorry, murderers).

Career tracks and callings

Thank you to everyone who offered me encouragement about my photography so far.  I’ve long mulled over whether I should take the leap and actually commit to a career in photography. I suppose putting together a portfolio is a step towards doing that.  I also think about seriously pursuing writing as well.  On my Twitter profile, I identify myself first as a writer and photographer.  Technically, it is true.

I still have lingering doubts as to whether it’s realistic for me to actually consider either of those as my vocation.  People tell me I’m good at both, but I still wonder if I’m one of the people for whom “do what you love” is not particularly good advice to give.  It’s not hard work alone that gets success in the world: talent, skill, opportunity, connections and circumstance cannot be ignored.   Some people can only do what they must, whether they like it or not.

It’s not just the ultra-competitive fields where this is true.  There are people who do pretty well at call centre work, but others, despite their best efforts and developed skills, still don’t have the natural talent for that occupation and end up either getting fired or burning out.  But it’s easier and less risky to look for work in a call centre than try to eke out a living doing what you love.  I’ve done the call centre route.  I did alright: in retrospect, I did better than I would have imagined and learned a good deal, but the longer I stayed there, the more I realized that I was never going to be completely happy in that setting.  I felt that even if I were to come to love it, it didn’t really come naturally to me.  It was also exhausting me to the point where my time off was spent on recovering for the next shift instead of putting words together or going out with my camera.

Photography and writing are more than just hobbies to me.  They’re urges that the way I see the world is inevitably filtered through.

I’m at the point where I know I have to ask myself whether it’s worth the effort of pursuing what I want to do, or if I should just keep practicality in mind and keep my interests on the back burner.  What does it mean to be realistic?   Does that not sometimes include accepting that the best you can ever hope for is cleaning toilets?

I’m thinking it’s time to actually subject myself to a bigger test of my abilities.  I’m thinking about the 35 before 35 list these days.  I’m considering making it a goal of mine to sell some of my work in the next five years…

Photography portfolio preparation

I’ve decided this week I’m going to put together a photography portfolio.  This of course means going through all the different pictures I’ve taken over the past little while and selecting which ones I want to showcase.  Ultimately, this is going to have to be my decision as to which photographs to showcase, but I appreciate other pairs of eyes looking at my pictures and pointing out what about them they like.

I’m wondering if I should actually post any of my shortlist on my blog before actually deciding what to include.  If any of my readers are my friends on Facebook, you can see a whole lot of my photography there, as well as some I have on Flickr (please contact me for the link).

My dream photo project

I’ve had this idea in the back of my head where I would go to the different towns and cities where I’ve lived growing up and take pictures of them at equal intervals over a period of time.  I’ve lived as far east as Pictou, Nova Scotia, and as far west as Regina, Saskatchewan.  I’ve also been fascinated by old pictures I’ve seen of familiar places: I like seeing photography of cities that aren’t restricted to the postcard shots, but have a certain frame of reference that is still recognizable to anyone who’s lived there, no matter which part of the city you actually lived in.  I also like seeing footage of the more mundane aspects of the past: city streets, storefronts, etc.

I did try a tentative start to the whole project back in the summer of 2010, but I was unhappy with the pictures I took.  Part of the issue is that I didn’t make a very specific plan of when and what I would shoot.  I also hadn’t bought my second lens yet, and wasn’t as used to what I could do with the camera.  I felt like I was being rushed at the time, so that may account for some of my negative feelings about the first attempt.

The way I see this playing out, I would focus on maybe doing the places in Atlantic Canada one year, the places in Ontario another, and Manitoba and Saskatchewan a third year.  This would also document my growth as a photographer.

30 Before 30 list: Update one

I was wrestling with whether to give status updates on my goal list from two weeks ago, but I figured that it would help to be able to assess where I am with the list from time to time.  Every two weeks, I will do a post like this discussing my progress on some goals, and which goals need more work.  Here goes:

Progress list:

  • I’ve begun making an index page for my SNL reviews and essays on Existentialist Weightlifting.  I plan on unveiling it once I have the typos corrected in the reviews.  I’m wondering if I should retroactively add any additional information I’ve uncovered about sketches since then (like writing credits, etc) or if I should just fix what I have already typed for clarity.
  • I’ve completed and posted one of the SNL reviews for the 1980-81 season (the David Carradine episode) and have my notes done for the next episode (Ray Sharkey).
  • I’ve also made a list of my unwatched DVDs: I’ve watched a few things this week, but the list does not reflect what, as it will be updated every Monday.
  • No books, DVDs or CDs have been purchased.
  • I have gone to the library once (Goal: 10 times by April).
  • I’ve gone on two walks downtown but I don’t know if I should count.  I think I will only count if I walk for thirty minutes before actually going into a building or sitting down.
  • I’ve come up with a few ideas for a writing project, including one for a more significant project that will take me longer than two months to actually complete.
  • I started a new book this week: “Oliver’s Twist” by Craig Oliver
  • I was originally going to buy a train ticket this week while VIA Rail had a promotion for 50% off the full price of the fare, but some circumstances arose and I decided it was probably not in my best interest to do so.  This promotion would only have been $28 less expensive than the regular supersaver fare on a round trip to Halifax, and was non-exchangable and non-refundable.   Oh well.  I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing for my birthday…I’m hoping I won’t actually need to stay in Miramichi that weekend.
  • I have two people I know I will be sending snail mail to by the time April comes around.

Goals to focus on for the next two weeks:

  • I have a copy of the driver’s manual, so I’m going to focus on getting ready to actually take the test.
  • I still haven’t fully gotten to resetting my internal clock yet, and once I get that taken care of, and set up a daily it will be easier for me to actually get more done on the job hunt, not to mention the other less pressing goals.
  • I think this is going to be the timeframe I start my month without fast food.  I haven’t decided on a date yet or if I want to have a “last meal”.
  • I’ll do at least a one hour free write.  I don’t think I’ll post these online, but they may show up in a more polished form sometime.
  • I’m going to work on getting started again with the Simple Portraits project.

If anyone has any advice or encouragement, feel free to leave a comment.

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