House Between The Oaks

I keep thinking about my black and white photography project. I’m definitely overthinking it. I’ve become too emotionally invested in the idea of this project. I’m gonna have to take a lot of photos to make up for the random ones I’ve taken so far. I really want to showcase the trees here in Traverse City through black and white photography. A part of me is considering giving up on this little Olympus point and shoot camera for a more controllable SLR. Then again, wanting to control every aspect of this project is what’s inhibiting me from actually taking interesting photos. I like the point and shoot because there are fewer settings. The last thing I need right now are more decisions in the process.

I believe I need to focus on something. Today I was thinking more how I’d place my attention on the trees in Traverse City and their interaction with the nearby homes. I think that’d be an original view and would take a stronger will to follow through with. But, then again, maybe I shouldn’t be trying to be original. Maybe I should just make something that literally anybody with a camera can make, like photographs of just the branches of the trees or the clouds. Because ultimately I want something ethereal.

There’s no doubt this project is evolving. The problem is I’m having a hard time deciding which direction to take it, which is the biggest challenge any art project faces. Art takes conviction. I hope all of my self-loathing pays off somehow.

Trees, Clouds, and Snow

Back when my family lived on an old red brick street in the old Central Neighborhood here in Traverse City, Michigan, there was a sign that read “Tree City USA”. This title actually came from The Arbor Day Foundation when they named the town such for our exceptional urban forest management. TC is tangled with beautiful old trees. A majority of them are oaks and pines. There are a couple trees that have been designated with plaques remembering them as waypoints for natives who used techniques to put strange bends in their trunks. One massive tree in the woods behind the old mental asylum was struck by lightning, split into several large pieces and has since been covered in graffiti and dubbed “The Hippy Tree”. The old oak trees of Traverse City have character, living through hundreds of cycles of hot, moist, abundant summers; and cold, frozen, hard winters.

I want a photography project to showcase the beauty of the trees of Traverse City. I want to show their symbiotic relationships with it’s citizens, many of whom the trees out-live. The trees in town are different from their cousins of the forest. They’re pruned, decorated with Christmas lights, gardened around, and kept alive through their natural life, avoiding being turned into furniture.

The clouds that come off of Lake Michigan vary splendidly here in Traverse City. The wind usually blow them in from the west. In the summer they’re fluffy and low. In the winter they’re grey and high. I’m remaking my list of subjects to include the clouds that float over our town.

Snow. What natural occurrence defines northern Michigan more than the lakes? The first snowfall of every year inspires feelings of merriment. It makes us thankful for the warmth of our homes and the food in our stores and restaurants. The last snowfall of every year invokes gloom. I want to devote a few rolls of film next year to fallen snow and the beautiful forms it takes.

People come to Traverse City for a multitude of reasons. Some come for the cherry orchards, some for the wine, some for the bars, some for the dunes, some for the forests. The people who live here, stay here for a feeling of peace, sitting on their porch amongst the trees and birds and people biking around. Or they stay just for the book they’re reading with their feet up by the fire as five foot drifts of soft white snow blows up around their car. This is a beautiful place and I believe there’s an infinite world of art to be created within it’s boundaries.

Calling Off Work

I really don’t feel like writing a long post today. I was on the schedule to work today, but I had to go to a mindfulness class per my probation. I really hope everything worked out at the BBQ without me. I really hope nobody harbors any bitter feelings, not just to me, but any bitter feelings as a result of me not going to work today in general. It really bums me out how little I worked this week. It proves how terrible I’d feel if I lost this job. That’s not like me, usually I try not to invest too much interest in a job in case I lose it. 

I had a meeting with a counselor today. We just talked about how medications are affecting me (they’re not), and what my future goals are. 

At the mindfulness class we went outside and blew bubbles. It seemed childish. The counselor said that blowing bubbles was a good way to quit smoking. Then she said “or you might smoke and blow bubbles”. Somebody was inspired by this notion and started blowing bubbles with smoke in them.

Hometown Reunions

I’v been seeing a lot of people that I knew in high school. Even though we usually don’t exchange more than a nod, people who I knew in high school, no matter where they’re at in life, seem generally friendly. There always seems to be an unspoken communication of, yes, I’ll acknowledge that I know you still exist and even present a smile, but I don’t want to talk.

Last night I changed this blog’s privacy from hidden to public. I didn’t even know I had it on hidden, the setting that prevents the site from showing up in searches. My last post got a half dozen likes, the most I’ve gotten so far. I’m going out on a limb and saying that’s a direct result of making this blog public. I appreciate the likes, I’m sure a few of them were just people trying to get me to view their own blog. I hope my blog isn’t soon to be inundated by spam. 

I went to Goodwill today and picked up a CD and two tee-shirts. The CD is Front By Front by Front 242. I’ve never heard of Front 242 but once I learned from a Google search that they’re an eighties/nineties industrial band I didn’t hesitate to take it with me. I also picked up two Croft and Barrow tee-shirts. They’re really nice, soft, gray and white tee shirts with vertical textured lines. I have a red Croft and Barrow sweater with a similar texture and I love it so these shirts were picked up without thought. When I got home, after having a phone conversation with my mother, I ripped and listened to Front By Front and it was pretty good, lots of synths and weird eighties vocals. It definitely will add some color to my iTunes library.

The weather was truly wonderful today. I broke a sweat wearing a tee-shirt for the first time this year. I even had an urge to go jump in the bay. I had a stupid grin on my face walking around town. Bought myself a pair of cheap sunglasses.

On The Move

I’v covered a lot of ground today. First I walked to my weekly Moral Reconation Therapy class, which is about a mile and a half. Then I walked back. Then I rode my bike to NMC (Northwestern Michigan College) to complete my orientation to deejay at the college station. I’m excited to be getting a key-card— to be the only person in a college hall in the middle of the night is strangely exciting for me. Rode back home. During these trips I exposed a roll of film to the “Oak Park” neighborhood. This project is raising my awareness of the intricacies of this town’s neighborhoods. Later, I walked two and a half miles to the AA meeting on Sybrandt Road. I think I travelled about a dozen miles under my own power today. 

I’m starting to get worried that I lost a verification sheet from last week. Nobody’s said anything, and if they do say something I’ll have to say I turned it in, turn the blame on them. I don’t know if that’s going to work. Even if it does, once they go over my sign-out times, they’ll see I haven’t gone to the mandatory six meetings last week. I’m on thin ice here (despite doing everything I should to really better my life), I’m on thin ice and I’m starting to hear the cracks.

God, I cannot fucking stand this guy’s snoring. I don’t understand how people who snore like he does hold romantic relationships. I have to try not having aggressive thoughts about it, because the aggressive thoughts always escalate, but it is difficult.

Computer Games

I’m not a serious gamer. I love my computer and am secretly envious of people who love their computers so much they are content to spend a huge portion of their lives playing every new video game from beginning to end. Seriously, gaming as a lifestyle, to me, seems like the best dollar-to-fun value, if that makes any sense. You don’t have to be rich (yet) to really immerse yourself in the gaming lifestyle. I’ll lament, I’m just not that great at video games. To a gamer, that probably means I’m not that great at life. On my Mac I have a few games that are enough to get my fix: SimCity, Counter-Strike, Civilization, and Minecraft. Before today I’v never bought a PC/Mac version of Minecraft. I’ve purchased it for iOS and Android (two platforms I have actually spent a lot of money on games for), but I’ve only ever played pirated versions of Minecraft for the PC/Mac. I first played Minecraft back when it was still in beta. I resent anyone who believes Minecraft is for children. I think that sentiment comes from older people who mistake it’s 8-bit aesthetic for an eight year old target audience. Well, that and the fact that Minecraft isn’t violent and has been used to educate children. Anyway, Minecraft has held a special place in my memory since it was released ten years ago. I just purchased the game for my MacBook and am excited to get back into it. Today I finally played and won a game of Civilization V. Playing as the Moroccans I won via cultural domination. Fun, fun.

I don’t know what it is tonight, but I feel like I’m having an acid flashback. I really can’t say what’s happening. I don’t usually drink coffee this late so maybe it’s having some sort of interaction with my medication. There’s a colorful strobing effect in my peripheral and reality just feels “wet”. I think only people who have done psychedelic drugs would be able to know what sort of feeling I’m talking about. It’s not unpleasant.

Dusty Sandpaper Brain

When I come home from work my hands are usually dry. I absolutely hate touching anything that’s dry like bare wood or dusty walls. I especially hate paper. The feeling of my fingers sliding across paper makes me cringe. Just the thought of it as I’m writing this is making me uncomfortable. And it’s becoming a thing even when my hands aren’t dry. If I hear someone shuffle papers in a video or on a podcast I recoil internally.

I downloaded Logic Pro X today. I don’t have any experience making music on a computer but if I want to, I suppose I can. I’ve been editing photos in GIMP on this computer. Photoshop CS5 is a program I have experience with and am confident using, so I reluctantly added that to this computer as well. I started looking into getting a MIDI controller, something small with a few sliders and knobs. Once I buy another Canon 5D, I’ll definitely get one just to be able to adjust RAW files with something more tactile than dragging with a mouse. I think it would be cool to learn how to make ambient music, specifically drone music, just for giggles. There can never be enough ambient music in the world.

Obsolescence Anxiety

I own the last MacBook Pro to have been made without a retina screen. When I was making this blog I had to decide whether I’d put full-size photos on this website. My first instinct was to not. To be honest, I was thinking about money when I first started thinking about doing a photography project. This was not even close to being my main motivation, but I did want control over my photographs so that if someday people wanted to use them or otherwise possess them, that they’d have to ask me to sell them full-size images. Not currently owning a high density display (other than my phone) I didn’t research thoroughly enough how small a 1080 x 720 pixel image would look on a large high-definition display. Tiny, as it turns out. Will I ever really have a real demand for these photographs? And, if I do, wouldn’t I want as many people to have my work as possible? Along with screen densities and permissions, the third problem with image resolution is storage. A free WordPress account allows the storage of up to three gigabytes. With an average size of three megabytes each, that’s about a thousand photos. If I shoot a roll of film every week for a year, that’ll put me at 1,872 photos or five and a half gigabytes. So at the very least I have to purchase a basic WordPress account to allow me six gigabytes. Which I have but after this, if I want to continue shooting a roll a week, I’ll have to upgrade to the premium account. These accounts are affordable, but paying to share my photographs on a website managed by another website, another website that is starting to feel more and more to me like a social media website bothers me. Do I really want to invest in this site to keep a snapshot of my life? First of all, one thing I’ve noticed about social media sites is that they tend to develop their own cultures, both from apparently intentional factors like Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms to apparently unintentional factors like simple graphical design decisions like Reddit’s “cuteness”. Ideally I want a website that is created and controlled almost entirely by me. I do have a fundamental understanding of HTML and CSS and theoretically could make my own site. Then there’s the problem of obsolescence. How long will WordPress exist? I understand this is a well-established company. But it’s possible that there will be a time when there is a radical shift in how the internet operates. It’s also possible WordPress gets into some kind of business ordeal that radically alters the way this site works. There’s also of course simply the possibility that WordPress simply fails at being a financially viable company. What happens to all of my thoughts and photos then? So what really clinched this whole dilemma for me is the possibility of migrating this site to another, more independent, host. Right now, I generally like my experience on WordPress and want to start interacting with more people’s sites. Today, I took an hour and a half break from work and updated all of the photos to full-size, so it should look good on any screen. And if anybody wants to download my photos, go for it, put them on billboards, office walls, textbooks— I’d be flattered.

I’m starting to get a little anxious at work. This is the longest I’ve held down a job for years. Every time a manager wants to say something to me, I half expect them to tell me I’m fired. It’s really unhealthy, mentally, to live in fear for one’s job. I feel like I need constant reassurance. But I think that slight fear is just part of the nature of being an employee in a ruthlessly capitalistic society. The only way to get rid of it is to stop caring about one’s job, which inevitably gets one fired.


Last night I bought Discourses of the Withered by Celer. Celer is proper drone music, and there’s enough of it to last a long time.

Unfortunately for me and my unhealthy, autistic obsession to have this Black and White project be as organized as possible, the Camera Shop’s scanner is broken. They didn’t get the right part they needed to fix it so it’ll be another week before I’m able to see my photographs. I stopped into the shop to just pick up the film. I was going to have 4” x 6” prints printed at Meijer and scan them at The Copy Shop but they didn’t even have the film processed yet. I don’t necessarily trust Meijer and the resolution of the scans wouldn’t be as good as the rest of the rolls. So I guess I’ll just wait until next week and post Roll 4 & 5 together. It’s bothering me. So it goes…

I took yet another walk to the AA meeting on Sybrandt Road. Instead of just walking up the railroad tracks like I usually do, I walked along a path near Boardman Lake. There are some really nice condos on the lake and a couple really nice houses.

On my way back I stopped by the Marathon station to get some cigarettes and I noticed they finally had Nat’s. I love Nat Sherman Classics. When I was living downtown in The Whiting Hotel, living off of student loans, I’d buy Nat Sherman’s from Nolan’s cigar shop. I loved those cigarettes. The smoke from a Nat Sherman Classic is slightly ashy and sweet, not to mention the design of the packaging and filter is wholly debonair. So as soon as I saw the gas station advertising Nat’s “coming soon” I knew I’d be getting a pack. Right now, they have the promotional price of about five dollars although I think once that’s over they’ll be more on the level of Parliaments. I don’t know yet if I’ll make these my go-to cigarettes, besides the price, I don’t believe they’re going to be sold everywhere and I like to buy a brand I know I can get at any gas station in America, because, you know, cigarettes are a comfort, and you grow to love your brand like you love your wife. Maybe you have an affair with another brand but you need that one brand to always be there for you.

Midday Jazz

I went to WNMC this morning to train to be on the radio. Ellen was there to train me, a nice woman with one eye. I volunteered as a radio deejay here back in 2014. They’ve since moved their operation to a different building and gotten new equipment. I recognized the process but had to be reminded of the details. It’s pretty simple, you put the CD in a caddy, put it in one of the CD players, and press “on” on the sound board’s corresponding button. There’s also a computer where you can search for songs and drag and drop them into a queue. Then you add the song into the Spinitron program so people listening can see what’s playing on their screen, if they have that capability. There’s also the all important “reads”. My first time back on air I announced the weather and did a PSA for the annual NMC BBQ. I played a jazz rendition of “Bein’ A Pig” from Sesame Street and an interesting rendition of “In My Time Of Dying” (originally by Led Zeppelin) by Bonerama. Midday jazz was the show I was on but in the future I’ll be doing Late Night Rock by myself.

On the way to the radio station I took some photos of Eighth Street. A large portion of it is under construction right now. On the “Overheard In Traverse City” group on Facebook a lot of people are talking about it. I guess it’s good it’s finally being redone (I don’t really care, I don’t drive) but the crazies on Facebook are definitely outspoken in their conviction that it should, I guess, never be redone because it’s going to make their ten minute commute a fifteen minute commute. I’m sure if you ask one of these monsters when it should be done they’d be totally lost and confused as to how to answer. It’ll be interesting to see how the hundreds of thousands of tourists navigate the town without it’s second busiest east-west thoroughfare during the Cherry Festival in July.

Almost every instance I walk past the Marathon gas station on Eighth Street I stop in. I usually get a one-liter of Mountain Dew. I know it’s gross how much Mountain Dew I drink but I’m in good enough health to afford it and I’ve recently been replacing it with iced tea. It’s also not uncommon for me to pick up two sticks of Kowalski summer sausages for a dollar. As far as the dried meat market is concerned, these are a great deal. I like Kowalski because it’s cheap and a Detroit-based company. I was a little surprised that my twelve-ounce Mountain Dew Code Red was three dollars, but they could sell that liquid coke for twice as much and I’d still probably buy it… Okay, maybe not, but I do love Dew.

Pall Mall

I’ve started smoking Pall Mall Red 100s regularly.

I took the bus back from a meeting on Sybrandt Road and it took over an hour. The first bus took me way out of town on Lafranier Road near the health department. Then I got on the wrong bus which took me to the mall, where I’m technically not allowed according to the transition house. Then I took another bus which takes a long meandering route downtown. Finally I got on the free bus which took me back to the house. It would’ve taken me forty-five minutes to walk but it took me an hour and a half to ride the bus.

Work went smoothly. One of my Apple earbuds quit yesterday so I abandoned them on the railroad tracks and bought a new pair on eBay. At work I had to use my over-the-ear headphones which aren’t ideal as I can’t hear the cooks. But at least I was able to clearly listen to an entire chapter of A Gentleman In Moscow, a book my grandmother gifted me a while ago and has been trying to get me to listen to ever since. I like the book, I just would rather listen to my shitty podcasts, so it’s been on the back burner for months. I have a very stubborn approach to finding books, I don’t usually take recommendations.

Ambient Light

I got a few albums today, including In Motion by Memorex Memories and the absurdly named SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs by the absurdly named SHXCXCHCXSH. I also got Endless Falls and Bonockburn by Loscil. I get very nostalgic listening to Loscil’s music, it never gets old even after having had listened to every one of his albums over and over for years. I was living on Mackinac Island with an iPod nano and no computer with his entire discography, I don’t remember where it came from. On that same iPod I had Drift and Home by Nosaj Thing, both of which are now back in my library. 

Andrew Borowiec says at the end of an interview that he would love to investigate a European town in the same way he investigated Cleveland. I’d love to have his same spirit with my town. His photographs of the rust belt are without discrimination or distraction. In a way, I often make shady symbols with my photographs in a manner that seems to purposefully dissuade anyone from seeing them for their subject’s real nature. I want the photograph’s identity to be anonymous. I want the photograph to see the forms without projecting any lust or aspersions.

Boring As An Aesthetic: The Merits Of Mediocrity

Jacob is sitting in the living room of an empty house on a Sunday afternoon. The lights are off, the TV is off, and it’s quiet except for birds chirping in a tree just outside an open window. 

He’s drawing a picture of a cliff with a pen on a sheet of notebook paper, copying it’s shape from a copy of National Geographic, sometimes adding cracks that aren’t in the photograph, and filling in the background with swirly clouds above the horizon and little triangular trees below. He kills thirty minutes making the little pine trees, leaving a space open, where he adds little swirls to depict a lake reflecting the sky.

Jacob signs and dates the paper in the top right corner and folds the sketch into his bifold. He puts on a dark red sweater and grabs his 35mm point and shoot, filled with black & white film, and goes for a walk around the neighborhood. 

His subject is always the same— houses, houses without anyone in the garden or on the porch, no dogs in the yard. He never goes outside of his own neighborhood, never goes out into the woods or to the city or even just to the park. The only thing easier to photograph would be the inside of his own house, but that would be too interesting.

Jacob doesn’t have any purpose for photographing the houses. He isn’t documenting anything about them. If there was something less interesting and easier to photograph he would photograph that. He just likes the process. 

He collects thirty-six impressions of focused light, takes them home, develops them in his chemicals in a makeshift darkroom in the basement, then uses an enlarger to make 4” x 6” prints. Jacob isn’t making photographs that’ll be featured in a gallery or magazine or blog. He doesn’t even share them with anyone close to him. 

Jacob sits back down in the living room, puts the photographs in the sleeves of a blank white photo book, and kills an hour looking through the whole book until the last photo he took, studying for any subtleties that he hadn’t noticed before. When he does notice something, like a cat in a windowsill, he doesn’t get excited, he simply acknowledges it exists.

Window Shopping

Today I had to pick up some medications from the pharmacy and used the opportunity to browse a few stores downtown. I was looking specifically for a music box, a device that contains a tiny metal drum with little spikes that prick different sized prongs and plays a little tune when you turn a crank. The store I saw them in before while I was drunkenly wandering about, Toy Harbor, was out of them. Another store had three of them but they played Christmas tunes like “Deck the Halls” and I’m not into that, especially not this time of year. 

I went into Brilliant Books and almost bought The Bell Tolls For No One by Charles Bukowski, but ultimately decided against it. I want to read that book someday and since I can’t drink right now I thought it’d be better to save it for a day that I can sit down and have a beer while I read it since Bukowski is such a famous alcoholic. 

It’s funny that the name of his most well known book is an obvious play on For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway who himself was an alcoholic. I’ve read a few of Hemingway’s books including For Whom The Bell Tolls and I really think his novels are over-rated. He must’ve been shit-faced when he wrote them. It doesn’t surprise me that he killed himself in Idaho. His books are silly and the characters are so shallow and short-spoken that it’s almost impossible for me to distinguish them. If I had to pick my favorite Hemingway it’d have to be A Farewell To Arms just because of the jarring ending. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who’s never read it but I’ll say it surprised me in a similar way to the death of the woman in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I guess they would share a lot of similarities both being written by American authors in the early twentieth century. The Great Gatsby is another over-rated book in my opinion. Again, it seems like the author is trying (too hard) to make these colorful characters but god are they shallow. It’s not like I’m spoiled with the vast variety and advancements of modern literature because some of my favorite American classics, like Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn,were written in the nineteenth century.

I did end up buying a couple of things today after all. I bought the albums Optimal.LP by Shuttle358 and untitled by Loscil. I’m getting closer to owning every album Scott Morgan’s Loscil project has released. Once I’ve got them all I’ll move on to some other ambient artist, maybe Shuttle358.