Side gig

I'm currently looking for work, so the photography thing hasn't been a big priority for the past few weeks. I haven't really felt motivated to write either, although sometimes I get the urge in the middle of the night, which I usually try to extinguish because my sleeping patterns are messed up enough as it is. Pay-what-you-can photo shoots are still on the table indefinitely, but it's definitely a side-gig for me at best; to be honest, even that doesn't seem like much of a priority compared to finding full-time employment. Maybe this is because everything is up in the air until I'm working again, but I think I've come to the realization that I would rather be working a stable, if boring, job with benefits than to try to eke together a living from my creative endeavors. I'm actually fine with this epiphany. I won't sell my camera or give up the blog, but the more I think about it, I don't see either playing a big part in my long-term goals except as ill-defined self-improvement. 

With all this free time, you would think I would throw my effort into getting better at either as soon as I didn't have big chunks of my schedule earmarked for my day job, but that's not how it's playing out. When I take my computer out, it's usually to go to the Halifax Central Library to a) force myself to get showered, shaved, dressed and out of the house and b) apply for jobs without my cat protesting my lack of attention by walking across the keyboard. (Side note: technically, the Keshen Goodman library is closer to my neighborhood, but I like the excuse to go downtown). Job hunting is supposed to be a full-time job in itself, anyway, so if I don't feel like I put in enough applications for the day, writing something like this almost feels like slacking.

I don't mean to trivialize the work of anyone who makes their living in the arts; far from it. To be able to survive as a writer, photographer, actor, or musician requires a reserve of hustle, an openness to rejection, and a level of self-sacrifice in addition to the innate talent or skill that makes this pursuit possible in the first place. I just don't feel like this was the path I was meant to take.

Surrender

I'm usually not that comfortable around people until I know them well enough. I love good conversation, but I have to be past that awkward get-to-know-you stage in order for my guard to fall; unless I'm completely relaxed around a person and completely familiar with their energy, face-to-face conversation is a stilted chore. Complicating things further, I actually have mixed feelings about even getting to that stage of comfort: my sociability tends to drain easily, and if I'm particularly tired or under the weather, I tend to keep my interactions to a minimum until I feel better able to handle them.

I'm content to be the listener and not have much to add to the dialogue as long as the other person can manage to fill the silences. That said, I also need to be able to reach that occasional state where I'm comfortable enough to open up to them without feeling exposed or that I'm imposing. I just hope that my silent stretches aren't taken as a sign I don't value their company. 

Every now and then, though, I get to know someone with whom I'm relaxed to the point of free-flowing conversation. It's rare enough to make me take notice whenever it happen; I may be ascribing some sort of non-existent meaning here, but I have to wonder whether some other form of chemistry's beginning to seep in, threatening to change something enjoyable into a loaded question.

I'm single; I decided long ago that looking for a partner isn't that high on my list of priorities, especially while I'm doing short term contract work. I can think of a million things on a neglected "to do" list that I should get on top of before making this kind of leap, and still a fair bit confused about who I am or where I'm going; a serious relationship would require a lot of investment that I'm not prepared to make right now. I'm also a little selfish and impulsive, with a strong need for my personal space; there are days when I would rather make sure I can buy a burrito for lunch than worry about being able to afford a coffee to facilitate awkward conversation with a stranger. Oh, who am I kidding? Burritos win every time, but that's not the point. 

Attraction is scary. It develops by chance and circumstance, and the only control you have over it is whether you act on it. The potential rewards are amazing, but it requires making yourself vulnerable to potentially getting hurt. It may fundamentally and irrevocably alter how you and the other person feel about each other. To fully connect with another person, you have to strip off the facades you build to the world; if you know you're not prepared to do that, or are aware that a potential relationship would be a bad idea, these feelings suddenly coming along get more complicated.

Maybe part of the issue is that for me, the emotional attraction comes before the sexual attraction, and the rarity of that level of comfort I feel with someone to get to that point. I don't want to risk spoiling that, but by not letting myself appreciate a good thing for what it is, I wonder if I already have. Suddenly, I find myself monitoring what I say around them, second-guessing whether I've inadvertently tipped my hand. I don't want to get hurt, but am also afraid that I will be the one who inflicts pain. My instinct is to run. 

A friend told me that there really is no such thing as the perfect time to deal with this, that it's something that you just have to allow to happen.

Someday I will.

Portrait shoot: Laura (February 7)

My friend Laura and I had been meaning to do a shoot for a few weeks; the weather in Halifax was actually quite mild and gorgeous on Sunday, so we headed downtown. We did the first part of the shoot in Victoria Park, then went behind the library for the rest.

Laura then got a few shots of me before we headed off:

If you live in the Halifax, NS area, like what you see here, and want to do a shoot with me, I'm offering pay-what-you-can pricing for anyone who books a sitting for the month of  February. Granted, I won't shoot in the middle of a blizzard like the one we had yesterday, but as long as the weather cooperates, we should be good to go.

Pay-what-you-can photo shoots are back!

After a few months laying low, I'm offering pay-what-you-can portrait shoots in the Halifax area for anyone who books a sitting for the month of February. I will give you five (5) edited portraits for whatever amount you're willing to offer me.

Three things to keep in mind:
1) Weekends are best for me, but I'm available anytime after 4 on weekdays.
2) I usually prefer to shoot in available light so outdoor or well-lit indoor spaces are best, but I have a flash attachment.
3) I prefer to meet up beforehand and discuss any ideas or locations for the shoot over coffee/tea, especially if I don't know you that well in person. (Don't want awkwardness to translate to the pictures)

Some of my work is already on my website, but I'm always looking to get more experience and develop my skills, and hope to branch out into some conceptual projects in the future. If you're in the market for a new profile picture for social media or your website, or you just want some nice photos of yourself, use the contact form on the website to get in touch.

Some changes

When I first moved my blogs over to Squarespace about two years ago, my plan was to make an all-in-one website for my writing, photography and various blogs. I've been blogging in some shape or form for about 15 years now; the novelty of having some corner of the internet to spout opinions or share whatever details of your life you're willing to divulge isn't quite was it was then, but I've always admired the craft and candor that blogging allows for, especially in this age of clickbait and instant gratification social media posts. I also wanted to finally claim authorship on my Classic SNL reviews, which generated considerably higher traffic than any of my other blogging endeavors; by rolling them into this site, I figured that I'd at least lure people in with the reviews, and if they were curious enough, they'd find the other parts. I bristle a little at being pigeonholed as the "SNL guy", but I know other fans of the show appreciate the work I put into my reviews, and this project has put me into contact with a few people connected with the show. Writing these reviews also helps me get around spells of writer's block.

I had been dissatisfied with how the site looked for some time, though. I love Squarespace, and the template options seem to fit my intentions for this page better than the ones on Wordpress, but the particular template I had been using for the last few years didn't quite do it for me.  Maybe part of it was that I don't have the custom coding or design knowledge to make everything look amazing. In any case, the site just felt like I had made a tiny bit of effort at the beginning, but stopped bothering once I learned the most rudimentary aspects of design. I never really liked how the banner on this blog looked either.  After doing a little research, I finally found another template that brought me closer to what I had hoped to do all that time ago. 

I'm still playing around with a few elements of this site. My bio is still very slim, the personal blog needs a better title than "main blog", and the photography portfolio needs updating. I don't want to promise a rigid schedule for new content on the blogs, but expect more frequent updates on both; I now have RSS feeds for both blogs that you can access by clicking "subscribe". I hope to eventually get back to non-SNL posts on Existentialist Weightlifting, but I'm committed to reviewing the rest of the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons; there could be other types of reviews in the future. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I hope you like the new look.

Brief thoughts on Bowie's death, almost two weeks later

I'm a little late to add to the David Bowie remembrance train, nor do I have any good stories about how Bowie inspired or saved me when I was young. I remember seeing the rerun of his 1979 SNL appearance with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias when I was 16, and had somewhat of an awareness of his importance to music, but my appreciation didn't really flower until adulthood. Since his passing, I've listened to the three Bowie albums I own copies of (Ziggy Stardust, Station To Station, "Heroes"), as well as the rest of his discography on Spotify; I didn't give Blackstar a play until after he died, but wonder what it would have felt like to have those early impressions of the album suddenly change shape as Bowie's true intentions for the work revealed themselves. As I said before, I don't really have much else to add to the conversation, but I strongly recommend Jacqueline Valencia's moving and nuanced look at how important his music was in her life

Bowie's death has me wondering whether I would mourn any musician's death on that same level. About ten years ago, when my friend Wilson was starting to get into Bob Dylan, we had a discussion about whether his inevitable passing would be one of those events that spawns a massive collective mourning: Wilson didn't think so; he theorized that Dylan had so long ago become a mythical figure that news of his death would almost be anti-climactic.  It would still be a bummer, but I can't really disagree with that assessment.

Bollocks and poppycock

I'm trying to make good on my intention to update this thing more often, but it's hard to be motivated to write when you're so exhausted. I'm not sure whether this is just a byproduct of a wonky sleep schedule trying to re-adapt to the 9-to-5 working world, my body being affected by winter's late but vengeful arrival, or continued lingering effects from my exhausting week in Miramichi, but the last five nights or so have fit a certain pattern:

  • get home
  • lie in bed and look at my phone until I nod off
  • wake up (with occasional panic that I've overslept for work before realizing the time on my alarm clock is PM, which is more common now that it's dark when I normally wake up)
  • cook dinner
  • realize it's time I should try to get to bed, but since my nap and late dinner have thrown off my internal clock, I'm not tired, and I watch DVDs until I'm sufficiently tired again
  • head to bed
  • stay awake for another hour because I think too much, or have random snippets of things playing back mentally (latest offender: the Rugrats "I've Lost Control Of My Life" clip redubbed with computer voices speaking flowery language)

Based on when I wake up for work, a 10 p.m. bedtime should be the latest I turn in; it's so hard, though, because years of late nights have hard-wired my internal clock. I was making progress last month (to the point where staying up for SNL on the weekends was becoming more difficult), but I regressed hard during my two-week Christmas vacation. Now that I'm back into a normal schedule from Monday to Friday, I want to see if getting enough sleep will solve my exhaustion problem, or if I need to consider whether it has another underlying cause.

I've been thinking about my future in Halifax lately. Local activist Allison Sparling posted a blog entry about her impending move to Toronto; despite being born and raised here and fighting not only to stay in the city but make it that much better, she conceded that she too would have to join the many other young people that have fled this economically depressed region in order to build their lives. Her post nails a lot of the problems and frustrations I've experienced in this city, and the Maritimes in general. Don't get me wrong, I would love to stay here, but as Sparling notes, it takes a lot of hard work to cobble together a happy life here, to the point that you can't be present because you have to always be planning ahead. Maybe this bit of reflection comes because I need to think about my next step soon, but even if my next job is a stable, well-paying job with good benefits, I wonder what will be left of this city's vibrancy by the time I can fully enjoy it, let alone try to share a life with someone else.

Another new year

The beginning of the year always brings reflection, especially on social media; I've seen a lot of posts reflecting on the previous 12 months and tentatively mapping out future plans. I've done posts like that in the past, but I didn't really feel like trying to itemize and summarize (or even make sense of) all that I've done and felt in the last year, at least not in the space of one Facebook post lost among many.

I didn't bother going out for New Year's Eve; while I enjoyed myself when I did last year, I didn't want to spend the money and energy that a night out usually requires. Maybe it's just another sign that I'm getting older, but unless I'm heading out to see people I know or do something I particularly want to do, I'd rather stay in the quiet of my apartment with my cat.  By midnight my stomach was full of wine, Hawkins cheezies and poutine-flavoured Ruffles, and I was less concerned with lofty plans for the future than trying to get myself to sleep soon enough to not have the next day be a total write-off.

In a vague way, I know I have things I want to accomplish in the near future, but I don't really want to tie my goals to the Gregorian calendar so much as aim for incremental progress here and there. Speaking generally, I hope to get back to approaching the idea of writing as a source of income, developing my photography skills, paying down debts, travelling and generally being a bit more social; as for a concrete way to do all of these, I'm still working that part out. All I can do right now is recognize where I am, identify the habits and circumstances that stand in the way of these goals, and figure out how to work around them.

One thing I figured out in the last few days is that I spend way too much money on eating out. I live alone, am not an especially skilled cook, and have a few days where I don't feel like putting much of an effort into cooking dinner. On top of that, there are times where I may want to be somewhere in the city that isn't close to where I live (I live about a 40-minute bus ride away from downtown), or I just decided to eat while running errands. A few days ago, I had to get a few things to make pulled chicken, and on my way to the store I decided to get a bite at the food court. As I bit into my large donair, I just kept thinking that the whole thing cost me money I could have used on something I actually wanted or needed, and that I often rationalize not doing something mainly because of the money it costs, only to blow a lot on a pile of delicious grease and a bottle of pop. If I'm going to eat out or drink, I'd rather spend time with someone else while doing it.

I took a lot of pictures in the last year, but I'm still not satisfied with my skill set; I still want to focus on portraiture, but I think the shoots are a little too tense and awkward, especially with people I don't know well, and that reflects in the pictures. Is this something I can get over? I may just lay low with the photography thing for a while.

Now that I have a new laptop, I'm going to post here more often, since I'm no longer housebound if I want to write something (I suppose I could have always written things out longhand, but I digress). Maybe this will help with the whole "coming up with content" question: I don't know if this is the case for the rest of you. but I find my mind always locks into a certain pattern whenever I'm in the apartment as opposed to out in the world.

The Draft Folder

I've been trying to write something here for the last few weeks; the beginning of a post languished in my drafts folder for the last three weeks or so while I tried to come up with a topic that I felt enough about to write something worth reading. I don't feel like I have anything to add to the various conversations that have been dominating the news cycle over the last month, and I'm pretty sure I've already given my take on Facebook, either in my own words or implicitly by sharing someone else's. I have a similar fight happening with my e-mail draft folder. I've been able to pare it down somewhat, but for a long time, I was struggling to fill attempts at letters to over ten different people. 

I want to know about what people are going through and see their faces. This connection is still there on social media, but it's been diluted by too much noise: of the news, trite platitudes attached to pictures of sunsets or Minions. What people share on social media is a reflection of who they are, or at least the image they want to present to their peers, but there's a superficiality to it all that just drains me. I've never really liked the limbo of small talk, especially with people I don't know well enough to be sufficiently comfortable around. 


I've mentioned before about how bad I am at making plans with friends; this hasn't really changed, but I still managed to fill my social calendar over the last couple of weeks. Beers with out-of-town friends. A birthday party. An old (and unfortunately casually misogynistic) movie. Cathartic venting and lunch. I think I'm paying for it now, though, because I'm a bit more tired than usual (then again, it's probably my bad sleep habits catching up with me).  If I don't feel like I'm at optimum energy, I'm not really up to the give-and-take of conversation and don't feel like subjecting others to one of my taciturn spells.

It's dark and cold again, though. I'm not much of a flâneur; if I'm out, I need to have a purpose. It could just be a sign of getting older, but I don't have the energy (or cash flow) to just take myself out of the apartment and see where the night leads me anymore. This is why I need to get better at plan-making: as soon as the ice and snow makes getting to and from work a chore, I'll be less likely to find excuses to go somewhere unless I get paid for it.

I tend to take my friends in the city for granted, though.


There are other things I want to write about, but don't have sufficient words at this time. The scary vulnerability of chemistry with another person. The casual realization of your adulthood. The unique joys and frustrations of life in the Maritimes. The words may come, or my interest in these subjects may wane. You may be able to articulate my feelings a little better than I can at the moment.

I leave you with a Joni Mitchell song (yes, the album art is a little problematic, but that's another conversation).

 

Defaults

My draft about New York continues to grow. I'm still struggling to find the words that do the experience justice, and the motivation to lose myself in this search when there are so many other things that I want or have to do every day. Having to catch an earlier bus than I used to means that I also have to get to bed earlier, so I'm aware of the limited window I have to accomplish something, but I often find myself staying up too late when I don't feel like I managed to write that e-mail, edit those pictures, work on the blog post, or even read the book or watch that movie or TV show that I've been wanting to forever. 

I was thinking of writing another post about how I spend a lot of time on social media, but don't really do much reach out or connect aside from the most passive means possible, but I've already drawn from that well in the "30 in 30" exercise. It's not like I'm completely apartment-bound: in the last two weeks I went to a theatre workshop and my friends' annual joint birthday party, but I feel like I'm not as bold about forcing myself to go out and meet new people as I was when I first came to Halifax. The familiarity of places and faces sometimes feels a little oppressive.

I sometimes feel like I've been trained to accept what is instead of actively striving for the life and self I truly want, just in case I can't recover from a false move. I don't trust my judgement, lean on other's expectations and weigh my decisions based on what would get me some sort of pain-free validation. I try to do what's expected, and don't have much energy to reach beyond that.

I'm 33 now. I've been acutely aware of my advancing age. There's a part of me that knows I should be striving towards some semblance of Responsible Adulthood, but have I just boxed myself into this comfortable post-adolescence? Would I be able to gather enough momentum to drastically change my path if it was necessary?

What would it take to break out of "default" mode?

30 in 30: Day 30

This exercise winds down with one last entry. It's a relief to not have to worry about my daily posting quota or feel guilt over marking the day with a one-sentence post, and there's some bit of satisfaction to take in posting every day for 30 days, but the thing I worry about is that I'm going to squander this momentum. Maybe it will channel itself into my renewed focus on the SNL reviews, but what I really want is to regularly update the two streams of my blog. I aspire to the level of writing I see regularly on The Belle Jar and Trans Canada (My Way), and want to have something more to say than what I thought of a 30-year-old episode of a television show. For someone who's been trying to write for years, I'm still searching for my voice. 

I started a new job last week; it's in Dartmouth, so the commute is a bit longer than it was to my old job. This means I have to wake up earlier, which technically means I should be getting to bed earlier than I have been. Old habits die hard. Wil Wheaton just posted an entry on his blog about seven things he did to reboot his life that gave me pause, but do I need a reboot of my life, or do I need to figure out what I want before I can do that?

I'm giving myself two weeks until my friends' party to pare down the growing backlog of photos I still need to edit from this summer (going back to June). I don't know what the penalty will be aside from feeling like I can't stay on top of things, but it has to be done or it will either grow bigger with every event I shoot, or hold me back from wanting to take more pictures.

That's 30.

30 in 30: Day 29

Another year of skipping the Halifax Pop Explosion; the fourth in a row. I keep telling myself that I'm going to go to the next one, but just like Sappyfest, I don't even bother. Maybe I'm being needlessly frugal or maybe I've reached the age where I can't be bothered to get excited about live music. When my friend was in town last week, he suggested just going out to random shows with no regard as to whether I was familiar with the band or knew anyone else that was attending. Sometimes I just prefer to spend the money on a burrito.

There are nights where it hits me that I live in this amazing harbourfront city, and taking advantage of what it has to offer is just a matter of me willing myself to take a bus out of suburbia. And yet, when I do, I'm at a loss as to what to do, or I realize that I spent the time and effort to do something I didn't exactly want to do, and now have to spend even more to make it back home. If I take my camera, it suddenly becomes a load I wish I didn't have to carry or worry about. If I don't, I come across a scene that I wish I could take a good picture of. I have to justify everything to myself.

Random scenes come to me when I'm out and about, but they dissipate by the time I sit down to put pen to paper. I have an idea for a mood I want to create and some of the people that come to mind as the basis for characters, but nothing much in terms of plotting.

I leave you tonight with a 30 year old Prefab Sprout song.


30 in 30: Day 27

I keep thinking I need to make plans to go for coffee or drinks with people, but by the time I'm back home from work, I'm back into hermit mode and come up with a litany of excuses for not sending the message. It's late. It's early. I just saw them. I haven't seen them in a long time. We're not really that close. I can't afford it. Et cetera, et cetera. (I keep hearing the voice of one of my freshman year Poli Sci profs at Mount Allison saying the "et cetera" part.)

I've always felt that in the unlikely case that I manage to become famous for something, I would handle it poorly. As much as I would like to be able to do something that gives me respect and recognition, or create something of lasting value, I have a feeling all these insecurities I have would only magnify under the spotlight. Would I seclude myself like Jan Hooks did in her last years? Possibly. 

30 in 30: Day 26

There are only a few more days left in this exercise. All things considered, I think I did pretty well so far, even if the daily quota was occasionally filled by short "posts for the sake of themselves" entries. I think the main purpose behind this was to get back into a space where I can write more regularly; sometimes at length, sometimes in terse little one-sentence updates. It's also opening me up to writing at length again and playing around with word placement, something that I felt got away from me in the last little while.

I hope I still have a few longer entries in me for the next few posts. 

30 in 30: Day 25

I could speak at length about the federal election, but I used all my good stuff on social media, and I don't really want this space to get bogged down with my own political leanings. My main hope is that Atlantic Canada is on the receiving end of some major investments: I want economic opportunity, but more than that I want this place to not feel as cut off (in various respects) from the rest of Canada as it often does. 

30 in 30: Day 23

I'm still trying to make sense of why I didn't bother checking out more of Nocturne last night, instead opting to go home almost immediately after leaving Lot Six. I checked even less out than I did last year, which also was a little bit of a bust. Was it just the rain that actually let up fairly early on but dampened my interest to the point where I went home? Was I really in a rush to get home for Saturday Night Live? Do I actually give a fuck about the arts, or do I only try to convince myself that I do?

I haven't really felt that I've been able to take full advantage of living in the city, largely due to financial constraints. Live music, art shows, theatre...I can never really bring myself to go out to any of these. Maybe it's just a side effect of the precarious work I was doing for the last 11 months. It's funny, when I lived in Miramichi, I longed to be in a place with a decent amount of cultural life, but now that I'm in Halifax and close to all this art, I don't normally bother, not even when it's free and involves people I know. Ever since the provincial government gutted the film tax credit in April, I'm afraid that one ripple effect is that the cultural life of Halifax is going to dry up.

How long will I stay in Halifax? I don't know. I'm not especially settled here; I do have a good circle of friends, but I don't have a stable career or family tying me to this place, and I'm very reluctant to be in a relationship or follow through on an attraction until I feel a little more stable on the career front. Life tends to go on even while I'm trying to figure out who I am and what I want: I have to eat, pay rent, try to socialize, and sleep anyway, regardless of whether I write or take pictures. I'm not sure whether either is what I should be or want to be doing with my life.

Then again, as Carolyn Mark sang, "everything happens either not at all or at the same time."

30 in 30: Day 22

The last few days since I got back into Halifax weren't especially good for sitting down and writing, for some reason or another. I really didn't like it, but I don't know why I just didn't sit down and power through it or shut off all the other distractions I had going on in the background.

In the last week or so, I came up on a few reminders of the past: a script from a summer-stock production of Annie; an old website profile with a list of mix CDs I compiled, some for other people... All these mementos of the person I was, the things I thought I wanted, and the people that drifted in and out of my life over the years. Quite a few are still around.

There's a yearly multi-venue art festival in Halifax called Nocturne: I ostensibly went out to it tonight, but didn't really feel like checking it all out. I love what it represents, and that it brings so many people out to check the different installations all through the city, but I think I only peeked at about three or four of them. I was more invested in meeting up with one of my old friends who was in town.

I could make this a long treatise on my changing motivations and desires, but I'm still trying to figure all that out right now.