Seasons…

We’re now in what feels (occasionally) like Spring. There’s life in the trees again; the birds are singing; my eyes are streaming from the tree pollen and there’s certainly a bit of warmth to that sun now. So, where are we?

Well, the 365 project is still on, helped in no small part by the return of “easy mode”. Easy mode is where it doesn’t get dark until after I’ve finished work. Sure, I’m still walking the same loop near enough, but at least I can see where I’m going.

The highlights

Rather than bore you with the run-of-the-mill account of each month, I’ll provide you with the edited highlights of the first four months instead.

I’ve had a few keepers since the beginning of January, but I’ve yet to put them up on the store. I’ll hopefully get to that over the next couple of days. Still, if you fancy a shower curtain or a phone case, you know where to look. (shameless plug…)

One complication of doing two 365 projects back-to-back, during a time when I rarely leave the village is that everything feels really familiar. I did expect this, but boy have I painted myself into a corner.

Music

At the end of last year I might have suggested that I’d like to get back into music again. I assumed it might be playing it and that I might have acquired another guitar. It’s April and I’m still not strumming away again, but a Youtube rabbit-hole or two has led me into the (shock, horror) murky world of HiFi.

No, I didn’t expect that either. I’d have been the first to call snake-oil on the idea that one USB cable might sound different to another, but here we are. Truth be told, I still think most of that is as daft as the wine-tasting world’s flowery language to describe grape juice locked in a dusty cellar for months.

However, I’ve found a few very entertaining and somewhat relaxing channels that talk about the subject of HiFi components and headphones that are as far removed from current affairs, pandemics and war as you can get.

The upshot is, I now have a USB DAC, a pair of open-back headphones and a Tidal subscription. I’m not sure how to feel about it. 🤣

I’d been using iTunes for many years, which eventually morphed into Apple Music. It mostly met my needs, but over the years my account had become so full of clutter –albums I started listening to but lost interest in, with no easy way to just delete everything and start again. The other problem with Apple Music is that it doesn’t play well with others. To get the best out of it you need to just use Apple products, but I occasionally use Windows, Plex and I generally like to keep my options open. Tidal works with most streaming boxes, integrates well with Plex and the Windows application isn’t quite as awful as iTunes is.

Most importantly, Tidal is effectively a clean slate. Something I can fill with the music I actually like right now.

So, what’s playing?

The first few months of this year have been quite good on the music front. I’ve acquired a few more CDs –albeit mostly ones I used to have and had sold a few years ago.

There were some new ones though. Tears for Fears released their excellent new album “The Tipping Point”. If you are so inclined, have a listen to Rivers of Mercy at track 8.

One big surprise came from another Flickr user who put me onto the Oh Hellos. This is an indie folk band from Texas, formed by siblings Tyler and Maggie Heath. They released four EPs between 2017 and 2020 –Eurus, Zephyrus, Notos and Boreas and they’re excellent. That has probably had the most play since January.

Other news

So, I talked briefly before about removing myself from social media again. Whilst I still have my accounts, Facebook is deactivated and Twitter is uninstalled. It feels good not being on them at the moment and I recommend it to anyone.

Yes, they can be good, but the detritus has a habit of rising to the top. If you have a hobby or interest, you’ll soon find the less desirable part of it all up in your feed without you really needing to go looking for it.

I think that’s all I have for now. Until next time…

001/365 - Once more, with feeling

December – An ending of sorts…

The year is finally at an end. Three hundred and sixty five photographs, one a day for twelve months.

It has felt like a very long year. Then again, this was kinda the point. It’s all too easy to tune time out, ignoring the mundane for years before realising you’ve reached middle age and wondering where the time has gone.

I started this project in the middle of a pandemic, quietly hoping it would document the path out of it, but a new variant is circulating and it doesn’t feel as though we’ve moved on at all.

However, it hasn’t been a boring year by any stretch of the imagination.

December

The last month of the year, aside from the slight issue of Christmas, was a little dull for the most part. There was the foggy day, but more on that later. I’ve struggled to muster any enthusiasm for Christmas for years now. It’s a bit of time off at the end of a long year, but the days of community spirit and the festivities we see in the saccharine-sweet movies seems to have ebbed away over the years.

335/365 - Needles...

Still, I can’t turn down some free time to catch up on me time. Life started to get on top of me towards November and December. I had a few wobbles and felt rather burned out from the day job. It is part of the reason the journalling has been restarted –it’s best to get these things out in black & white so you can make sense of it.

Music

I started buying CDs again this year. I managed to fill a shelf with CDs both new as well as some I never should have sold. One of the upsides of the pandemic is that many of the artists I like have been stuck at home writing and recording music rather than touring. This year we had:

1. Gary Numan – Intruder

2. Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc

3. Gojira – Fortitude

4. Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

5. Mastodon – Hushed & Grim

6. Chvrches – Screen Violence

7. Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

8. Mechina – Siege

9. Ministry – Moral Hygiene

10. John Mayer – Sob Rock

It’s not a bad haul for one year. Mastodon’s double-album was spectacular; as was Screen Violence by Chvrches. Gary Numan’s album had a lot of play this year too. It seemed the perfect album for a locked-down world failing to grasp the gravity of a rapidly shifting climate.

What I do find interesting is how some of them have adapted to working remotely –with some of them recording their individual parts at home and sending the stems to someone to mix everything together. The wonders of modern technology eh.

Then again, when I was in a band in my early 20s you had to pay lots of money to spend a few days in a recording studio to get anything close to presentable down on tape. Nowadays a USB audio interface and some microphones and a laptop are all you really need.

On that note, I did get around to watching PressPausePlay this year. It’s free to watch on Vimeo, so get to it. It stars Moby and a few others you might recognise and talks all about a new breed of creative people who are able to use technology to break down the barriers to entry that the old world might have had.

Plans

Aside from taking photos, I also run a website called Cardiff By Bike. I’ve been gradually adding to it since 2015 and I’m quite pleased with how it has turned out. However, one irksome part of running a website is dealing with social media.

For the new year I’m going to withdraw from the socials again, mostly in the interests of my sanity, so the twitter accounts will be used to share links to new posts here and on the other site. Other than that, the app will be deleted. I’ve already removed my Instagram account and disabled my Facebook account.

I’m still on the fence about starting a new photo project. Truth be told I’ve both benefited from the structure and the exercise it has forced me to take, so there is that. However, I do feel as though I’m wasting people’s time on those days where I really don’t like what I’ve shot.

I have started another 365, mainly for my own wellbeing. I’ve started journalling again and it is always good to be able to embellish them with a photo or two. You can keep track of it by scrolling down to the bottom of this page, but I am undecided about posting monthly updates. I’ll see how I get on over the next few weeks.

New store items

This year has been quite fruitful in terms of new stock for the online store. One benefit of these projects is that whilst 50% of photos are likely to be just life updates, occasionally there are some good ones that I’d like to put on my wall.

In December we had a day of very low cloud, so I took a walk up the nearest large hill and took some photos.

A few of these, as well as a few others are up on the store, should you fancy one on a shower curtain on phone case. 🙂

Happy new year, everyone.

May…

You may or may not have seen a little-known mini-series on the SciFi channel called The Langoliers. It was a TV adaptation of a Stephen King short story called Four Past Midnight.

Anyway, it tells the story of a disparate bunch of people who fall asleep on a plane ride and wake up to find that everyone else is gone. After a bit of detective work they discover that they’ve entered a rift in time and are a few minutes behind the rest of the world.

Well, that pretty much sums up my May anyway. Apart from the plane ride and the disparate bunch of people, obviously.

Lots happened, I think?

I reached the end of the month thinking it was all quite dull, but looking back it appears we had an election, a lot of rain and some new music to listen to.

126/365 - Civic Duty
Election day

This month we had the Senedd elections here in Wales, Scottish Parliament elections in Scotland along with mayoral and local elections in England. There wasn’t a lot of change for us, apart from the Ayn Rand enthusiasts losing their seats in the Welsh Parliament, so that’s good.

121/365 - More reading...
Reading material

I had a bit of a shopping spree this month. I picked up a few books to read –Michael Lewis’ “Boomerang”; Morgan Housel’s “The Psychology of Money”; and Scott Galloway’s “Post Corona”.

Michael Lewis’ book “The Big Short” was very entertaining, so I thought I’d try another. The other two popped up as recommendations, but the Scott Galloway book seems particularly relevant at the moment.

The Rains

123/365 - 'Spring' has encountered an error...

There was a lot of rain this month…so many of the photos I took had a certain look to them. That of overwhelming dampness.

I shouldn’t be too surprised, I am in Wales after all, but even so, on the back of a very dry April it is a bit of a shock to the system. It’s what the plants sorely needed though.

Fortunately I’ve grown to love shooting in the rain. The outside world becomes much more peaceful; there’s a lot more life in the woodland streams and the local industrial estate looks positively dystopian.

Music

Speaking of dystopia, Gary Numan released a new album this month. It’s called Intruder and it is excellent. Gary Numan’s work occupies that middle ground between riff-heavy industrial music created by the likes of Fear Factory, Die Krupps and Front Line Assembly and synth-pop like Chvrches. As I’m quite partial to both, it’s right up my street.

As we reached the end of May things started to brighten up. Temperatures rose to the high teens and early 20s just in time for the bank holiday.

I go into June feeling a need to re-set myself again. I’ve somehow lost sight of the plans that I had going into the month and have begun drifting again.

147/365 - Seen better days

I did take one positive step though –I’ve deactivated my Facebook account and removed the Facebook page for my other website. I’m trying to be more conscious of the time I’m spending online and aimlessly scrolling Facebook doesn’t seem like a particularly good use of it. Hardly anything I see in my news feed these days is from friends. It’s mostly ads…and clickbait that my friends have reacted to.

The next mission is to extract myself from Youtube and Twitter. Wish me luck…

121/365 - More reading...
All of May

A Perfect Circle – Disillusioned

A Perfect Circle were a band I regretfully failed to give a proper airing. They emerged in the early 2000s when “new metal” was starting to hit the mainstream. However, unlike a lot of other bands that were around at the time, A Perfect Circle seem to have aged far better than most.

This track is on their 2018 album “Eat the Elephant” and is a standout track in a largely solid album. Why I’m sharing it here is because the video is particularly relevant for the times we are living in.

Despite being more “connected” than ever, as a society we are arguably further apart than at any other time in my life. Pictures on a screen are not a substitute for a real connection.

Social media platforms may have started out as a means of connecting people, but they have gradually transitioned to an advertising platform that gets between you and the people in your life.