💻 Remember when going to the cinema was fun? The multiplexes of today just don’t capture the same magic. brandib knows an old cinema that still shows films — or will when the pandemic is over, anyway. ReadThe Athena Cinema
💻 Aly Chiarello suffers from a chronic condition that requires regular treatments. She shares a photoessay from a treatment day, with her thoughts and feelings about the experience — which has sometimes been traumatic. ReadA Doctors Visit on Ilford XP2 400
💻 I remember when Fry’s opened. It was an electronics wonderland! I remember the last time I bought something there, just a couple years ago. A new laptop, in an emergency, when an old one died. The place was a wasteland. RIP, Fry’s, which closed for good this week. Om Malik shares his remembrance. ReadThe Death of a Retailer
📷 Olli Thomson lists seven things he doesn’t do now as a photographer that he used to do. ReadThen and Now
📷 Yashica’s SLRs don’t get the attention they deserve. Thus, I’m sharing arhphotographic‘s review of the Yashica FX-2! ReadThe No-Nonsense Yashica FX-2
💻 If you read this blog, it is likely you consider yourself to be creative. Has your creativity tanked during the challenging times we’ve been living through? Geraldine DeRuiter‘s sure has, but it’s led her to notice the creativity all around her. ReadHow To Be Creative When Everything Is Bad
💻 During the pandemic our grocery bills went through the roof. Then I started shopping at Aldi, and they went right back down again. Nick Gerlich tells Aldi’s story. ReadLebensmitteleinkauf in Amerika
💻 They say it’s either money or sex that makes the world go around. I think rather that it’s investment, the kind we make in each other. Scott Galloway tells a story of a man who invested in him, and how it paid off. ReadCy Cordner
📷 Countries in the former Communist bloc made film cameras, including some sturdy SLRs. But they never quite made the transition to autofocus. Praktica in East Germany came close, though. Stephen Dowling has the story. ReadEast Germany’s plans for a space-age autofocus SLR
Do you enjoy my stories and essays? My book, A Place to Start, is available now! Click here to see all the places you can get it!
💻 When Black people move in, white people move out. It’s an old pattern that still plays strong in cities across the US. When the whites go, nearby businesses go with them — even though the Blacks that move in are likely of the same socioeconomic class. But this begins the neighborhood’s inevitable decline. Pete Saunders asks: how can we keep Black neighborhoods in the mainstream? ReadThe Life Cycle of Black Urban Neighborhoods
💻 Marcus Peddle shares thoughts and photos of the scooter culture in Korea, where he lives. ReadScooters
💻 By every measure, it’s harder for young adults to day to succeed financially than it was for their parents. But that doesn’t mean today’s young adults have to fully be victims of their circumstance. You can still get ahead. Scott Galloway offers a plan: focus, stoicism, time, diversification.ReadThe Algebra of Wealth
If you take my monthly newsletter, Back Roads, you read this a couple weeks ago. The main point of Back Roads is to give subscribers previews of what I’m working on and let them be the first to know when I publish a new book. I’m also a little more personal there than I am here. If this sounds good to you, sign up here!
On February 7 my blog will turn 14. When I started it, I had no idea where it would go or how long it would last. I wrote about whatever I wanted and hoped I’d attract an audience. I paid attention to which topics got the most interest, whether in pageviews or in comments. I wrote about those topics more, and l left behind topics that readers ignored.
My blog has had four phases over the years:
the “I’m not sure what I want this blog to be” phase
the “I hope to become Internet famous by writing about old roads” phase, which failed
the “I hope to become Internet famous by writing about old film-photography gear” phase, which is how I became best known, though it falls short of full Internet fame
a phase where I gave up on Internet fame and leaned instead into building community around the topics I’m interested in, which has succeeded
It feels like this blog could be entering its fifth phase. I don’t know what it is just yet, or what to call it. But I’m starting to lean harder into publishing books of my photographs and writing, and that has implications for this blog.
My next book will be of photographs I made last summer around my neighborhood. I never wanted to live in a modern suburban neighborhood like this one. I’m a city boy through and through. But it made practical sense to move here when I married Margaret, as she was already here and it let her youngest finish at his high school.
Egad, but do these houses ever feel flimsy. Even a moderate wind makes my house creak and pop. In a strong wind, you can feel the house flex and twist, especially upstairs. It’s appalling.
But that’s not what my next book is about. Instead, I’ll show you what you see as you walk this neighborhood. From the front, every street looks fresh and cheerful — stiff neighborhood regulations ensure it. But walk this neighborhood, especially the main road that loops around it, and you’ll see that everything’s not so pretty. An Interstate highway borders it, bathing half the neighborhood in the sound of heavy traffic. A high-voltage electrical transmission line cuts through, its towers visible from most angles. A natural gas and a petroleum pipeline also cut through, creating wide gaps between houses. Houses back up to the main loop road; a low fence isn’t enough to obscure all the backs of those houses. Because of the way the houses are arranged, and because of the electric and gas lines cutting through, the backs of lots of houses are exposed. A private back yard is hard to come by here. From the back, these houses just look cheap — too few windows, huge swaths of vinyl.
I really noticed the beauty and banality of my neighborhood last spring and summer. I worked from home thanks to COVID-19, and to keep active I took walks and bike rides around the neighborhood. I brought cameras along to document what I saw. I felt sure there my photographs could be arranged to tell this neighborhood’s story.
Also, I want to work on another book of essays and stories culled from this blog. I don’t know if I can deliver both books in 2021, but both are on my mind.
I also have an idea for a book about how to use a blog to share your creative work, find other people who do similar creative work, and build a community. Who knows, I might slot that in before the next book of stories and essays.
Sometimes I experience a creative flurry and write a whole bunch of posts in a short time. That happened to me in November and December last year. By last Christmas I had written posts for this blog through my blog’s anniversary date. I wrote most of this newsletter on Christmas Eve!
Other times I burn out a little on creative pursuits. That’s happened to me this month. I had hoped to produce the photo book by now, but I’ve done very little.
I have only so much time to work on my blog and my books. I have a full-time job and a family. The more I lean into books, the less time I have for blogging.
For now, I’ll keep my blog’s six-day-a-week schedule. I know the world doesn’t hang in the balance of me publishing as often as I do. But when I publish this often, you respond with the most visits and comments. When I publish less, I get less of both. When I publish more, interestingly I don’t get more of either. Six a week is the sweet spot.
Besides, this blog is how most people know me. And I love writing in it. I can’t imagine stopping. But depending on how my budding publishing career goes, I can imagine writing in it less often someday. Or maybe I’ll be incredibly fortunate and end up like Mark Evanier and John Scalzi, who both write for a living and write in their blogs several times a day. Oh, probably not; I love what I do for a living and am not looking to change it. But it’s a fun dream.
I will keep writing about the same things. Sometimes I’ll publish something on the blog that I know will end up in a book someday.
Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of this blog’s first post: my blogiversary. I had dreams of Internet fame on that day in 2007, dreams that if they aren’t realized by now probably never will be!
What happened instead is I met all of you, through your comments. It’s been deeply rewarding. You have taught me things, made me laugh, and told me both when I’ve moved you and when I’ve missed the mark. Interacting with you here has enriched my life!
I’ve been curious for years who has commented the most often here. Because I upgraded to the WordPress.com Business plan some time ago, I have access to this blog’s database. A little querying gave me the answers! Here are the most frequent commenters each year.
2007: Michael. One of my oldest and best friends, Michael and I met in college. We used to stay up until all hours of the morning talking about life. He and I have seen each other through some stuff.
2008: Dani. A friend and colleague, Dani and I we work in the same industry here in central Indiana. Our kids are the same age, and when they were small we used to let them play together.
2009 and 2010: Lone Primate. I’m pretty sure Lone Primate found my blog while searching for old and abandoned roads, an interest we share. He doesn’t update his blog very much anymore, but if you dig through the archives you’ll find lots of interesting old-road scenes around Toronto. He still pops up in the comments here from time to time.
2011 and 2012: Irene/ryoko861. I’m not sure how Irene found my blog or why she found it appealing, but she sure commented a lot for a few years! But then she fell away and finally disappeared. I hope she’s well, wherever she is and whatever she’s doing.
2014: bodegabayf2. We both enjoy vintage cameras; he blogs about his photograpy as well. He’s been incredibly generous to me, donating some wonderful equipment and helping me grow as a photographer through sharing his experience.
2016: Sam. Another committed photographer and blogger, Sam is unfailingly encouraging when he drops by. So many film photographers are anti-digital — Sam and I agree that this is silly, and that there’s a time for film and a time for digital.
2017, 2018, and 2019: Dan James. Yet another committed photographer and blogger, Dan didn’t know he was working his way out of film photography during these years. Yet that’s exactly what happened. He continues his photography with a cache of simple but good older digital cameras.
2020: brandib1977. A fellow traveler and adventurer, brandib1977’s blog is all about what’s around that next curve in the road. As you know, I’m always showing what I see around that bend, so perhaps that’s why she has become such a frequent commenter.
A whole bunch of other people have been frequent commenters here: Bill Bussell, ambaker49, Nancy Stewart, Brandon Campbell/bwc1976, Dan Cluley, Derek/dehk, Denny Gibson, DougD, eppar, George Denzinger, Gerald, Heide, urbanhafner, Jason Shafer, jacullman, Joshua Fast, The Trailhead, Jon Campo, Joe shoots resurrected cameras, J P Cavanaugh, Steve Miller, Bernie Kasper, Photobooth Journal, Kurt Garner, Kurt Ingham, versa kay, Photography Journal Blog, Marcus Peddle, M. B. Henry, Michael McNeill, Mike Connealy, Christopher May, tbm3fan, Moni, nobbyknipst, Neil, SilverFox, N. S. Palmer, Bob Dungan, Reinhold Graf, Richard Kraneis, Roy Karlsvik, Christopher Smith, kiwiskan/Maureen Sudlow, Jennifer S, Todd Pack, Tori Nelson, traveller858, Andy Umbo, davidvanilla, Ward Fogelsanger, and zorgor.
Even if you didn’t make that list, I value your comments no less and am always glad when you write!
As I looked back through commenters’ names, I noticed many who don’t comment anymore. Sometimes people naturally move on. I can think of a few blogs where I used to be a frequent commenter myself. Sometimes you have to change where you give your time. Sometimes you move on from a blog’s subject matter. Sometimes a blog’s subject matter moves on from you. This is how it goes. But I miss the people who don’t comment anymore.
I’ve been trying to think of a metaphor for a good comments section and the closest I can come up with is a neighborhood tavern. When you walk in the door, you feel like everybody knows you and you know everybody. You get into some deep conversations with some, and with others you always keep it light. Everyone sees only the side of you that you bring to the room, but there’s still a feeling of friendship and camaraderie.
This is hard to come by in this modern age. Thank you for giving it to me here.