Fish & Bicycles Goes On Virtual Hiatus

hiatushi·a·tus
noun — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity; a break


You know, I’ve been working at a university for 12 years, and so, when I hear the term hiatus, I think of privileged faculty or higher up administrators who are eligible to enjoy the occasional long break from employment, six months to a year, knowing that their job will be waiting for them when they return.

Me, on the other hand, while I have excellent healthcare benefits and a retirement plan, as well as paid sick leave and vacation, the demands of my job and the low level of my position on campus do not allow me the opportunity for hiatus. Anything longer than a 2-week vacation is very difficult to get approval for.

Therefore, I hereby announce that Fish & Bicycles is going on a virtual hiatus, for how long I do not know.

This has been a very difficult decision to make. I’ve loved blogging. I’ve been doing it since June 2004, first at my now-defunct first blog, and here at Fish & Bicycles since October 2009.

But, a number of things have added up to a gradual decline in enthusiasm and enjoyment. My life offline has become too busy, cluttered with a wide range of things both voluntary and involuntary.

Meanwhile:

  • I have a 15-year old son who will not be living at home all that much longer;
  • I have a lovely wife whom I ALWAYS wish I had more time with;
  • And, at 48 years of age, I’m finding my physical, mental, and spiritual health to be demanding more attention from me.

Additionally, I find myself, more times than not, feeling obligated to post something here at Fish & Bicycles, just to keep it alive, rather than as the product of an inspiration to create for creativity’s sake. I know that maintaining a regular practice of anything requires persistence in the face of challenges, and I’ve managed to do just that for nine years of blogging. But, I just need to take a break for a while, to attend to other things in my life.

I LOVE that definition of hiatus that I included at the start of this post — A gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity. It sounds so Sci-Fi, and given that I’m taking a virtual hiatus, I feel like a time traveler!

Hopefully, on my “travels” I will find my muse again and I’ll return to Fish & Bicycles with renewed vigor and determination.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank all of my regular readers and the many folks who have chosen to Follow Fish & Bicycles. I’ve been honored by the time people have taken to check out what I’ve been doing here.

Cheers!

The Dystopia Fetish

dystopiaHave you ever had one of those experiences where you’ve been quietly tolerating something that really bothers you for a long, long time, but then you suddenly, in a dramatic moment, realize that you can no longer tolerate it?

Well, I’ve just had that experience, and I’m here to pronounce that I have no more tolerance to offer for what I see as a rampant dystopia fetish.

Dystopia: that mostly fictional construct of a future, sometimes post-apocalyptic, sometimes the product of a long, slow decline, filled with darkness and oppressive authoritarian government and violence, societies that retain just enough resemblance to present day realities as to give the impression that we’re heading down that slippery slope.

Fans of dystopian fiction, in print or onscreen, argue that we need these cautionary tales of possible futures, so that we, ideally, wake up and do everything we can to prevent such a future. But, what I see happening more and more is that people are starting believe that dystopia is unavoidable and already manifesting.

And, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary if it weren’t for the fact that some of these dystopians are already heavily arming themselves and preparing for the worst.

In some ways, we all contribute to the problem, by continuing to consume massive quantities of dystopia in books and movies and on TV. The media are happy to keep meeting the demand. I’m talking about everything from The Hunger Games to even the whole zombie craze. (Zombies aren’t real, of course, but they adequately serve as an easy metaphor for any number of evils that can fester in dystopia.)

You know, there’s enough real darkness in the world today, as a brief glance at news headlines will confirm. I’m not preaching head-in-the-sand escapism, but I do think we all should be rationing the attention we place on the dark side.

A friend of mine, a Seattle blogger at sealife chronicles, posted something today that I think is a good companion piece to this post, titled zen test. In it, he provides a wonderful quote by William Rivers Pitt and then writes:

bad happens every day.

and our collective survival instinct demands that we pay attention to it, so we learn to avoid it. trouble is, fed too much attention, the bad can take on a grim, feral life of its own. it’s a wild, dark energy that can turn on you and eat you alive.

this is true…and yet somehow the world is not, always or entirely, a carnivorous beast. we know this because sometimes ~ in quiet moments between the relentless waves pounding our souls ~ sometimes awesome happens.

amen.

Eyecatchers: Fish & Bicycles’s New Look, Via Hans d’Hollosy

basscycle2My favorite memory from when I first started Fish & Bicycles, back in October 2009, was the outcome of my search for a photo or other image for the header of the blog.

All it took was typing “Fish & Bicycles” into Google Image Search and one of the results on the very first page is the lede image you see here in this post, a print titled Basscycle, by artist Holly Berry. It could not have been more perfect, and so I emailed Holly, asked her for her permission to use the image, and she graciously agreed.

Alas, several years later, I was starting to feel like it was time for a change of scenery here, so I started looking around, but nothing really grabbed me. My friend Tom was recently in Dublin, Ireland, on the tour of the Guiness Brewing facility, when he came across this awesomeness:

guiness-fish-bicyle

Unfortunately, due to my limited Photoshop skills, I was not able to edit it into anything useful. The space for the header in my blog’s theme is 1000×288 pixels, the Guiness fish on a bicycle is much closer to a square, and when I tried to stretch it, crop it, adjust the levels, apply filters and effects, sadly, nothing worked.

But, it seems there’s something about my friend Tom, because he was on the epic road trip I just returned from, and on our drive home we stopped for lunch in Eugene, Oregon and discovered this awesomeness:

mural

The mural, located on the east wall of 164 West Broadway, is the work of Hans d’Hollosy, a Eugene artist, and it is outrageous in all the best ways. More importantly, if you look close enough, you’ll see some fish and a bicycle just left of the center of the photo, and as I stood in that alley looking it over it became clear that this was exactly what I was looking for. I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be able to edit it into a good 1000×288 pixel header, but I took some photos and couldn’t wait to try.

The result? The new Fish & Bicycles header!

fish-bicycles-header-final

Now, I’d like to point out that Hans d’Hollosy’s mural was not commissioned, and so he’s got a Kickstarter campaign set up to raise money for his work, which he reports is about 80% complete. I hope folks who come across this blog post will consider making a pledge to support this gift to the Eugene community and to all who pass through as I did. (You can learn more about the project and make a pledge here.)

In the meantime, I just can’t bear to do away with Holly Berry’s Basscycle, and so I’ve decided to leave it on my About page, and a snippet of it will continue to be visible in the site’s favicon and in the avatar I use, visible whenever I comment on a WordPress blog.

I hope you enjoy Fish & Bicycles new look!

Q: Are Blogs Dead? A: HELL NO!!!

bring-out-your-deadSo, there’s this article out in The New Republic, by Mark Tracy, titled Eulogy for the Blog.

And, I have to tell ya, it REALLY bugs me, and it bugs me on several levels.

First, unless it’s a thing to call a bit of writing a eulogy even though the subject of said writing isn’t actually dead, Marc Tracy utterly fails to make a credible argument for his declaration of death. (And, you know what? Even if it IS a thing, it sucks, it’s a shallow attention grabber.)

A telling comment (my emphasis added in bold):

This is the context in which the New York Times‘ decision, revealed this week, to review all of its blogs and shutter at least some of them (including the popular, at least among the sort of media wonks who are still reading this article, Media Decoder), ought to be understood.

You see, Tracy is clearly, himself, a media wonk, and so he bases his assertion that blogs are dead on observations of a handful of high-profile bloggers in elite publications like The New York Times. This reeks of ivory tower classism, it’s lazy journalism, and it’s an insult to the millions upon millions of bloggers all around the world who are alive and well and blogging away. (For instance, as of this writing, WordPress, the blogging platform that I use, claims nearly 65 million users. Declaring them dead…doesn’t that make Marc Tracy a mass murderer? Hahaha.)

More proof that his headline is nothing more than sensationalism, Tracy admits:

We will still have blogs, of course, if only because the word is flexible enough to encompass a very wide range of publishing platforms: Basically, anything that contains a scrollable stream of posts is a “blog.”

But, he follows this up with the most inane attempt to justify his conclusion anyway:

What we are losing is the personal blog and the themed blog.

WTF?! This guy has obviously spent ZERO time browsing even a small sample of the blogs out there, millions of which, actually, from my observation, mostly fall into those very two categories. The vast majority of blogs that I come across are either personal journals, musings on daily life events, or they are blogs that specialize in a single theme, from food to politics, arts to sports, celebrities to hobbies, and on and on and on. (Fish & Bicyles would be in a third category, fewer in numbers, but we’re out there: the general topics blog, about, as I like to say, whatever strikes a fancy at any given moment, on any given day.)

I initially thought I’d go with a zombie theme for this post, but you actually have to be dead first in order to become the undead.

And so, just to be sure, I checked the pulse of Fish & Bicycles, and I am happy to report that it is, absolutely, alive and kicking.

New Blog Hits Close To Home

realitysandwichesToday I have the pleasure of offering up an enthusiastic shout-out for a new addition to the blogosphere…but not just any old new blog.

RealitySandwiches is my wife’s latest creative outlet. After supporting my blogging for many years, it’s her turn, and Laurel will be sharing a sampling of her many facets, from crafty DIY projects, original poetry and photos, to her best thinking on parenting and psychology. (Laurel has been psychotherapist for nearly 20 years and really knows her stuff.)

It’s been a lot of fun helping Laurel learn to use WordPress, but mostly I’ve loved watching her dig in with a fierce joy of creating.

So, check out RealitySandwiches when you have a chance, and you can always find a link to her in the Bellingham Blogs links list in my sidebar.

Fish & Bicycles Celebrates 500+ Followers!

celebrateFor a non-professional blogger like me, celebrating milestones is a real treat.

While we might not earn a paycheck for broadcasting our creative impulses over the interwebs, we do earn the enormously gratifying attention of those whom we manage to inspire to visit, read, like, comment, and follow us.

Since I started Fish & Bicycles in October 2009, I’ve had the great fortune of celebrating these modest achievements:

And now, today, I have the immense pleasure of celebrating yet another momentous milestone:

follows

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I truly am honored and grateful for every single visitor.

At the same time, I feel I must repeat my humble apology, stated originally in a post from February 2012, my regret that I am unable to respond to every single Like and Follow that I get, much less reciprocate by visiting the blogs of those who have so graced me, that I might Like and Follow in return.

A regrettable shortage of hours in a day make it so, I’m afraid, so if anyone can lend me a device that can stop time, I’d be happy to rectify this situation.

Once again, thanks!

Magnets: A Poem

So, out of the blue, I decided to write a poem.

I’ve not written poetry before with any seriousness, and I wouldn’t even ascribe much seriousness to what I’ve done here. I simply decided to try it as an exercise.

I have no idea whether or not I will write more poetry, or if I do whether or not I will post it.

We’ll see.


magnetsMagnets

two magnets are a crappy metaphor
for love.
they lack
regardless of any resemblance
all warmth
or flesh and blood
all life.
magnets are cold and metallic
north-to-north or south-to-south
they repulse one another
and
despite the alluring inclusiveness
of opposites attracting
in reality
they snap violently together
held to one another by their opposition
stuck
as if glued.
from afar
construed as close, affectionate
yet
no breathing room
tension
irritation
claustrophobia
even dismay
despair.
magnets are a crappy metaphor for love.
too cynical, right?
RIGHT
RIGHT
RIGHT!

Last Flowers: A Promising Bellingham Band

Last-FlowersSince I write about music a fair amount here (245 out of 1,172 posts), I get contacted fairly often by musicians or band managers who’d like me to write about them.

It’s a bit flattering, but most of the time the music samples they provide are not my cup of tea and therefore do not inspire me to write about them.

It was a VERY nice surprise, then, when I was contacted yesterday by Nik Vinish, singer/songwriter and member, with Benjamin Lemons, of Indie duo Last Flowers, two Whatcom County, Washington natives (Bellingham is the county seat). Nik directed me to their SoundCloud page, specifically to this, a song called Lullaby For Nobody (Part 1) from their forthcoming LP, From A Piano Room:

I was immediately captured by Ben’s lovely piano intro, and when Nik’s vocals came in I could immediately tell that these were two very talented young men. The song continues, and at the 1:35 mark Nik goes into a falsetto and the song builds into a gentle crescendo, with drums and bass and horns entering, followed eventually by lush strings, all adding up to a very sweet, melodic gem.

On their Bio page at ReverbNation, they claim as their influences The Beatles, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Death Cab for Cutie and The National, they say they’re a little bit Post Rock, a little bit Alternative, and so they’ve coined a new genre for themselves: Post Alternative.

But genre labels can only illuminate so much, and the ultimate test is the music. The other Last Flowers tunes available on SoundCloud now are from their approximately year-old EP and show tremendous promise, but I’ve spent a little time now listening to the rest of their upcoming LP, which they were kind enough to send to me, and I can already tell that it fulfills that promise.

Nik reports that he and Ben were both classically trained in piano, Nik mostly plays guitar and sings, and Ben plays keys, writes melodies and arrangements, and even does the majority of work on production and mixing.

Nik and Ben grew up at opposite ends of the county, met through mutual friends, and it’s clear that it’s a very, very good thing that they found each other. Kindred musical spirits indeed.

Testing Tumblr

tumblr-iconWell, it’s pretty clear by now that this Tumblr thing isn’t going away anytime soon, so I’ve bitten the bullet and I’ve set up a mirror blog there.

WordPress.com makes it super easy, with their Publicize tool, which I’ve already been using, such that every time I post something here it’s automagically posted on Facebook and Twitter as well. Now, everything will also be posted to the new Tumblr account I created.

The only bummer about the process, I discovered that there was already a Tumblr blog called Fish & Bicycles, and so I had to name my tumblr fishandbicycles-bellingham.com. I don’t know which of us came first, because, maddeningly, I can’t seem to find any way to determine when fishandbicycles.tumblr.com was started. Oh well.

Honestly, I have no idea how to use Tumblr otherwise, and I don’t see myself doing much with it other than having it act as an additional venue for the blogging I do here.

One cool thing, though, this is what my archive page looks after having retroactively published some of my more recent posts there (be sure to click to enlarge!):

tumblr

Out of Office: Mini-Vacation Edition

Portland_Oregon_Union_train_stationTomorrow morning, at around 8:45am, the family and I will be boarding the Amtrak Cascades line at the Fairhaven Station here in Bellingham, and at approximately 2:55pm we’ll arrive at Union Station in Portland, Oregon (pictured in the photo here).

It’s been a while since I extolled one of the many virtues of Bellingham, Washington, my adopted hometown of nearly 20 years, namely its proximity to SO much awesomeness:

  • 90 minutes south: Seattle, Washington
  • 90 minutes north: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 60 minutes east: Mt. Baker Ski Area and the Cascade Mountains
  • 90 minutes west: The San Juan Islands
  • 6 hours south: Portland, Oregon (5 hours by car)

This trip will be particularly fun, for us treehuggers, since we’ll be leaving the car behind, enjoying a long, relaxing train trip to and from, and then we rely on Portland’s famous mass transit system to get to everywhere we want to go. Part of the appealing adventure is navigating our way around, using Google Maps’ transit feature, TriMet’s excellent mobile-optimized website, or just asking people for info on the go.

In the meantime, while I’ll have occasional internet access during the trip, I likely will not have the time to blog.

But fear not, while I’m gone, I’ll once again be featuring some older posts of mine, as part of my continuing Best Of Fish & Bicycles series. I’ve selected a post that will appear each day, so you might not even notice the difference, especially if you’re new to Fish & Bicycles.

Additionally, feel free to browse around the vast Fish & Bicycles archives in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Eco-Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Monthly Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

Cheers!