Small Cameras pt.1-Fuji x100

I haven't had a proper camera since the digital revolution made my years as film photography student seem quaint, like minoring in tannery, or taxidermy.  Granted, there is still great work being done in film, and I'm not sure that even the best digital cameras match it yet--though they're close--but it still feels a little funny having been in likely the last class to learn hand-processing not as some retro-choice, but as the only option for aspiring professionals, just as it must've felt when the French perfected a county-wide canal system just in time for the automobile to render that method of goods transport adorable and less cutting-edge than they imagined and budgeted for. 

Since I'm travelling around Europe a good bit this year, I thought it was time to step up.

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Favorite Things: Rdio


There are heaps of great music-steaming services out there, now that, apparently, music is free.  Really, they should be used as over-qualified previewers in determining which LPs or CDs you really need in your collection, if permanence and sound quality matter to you. Among them,



  • Spotify: of which I might be a terrific fan, where it legal in Germany, where I am currently living, but alas, it is not. 
  • Pandora: the great pioneer and game-changer that plays a virtual radio station built on a matrix of similar-sounding artists.  A great service, but it won't play an entire album, and I've never been much of a singles guy. Also illegal in Germany.
  • Naxos: this is the largest classical record label in the world, and they're buying up smaller companies by the cello case to add to their online streaming service.  It is a subscription service, so you pay for access to their 800,000+ tracks but can stream them at CD quality, if you have the bandwidth. They also have a pretty deep bench when it comes to jazz.  
But my favorite of all, by a good long way, is
  • Rdio: Another subscription service (my plan costs something like $6 a month), Rdio features the best interface of the lot, tons of obscure recordings, a social feature that is (for once) actually useful--I'm not talking about updating one's facebook automatically every time a new record comes on, but the "playlists" feature, where some pretty tasteful people put together great jazz mixes, Christmas tunes, KEXP-based melodica, and other turn-ons for this traveller. 
I came to Germany with 3500+albums on my iTunes, but sometimes--however absurd it sounds to say it--that's not enough.  I don't know how I managed to cross the pond without a copy of Straight Six, by Poor Old Lu, or with the better of the two perfect Mineral albums, but I did, and Rdio was there to rescue me.
In addition to turning me on to bands like Wye Oak, and Cults, Rdio has been a treasure-trove of old favorites: Jeterderpaul, anyone? Joe Christmas? The mind fairly reels. 


Year's Best

 Last year, one of my favorite musicians ever, Iron and Wine, released their new album on my birthday, which felt like a gift from the world.  The year before, the band that has taught me more than any other (about art, about life) Bright Eyes, released two albums on my birthday.  It seems fitting then, that I should offer something back, in the form of a Best-of list, since this year's birthday has just passed without fanfare from the musical community.  Here then are my favorite albums from 2011, offered in a spirit of generosity rather than contention, for those of you with whom I no longer share car rides or mix tapes.



Girls- Listen Here


Iron and Wine- Listen Here


The Antlers- Listen Here
Youth Lagoon- Listen Here
Bon Iver- Listen Here



There was a lot of good work this year, but these are the masterpieces.  For those of you who don't hate Christian music, you might look seriously at the new albums by Leeland, and Sixteen Cities, which are the best things in that genre this year.  And if you don't hate screaming, you should check out the hardcore rock-opera by F**ked Up, which is breathtaking and holy in an entirely different way. 




On the Town

My wife and I were missing our hometown (Seattle) the other day, as we are exiled and adventuring abroad for the year, and counting its many glories, not least among which is the thriving theater scene.  "Remember that one play?" she'd say, and I: "that was great; remember this other one?"  Suddenly it seemed like we'd seen a lot of plays during the last two years.  Suddenly it seemed we should try to make a list of those we remembered particularly.  

Comedy of Errors

dir. George Mount for

Seattle Shakespeare Company

: we saw this Shakespeare-in-the-park production twice, once at the show's open, and again at its close, as a treat for our out-of-town wedding guests.  

Julius Caesar

: Another Shakespeare-in-the-Park, this time at Seward, and a season before. 

Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World

 dir. Anita Montgomery for 


: Staring my good friend Carol Roscoe in a breakout role. 

The Tempest

at Seattle Shakespeare Company: featuring, on the night we went, live music by

Jesse Sykes

, composed especially for the show.

Crime and Punishment

Intiman Theater

: one of the only competent productions I've seen at this beleaguered, (since closed) regional playhouse more concerned with furthering a sociological agenda than with making good art. 


Intiman: Officially the worst play I've ever seen, despite (because of?) the cast's having been shipped in from New York, to the understandable pique of Seattle's own talented acting pool; we walked out at half-time and were dismayed for weeks. 

On the Town (a musical)

at 5th Ave: the actress/singer/personality Sara Rudinoff enlivens everything she touches.

39 Steps

Seattle Repertory Theater: disarmingly charming and British.

Jude the Obscure

Erikson Theater: My own entry in Book-it's Novel Workshop Series; actors reading from stools on stage hasn't been so entertaining since Dylan Thomas' reading of

Under Milkwood

in New York, which I unfortunately missed, having been born forty years too late for the premier. 

The Cider-House Rules

(parts 1 and 2): an epic production full of moving performances, which addressed, I think, social problems we're not really having.  It made terrific sense when they staged it 15 years earlier, to general acclaim. 

Great Expectations

Book-it Repertory Theater

: Unbelievable directing, a terrific supporting cast, and Jane Jones (as both Havisham and Betsy) in a performance I think I'll always remember.

Oh Lovely Glowworm

dir. Roger Benington for

New Century Theater

: A flawless production of a flawed but terribly-inspiring play.  Magical in nearly-every way: this was one of those rare (for me) pieces of art that made me want to do everything differently.

Hunter Gathers


: This tiny theater is (was) the most important thing happening in the Northwest for the last decade. The ambition and level of artistry on evidence was just stupefying.  Then, they lost most of their ensemble, artistic directors, and lighting designers either to New York or to theaters with bigger budgets, and have since become a gay teen youth center that sometimes does plays.  

Twelfth Night

Seattle Shakes: A Christmas production! So fun and Dickensian!

Two Gentlemen of Verona

: A mod-production that used technology in a smart way: characters texted each other and we could read their screens via subtle projections. Sounds fishy, but it wasn't.  Definitely the coolest production I've ever seen of this play.  


: This was kind of a play, but mostly a vehicle for the emoting of its female lead Marya Kaminsky.  She's a phenomenal actress, but it was unsettling to basically watch someone hurt for two hours straight; like watching

Passion of the Christ

, that. 

Those were the big ones anyway.  Added to the concerts (notably, the XX, Sunny Day Real Estate, Rufus Wainwright, and Mark Kozalek) and dance shows (importantly Nacho Duato,

Hubbard Street Dance

--which may be the single best thing I've ever seen--Pacific Northwest Ballet's

Romeo &Juliet

and year-end


, Seattle Opera's

Don Quichotte

, and the powerful modern company Sonia Dawkins' Prism Dance Theater), well, we were busy.  Still, what a city.