From Ashes

The last renaissance of my blog-smithing began on July 19, 2014 when I first discovered The Daily Post.  That instance of my spark died out on December 15th, 2015. Much of that spurt of creativity (such as it is for me) was driven collaboration with members of the “blogosphere” that I met and discovered some kinship with. Through the photographs and music links and text on this blog, my inner artist got to get out and play for a time.

That’s the problem with choosing to live in secret with my depression. When it strikes, my inner artist puts himself in the way of the darkness and holds it back. He’s the only one that can do it, and he does it gladly so that my waking self can function. So it’s been for most of this year, week after week of quietly fighting the darkness in the deepest recesses of my mind. I have always believed “was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.” This probably wasn’t that Nietzsche had in mind, but it still works. Throughout my life, my creative spark has faltered and perhaps even died. So far, every time, he wakes up when I serendipitously bring him into contact with something that sparks his interest.

I’ve written here before about the faint strands of my creative lifelines. One of those is a book, and another is a person. So the person released a book. I read the book. Then I went back and read that most important thing he has ever written, for me anyway. Which sent me back to the roadmap. This is a journey I’ve been on before. It’s familiar, but it’s never exactly the same.

While on this journey, I stumbled upon this:

I am falling off the world to write. No cell service and almost no internet. Wish me well.

A photo posted by Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on

Which led me to this:

Neil Gaiman started writing his novels longhand in the ’90s.

He told BuzzFeed: “I started with Stardust: It was (in my head) being written in the 1920s, so I bought a fountain pen and a big notebook and wrote it by hand to find out how writing by hand changed my head.”

“And it did, it really did. I was sparser, I would think my way through a sentence further, I would write less, in a good way. And when I typed it up, it became a very real second draft – things would vanish or change. I discovered that I enjoyed messing about with fountain pens, I even liked the scritchy noise the pen nib made on the paper.

“So I kept doing it. Sandman: Dream Hunters and American Gods and Anansi Boys and The Graveyard Book were all written by hand. The last two-thirds of Coraline was also written by hand.”


(Photo credit to Hayley Campbell of Buzzfeed from the preceding link.)

I felt my inner artist stir. Well, more of do an Undertaker Zombie sit-up and look around, eyes wide open.

So for the past month, I’ve been writing again. On paper. With a fountain pen. Today, I felt able to write here with a keyboard again. Small steps. Sustainable steps.

Hello again.


My Year in Music 2015

What a difference a year makes.

In the final week of 2014 I was knee-deep in this weblog, spitting out posts in tandem with my new blog-friend Sugar. Today, I’m struggling to write again, and have barely posted in months. Sugar’s blog is gone, and I thank her and wish her well. All things come to an end.

However, I’m not giving up on this blog yet. I’ll call the last few months a setback, but will not make another empty “new year’s resolution”. I will plan on channeling more energy into writing here in the next weeks, and see how that goes. For this week, in cognizance of the year-that-was, I return to music, as I did in 2014.

Here’s the music that was 2015 for me. (No, I didn’t forget the Adelecalypse. Her new album didn’t really do anything for me, sadly.)

Little Toy Guns – Carrie Underwood

Carrie’s Greatest Hits album was released at the end of 2014. Its two new tracks, “Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Guns” were right at home on the album, country pop/rock driving tunes made from the same cloth as Carrie’s last album “Blown Away”. Towards the end of 2015, Carrie released her new full album, “Storyteller”, featuring a sound that leaned more towards bluegrass but still with the trademark Underwood pop/rock power. I love both albums, and combined they’re my most played music in 2015.

Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen

This was the year’s biggest surprise. On the heels of Taylor Swift’s massive 1980s pop-styled album 1989, Carly Rae Jepsen released her own 80s pop passion project album, E*MO*TION. I love the album, and hold it in the same esteem as Tay-Tay’s record, with maybe a bit less sheen and self-awareness. “Run Away With Me” has a sax line! They don’t do songs with sax lines anymore.

E Più Ti Penso – Andrea Bocelli & Ariana Grande

Every Andrea Bocelli classical crossover album is an event for me. This year, it’s movie soundtracks. Sold, sold and sold. The album, “Cinema”, got as a carrier track this collaboration with teen techno-pop princess Ariana Grande. It’s good, even if Ariana sounds like she’s being overpowered due to her breathy vocal. They should have just let her sing full voice instead of this borderline falsetto she’s using. Anyway, the standout track is “Mi Mancherai”, the theme from Michael Radfor’s 1994 Pablo Neruda sort-of-biopic “Il Postino”. There’s nothing on YouTube yet, so we get Andrea with Ms. Grande.

Can’t Deny My Love – Brandon Flowers

Speaking of 1980s-inspired passion projects, The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers also released one in 2015. His record, “The Desired Effect”, draws more from synth-laced new wave music than the Madonna-pop that Taylor and Carly Rae referenced. It’s a strong record, regardless of what the industry rags and critics said. Using musicians and producers from that decade on the album tracks is a plus in my book.

Ave Maria (JS Bach/Gounod) – Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the greatest musicians of my generation. He’s also the greatest cellist of my generation, and one of the most prolific and inclusive. If you go to his artist page on Spotify, hit shuffle then play, you’re going to be transported to all manner of places. He’s incredible. So to my joy Ma released a new album, “Songs from the Arc of Life”, in 2015. It’s exactly what its title says it is – a collection of pieces that represent life, from birth, through childhood, adulthood and old age, then finally death. It’s rare for albums these days to have a structure that invites listening to its tracks in order, like chapters of a story. The track here, the well-known Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria”, is the first piece of the album. The sound is breathtaking, and this is a YouTube video. This is one of those albums where I actually got a physical CD, because there’s nothing better than redbook audio for something this amazing.

One more note on one of my favourite pieces of music: “Songs from the Arc of Life” includes a new recording of Saint-Saens’s “Le Cygne”, a song about the twilight of life. I previously posted Ma performing this piece, which happened maybe 20 years ago. I watched both again, and he plays the piece very differently, perhaps reflecting his emoti0ns now that he’s closer to the end of his life than the beginning.

If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me this far. This post is dedicated to Sugar – obrigado, for being my blog-buddy for a time. Be well, always.

New Music for the Blues

When I’m struggling with depression, I try to manage it by tricking myself into falling into routine. If successful, this usually affords me a bit of focus so I can get some important professional or personal things done. The tricks usually involve using media that can hook me and lift me out of the darkness for a moment – music, a movie, a TV show, a video game, a book, a sporting event. The focus doesn’t last long, and I have to cycle through the tricks to have output approaching minimum acceptable volume, but I count myself lucky that I can function. I know that many other people that suffer from depression can be incapacitated completely.

I’ve had luck recently with recent album releases from artists that I enjoy. Here are some of them.

Cinema – Andrea Bocelli

I adore Bocelli, and I love movies and movie soundtracks. This is a selection of movie themes that Andrea covers. This track is from the film “Once Upon a Time in America”. My favorite track in the album is Mi Mancherai, the theme from the film “Il Postino”.

Hello – Adele

It’s got 207 million YouTube views, so chances are everyone on the planet with an internet connection has seen the video and heard the song. Has there been a more anticipated album in the last ten years?

Storyteller – Carrie Underwood

My favourite American Idol’s new album is really, really good.

1989 – Ryan Adams

When I first heard about Ryan Adams, I thought it was the Canadian rocker that did Summer of ’69. So, there’s this guy without a “B” in his name, and he did a full cover of Taylor Swift’s monumental album 1989. I enjoy good covers as much as anyone. Not all of the reimagined tracks work, but my favourite Tay-tay track from that album is Style, and the Adams version is reasonably different and listenable.

Pentatonix – Pentatonix

I think it’s great that former Sing Off champs and a capella wunderkind Pentatonix debuted at #1 on the Billboard Album Chart. The Pitch Perfect films play the a capella craze and sub-culture for laughs, but good music is good music. These kids are talented, they worked their butts off, and they’re now legitimate artists. (PS: Yes, I loved Pitch Perfect 2. That a capella cover of Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” was amazing.

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come

Quote misappropriated from the Bard, of course. When battling depression, I bounce between states of acute insomnia and dark dreams that I can never remember. I just feel like I emerged from a crushing darkness when I wake up. It’s not a great state to be in when one needs to work, and it destroys all capability to write coherently. One day at a time, with support of music, sunshine (when available) and coffee, until I emerge from the deep dark hole that I fell into.

Light at the end of the tunnel, I hope. Enya is one of my go-to artists when I need help to focus.

Castle in the Mists


Boundaries impose limits on us, whether they’re social constructs or real, physical objects — like the security rail seen below, separating ferry passengers from the icy waters of the Strait of Georgia. They’re there to stop us from doing or saying what we actually want to. But they also give structure to our actions and frame our movements. In photography, they help our eyes make sense of what we see and convey a sense of visual narrative. They constantly invite us to push against them.”

Music Carousel: That 70’s Sound

It’s been a tough last few weeks, for many reasons. It’s disappointing that one of the first things to suffer is my writing, whether on one of my projects or here on the weblog. I’ve been on two trips and have taken a grand total of zero worthwhile pictures. That means I’ve been unable to even post that. (It didn’t help that the last Photo Challenge didn’t really resonate with me. This one doesn’t much either – I’m not a fan of collages.)

So I’ll fall back on the old reliable Music Carousel for today, while I have the energy and focus to do one. I’ve been getting through the rough spots with music, and several times have had a series of artists from the 1970s stuck in my head. Here’s a few of my sonic support structures that have helped me thorough the past few days. It’s not over yet, either.

Carole King – It’s Too Late

Tapestry is a giant of musical history, and is one of my personal favourite albums.

Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon

Fleetwood Mac was one of the supergroups of the time, with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham eventually becoming stars in their own right.

Don MacLean – Vincent

It sounds kind of cheesy today, but Vincent spoke to the trapped artist in my soul when I was a kid. It hurts (emotionally and physically) when you can’t let the artist in you out to play on a regular basis.

Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly With His Song

Amazing voice. No, this was not a Fugees original.

Karen Carpenter

I think I was in love with her at one time in my youth. Her voice is instantly recognizble. She played drums. I’ll listen to her sing anything. One of the most tragic stories in music history.


Faith Alone

“Symbolism is uniquely human. We use symbols to represent intangible things like our beliefs and emotions, and to convert the abstract into something understandable. This week, share a symbol with us.”

I am drawn to architecture, symbols and trappings of human religion when I travel. They represent so much of the culture to which they are tied, and reveal much of what comprises the elements of the communities surrounding them.