Days in Pictures Thoughts about Things

The 2019 Vancouver Queer Film Festival: days 948 — 967

Song Lang

An absolutely gorgeous film, weaving lush tragic dramas of mythical kings and princesses against the gritty reality of 1980’s socialist Saigon. Is it a bit heavy-handed with the symbolism and metaphors? Sure, though that’s to be expected in a story that’s half tear-jerking opera. Did it work? Hell yeah.

It’s not an explicitly gay movie, though, which I found interesting; however, if you use Cải Lương—a modern form of Vietnamese folk opera—as code for “gay” then it all comes together: rough and tough Dung “Thunderbolt” has a girlfriend, but he doesn’t seem to like her much, and should be read as closeted because his parents were Cải Lương performers and he loved watching from behind the scenes; the rather feyer Linh is completely committed to the theatre life, gets assaulted by some macho asshole in a diner because he’s an actor and some people don’t like them or something.

Even given that symbolic layer, I’d say the movie is not about sex, and not really about romantic love either. It’s about emotional connections, about two diametrically opposed people making each other better, and about a lost soul given a chance at redemption. Beautiful, dreamy and quite magical, this is a great start to the festival.

Queer Fear

Queerness and horror, two great tastes that taste great together! I’m not a huge horror fan so some of these shorts left me a bit cold, but I have to give a nod to Nite Ride and its badass quartet of queer Indigenous monster hunter ladies; also Pop Ritual, the Brazilian dialog-less story of a demon-hunting priest and his gay goth vampire prisoner / lover. Catholics, amirite?

The Gospel of Eureka

Welcome to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Population 2K and change, home of the biggest Jesus statue in North America as well as an annual Passion Play originally started by some white supremacist preacher in the 60s.

But also: home to a surprisingly queer- and trans-friendly population, a “Diversity Weekend” full of rainbows and dancing, a gay bar where drag queens lipsync to hymns and You Can’t Pray The Gay Away. Christians who see no contradiction between loving Jesus and being proudly gay or trans.

True, not all of them. But at least enough to pass and then uphold an anti-discrimination city ordinance in 2015, in defiance of yapping bigots, and apparently their own state government.

This small-town 21st century Christianity isn’t all sweetness and light—the narrative mentions the ghosts of lynchings and gay bashings, and how those ghosts might come to life again at any time—but it’s definitely not what us progressive big-city folks usually imagine when we think of places like this. The world is changing, even in Eureka Springs.

Coming Into Our Own: Youth Shorts

Shorts showcasing the trials and tribulations of queer / trans youth; some good, some great. My faves were First Day: the story of Hannah, an eleven-year-old trans girl at a new school (played by an actual trans actress, apparently); and Anemone, where a nonbinary teen comes out to their community in a very colourful way.

Night Comes On

Hoo boy, that was a hard one. Philly is not a pleasant place when seen through the eyes of a young black lesbian just out of juvie, with no one in her corner except her sassy little sister, and nothing to look forward to except revenge.

Heartbreaking, superbly acted, harsh in its look at an unfair and unforgiving system, I’m glad I got to experience it.

Transmission / Transfinite

This was not quite what I expected. The first short, Transmission, is the most straightforwardly sci-fi, with ideas of parallel timelines and revolutionary hacker groups, but still draws heavily from mythology—specifically Armenian myth, with references to the sea & storm goddess Tsovinar—and the need for the future to reclaim and reconnect with the past.

(These last bits are from the creator Q&A)

The movie feels incomplete, just the first chapter of a larger story, but it’s okay because that’s exactly what it is.

Transfinite leans far more on the “fantasy” side of things. It’s a half dozen or so loosely connected vignettes of pretty grounded magical realism where politics, gender, mythology, poetry and magic meet in a weird… stew… thing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, maybe because part of me is trying to label it, and failing. Most of the protagonists are people of colour, so it’s kind of like Afrofuturism? And also kind of like a film version of Starhawk’s first novel The Fifth Sacred Thing; which like Transfinite has the core message that gender / sexual liberation, anti-racism, environmental justice, indigenous justice, dance, magic, science, myth, are all part of the same thing. And also incidentally takes place mostly in the Bay Area.

I reread T5ST last week, for the first time in ages, and you know what? It holds up pretty well after 25 years. As earnest and anvilicious as I remember, and the mystical pseudoscience still makes me twitch, but the politics are still relevant today, so maybe those anvils need to be dropped.

Queer and…

Two medium-long shorts about what it’s like to be queer and something else:

Showcasing Vancouver’s own inimitable Maiden China and her drag + biological families, Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny explores difficult and messy questions of making space for queer Asian people, what it means to be “too Asian” or “not Asian enough”, and what traditions mean going forward into the future. Great stuff, and well deserving the Gerry Brunet Memorial Award.

Father Figure is a captivating look at Rotterdam’s Voguing House of Angels, whose all-Black members can dance, be free, and escape from racism and homophobia for a little while. And goddamn can those boys dance.

Queer Diaspora

Several excellent shorts about the lives of queer immigrants and refugees. Though their lives in Canada / the US are materially better, we’re far from utopias: they’re still dealing with various degrees of not-fitting-in or outright racism from the queer and mainstream communities, the need to stay in the closet to family / community members, or the stress of staying in legal limbo for years as their paperwork gets processed.

The best of these is She’s Not A Boy, the true ongoing story of intersex refugee Tatenda Ngwaru. Having fled Zimbabwe and now living in New York, she is deeply disconnected from the rainbow-waving mainstream queer community (itself generally ignorant of intersex issues) and misses her home terribly, but can never return because her life would be in danger.


This is typical South American cinema: suuuuper slow paced, very low key, no obvious story beats you can dance to.

But if you’re patient with it, you’ll get a bittersweet tale of drudge and loneliness; where religion, social norms and the harsh realities of poverty mean that gay space is a dream, and gay love only exists in the shadows. Where you have to choose between eloping with your boyfriend and supporting your hard-working mother. A tale with no easy answers and few happy endings. Though in a world where tomorrow is never guaranteed, maybe you should grab what joy you can now.

The Coast is Queer

Ten shorts. Ten winners. All different but all brilliant and beautiful in their own way. Funny or silly or inspiring or heartwarming or heartbreaking or sometimes a whole bunch at once.

But if I had to pick a couple? Everything’s Great for being the perfect mix of sad, disturbing and delightfully loopy, and A Typical Fairy Tale both for its excellent production values and the lovely tale of the princess that was a prince all along.

all our relations: explorations of indigiqueer kinship

A bunch of shorts preceded by poetry readings showing all the ways Indigenous queer people connect with each other: whether that’s romantic or familial relationships, a youth learning their first words of Anishinaabemowin, dancing their first traditional dance, or connecting with their ancestors through the elaborate ceremonial costumes they create. As I expected, the whole show was an education and it’ll take me a while to digest it.

The T

Good stuff, certainly engaging but not my fave. Also not really a movie: it’s all 6 (currently) episodes of a web series that follows two friends / exes (one white trans woman, one black queer man) over three months or so as they navigate life, love and HIV diagnosis in Chicago. So it doesn’t have any beginning, middle or end as such, just a bunch of (excellent and moving) vignettes.

The Spark

Some excellent shorts, and some that left me a bit cold. My faves: Lesson #8 (the hookup with the accountant accordion player) and the super-sad My Loneliness Is Killing Me. Honourable mention goes to shy, overanalysing Darren in Engaged, to whom I totally don’t relate at all, no sir.

An Almost Ordinary Summer / Croce e delizia

Y’know, after some very challenging films it’s good to end with something light and frothy and sweet. Add some gorgeous scenery and loud Italian gesticulating? Yep, I’m down. I wouldn’t exactly call it memorable, but meh, I had fun, and you need to end the festival on a high note.


Number of shows seen: 13

Favourite feature film: The Gospel of Eureka. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s an education.

Favourite short film: Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny, hands down.

Movies I would have liked to see but didn’t: yeah, there’s always a few.

  • Troublemakers 4.0 and Black Divaz; missed because I had no time or energy on Sunday after my beach vball tournament
  • Vision Portraits
  • The Garden Left Behind and Fish Bones; mind you, if I hadn’t changed my mind at the last minute and gone to SFU GoldCorp I wouldn’t have found a lost wallet on Hastings Street and later returned it to its owner. Weird how life works sometimes, eh?

And now, the Days in Pictures part. It’s been three more weeks of walking to and work (mostly), and sometimes I still fret about routine and taking the same shots over and over. I’ve been through this before, and I know I’ll get through it again, but in the meantime it’s annoying. And hey, I’m still exploring, so I don’t know what my subconscious is even on about: we’ve got the underside of Burrard Bridge, some lovely views of Science World, the towers near David Lam Park, a sunset view from Burrard Bridge because we haven’t done those in a while, an amazing shot of Cambie Bridge

(seriously, that’s awesome)

Remember Khenko? It’s not just art, there really are herons hanging around False Creek, though so far I haven’t seen them east of Davie Street. Probably because they nest in Stanley Park? I’m not really sure. Here’s one. Here are two more. I assume there’s also fish and things to eat in False Creek?

And here’s a bumblebee at work. This one gets its own paragraph.

As does this action shot of the volleyball tournament on the 18th. I’m still not used to taking pictures of people, but with the right inspiration I guess I can make it work.

And here are some old (well, for Vancouver) buildings as I walked through Gastown on the way to the movies. I’ve always liked walking, and I like that I’m building my stamina and getting cardio. Bonus: I’ve noticed my weight has slowly but steadily been dropping! So now that the VQFF is over and I’ve got nowhere in particular to be most evenings, I can think about playing with my commute. Explore the south seawall, especially. Plan ahead for other things. In September I’ll mark Day 1000 of my photo challenge, and I need to celebrate that somehow. Career-related things will be happening around the same time, so we can celebrate and build on those two. And record it all as it happens.

Days in Pictures

Pride and a bit of a schlep: days 939 — 947

Let’s recap our Pride week, shall we?

Sunday, winning 2nd place in our beach volleyball league! It was a tough fight all summer, but Resting Beach Face triumphed! Or, y’know, was Miss Congeniality or whatever. Either way, it was great fun.

Monday, Paris is Burning. I’d only ever heard of it from RuPaul’s Drag Race, with the “reading is fundamental” bits and so on. Hey, you gotta start somewhere! I loved the movie: it was deeply moving, and excellent education, laying out the terms and concepts very clearly like any good documentary should, while also letting the people involved have their voice.

Kind of makes you think about Drag Race, too: how it cleans up an edgy and underground scene for the consumption of Middle America, making it safe and memeful… but also letting drag queens become celebrities in their own right, and making drag safer and more accessible. Besides, it’s not like they didn’t have their own nostalgia filter in the 80’s, and if RuPaul sold out, well, any single one of the queens we saw would have bitten off their right arm for the money and fame she achieved, so here we are.

Tuesday, not pictured: LOLGBTQ, a fundraiser for Out in Schools featuring a bevy of LGBTQ+ comics. Now in its 3rd iteration, it’s right in my hood and not to be missed!

Wednesday: the same grass volleyball I play every week in the summer. It is gay volleyball though, so I guess it counts!

Thursday, the Big Gay Sing! No, I didn’t learn to sing any better since last year. Let’s leave it at that!

Friday, more gay grass volleyball. Wasn’t looking for anything more, since I was physically tired (more on that below) and I’m rarely up for big dances and things at the best of times.

Saturday, the Dyke March! Same as last year, I didn’t participate, but same as last year it was loud and proud and wonderfully political. And same as last year they had things to say about TERFs. Lots of things. But, there was something new on The Drive: a plaque celebrating the neighbourhood’s queer heritage, which it seems was brand spanking new. I’m not sure exactly who’s responsible for these plaques (I saw another one later that day at Little Sister’s), but kudos to them.

Saturday night, the last day of the fireworks. I missed the previous two (yes, even Team Canada on Wednesday—tired after volleyball, I just wanted to go home and avoid the crowds). Good times! Again, I was right close to the English Bay water, allowing me to take some lovely shots. And some lovely meta-shots. But urgh, the crowds. And the fencing. I get why they have to have those fenced aisles so emergency services can get through, but I don’t know about the fencing. And you better hope you don’t need to go to the loo, otherwise you’ll be walking on other people’s blankets, and feeling kind of bad but fuck it, I’m not here to navigate a maze.

Sunday, the Parade. I mean, this was the third parade I’d been in or watched in the last week, but this is the main one. Or the biggest one. Certainly the only one with Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh. And the only one with masses of commercially-produced rainbow flags and whatnot, but behold: a handmade sign! And here’s another one! Thanks Aja.

Sign of the times, maybe? With the Pride Society flexing its power to hold some groups accountable (disinviting the VPD last fall, and VPL and UBC in the last few weeks), are we edging into a Pride that’s more mindful of disadvantaged groups within the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and not just, like, Scotiabank and selfies with politicians? Either way, I approve of the trend.

And then after late lunch with some of the VGVA crew, I deliberately did not follow them to Numbers. It was good to be invited, but… nah, really not up to it. Didn’t even go to the festival, though I kind of wanted to. But it was hot, and I was tired.

I usually spend Pride Monday vegging, but not this year! Because this year, I went on the Really Gay History Tour, learning all about Gone-to-the-spirits, an early 19th century transgender prophet; prosecutions for “buggery” and “gross indecency”; Vancouver’s sex-segregated beer parlours, sites of early gay cruising; the love letters of Constance Grey Swartz, a rare glimpse of historic bi visibility; the Castle Hotel where Winners is now, site of Vancouver’s first kiss-in; ted northe ( he spelled his names in all lower case), drag queen and activist, who spearheaded the campaign that led to the partial decriminalisation of gay sex in 1969; how Mike Harcourt proclaimed Gay Unity Week in 1981 and made Pride parades official… and just a few years later, lobbied by middle-class gays who wanted to clean up their neighbourhood, the same Mike Harcourt drove sex workers out of the West End. The lesson here is: even the politicians we may think of as heroes turn out to be a very mixed bag, and though gay unity is a nice idea, some members of the community will sell others down the river for more respectability and political access, and property values.

Some of these stories I already knew, but it was good to have it all tied together. The tapestry is still very incomplete, and probably always will be.

As I previously mentioned I’ve been walking to work. The long way, along the Seawall. And taking lots of lovely photos: David Lam Park, False Creek, the Yaletown skyline, public art, ponds and duckies. I’m used to a lot of walking, but this is still a lot, and it really creeps up on you at the end of the week! And… I’ll be honest, it’s not happening quite like I dreamed. I pictured relaxing strolls home, taking in the sights, but that hasn’t happened yet, what with volleyball and all the other Pride week stuff I need to do. I still feel… constrained, y’know? By routine. By work pressures.

And that’s normal. That’s okay. I’m going through a change on many levels, and I will adapt. One step at a time.

Thoughts about Things

My 2019 Queer Film Fest schedule

This one is coming a bit late, but here goes:

August 15

Just one film at the premiere, a sweet love story in 1980’s Saigon

Final choice: Song Lang

August 16

I’ve got either: earnest meditations on gayness and Christianity (Gay Chorus Deep South; The Gospel of Eureka) or… a lot of horror (Queer Fear; Lizzie).

Right now I’m leaning towards the gayness / Christianity ones. I did enjoy The Wise Kids waaaay back in 2011, and The Gospel of Eureka in particular should be a hell of a show. The horror shorts do look good though. So! Since International Village and SFU GoldCorp are only 5 minutes apart, and Eureka starts much later, couldn’t I split my viewing? Yeah, I think I could.

Final choice: Queer Fear & The Gospel of Eureka

August 17

Here I’ve got either women-focused stories (Shift Change; Tell It to the Bees) or youth-focused stories (Coming Into Our Own: Youth Shorts; Night Comes On).

Hmm… it’s Night Comes On that’s speaking to me most, so off we go to SFU GoldCorp again!

Final choice: Coming Into Our Own: Youth Shorts & Night Comes On

August 18

My first break. I’ve got a beach volleyball tourney in the morning and early afternoon, so realistically I wouldn’t have much energy. Add in a pre-indoor-season BBQ where we get to learn who else is on our indoor league teams, and modeling new jerseys? Sorry, no movies for me

August 19

So it’s a choice between queer & trans sci-fi and… nah, you had me at “queer & trans sci-fi”. This being a weeknight I probably won’t stay for the late show. Good thing it’s playing in my ‘hood!

Final choice: Transfinite

August 20

Either several shorts on intersectional queerness (Queer And…; Queer Diaspora) or a film on creativity and blindness followed by shorts on “longing, loneliness and parallel lives” (Vision Portraits; Have We Met Before?)

Huh, this is a hard one. I’m leaning most towards the second one, though

Final choice: Vision Portraits & Have We Met Before?

August 21

This is the Centrepiece Gala! Or, I could watch Song Lang again.

Final choice: José

August 22

It’s either The Coast Is Queer, or a second showing of José. And of course I never miss The Coast Is Queer. What’s the late show? A “slow burning indie drama”-slash-“coming of age”? Sure, I’ll take it. Or maybe I’ll go home early cos it’s way out on Commercial.

Final choice: The Coast Is Queer & Jules of Light and Dark

August 23

Hm. This is a tough one. A lot of dramas with no particular themes that I can see. The indigiqueer showcase is always good education for this settler, and I’m quite drawn to the late show as well.

Final choice: all our relations: explorations of indigiqueer kinship & The T

August 24

Again, more dramas. At first I had my eye on the collection of shorts on queer love lives (The Spark)… and then, a love story rising from the ashes of the Kosovo War (The Marriage)? Maybe…

But the other shows look good too! The story of an undocumented immigrant trans woman (The Garden Left Behind) and a college student’s struggle to reconcile modern life and family traditions (Fish Bones).

Final (ish) choice: The Garden Left Behind & Fish Bones

August 25

It’s the Closing Gala!

Final choice: An Almost Ordinary Summer

Days in Pictures

The art is to show off the art: days 921 — 938

Two weeks ago I let my inner artist out for to play and mess around with paint. I’ve doodled with pencil and pen lots of times, and designed a couple of my tattoos in Illustrator, but drip painting is a whole new medium. It was hella fun in spite of the frustration because I honestly didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

But hey, isn’t that the whole point? To let go of all my doubts and second-guessing, and just go with the flow. Yep, absolutely. And did it work? I’d say it did! And I’ve figured out a couple new ideas to try for next time. Because I want there to be a next time.

A week later I celebrated my own birthday. Actually, I celebrated it twice; one dinner on the exact day of, in a place I’d never been before but came recommended, and later in a rather more familiar restaurant that could accomodate a larger party. I always get a bit twitchy around my birthday; maybe part of it is having to count the years even though I don’t actually feel any older, and part of it is having to plan social things, which I don’t feel I’m very good at. Yeah, you’d think dinners would be straightforward, but it’s quite a workout when you second-guess every detail.

Forced me to clean up my apartment for guests though, so that was some good self-care.

And speaking of social, I went back to Quests and Queers at the Storm Crow after quite a long hiatus. I’ve missed it, and learned a fun new game!

Speaking more of social, I attended Black Lives Matter’s March on Pride last Saturday. I do enjoy the main parade, but I want to support the alternative events too—East Side Pride, the Dyke March, and this. I mean, it’s time I put my money and feet where my mouth is, because (a) I’ve been meaning to go since last year, and (b) I’ve gotten in enough arguments about BLM and police presence at Pride parades, and I figure being an ally also means doing stuff. I’ll admit I was kind of nervous during the march, but there was no incident. Before the march, though, I did witness the organisers get hit with a racial slur. Good thing we’re not the US and therefore OK, or I would have totally taken that the wrong way.

But on a more reflective notes, I’d like to mention two street shots I’m extremely happy with: Richards Street on July 19 and Denman Street on July 21. Different as they are in colour and feel, I think one thing that ties them together is the people. Anonymous people, unidentifiable, but they give these shots a dynamic oomph I’m really enjoying. I’m usually really twitchy about taking photos of people without their permission, but I feel this is safe and not intrusive. And you can’t argue with the results!

Fun fact: I almost didn’t post the July 19 photo, or any of the other ones I took that evening. I already had my daily photo; and I was tired, I think, not really in the mood for creative expression. Maybe the volleyball helped? In any case, I’m glad I told myself “ehhh, I guess I’ll post these.” There’s a time and place for self-editing, but I can definitely take it too far.

Days in Pictures

Post Volcano Time: days 871 — 920

It’s funny, I also didn’t blog for the longest time after my Belgium & Netherlands trip two years ago, the big milestone that made me start again being, of course, joining Gossamer Threads. The 2-year anniversary of that blessed day has come and gone without much fanfare (so far; there may be cake or something at some point) but it’s still a huge deal to me because this remains an awesome job that keeps pushing me to grow as a developer and learn new technologies. It’s been mostly WordPress, sure; but lately I’ve also gotten into Vue.js, Laravel and AWS, plus a quick dip back into Drupal 7. Good stuff.

Confession time: in hindsight I think I may have settled into a comfort zone with being a backend WordPress developer. Yes, that’s what I was hired for, and yes, being specialised is not a bad thing, but I need to take a step back and look at the big picture. There’s a whole world out there! Besides, playing with UI stuff is a hell of a trip. We move forward, ever forward. Twirling towards freedom.

Another way I’m moving forward: volleyball. For many years now I’ve been stuck in the Intermediate division, apparently juuuust on the cusp of Competitive (the next division up), and feeling super frustrated about it. This year I didn’t get in the division I wanted, the newly-renamed Competitive 2, formerly Competitive (more or less) but neither did I end in Intermediate again! With the division restructuring I get… the newly-created Competitive 1 (between Int and C2). Is that disappointing? A little bit. It does mean I play until 9PM on a Sunday night, but apparently the skill level will be comparable to last year’s Competitive, so that’s all right. To be honest, I don’t feel I played my best during tryouts, so I was terrified I’d be stuck in Intermediate again. And if I did, would I ever be good enough to move up? I’m not getting any younger; was Intermediate the best I could get?

But poop on those self-doubts, because I am getting better and now I have the invitation to prove it. Again, not not quite like I hoped, but this feels like RuPaul telling me I was safe after a hard challenge. And I have new hope I’ll make it in higher divisions next year.

Photo-wise, what else have I been up to? A bit of nostalgia for the parts of Iceland I never got to see—but overall I was glad to be home. Iceland was beautiful, but far too grey and brown, even in late spring. I need myself some green!

A nice walk on Lions Gate Bridge; some hella gorgeous sunsets; a lot of flowers; some pretty pictures of grass volleyball; enjoying one of the few Studio Ghibli movies I’d been missing; enjoying East Side Pride and getting all political; hiking clear around Stanley Park for the first time in years, and zooming in on my crabby neighbours; and still taking photos of Sunset Beach.

That’s only going to last a couple more weeks. Looking forward to the change. Looking forward to the change. Looking forward to Pride, and the Queer Film Fest. Looking forward to all the things pulling me forward.

Days in Pictures

When you wish upon a stone: days 851 — 870

I’ve just finished recovering from the second big trip of my adult life, this time to the land of ice! Ten days with my parents, first in Akureyri and then in Reykjavik. Iceland is… special. Terribly young in many ways, yet with a history and culture that stretches over a millenium. Black sand deserts and lava flow deserts, stark mountains, glaciers and waterfalls and steam vents, that’s Iceland.

I’d taken a few strolls through Reykjavik via Google Maps, so I didn’t expect the same cool architecture I found in Brussels or Amsterdam. Everything’s super young; the oldest building may be the Prime Minister’s residence / office which is… late 18th century, I think? Almost everything else I’ve seen is much more recent. Still, though it mostly feels very suburban, Reykjavik does have a certain charm. Won’t find anything like Brussel’s frilly neo-gothic cathedrals, they’re too Lutheran for that, but can you honestly tell me Hallgrímskirkja isn’t cool? Clean lines, a geometric columnar design apparently inspired by basalt stacks, and an equally clean interior. Yeah, the lapsed Catholic in me wants excess and pomp and, like, flying buttresses and stained glass roses, but I could definitely get used to this.

Iceland also has a lot of lovely public art, though some of it understandably goes over my head. For example, I’m not sure what to make of Sigling in Akureyri. This statue of Thor in Vík is much more straightforward, as is this memorial to a semi-mythical Viking settler. In Reykjavik someone deconstructed a Viking longship down to its very bones—the repeating three-pronged element is likely a nod to the Helm of Awe, a symbol I’ve seen all over the place in gift shops, and only now got around to googling its name.

But really, it’s Iceland’s natural wonders we came to see, and oh baby were there a lot of them! Waterfalls like Goðafoss, Dettifoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Systrafoss and Gullfoss. Jökulsarlón, aka “Glacier Lagoon”, a lagoon filled with little icebergs we got to see up close; the Diamond Beach, just downstream from it. Cliffs covered in screeching birds. Scraggly forests. 11PM sunsets.

Some locals aren’t happy. Iceland has built a lot of infrastructure in the last few decades, but a lot of it seems to be just for the benefit of tourists. And they’re coming in in droves, sometimes with little respect for local cultures, knowledge of what’s where, how to get around, and how not to harm ecologically sensitive environments. A good example would be those hundreds of folks in big-ass cruise ships that may go whale watching but otherwise don’t contribute to local economies. This is the best of bad situations, I hear; after the financial crisis 10 years ago, Iceland could have actually sold off some of its land, but chose to sell off views of it, and the tourism industry massively took off. So it could be worse, but not everybody’s happy about turning Iceland into The Iceland Experience™.

Unlike my other trip two years ago, I brought home very few souvenirs. A photography book (The Selection / Úrvalið, by Einar Falur Ingólfsson), a fridge magnet, a novella (Gunnar Gunnarsson’s classic The Good Shepherd, aka Advent), and… two smooth little black stones; one I took from Reynisfjara, one from Djúpalónssandur. Actually I might have taken it right after I took that kelp photo. I’d originally taken two stones from Reynisfjara, but I gave one to some trolls. No, not the kind that live on the internet and yell at people, the kind that live in stony wilderness and help people. Hey, even if my wish doesn’t come true, at least I’ll have a connection to Iceland—and I may swing by in the future, to see how the trolls are doing.

Days in Pictures

All things spiky and slimy and beautiful: days 833 — 850

The other day, myself and a couple other members of the dev team visited the Vancouver Aquarium to discuss a web design project. When we were done, they took us on a quick behind-the-scenes tour, then let us loose in the public exhibit.

We saw beautiful jellyfish! in whiteand sort of dark redand purple stripes!

We saw various connected feeding tanks for these jellyfish. Apparently they have different dietary needs depending on their age, and each tank has different kinds of nutrients.

We saw a big tank full of sea monkeys, dense enough to form a dark green slurry. Sea monkeys aren’t especially interesting in themselves, but they are food for a lot of critters, so there you go.

We saw lumpsuckers! I honestly had never heard of these critters until just that morning, and they’re… kind of cute? I mean, we’ve got a pug in the office, so I definitely get the appeal. Not exactly sure how special they are, ecologically speaking. The Aquarium calls it “underrated” and “a fish-nerd-favourite”, so I don’t know. Let’s just say every fish is special and leave it at that.

I captioned this photo “Find the seahorse”, but then someone pointed out there were three seahorses in the picture! The really obvious one, centre right. Another just to the right of that, in the shade of the branchy things. And another, just below the centre of the picture, coiled around another branchy thing. Wow. I mean, seriously, good job with the camouflage, dudes.

And then there are butterflies. Or, almost. Soon, though. There were about a hundred pupae on this little rack, carefully watched by a some volunteers, with a couple just in the process of emerging. I’d never stopped to wonder where the butterflies at the Aquarium came from, and we I know!

But you don’t have to go to the Aquarium to enjoy the wonders of the natural world! There’s stuff happening right here in the city, like pigeons trying to make like the birds and the bees. No joke, this is actually really interesting! It sort of reminds me of all the birds of paradise’s crazy-ass displays, but even relatively drab birds with no sexual dimorphism do what they can with what they have.

Or maybe I totally misread the situation, and that pigeon was drunk or something.

In closing, here’s some little creepy crawly I saw on Burrard Bridge just after taking my Sunset Beach photo. What is that? An earwig? I’ll admit, I’m not as jazzed about it as e.g. the jellyfish, but it’s still kind of neat. And it’s all part the tapestry of life in the big city.

Days in Pictures

Plant daddy: days 816 — 832

Hat tip to Adam Ellis for the title

Cherry blossoms season is over, and that’s okay. In the last few weeks I took the time to take many, many photos.

By Burrard Station.

At Britannia Centre, before Friday night vball.

On the Drive, before taking a show of Hot Brown Honey.

At Chilco and Georgia, the spot where I shot my 100th photo, way back in 2017. I wanted to wait and do a proper 2 year anniversary of not just this beautiful shot, but also the rebirth of this blogging thingy. But I didn’t know what the weather would be like, how many blossoms would be left by April 10 in this not-very-warm weather.

(Turns out the weather on April 10 was good, and I considered going back again, but nah.)

And at Coopers’ Park, after a little stroll to scope out new photo opportunities for my work’s new location. I went again the following Sunday, this time doing much more in-depth recon, and going home by way of the south False Creek seawall. Hadn’t done that in a long time, and it was gorgeous. The northern sky turned dark and dramatic, and I realised: I’ll be able to do this every day. I will have so many more amazing photo opportunities in this commute, all around the most beautiful part of Vancouver. Can’t wait!

So, no more springtime-type flowers. Trees that used to be pink and white are all turning green.

Green like my windowsill.

Okay, so this isn’t some random let’s-celebrate-sunlight-and-a-new-season thing (though that’s part of it); it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Whenever anyone asks me if I’ve got pets, I invariably say (1) my apartment building doesn’t allow pets, and then (2) I couldn’t even take care of a houseplant, so I don’t feel up to caring for an animal.

Except that I didn’t even know that for sure, because I’ve never had a houseplant, and eventually I realised this was a lot of pointless negative self-talk. Who knows, right? So I decided to dip a toe in this whole green thumb thing, and got myself a few super-low-maintenance plants. Still alive after two weeks, go me!

And speaking of celebrating sunlight, day 832 was a very special day. Because on that day the towers were shining right on me. Now I feel we’ve caught up to the hour we lost on March 10. Nowhere to go but up.

Days in Pictures

Pink or off pink: days 798 — 815

I took my first cherry blossom picture on March 10. The weather still being pretty cold-ish then, there weren’t many flowers out—still, I knew it was only a matter of time. And I was right: blossoms on Beach Avenue, crocuses by the seawall, big camelias on Thurlow Street, delicate little flowers in the West End, clustered blossoms by Sunset Beach just waiting to hatch, and already-hatched blossoms dramatically backlit by the setting sun.

The rest of that March 10 walk was spent not on floral photography, but architectural. My work is moving this summer—not too far, close to Cambie / Broadway Station, but that’s far enough that it would be inconvenient to walk, especially in bad weather. And especially after going to the gym, which I still want to do in the morning. Evening gym does not suit me.

Still, I wanted to keep my options open, so I scouted ahead for good walking / cycling routes. I’ve never even gone biking along the Seawall! Like, ever. I had a bike when I lived in Burnaby many years ago, then put it in storage when I moved to PoCo, and it’s still in storage. I should sell it for scrap and get a new one. Or try those Mobi bikes, see how they feel. I’ll go faster, and I’ll still be free to take pictures of the towers and the upside down towers.

But in the meantime, yikes the transition from “sunlight just kissing the tops of the towers” to “nautical twilight, bitches” was rough. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, but I don’t know if it was really worth it.

Still, as the sun kept rising earlier and earlier, I got to see all sorts of different colours on my outings. Pink and pinkish-gold, followed by a bit of bi pride. And weird thought: I wonder how much of that pink is really pink, and how much is just a somewhat lighter blue that my eye sees as pink? I honestly don’t know. I’m trying to find a metaphor about blue masculinity, and how any deviation therefrom looks pink by default.

A fun little thought, but I don’t want to overanalyse things too much. This shot of the setting full moon, slashed with a wisp of cloud, so reminiscent of the eyeball-slashing bit in Un chien andalou, is an omen against such overanalysing. Won’t be seeing any more morning moonsets for a while, though. By the time ol’ Luna’s in sync with my photos again the sun will be well up. I’m glad I got these two moonsets.

I think it’s all about persistence… or as Taking Our Places calls it, “showing up,” which has different connotations and which I’m going to use from now on. Keep going, be patient, and you never know what treasures you’ll find. It’s showing up that let my team play better than we ever had at Queen Vicki, and me in particular be a decent captain. First time I did it for a big tournament but things turned out all right, even the scorekeeping which I didn’t expect I’d have to do, and I seriously panicked at first, because even though I’m certified it was my first time running the very, very complicated charts.

I know I still have a long way to go, but here’s the bottom line: I think I leveled up this weekend, and that happened because I kept showing up and built up enough experience points. I’ve still got a long way to go; in particular, I need to keep improving my skills in order to make it back in Competitive next year. Or even Advanced? Hey, why not. Might as well shoot for the moon!

Days in Pictures

Catching the sun: days 783 — 797

In two weeks we went from deep blue clouds to sunlight just kissing the tops of the towers. Not too long before that it was really and truly dark.

Things have changed, is what I’m saying. I’ve finally reached the point that I’ve been shooting for all along: stabilise my photo-taking time at around 7:00, and let the sun catch up to me.

It’s beautiful. I think my favourite days were last week, just as the sun peeked above the horizon. Check out the blue and pink and gold sky, and the tiniest bit of pink on the Vancouver Island mountains!

But still, somehow it’s a bit anticlimactic. What happens now? Do I keep taking 7 o’clock photos? I feel that’s no mystery anymore, especially with the time change this weekend. I’ve already seen what early-morning-but-not-dawn Sunset Beach looks like. Or maybe I could keep following the sun the whole year round, shooting at five freaking oh six in the morning on June 20th?

Or… something else, something I haven’t thought of yet? As I wrote earlier, there are no rules, I can do whatever the hell I want! And what the hell, I’ve been feeling a bit run-down lately, and this bug I’ve been dragging might be affecting my artistic vision. 7:00 is a good time for now. Besides, I don’t know what Sunset Beach will look like. Different skies, different tides, different ferries at the dock; this fixed place, this fixed time, it’ll always be moving and changing. I knew that, I guess I just needed some reminding.

So you know what? I won’t be bummed about missing sunrises. Instead I’ll be happy I caught them, even just for a few days; happy, too, that I made myself work for it. And when the sun goes away again, I’ll still be here waiting for its return.