Enter Tumblr

If you’ve been following me here for any length of time, you’ve noticed that the volume of posts has, ahem, fallen off quite a bit this past year.

There are a few reasons for that, mainly having to do with time — as in, not enough of it. Time to think about topics I think you’d like to read about; time to develop those topics into well-written blog posts of a length adequate to do justice to the subject. I am by nature a long-form writer and thinker; I tend to want to wrap my head around a topic, ponder it, and explore it thoroughly in words. Lots of words.

But this kind of thinking and writing takes time and energy, both of which I’m finding increasingly in short supply around my many other commitments. This crunch only got worse when I started writing for Fraction Magazine. I practically stopped writing here at all. It was tough enough to maintain a flow of high-quality written output for one or the other blogs, let alone both.

Moreover, my penchant for bulkier prose seems to run counter to the prevailing blogosphere zeitgeist, which wants more-frequent and shorter posts that emphasize images and video over text alone. That is fine with me; I’d like to do more posts based on images —mine or others’— to prompt sharing and discussion. So I’m trying to re-train myself to think in shorter chunks of prose, with more emphasis on images, which I can post more frequently, yet still meet my own expectations for the quality of the output. Though WordPress has steadily improved in this regard, images and video still seem a bit like grafted-on appendages here, rather than organic parts of an integrated whole.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more with my Tumblr account. For those of you who don’t know it, Tumblr is a very simple and attractive micro-blogging platform that makes it easy and nearly brainless to post text, images, video, audio, or what have you. Whereas WordPress is on its surface a blogging platform, underneath it’s a high-powered Content Management System for websites. Tumblr, on the other hand, is much more lightweight and simple. Tumblr can’t do everything WordPress can do; but much of the time, it does what I need.

I’ll keep this blog active, and I’ll use it when it seems appropriate. I’ll also try to cross post from Tumblr to here, and vice versa, at least for a while. And I intend to send out a notice to Facebook and Twitter whenever something gets posted anywhere. Keeping all of this straight is exhausting, and I’m investigating the tools necessary to make everything automatic. Bear with me as I get it all sorted.

So thank you for your attention and support here. Keep this blog in your feed readers, and in your hearts and minds; but make room for (yet) another one, my Tumblr feed.

It will live at http://blog.michaelsebastian.com.

 

Arrival in Shanghai

I made it.

The flight was a surreal experience. The Ambien I took to try to reorient myself through sleep to a twelve-hour time differential only gave me about
4 hours’ restless sleep, and produced a strange sense of time compression. There are large chunks of the flight I simply can’t account for. Perhaps it’s just as well.

I’m now holed up in the airport bar waiting for the rest of my travel companions to arrive. Got about 2 hours to wait.

Immigration and customs was efficient, quick, and friendly — more so than my recollection of US customs when returning home. Not exactly warm, mind you, but pleasant and businesslike,  and not off-putting.

The weather is appalling right now — overcast and rainy, as it’s forecast to be for much of the next week. And the humidity, and general unaggressiveness of the air conditioning, conspire to produce an overall sogginess that, atop 24 hours of travel grunge, has me longing for hotel and shower.

For now,  this half-pint will have to do, as I hurry up and wait.

Ten hours gone

1200Z, 6 hours left, over Laptev sea between Russia and Siberia.

I downed an Ambien and tried to sleep. I got maybe 4 fitful hours, but even in the relatively plush confines of “economy comfort”, I could find no position in which something didn’t cry “uncle” to an armrest or seat edge or passing drink cart.

I can further testify that awakening before the recommended 8 post-Ambien hours have elapsed is not a state for decision-making.

Our collapsed-passenger distress call earlier turned out to be a dehydrated, sleepless Chinese passenger (US resident) who self medicated with OTC cold remedies and red wine, got to feeling dizzy, and fell out en route from lav to seat.

Nothing serious, but the Delta people were all over me and the pulmonary / critical care doc from Seattle who’d gotten there first. They had reams of forms and reports for him to sign, and were pressing us for status updates for the pilot. I guess it’s a costly pain to have to divert an aircraft to an unscheduled landing in God knows where to get some poor bugger to hospital.

Anyway, Delta gave us both travel vouchers and drinks as a token of appreciation; an offer of a biz-class upgrade was not forthcoming.

For that perk, and the sleep it would facilitate, I’d do CPR from here to Manchuria.

On My Way to China

image

2100Z, 33,000 ft, somewhere over the Canadian North.

A short hop to Atlanta, a quick stop at Customs for one more Form 4457, and yet another Starbucks; now I’ve boarded a Boeing 777 for what I hope will be the longest flight I ever have to take.

I expect to arrive in Shanghai at around 2:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, 16 hours and a day after takeoff. I fully expect also to learn what hammered sh*t looks like with my first glance in a Chinese-restroom mirror.

Our flight path takes us north-northwest from Atlanta back over Louisville, then onward to skirt Chicago to the west. From there we overfly Ontario and the western edge of Hudson Bay, going feet-dry again over the Northwest Territories. From there it looks like a whole lot of nothing below us as we cross the Far North of Canada and the roof of the planet over Siberia on our way to Chinese airspace.

I really wish either my seat-back moving-map display were better, or I’d paid more attention in geography class. But what I’d thought of as a trans-Pacific flight is really a trans-Arctic, if not polar, route. Makes sense, because the shortest distance between two points on a globe is a segment of a great circle. What’s that, you ask? Mark the route on the globe’s surface and start sawing along the line. If you cut through the globe’s center, then the route is a great circle.

Deploying my smart phone to write this provided a “duh” moment, as I pondered the absence of wi-fi on this flight.  Well, Marconi, that’s because the wi-fi in the cabin can only distribute an internet feed from somewhere else, and a glance at my map display shows nothing but Arctic waste below. Evidently there’s no satellite feed, either, our I’m confidently Delta would have figured out how to monetize that, too.

So by the time you read this I’ll already be on the ground in Shanghai, no doubt wondering where the hotel van is; our what I did to deserve the customs cavity search. Wish me luck.

Sleep? Noise and movement hath murdered sleep. I very much want to move my bio-clock toward Shanghai time, where it’s currently around 4 a.m., but I’ll have to somehow convince my pineal gland it isn’t really 4 p.m. in Louisville. I have Ambien, but I’m not sure I want to take that until the rest of the passengers have settled down a bit.

I’ve already watched “The Guard”, and I have the first season of “Breaking Bad”, three Kindle books, and “Bridesmaids” teed up on the wife’s iPad (thank you, dear). I’ve even found time to aid a stricken passenger when the call came for “a doctor onboard”. But sleep is what I really want.

Stay tuned; I’ll let you know how it worked out.

Lishui Photo Festival 2011, Courtesy of Fraction Magazine

Not sure why I’ve not yet mentioned this, but here goes.

I am honored and way-beyond-pleased to represent Fraction Magazine at the Lishui Photo Festival in Lishui, China, from November 4 – 10. I’ll be displaying a selection of images from my series 52 Miles.

Also representing Fraction will be photographer and educator extraordinaire Jim Stone. We two and Fraction editor / curator David Bram will be accompanied by two others whose names I’ll not mention lest we sully their reputations by association!

We are also spending a few days in Shanghai at both ends of the trip, where we will be mere specks among some twenty-three million people in the world’s most populous megalopolis. I’m getting agoraphobic just thinking about it.

My goals are modest: to avoid foodborne illness and North Korean prison camps, have a great time, and return with a lot of interesting photographs.

I expect to be blogging this adventure in real time to some extent during this trip, venue TBD. Google Plus has become the center of my much-reduced social-networking activity, so my Google Plus profile would be a great place to start.

A New Collaboration

In my last post I mentioned a new collaboration I’d be revealing “soon”. Well, “soon” dissolved into “next month”, and frankly, I forgot to do any revealing. And you will doubtless have noticed the scarcity of blog posts here. Hmmm.

Well, one big reason is that David Bram, editor of Fraction Magazine, has asked me to write a monthly column for the Fraction blog. So I’m pretty darn excited abou this opportunity to spew forth my wisdom upon an even larger audience.

As things stand now, the column will appear on the Fraction blog mid-month, around the 15th; and that same column will also be linked and archived with each issue of Fraction the magazine, which appears the first of every month.

The column debuted April 15th; you can read it here on the blog, or here in the magazine.

You do read Fraction, don’t you? It’s a must for anyone who loves contemporary photography. One visit will explain why.

I’ll still be blogging here periodically, but in a fairly crowded work, family, and artistic life, I’m hard pressed to put out a thoughtful, well-done blog post more than once a month. But keep this blog in your feed reader anyway; but be sure to do the same over at Fraction.