Friday, December 30, 2011


Looks ugly and dirty at first.  Because it is.  But look closer, and there's a lot to learn.  Each shape has tons of implications.  Things so precise you can really screw them up.  Millions of explosions have happened right there in the dark across tens of thousands of miles - desert, plains, forest, mountains.  Hours upon hours it has been a red hot metal gasket sandwich with the bread sliced just so.  Hope I can get it to burn again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tis the season

Maybe a little tasteless for the colonial race to brandish - yet effective.  The sight of an enthusiastic white man on a terraformed pacific island surrounded by invasive species... it's only iterative.  It wasn't long ago, Christmas is summer on the beach.  Richard Candler, everybody.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Primitive motorcycles

Today will be a mechanical day.  Lines on cars, motorcycles, surfboards and horses are sometimes what make people waste so much time on them.  The right lines on a horse can make it priceless.  They're not mass produced.  You can't order an '87 Steppe Trotter and expect it to look like anything else.  They're all one of a kind, special snowflakes.  So analog.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Well, the ante has been upped.  For good.  All.I.Can is one of the most remarkable films I've ever seen.  A piece.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


"I have maybe 200 motorcycles. / I never counted. / I don't have any money.  If I got some money, I'd buy a motorcycle."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Morning mist

The Bend is shrouded this morning.  Everything solid is frosted.  It's cold, the sun is coming up.  That dendritic rime on your windshield is pure deposited vapor.  Lookout Mountain, Stringer's Ridge, the Moon Pie Factory, and the power grid are cloaked.  Night has chilled the air, but the river is still warm from yesterday's upstream sun.  It's not a breath of fresh alpine clouds, but I'll take it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From whence

An American shepherd watches his sheep.  The photo was taken more than a century ago by a man who believed his subject was a descendant of one of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.  It's hard to tell what matters when it comes to the preconceptions of the observer.  I want to know what you, the reader, may see here.  I'll tell you what I know afterwards.

From a dictionary:
The construction from whence has been criticized as redundant since the 18th century. It is true that whence incorporates the sense of from: a remote village, whence little news reached the wider world. But from whence has been used steadily by reputable writers since the 14th century, most notably in the King James Bible: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help" (Psalms). Such a respectable precedent makes it difficult to label the construction as incorrect. Still, it may be observed that whence (like thence) is most often used nowadays to impart an archaic or highly formal tone to a passage, and that this effect is probably better realized if the archaic syntax of the word without - from - is preserved as well.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


It might be December, but here in cragistan we don't worry about that.  Sure, on a shining 62 degree day just weeks from the solstice, you could expect the rocks to be crowded.  Earth has 7 billion people, and half of them were probably at Foster Falls yesterday.  But don't forget that Chattanooga is made of cliffs - there's no shortage.  Trees leafless and shivered from the night frost bask in solar wind.  Light blasts down on what seems more and more like the surface of one sweet world.  On Lookout Mesa, The Refuge is just waiting for some love from Wurzel while he raps in.  It's the east-facing limb of a noble syncline exposing one hundred feet of pure sandy butter.  By the time you clip the anchors on Earthling, there might not be anyone else on the planet.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Blank Slate

Erik has scored the keys!  Now it's time to make something happen.  Visualize, o ye slathering dudely craftsmen, visualize.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Duran Duran

I dont know what's wrong with me, but there is something amazing about this.  This is your fault, Ben Long.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday

Got a few pieces of holiday mail today for various non-tenants.  They pretty much edited themselves.  Now I'm not sure what's on sale.  Enjoy responsibly.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Underground Fire

Hiked up soggy North Chick today, crossing tumbling creeks in the fog.  Got a whiff of Auld Reekie, wondering where it could possibly be coming from.  No forges or steam engines anywhere.  Mines in these renegade Plateau seams, but how does coal spark on a day like this?  Katelyn spots the smoldering hillside through the trees.  Roots boil in the hot rainy ground.  Sizzling boots, an acrid nostril steam.  Not a very sensible place for a stroll.  It's no Centralia, but it sure is weird.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Like this, but way slower.

A friend asked me what I want do in this new workshop we've got.  Yeah, this.  At a fraction of the speed, quality and coolness - but with all the stoke.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Buzzard Point

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They circle, circling.  The sun slashing rock sends spirals in gusts under their wings.  They plane and wheel around a lit ring burned in the blue.  The star radiates and cleanses, the birds purify.  Cathartes aura.  We walked up there to climb, Wurzell, Whale and I.  But this prow of boulder stone is an altar of repentance.  We sat, consumed.  Like some vernal cleaning inverted to autumn - somehow very appropriate, the dying time, time to lay the forest fallow and start anew from short hibernation.  Time to let the blazing light pick your bones clean and shamble up rickety down the mountain, fresh-eyed to the fiery world.  Carry nothing un-needed, take that animated skeleton and ramble the twining trail.

I just moved out of my old house.  The corners were thick with a bundled year of baggage, much to jettison.  Now the rooms echo with a knowing wave.  I did my part.  The walls are scraped clean and my buzzards will wait until next season.  It's good to keep them handy.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The time of year when they say our world is somehow closer to that of the Night Country - the low dark alternate universe full of mystery.  The one where people and creatures who lived before return in stories and rhyme.  Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Strix varia

Harbinger of autumnal wisdom.  Or, I guess, bringer of silent death if you're anything smaller than a possum.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Unexpected, (expect)

This has been one of the only solo motorcycle trips I've taken in a year.  It was just three days, which used to be the time I would use to get from Utah to Tennessee.  Three days was a matter of course among weeks of unplanned moto wandering.

Now it's a boomerang to West Virginia.  One day up, one there, one back.  Like someone tied a rubber inntertube to the back of my belt, put a stake in the ground in Chattanooga, and told me to run.  When you get the rabbit in your blood, improvisation works better than planning.  Glad it didn't go smoothly.

I popped a throttle cable at 75, winding it up on a strip of federal shipping lane on the state line.  Just so you're clear, the Interstate Highway system only qualifies as road in a few places.  When they started making bikes for it, we got all our metal covered with plastic.  Because at around 75, the wind feels great when you're alone, poor when you're in the slipstream of an eighteen wheeler.  Once a mile.

Decided to do surgery roadside, stashed gear in the woods, ended up with a handful of cables, thumb out.  Got a ride all the way to a vault of a million Honda parts, none of which I needed.  Was directed to a bicycle shop.  Got dropped off there.  The bicycle shop tells me to go back down the road to a man named Henry.  The taxi woman took me to Bristol.  I found him sidling up an aisle of pre-1960 Triumphs, a BSA, two Nortons, seven Hondas and an above-average collection of mirrors behind a window painted with the word 'Henry's.'  He was wearing a grey jumpsuit embroidered with a red 'Henry.'  I was pretty sure this was the guy.

Henry's is one of those places you could search for.  You might only find it by accident.  "I don't advertise," he tells me.  The best don't need to.

He soldered a new barrel on that cable.  Gave the pickup truck ride back to my bike, told race stories, talked about prize metal horses, spoke this language of shaped ore and controlled explosions.  Told me nine different ways I could have dealt with the problem.  "There's always something."  Ask if it will hold for Fayetteville and back, he says "Don't wring it out all the way.  Maybe."

Google actually just offered to write this post for me.  There's a new utility that helps you choose your next word.  I went to college for that.  Now, your computer (actually, the probability of your similarity to other thoughts in Google's hive) can guess the next word you're likely to type.  So far it has suggested a string of mediocre malapropisms, apparently boilerplate in the cloud.  As planned.  Here's to the unexpected.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Fire and rust.  The rusting leaves, the burning oil.  All oxidizing in a brilliant flame.  Leaves and petroleum, the rocks speak.  The autumn leaves blaze and burn, and a motorbike surfs among the confetti zooming tiny explosions of forgotten trees.  Bringing the present to life, burning the past.
West Virginia this weekend, through a flaming forest forged in the Pleistocene.

Friend John sends a tiny text message from the North Slope of Alaska.  Finding more - faint black all powerful sunblood from under the rocky hood.  Stethoscope to the ground.  "Up all night talking to the slope.  Drilling a well, hit an unseen fault last night at 2am.  Chaos.  Awesome."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011


When is something just right?  It's too hot - you're naming what is there.  Too cold - you can name what is not.  Just right: that's its only name.  If only it were as easy as porridge.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Leaves like solar panels make laden vines.  This year was great for muscadines, scuppernongs, fox grapes and their ingenious corollaries - jelly, juice, wine, cordial, and grapa.  Every autumn in Tennessee these puppies start to drop off all over the forest, primates plucking away, drunken bees swirling around as Ann says.  Here's her recipe for juice and jelly.  My Dad's classic grape brews have been circling campfires for years, Mom's jelly rainbow is in full bloom and Kelsey's first run of grapa is already famous.  Muscadines always mean fall, the waning sacrament, the prolonged delicious last rites of summer.      

Sunday, October 2, 2011

North Chick

Chickamauga is a funny name.  TiVo is a funny invention.  Like playing outside, but worried about all that television you might miss?  Nothing a rattlecan can't fix.  The future is for you.  Some rock glyphs here from the early Anthropocene - sure to become a classic.

The Crust

Map it all you like.  The fabric of this planet, bent, folded and riven with a thousand kinds of riddles and pockets, cloaked in vastness, drenched by time, layered in paradox, woven over with water and blasted by the sun will never, ever fail to mesmerize me with its mystery.  The rock speaks.  The geostoke abides.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Wurzel is starting it off right.  The clock strikes midnight, 56 degrees at LRC.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Stacks of it.  Orange sunburst, lisegang flare.  Skin of the earth.
Al Smith for scale.

So dangermus

When I see videos like this I always try to remind myself that you can easily dismember yourself going 28 mph in a straight sober line with all your blinkers and leather in order.  One drop of chaos and statistics take over.  Sometimes motorcycling is a frozen scary dark tunnel of wet danger.  Safety is all like "oh no, what should I do next to insulate myself from the unpredictability of the universe?"  Then this grocery-getting chopper skaterider shreds underpasses and hucks the curb standing on the moto seat in a tee shirt.  My daily ride seems more like a blankie now, and fate is that much more remote.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Jim Wright Studio

Some people just need a good place for all the things they do.  And then there are places right enough that more people come to fill them magnetically.  The place generates some kind of creative amplification field.  In the Cove, the Studio is where pancakes, music, canning, reading, pingponging, painting, winemaking, philosophizing, dreaming, birthdaying, crashing, love and love and loving happen of their own accord.  Thanks, Jim.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Catch as catch can

Here come the fall days.  Mullet last week, muscadines today.  Tides, seasons, marsh, vineyard.  The harvest is on.  Cast wide.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New kid on the block

Hi kids, meet your new nephew, el GS.  Mr Bill says you're supposed to come live with us.  Oh yeah, and you're the third oldest.  Now we'll fix that old eyeball of yours and maybe find you some better clothes, remedy your rheumatism.  There'll be picnics and oil changes and curvy roads with crisp air and glowing confetti leaves.  And I hope you get along with the other ponies, because you're part of the family now.  It's 1981 in our hearts, you'll be right at home.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Scouting it up.  Aeolian dunelands have their own sandy tides underfoot.


Sweet picture from the archives here.  Looks like they used to have an old Piper Cub from the 40s.  Some beachside hot rodding.  Wonder what happened to it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Broke.  Big baftub.  Looks like somebody kicked up some waves, ebb tide.  We was going off Stafford Shoals style.  Break out the little guns, o sand grommet.  Soar amongst the whitewash.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Barrier island: geologic
1. rising global sea level
2. constant high volume sediment supply
3. passive continental margin
4. good tides

Conditions are perfect.  We're here, foraging for wrack, waves.  Sirens forage for us.
Turtle bones, whale skeletons, Jurassic pelicans.  Tidal timekeeping.  We found some old film in one of the closets with the shrimp nets.  Thinking maybe we can restore it.
Barrier island : therapeutic.  Check.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Some edit effects are gimmicks, and some shake your chest.  From Bon Iver and Nabil Elderkin, the latter.
We're going away tomorrow to send off the summer, the warmer age.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The cutting room floor

It often happens that you can't use everything you shoot, even if it's cool.  For the last few days I've been editing backwards.  In this sequence, water is doing all the wrong things.  The eye can catch a lot in a miniscule amount of time - droplets flowing in reverse trigger a kind of alternate reality.  Like being in love at a secret swimming hole.  We shot a couple playing in the creek, but I need to end up with a non-provocative version of events.  I sure don't remember conducting many innocent creekwalks for two, but hey.  Sometimes the best way to find the right feel is to go all the way in one direction and try to pull back from there.  I decided to first do an edit of a hotter, maybe more memorable part of the trip, then axe it with the de-sexing delete key.  Shuffled a bit, I think the second one is a tighter edit. You sure hate to lose the mojo though.  See if you can spot the changes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The myth of the wild is pervasive, especially in North America.  Everywhere you go, people have been there.  Even on a seemingly uninhabited swath of sand, there are denizens.  There is no virgin land, there is no virgin art.  Everything is a remix.  It's new in your imagination, but only because you can't see the tracks anymore.  The most you can do is discover things new to yourself - and that's a tall enough order.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Life after FCP

Now why would I submit you to some arcane discussion of tools when I've tried so hard to stick to simple stories and keep that kind of stuff off of here?  Simple.  A few reasons.  1) the rumors are true, I'm a dork.  2) maybe you're wondering what I do all day.  3) as an editor, I haven't been spending much of my working life in the real world lately.  Like, 12 months lately.  Since manipulation of image and sound happen in a kind of imaginary electronic space, that's another layer of representation already applied to a layer of representation.  Which (at some point beyond boredom) is a fascinating idea for a dork.

I learned nonlinear video editing in high school, and I've been using the same program for ten years.  To me, learning to use Final Cut Pro at 18 was like understanding how to use a pen or a camera or to drive a car for the first time.  Imagine looking at letters and pictures all your life but having no idea how they were made.  All of a sudden, I could control the story.

Final Cut Pro did that for thousands of other people at around the same time.  Video used to be possible only for big studios and TV stations and companies.  Suddenly anyone with a camera, a cable and a mac full of hard drives could make their own little movies.  Tell that to the millions of teenagers uploading videos to youtube this weekend and nobody cares - but a decade ago, it was unbelievable.

Then, a month ago, Apple kind of dumped FCP by making the newest version essentially useless for professionals.  I'll admit, I was a little heartbroken at first.  I'm plunged straight into learning a new set of tools under a deadline - and I'm surprised and happy to say that's a good thing.  It's forcing me to break some old habits and concentrate again on making a story.  Sometimes breakups are great.

Now I work with about five different programs at a time, all doing different parts of that job - arranging images and sound to tell a story.  There's an endless amount of tweaking to be done with a different tool for each thing. The massive sensor inside the Red One camera generates an enormous amount of information.  Four million points of light every 1/24th of a second - incident photons electrified and stored as raw computer data copied onto dual onboard hard drives.  When I hook up those hard drives to a computer, open RedcineX and start working, this is what I see.

The fact that the data is raw from camera's sensor is significant.  It starts out as flat and honest pixel information, ready for manipulation.  You can do absolutely anything to it.  With FCP, we would then render out these movies and then start editing them.  That's very time consuming.  And every time you change your mind about the look of a clip, you have to render it all over again.  You get to continue sitting in your dark little box watching a bar crawl across the screen lying to you about how it's almost done.  Lame.  Tape has all but disappeared, but we've been living under the shadow of those filmish tape-like habits.  Digital workflows can be the worst of both worlds.  Remember how everyone used to talk about the paperless office and it never happened?  And now you have just as many papers and TPS reports and piles of memos and things you could never make time to care about duplicated in two different electronic and physical landscapes?  Like that.

For me, that is beginning to change.  This is one example.  The great thing about this new set of tools is that no matter how much I distort the image using all those settings, it never messes with the source file.  I can give a clip as many different kinds of looks I want, and it just saves little matadata files.  They're called .RMDs - like a handful of transparent celluloid sheets plopped over the original image, all interchangeable.  And the best part is that in Adobe Premiere, I can cut a whole sequence, then go back to RedcineX, change anything, and it instantly reads the new .RMD and new colors ripple through into the movie with no waiting.  What used to take a roomful of $10 millon machines and lights and 3 specialists and miles of film and hours of tweaking to achieve a single final irrevocable result now can be done in seconds by me alone at a cheap computer - and I can change my mind and redo it tomorrow.

Now, whether that fact alone will destroy all of the time-saving advancements in my digital film workflow... we'll see.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I had a mullet before it had a name

Says Mike Pilcher, a guy I first met years ago at a random Krystal in the Atlanta sprawl.  He was rigging lights to the ceiling tile like some flannelless McGuyver.  Even pulling a 12 hour, 100 degree shoot feels good when the stories start rolling in.

Monday, August 1, 2011

River, time.

Time can drag sweetly, sliding long on moments of endless opportunity.  Sometimes it is swift, unidirectional, unrelenting, intractable.  What was a tree or a forking stream is now a canyoned river, a rudderless boat.  We move like water skimmers, adept and hovering on this thin tension, the present.  No eyes for the enormous flowing body, palps to the ripples at our feet, hope only for luck and the next stride.