Replay 2023

Like Spotify Rewind, Apple Music has a look back tool called Replay. My 2023 list includes lots of Lana Del Rey, Beatles, Death Cab, Wilco, Dylan (Time out of Mind re-release plus other really great, more recent, songs) Arcade Fire, Moondoggies, Neil Young, and King Gizzard. Also a fair amount of Philip Glass and Max Richter. And the soundtrack to the Succession seasons by Nicholas Britell.

Really all over the map.


Each spring Nantucket holds its Daffodil Festival. This year we made a last minute decision to attend. It was cold, windy and wet. The only saving grace was being able to spend a leisurely afternoon by the fire in the Brotherhood.

I spent a good part of my youth on the island and I remember well the cold spring weather. It was always about ten degrees cooler than in Boston where we lived. In the 1960’s my father bought a plot of land on Nantucket, about a mile out of town, and in his spare time from his job in the city, he took the ferry over and built a small cape, the first of several houses he constructed on the island. I was lucky to have been able to spend much of my teens and early twenties there during the summer and also over a few cold, very quiet winters helping out with the construction.

Nantucket had a big tourist economy in those days but the island itself was a working-class place. Carpenters, fishermen, TV repairmen, scallopers, plumbers. Those were the people that we knew. In the summer we also got to know some of the rich kids who came in from New York. Kids whose parents were from publishing and finance. We all got along around the bonfires at the beach parties (just like in Jaws) or at the Chicken Box or Prestons. Nobody put on airs. And there were also the famous people. Ringo would tie up his yacht near Straight Wharf. Fred Rogers and the Stillers shopped at the First National, where my sister sold them fruits and veggies. All regular people. No one made a fuss.

But Nantucket has changed since those days. Big money took over. Many working class families have been priced off the island. The merely rich have been pushed out by the mega-wealthy. The old hardware store is a boutique selling designer bags. Land Rovers outnumber Jeeps. Money permeates the place.

So my trip to the Daffodil Festival was both nostalgic and sad. It was great to walk around my old haunts but the island I knew is long gone.

DP Demise

I was disappointed to read that DPReview is shutting down. Their gear reviews were always comprehensive and well organized. You could drill into the details or jump ahead to the conclusion. A must check before any camera or lens purchase. I hadn’t realized that Amazon had purchased them back in 2007. And now, along with the layoffs, Amazon apparently sees this as another cost cutting move. Too bad.

The good news is that the DPReview video team of Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake is staying together and moving to PetaPixel.

Portugal 2023

We spent a month in Lisbon this winter, staying in the Amoreiras neighborhood. The vibe was friendly and relaxed. Lots of great restaurants. Reasonable cost of living. Nice weather. I would recommend it. Oh, and I brought my camera.

New Street Photography Setup

I’ve written in the past about the cameras I use for travel and landscape. Generally, I’d use one of the Leica SL’s along with the 24-90 Vario-Elmarit zoom. That setup can handle pretty much any situation as long as there’s sufficient light. I might also throw an L-mount 50mm Summilux into the bag as well for those low light situations. Those are two heavy lenses. And then there are the accessories, batteries, filters, etc. All this is starting to weigh me down as I get older, especially if I want to be reasonably quick on my feet all day and be able to climb or squat for vantage.

So on a recent month-long photography trip to Lisbon and Porto — both notoriously hilly cities — I reassessed my setup, aiming to downsize. I decided on a Leica M-11 and the new 35mm close-focus Summilux, which luckily became available just a week before I left. One camera. One lens. Hopefully a good setup to do some street photography, too.

I usually shoot street with a 50mm but I was open to trying something new with the 35mm.

With the 50mm, my default setting is to open up to f1.4 and zone focus to isolate the subject. That’s always been the style I aim for. It’s a distinctive look. If I need to open my depth of field I would jump up to f5.6 for that scene and then reset back to f1.4.

With the 35mm I reversed things. This approach was more scene-specific rather than subject-specific. This time f8 was my default and I jumped down to 1.4 only when I wanted to isolate a subject or needed more light. A more traditional street photography approach.

This worked well in the alleyways and small streets in and around Lisbon and Porto. I was happy with the images I got. Some were shot wide-open but most were full-in-focus street shots. Every once in a while I came across an irresistible landscape (or cityscape, as below) and this lens and camera combo rose to those occasions as well.

I”m still heavily invested in the SL ecosystem of cameras and lenses, and I still love 50mm, but I have to say the M11 and new 35mm Summilux are just fantastic (and light) photographic tools.

Deer tics

When I get restless I usually grab a camera and head off to one of the many trails in the area. I never really worried about ticks. But apparently sometime in early December I was bitten by a deer tick and infected with something I had never heard of: babesiosis. But I had no idea.

After several days of weakness and high fever I checked in at the local clinic where they advised me to wait and see if it went away on its own. It didn’t. I finally saw a doctor who immediately honed in on babesiosis. He drew some blood and recognized the signs of the parasitic blood infection. It was severe enough that he told me to head right to the ER where they confirmed the diagnosis, admitted me and pumped me with antibiotics over three days. Then another week of home care with more antibiotics. Not a fun month.

Anyway, something to think about when walking on the trails here in Massachusetts, even in early winter.

No excuses

Eric Adams by Maureen Dowd:

“Listen, I got to live up to the job,” he said. “I got to turn around the economy. I have to make the city safe. I have to educate children and there’s no excuses. It shouldn’t be, ‘Oh, you are a Black man. We’re going to give you a pass.’ No, I don’t want a pass. I’m responsible for that woman being shot today. My job is to make sure she could walk down a block pushing a carriage without being assassinated. I’m going to live up to my responsibility, but don’t stack the deck.

A material adverse effect

Matt Levine brings us up to speed on Elon Musk’s attempt to get out of the deal he signed to acquire Twitter for $54.20 per share. Musk is obligated to the deal unless he can establish that Twitter isn’t providing important business fundamentals, including the methodology that they used in determining the percentage of bots among the user base. But Twitter can’t open their kimono on that without revealing sensitive private user data to Musk.

Musk’s lawyers say he’d be happy to sign an NDA. Although, as Levine points out, based on Musk’s history it’s not that simple.

If you give him sensitive user data he is just absolutely going to tweet about it, and trusting his promises not to would be dumb. And if he does break his promises, what can Twitter do? Sue him to call off the deal? Twitter doesn’t want to call off the deal. Musk does!

So he wins and the shareholders lose? Maybe, maybe not. But who knows? With Musk nothing is ever a sure bet. In any case, watching this deal evolve is like having a bonus extra season of Silicon Valley to watch.

Gonna make a record in the month of May

This past May was a big month for music. Arcade Fire released a new album: We. Some reviewers panned it. Others liked it. I fall somewhere in the middle. One common critique is that the songs sound like repackaged early Bowie. There is an echo of Bowie and, to some extent, Roger Waters. But I like Bowie and Waters. So that’s not necessarily a bad thing to my ears. We may not be completely original or a perfect piece of music but it does have its moments and it certainly is listenable.

There’s also a new album by Wilco – Cruel Country. Twenty one songs. Every single one is a gem. I can’t say enough about how much I’m enjoying this record. I’m still digesting it, but it gets stronger with each listen.

Van Morrison has a new release called What’s it Gonna Take. If there was a way to scramble the lyrics into Gaelic this would be a great album. Good songs, good hooks, good performances. But… Unfortunately, Van has gone off the deep end on the topics of the day. He’s always been a crazy genius. Sadly, as he gets older, the former seems to be crowding out the latter. A musical Ezra Pound for our time.

Steve Earl is back with a tribute to Jerry Jeff Walker titled Jerry Jeff. It’s on rotation. A great performance of timeless songs.

And finally, a couple of other interesting releases; Florence and the Machine’s Dance Fever and Omnium Gatherum from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Both are worth checking out.