Art Trains

This weekend I took the train from New York City to Washington, DC. An experiment: 3hrs down, 8 hours on the ground, 3hrs back home. A rousing success.

I was blown away how much nicer the train trip was. Took a subway to the train station, grabbed a coffee and snack, and then pretty much walked directly to my car and seat. My big fat cushiony seat with plenty of legroom, next to the big window. No security hoops to jump through, no rules for seatbelts and tray tables. What a dream. Definitely want to do more trips like this.

The specific reason for the trip was that the Rubell Museum DC just opened late last year. I can’t think of any other time in my life I was around “at the beginning” for a new institution like that. What a cool opportunity!

The featured exhibition was What’s Going On? – a nod to Marvin Gaye, who went to junior high in the building that now houses the museum. Really liked the Kehinde Wiley in the main hall – Sleep (2008):


(Seeing Wiley’s work in person for the first time was one of my favorite art moments.)

Also enjoyed a bedazzled and dazzling work from Mickalene Thomas, whose collaged paintings just burst out of the frame.

After the Rubell, the next stop was the National Gallery of Art, East Building. Man, I love quilts. I loved this one, “Columns of Blocks” (2003) from Gee’s Bend quilter Sue Willie Seltzer, “evoking ripples and reflections on the wide, wandering Alabama River”, as the placard has it.

SueWillieSeltzer ColumnsOfBlocks

Perfect. And I’ll close with Max Ernst’s “A Moment of Calm” (1939). Love its dense details, making harsh, spiky angles somehow lush and warm. And those big birds are just silly.

MaxErnst MomentofCalm

In summary: 10/10, will train for art again.

Favorite Movies Watched in 2022

I watched 166 movies this year. I’m proud of that, sort of? Appreciate that I put the time into something I love. But also… probably a good idea to cut back a bit. Or a lot. Stil, I don’t quite regret it, not with some of the high peaks in this year’s viewing. I tweeted some of the favorites I watched for the first time, and thought I’d expand on the stand-outs here.


School Daze

Really enjoyed catching up on a few Spike Lee films this year. His Pass Over made my second tier, and Malcolm X just missed the cut. The energy in School Daze is off-the-charts. I love Lee’s willingness to blend genres, do whatever will drive the story in an entertaining way. It may not be a dedicated musical, but if we need to have a dance-off in a salon or enjoy a joyous, raucous step show, we are GOING THERE.

photo of cow in dim light in a forest, still from "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives"

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Completely mesmerized me. The languid forest conversations, visits from the dead, blurring boundaries between this life and the next. This was only movie last year that I re-watched right away, the following day.

two women rest at the edge of a cliff, with Alps in the background; still from "Clouds of Sils Maria"

Clouds of Sils Maria

I like the everyday-ness of this, a view into a rarified world – being a celebrity seems pretty boring a lot of times! And the meta-commentary on its themes – losing your youth and your place in the world. It just glides along.

photo of young girl wearing backpack, with view to ocean in the backgroun; still from "Whale Rider"

Whale Rider

This movie got me more emotional than just about anything else I watched. I love that our heroine is so direct, undisguised in what she wants. We get a glimpse into a community, and see the young teach the old. Ebert sums it up nicely: “There is a vast difference between movies for 12-year-old girls, and movies about 12-year-old girls, and “Whale Rider” proves it.”

two men talk in a dispatch control room full of computers and microphones; still from "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three"

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Just a slick propulsive action movie. They don’t make’em like this anymore.

a woman works at a computer in the evening; still from "Kimi"


An agoraphobe is forced outdoors. Love the blend of modern concerns – pandemic, surveillance, corporate malfeasance, cover-ups – and Soderbergh’s usual zesty presentation. This would make a fun pairing with The Outside Story.

a hand reaches out to touch a flowering plant; still from "Vesper"


I watched this one on 12/31 – a perfect example of why I don’t finish my list until the new year starts. Vesper is a biotech scifi fairy tale in the sodden forests of the north. This is sort of perfect species of science fiction for me: give me a few characters to care about. And sketch their life with such precise details that you understand their broader world without being lectured about its rules. Haunting, hopeful.

Very grateful to have seen these. Thinking about movies in 2023, I need more constraints. Too often, I skipped over things I wanted to see in favor of the zeitgeist, or feeling a need to “catch up”. And too often, I chose movies as the lazy way out, something only to pass the time. Not inherently a problem, but the blend is off. I’d like this year’s movies tilted more toward the ones I’m especially intrigued by, watched when I can bring them the energy they deserve.

On Running Away

I tossed off a tweet when I was making breakfast the other day:

Advice on leaving (your place of birth, social media platforms, etc.): Make sure you’re running toward something, and not just away from something! ✨

What prompted it was I was cooking breakfast, and reflecting on my move from Atlanta to Los Angeles a few years ago, and then from Los Angeles to New York City. When I told my family about the first move, my dad was curious why, and shared something along those lines. He was nudging for details and trying to understand my mindset – was I hurting? Worn down? Desperate? Or alive, seeking, hopeful? It stuck with me. And luckily the second move was much higher on the “running toward” than the “running away” side of things.

I was also thinking of a certain website that’s been in the news lately for leaning into some of its worst qualities. I’m one of the lucky people with a small, friendly following that generally has a great experience. I see many people who seem increasingly frazzled and broken by theirs, though. I don’t feel it directly, but I can understand it. It’s valid, as all emotions are.

I think the part of the advice above that I love the most is the attitude it implies – positive, constructive, optimistic. Reminds me in a slant way of the current tag line for Alan Jacobs’ blog:

More lighting of candles, less cursing the darkness

I’d always want to leave with a promise of something better, not a curse on the past. I’m open to the idea that Mastodon or Post or Hive or whatever is a better Twitter than Twitter. And I hope if (when?) I leave I’ve got a good vision of what “better” looks like. Eventually every escape will come to rest, and when you look around, it helps to have some standards to measure by.

Similar to Amy Poehler’s perspective I shared a few years ago:

I see life as like being attacked by a bear. You can run, you can pretend to be dead, or you can make yourself bigger.

I don’t want to wear out my shoes fooling myself. What will make me bigger? It may not be another app. I’ve got time to think it over. I hope you do, too.

Romantic comedy is the only genre committed to letting relatively ordinary people — no capes, no spaceships, no infinite sequels — figure out how to deal meaningfully with another human being. These are the lowest-stakes movies we have that are also about our highest standards for ourselves, movies predicated on the improvement of communication, the deciphering of strangers and the performance of more degrees of honesty than I ever knew existed — gentle, cruel, blunt, clarifying, T.M.I., strategic, tardy, medical, sexual, sartorial. They take our primal hunger to connect with one another and give it a story. And at their best, they do much more: They make you believe in the power of communion.

Rom-Coms Were Corny and Retrograde. Why Do I Miss Them so Much?

Is this thing on?

I think I miss blogging? I feel annoyed when I look back at the date of the last post here, and know all the interesting stuff that happened since. I moved across the country, for example. Twice. And there was a wee pandemic. But outside of my journal (kept daily, religiously), no record of my thinking, my influences.

I also miss the attentiveness it cultivated in me, when that flow was at its best. I gave a little extra consideration to what I was taking in. The intake hasn’t really slowed. But the processing and reflection, that background hum (“hmmm I might share this”) tapered off. I miss it.

So… yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back. We’ll see how it goes.

Atlanta Urban Walking Trilogy

On Memorial Day weekend I finished an urban walking trilogy. One morning in 2017 I set out to walk 19 miles from the heart of downtown out east to the top of Stone Mountain. I had toyed with the idea for a while, and figured one morning, what the heck. Why not? As soon as I finished, I thought about where else I might go. In 2018, it was 23 miles out northwest to Kennesaw Mountain’s summit. This year, I did a little morning 13-miler down to the airport.

Most of the time on these walks, it’s not really enjoyable. The streets and highways aren’t friendly for pedestrians. The sun bears down on you. Hard sidewalks (when they exist) make my feet hurt. I walk past industrial parks, encampments for those with no other place to sleep, empty lots, next to 4-lane highways, underneath interstate overpasses, past strip malls, past front porches. I feel kinda scummy and outcast, especially when just starting out. But eventually there’s a sense of place I develop, connecting the pieces, filling in the gaps, that I don’t get in other ways. And there’s a satisfaction of looking back to where I came from, and knowing what’s in between.

Like most dumb Type 2 fun I do, I’m… not exactly sure… why? But when I get ideas, and wonder what-ifs, and they don’t go away, it’s usually best to try to give them life.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. It was good. I consider myself a big enough fan of the franchise that I know I’m probably grading on a curve, but I think “good” is accurate. I feel like the world is getting a little too big. Too many characters. This world of assassins used to feel more sneaky and underground, now it feels ubiquitous. There were too many coins being slipped across tables followed by meaningful eye contact. Halle Berry had a nice turn. Laurence Fishburne continues to be simply the best at… speaking… words. Love the final pitched battle gimmick: dudes with so much body armor they keep reviving like zombies. If you can’t send infinite waves of infantry, make them recyclable. John Wick riding horseback through the city at night is very much my shit.

Hiking Kungsleden


Back in July 2017,  I spent a couple weeks hiking Kungsleden, a 270-mile trail in northern Sweden. I started at Hemavan and walked ~215ish miles north up to Saltoluokta, with time constraints keeping me away from the last chunk.


Researching the trail was a bit challenging. While there was a lot of content on general trekking approaches, I didn’t find a lot oriented toward the more ultralight/lightweight approach I prefer. There wasn’t a ton of information in English, either. And because I do almost all of my hiking in the southern U.S., it was a little difficult to translate my own experience into what I would need to have a good time in a far different environment. So here I’ll jot down the gear and resources I used, in hopes it will help the next person along. (I meant to write this sooner, but… 🤷‍♂️).

Timing and Conditions


I hiked from July 3 to 17. It was a higher snow year (I am told), and my start date was a few weeks earlier than peak season begins. When I began there was still snow lingering on many portions of the trail. Snow crossings happened on most days, but none of it was particularly difficult. It was rare to see patches longer than 100 meters or so, none of it was very steeply sloped, and I had only a bit of post-holing here and there. There was quite a lot of water on the trail – creek crossings, snowmelt, boggy sections, etc., so keeping feet dry was just about impossible.


Temperatures ranged from high 30s on the coldest mornings, in the 40s and 50s on most days, with sunnier ones briefly in the upper 70s or low 80s. I was lucky to only have heavy rain on a couple of days. Those were pretty miserable, and just about perfect for hypothermia. Just about every day had some strong winds at some point. Walking from the south to the north kept the prevailing winds at my back, and I’d highly recommend a northbound hike for just that reason.


The hut system is very nice, and I took advantage of it here and there.. Most have bunks, gas stoves, etc.. The best part is many have little shops with enough food to buy for the next few days. There isn’t a ton of variety, but if you’re hiking at a fair pace, you don’t really need to carry more than 2-3 days of food and a few bites to fill in the cracks.


On to the gear.

Kungsleden Gear List



Item Rationale
Goodhew merino-alpaca quarter crew socks Durable, warm As expected, lots of miles left on these. Seemed to hold on to mud more than other merino socks I’ve used – side effect of long-hair alpaca, perhaps? I only used one pair for hiking, the other reserved for nighttime toastiness.
Adidas Traxion trailrunners Light, flexible; Deep cleats for mud and gravel; mesh for easy drainage Great choice. Feet wet every single day but shoes never waterlogged too long.
Swrve slim pants Cut for city cycling = deep pockets; no extra fabric to flap in wind, puddle at ankles, soak up water; don’t like zipoffs or cargo pockets; polyester more stretchy and comfy in rain and in bed Perfect choice, very happy
Lightweight merino long-sleeve shirt Comfy when damp; thinner for quicker drying; no stink Rarely to worn alone; usually needed additional layers for bugs, cold
Prana polyester long-sleeve quarter-zip hoody Easy temp adjustment; love the thumb loops Worn daily over the merino, usually all day. Hood very useful for light bug pressure when headnet too hot/fussy. (Interested to try a midweight merino with synthetic button-up?)
Under Armor spandex boxer-briefs No stretching, bunching, chafing, smell Perfect choice
Patagonia R1 hoody Warmth when active; deep venting; thumb loops! Hood is still a little tight and short for my long neck :(
Polyester balaclava Adjustable warmth when not wearing R1 Kept my cap from blowing off across the moors; lifesaver for nose/mouth when cold, dry air started to affect my lungs
Topo Designs camp hat Woven better than mesh for wet/wind; broad, flat brim helps when wearing glasses in rain Perfect choice
Casio digital watch Slim, inexpensive, water resistant; tells time Never took it off
Generic fleece gloves Warmish Perfect for small temperature adjustments. Worn daily. Not great in rain, but jacket sleeves helped. These things are… 15 years old?
Rab Kinetic rain jacket Light; long sleeves cover hands; great hood It worked great, but maybe a liiiiiiittle too light. A few more days with heavier rain would change my calculus here.
Sierra Designs rain pants Inexpensive, durable Light enough, sufficiently windproof; not going to spend much on something with limited performance requirements that gets heavy wear
Marmot Ion windshirt Helps with insects + cold, wind when active Absolutely perfect… for only one single day (cold, windy, alternating snowfall and sun). Otherwise, easily replaced by rain jacket.
Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic insulated jacket Nuclear option, just in case Mostly used as pillow. Could be replaced with 8-10oz vest, perhaps.
New Balance running tights Night-time layer if everything is drenched Never needed
ULA Circuit backpack More durable as luggage than my lighter packs Worked perfectly; love the hip pockets
Tarptent Moment tent Not bringing trekking poles; sets up easily Loved all the mesh for views and bugs; managed well in heavy winds
Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20º sleeping bag Only other option was summerweight bag A little bit overkill, but no complaints
Supercat alcohol stove Inexpensive, fuel everywhere, easier to fly with Would bring again
Evernew .9L Ti pot Trusty ol’ standby
20oz bike water bottle Water everywhere, don’t need a lot while moving Also very useful for drink mixes and steeping lots of tea at end of day
Platypus 2L water bottle Camp convenience
DEET Mosquitos waking up… Essential for middle stretch – boggier, lower-elevation campsites

(Not listed are the usual essentials and conveniences – sunglasses, first aid kit, chapstick, nail clippers, small light, journaling stuff, maps, etc.)

Helpful Links and Resources


I got a lot out of Danielle and Wayne Fenton’s Kungsleden journal, and found their book quite useful as well. The photos were super helpful for understanding terrain and weather and such. Ditto for Distant North and Aaron Teoh‘s pages. (That said, there’s a fine line where you can read and see too much ahead of time…). Over on, the trip reports from Kristin Gates‘ and Jörgen Johansson’s trips in Alaska were useful for rounding out Arctic travel knowledge, as were as various forum posts. The Swedish Mountain Maps app was really useful for daydreaming in advance, and the occasional peek at the terrain. The STF Kungsleden Facebook page is good for the on-the-ground trail conditions in the days leading up to the hike. The Calazo maps are really good, and I was glad I had them along.

And there you have it. Enjoy your hike.

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts. The old lonesome house, and our weary protagonist, reminded me of Unforgiven. So much western goodness: Leone-esque desert wah wah guitar, church bells, lonesome trumpets; lone figures in a heat-rippled landscape; swords at the ready at the hip or hand like pistols, or resting across a saddle. Interesting gender themes: entitlement, absentee parents, naming children, pregnancy rumors and shaming. Birth scene seems an echo of early trauma. See also: Revenge, MFA, A Vigilante, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, etc..

Wonder Woman


Wonder Woman. Watched on a flight, which is the perfect environment for quietly sobbing at moments of goodness. The origin story can be so tired, but I just loved the moral heart of this one. The No Man’s Land scene is perfect (and well-named…). Dr. Poison is such a great villain. I loved the make-up and sly creepiness and the hoarse voice. Wish she had more to do. The line “It’s not about deserve… It’s about what you believe.” – such a great scene – got me thinking about William Munny. “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians. Family drama! Family over mere passion mentioned several times. I like the loving attention to food, and flowers. Interesting that the soundtrack featured so many Asian-language covers of American songs, rather than local originals. I like the reclaiming of the Apocalypse Now helicopter/Wagner scene. Our hero Nick kinda drove me a little nuts with the constant smiling (reminded me of Jean Dujardin in The Artist). Gotta admit I love a good wardrobe change montage – they get me every time. I wonder if there’s some meaning or symbolism that went over my head during mahjong game, specifically the bamboo 8 tile. At the least, an echo of the early poker scene (“playing not to lose”).

Free Solo

Free Solo. Super invigorating. Yeesh. I can’t imagine. There are times I’ve gotten a little bit nervous about moves on a 15ft bouldering wall. I didn’t realize he had a girlfriend at the time of filming. The feat itself was amazing, but what made the movie good was those peripheral relationships. How people around him were stressing out, trying to be supportive without pressuring and without losing their minds. Saw this one on a long flight. Other outdoorsy movies I’ve seen on flights: Wild, 127 Hours.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Second viewing (the first). The opening bombing run is really good. I’d forgotten about it – holds up on rewatch. The casino interlude is so, so dumb. I appreciate the visual contrasts in the salt planet battle. Not just the colors, but the scale, like with Finn’s tiny figure juxtaposed with the gigantic tanks in empty space. We need more like that. So many close-ups. Love the tortured silence of Kylo Ren. So depressed, a mindset to just let it all go, burn it all down. Broader theme here of how brash, seat-of-the-pants heroism is often foolish. The writing still strikes me as bad in many spots. I didn’t notice the first time around how the kid Force-pulls himself a broom at the end.


Us. I didn’t love it, but liked it a lot and it’s grown on me since. There’s so much to dissect and analyze, which is fun, but better to just stew in it and let it creep you out. Jordan Peele has such a vision. I hope he’s making gobs of money and putting into new work. Get Out is also a treat.