Welcome Home, Boots

This is our latest foster dog, Boots. He’s about 12 years old and very sweet. So far, he’s been very well behaved. Lola wants to keep him.


Canon Pancake

While I was shopping for cheap zoom lenses for my cheap DSLR the other day, I came across several reviews praising the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 wide-angle pancake lens. Several reviewers claimed it was one of the essential first lenses to buy for a Canon camera. At only $130, it was hard to pass up, so I ordered one off of Amazon.

I gave it a try today and I like it. It’s a nice all-purpose prime lens. Prime basically means that the focal length is fixed and it doesn’t have the ability to zoom. The nifty fifty that I have is also a prime and you have to do your zooming with your feet. I actually don’t mind this and feel like it makes you a better photographer. You have to be thoughtful and deliberate when you frame your shots instead of just zooming and clicking.

As you can see in the photo above, it’s a very small lens, which makes it great for travel and doesn’t take up much room in your bag. I wouldn’t really consider this a true wide-angle lens, but it comes fairly close to replicating the same visual area that you see with your eyes, which is is fairly wide compared to most cameras. In the photo below, when I took the camera away from my face I saw almost the same thing with my eyeballs.

Molly in her COVID office, sitting at the “temporary” desk that I built for her.

This lens is nice for close-up portraits.

It works well in low light too. I took this selfie in my basement stairway, which is like walking into a bomb shelter.

I feel like the lens comes fairly close to the look of actual 35 mm film photos. For example, this shot of Molly tonight with her Total Wine & More haul.

I think I’m done buying lenses for a while. If I buy another, the next on my list is probably the final recommendation from the Wirecutter’s The First Canon Lenses You Should Buy article, which is the “The kit-lens upgrade” Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM.


Bed of Ashes

We had a chimney sweep come by today and clean out our chimney and fireplace. We burn fires at least twice a week, sometimes more, and it had been two years since the last cleaning. He said things looked pretty dope and we could probably go three years between cleanings as long as we continue to burn hardwoods like oak and almond. Pine and other soft woods leave behind a lot of creosote.

Since we had a fire last night, we didn’t get a chance to clean out the ashes before he came. I asked him if it was bad etiquette to leave the ashes in the fireplace before a chimney sweep visited. He said it was absolutely fine, although he asked for a trash bag so he could dispose of the ashes.

After he took away all the ashes, we were left with a barren fireplace. When we first started having fires we thought this was a good thing. We would clean out all the ashes weekly so that the fireplace was so fresh and clean. But after each cleaning, we started noticing problems. The fire wouldn’t stay lit. The smoldering logs would leak smoke into the room. The fireplace just didn’t seem to work right.

Eventually we figured out that it was a good thing to keep a lot of ashes in the fireplace. This ensures that there are always hot coals immediately under the logs, which keeps the fire burning hot. Without it, the logs just hover in the air and smolder on the grate.

Tonight, we had a hard time with our hovering logs.


Canon Zoom Lens

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens

I enjoy photography as much as the next dork with too many hobbies, but I’m far from a camera snob. For the better part of the last decade, I’ve only shot with an entry-level Canon Rebel. First the T1i and then more recently the newer T7i, which I bought used on Craigslist. I probably would still be shooting with the T1i, but the video quality isn’t really up to the task of making modern YouTube bangers. The Rebel is a pretty nice DLSR camera, but it has a crop sensor that captures a much smaller image than your old fashioned full frame 35 mm film camera. This hasn’t slowed me down a bit.

I only use two lenses. The first is the wide-angle Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6. The other is the “nifty fifty” Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. Both lenses cost a combined $425, which is a fraction of most Canon full frame lenses. The nifty fifty I use for up close portrait-style photography. The wide-angle I use for everything else. If someone asked me on the spot what the mm size or aperture of either lens was, I wouldn’t have a fucking clue. I’d have to Google it.

I’m also not ashamed to admit that I almost always shoot in auto-mode, unless I’m trying something fancy. It’s hard to fuck around with manual camera settings while you’re chasing around two small kids and trying to day drink.

After only shooting with two close-range lenses for the past few years, things have started feel a little stale and I decided it was time to expand my tool kit. It’s laughable that I don’t shoot with a zoom lens yet, so that seemed like the next logical step. I consulted my favorite Wirecutter article, The First Canon Lenses You Should Buy, which previous led me to my other two lenses. The good folks over a the cutter recommend the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L for a zoom. It gets great reviews and at $600 it’s priced pretty nice compared to some of Canon’s other “luxury” zoom lenses.

I almost pulled the trigger on this lens when I noticed deeper into the article that the Wirecutter also recommended a budget zoom – the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6. This lens retails for about half the price of the EF lens, but includes image stabilization and a longer range zoom. It’s made of plastic and doesn’t capture as sharp of images as the EF, but Amazon routinely sells these babies used for only $130. To me, it was a no brainer to give the EF-S a test drive before committing to the $600 version.

When my used EF-S zoom lens arrived today, I handed it to Molly and she immediately took the picture below from our front window of our neighbor’s roof about 100 feet across the street. We were both impressed with the long range and crispness of the adjustable zoom (note: I’ve lightly edited these photos in Lightroom).

The zoom lens handles portraits pretty well too, as you can see by this handsome image below.

I also took the lens on our family walk tonight to McLaren Park and shot a few pics. I was impressed with the ability to focus on an object in the foreground yet bokeh the background. You can see the tall grass in the foreground below is fairly crisp compared to Wilce rolling away blurred in the background. He was probably 200+ yards away from me when I took this photo fully zoomed.

The colors and darkness levels of this lens aren’t quite as nice as my other two lenses, but the ability to zoom super far away kind of makes up for it. I was on the opposite hillside when I took this pic across the valley.

The sharpness isn’t fantastic either, but still pretty good considering the zoom distance. I was about a hundred feet from Molly when I took this shot and it still looks decent. The extreme bokeh in the background is pretty sick too, brah.

Young Wilce from about 50 feet away.

View of Prague Street from McLaren Park.

In all, I’m really happy with the lens and think it will be a nice addition to my current basic toolkit of a close fixed lens and wide angle zoom. Most importantly, it’s gotten me interested in taking photos again.

Blog New Music Projects What Up Mang

Offshore Country

Offshore Country is a film about What Up Mang‘s attempt to record a country music album while floating on a boat 30 miles off the coast of California. It was a complete failure.

Here’s the backstory…

About two years ago, a few of us dudes took a weekend fishing trip to the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. While we were out there losing our minds and slaying fish, we mostly listened to a Spotify playlist I made called Central Coast. The playlist was partly inspired by country-ish tunes I heard on the central coast radio station KPIG. It was a lot of John Prine, Todd Snider, 80’s/90’s Hawks & Doves / Old Ways / Harvest Moon-era Neil Young, etc. All the good stuff.

That heady combination of California sunshine, sea air, endless Modelos, and the Central Coast playlist really altered our DNA. We started talking about a plan to come back to the boat to record a What Up Mang album of California country music. We’d call it “Offshore Country.” Scott owned a banjo, I’m from Cinci-tucky, and Bartlett never wears underwear, so it was our destiny.

The Offshore Country idea was discussed often in the ensuing months, but little progress was ever made. Finally, while camping in Big Sur about a year later, we buckled down and wrote a few demos for the album (including Jonny’s “I Get Lost”). This was the motivation we needed. Soon after, we booked a return trip to record Offshore Country.

Fast forward to November 2019. Scott, Bartlett, Matt, and I met in Santa Barbara and set sail on Scott’s boat, the Hale Kai, back to the Channel Islands. Armed with little more than 3 unfinished demos, this would be both a writing and recording studio session.

We spent two days and nights aboard the boat, bouncing island to island. We wrote, recorded, and drank around the clock, only taking breaks for fishing, swimming, and eating. We anchored offshore a few times and paddled surfboards to the islands. We dove off the roof of the boat into the chilly Pacific. Bartlett became one with the seals and snorkeled in the shallow kelp forest off of Sant Rosa Island. It was a magical weekend.

Upon arrival back at Santa Barbara Harbor, we now had another half dozen or so demos in the bank. Our plan was to get together again soon on land and finish the those songs in the studio. This was November and nothing has happened since then. Everyone got busy with their own lives and did’t have time to record bad country music. By the time the pandemic hit, it was obvious we weren’t going to finish the album any time soon. During quarantine boredom, I decided that I should try to mix down what we had already recorded and use those songs in the video you are watching here today.

Is this the best music What Up Mang has recorded to date? Definitely not. It’s pretty clear from our output that we ain’t no country musicians (most of the songs we wrote didn’t even sound like country). But that’s not the point. The point is that we went out on the ocean for a few days, played some music, and had some good times with friends. That’s all that you can ask for these days.


Offshore Country What Up Mang

Watch Offshore Country on YouTube

New Music

Caribou ‘Suddenly’

Caribou ‘Suddenly’

I’ve been listening to the new Caribou record Suddenly on repeat for about the last two weeks. This is modern electronic music at it’s finest.

The standout track on the album is “You and I“. I really dig the delay effect on the high hat/stick sound.

He recently did an AMA on Reddit and talked a lot about the influences behind the album and how he made it. It’s a super interesting read and made me appreciate and understand the record a whole lot more.

He also shared a 1,000+ track Spotify mixtape that he put together of his favorite music. It’s full of rare gems: Caribou’s The Longest Mixtape


Who Invented the Ollie?

The best skateboarding show on the internet, Jeff Grosso’s Loveletters to Skateboarding, is back with a new episode about the history of the ollie. It completely blows my mind that the ollie was first invented on a vert ramp and not on the street.


Bob Weir and Wolf Bros NPR Tiny Desk Concert

National treasure, Bob Weir, has a new side project called Wolf Bros featuring super producer Don Was on bass and Jay Lane from Primus on drums. They sound pretty tight on this recent Tiny Desk concert.

Here’s all you need to know about the Wolf Bros:

The new trio teams Weir with Don Was, the ever-busy producer, bassist, and head of Blue Note Records who somehow found time to tour with Dead & Company (in between producing albums by Mayer, the Rolling Stones, and Gregg Allman), and Jay Lane, the RatDog and Primus drummer who first played with Weir in the early ’90s. These are players who know each other’s moves well, but the idea behind Bob Weir and Wolf Bros is a new one for them all. “For a while now I’ve been itchin’ to explore our songs in a trio setting,” Weir explains. “An upright bass, my acoustic or electric guitar, a drummer.” Last spring, he finally scratched that itch when he enlisted Was and Lane to try out some Dead songs and “tunes from my back pages.” The result was, as he says, “big fun.” Fans can expect a take on Dead classics that’s more acoustic and jazz-based than the freewheeling jams of Dead & Company. Then again, with Weir at the helm, it may be wiser to expect the unexpected.


Celebrating Gandhi’s 150th Birthday in India

I traveled to India earlier this month and got to experience Gandhi’s 150th birthday celebration while I was there. The holiday is officially known as Gandhi Jayanti and marked by prayer services and tributes across the country. It felt similar to MLK day in the US where school, work, and government are closed. One big difference is that it’s a dry holiday, which means for scoundrels like you and me, no booze (an awful surprise as you can see in the video below). This was my second visit to India and it was a very special and life-changing experience. I was lucky to be off of work for the holiday and spent the day exploring Gandhi Park and the Commercial district in Bangalore looking for shorts. Apparently, grown men in India don’t wear shorts.

Check my video of the whole ordeal and smash that YouTube Subscribe button if you dig it.


The Last Black Man in San Francisco

I saw this film the other day and it blew me away. It’s beautifully shot and captures what it feels like to live in San Francisco better than any other movie I can recall. It was made by two native San Franciscan’s, Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot, who funded it with a successful Kickstarter campaign. This City can be a small town and I’m really surprised I didn’t hear about this movie until Thrasher posted about it when it was released:

THERE ARE A HUNDRED AND ONE REASONS why this film is important to Thrasher. It’s about the city we call home. It’s about a city that, in allowing rapid transformation in the last twenty years, has evicted the color and vibrancy that made San Francisco unlike any other place on the planet. It’s about a young man and his skateboard and the freedom that a simple plank of wood and wheels can provide. The film’s main character Jimmie Fails is not literally the LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, but forgive him for feeling that way. Over the last couple decades the black population of our city has been decimated, with big money interests obliterating diversity in a town that has long touted its inclusiveness. Sadly, the woes extend beyond skin color, as the term LAST stands for many of us. We’re talking last artists, last musicians, last dreamers, as our city becomes a playground for newcomers with six figure salaries.

We don’t do film reviews and I’m far from qualified to be a critic, but I’d like to tell you more about why we urge you to go see this movie. Studios make movies set San Francisco and then they go film it in Vancouver or some shit. Native son and director Joe Talbot insisted the entire production take place in SF and much of it was filmed on Innes Street in Hunters Point, quite literally Thrasher’s backyard. The film is based around the life of Jimmie Fails and Joe is his best friend. This isn’t some contrived Hollywood tale designed to pull at your heartstrings. This is two homies, from very different backgrounds, brought together by the cosmic forces of our city, capturing the beautiful and grotesque aspects of a place at war with its identity. Jimmie is a skateboarder and skateboarding is woven into the tapestry of this movie, from the opening scene to guest appearances from Daewon Song and Andy Roy, to hill-bombing stuntwork from Thrasher’s very own Nile Gibbs.

Here’s the trailer:

Being a San Francisco Victorian house nut, I drove past the house where the movie was filmed. It’s located on South Van Ness Avenue in the Mission District and looks mostly the same as it does in the film. My only complaint about the accuracy of the movie is that they say the house was built in the 1850s, but to anyone who knows anything about San Francisco architecture it’s obvious that this house dates from the 1880s or 1890s (it was actually built in 1889). A minor complaint.

Here’s a really interesting article about the history of the house, written by someone who lived there as a renter.

Photo I took of the Last Black Man in San Francisco house at 959 South Van Ness Avenue