the other day i read an amazing article aline smithson wrote about success, and i've been thinking a lot about what success is to me ever since. 

it's been kind of a crazy year. my apartment got broken into and all of my stuff disappeared. then, a little while later, my (9 to 5) job disappeared too. and then we made a website on the internet that got sorta popular. the velocity of all this stuff has kind of taken me aback definitely taught me that life is full of unexpected, sometimes unwelcome, but often times unbelievably incredible events that can change the way we think and where we can go.

one weird thing that's really affected me recently has been this website we made. a lot of people like it, and that's insanely awesome. but i've come to realize some things in the last few weeks. while i would definitely characterize this as an incredible experience, there's been a flip-side to it (that i won't give energy to anymore) that's kept me up some nights. being a pretty sensitive person, i let some of that negativity get to me and occupy my thoughts. when a few folks had some not-so-nice things to say, it was hard for me to escape thinking about that and get back to being my old self. all in all, it's been a strange few months and something of a departure from how i'm used to feeling about stuff. 

i don't get a chance to take real vacations very often, but sometimes i get to go to zachville-- and in case you're not familiar with zachville, here's a little bit of background. i like zachville a lot. it took me a while to get used to it, but once i did, it's pretty much been my favorite place to be, and everything good happens when i'm there. the sun shines brighter, the air smells better, people smile bigger and i get to be the best me i can be. money doesn't matter in zachville, only happiness does. people don't worry about how to pay rent; they put their mind to it, work together and somehow everything works out. and even if it doesn't work out, it's okay, because things can and will always get better if you work really hard and treat people well (which is rule #1 in zachville). even against the greatest odds and in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances… things (inexplicably, often against all reason, and even contrary to science and natural law) manage to be okay.

there are some people might tell you that zachville doesn't exist. and in all fairness, having taken that trip to the "real world" these last few months, i can definitely see how it's easy to think that nowadays. good news seems hard to find, bills are harder to pay, almost nobody tells the truth and when they do it's usually something you don't want to hear about. people spend more energy on hatred and vitriol than they do on being courteous, and there's way more space in the paper dedicated to mugshots than ribbon-cuttings. and when you look to the future what we see, for the most part, isn't all that pretty. it fucking sucks. i get it, and it gets me down too. 

i get shit all the time about being too much of an optimist. people tell me my head is in the clouds, that i have an unrealistic take on life, that things will end up terribly regardless of how much positive energy i throw at them and that baking cookies for people and high-fiving doesn't solve problems. truthfully, those people are right on all counts;  sometimes things don't work out the way we plan, and some things, no matter how hard we try to change them, are out of our control. 

but inside all of us there's a place (for me, it's zachville… for you, it could be somewhere with a whole new set of rules where people think about everything differently) where all that we do is successful, and all the scary things in the real world we wince at on a daily basis and try to hide from don't discourage or distract us. it's a place where success isn't measured by how many people visited your website, or if you qualified for an american express card; how many girls you got with sophomore year, or what brand your jeans are. it's always changing and growing, learning from it's mistakes and trying to be better. it's a place where just being you makes you proud and glad to be alive, and makes you a valuable and important contributor to those you hold close and the community you've built. 

if there's one thing i've learned in the last year, it's that you can't deny the person you are or sacrifice that for anyone or anything, regardless of what's going on around you. hopefully i'll get to do a lot of good for people in my life, and all of those achievements will be validating and make me feel really good. but the greatest feeling of all will come with being myself and not compromising everything that makes me, me, along the way. 

this life is bumpy and so fucking weird. people will come and go, old things will die and new things will be born. there will be laughter and tears, profound love and deep heartbreak, and amazing opportunity matched with agonizing defeat. through it all, like the arrows on a treasure map, you have to follow the right path, overcome these highs and lows, and push forward in pursuit of finding the place that will make you everything you want to be. when you get there…. well, i guess what i'm trying to say in my weird, long-winded and roundabout way is… that's what success is to me. 

things aren't always going to be perfect, and every day i learn something new that changes who i am and who i want to be. but for right now, i'm back in zachville, shit's fucking awesome, and i'm really happy to be home again.


it all makes sense

on the day when "that thing" (that's what i call it now, don't know why) happened about 2 weeks ago, anthony burrill announced a new series of prints early in the morning. i've been a huge fan of his for something like 4 or 5 years now, and try to get prints whenever i can because they're awesome and make me incredibly happy. the best way i can explain it is... you know how christians look at the bible and they accept it as truth, and they're like "oh it's the bible, so it's true". well that's how i look at anthony burrill's prints. there's just no arguing with them. 

anyway, while i was at work that day, i ordered a few prints. obviously i had no idea what i was coming home to later that night (otherwise i wouldn't have been spending ANY MONEY WHATSOEVER, haha).

with all that went on in the days and week that followed, it kinda slipped my mind that i had bought this print, and i was surprised to see a poster tube at my door with my name on it when i got home a little while ago. i opened it up, and there it was. 

whoa. i think i sat and stared at these four words for 20 minutes. talk about a swift kick in the nuts by the truth.

after giving it some thought, i sincerely don't think i've been more at peace with life and how it works than i have been in the last few weeks. this has certainly made me appreciate just how important and incredible my friends and family are. in a weird way i'm super grateful that this happened (not that i really had a choice in the matter, haha) because i've seen and talked to a lot of you, gotten and given some awesome hugs and high fives, and generally gotten back to being the person i want to be, which feels pretty freaking great.

shitty things are going to happen, and life is going to be tough, but i guess if you try your best, surround yourself with good people, smile more than you frown, and never give up... things can be awesome and maybe even make some sense too.

thanks again to everyone for being so awesome and kind in recent days. it means the world.

zach :-)



last night i had the privilege of getting to see leh wi tok, an incredible movie made in part by jonathan beller and kate kelley, two awesome photographers (and even more awesome people). it was amazing. i'm not gonna say much about the movie because you really need to see it, but after watching it and getting a little time to think about it, i couldn't help but think about all of the junk i have and how i don't really need it. there's just so much superfluous, unnecessary, inconsequential garbage that you deal with every day that suddenly it takes over your life, and it's pretty easy to let it define you. a few dollars of radio parts can ultimately save thousands of people but sometimes i get pissed when the dunkin donuts person puts too much milk in my coffee. dumb dumb dumb.

when i got home, i found my apartment had been broken into, and some of those superfluous, unnecessary, inconsequential things were taken, and others were broken or damaged. after the initial shock of feeling like my "safe place" was no longer safe, i surveyed everything, the police got involved, statements were given, things were fingerprinted, etc. and i went through pretty much everything that happens in the boring first two minutes of an episode of CSI. throughout this whole process, i was getting text messages, facebook messages, phone calls and emails from friends and family, asking if i needed anything, how i was doing. my first few responses were kind of teenagey and super annoying, with a bit of "i can't believe this is happening to me" and a little "i have no idea what i'm going to do" mixed in. gross. but as the morning progressed i realized that if i have all of these people i love and care for so much, why am i being such a whiney shitbag over some stolen electronics and some broken stuff? i still have what's important to me, and the things that were taken didn't define me as a person, so how would my life be different tomorrow than it was yesterday? you know what.... it may even be better.

a little after midnight this morning i started the day off on an unexpected, admittedly terrible note that i thought would define my days and weeks to come for a sustained period of time. what happened, because of the great people who i value more than any thing, is that this has been one of the best days of my life. it's amazing how having something as random (and ultimately inconsequential) as your apartment being broken into can totally shake you back into common sense. it'll be tough for a while but the best part of challenges is the opportunity you get to rise to the occasion and exceed expectations. i'm definitely looking forward to this one and i know it'll bring a whole lot more lessons and challenges with it. this is what makes life interesting and worth living, and if there's one thing i'm good at, it's facing a challenge head on and kicking it's ass.

anyway... the whole reason i'm writing this is because it's easy to get caught up in "things", but at the end of the day, these things that we sometimes associate with so strongly that they "become us" are just, things. in the arc of life a computer will not be the key to my success, and the lack of one will not be the cause of my failure unless i allow that to happen. so, fuck the shit you took from my apartment. i'm better off without it. the computers you took? tools that help me be great, but not the reason for my greatness (also, so much less ugly tangly wire clutter clusterfucks. i hate all of those wires, ugh). all of the work you took that i can't get back? an invitation to do it even better next time, and work harder than ever before. and the broken things from people and times that were important to me? a reason to grab life by the balls and live it up to make new memories.

it'll be a minute before i get to thank each of you personally for the kind messages of support throughout this weird day, but i did want to say this to all of you- having a few less "things" has freed up a whole lot of room in my head and my heart to realize, even in the few hours that have passed since all of this happened, that you're what matters to me, and that no one can ever take that away. i'm pretty okay with letting go of all of that other stuff, but you're all worth holding on to, and i'm sending you a big-ass bear hug tonight from the person just getting to know you makes me want to be, for being the good, kind, and generous people you are.

in a single word... thanks

your friend, zach



Cranberry Banana Bread

I've recently come to realize that in the same way that photography is the perfect mix of science, math and art, so is baking. It's so cool to mix things together and have them turn into something new. In a weird way I feel like a mad scientist in a lab. Sometimes things work out, sometimes don't, but it's always fun and I always learn a whole bunch.

It's also a really easy way to do something nice for someone. For a few bucks you can make a whole bunch of people happy. Nowadays I think it's easy to get lost in the gadgets and wrapping paper and all of that kinda stuff. Coordinating the whole holiday thing has never been easy for me either, and timing it so everyone's presents arrive when they need to is ridiculously confusing (my brain just doesn't work i this way). Anyway, making cookies or a cake for someone isn't just giving them something delicious, it's giving them the gift of your time and that's a pretty special thing.

Here's an easy banana bread recipe that's really good. It's perfect for "simple" [a.k.a. cranially challenged] people like me who don't have any fancy equipment or lots of time to sift things or be picky. It also has fresh cranberries so it's great for all my New England friends who can get cranberries inexpensively now. You can basically just dump everything in a bowl, mix it up, stick it in an oven and an hour later have something super good to give to someone or enjoy yourself.

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. You are all awesome.

(image from edibleportland.com)

(adapted from simply recipes)
Cranberry Banana Bread

3 or 4 super-ripe bananas, mashed up
1/3 cup butter (melted [microwave for 25 or 30 seconds])
3/4 cup plus a few tablepoons brown sugar
1 egg
2.5 tsp vanilla (homemade if you have it [if not I can give you some!!!!])
1 tbsp good, solid bourbon (you can really use any kind of liquor you want though, just make sure it's not cheap tasting. it'll make the whole thing taste weird.)
1 tsp baking soda
a little salt (whatever you can lift between your pointer and your thumb)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
a little bit of ground cloves
a little bit of ground allspice
1.5 cups of flour
1 cup fresh cranberries (make sure to pick deep red ones with no stems and ones that aren't nasty or mushy)
Raw sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)

(you can use about 2tsp of pumpkin pie spice instead of the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice if you want. it's a cheap and easy way of getting the same taste out of one jar of stuff).

(a) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the rack right smack in the middle of the oven. 
(b) Mix the butter with the bananas. It's cool if there's some lumps of banana. It all works out in the end.
(c) Stir in everything but the flour and cranberries. (make sure all of the spices get mixed in evenly, there's nothing crappier than hitting a big lump of spices in a cake. ugh.) 
(d) Mix the flour in until everything is smooth. Then mix in the cranberries.
(e) Butter a 8x4 loaf pan (if you're giving this away, they sell really good, cheap disposable ones in the supermarket that work really well with this recipe) and dump your batter in there. Sprinkle a little raw sugar on top if you want. 
(f) Bake for an hour (check between 50-55 minutes depending on your oven, mine's kinda wonky and needs some babysitting. A thin knife or toothpick should come out clean). 
(g) Let it cool (I use a kitchen towel on a cutting board but you can use a rack if you're all fancy and stuff) for like an hour or so? This bread's better eaten at room temperature, so letting it cool completely is the way to go. 
(h) Pull it out of the pan (run a knife around it if it's being tricky) and enjoy the numminess 

(this bread is also super good toasted for breakfast!!!)



After watching this 40 times and a good night's rest, I have decided that this is the best thing that has ever been put on the internet, ever.



Magic Man - Real Life Color

This album is SO GOOD. These two guys are from Boston, they produced by sending things back and forth on the internet, AND THEY HAVE A SONG CALLED POLYGONS. Truly awesome and so worth downloading.

I am going to give them some money for this once I figure out how to use the internet and do so. You should too if you're into it. These guys obviously put a lot of hard work and time into this album and it definitely should be rewarded.

Free download here.

In other awesome news, my iPhone got fried somehow and I got my SECOND replacement iPhone this week (they replaced the first one because I beat it up so much that they said it was embarrassing to the company for me to be carrying a product that looked like mine did. SCORE).

Benefits of getting your messed up iPhone replaced:

(1) It works again.
(b) You can do stuff with it.
(4) It's not broken anymore.

Drawbacks of getting your messed up iPhone replaced:

(a) You have to start all over on Angry Birds.
(b) I guess that's about it.
(3) Yeah.

As you can see, getting your iPhone replaced sucks and I don't recommend it. 

I am also doing an unofficial study of roses on the street. I have a theory that the ugly roses smell better than the pretty ones. So far the only official thing I have figured out is that grabbing a rose stem or sticking your face in a bush will horribly scratch your face and arms. But when I figure out more I will post a colorful chart or graph.


Torani Cupcake Syrup

It is amazing that this exists.