Pretty fireworks, and this journey is done

Celebration of Light fireworks show. Vancouver, June 30. GIF by Andrew Mackay

Celebration of Light fireworks show. Vancouver, June 30.
GIF by Andrew Mackay

The trip is over, and I have come back to the United States. Here’s a gif I made of the epic Celebration of Light fireworks competition that Vancouver has each summer.

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Syria’s civil war machine keeps chugging

Last week an estimate came out; with over 1,700 dead, the third week in July may have been the deadliest in the Syrian conflict to date. This combines with a press conference held by a regime defector who has tens of thousands of pictures of dead Syrians, who had been brutally tortured. This man surfaced back in January, which led to a post I made located here, which links to a gallery of photos, most not for the faint of heart.

Destruction in the middle of Homs, Syria. Credit: Yazen Homsy, Reuters

In the international community, a cadre has long hoped that the Syrian conflict would reach a stalemate. The parties would then be open to a negotiated settlement, and large-scale violence would cease.

There has been no slowing down. Syria’s army, the Free Syrian Army, the fundamentalists, the Kurds, and all the other groups trying to survive are not out of will and fight.

Assad’s regime continues to get heavy weapons from Russia, while the Islamic State is now making huge sums from the oil fields it has captured. As long as the various factions have the money and arms to sustain a struggle, the idea of a lasting peace seems absurd.

 

 

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So much blog data, what to do, what to think?

This is a rambling meta post, because on occasion it feels like the right time to talk shop.

One thing that has become much easier and cheaper to figure out in recent years, when writing a blog, is how much traffic you are getting and where it is coming from. WordPress gives you a statistics page that captures both incoming and outgoing traffic, and gives you a good sense of even minor developments. For instance, daily traffic is given in both views and visitors. At least in a blog like that the two tend to be the same or close together. If there’s a lot of views with not many visitors, you know someone is binge-reading your blog for whatever reason. A strange sense of pride results.

Having so much information can cause an identity crisis of sorts, though. In the past year, traffic here has risen considerably. Though not very high compared to mainstream blogs, July 2014 will end up being about 250% the traffic of September 2013. Unspoken Politics has gone from a writing exercise with very little traffic to a healthy enterprise.

What the metrics tell me- views, likes, subscriptions- is that the things I get the most fun out of writing isn’t what gets new readers. I’ve tried to make the core of this website fact-based analysis of current events. Below that, the odd polemic is pretty refreshing. Tier three is poetry and news photography, which gets way more attention than the previous two. Not that I don’t like writing poetry, it’s a great way to work on certain writing skills that could always use practice, but it’s a side gig. The reason poetry showed up to begin with is that I didn’t want the site to lie dormant when I didn’t have the time or will to post a substantive prose piece.

This is a State of the Union, I suppose. The blog is doing better each month, the content seems to be well-received, and this endeavor will continue. If I end up doing a college radio show this fall, there may be some new stuff about music. We’ll see.

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Rusting trees

Sign Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon. Photo by Andrew Mackay

Sign Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon.
Photo by Andrew Mackay

What is a city
but a forest of slowly
rusting trees.

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Mystique breeds

Fish Creek, Hyder, Alaska at dark. Photo by Andrew Mackay.

Fish Creek, Hyder, Alaska at dark.
Photo by Andrew Mackay.

Mystique breeds in dark spaces
as light wanes, fades, dims, and disappears
the river obeys no
noise ordinance
its rushing gains majesty
performing with a symphony of crickets
as the backing band.

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Now, another stranger

Panorama of mountains west of Mount Whistler, British Columbia.

Panorama of mountains west of Mount Whistler, British Columbia.

By the way, you can click on any of these travel photos to see the big version. These are all huge pictures, you just have to keep them to a certain width to fit within the blog template.

Coming back into civilization, it is impressive how quickly you go from having some sense of familiarity with strangers to gaining complete detachment and anonymity. For most of this trip, there has been only one major road, with junctions often hundreds of miles apart. Thus you may pass a car or some cyclists, or they may pass you. At some point down the line, you will see them again. There is a sense of shared journey even if you don’t know anything beyond their car and the origin of their license plates (I played the game, and ended up with 34 US states and nine Canadian provinces).

Whistler is a giant tourist facility, even in summer. Besides mountain bikers and upscale shopping types, huge summer programs ferry blue-hatted upper-middle class children to the chair lifts and from activity to activity. This is the familiar feeling: to be lost amidst a large crowd going a million different directions. Even at home in the Bay Area, this is the environment I live in. At some point there are too many people and too many agendas and destinations. It feels odd to come from rural British Columbia and enter the system as a temporary outsider. No wonder people have culture shock when they move to a city, or from a rural environment to a developed country.

Black Tusk, Coast Mountains, British Columbia.

Black Tusk, Coast Mountains, British Columbia.

The natural scenery is now behind me, to be replaced tomorrow with the spectacle of the Vancouver Celebration of Light.

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Smiles, sparkling

Mountains north of Whistler, British Columbia.

Mountains north of Whistler, British Columbia.

The water locks eyes with the sky
and smiles, sparkling
for under a clear,
fatherly sun,
there is no place
for quarrel.

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