Whenever I see a photo of Paul McCartney, I can’t resist trying to mimic the accent. I imagine if you knew me, stuff like that would get annoying after a while.

The Year in Pictures — 2021 Edition

The general consensus is that all time, day, and season since the announcement of the pandemic and the beginning of “these unprecedented times” has flowed together, coagulating into a formless lump of frustrated expectation. The expectation is that life will at any point now return to normal, or at least how we thought of that word prior to March 2020, when it seems that the powers of the world at last conspired to draw their net around the mass of us privileged, who up until that point had managed to eke out our lives in this place without more than the ordinary lot of troubles, looking on more or less helplessly as the “others” of the world suffered for our comfort, and perhaps, in our place.

But normal is one of those words whose meaning seems to fall apart upon close examination. It’s certainly not a universal condition. It can be understood only in a vague sense when conveyed to others. It is transitory. And how much of what we tell ourselves anyway is clouded by our own needful illusions or willful blindness? Did we ever understand what normal was? To anyone who has been paying attention the current situation, though highly abnormal, surely can be explained, even expected. Is it normal to think that we can go about living as we do, from day to day, forever without encountering any challenges to that life? To our assumptions? To our convictions?

It is in these times that we find out who we are. How to live. What to value. We look at things afresh. The normal takes on new meaning. Amid all these constant changes we continue to look for the light, to change our perspective, and wait for the perfect moment to… act, to snap that photo.

Do you see what I did there? I brought it all back to photography. I’m a good writer.

Anyways, it’s that time again, so enjoy this collection of my favorite photos from the year just past. We took a really lovely and memorable trip to Sedona in the spring, and I believe I added several to my collection of personal best photos from our local area.

Enjoy.

Top 10 Adventure King 1000 Videos of 2021 (Plus One Extra)

“Hey everybody, it’s your boy AK!”

So begins each video from the rising YouTube star known as Adventure King 1000. Every time I hear that line I know I’m in for a special treat — whether it be of the more traditional variety in the form of candy and snack reviews of the kind made famous by his father, cameraman, and master of ceremonies Brian Hammons (who fans of this site would recognize as our longtime friend and collaborator over on reviewtheworld.com); or the sort of treat that comes by way of new sights for the eyes and sounds for the ears — and yes, sometimes smells that the mind all too easily conjures up when lurking with this crew among the desolated and forgotten flotsam that is the by-product of failed capitalism, changing economic landscapes, and the slow destructive hand of time.

This past year was an incredibly productive one for the channel, and frankly I’ve been amazed at all the different worlds this kid’s creativity has led him out to explore (and conquer.) Computer animation, music videos, abandoned retail exploration, food reviews, gaming reviews, IRL streaming, advanced video and image editing — his shear output and commitment to the channel have been amazing. And, from one father to another, hats off to Brian for no doubt being the inspiration and facilitator for so much of this stuff. Truly some of his best work this year has been showcased on the Adventure King’s channel.

In years past I’ve done a few “Top 10” listicles highlighting my favorite Review the World videos and articles of the year, but this time after watching AK’s 2021 wrap-up video I wanted to showcase his work over on this site, to introduce you to one who I think is an amazing new talent on the vlogging scene, and whose work is only just beginning to shine at its full potential. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.

Join me then, as I walk through some of my personal favorite videos from Adventure King 1000 in 2021. I didn’t rank these, as that wasn’t what I was going for with this list. They’re shown roughly in date order, from earliest to most recent. I hope it gives you a sense of why I like the channel so much.

Abandoned White Castle - Cincinnati, OH

I read recently that White Castles came about after the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair caused nationwide outrage over poor sanitary practices in the U.S. beef industry. The owners of the chain wanted to ensure the American public that their meat was safe and prepared in a clean environment, and so they chose the color white to symbolize purity and cleanliness. The castle was chosen as a symbol of strength and security. Whatever the case, I have always loved sliders and really lament the fact that there aren’t any slider chains where I live.

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The Year in Pictures — 2020 Edition

This year was different.

News of the virus in China had already begun to circulate late last year. The videos and stories coming out of Wuhan were quite terrifying. People being welded into their apartments to prevent them from leaving. Bodies being secretly cremated en masse by the authorities. Sick people being burned alive. You have to wonder now if any of that had any basis in reality. I have come to distrust the news, both mainstream and alternative.

By February Donald Trump was doing quite well in the polls. It appeared that he would go on in November to handily beat whomever the Democrat challenger ended up being. By March the disease had reached U.S. shores, and the lockdowns began. Racial strife was unleashed yet again after a series of police killings of black men, eclipsing for a time the nation’s obsession with matters of gender and sexual identity. People marched in the streets. The marches gave way to riots. Righteous anger stood shoulder-to-shoulder with hate, the flames ever fanned by media new and established.

Meanwhile the lockdowns took their toll on normal life. Vacations were canceled. People stayed home. Businesses closed. People lost their jobs. Thank God we survived all that, but my daily habit of working away from home was seriously curtailed. I rediscovered my neighborhood. Took up walking every day at lunchtime, through the heat and sun. I could sweat as much as I pleased. I discovered a new trail system they’d built not too far from us. Found out what the grasses looked like there in the evening light. Found beauty in the spring clovers. There’s a lot of that kind of stuff in this year’s set. I hope you don’t mind.

(Kassi and I did end up taking the kids on a short trip to Arkansas. That’s in there, too. I think we all appreciated the break, as little as it was. We learned that traveling with masks is not completely unbearable.)

The end came quietly. Not without a fight but without violence. Donald Trump is gone from the news after dominating the nation’s attention for four solid years. Covid is still around, worse by any measure than it’s ever been, but the raw fear is less, I think. You learn to deal with pretty much anything. We like everyone else are looking forward to a bit more “normalcy” next year, but I don’t think you ever go back fully to the way things were. You always take something from your experience and carry it with you into the next phase. I hope we can carry with us the coping skills we’ve learned and a renewed appreciation for the little world around us.