Joie de Vivre


I married my person!

We had a tiny, lovely ceremony at the Hamilton Gallery here in Baltimore.

I don’t usually post about mushy stuff like this here, but I think it’s a beautiful story. I am very grateful to have found such a wonderful partner.

I met Beverly on OKCupid. All in all, I only spent a handful of weeks using that app. I had a few false starts, and I certainly learned a few things from them.

I spent time filling out the exhaustive questionnaire, which I recommend. Apparently, Beverly had done the same, and OKCupid presented me to her as a 96% match. Beverly messaged me and said “Maybe we should talk?” I agreed.

We never stopped talking.

I had a great experience using OKCupid. Due to the nature of our interests, it’s not very likely Beverly and I would have ever crossed paths in real life, and so, we would not have met. For example, she is a scientist and I am a sorcerer. And yet, we have so much in common. During the ceremony, I mentioned that it was hard to quantify all the things in that 96%. There are so many things I love about her. And, even more stunning to me, is that our stars seemed to have aligned at the right time, and we found each other.

Our ceremony was small, and quick. My colleague and dear friend Jenny O’Grady agreed to marry us. Bridget Sullivan and the board at the Hamilton Gallery agreed to let us use the space. We asked that everyone wear blue. Marie Jane Machin took our photos (I recommend her, she was delightful, and somehow unobtrusive).

Beverly designed and made her own dress, and my shirt (from the same fabric). My lovely daughter Chloë made our rings. We both wore matching Duckfeet boots.

Jim and Beverly exchange vows
Jm and Beverly Doran embrace
Jim and Beverly Doran
Jim, Jenny O'Grady, and Beverly Doran
Lily, Jim and Chloë Doran
The greatest city in America

We had a small reception at our favorite, Grano Pasta Bar, in Hampden.

Nancy gives a speech
puttanesca, my favorite

It was a perfect, happy day.

We then left for our honeymoon in Puerto Rico.

Joie de Vivre

2022 and Season 3 of the Pandemic

Following my intermittent practice of year’s end posts, I want to express gratitude for the great parts of 2022. And what a year it was!

I’m wrapping up my first year on Patreon. I’m honored to have had folks join me there, watch my videos, and follow along with me as I worked my way through 2022.

Sweaty Eyeballs: Behind the Screens was an exhibition at Goucher College of animated works and the materials involved with making them. I love this festival, and it was an honor and thrill to be included in this show. I made several new films this year, including Plasticland and the Lunatics. I picked up a couple of awards, too!

I’ve written (and talked on Patreon) about the reemergence of music in my life over the pandemic. I’ve been “finding my note,” as Steve Vai likes to say.

Steve Vai talking to me over Zoom

Which means, a unique-to-me musical voice and identity. As I delved deeper into film work, I wanted to get better at improvising, with the idea that I could set up a projector in a gallery (or somewhere) and make an accompaniment to go with the videos.

I reached out to my favorite drummer, Billy Martin, and asked for help. He agreed, and I spent an afternoon in his New Jersey home studio. It was one of the greatest musical moments of my life to play drums and guitar with one of my musical heroes.

Billy Martin's Drums

Billy explained that improvisation, in essence, is something you just do. There are exercises and things one can do to help facilitate this, but it’s very different from what I learned in my academic studies. He shared stories, techniques, recordings and books with me, and I will be grateful to him forever. Thank you, brother!

I released three new recordings this year. The Goldberg Variations, The Old San Juan and Found and Chosen. I received a creativity grant from the Maryland State Arts Council to print physical copies of Found and Chosen.

Found and Chosen Cassettes

Found and Chosen is an extremely satisfying project, and the physical copies of the recordings are something I had dreamed up back in the early 00’s. And aside from having tape loops and CD audio to loop, it stands as some personal documentation of the pandemic, and ways I coped with uncertainty and anxiety.

coastguard practice space

I also did a few gigs with Coastguard, and really enjoyed getting my chops back. It’s helped me a lot when recording drums here.

signal chain diagram

As I continue to explore signal processing and improvising, I decided to write a small program that randomly assigns effects for me to play through. It’s an interesting constraint, and I’ve found it to be a useful device for getting myself going in a different direction.

I spent many, many hours in the basement working with loops and new-to-me guitar pedals. I’m especially fond of these new additions:

  • Count to Five by Montreal Assembly
  • Excess V.3, Dweller, Black Fountain by Old Blood Noise Endeavors
  • Blooper by Chase Bliss Audio

My oldest daughter took us to several great shows: The Queers, The Old 97’s, The Psychedelic Furs. I enjoyed it so much. And my youngest and I went to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform Symphonie Fantastique, something neither of us had done before.

I feel fortunate to have been able to explore these musical pathways. I got out in front of audiences again. Adding the adventure of improvisation brings with it a sense of freedom now. I’m not sure how much I’ll be improvising in front of other humans yet, but it’s becoming a source of real delight here in my studio.

Beverly and I traveled to Puerto Rico, New York (twice), and Cape Cod. We visited Edward Gorey’s house. And we’ve agreed to spend the rest of our lives together. I am so happy!

I’ve written about a couple of other milestones, too. Inspired by Beverly’s example, I got to run across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and we completed a half marathon just two weeks later. Holy Guacamole!

Icy loch raven reservoir as seen on a trail run

Beverly and I wrapped up year two of our book club. Here are the titles I read this year:

  • Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (Music in the Twentieth Century, Series Number 9) 2nd Edition by Michael Nyman
  • Experimental Music Since 1970, by Jennie Gottschalk
  • What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
  • Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance by John Waters
  • Moon Knight, Volume 1 by Bendis & Maleev
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Improvisation: Its Nature And Practice In Music by Derek Bailey
  • Moon Knight: The Complete Collection, by Lemire & Smallwood
  • The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, by Stephen Collins
  • House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski (started in 2021)
  • The Anomaly, by Hervé Le Tellier, Adriana Hunter
  • Impossible Princess, by Kevin Killian
  • The Atlas Six, by Olivie Blake (started, abandoned)
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
  • The Haunted Looking Glass, Various, chosen by Edward Gorey
  • Elephant House; or, the Home of Edward Gorey by Kevin McDermott
  • An Honest Living, by Dwyer Murphy
  • Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami
  • Batman: Ghosts by Sam Kieth

What’s next? Aside from more of all this, I’m returning to teaching. I’ve picked up a couple of classes for the spring semester. I’d like to finish Music to Hear Blindfolded, Vol. 2. and I have an idea for an album of instrumental guitar music. I have some animation ideas for 2023, and more video/music compositions. I’m going to continue to pursue animation festival screenings, and to hone my processes for making films.

Jim and BB

Happy 2023, friends. I hope this finds you happy, healthy and prosperous.


Twitter, The Watcher, and the change you want to see

Please be advised, dear reader – I’m going to share my thoughts on the show made by Netflix called The Watcher below, and there is a potential spoiler. Don’t worry – that is several paragraphs away from here, and I’ve marked it with a subheading.

If we’ve ever talked for any length about social media, I’ve probably mentioned that all the big platforms will eventually go away. Ice melts, even the biggest bergs in the ocean (sadly, truer today then when I thought of the analogy). Remember when AOL was monolithic?

I joined Twitter in 2007. A lot of good came from my participation. I made a lot of good friends, I learned a lot that helped my career path, and it was a positive experience. Sitting in front of monitors all day in a closet of an office at Johns Hopkins Hospital, I felt a connection to peers in my field. One time, there was an active shooter in the building, and I knew about it 20 minutes before the administration alerted the building occupants because of Twitter. Once, there was an earthquake the shook my home. I had never experienced one before, and local folks on Twitter confirmed that’s what had happened. Etc.

For me, things changed when:

  1. Twitter switched from linear posts to algorithmic feeds, and
  2. When 45 was elected. The divisions in our country became more visible (to me, at least).

My feed on Twitter shifted to more news/politics, and every day seemed to bring some new disquiet. I quit Facebook a few years ago, and aside from some FB only events/posts, I haven’t missed it. As a visual artist, I feel the need to be on Instagram, and to smaller extent, TikTok. I use Snap Chat with my partner, my buddy Dusten, and kiddos. I have limited my Instagram use, and regularly remove it from my device.

So, Twitter is now under new management, and a lot of folks I like are leaving. Other’s have described the potential perils of the new management, and I particularly appreciate Dave Troy’s thoughts and ideas on this. It makes me a sad, even though I’ve been an extremely passive user these past few years. Change is inevitable, as I’ve been telling people for years.

About a decade ago, I had a very healthy LinkedIn account, with 500+ contacts. Someone on Twitter pointed out that LinkIn was allowing various people to appear in targeted ads without their consent. Everyone was opted in by default. I thought about it, and decided I hadn’t gotten any real opportunities from LinkedIn, and so decided to delete my account. I had mild regret over that decision a few times, because I wasn’t able to backup the contacts, and, years later, decided that maybe I did need to hang a shingle out on linkedIn and wouldn’t it be nice to have those old contacts? So, now I’m back on LinkedIn.

I said all that to say I am weighing the value of staying on Twitter. My pal Jenn says she’s staying. She’s my favorite technologist, and I respect her and her opinions more than most. I had been keeping my Twitter handle warm, thinking it might become useful in the future, when I want sell more of my work online.

And I have a nostalgia for when I was able to use Twitter effectively – to develop relationships and opportunities. I miss those days.

On the other hand, social media is tiresome, and I’ve come to resent platform algorithms, the influencers, and a lot of performative advice given copiously by strangers. Not to mention political hostility. There’s just so much bad noise.

I suppose these ruminations have reactivated my feels for… blogging! I’m grateful to still have this shingle, which I’ve maintained for longer than I’ve been on Twitter. I use it to document my art, and rarely, the occasional opinion. I think it’s time to share more of those, hence this long article. It also reminds me of another loss, of which I don’t think we ever fully recovered. Google retired Reader, which was the best RSS tool I’ve ever used. I’ve tried Digg reader and Feedly, but neither really measure up. Hey, Automattic! This seems like a no-brainer for folks the power ~60% of the CMS market! Why not make an RSS tool to go along with WordPress and your other fantastic tools?

A big part of blogging for me used to be connecting with people on this blog, and on their own blogs. I disabled comments back in 2013, when the gale of divorce kicked up. I wanted to close my shutters over the windows, and just be quiet for a while. If you’ve read this far, and want to comment, please email me Maybe it’s time to enable them again? But, I think the choice to disable comments and the loss of Reader changed blogging, at least for me.

I recently started reading The Haunted Looking Glass. It’s a collection of Edward Gorey’s favorite tales of ghosts, ghouls, and grisly goings-on (selected my him). It includes stories by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, M. R. James, W. W. Jacobs, and L. P. Hartley, among other masters of the fine art of making the flesh creep, all accompanied by Gorey’s inimitable illustrations.

I picked this up to take to Yarmouth. Beverly and I read it to each other before sleep in bed. I can see why Gorey liked these stories. Oddly, some of them just stop abruptly. Imagine you are walking through a rambling Victorian house as a grandfather clock starts to chime at midnight in the distance, when your candle blows out, and you step off what you thought was a landing to find you are falling, falling, falling thought the darkness. That would be abrupt, yes?

The Watcher

Beverly and I just finished the Watcher. I hoped it might shape up to be a “Haunting of Hill House” type twister. Not so much. I recently finished The Devil in Ohio and Dahmer, both good October fare. But The Watcher left me feeling much like the incomplete stories in The Haunted Looking Glass. It claims to be based on true events, but imagine if you brought an Agatha Christie novel on vacation and you enjoyed tripping over red herrings and false leads, only to read that Hercule Poirot can’t solve the mystery. Or, can you picture yourself watching seven episodes of a season (when maybe two could have done the job) only to find you are falling, falling, falling through what should have been a satisfying conclusion? I feel conned by this show. On the other hand, I thought about the show for days, and it made enough of an impression to inspire me to record these thoughts. So, yay?

The Change I want to see

I’m looking into making my own RSS reader and I’ll share my work on this soon. I found some encouraging tools that I think I can use to cobble something together. I miss following folks. If Twitter really is borked, maybe this is at least a partial solution. More soon.

Joie de Vivre

SPX + OLD 97’s

On Sunday, Lily and I made our annual trek to Bethesda for the Small Press Expo. The last one to be held in person was in 2019, for obvious reasons, and it was thrilling to attend in person once again. Most of my favorite publishers were in their usual spots, and we both picked up a few treasures. Sadly, I forgot to take any pics.

It probably reads as goofy, but it felt really good to be there. I’ve missed this event a lot.

And then, to make matters even better, Beverly and I went to see the Old 97’s with Chloë. It was one of the better September Sundays to occur so far this month, I assure you.

Joie de Vivre

The End of the Twenty Tens

I haven’t written a year end post since 2012.

My life took a big turn in 2013, and during the years that followed. My marriage ended in divorce. I moved to another zip code. I changed jobs. I went back to school. I moved to yet another zip code. I changed jobs again. There were deaths, and loss, and the sad ending of relationships. In other words, a lot of life happened.

I started drinking in 2013, after ~20 years of not drinking. I strongly suspect that, because I started drinking again, I have not written any year end posts.

My previous “year in review” posts contained notes of gratitude for that year’s many blessings. I have so much for which to be grateful. I will not attempt to enumerate the many wonderful things that have happened since 2013, or even from 2019, in this year end blog post. I will name just one blessing, which I intend to carry into our collective future.

I am sober.

Happy New Year!

Joie de Vivre

Lucky Hedwig

Hedwig the Cockatiel

Our cockatiel Hedwig escaped last week during an avoidable mishap. She slept outside while the girls and I stayed awake and worried for her. The next morning, I hit Craigslist and canvased grocery stores, vets and pet shops with MISSING BIRD fliers.

The last store I visited explained, rather bluntly, that I’m a fool for not keeping her wing feathers trimmed. They also said that when a bird escapes, they are overwhelmed with trying to find the “ceiling” outside. Typically, they won’t go more than 200 to 300 yards from the house, and they will usually stay put in a tree until forced to move (food, predators, etc.)

I picked a street in the next neighborhood and started walking and whistling – Hedwig always whistles back, it’s a kind of game we play. Almost immediately, I heard her respond to Sleigh Ride. I still can’t believe my luck – I keep reliving the thrill of hearing her in the distance. Such amazing relief. It took us both about 20 minutes to figure out which tree she was in, and how to get her down in the wind. She managed it, and is sitting on my shoulder as I type this.

Hedwig in the tree

The advice from the cranky store owner was excellent. I called to thank her, and she then told me that people will often keep friendly birds if they meet them. And Hedwig is the friendliest ever.