Jim Ashilevi “Kehade mets”

Yesterday Jim Ashilevi presented his new book “Kehade mets” in a bookstore in Tallinn. I was quite excited about the book and so was Eva so we decided to go. The presentation itself was really fun. Jim had a dialogue with his friend and fellow writer Sass Henno and took questions from the audience. The atmosphere was nice and relaxed and the discussion was a lot of fun while exploring many of the topics from the book to a more detail.

Unfortunately I have not had time to go through the whole book as of yet but I am very much enjoying it. It is one of these books that I can very comfortably recommend to pretty much anyone. I may go into a bit more detail when I finish the book but for now, just go and read it. Anyway… the point I am trying to make is – I took some pictures and want to share them with you.

Olympus OM-1 in Estonia

I’ve had the little Olympus OM-1 for a while now. It was another find from the local second hand shop and was the first camera I’d bought from there on which everything actually worked. I needed to order a new battery and put in new light seals but otherwise, all was well.

The first time I developed black and white film, I got really nice results.

I also have started developing my own black and white film. The first time I tried, I got amazingly nice results with the Agfa APX100 film and Ilford ID-11 developer. I tried to get the same result this time with APX100 and APX400 films but unfortunately the images look much more rough and grainy this time. It may be due to developing both films in the same tank and having the times a bit off.. Or it is the scanning the shop did.. But the end result could be better.

I took these two film with me to Estonia and forced myself to fill them up while there. Usually it takes me forever to fill up all 36 frames as I question each shot too much. This time I wanted to question less and look for more cool situations and views to get out of my comfort zone and develop. I used to take a lot more pictures but now I feel that when I take my camera out, nothing seems worthy of photographing. I usually just have it with me as extra weight. I will definitely force myself to find interesting pictures more often and not just go walking around with a camera in my bag. This was just the first attempt.

The pictures are a collection of things I did or witnessed while being in Estonia during the second half of August and the first week of September. There are a few more shots from the concert last week and several shots I took while wandering around Kadriorg.

Ziggy Wild 01.09.15 (Part I)

I went to the first of September ceremony in Tallinn University today. This was in part because my wife started her master’s degree program there and in part because Ziggy Wild was playing. University of Tartu had the ceremony in a church with a choir this year and Tallinn get’s Ziggy Wild in front of a spacey looking building. I love choir music but come on Tartu, step up your game!

I’d never seen Ziggy Wild live. I had however seen their performances on YouTube and was quite sure they wouldn’t disappoint. Of course they didn’t and the show was great! They looked very cool on stage  in front of the Nova building in Tallinn University (already a cool looking building) and performed very well. They are one of those rare bands where everything just fits and the end result is awesome. My hat goes off to the sound guys as well. The whole thing sounded perfect!

I had two cameras with me. My trusty Sony NEX 5N with a manual focus Pentax 100 mm f2.8 lens and my Olympus OM1 film camera with a Zuiko 50 mm f1.8 lens. In an ideal situation I would have loved to have an autofocus lens as many of the shots I took were out of focus. The band moves around a lot so getting sharp images was a struggle. I also didn’t want to go too close to the stage as there was a camera set up on rails filming the whole thing. I did however manage to get a few quite nice shots.

I have rarely taken photos of a band playing live and in the few instances it has happened before, I have had more access to the stage. This time I just went to enjoy the show and took my cameras with me because I could use the practice. I’m happy that I got at least a handful of decent images and a bit more experience.  I will try to photograph more live performances as time goes on. The part II of this post will come in a few weeks after I have developed the film.

How many lives have I lived?

I recently happened to read a blog post by famed Youtube video person C.G.P. Grey with an interesting title “I Have Died Many Times.” I also listened to him discuss it on the Hello, Internet! podcast. The  blog post really spoke to me. It was about how we are slowly reborn every moment of our lives and after a while, we are in most aspects a new person. As Grey eloquently puts it:

Like the Ship of Theseus your mind replaces itself one small part at a time. Memories fade, memories exaggerate, the new pushes out the old. It happens slowly, but it happens, until your mind is an new inhabitant of an old skull.

It is an interesting idea and I too have thought about my younger self as a very different person to who I am now. Even 10 years ago I felt like I would have really hated my per-teen self in a universe where I would have had the chance to meet him. Today I feel like I would go crazy trying to talk to my 17 year old self. While he wouldn’t be more annoying to talk to than the average 17 year old, I do feel like he would aggravate me to no end just because I used to be him – and then again… I am not him – not today.

The main point in Greys article is the importance of letting go of ones past – to reinvent oneself over and over again. This is something that I fully agree with. The past has an influence on how we get to the point we are today but it has very little to do with who we are today. It almost doesn’t matter. You are here now. 

I am fully aware that some of this may sound unpleasantly New-Age-like. Grey also brought this out about his own article but it is a difficult topic to cover without having it sound a bit wishy-washy so let’s just try to continue…

I have had an interesting opportunity to live in several different places. This has made self reinvention a lot easier as you not only leave your past behind mentally, you have physical distance. The first time this happened was when I went to the university. I got to go to Tartu University which meant moving 200 km away from most of my friends at the time. It meant moving away from the past.

At the time I felt quite a bit of sadness and I naturally I understand why that was. After all, leaving behind your family and friends (who you have seen almost everyday for the past 10 years) is not easy. I wasn’t escaping, at least not consciously anyway.  I actually enjoyed a lot of my high school time. So I ended up visiting my friends, visiting my school, my parents, my home, my town etc. quite often. Letting go was hard. But you know what? I made a lot of amazing new friends and had really amazing opportunities as did my old friends. Going back wasn’t important all of the sudden – and really it was complicated… everyone had changed and so had I.

The second big change was moving to Sweden and this one was a biggie. At least when I moved to Tartu I had some friendly faces. A few of my old classmates and friends joined me. I also had friends in Tartu before. There was no big culture shock. I just had to learn to heat up rice and pasta and see that the bills are payed on time. With Sweden I just had a job I wanted.

A new country, a new language and no familiar faces. A year before I didn’t even know the town I was moving to existed. Irregardless the first year in Sweden still felt like a bit of a transition. Since my girlfriend was still in Estonia at the time, I would try to visit as often as I could. Every time I got off the boat in “the old country” I felt a rush of serotonin in my brain and the first two days I almost felt like I was high. The happiness was quickly replaced by depression when I got back to Sweden. I still couldn’t let go.

While the time with my girlfriend, family and friends was definitely enjoyable, it was not sustainable. With every visit my friends grew more distant and in all honesty – I felt like my time in Sweden had changed me a lot as well. Something happened near the end of my first year though. Perhaps I finally found my place in my new country and started making more friends. As I had less and less free time, I couldn’t go to Estonia as often as before. By then we had decided that my girlfriend would come to live with me in Sweden. From then my home was there – no more hanging on.

It is not like I could never go back to Estonia – the Ivo who left in 2011 can’t but I sure can… Or perhaps a future Ivo. It’s just that I would have to find a new life there because, as everyone who has to leave home will find out, life goes on without you and while it can be a sad though at first, it is the normal way of things. It is something to be embraced not feared. I have learned that it is never sustainable to hold on to the past as it stops you from becoming a new person, better suited to the present. Ivo ca. 2015 is much more adapted to living in Sweden than Ivo ca. 2011.

I know that from a perspective this may be a bit harsh. Even while writing this I keep thinking to myself how many awesome people I still have contact with from my “previous lives.” For each of them though, there are many more I have lost contact with. We meet, we talk, perhaps there is even a sweet feeling from the past but we are really not a part of each others life. Not in that way. It’s no ones fault, it’s just the natural way of things, it’s life. Perhaps future me and future them will someday meet and forge a new friendship, who knows. I do know however that holding onto these things will only cause more negative emotions.

I keep thinking of this today because I do feel that a new change may soon be upon me. I have been doing my PhD for over 3 years now and at one point, it will come to an end. Hopefully. After that – who knows. I was very sure I will want to stay and do a PhD in Tartu after my Master’s degree. That turned out well. Maybe I’ll become a baker. Or a woodworker. In any way, I must be able to live a new life. Perhaps I’ll be more fit in that life too! I guess present Ivo must do a bit for that as well 🙂

In lieu of a proper conclusion I will leave you with one of my favorite comic strips of all time from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Click on the image below to get to the full strip – trust me – it is worth it.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner.

My Mind

I’m a little behind with recording new Reason tutorials. I made one a few days ago but eventually scrapped it, as it turned out to be a bit boring. Back to the drawing board, I suppose. I have, however, been busy working on a new song and this one is a bit different.

It all started some time ago when I got a bit obsessed with a new hip-hop record from Estonian artists Genka and Paul Oja, While listening to the record, I was google’ing around and found a video of Genka talking about hip-hop culture in general.  The rabbit hole got deeper when I noticed the name Aesop Rock on one of his slides. “The rapper with the most complex, abstract and verbose lyrics, eh?” I thought… “Well, let’s just have a listen…” It turns out, his records are amazing. I got hooked and even ordered “Labor days” on vinyl – my first and hopefully not last hip-hop vinyl.

Now, this is not the first time I have been excited about rap music. I used to listen to a lot of Eminem as a teenager and I’ve always loved the Beastie Boys.  And while I didn’t like Genka’s records all that much before, Chalice (also a hip-hop artist) has been one of my favorite Estonian artists from his second album. These obsessions have however, never lead to much creative work – I have never made a hip-hop track myself. This time, it was different though and after finding a background I had recorded a while ago, I figured it was perfect for some rapping and I should give it a shot. The first 10 takes were horrible but in the end I was quite happy with the song. Give a listen yourself:

I owe a great thanks to Helene Urva, who wrote and recorded the vocal parts heard in the background. I want to also thank my friend Nima, who got me the amazing Setar (the instrument I play in this song) from Iran. 

If you want to download the track or you really hate the video, head over to Soundcloud or Bandcamp for an audio only version.