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Off Topic: "Practical Field Guide to Alien Abduction" and "Woodlands"

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

I've thrown a lot of digital spaghetti at the online, virtual wall in at attempt to make something stick. For many years I made electronic, sample-based music under the name, "the Opponent Process" (tOP or Process, for short). I tried print-on-demand t-shirts with Threadless, print-on-demand art/photography with ImageKind, and print-on-demand books with Blurb. Probably my most successful creative endeavour has been my participation on Flickr (here are 25 best-ofs). I haven't uploaded anything new there for many years, but my stats show my maxed-out free account allowance of 1000 photos have 1.3 million views. Not bad. I've donated 150 photos to the Creative Commons, many of them among my very best work.

For the last six months I have experienced a real creative renaissance, enhanced and augmented by the Quar. I started this project, definitely a creative expression, and started taking more photos. I even resurrected my old, barely used Instagram account. Check it out, I have some shots on there that I am really happy with.

Because WhyTheAlgarve is being figured out as I go along, and also because I have decided to inject quite a bit of my personality into this thing, I've decided to showcase some of this older creative work. Feel free to ignore it if you are just here for the Portugal. :-)

Of the three books I completed with Blurb, I like "Practical Field Guide to Alien Abduction" the most. It's an extended joke taken seriously. Assuming that alien abduction is real (a big ask), the book tells you what you need to know in order to be prepared for that experience, maximize the chances of survival and, if possible/desired, return to Earth. Really, it's a (hopefully) clever way to deliver a picture book. I used to really enjoy (and will again, I think) taking my photographs and manipulating them. I began to realize that the variations in hue and shade that gives dimensionality to pristine (i.e., not manipulated) photos can also give dimensionality to manipulated photos. That lets me create surreal and abstract images that have weight and substance to them. Loving symmetry as much as I do helps a lot, too.

Don't discount the alien abduction advice, though. I thought about it a lot, taking the premise through to logical conclusions. If you had the choice, what would you bring along with you? What would your "go bag" have in it? Wouldn't it make sense to have two of them, a mobile version you always keep with you and more complete version kept at home? What are you going to eat and drink? What if your alien hosts don't know what red curry chicken and basmati are? What if the only meaningful form of "currency" out there is data? What should you bring? How should you bring it? Will art interest some aliens, while others are more intrigued by our understanding of science? Just a few of the questions I thought about and tied to answer.

It's a fun book, as much for the writing as the imagery. I never really sold any, but then also I never really tried to market it in any way. This is typical of me - all about making it and not so good at spreading it around. I'm hoping to use some the lessons I have learned, apply them to WhyTheAlgarve, and market this project more effectively. The biggest difference between this website and previous efforts is that WhyTheAlgarve can be a source of ongoing and ever-fresh content. Content is key, and regularly updated content is even more key. That's what is so great about the Algarve and Portugal - never ending sources of material upon which to make content, and very attractive material at that. A website passionately dedicated to skin callouses will find some kind of audience, but probably not as wide and diverse as those people who like the kind of lifestyle and environment that Portugal has to offer.

This post is becoming dangerously on-topic. Time to reset:

Here are a couple of links about the extremely troubling place that was Woodlands: Woodlands; A very good look at Woodlands.

While I might like my Alien book the most, "Woodlands" is the book I am most proud of.

The history of this place is too big and complex to get into here with any detail. See the above links for all the information one might need. In a nutshell, though, Woodlands was a large institution that, for most of its existence, housed mentally handicapped children and adults. Lots of abuse - emotional, physical, and sexual. There is a painful amount of resonance here for me, personally, because if Rowan had been born a couple of decades earlier, this is where he would have wound up and, being nonverbal, I shudder to think of what he might have been exposed to. It was so bad that some ex-inmates refer to themselves as "Survivors of Woodlands."

I visited the last remnant of Woodlands three times in 2008, shortly before it burned to the ground in a series of very suspicious fires. The pics in the book were taken during these visits. I can attest that it was a very unhappy place, steeped in a lot of pain, with cold pockets of air brushing the side of your face regularly. Beyond creepy.

I'm glad I got a chance to photograph Woodlands before it went, but those visits were not even remotely enjoyable. It might have been an asbestos-ridden historical building, but good fucking riddance.

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Justus Hayes
Justus Hayes
Jul 06, 2020

The paint story is very good - I can put myself there very easily. A similar thing happened it Woodlands. It was used as a film location for some time, and scenic paint/dec had been at a couple of rooms, splashing fake blood around, distressing the walls even further. There a few pics of it in the book.

I have the makings of a new book using photos from Riverview's West Lawn Pavilion.

I'm realizing there are no link or image tools in these comments. Hm. Must be a way around that.

In the meantime, for anyone who is curious:

Man, that sucks as a link. Anyway, there are quite a few of my pics in that search result.…


"Alien" and "Woodlands" are quite remarkable to me. If you feel your creativity coming back, I encourage you to pursue it. Alien is great satire and Woodlands is great sadness. Both equally effective on me. For whatever it is worth, I find even small acts of simple creativity allow me to express and strengthen my self-worth.


In the late 1990's, I lived in Toronto and my "bad lad" friends would gather to go spelunking in the city. We called is "urban caving." Old clothes, some ropes, flashlights, thick gloves and a desire for a bit of danger. It began with exploring storm drains. However, the more memorable day was exploring the old International Harvester (IH) assembly plant, long abandoned in a neglected part of town. Once we found our way in, everything was huge, the assembly plant covered many city blocks. As we got more daring, we descended down in the lower floors and basement. Lite only by our old, low-wattage flashlights, it was certainly spine-tingling. We came to the room covered in red, l…

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