11.29.2010

Raw denim

I don't want to do posts that recount my days point by point, listing my accomplishments unless I'm doing it in some sort of splediforously absurd, creative or well-written manner. It feels too much like shouting into the void, and hoping someone shouts back saying, What you're doing matters.

Scratch that, it doesn't just feel like that, it is that (until the blog is read by a bunch of strangers. Right? Logic is a strange beast).

Dilemma: But even if it's pointless, I still want to shout.

I already started this post trying to validate it's existence by framing it as a war story, or at least a lesson in strategy, wherein I battled the dastardly forces arrayed against me. General Glumness and his army of sad faces had allied with Viscount Blaah and his hussars who were poking me with various sharp sticks. It was as good as it sounds, and yet right now you're reading something else. Odd.

We'll try this. I'll cut the pretense and just provide a list of what I did with a bit of exposition, writing more where the mood strikes.

Experiment COMMENCE!

Went to the Whodunit? Mystery art sale: a whole bunch of equally sized graphic art in various media gets put up around a room, with no names visible and people buy what they want at $75 a pop!

I bought number 57.
And number 705.
Obviously for very different reasons. Still need to get them framed and on a wall.

Afterwards, instead of the planned full on vintage shopping I just went to the Sally Anne, bought the first atlases in a while (nothing special) and a blazer, before biking to the first Border Patrol reading series event: one Canadian and one American author read their written words. It was nice. Pasha Malla's story, Dancing with my father (if memory serves), was great. Touching and evocative. Adam Levin (doesn't have a website) read excerpts from his novel, The Instructions. It was only okay. It seemed amusing, but wasn't doing it for me.

More excitingly I met Lida, an Iranian translator (literary and court). We had a nice chat and subsequently she sent me one of her translations for perusal. I like editing, probably for a similar reason Lida said she enjoys translating; it removes the looming violence of a blank page.

So that was Saturday. Welded to the couch that night. Sour about something most likely.

The next day I kept pushing the fake it 'til you make it strategy against the General and the Viscount. This time I made it to the vintage shops, and after a far longer time than expected, I successfully bought a shirt and tie at Badlands Vintage and a cardigan (I've been hunting one for a while) at the mysterious Penny Arcade.
Nice, huh? Talk about an outfit! I suppose I could put a body in the clothes for a picture, but it seems too much lake vanity and work. Pile is the new fashion.

And that sweater only cost me $4 000!
How the poor clerk rang in the 3 and 9 I don't know, but Visa was unimpressed. They were equally unimpressed with the actual $44 price we tried to ring in afterwards. So they called me. End result, after some button pushing and a brief chat I got the sweater for $20 because the lady felt bad about the whole incident. I found it amusing more than a bother but who am I to turn down a spur of the moment 1/2 off sale?

And then I even made it to meditation with Daydream. I recommend it whole heartedly. Silent meditation, some chanting and singing of ohms, and a brief walking meditation session all left me feeling fantastic. Followed by dumplings and two hours of writing? Well yikes! I also think meditation was responsible for leaving me lying awake in bed until 3, however. Just too pleased with the world.

And that's a weekend. There was also a book sale I went to on Monday at Knox College. I bought the biggest/heaviest atlas I've ever purchased there, and observed the vagaries of the book trade. To be a book dealer I need to be a man (check), have a few cardboard boxes (check), and be able to mumble Those are taken at people leering in my boxes as I rummage through more piles of books (seems doable).

But this post needs some thoughtful content, and...wait, what's the title? What could that possibly mean?

Well I'll tell you...creatively.
---

The store is new. Searching for its address online turns up a computer shop. The shelves at the front, the only ones I notice, are rough wood and layered with jeans. Grey, black and dark blue denim. A Japanese brand, something I've never heard of, is too expensive. Underneath it are jeans unmarked, only a blank leather patch on the waist. They are more my price range, but I'm not buying today regardless.

I select assorted of cuts and colours and move toward the change room, a heavy curtain that is untied and pulled around the circumference of its rope when needed. Removing my shoes and pants the gaps in the curtain become more apparent although being seen isn't a concern. Regret is. Fresh socks and underwear still lie, dismissed, on the floor at home, victims of their own preciousness. Wearing fresh seemed wrong that morning when I was only going out for a walk.

These jeans are heavy. The denim is thick and stiff, not hanging on my legs so much as undulating over them in a series of dunes. It scratches coming up and has little give beyond what the seams are set at. Unmarked jeans do not have one percent spandex.

The helpful woman outside the curtain peppers me with questions about the fit, how I'm doing and whether I need any sizes they might have in the back. She never says it, but I feel she wants me to open the curtain, so I do. They fit well apparently, told so quickly I assume she's selling. They fit exactly like a snug 32, with no room for error.

Those look great, she says. I think that's the size.
What about the hems? I ask. They are bunched around my ankles. Can I take them to a tailor?
She suggests putting on shoes. It will look better with shoes on, she assures me.

I ask for a 33 and return to my den to compare cuts, fits and sizes. I like mirrors. I turn and look over my shoulder repeatedly. Mostly right shoulder. Pulling on and taking off is no small task given the immalleability and fit. A moment of distress for my thighs as I pull the waist across them seems a small price for fashion. It will only happen twice a day, I tell my thighs. If that.

Outside a conversation has begun. A couple - possibly early thirties, but they carry themselves with mid to late wealth and dilemmas - come in to say hi to a man who'd been standing outside his curtain. The men are friends, but haven't seen each other in a while. The couple has been married since the last hello, a small ceremony followed by a bigger party. The solo man is also married.

The discussion is:

Solo talks about teaching, but does not have a job right now. He is qualified for high school history, and holds a Master's degree that lets him teach the same in college.

Couple man is excited to be working from home again soon. The commute to a east end studio has become a drag. He thinks he might be just as far ahead to live outside the city, in a small town or nearby city, and commute in. The prices for large Victorians in Hamilton relative to Toronto is mind-boggling.

Solo agrees. He's from Toronto, but has no connection to the city. He lived in Montreal for 10 years. He and wife have discussed smaller possibilities as well.

Their excitement for small town life amuses me. Not that they are misguided or wrong in their desires, but they simply don't know.

The discussion is abstract: laced with romance, tightly knit communities and a small, local bakery known for its delicious muffins on Tuesday.

The discussion is real: underlaid by marriage, careers, money and the ability to carry a mortgage.

The problems all 4 of us share are the same, just at different points along an axis. But one has to assume they're wearing fresh socks. Also wearing: thick-rimmed glasses, dark blue denim, checked shirts and a cool cap that covers a bald pate.

How are those? I have the curtain open to show her again.
Okay. A lot more room in the waist. I lift my shirt and pull the pants out to show her the room and my underwear band.
Are you a person who puts their jeans in the dryer? she asks.
Yes, I say.
Maybe you do need a 33 waist, she says, continuing the fold the shirt in her hands. Whatever I have on is the right pair.

I quickly change back to myself. I'm not mentally equipped to buy today, I assure her. But how much will they shrink? So I have a better idea when I come back.

It's now she informs me about some subtleties of raw denim; its sturdiness, need to be worn for three months before an initial wash to break it in, and the risk of shrinkage. She emphasizes the 100% cotton part of raw denim.

Doesn't washing break the denim in faster? She doesn't answer because it's a week later and I'm writing a blog post.
When you wear it in the denim adapts to your body, how it's shaped, it's temperature fluctuations. How you move and live in your skin, she says.
I nod.

If she's disappointed to not make a sale she doesn't show it. Still folding shirts, she is helpful but distracted to the end. I'm leaving. It doesn't matter.

I bought the cardigan on my way home, from Penny Arcade on Dundas, and meditated afterwards. Walking there I went through the new Dufferin underpass again. It's lights are bright.

Have I mentioned I like infrastructure?

11.27.2010

concert review (question mark)

Despite the herds we run in that provide the sensation of small town Toronto - where you bump into someone ‘new’ but quickly discover they know someone who knows someone who ate someone’s lasagna while making out with your Uncle Bert - there are a lot of distinct communities in this city that have little or nothing to do with one another. Look at the recent municipal election map showing voter preferences. Talk to me about the number of poppies one sees riding the Jane bus around Remembrance day. Or heck, for me walking into the Eaton’s Centre after a long absence can feel as discombobulating as exiting a 10 hour flight. All I’m saying is that the city has lots of communities - religious, ethnic, economic, whatever - and although I obviously fit better into some than others I rarely feel completely settled. Undoubtedly this has something to do with my and everyone’s attempt at personal distinction, but I also suspect I am a weirdo.

But this post isn’t about that. This is my attempt at a concert review! Have you figured out that I’m not a music journalist yet?

I went to a show at the roundhouse beside the CN Tower last week. Maybe I should call it The Roundhouse because it’s a VENUE, but there’s only one down there so whatever. My intent was simply to take advantage of some face-dancing-off time, and although I planned to go alone a last second cancellation saw Fashion Friend make it a posse of two.

Now is probably a good time to re-emphasize that I don’t know how to write a concert review. I know I mentioned it a couple lines above, but still...

I’ll set the scene by saying the night was advertised as UNSIGNED artists doing their thing.

I’ll also set the scene by saying that I wear suspenders now. Not all the time, just every day since I bought them last Thursday. In I stroll, sweater comes off, sense of fashion is revealed, straight to the front to listen to the first band, DVAS. You can read about these guys on your own time but what I saw was one man on keys and one on drums.

The keyboard player/singer was of indeterminate age. He could have been a well preserved 35 year old, or just as easily a decade or more younger.I think his bone structure was throwing me; cheek bones that somehow seemed too sharp to belong to a younger man. Does that make sense? Does one find a keener edge on an aged cheek?

Here is a video I think is nice wherein none of the comments about his age bending appearance are substantiated.

I assume they played this song. Wasn’t paying attention. Just dancing. I was dancing reasonably aggressively so my “review” of this part of the concert is, the music must have been good!

I should clarify what I meant above by my sense of fashion. It’s one thing to rock up to a show in jeans, a tight green t-shirt and suspenders, but it’s slightly different to dress like that, push your way to the front of a staid crowd and dance in the manner I call dancing.

The crowd at this early stage of the evening was still filling in, sparse, towards the back, and in general swaying more than dancing. There were a few older people who I pegged as parents, but I wasn’t paying much attention to those around me yet. During this set Fashion Friend joined me and immediately after it is when I started text/emailing myself little notes and astute observations that inspired this post. Clever? Maybe.

In general terms the audience coalescing around me was “young professional.” I think this was the point of the prologue. I’m not a young professional. I don’t know what I am. Hipster? Bohemian artist? War monger? Why must I label everything I see, and yet am sadly left without a proper noun for myself? For the most part the crowd looked younger than me, had made a decision post university to get real jobs and buy condos downtown. Not real jobs that pay a gazillion bucks mind you. This was an inexpensive Friday night concert at a cool venue, featuring underground indie bands. Or that’s what the poster was trying to imply I think...I’m never sure how trustworthy posters are, or how each individual chooses to read them.

Reviewing things is tough, eh? I want to express opinions but don’t want to come off like the holier-than-thou snarky asshole I fear I must be. All these comments are aesthetic and personal though, and based on thoughts I had. Thinking about them that way means I get to say whatever I want because I'm just expressing opinions. Everything I say can also be dismissed of course. Good. As long as it starts a conversation wherein people call out my most egregious bullshits, start a debate and I become a wiser person. Hmmm? I’d best stop thinking lest I figure out the internet is full of windbags. Back the the concert!

So. There are young people there. They want to find something to do that makes them feel hip, happening and part of popular culture. Hey! This isn’t my crowd but they sound awfully familiar.

Scenes seen. Frozen in the concert’s lights.

Drunk dirty dancing. A boy and girl, (man and woman? When does that shift occur?) grinding and loving life. He is particularly happy, his face a lop-sided grin. So happy. Best night of my life the droopy smile whispers in her ear. Too bad I’m too drunk to enjoy it later.

The prettiest girl dances past, but her arms are dead. Limp eels hanging at her sides, flopping while the rest of her dances.

For sure that one is on M...maybe not. But the green LED, shooting up the pole, creating a pillar of light on wood. The light. The LIGHT. THE LIGHT! She is dancing with it, an intimate, inanimate stranger that gives her all the love she needs.

The second band, Young Empires, brought their own fans. I noticed them because they were taller lads, square of jaw and solid of back. Jocks I believe they’re called. They pushed to the front with their beautiful lasses and left me aghast, without much space in which to dance. It turns out, however, that if you dance in a spazmodic and aggressive fashion, where it looks like any one of your moves might result in a gouged eye or shattered nose, people move away, and I had more room to maneuver by the third song.

The band was okay. Once again my assessment of music scale based on dancing saw me dancing. Therefore, dancing. But this band needed drums. There were no drums. There was a drumline coming from the keyboard, but...I don’t know what it was exactly, just that having fleshy bits attached to sticks hitting drums makes a difference. Maybe there’s a very subtle off-beat rhythm that happens when a person is involved, no matter how good they are, that I was craving.

Members of Young Empires also LOOK like they are members of a band. When the guitarist strode on stage - and that’s the only word that can describe the movement of a man in black boots, tight black jeans, black tee and hair gelled up to frosted tips before a crowd - I noticed. I thought he was an amusing roadie. He was not. He was a rock star. The lead singer was also a lead singer, a wee bit too self aware. And the bassist, he was a bassist, ie in the background, just happy to be there.

The crowd had definitely filled out by the time YE took the stage. I didn't see how those behind me were grooving, but the jockish types in front were having a great time, judging by the fist pumping. It startled me to see this maneuver exist outside the television set, but the aggressiveness with which it was carried out and the apparent lack of movement anywhere on the other side of the shoulder joint left me entranced.

I then moved my feet extra fast, just to make a point.

No one noticed.

Then the last break and while standing around waiting for Rich Aucoin to take the stage I observed something interesting. Men were suddenly shorter and chins became softer. Is that how you know when a crowd’s indie? The change from rock hard jock fist pumping to the softer pudge that began crowding round was striking.

Before Rich - we’re friends online so I think it’s okay to use his first name - took the stage they needed to get some corporate stuff out of the way. I was worried about buzzkill, but they kept their thanks to whomever mercifully short and by the end I was very caught up in a fantasy wherein the corporate shill (but that’s a strong word, she seemed like a nice lady) was actually a world class beat-boxer and her speech was simply to lull us into a trance before she unleashed a violent tirade of dance into our very souls.

That didn’t happen, but Rich showed up and he did it instead.

What to say about Mr. Aucoin? Audience participation. Lots of visuals. Words on screens we are instructed to read (always a few read through practices before a song). Instructions on appropriate dance moves, often JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!

This video features one of Rich’s songs. It’s also a trailer for a movie featuring some pretty amusing people.

My personal highlight of the set came after a parachute was unfurled and he instructed people to join him and his strobe-light underneath. People must have missed the instruction because no one moved. Fools, I thought! And dove past the 3 people in front of me as he made the request a second time. Everyone else piled in then and the happiest, friendly and aggressive mosh pit took place underneath a brightly striped parachute that reminds everyone of elementary school gym class.

That’s the party Rich Aucoin provides. Good.

And then I wandered around the outdoor parts of the train museum for a while, jumped a couple of benches (learned some ninja kicks and spins) before calling it a night.

MUSIC!

Now to wait for Rolling Stone to call with the job offer.

11.22.2010

Things to do with your old ballrooms!

Check this out!
Build a house out of an old ballroom and you get this for a living room. Well done. The Guardian does a casual real estate section that I peruse from time to time and that's where this came from. Nice to know what my options are when the wealth arrives.

There's also a boat!

11.18.2010

Holy jumpin'!

Just when the internet is getting you down it shoves something in your face.

Deconcrete, a blog far better designed and probably just plain better than mine, decided to show me this.

Talk about disassembling the urban!!!
I'm not going to repeat what they say so succinctly. Just suggest you have a look at the pictures, and the article they link to. It's in French, but it's time you learned.

11.11.2010

writing

Blog posts: easy. They flow off the keys to be released unto the internet, without a care in the world. What's the internet, but a place of noise, regardless of quality.

Also, I've assured myself this blog is an exercise in writing. More a matter of getting something done than doing it to perfection. Of course I edit and try to ensure some clarity but I don't hoard. Instead, writing gets released to the world and I get over my sense that it's too precious to be shown. Hold everything close, bide your time, and eventually sell it all for millions. I think that's how the logic went. (Past tense used in the most hopeful manner.)

Possible reasons for the dearth of posts of late:
-Shouting into the void was starting to wear.
-I simply wanted to escape my digital shackles. As a rule I'm in front of computers far more than I want to be.
-There's also the possibility that any benefit the blog as a writing exercise gave was being usurped by the less healthy blog as place to attempt expression of my personal value, self-worth and existence in the world. In short: self-worth defined via blogged experience and thoughts, where doing it counts for nothing until it has been shared.
(Note: I'm not commenting on blogging generally, just personal tendencies)

Forest for the trees kids! I never considered it consciously but maybe taking a step back from relating individual instances of being might allow the whole self to be revealed. Or something.

Maybe.
(Note: and after writing this post and re-reading it and editing it, maybe the effort I put into these doesn't match the reward, which I'm sure is directly tied in to what I consider the value of a blog post. Maybe because I dismiss my blog posts of holding any "real" value even before starting to write means the results will inevitably be dashed off and of lower quality? Heh, I'm going to stop thinking about the value of blog posts right now.)

Short stories: of late they're alright provided I sit down to do them. The ideas come and I write, but this is a recent phenomenon and it's pretty exhilarating. Instead of having to contemplate where everything is going before I start, I've started to just write. If the story takes a page, great. If it starts to grow, also great. Now that I have mostly removed the expectation of immensity these are more relaxing and fun. I can play around with words, narrative and narrator and lose nothing if it's a disaster.

I'm not churning them out every day, but I'm not a professional writer so whatever.

Poetry: I don't do this much and it's not a huge concern at the moment. I guess the odd tweet could still be considered poetic but I've certainly not made a concerted effort. There are a few I did write during the week of poems that I quite like. I've even had some feedback. What I haven't done is take that feedback and look at it alongside the poems in an attempt to improve and solidify my poetic chops. Eventually? Hope so, because poems are fun.

Non-fiction/essays: Eeeeeeeeee. As a recovering grad student there should be something more here. I guess this is what I was doing with some of my blog posts. Once or twice, not recently, I have tried to start a paper based on my thesis research. There has been no success on this front. Part of my dilemma is that I like to be right. If you put out an opinion, people might tell you that you're wrong. If you don't put out an opinion, there's no way to be wrong. Right?

I also like to take everything into account...read: EVERYTHING. If I start a position piece I often find myself wandering hither and yon, laying out opinions on too much. I also start to consider possible counter-arguments. Sometimes they make me doubt the entire premise I'm working from and other times I'm left with so many dragons to beat to death that any concision in what I was writing is lost. I guess my main problem with this type of writing is when I do do it I'm too scatty and unfocused, but that's indicative of my brain as a whole.

Personal essays from life are something I haven't done much of (certain blog posts, maybe?). Although I did write a piece while in France about a lady on plane. I talked to her in the most casual fashion and mulled over all sorts of tactics to further engage said lady in conversation. I didn't and in frustration wrote up the incident, with humourous asides and commentary, instead. That piece has subsequently been fictionalized and incorporated in the latest attempted novel.

Real life essays are something I'd like to try more of. The narrative and character(s) are already in place, so I'd get to invest all my energy into crafting words. That can only be good.

Scripts: I'm working on a short film. Not much to say about this. Periodically I find a story I think would be suited for such treatment but I haven't tried it enough to know where I'm at from a skillZ perspective.

Novels: SO BIG. I started writing this post because I had yesterday off. It was a good day. Arose at a reasonable hour, made breakfast and ate it while making soup (gingery butternut squash from Simply in Season for those interested). After lunch I proceeded to set up shop in U of T's Robarts Library to write the afternoon away. NOTHING HAPPENED. I wrote a little, but more importantly I sat a lot. I stared. I mulled. And slowly, over the course of the afternoon my mood became foul. There was also a nerd crush on a map librarian, but that was so clearly going to happen it barely warrants mention.

The day was still a good one. I'm always interested when I note a change in myself when it happens (mood, behaviour, etc.) because so often the changes pass me by. If I notice though, next time a similar situation yields similar results I'll know to avoid or enhance as required.

The personal personality puzzle, solvable one piece at a time.

And after the library some walking and talking with Daydream in the glorious night air cleansed my head and left me pleased again. Also, I rediscovered jumping over park benches. Hurdling is fine, but a two-footed leap, that is how we SOAR!!! The best is when the launch spot is slightly higher than the bench and the landing pad. When I do this at work over the rail fence while wearing my Inverness I feel like Batman.

But this is about writing, right? Novels!

Because a novel is substantial and has a long way to go, the characters' actions now will have repercussions down the line, everything I write feels weighted with meaning. Decisions on direction and scene crush my being and what ends up on page suffers as a result. I get too tired and frustrated before I get to the actual scene, then write something that skims and skips over what I'm trying to say as a result. The world I create is shallow and blah, not immersive and YAH!

I want to be able to write novels with the freedom I have when sending an email. Stream of consciousness wonder that is practically barfed from my fingertips. It's important to have goals, and mine happen to include fingers that puke.

But, at the same time, one must remain positive lest the darkness swallow you whole. A novel is a big thing and I'm learning to write the form while learning to write the write. Or learning to write as a writer more advanced than I might say. Slowly, creepily, things will get done and then I get to type it all up and commence the editing process. And that ladies and gentlemen is gravy, because even if you need to rewrite a whole scene, it's a whole scene in context of everything else, rather than the current case of scenes in a swirling void that contains only hints and intuitions of the universe I'm trying to create.

I've started novels before, but never finished. If I look back I probably stopped writing them around this stage of the process. The opening is there, the characters are fleshy, but the real guts of what needs to happen hasn't been dealt with yet. I'm at this wall again but pushing forward instead of wandering off.

I've been thinking of my thesis writing experience recently and how it compares to the novel process. That was a big thing. There were lots of ideas that I needed to pull together to lend coherence to a whole, and I got there. Eventually. When the writing was done I remember days of editing from printed sheets, rewriting sentences and whole paragraphs, rearranging the puzzle pieces until it all fit and made sense. To a degree of course.

A MASTER'S DEGREE. See what I did there? Without editing the world would have been worse for lacking that joke.

Writing, huzzah!

I could have written all this in a book and never revealed it, but if I did that chances are it never would have been finished.

Full circle: blog.

10.14.2010

map

Hi blog. Here's a thing. An attempt at showing depth and differing heights for both buildings and geography. An interesting experiment that didn't end up as magnificently as hoped. Still, pretty neat and I learned a lot about pens...those numbers on pens don't translate directly into how wide their nibs are.
Also, it kept smudging like crazy so I stopped elaborating it with pencil. I suppose I still might go back and add more but it looks alright like this.

HUGE PRIZES for he or she who can identify the city that inspired this map.

5.17.2010

embodied Tim Knowles

Here's a fun post I found on F.A.D. (Free Association Design).

The post is about an artist named Tim Knowles and his work exploring and experiencing the city and space more broadly.

I like the long exposure adventures across fields at night.
And the windwalks he takes and subsequently maps.
More Tim Knowles and a whole whack of interesting projects here.

Dude draws with trees!
That's all I have. Time for shower and bed. Suffice to say lots of people are searching for their bearings in the world, trying to represent themselves and their embodied wanderings. My data collection continues apace and given all the juicy creative outputs that are around, eventually I'll come up with something to do with it!

Oh, and clown is fun. I need to come up with a 1-2 minute presentation for Wednesday. Nothing yet, but something clever this way comes no doubt.

5.12.2010

and that other thing

First this link. It's a show entitled Whose Map is it? I don't know the answer, but it's a bunch of people subverting "the socio-political structures and cultural hierarchies that traditionally inform mapmaking." Sounds like something I'd try to do.

Anyway...someone should send me to London.

Also, for those who follow the ol' tweet machine I promised a tale from yesterday that I forgot to include in my thrilling recounting of my walk.

Leaving the practice space I saw a pretty lady across Ossington, heading north while I strode south.

I crossed the road and as I did I glanced back, catching her making a similar neck rotation (romantic notions just ooze from my word choices).

Who knows why I caught her eye, the point is it happened. And yes, she might have been looking past me, but what's the point in assuming that?

The glance-back-sync-up is always fun, although I never know quite what to do with it.

In this case my response to the situation was two-fold. Step one involved mumbling babe, babe, babe under my breath as I continued walking, passing other people on the sidewalk. Step two was me thinking I should probably look back again, because if one glance-back-sync-up is fun, a double whammy would probably be ├ępoustouflant (it's French, look it up).

So I looked, and I couldn't see her because the girl who I had just passed, while mumbling babe of course, was blocking my sight line. Also, lady the deuce doing the blocking had turned to look at me for my second glance-back-sync-up in a row.

Two in a row!

So what if the second was unintentional on my part. She now has a tale of passing romance to tell, or she's writing an entry on her blog...The Weirdos I See Outside CAMH.

5.11.2010

a walk

Just walked Daydream to band practice in Clint's space. It was my first time going there and it's pretty fantastic. Apparently formerly a wood workshop, with low ceiling and a general crap feel, now, and increasingly so, a cool venue with proper ventilation, sound-proofing and a middle of upgrading feel.

I'm now having ideas for a show I could put on. I still don't think my performance is anything people would make a special effort to come to, but I'm thinking if I can get a few more of my maps finished, and some maps from my collection presented/mounted, I might be able to at least provide the backdrop for an interesting spectacle.

Nothing much to say about the walk except for a few things.

One: Daydream's off the cuff suggestion about me getting a pedometer makes me think I should get a pedometer. Easily incorporated into my data collection which is right now a lot of words. I can send daily ped.dates on twitter or here. Ped.dates being updates but for your feet and from the future.

Two: Bought some scooby road atlases.

Three: Drum circle starts tonight apparently, despite the rain. I realized it's just a group improv activity where group-think is responsible for what's happening, when to speed up, stop, etc.

Four: Stopped to watch a ladies softball game. It's interesting to watch people playing in the cold rain for no 'reason'.

But they have plenty of reason, of course. It's their thing. The thing they do to get away from work or family or whatever. They hit the ball, run the bases and cheer each other on with classic phrases like 'good eye' and 'way to waste that one', as well as a never-ending stream of platitudes telling whomever that they're doing great.

It's nice.

And it's interesting, seeing those ladies. Ladies whose body types would leave me, in passing, assuming little more than a walk from the couch to the fridge as exercise for the week. Let's be happy we aren't all so judgmental. They swung with intent, ran the bases, played hard and then, I assume, went home cold, wet, but surely satisfied.

People are weird.

Tomorrow if I see one of the softball players I'm likely to look past without a second thought. But tonight, with the steady rhythmic worship of the drum circle coming from the dog bowl, their patch of illumination in an otherwise dark, cold park drew me in and I watched. Pitches hummed, bats cracked balls, the rain was back-lit as it fell through the lights, while the team in grey had a tidy inning, scoring 3 runs.

5.10.2010

space and time

Went to Kingston this weekend on a spur of the moment road trip with Entire Cities. They really need to update their Myspace.

Anyway, post show, sitting on a porch, time and space struck me. As in, I have spent a lot of my life in Kingston. I have walked through the park I was looking at too many times to count. I even have a vague memory of attending a party in the house I stayed on Saturday night. Yet sitting on that porch it was all different.

It's true, I have geographic knowledge of the city and it grants me an ease of mobility I would be without if it was first time visiting. But all the extraneous things - emotion and life...context - are different and that makes the place unique to this visit.

A memory of wandering to the farmers market through the park on a Saturday morning holds a different meaning in my life than this Saturday did; observing the same park at 3 in the morning after driving from Toronto, watching friends play a show, lugging a guitar amp from the bar and having a shared futon to look forward to upstairs.

Different.

The next day we went to a new little grocery store at Barrie and Clergy that specializes in local nummies. The building a dirty convenience store when I inhabited the geography last. Ms. Kelly, who was kind enough to let us hunker at her place the night before, works there, so we all trundled over to carry out chairs, set-up tomato plant displays, and so forth. The place has the same swinging, prison-like solid slab of steel for a door, but inside instead of under-priced pop there were enormous carrots and the best custard doughnuts I have ever eaten.
Space and time, time and space, and enormous carrots.

data maps of the Brit election

See how much fun data can be!
The Guardian has made these awesome maps with their data.

They've also done some fun stuff with the data and listed it here.

Or if it tickles your fancy you can get an entire spreadsheet with all the data here. Votes, swing that took place...anything you could want!

My data collection is coming along. So far a bunch of street names, but it's a start.

Also, isn't The Guardian just an awesome news entity? The things you can do with a little distance from the market and its profit generating mindset.

(Also, more here.)


5.09.2010

Bhutan jacket

There was a guy wearing a Bhutanese jacket at No Frills today.

That is to say it was a jacket coloured as a Bhutanese flag and it said Bhutan.

I tried to take a picture but was being watched too closely. Also, I was there late and didn't want to waste time lest they close the shop as I was choosing between tins of beans.

Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck may be finally trying to make contact.

Call me Dragon King!

5.04.2010

tracerouting with gps

This video was done over 5 years and 8000km by a cyclist who had a GPS affixed to his person at all times.


Originally found here.

Pretty neat.

I have some ideas about making maps based on my movements throughout the city.

Initially they were about tracing my meanderings onto an already drawn map, but that quickly shifted to something like this where the city, or at least my city, emerges from a blank canvas. The second idea seems much more suited to encouraging discussion on what a city really is.

Can you consider it a part of your city if you've never seen it? Maps give the impression of knowledge...how is that knowledge compromised by walking a street again and again? Never having actually been somewhere? Only having driven a road, never walked? ...And so on.

My mapping project also leads to all sorts of fun considerations around how to map my movement. Just a foot map? If it includes cycling or public transit how are those recognized? Do I try to draw the map to account for speed? For time travelled? Distance? For experience and depth of engagement with a route or destination?

I think the solution to all that might be to simply start a journal, or just have a sheet of paper on my room wall where I make notes whenever I get home. Recording my movements, modes of transport, experiences had or shared...whether I was walking alone or with others is a good stat too.

Or I could cease being Ludditic and get a GPS machine of my own...along with a notebook for all the mushy non-scientific stuff.

Anyway, the point is collecting the data.

And the video also made me realize why facebook, google, etc are all excited about data. Data is the hard part. Once you have it, there are all sorts of things you can do with it, but you have to collect it first. As I consider this project the data collection is the part that strikes me as daunting...the aftermath of expressing it in whatever form or forms, that's just exciting. There are so many ways to go about it and if I mess it up or do something I don't like the data will still be there.

No one will possess more data on me than me!!! I'll commercialize it and make so much money.

Clowning tomorrow. Also a full day at work. Good times I hope.

4.16.2010

Lists are the thing

I've been keeping myself busy of late, and perhaps that's why I haven't been on here too much. I always talk about the blog as a tool I use to ensure I write on a semi-regular basis, but when I find other creative outlets I suppose it falls by the wayside. Or outlets of any kind of activity really.

Black Creek is open for schools so I'm working there a few days a week, learning the Many Hands program and doing tours. We have three stations in Many Hands - spinning (and wool more generally), baking, and the workshop. Because I'm a fella I'm usually in the workshop. Historical accuracy and all that. It's fun and I still get to eat whatever is left over from the baking, so that's good. It's also fun to tour at this time of year when the village has no one else in it. You can talk in buildings for as long as you want and if the kids feel like losing there minds I can even send them running.

I've also been transcribing, doing taxes, drawing, reading and sometimes writing.

For the last while I've been listing what I want to get done and have been putting write/draw at the bottom of every list. Some days I get to it, others no, and I've been choosing draw most times when I do. I'll get back to the novel soon, no doubt.

Lists have been great as far as getting me to get things done when I have the time. When I run out of jobs like taxes and transcribing, hopefully my lists will see me writing and drawing all day long. Fingers crossed! They've also been helpful in sending me to bed at a reasonable time. If I'm tired and the list is done I go to bed. As simple as it sounds it goes against my normal tactic of finding activities that keep me awake.

Maturity (no matter how smell the steps in that direction are) is weird.

I was drawing last night, sitting on the couch and making little mistakes as I went. I'm inking pencil lines so I really don't want to be making mistakes at this stage, but I just couldn't stop. I was in a tired/out of it mindset where I convinced myself to keep working, and not make the tiny effort necessary that would make the working situation better. In retrospect I should have moved over to the table, set up a light and continued apace. Oh well. Next time. And looking at it now the mistakes aren't the end of the world.

Who knew being crunched up on a couch wasn't most conducive to tiny, detailed drawing?

I also have another show tonight. 8:30 at the Bad Dog Theatre and pay what you want as you exit. You should come. If I don't post this blog before the show, I wonder if I will remember to edit this part. MYSTERIES. (I'm going to make it!)

And I've signed up for a clown workshop, starting in May. That should be a real gas!

Maybe another improv class too, but I've also applied for a couple more jobs - more museums! - so I'm not going to rush at anything too forcefully.

Finally, look at this.
It's from my shower curtain, and it tells me one thing: polyester will bring the world together! Unless you use a different alphabet. In those cases I guess we're at war.

Sorry guy.

4.07.2010

Home Easter visits!

What a sunny and warm Easter weekend that was.

Holy jumping! I'll take the heat as long as the rain comes with though. Not too much precipitation this past winter and the soil shows it. How do I know so much about the humidity levels of dirt you ask. Well, it's because I did a lot of digging this weekend. A lot of hands on knowledge from the garden.

I cut down trees. I moved trees. I raked the lawn. I turned over dirt in the vegetable patch (after picking last year's carrots of course). Here are some pictures of me tearing out trees at the bottom of the garden.

My mum took these because she wanted me to post them to the blog. She likes to interact with the internet, just a step or two further removed than most. Also, she was very concerned that my readers know what a hard worker I am.

Here it is folks. Proof! Proof that I have a lower back!

The visit home was a good one. They're all nice but this one left me in a particularly positive frame of mind. I think it was because I was outside lots, barefoot and labouring, and didn't waste a lot of time watching TV or on the internet. Having a crummy computer and a slow internet connection at home means I get frustrated much faster. Webpages sometimes take a long time to load, so a video had better have an amazing description or I'm not even going to bother.

That and the computer's in a cold basement!

I also had some time visiting with friends, which inevitably meant heading down to Jason's Pub (aka The Pube. We're a witty bunch). Well, we tried to go to the pub, but the people there were the regulars. Fortunately the regulars included a man playing pool who must have been 400 pounds if he was 10, dressed in matching bright yellow shorts and t-shirt. I have called him 'The Sun'. Also there was a little fellow I see around town with a funny scrunched up nose and really squinty eyes, dressed head to toe (including hat) in turkey hunting camouflage. I have called him 'Turks'.

I don't know about you guys, but I for one cannot wait to read the next thrilling episode of Turks and The Sun as they troll around Owen Sound looking for one more beer and fresh turkey.

I should point out, there's no shortage of "characters" at Jason's, these are just the two that caught my eye as I walked through.

After Jason's we went over to The Dark Side, that being a concert venue (?), literally across the hall. I didn't know it was called that until this visit, but it has definitely been called that for as long as I've been alive. Both of these are of course in Jason's Road House, which features rooms for rent upstairs and a reputation for dirt (of ALL varieties). I could go on but I'm sure you get the idea.

So off to The Harb it was! And by off to The Harb I of course mean the line outside the bar. There are only the two bars in the city, the Harb being the dancier one, so sometimes there is a line.
The police car is just there because if something's going to go down, it's going to go down here. A few years ago there was a do in the city because of a few rowdy nights when the bars let out. The Owen Sound Sun Times claimed people were coming into town from kilometers away for 'fight nights' and local entrepreneurs were selling pizza from the trunks of their cars to spectators.

Classic.

Beach Brothers used to be across the road from The Harb, but it was torn down a few years ago, and with competition like this across the street is anyone really surprised?
There is another bar, Smuggler's (more commonly Smugg's, or the local stripping establishment) above The Harb, but I didn't go. I was intent on chatting with Dank and he was anchored in the line by his fiancee, so there we remained.

Wish I'd gone upstairs though, just for the adventure. I wasn't drinking, but beers for $5 in a strip club? Maybe I should have been. Chatting later with people who had gone up I heard the normal banter about which dancers might have been pregnant, etc. and an amusing tale of a greeting dismissed.

Upon getting into the bar my friend Bustin' saw a mutual acquaintance from high school. Let's call him Jason, because that's his name. Bustin' first instinct was to say, "Jason!" in his normal slightly excited greeting voice. Jason's instinct was to turn away and ignore the greeting, pretending he didn't hear in the grossly underpopulated bar.

My commentary is this. If you're in a strip club, whatever. If you're in a strip club by yourself, whatever. If you're in a strip club by yourself in your hometown and someone from high school, even if said someone wasn't your friend or in your main group of peers, says hi, don't be a dink and ignore the situation.

I'm probably being too harsh. Maybe he was just feeling shy or embarrassed. Or maybe he was thinking Oh this loser. What a loser this guy is. No way I'm talking to him. What a loser. I'm going back to watching this possibly pregnant lady dance instead.

So, waiting in line was fun but eventually, after seeing a woman leave the bar, obviously pregnant, probably hammered and definitely smoking, we went back to Jason's (nothing to do with that Jason guy I mentioned above). By then demographics had shifted and we had people to sit and talk to. And so the night went.

Home was also good because my mum was in fighting form. She was riled up over recent changes to abattoir regulations, changes that are causing smaller operators difficulties as they are forced to spend precious resources to meet new, seemingly arbitrary regulations.

Bureaucrats at work!

Read this.

Small locally-owned and operated, provincially-inspected abattoirs
are a key ingredient in safe, local food. They provide a crucial link
between livestock farmers and the local food movement.

As farmers, meat processors and consumers committed to local food, we
are afraid that small, provincially-inspected abattoirs are
disappearing from our communities. As the Minister of Agriculture,
Food and Rural affairs we are asking you to help save the small
abattoirs across Canada.

Now do something about it people! By sending letters to this lady.

Hon Carol Mitchell
Minister Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Public Archive Building
77 Grenville St., 11th Floor
Toronto, ON M5S 1B3

I was sent south with a stack of cards printed with the above message and a pile of stamps to make sure they got where they needed to go. Daydream was kind enough to distribute a pile at chef school, but if you want to do something, you have all the info you need above. And if you want an official card I'm sure my mum will hook you up.

And then it was over. Delicious lamb supper on Sunday then on the bus bright and early Monday morning with about 20 Mennonites!!! This was pretty exciting for me because a lot of them seemed pretty excited to be travelling and I had a whole bus ride to make some observations. I wasn't staring the whole time, but this is what I noticed:

Everyone has their luggage tagged.

Except for one older fellow most of the riders were young (18-28) and everyone seemed to be married or at least paired off. There were also some very young children/babies along for the ride (all girls I think) and a few boys that looked early teen-ish.

Everyone had great skin. Not a blemish in the bunch. My theory on this is that they are doing what young people are meant to be doing, ie having sex and having babies, so all their hormones are in sync. Also, they are working outside a lot and mostly eating what they grow and prepare so don't have a lot of excess crap in their systems.

I like how the ubiquitous male bowl-cut swoops out at the bottom because they wear hats all the time.

They became excited at two point during the journey. Once when we were driving through Holland Marsh, where there is lots of farming activity, all the men got right up against the windows. A second time as we passed a livestock truck they all crowded to one side to see what was inside. The answer: pigs! I have nothing grand to say about this, except it shows that people are interested in what they do and know.

BUT what I really want to know is why they were all going to Toronto? Was there a Mennonite convention of which I was not made aware?

And to close with one last thought. Cold lamb is great. I should have taken more.

4.05.2010

Jeremy loses his glasses

So many wonderful people in this city doing their wonderful things. Some things are big, bold, mind shattering and earth changing. Others are smaller, less demanding of your time, attention or brain cells, but still a real pleasure.

Such categories aren't hard and fast of course.

And it's all the opinion of the audience.

But, since I'm the only member of the audience writing here I declare the following GREAT.

Courtesy of one Mark Andrada.

3.31.2010

post Rama show show

I should also mention the 400 class show that I had in the evening after the casino went swimmingly.

I could have used more stage time, but what's a fella to do? It does seem a bit unfair though. I mean I was responsible for about 50% of the audience in attendance. 7 friends, SEVEN, were awesome enough to come out and see the show. The people in the class who invited no one, couldn't they have just performed alone in their bedroom or something? Why do they always have to piggyback on my notoriety.

Heh.

A great big thank you to all who came. And as a special treat I was even given my first pre-performance flower. And by flower I mean balloon with a green pipe cleaner attached. HAL had received a birthday balloon bouquet earlier in the day and was thoughtful enough to bring a similar gift to the show for me. She even came on stage for one part of the show, meaning I'm now allowed to say I have performed with her, thus upping my standing in the improv world (until people see me perform).

Of the two scenes I had one that involved speaking which was with a fella I have a hard time performing with sometimes. It went okay though and as usual was a good learning experience. In this instance we early on established that he was my father, we were in Vegas and he had recently killed mom. That last bit, one would think the most important part of the relationship we were trying to establish on-stage, was quickly forgotten. Oh well.

My other scene was a physical gibberish number and THAT I can handle. It felt really good. I even died in a satisfying manner. 2 minutes of stage time never felt so right.

2 major realizations came from doing the show:

1 - I have now performed improv shows twice and I get freaking hyper when I'm done. Mega adrenaline.
2 - We were talking to people on the casino bus about what we were up to that evening and it was awesome to be one of those who had a show that night.

Both things make me want to find more chances to perform and continue to improve.

I'm still up in the air over whether I want more classes, but I'm sure all that will sort itself eventually.

A day at the Rama

I have now been to four casinos in my life.

Gananoque is always a good place to start one's gambling life. I won playing roulette. Thousand Islands Casino as it's officially called, is a tiny box off the 401 with a soaring sign and a performance room in back, about the size of my bedroom, where a Blues Brothers cover band was belting it out.

I lost a bit of money at Casino du Lac-Leamy in Hull. I was there celebrating a one year anniversary. Relationships! We were down a bunch but then I noticed there had been 6 reds in a row on the roulette wheel so I bet $50 on black and won. Odds and logic not in support of the decision, but who cares.

Then there was the spur of the moment, let's drive 2 hours and across the border to Akwesasne Mohawk Casino just south of Cornwall because there's some sort of poker tournament on. Didn't win the tourney, lost more playing poker later and I think I lost at blackjack too. More importantly I learned a valuable lesson: don't loan money to gambling addict friends in a casino. Sure he paid it back, but I felt bad for enabling (also I didn't really realize what was up until the evening was drawing nigh and I was able to watch how he *ahem* played).

And now with a visit to Casino Rama this past Sunday we can make it four!

The casino trip was part of the increasingly infamous Swimprov class. Said class started as a way for musicians and non-improv performers to play and learn in a low pressure, high fun setting. Of course it's helped along by having two of the best improvisers in the city, HAL and Kayla, as coaches. (HAL is a great nickname for a number of reasons, but we'll see how it holds up, and Kayla will get one soon. I'm still searching for inspiration.)

We were at Rama, in part, to celebrate HAL's birthday. Her birthday isn't until June 6 of course, but why should that stop us from boarding a bus filled mostly with seniors? Oh, that's right. We took one of the subsidized casino coaches that had been organized through HAL's condo. Worried about fitting in we were costumed, approximating what we felt casino-bound retirees look like.

HAL had even gone so far as to have a 45 minutes chat with Betty, a condo stalwart and organizer of the trip, beforehand so we had all the hot tips.

-visit the buffet early, because it gets busy
-the Canadian buffet is vastly superior to the Chinese option
-the bread pudding is an absolute delight
-the 5 cent machines are fun
-if a machine isn't winning, try another one
-25 cent machines are actually 25 cents for each wheel, meaning they're actually 75 cents

And that's just a sampler of the tips!

Betty was right on almost all counts, except the bread pudding was a bit disappointing. The buffet as a whole was great though. I ate THREE butter tarts.

I should also mention, that after paying $6 for the bus, we were given a $10 credit on our players card, so everyone was making money. Then we left the restaurant and hit the floor.

After being confused for a while we figured out the 2 cents machines and went to town. Some of us more than others. You'd think with a 2 cent machine the games would last forever and at a low cost, but no. In order to win the big bucks you have to max bet, and that of course means betting up to 125 credits (aka 250 cents) at a time. Some people in the group were good at keeping their bets small, others were not.

I was in the latter group.

I can't help myself (those are good words to say around gambling!). I'll throw a few small wagers in, enjoy the lights and patterns, but inevitably think, Hey, what if the next one hits big and I don't max bet? Basically I'm a casino's dream customer, except that I can usually just stop. Especially when I know myself and am able to plan ahead, taking money from my wallet before leaving the house.

It's also interesting to watch some of the other people play. They might lose as much as me, but they aren't doing it try to win a pile in return. They were doing it because there was a machine in front of them with fun lights and noises and buttons that NEED TO BE PRESSED!!!

Speaking of slot machines, this was the first time I've played them since I dropped a single loonie into a machine at Lac-Leamy. The machines at Rama don't take coins, only bills and tickets. You buy in and the machine calculates how many credits you possess. When you're done playing, if you have money left, you print out another credit ticket that can be used to gamble more, or can be cashed out using a cashier machine, or even, dare I say it, a live cashier. Weird.

All the machines have trays underneath that could conceivably be used to catch untold riches in coins when you hit the big one, but instead just sit empty. When you win there're some fun tunes that play for you, becoming slightly more excited the longer the credit count up goes on. I don't know who wrote those, or how much research went into them, but they are great and have the, I would assume, desired effect of making the player want to hear more of the same.

Maybe it was just me and an irrepressible urge to dance though.

And while many machines have arms on the side that can be pulled, most people opt for the buttons up front that make all whirlies spin.

I've decided I'm not a slot machine fan. I don't have the patience to bet small for long enough that I get to play the novel bonus games they have. And I don't have the money to bet big for long enough to access the same games. Also, I don't know what the odds are set at, and while I don't think for a second it's set at ZERO CHANCE there's something alienating about having the fates controlled by an unknown algorithm. The fact you don't need to pull the arm, your wealth is tracked on printed slips and the machines feature useless coin trays is alienating as well.

I'm well aware that I'm describing modern slot machines as alienated from the human condition, just as Marx intended, but seriously. Those trays were designed to maximize the noise of plinking coins for crying out loud! Such a waste.

Table games at least give me chips to fiddle with, but when the minimum bet on those is $15, they're a big no no. Poker would have been nice, but there are a lot of people that felt the same and the poker room was rammed. That and it was a class outing that would have been defeated if I'd wandered off to play alone.

We were definitely the most 'dressed' people in attendance. I was expecting a certain amount of ridiculousness as far as good luck trinkets, funny hats and the like, but was grossly disappointed. The red bulldog I had hanging from my pocket all day not only did not bring me luck, but drew all sorts of odd stares from the hardcore gamblers around the room. Maybe it's because there's a preponderance of rural Ontarians in the crowd and you don't get the flash and sizzle of Vegas grannies.

Few people looked excited to be there. Perhaps the excitable people were at table games, but amongst the machinists if we made too much noise or were having too much fun people generally moved off or glared.

At the same time when we were getting all bent out of shape because one of us was up $4 people would sometimes appear. On more than one occasion a Chinese family arrived, different each time, but always composed of a couple aged 50-60 and a significantly older, presumed mother (in-law). At other times it was lone women who would hover, eying their chance to jump in on a winning machine. When they figured we were making all that noise over less than $5 they tended to leave.

The day's most confusing look, however, came when we were celebrating a modest uptick and I commented that I couldn't believe Kayla was up $30 000 playing the penny slots. A woman a few machines down turned and eyed us all. At the time I though she was either a) mad we were making noise, or b) trying to assess the veracity of my claims. Subsequently, I think it's something else.

She was sitting in front of a machine that has buttons and lights. She had probably deposited a pile of dough and had been moving her finger a minute amount, again and again, for hours. If that's what your eyes and brain are focused on when you turn to look at people it's not surprising that your face is blank and your eyes are empty. She probably wasn't thinking anything about us, and sure enough turned back to her screen in short order.

And I just remembered I've been to one more casino. It was the Circus Casino Edinburgh, but I can hardly count it because I was playing poker there and for me that's not gambling.

Then I lost.