Reckless Responsibility

Yesterday I posted on my facebook profile a link to an article from last year about a right wing Christian game based loosely on the Left Behind rapture series of books. I found the article through a series of links, originating in titilating images of women – funny how link chasing ends up in interesting places. Anyways, the article was reactionary and condemning, but because it was reactionary against a group I abhor I went along with the hype. Fortunately I got to reading the discussion that took place in the comments and saw how unbalanced and uninformed the article and reaction was to the game. Well, as fate would have it I saw a documentary tonight at the SAT about Super Columbine Massacre RPG! Earlier in the day at MIGS I listened to a speaker, Jonathan Blow who was pushing for the idea that games could be more meaningful – a seminar that I went to pretty much by accident. I actually got a bit emotional, because games, really are going to be a major aspect of the media environment and by matter of cause and effect a major source of our culture, ideals, behavious, etc. Its essential that we take this shit seriously.

But fuck, that’s just today.

An issue I’ve been thinking about a lot, and just today really got to grips with – I mean really what it was that was swimming in my head – figured out what it was. The System. By that I mean this system of control, oppression, acquired opinion, proscribed morality, all of that bullshit. So let’s rewind a bit and clear the fuzz surrounding this.

Background

I went to Toronto for their Burner party. Private party. Warehouse space occupied by a circus school. Volunteers. DIY. Costumes. Free expression. Burner parties are special because of the radical acceptance. You just do what you want. And they’re not democracies, they’re do-ocracies. If you want something done – you do it. If you want something stopped – you stop it. No reliance on rules, laws, police, enforcers, politicians, lobbyists, blah, blah. Its remarkably empowering and it really makes you take into account the consequences of your actions as well as the value you place on things. Anyways I had an absolutely amazing time. I love Burners. I honestly believe we’re changing the world. We’re a special breed (some more special than others).

Fast forward a few days, through meetings with friends new and old, another party and such. North, Dirge and I decide to do the abandoned subway station in Toronto (no clues!). Things go fairly well, but eventually we’re spotted (or think we are) and are forced into hiding underneath the platform for a while to come up with an action plan. Eventually we decide to backtrack out the way we came, figuring there are less unknowns that way. To cut a long story short we’re caught exiting onto another platform and the worker who catches us calls security. Dirge is smart enough to just walk out while North and I obediently wait for the transit pigs to show.

We get issued $115 tickets. And while its a total pain in the ass to have to pay and I feel like an idiot for not running away I’m actually glad to have stayed, talked to the guards and gotten the fine. Why?

Way back in 2002 I had what I consider a pivotal moment in my life. I was arrested for trespassing in the old Molson’s plant in Calgary. It had quite the effect on me. I was forced to really assess what I’d done and determine whether or not it was morally wrong. I couldn’t sleep the entire night. I ran scenarios in my head – what would happen if I or someone else was injured for instance among many more. In the end I determined that exploring as I did it was perfectly ethical and that part of my ethics was actually to ensure that I wasn’t caught because that would negate many of the perceived problems for police, property owners, etc. For them ignorance is bliss.

It also helped me to see in very clear, concrete terms the difference between laws, rules and actual ethics and morality. They are two very different things. The true nature of authority also becomes much more clear. When you realise what can be done to you and under what pretexts you really start to understand how fucked up The System is.

Getting nailed by the fuzz again five years later, especially after being in the womb of a Burning Man TAZ really brought home all of those lessons again, sharpened them and reminded me of things I’d allowed to fade into the background. We are controlled and manipulated constantly and in large part we’re complicit in all of it. Chriz and I stood there while a worker talked on the phone instead of just walking out. By our own moral judgements we’d done nothing wrong and indeed took full responsibility for our actions, so why wait around for someone else to come along and impose their system upon us? Dumb. Plain dumb. But it goes much further than UE.

Everything in our society is a choice. Everything in our lives are our choices. We can accept the model we’re given which is by and large restrictive and often plain destructive, or we can choose our own way. Sometimes we need to fight for our own way. We always need to take risks. No enterprise worth pursuing is without its risks. Chriz frequently uses the phrase Reckless Responsibility. I take my risks, but I also take responsibility for them. I own them. That also means I reap the rewards and learn the lessons within.

Enough for now. Its late and I have tons to do tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Heck. Life is accelerating, but its fucking awesome. My life has been changing so much lately, so many opening doors, new ideas, new wisdom. I’m so damn happy. I’m also, pretty tired. Ciao.

Hey!

When the hell did flowers get added to this WordPress theme?! Jesus pulling up his pants in an alley what is going on here?! Do not go fucking with a man’s CSS when he isn’t looking and add frilly little flowers to his blog! Gads. Someone’s going to think I put them there. Use come common sense and tact…

I’m too tired to go hunting for a new theme right now, but I’ll get you. I’ll get you…

Blackout

I was hesitant to write about this because I knew it would arouse some concern amongst my friends and family, but its significant and I’m not one for concealing things from people so here goes.

Last night at The Pound I fainted and was briefly unconscious. This has happened before. Eight or nine years ago I was getting out of bed one morning and upon standing up went lightheaded and collapsed into my chair and onto the floor. The incident left a groovy scar on my inner thigh (for which I have yet to invent a suitably heroic fable to tell the girls – chicks dig scars) but otherwise left no lasting negative impression. Occasionally I will have a dizzy spell, standing up from sitting for a long time, or running up stairs. Its quite rare and the dizziness is usually minor, half a second and I’m fine.

These dizzy spells don’t have anything to do with fatigue or physical exhertion. I have stacked the back pit of a Boeing 737 – 800 series by myself on no sleep numerous times without so much as the faintest bit of dizziness. The theory the doctor proposed nine years ago was that I had low blood sugar. No I’m not diabetic, but I do have a ridiculous metabolism, anyone who’s seen me devour a dozen Tim Horton’s doughnuts between breakfast and lunch knows that. So maybe its my metabolism. Another possibility is that my heart beats slower than normal. Its been found in some athletes that their heart pumps more blood with fewer beats making their bodies more efficient at supplying large amounts of oxygen to the muscles. The tradeoff being that sudden changes in activity levels, going from zero to sixty without a warmup, isn’t compensated for as quickly by the heart which can result in decreased oxygen to the brain.

So back to last night. One moment I felt a dizzy spell coming on, then I started to fall and the German Filmmaker caught me. Next thing I knew I was flopped down on one of the couches with several of the staff at my side. They brought me some OJ – thinking maybe I was in insulin shock and within the space of a minute or two I was back to normal. As before the effects never last long, though this is the first time I ever lost consciousness for more than a fraction of a second.

I blame the alcohol. I’ve never had intoxicants in my body before when this has happened and I think the alcohol exascerbated the problem which is why I lost consciousness instead of just doing the dizzy thing for a couple of seconds. Its disconcerting and I’m going to consult a doctor within the next couple of weeks just to make sure, but I feel perfectly fine and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the night as though nothing had happened. That this has only happened to me twice in nearly thirty years makes me confident that its nothing major, but I have to be aware of it, make sure I’m eating enough to keep up with my calorie burning core and pay attention to any future incidents.

Aside from that, another fabulous night at the Pound, some great acoustic guitar, some great blues and to top off the night a girl who does a pretty damn good Janis Joplin her very first night at Open Mic. That place is like a dream come true. Centre camp ripped out of the Black Rock Desert and stuffed into a warehouse in Montreal. Fan-fucking-tastic. And when I woke from my little episode with those people showing me their concern, well I felt damn lucky to have not only found a great place, but great people as well.

Seeing Red

Watching the marchYesterday can certainly count as one of the more interesting days I’ve had in Montreal thus far. The Russian has been pestering me to go out and shoot photos for the past couple of weeks and finally this week I had some time that didn’t involve setting my alarm in the single digits. A few days earlier, bored and looking for something to do I hit up crackbook and scoped out what my friends were up to. A Girl Named Montreal was bound for a flash mob it said and that I thought would be an excellent opportunity for photos. I met The Russian and The Korean in the confounding maze that is UQAM Metro and we set out to locate the event.

We wandered for a bit, witnessed a car crash (sorry about your axel dude, oh sorry about your… face) but didn’t see any flashmob, just lots and lots of cops. Seems the fuzz didn’t know exactly where things were going to go down either.

We kept taking pictures – amusing graffiti, satellite dish gardens and a Hitleresque Santa Claus, but still no flash mob. Then we noticed the cops moving away, or rather towards something – and followed them. What we found was more of a protest than a flash mob. Seems my reading comprehension in French needs a bit of tweaking. Still, a couple of hundred people with signs and… giant red cubes deserves a few photos.

The students at UQAM – the University de Quebec A Montreal are on strike. Not being up on student politics I don’t know the exact grievances but I know universities and can guess. Higher tuition, lower quality of instruction. Its pretty amazing actually. Out west we have one of the crappiest schools in the country and the highest tuition, out here they’ve got the best schools and the lowest tuition. You’d think there’d be riots out west, but no. Reading the protester’s signs, Satre, Hugo and other French writers and intellectuals you see some of the differences between French and English culture. In French revolution is valued, an important agent of change and democratic power. In English… well let’s face it, the English suck at anything involving passion.

As the students marched through the streets, carrying their giant cubes and shouting out slogans the police cleared the way. There were no beat downs or angry confrontations, their right to protest and express their demands was not only respected, but facilitated by the police. Bus drivers honked in solidarity as construction workers stopped their work and shouted in support of the strike. I looked into the crowd, most of them young twenty-somethings but I also saw people in their middle age and one old man, long white hair whipping in the wind like a lost in time socialist Gandalf. They were the revolution, and they were proud.

It used to be that revoltion, protest and activism was an unofficial but essential part of university life. Marching 101, Banner Making 235, Puppets 300 and 301 and graduating thesis 415 – Megaphone Techniques. You were supposed to smoke cigarettes and write manifestos, write letters and chain yourselves to doors, believe that you could make a difference. To quote a hero of mine; “You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…

Somewhere along the line we lost that in America (and I speak of America as a continent, not a whiny, pig headed, self obsessed nation we shan’t mention by name), everyone that is except for the French. They’ve held on to it, and thus become the least backwards of these opportunistic little puddle jumpers we call North Americans. Despite being one of the poorer of the provinces Quebec has some of the highest quality education on the continent. Montreal is an international hub for scientific research, art and culture, and its in no small part because the students go out and protest in the streets.

We took photos for a couple of hours, following the procession around. As I snapped photos of the protesters I made sure to stick my camera in the faces of the media as well. Nothing quite like getting the whole story, especially when it involves making the parasitic chin wagglers swallow some of their own medicine. Eventually we broke off from the mob and went out in search of food. Happened upon a vegetarian buffet that charges by the ounce. With a healthy stomach full of vegetarian lasagnae and ten kinds of salad we went our separate ways, them to whatever they were up to, me to the second event of the day.

If you don’t know the word SIGGRAPH you probably aren’t a computer nerd, game geek or film freak. Fair enough. They are (quoting from their website);  “The ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.” Meaning? They’re all about cool computer graphics, mostly for applications in movies and games. Well last night the local Montreal chapter put on an expose of the best of 2007 in computer animation at the Societe des Arts Technologiques, which in English is “a really cool place with a bar, half a dozen big-ass video projectors and cool digital art.” The screening was free and featured some excellent short films, demos and excerpts from all over the world. Did I mention it was free?

Sadly I’m currently broke so I didn’t stay for drinks afterwards, but amazingly this wasn’t their only even this year – it was their fifth free event. Shit. Montreal is so full of cool happenings and goings on I’m going to need a second job just to keep up with the associated beer consumption.

The screening left me feeling inspired and excited, not just by the technology being showcased, but also the creativity that was lurking out there, around the globe and, just down the street. I met someone in the game industry the night before at the November Bruleurs meetup and he’s not the only one. Montreal is literally crawling with animators, game designers, digital artists, filmmakers, you name it. All of the things that fascinate me are here and within reach.

I took a new route home from the theatre, connecting more dots and adding more pictures to my mental map of Montreal. Its all coming together, starting to make sense. I didn’t climb the Cartier Bridge, though I thought about it. Opportunities will be few before it gets too cold to climb frigid steel I-beams. Maybe it isn’t time yet. Or maybe the only time is now. I guess you just need to watch for the photos.

My soda is too rough

A couple of days ago I was working the check-in counter at the airport, asking the eternal question;  “Window or aisle?” in both official languages – “Hublot ou allée?”  A woman was checking in with her young son, and trying to humour him asked him what his favourite number was. He responded, “Seven.” Then he said something peculiar, something that most people would let pass by without a second thought, “Seven is yellow.”

I’m sure the woman failed to notice it, but I did. Her son is quite possibly syntesthetic, that is he has multi-sensory perceptions whereas most of us have only one to one sensory relationships. To me seven is a number, and that’s all, but to this boy numbers are more than just abstract concepts, they also posses colour, possibly even tones and hues. Say a number and it will instantly conjure up a colour in his mind, consistently, involuntarily and without fail.

Scientists estimate that about X in Y people are synesthetic and it comes in various flavours, not just numbers and colours. Tastes can be associated with textures, feeling with colour and so forth. Almost any set of senses can be combined in a synesthetic s brain, entwined and natural as you or I find our singular senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch.  Richard Cytowic has published an excellent book on the subject entitled The Man Who Tasted Shapes.

Personally I think that synesthesia is much more widespread than scientists would have us believe. That child I met two days ago probably has no idea that others don’t see colours in numbers. A good friend of mine I found out only a few months ago attaches colours to words, something which helps him in memorization. Until I heard him casually mention that my name was brown I had no idea, and until I mentioned it to him he’d just assumed that everyone was that way.

Personally I find it fascinating that our minds can do such things, and it proves that there’s much still to learn about perception and the human brain. As I think about synesthesia and my two recent encounters with it in others I find myself thinking about music videos and VJing. Afterall, what else is the projector screen in a club but an attempt at creating a synesthetic experience for the viewers? It’s a chance to meld the senses, to combine them and create an experience that s greater than the individual elements.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that the relationship between music and light is so special to me. It’s a way to touch a perceptive experience that I will never experience inside my own brain aside from a few psychedelic experiments. I wonder, maybe, just maybe if we bring our senses together, these things that seem so different and unrelated, perhaps we can bring ourselves closer to the universe and the meaning of it all. Or maybe I’m just another damn hippy.

That old fort mentality

By the time Montreal was a flourishing, modern city with plumbing and sewers and streetlights, Calgary was a smattering of wood cabins and burlap tents. While the French sipped wine and contemplated ways to kick the English off of their island Calgarians peered over the walls of their fort on the lookout for Indians and rum runners. Different worlds indeed. And while Calgary is full of skyscrapers and most Montrealers have learned to live together in harmony regardless of language, old habits sometimes die hard.

Back in Cowtown I lived in constant fear of being revealed as a pinko communist art fag who didn’t believe in the magical powers of oil to spread wealth, love and happiness to all. I was one of those wierdos who thought that sharing was better than competition and art more interesting than accounting. Yes this is all a bit extreme, but the contrast between Montreal and Calgary seems that stark.

In Calgary I harboured a constant siege mentality, always on my guard, frightened to reveal my true nature since, really I didn’t fit in. That feeling of not fitting in has plagued me almost my entire life, that is, until I moved here. In only a couple of months I’ve integrated, almost seamlessly into the life that is Montreal.

When I meet people here, they are people like me. Photographers, filmmakers, musicians, philosophers. Its really everything I dreampt of. I’m a regular at a funky underground multi-disciplinary venue. People are seeking my friendship, skills and ideas, and share in my enthusiasm at the prospects of creating something new.

The only snag is work, but what’s that. Just a distraction to bring in some much needed financial support. It keeps my feet on the ground.

Speaking of which, the time’s up for parking. I have to go. But things are going well. I’ll delve into more detail when I have more time. Au prochain!