If I don’t call them resolutions maybe I won’t break them

So, a new year in a new city. Lots of opportunity to reinvent and reinvest in myself. To get in touch with the things that really matter. To set and accomplish new goals. Blah blah blah. Well cliched though it may be I’m going to set about to change some things, and really it has less to do with the turning of another elipse around the nuclear furnace in the sky and more to do with timing. I’ve been here long enough that its home now. The nit picky tasks of becoming a Montrealer are wrapping up. I’m now snugly installed as a cog in this urban machine. The novelty of just being here isn’t enough to keep me interested anymore, so its time to start doing more.

For starters I’m starting Capoeira again. Now that I’m no longer tossing bags in the stooped pits of 737 jets or dragging one ton baggage carts around my body is starting to go all sinew and bone. I’d almost prefer flab to this emaciated look and the only way I’m going to be rippling again is to go out and get some physical activity. Capoeira will be good for that, plus its hella sexy – no doubt. Also in that line I think I’ll get my fingers back into precarious handholds and fissures by doing some climbing. Here in brutish winter climbing the local roof isn’t much of an option, so indoor walls here I come! If there are cute French climbing girls in short shorts all the better.

And then this. I’m trying to decide whether its worth the expense. I first read about sensory deprivation tanks on disinfo – its not really a spa thing to me. For me its much more about neurology and seeing what my brain can do when it its free of all those daily distractions, like gravity. I could buy myself a ten pack and go (almost) once a month. Is that a good new year’s present? Could be. I mean really, $41 for an hour’s float ain’t bad.

Then the usual stuff. Bringing lunch from home more often. Finishing more projects instead of just starting and forgetting them. Blah, blah, blah. Really my big focus this year is just learning to take better care of my brain and body. I think in doing that the rest will naturally follow.

1st React

Quick answers…….
Body: Okay this is called “FIRST REACTIONS QUIZ”. I have reacted to being sent this by actually filling this out. You have to type the 1ST thing that comes to mind whenever you hear these 35 things. You can’t think and go back and change your answers. Copy and Paste, then delete answers to make them your own.

Here we go:

1. Beer: out of it

2. Anorexic: ex girlfriends

3. Relationships: complex

4. Purple: start wearing purple for me noooow

5. Power Rangers: toys

6. Weed: the person i stole this from

7. Steroids: “Juice Monkey” from my old job

8. Cartoons: Simpsons

9. The President: and his ridiculous monkey ears

10. Tupperware: my roommate has it and i don’t

11. Best vacation: warmer than this, maybe florida

12. Santa Claus: fat git

13. Halloween: subway party

14. Bon Jovi: asian exchange students

15. Grammar: police they live inside of my head

16. Facebook: pathalogical addiction

17. Worst fear: drowing – which is funny ’cause it isn’t (my worst fear that is)

18. Marriage: hate filming them, all those people pretending to be happy

19. Paris Hilton: anorexic and wee doggies

21. Redhead: angie everhart

22. Blonde: cliche

23. Pass the time: fuck around on the net

24. One night stands: was good once, was bad once, would like to add experiences

25. Donald Trump: is always in girly magazines

26. Neverland: huh?

27. Pixie Sticks: poky

28. Vanilla ice cream: mmm, creamy

29. High School: loser preppies think it was the best time of their lives, sad really

30. Work: soul sucking, i miss my old jobs

31. Pajamas: i have those, somewhere

32. Woods: snow, maple

33. Wet Sock: stinkalicious

34. Alcohol: all out

35. Love: something that happens despite my attempts to avoid it

Panasonic – 1, Sony – 3

Sorry Panasonic but Sony just trounced you with a three pointer swoosh, not that I wasn’t utterly charmed by your opening point, but…

I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad I didn’t buy a camera. Panasonic’s HVX-200 was a sexy piece of machinery when it came out. For the past few years Panasonic has really been taking the lead in making us creative types drool, first with the DVX-100 that shot in 24P and had film-like gamma settings (in other words you could make video look like film), then upped the ante with the HD version, the HVX-200 that also boasted the tapeless P2 recording system. No more fucking dropouts, tape snags, dust or hours long capture sessions in editing. Hallelujah!

All the while Sony just sat there. Quietly. Turns out they were paying very careful attention and they’ve come out with something that blows Panasonic out of the water.

Behold the PMW-EX1 XDCAM. It shoots HD. It shoots in 24P. It has cine-gamma settings. It records on flash cards, but not P2, oh no. The EX1 records on a smaller, cheaper, faster card format, SxS. Right now only Sony and Sandisk make the things, but fortunately Sony learned its lesson from BetaMax and Memory Sticks. Its open format, so there will be more manufacturers and the price will go down. Thank fucking god.

So my needlist has been changed. For a comparable price I can get a superior camera. Probably a year or two away, but Sony’s done what needed to be done to get this transition to HD really rolling. Only trouble is I’ll need bigger hard drives…

Place Ville Marie

place-ville-marie.jpgIts easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of things. Those random currents that buffet us around the city as though we were twigs in a waterfall. Its easy for me to forget that I’m living in a new city, a new culture and embarking on a new chapter of my life. Things rapidly become mundane and familiar, or so confusing as to pull me out of the moment and forget where I am. Its for these reasons that I’m profoundly thankful for Place Ville Marie. It seems strange to have such potent feelings for a building I’ve never entered, never even been to the base of. Place Ville Marie 1 is only the fourth tallest building in Montreal, but for me its the most important.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been driving home from work, walking out of the bar or stepping out my front door and there it is. Cutting a swath through the sky the tower’s four spotlights draw in the night and focus Montreal on one central point. Place Ville Marie becomes the cardinal point from which the rest of the city is drawn, a luminous icon that can be spotted fifty km away. For me its a powerful anchor or grounding point, like the centre of a labyrith. When I see those beams moving through I sky I know where I am, and I feel certain, my feet firmly on the ground.

To draw a metaphor that some of you might understand its much like being on the playa and seeing the Man in the distance. Its the same kind of feeling, of knowing with certitude where you are in relation to something that you know very well. With that you feel you can go anywhere and do anything.

So it may be a tower full of worker bees, but when those bees go home for the night and the beacon lights up, it becomes something much more important and key to the city, and to me.

beacons.jpg

10:54pm

I should be at The Pound rocking out at Open Mic. Teasing Alex, talkin’ film with Jan, bugging Mode for drinks and watching Robin frantically running about keeping the whole show on the rails while Phil tries to tend bar and do homework at the same time. That’s what Thursday nights are all about. Cool people and live music until two or three in the morning. Instead I’m forcing myself to go to bed despite the massive swell of creative ideas and impulses inside of me so that I can be up in time for my 4:30am shift at the airport.

I’m never bidding for morning shifts again, no matter what the perceived advantage. There is none. I’m a creature of the night. The day really starts at about 5:00PM and doesn’t end until the sun comes up.

I’m not a plant. I don’t photosynthesize. I don’t need this early morning shit.

Boats

So I’m adding a new one to my Life List. Yes adding more but not checking any off. Fine. Perhaps I’ll just go and make my Life List into my home page as a way of shaming, no, reminding myself of the shit I’ve got to get done before I kick the bucket. If it grows faster than it shrinks I guess I’ll just have to live forever, but that only works if I’m removing items – that’s how perpetual motion works see? Otherwise its just sitting there and that’s no life either. But back to the matter at hand. The addition.

I want to learn how to raft, or canoe, or just generally get around in some floating thing that doesn’t involve my legs dangling in the water. When you think about it that’s how the explorers did it all. Only dimwits like Lewis and Clarke went it on foot. Now talk to Sir Alexander Mackenzie if you want to learn a thing or two about exploring a continent. Or have a chit chat with R.M. Patterson who did some pretty amazing canoeing himself up the mighty Nahanni, but take his claims of being the first white man to see Victoria Falls with a grain of salt – I’ve read his diaries. But the fact remains that boats are the way to go for adventuring and exploring, not 4x4s or ultralights or whatever other gas guzzling mechanation you can imagine. So, in the spring I shall look it up, find it out and get my ass into a canoe, and probably fall out of it once or thrice.

Be that as it may Montreal is the home of the Voyageurs and so what more appropriate place to make a start? How fun it will be to travel from A to B, not by asphalt and petroleum, but over water, under sunlight and by the sweat of my brow. I can already think of a lovely river that runs a good chunk of the way between Alberta and Nevada for that annual pilgrimage of mine…

As much as I love the city and the multi-coloured swirl of sensation – people, lights, music, machinery – there’s also something sacred about being on the trail, in the cleft of a giant canyon or gorge and just floating along. No machinery, no traffic, no electric lights, just you and that impressive world.

Besides. River guides charge way too much for what they provide. A sanitized and standardized “adventure” for common yuppie consumption. A real adventurer has no clue what’s behind that bend in the river – and he probably packs a gun.

Well there we go. And to bring it back to the commercial, the market and monetization that makes everything and everyone real and worthwhile –

I can’t call myself a Hardcore Camera Commando if I don’t know how to float a damn boat.

Is death really a problem?

Well that was much more painless than I’d expected. I was armed and ready to contend with all manner of mythical beasts and the black army of the RAMQ, deep, deep within the dark dungeons of their downtown stronghold. The receptionist was all smiles and jokes when I arrived, but I saw the people in the waiting room, frazzled, forlorn… okay there were only a couple of them, but they looked like they’d been there for hours, staring up at the numeric display, looking down at their numbered tickets, back and forth, even long after they’d memorized every digital dot that made up the laser print outs. Okay maybe I was imagining things. Still – I didn’t have a magazine to read.

Fortunately an agent was ready to see me even before I sat down. Strange. Must be some kind of trap, a methodical plot designed to lull me into a false sense of security. Maybe there was another, darker, more depressing waiting room just around the corner…

Now I realise that I have the right to service in English or French, but when someone greets me or asks me a question in French I consider it rude to answer with a “Yes siree!” – English sounds so brutish and rough next to French, even Quebecois French. Inevitably this gesture is taken as approval to continue the entire interaction in French, which thankfully I can usually comprehend so off we go. Although it involves far too much clicking of keyboards and printing of forms by my amply framed civil servant the process of getting my health card is actually surprisingly straight forward. I show him the documents he wants, kind of disappointed I didn’t need to use the rest of the dozen different pieces of ID and proof of residence I have in my bag of tricks – “Ask me for a bill dammit! How about a pay stub! Come on! I’ve got everything!”

In the end all I’m missing is a signed statement from my employer saying that I’m a permanent employee in Quebec and I’m golden. In the process I’ve officially stated to a government official that I’ve been a resident of Quebec since September 1st so… hello cheap tuition next fall! I got an $8 photo taken, which was a bureaucratic rip off but at least I won’t get in trouble for my head being 0.2% too high in the frame for government regulations. Its a scam but I’ll put up with it. Some fights just aren’t worth it unfortunately.

So I’ll have a shiny new Quebec health card soon with a picture of me with two days worth of stubble and hair that’s been mussed under an aviator’s cap, but whatever, nobody got a date based on how they look in their government ID. At least I haven’t heard of it.

So speaking of health brings me to my main subject for the day,

DEATH

Lovely isn’t it?

On my way to the RAMQ offices I decided to plug in the ‘ol iRiver and listen to a podcast or two. As luck would have it, playing on random I ended up with Radio Lab‘s show on Mortality. The start of the show is very objective and scientific, dealing with cells and biology, but as it goes on it gets more and more personal until it ends with a family, and how they deal with the death of a grandfather. A few days ago a friend on tribe.net made a post about our western tradition of preserving and protecting the bodies of the dead from decay – a kind of denial of death and decay and the circle of life. In conjunction these got me to thinking – why are we as “enlightened” westerners so afraid of death that we all but deny its existence? Almost all of our models and actors are young and attractive, we obsess with looking younger, of being healthier, of living longer, all while we go to great lengths to hide our aging away – to pretend they don’t exist.

I think its kind of fucked up. Yes it makes us uncomfortable, but fact of the matter is we’re going to have to deal with it sooner or later. No ifs ands or buts. If you have family, friends, coworkers – at some point you will have to deal with some of them dying. Some day you are going to die. Nobody plays this game without picking up that card eventually. Guaranteed. So. It makes us uncomfortable sure, but that discomfort is something we’re all going to find ourselves very, very close to. Might as well saddle up next to it and go for a ride, find out what it is and how it works.

For me this is somewhat difficult to do in a sensitive way. I’ve been lucky enough to have been fairly far removed from all the deaths that have occurred around me. All of my grandparents are dead, but I was never terrible close to any of them. They all lived so far away, our relationships consisted of brief summer vacations and the occasional holiday. There have been aunts and uncles, but again much the same thing. I’ve had friends who have lost parents, and I heard through the grapevine about a former roommate who I didn’t get on with particularly well going to sleep and never waking up. But close deaths? No.

So what right do I have to talk about it? Not that much. But I’m deciding, here and now, that when death appears, the spectre of it, that I won’t run away or ignore it. My father has had a few health scares over the past few years, and though each time its turned out fine, it serves as a reminder that some day it won’t and I will have to deal with that.

Aaaaand I don’t know what else to say. Except that I’m interested in death. I think we all are at some point in our lives, as children wondering where grandpa went, as adults dealing with our aging parents, as sudden survivors to the loss of a friend or co-worker. Western society by and large has little understanding and few mechanisms that we still use to deal with these times. Just watching the videos of air accident survivors a few weeks ago proves how ignorant many of us are to this fundamental human fact. Sadly hiding is not an effective defence against the Grim Reaper.

I’m convinced

Chriz presented a pretty good argument when he was here. If I’m serious about video work then I need to be serious about my gear. Vegas isn’t pro, no matter how much Sony wants it to be, its not going to displace Final Cut Pro any time soon. In order to run FCP I need to run MacOS. I fought this battle a couple of years ago, and here I am again. Fine. I will try Macintosh again.

macbook-pro-15-inch.jpgThe plan this time is to buy a 15″ Powerbook – at least that way I can have portability on my side. And now that Macs use Intel processors I can setup a dual boot as well, for when MacOS makes me crazy and I need to use some windows apps.

I also need to buy a lavalier mic for the camera. Location sound is too much hassle without it. Video technology may change every couple of years, but sound technology changes much more slowly. Its a more long term investment than a camera, but equally important.

I will also fix whatever is wrong with my PD-150. Damn motherfucker.

This buying spree will take place in early 2008 because I don’t want to deal with it on my 2007 tax return. I hate taxes.

Having a laptop would also be a boon for VJing at The Pound and other venues. I just need to find and learn some software. Maybe I should be buying a projector too…

All the video gear I’ve bought thus far has paid for itself in the form of gigs. Not to mention the experience. Its time to shit AND get off the pot on this one. What else have I been saving up for? A condo? An SUV? I don’t think so.

I hate my car

For a myriad of reasons;

  1. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec wants me to bring in about a dozen pieces of paperwork to an appointment January 28th! That’s almost two months away! That was the first appointment! They are going to charge me $84.98 for the priviledge.
  2. Again the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec wants $255 from me, per year to register my car and follow a proceedure so ludicrous it isn’t even described on their website.
  3. Insurance. Boo.
  4. There is noplace in the Montreal metropolitan area where you can park for more than four days in a row without getting a ticket.
  5. My car guzzles oil but nobody can tell me why.
  6. The engine light is on. Again no idea why. Internet research tells me it could be anything from a loose gas cap to major engine problems – I don’t trust mechanics to be honest with me.
  7. Public transportation in this town is good enough to get me anywhere I need to go.

On and on. The car made sense in Calgary where I was doing video gigs all over the city and needed to get from A to B quickly with a trunkload of gear. It made sense to drive from Calgary to Burning Man to Montreal. It does sort of make sense for the drive to and from the airport. It turns an hour and a half commute into a half hour drive, but its also causing me plenty of unnecessary stress and financial burden as well.

So let’s say I save an hour every day I go to work. Let’s say I work ten to fifteen days a month. In dollars, after tax that’s about $100 – $150 a month. The car probably costs me that much per month. So I break even. Except for the stress of course. But what about the stress of having to get up an hour earlier every day? Of course I can sleep on the bus…

Right now, this instant I’m really thinking its not worth it. Its only going to eat more of my money and time. I’d love to just put it in storage somewhere and only bring it out when I really need it. Who’s got a free parking space?

Faster! Faster!

So much. I feel like life has accelerated so much since I’ve moved here. Hard to believe its been over three months. In a couple more months I’ll be handing in my university applications and hoping for acceptance into Concordia or Ryerson for Film Production or New Media studies. The possibilities in this city are endless and I’m really just getting started. I need to make some bold opening moves.

Well I’ll start by registering the car, getting a license and a Quebec health card. These are probably going to be some of the toughest, most painful things I have to do here. Bureaucracy is a nightmare that I don’t want to entangle myself in, but that’s how they do it here so I’m going to have to shut up and take it. So, tomorrow is phone calls, email enquiries and the like. Fun.

Next? Reality hacking. Culture jamming. Situationist happenings. Whatever. I’ve always wanted to do them, and Montreal has a climate that’s friendly rather than hostile and oppressive.  The only question is the best way to get started and organize. Word of mouth? The Pound? The Burners? facebook? Some combination?

Here’s the first action: The Cutlery Symphony. Pretty simple concept really. Everyone goes to a particular restaurant or cafe one afternoon and at the first clink of a spoon after the designated time everyone else joins in creating an improvised symphony of clack and clatter. Then a minute or two later, as inexplicably as it started – it stops. Short, simple and sweet. Nobody getting arrested, no fancy costumes or props, no reason it can’t work.

And it goes from there.