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I decided a couple of days ago that I needed to get away from the facebook. Hence I have declared November my no-facebook month. I abstain from drinking for one month every year, why not also cut out another of my damaging addictions?

Its interesting to notice that there are photos on my camera that I took specifically to put on facebook, to elicit a response. The whole thing is very much a system of levers, and we’re the mice desperately seeking those tasty food pellets. Or perhaps that’s a simplistic view. Indeed I think much of the 24/7, always connected, soundbyte, animated GIF, hashtag world is about reducing everything to binary simplicity. You either like something or you don’t, there’s not much room for real discussion or nuance.

My hope is that this month will be one of more art and more learning than the usual facebook month. As soon as I feel “bored” I tend to open a new tab and type “F” – that’s all that’s required. My browser knows that “F” means facebook, not fastidious, friendly or fun. Maybe these four weeks will change that.

For starters I haven’t written here for a long time so perhaps some summarizing of things going on is in order.

I’m cat sitting Carmella’s cutiecat Niblet for the month while she’s off in Europe. He’s delightful, even when he tries to sleep on my face and lick my eyeballs with his sandpaper tongue. The cuddling and playfulness is great as are the refresher lessons in non-linguistic communications with another living being. I can’t tell Niblet what I want, anymore than he can tell me, but we can communicate. Its pretty cool.

I’m feeling better financially. I felt a bit flush last month due to some good photo/video gigs as well as a refund from an employer who made some payment errors last year. I used some of that to wipe out what I owed Revenue Quebec as well as a much of my credit card debt. I’ve also started squirreling some away in a rainy day fund which is prudent but boy would I rather spend it! I am spending some money on myself though, or rather on my career. I’m buying a little bit of photography gear, but mostly I’m buying stuff to work on some experimental light painting techniques I’ve decided to play with.

I’m taking my photography and videography business a lot more seriously, as well as my art. I can thank my course at CCSF for that, but also just the realization that I need to get on course to the rest of my life in my chosen fields. Life at the photography store is okay, but its not going to last, and even if it did I have a lot more potential than this.

Speaking of which I’m at work right now so I should probably get off of here and do something “productive.”

Agent K., signing off.

Pay me

As a budding photographer and videographer I’ve definitely taken my fair share of low or no paying gigs. It comes with the territory. That’s how you learn, make contacts, get known. I’ve noticed though that when it comes to these pro bono gigs that I can barely muster the energy. Even doing a shoot for a friend like I am tonight I just don’t feel like it. Its not exciting. Standing behind the lens, snaking through the crowd, its fun sometimes, but a lot of the time its just work and I expect to get paid and paid reasonably well when I work. Sure there are times when a job is just fun, exciting, challenging, but my standards and my expectations are definitely on the rise.

The trouble is that during slow months like this one I tend to say yes to jobs that I shouldn’t – those with little to no pay that also just aren’t interesting enough to warrant the effort. Maybe I’m still generating goodwill and contacts, but if I’m not having fun or there isn’t a decent amount of money on the table its hard to take things seriously and deliver the best work. I think sometimes I’m shooting myself in the foot.

Fortunately I’m not alone. When I read about famous actors, comedians, artists and entrepreneurs rarely did things go smoothly for them from the start. Usually it was a jagged progression of successes and failures, excitement and drudgery. I’m in good company and will just keep doing what I love and what I’m good at. Photos tonight, even if I don’t really feel like it.

The Land of Milk and Honey?

I haven’t really written since I arrived in San Francisco more than half a year ago now. In part its because I don’t want to be a downer, the transition has been a difficult one and endless woe is me entries in this blog wouldn’t exactly be endearing to you faithful readers. I feel like I can at last unload and debrief about the past few months, the challenges and the victories and the potentials for the road ahead.

To say that I’m settled in, cozy and warm in my new environs would be a lie, but I don’t hate it anymore. Yes I hated San Francisco. Many out there consider it a kind of high tech, counter cultural nirvana, which is something I used to buy into as well, but its just a city like any other. I think the fairy tale version of San Francisco is in part the cause of my dissatisfaction. The street level reality of San Francisco can never match its mythical extolled virtues, at least for me.

There’s lots of income disparity, public transit isn’t great, there’s not as much green space as I’m used to, the job market is insanely competitive (due to that fairy tale vision), there’s a bit too much flakiness in the air and speaking of the air, the weather is rarely bad, but rarely good.

It feels good to have that off of my chest. Phew.

All of that said, if I were to list my top ten cities to live in San Francisco would still be there. I no longer hate it here and the longer I’m here the more I come to understand and appreciate it. Many of the disadvantages and frustrations are also what makes it great.

The high cost of living here and the competitive nature of it is hard to cope with sure, but it also summons you to bring your best to the table. It wasn’t until arriving here that I really started to get serious about being a photographer. Its an uphill battle, slow moving and sometimes frustrating, but I’ve been making ground, picking up jobs and making connections. I’m not really making a living (and that’s a big source of pain) but I’m getting close to it and I can imagine a day when I do thrive as a camera for hire. Its the best and worst of America, you can achieve a lot if you work hard, but nobody is going to pick you up if you fall.

The flakes and the wierdos come with San Francisco’s extraordinarily accepting nature – everyone is welcome here and they’re welcome to do and think whatever they like without judgement. There’s definitely a lot of stuff that pushes my buttons (both good and bad) but I love that so many possibilities are open as a result. If you’re into it, chances are there’s a community here for it, even if that also means crazy cultists and geninuely crazy people roam the streets. It also means that there are people here working on truly groundbreaking and challenging new (and old) ideas. It can be overwhelming, but its an amazing form of democracy and diversity.

Finally San Francisco’s geography wreaks havoc with its attempts at public transit and a well integrated park system, it also crams a lot of density into a small area (in a way that can sometimes feelĀ stiflingĀ to this prairie boy) and traps crummy weather right overhead. When the sun shines though, hot damn, its gorgeous here. San Francisco is a beautiful city, if you’re here on the right day and go to the right places. Most of it is concrete jungle, but the parks and waterfront and hills are tremendous. The many historic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz and the rest are pretty stunning, I just wish I could take the Metro there. šŸ˜‰

There’s a lot more pluses and negatives to go around. One of the biggest challenges for me is being underemployed, not having my own space and no realĀ disposableĀ income. Slowly that is changing and I’m sure that as it does my resentment of hipsters in designer toques will wane (though really, toques in the summer is just dumb). I’ll be talking more about SF and digging into it. Its a fascinating town, but for me this relationship is off to a rocky start. I think it was just bad timing, so let’s do it.

Click

A piece of the puzzle may have just clinked into place. Yesterday I found out about an idyllic fruit farm in B.C. that’s run by an older couple that bring in seasonal help for the fruit harvest. I could harvest cherries for two to four weeks. A working vacation! In a lush valley of trees, mountains and lakes. There could be worse things.

Maybe I could even get into some trouble with the B.C. burners and make that beat poetry film I wanted to make with Shayne Avec I Grec. Not a bad month. That sounds like a contract to me, a contract of my own making. I don’t even know what month this is I’m looking at… looks like usually late July, early August – thanks Google.

Mind you that’s prime wedding video season, but who wants to shoot wedding videos all summer? Not I. Maybe a few.

But the virtual house tours seem like the way to go. I just want to wander around mansions in Westmount and get paid for it – I’ll admit it.

Oh, put up a screen in the living room. We’re ready for winter now.

Except maybe that beach party…

Gotta get on with Cirque du Boudoir for that one. Also feelin’ a real yearning for some circusy fun.

Back to the wonderful life. Bye bye Internetland.

Lightness

Light as a feather – that’s how I feel. Light and loose. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so relaxed.

This year’s Burn was an affirmation, of… well just about everything. The human spirit, the desert, love, compassion, intuition, energy, direction, brilliance… I could go on forever. So brilliant a manifestation of the human spirit its hard to even think about anything else. I am a creatre dedicated to play.

Coming back to work hasn’t even dampened my spirits. How could it when so much is right in the world? How could it when I’m soon to strike out on my own, powered by the wings of my own genius (the mythical interpretation of the word, not the Einstein sense, though perhaps that as well).

I can do anything, be anything, desire anything and recieve anything. Its all there to be had and more importantly to give. The gifts, the giving, so much of it. Who’d ever have thought that giving out poutine, a heart attack in a bowl would be such a profound and fulfilling experience? Certainly not I.

There will be stories and photographs, but for right now I’m just relaxed and content. Light as a cloud and ready for whatever is meant to be.

A brief note

From Midnight Poutine’s San Francisco office. The place is a mess. Not our mess mind you. The mess of a genius google employee who plays with lasers in her spare time. She’s moving, we’re sleeping on the floor, the futon, wherever aren’t boxes and books and other junk that spurts and foams from every conceivable place when you’re moving. Not sure where it all comes from, but there it is.

Buying things for the Burn. Only the Burn. What the hell is the point? Its strange to follow the path set down in what seems like a previous life. My intentions and values today aren’t exactly what I had in mind when I created this freight train, but with the momentum of a whole camp of people its impossible to sop, even if that’s what I wanted – and it isn’t really. Its just that I probably would never have conceived of something like this in my current incarnation, my new life, meNOW. Midnight Poutine is resource intensive, large scale, certainly not the poster of small simplicity that I’m striving for now. In that sense its a living relic, but what a relic.

I’m excited. This is going to be epic, but parts of it are hard to resolve with who I’ve become. I mean no matter what we do its going to be expensive and there’s going to be waste. Arrrrrrrgh! I need to accept that this is how these things roll. You have to break eggs to make cookies (omlettes don’t suit my palette). Still, I find myself asking what justifies it all sometimes. Beh. It doesn’t matter really. “Because its cool.” is the mantra of the Burn and that’s good enough for this year. I’m just making sure I’m aware that it might not be in the future.

Burning Man. I actually cringe a bit when I hear the word. I notice that I don’t use it much. I talk about “going to the desert” and being “on the playa” a lot more than I say “I’m going to Burning Man.” The very utterance of the words just conjures up the fabric of branding for me, of elitism, the cult. The goddamn desert cult. You go to Burning Man? That’s great. Nobody cares. You are not a special and unique snowflake just because you go and choke on prehistoric fish feces – I’m sorry.

This is not to say that I don’t like Burners or Burning Man. It is the more magical community I have ever found. I love it, but…

I suppose we are most critical of those people and things that we love the most. We see their potential and expect them to be that at all times when really, that’s impossible. So it is with Burning Man and all that goes with it. I am becoming a Cynical Old Burner – a COB. Well fine. That’s okay.

No, cynical isn’t right, perhaps a realist. I still love it and expect the best from it, but I’m not surprised or offended when it doesn’t deliver, and I’m willing to look at the parts that aren’t ideal. I think the main thing is simply this; Burning Man isn’t special. You aren’t special for going there. The art there isn’t special because its there. Its just a week in the desert, no more, no less. The magic that you may or may not experience there also exists in countless other corners of the globe at all times of the year. That is if you take the principles and ideas you find there with you. Hell, we all know people we’d call Burners who have never even been to the event. What more proof do you need that it really isn’t that special?

I would like to see the magic in more times and places. Gifting water at Burning Man – not so extraordinary. Gifting water in Parc Lafontaine on a hot summer day – kind of extraordinary. That’s what excites me these days. Burning Man is a model, a testing ground, a training centre, but its not in an of itself a terribly important place, what’s important about it is what happens when the world of the Burn intersects with the real world. If the energy that went into the Burn were instead directed outwards from the desert into other communities, cities and towns. That’s when the real, tangible, lasting magic starts to take place.

Its easy to create magic in a place where magic is acknowledged to exist. Its a much greater feat to create magic in a place that has forgotten or even suppressed what magic is. This then is the greater triumph and the greater quest.

So go the Burning Man. Dress like rabbits. Ride on rocket ships. Shoot flamethrowers. Do crazy drugs and have crazy sex. Just remember that its only a dress rehersal. The true spirit of it. The spirit not of Burning Man, not even of art, but the spirit of Life. That has to exist 52 weeks a year.

Arts Committee

Here’s an idea to help me stay accountable on my quest to become a working artist.

First off create an arts blog & calendar. Nothing too fancy, just what I’m working on, where my progress is at, what my deadlines and such are. Then I get some of you, yes YOU to subscribe to this blog and watch my progress and comment. Keep me on my toes, let me know if I’m not holding up my end of the bargain, offer suggestions and advice. I think I’d find it really useful, though what I can offer you in return I’m not sure.

I’d like to have a conversation with some of you, once a month or so to talk about my projects and what’s going on with them, and what’s up with me and my process. I suppose the most logical way to go about this is to make it a reciprocal relationship, tell me what your projects are (artistic or otherwise) and how the process is unfolding.

There’s no sense going it alone in this world, not with so many great folks out there. Folks like YOU.