No Such Thing as a Wasted Trip

It would be understandable if I were upset. After all getting a projector is a big part of my plan to create the Living Room Cinematheque. Without a projector the whole thing kind of falls apart, unless I can manage to convince people that staring at a blank wall is somehow entertaining.

Today I ventured out across town to meet the seller of the projector, do a little demo and hopefully seal the deal, giving me a super cheap solution to the projector problem. I got on the metro and headed out, almost to the end of the line, went to the designated meeting spot and ordered myself a coke. Five to ten minutes later my phone rang and the seller informed me that A) he was running late and B) he had just tested the projector and it was “acting funny.” He told me he’d call back in fifteen minutes trying to resolve the problem.

The night before I’d done some research on the projector, obsessively googling it and also checking out the alternatives on eBay. There were some misgivings from “the experts” about the video performance of the unit though consumers didn’t seem to mind. In terms of alternatives there wasn’t much in a comparable price range. It was either this or something substantially more expensive. I figured for the Living Room Cinematheque pilot project a cheap projector that wasn’t perfect would do just fine – at least until such time as I could afford something better.

Waiting for the seller to call me back I decided to explore the neighbourhood since its a part of Montreal I haven’t been in before. My interest was quickly piqued by a rather tall old smokestack and a large circular tower a few blocks away. I set out to discover what exactly this architectural marvel was. As I drew near I figured it out, the smokestack was the physical plant for Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine. Trying to get a closer view of the impressive old tower I ventured into one of the buildings. Immediately upon stepping onto the grounds though a strange feeling tingled at the back of my consciousness. As I walked the corridors I began to figure it out.

Checking up on Google when I got home confirmed it, Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine is a psychiatric hospital. The old halls were permeated with that distinct aura that inhabits these places. The people I saw in the halls had that forlorn, confused and in some cases totally removed look. Some hunched and uncommunicative, others alert to things that nobody could see but them. Electric maintenance trolleys and floor polishers rushed through the facility like busy worker ants, almost oblivious to the patients around them as they slid around with their quietly eerie electronic hum. Most of the hospital was quiet, forlorn, except for the area underneath the tower, the apparent nerve centre of the facility. Here a freight elevator waited to ferry supplies up and down the imposing structure and staff scurried back and forth. Temptingly one of the first doors I walked through was right next to a door marked “Tunnel Access” (in English no less), but psychiatric hospitals probably have more vigilant security than most, and I’d hate to be mistaken for a patient while trying to talk my way out of a sticky situation.

At the end of the day it was an inspiring backdrop with incredible story potential. Sad to think of what it was in reality though, with its fenced off outdoor yards and that panopticonic tower. Suffering from paranoia and delusions I’m sure that tower’s iconography and symbolic power did more to push patients to lurking paranoia then to stability and peace of mind.

With perfect timing the seller called me back as I was walking off the grounds and informed me that the projector still wasn’t working right and that it might be an issue with the fan. He apologized profusely but was glad it’d happened before he sold it rather than afterwards, and this in part is why I’m not upset.

Buying the projector and having it subsequently break on me would have been a much bigger hassle than going out and having a coke and home fries this morning. The projector probably wasn’t my best buy for my purposes despite the excellent price anyway, now I don’t have to worry about it. Not only that but I got to see things in the city that I haven’t yet seen – the eerie mental hospital and the science fiction inspiring Radisson metro station. It got me up and out of bed before noon which is something I haven’t done in… weeks. In the end much more good came of the experience than bad and I’m sure that before you know it I’ll find the perfect projector at a price I can live with. No worries.

So… I have every reason to be upset. But I’m not. I’m actually quite happy. Let’s see what else the day holds in store!

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.

Strange bedfellows

Youve heard the term sleeping with the fishes – well Ive got a new one for ya – sleeping with the pigeons. A few nights ago a seemingly normal night of UE turned into something altogether new.

Nel, Controleman and a couple of other local Francophone* explorers invited me out last weekend to try out a new entrance to an otherwise sealed set of silos. Right away we had complications as one of the explorers couldnt fit through the first gap in the fence and try as we could there didnt seem to be any other way through for him. So we bid him farewell and proceeded to climb the girders up into the silos…

Silos are always impressively large, but as you explore you come to realise that one set of silos is usually much like another so even though they were interesting and fun they werent necessarily anything to write home about. While on the roof taking photos someone, I think jokingly said that we should stay until sunrise on the roof. Nobody objected, and so, oddly enough, just after midnight, not having planned it at all we all settled in for the night on the concrete floor a hundred feet above the ground. I initially tried to sleep a level above the rest, figuing that the upper levels were less dirty (trash falls down afterall).

I managed to get an hour or two of sleep in on the concrete though all I remember is a lot of thrashing around to try and get comfortable. The others told me they came up at one point and shined their lights directly on me – I have no recollection of this so I mustve gotten some sleep. Finally I got up, so cold that I was shaking uncontrolably and went down to join the others. It was only a degree or two warmer down there so we relocated to the warmest location we could find, the electrical room. Unlike the rest of the silos the electrical room had no windows and was made of solid concrete instead of a combination of concrete and metal siding. In the inky blackness of the tiny room we managed to sleep another three or four hours until six am as the sky was just beginning to glow warm orangy tones on the eastern horizon.

And so we watched the sun rise from the upper levels of the silos, snapping photographs and stretching our aching limbs, celibrating our victory over the cold, hard night. We explored in the golden morning rays, snapping photographs and looking at the machinery that was cold and sickly looking the night before, warm and radiant in the morning light. It was tiring, but well worth it. We left the silos around nine am so were inside very nearly twelve straight hours. We went for breakfast, and who should join us but our big chested friend from the night before. Desole.

Im sad I hadnt brought my DSLR or my full sized tripod for photos, but I got a few acceptable shots. Controleman as usual made some amazing captures. Im just glad I had the experience. Sure a blanket or even a jacket would have been nice, but a camera bag makes an okay pillow and if you cant take it, well, find another hobby.

Photos later, when I get my computer setup.

* Exploring in French is all well and good, except for one thing – whispering. Sometimes doing UE its important to be quiet, but Ill be damned if I can tell the difference between a tenir ca and a tabarnac when theyre whispering.

To my knees

I have been up to raw sewerage to my knees and I can confidently say that I do not enjoy it. Sewage itself isnt so bad once you adjust to the idea of what it really is. In reality sewage is 90% soapy water from washing machines, sinks and bathtubs. The actual fecal content is really pretty low. What you have is a kind of greyish, brownish greenish concoction that has a strange solventy smell to it. Unpleasant sure, but certainly tolerable.

We were in an 80 year old tunnel below Montreal, black cement that swallowed flashlight beams like smoke and this torrential roar of effluence rushing past our feet. It was a big pipe, an old pipe, we saw small sections of blue and yellow brick. Cool. But ultimately, it wasnt that pleasant. You see oppressive darkness and sewage is ok, but its the mist that you have to think about.

For all the liquid pouring past your rubberized leg armour there is an associated mist or spray, this airborne cologne that truly deserved the title eau de toilete. Sidepipes here and there and upstream where the tunnel finally splits into two collectors the sewage pummels down dropshafts, shit waterfalls if you will resulting in an ever present mist composed of everything you can dare imagine.

Seeing these thundrous chunder pools helped to dispel any misconceptions I had of clenliness. I mean the near non-existence of floaties certainly had more to do with the punneling action of these drops than an actual lack of chunks of shit. It was all just so thoroughly blended and pulverized that only the most robust coilers could have survived. And this blend of sewer puree was exactly what was being slowly deposited on my clothes and skin, leaving a clammy sensation on everything, and woe what was entering my precious lungs.

Sewering is okay if youre prepared for all that, and you also keep one final thing in mind. If you see something float by, dont let your gaze linger. It is human nature to track movement as our hunter ancestors did, but dont. You certainly dont want to hunt anything that floats by down here be it toilet paper or something inconceivably worse.

Jump, Shimmy & Slide

Well the weather is absolutely gorgeous now in Calgary. Fucking brilliant actually. All I want to do is run around outside and do some shitcool parkour. Sadly my normal parkour partner Spandex is off in India until April 10th. Sure I can free run on my own, but its so much more fun with an accomplice.

Last year we had the idea of trying to summit every piece of corporate art in the downtown core. We only managed a couple before the weather got too chilly. We’ll revive the mission this year, along with the goal of roofing as many buildings as we can. We may even break out the rappelling gear this time around to get into some really funky spots.

If there’s anyone else out there who wants to parkour, let me know. Buildering I’m good at, but parkour I’m a relative noob so it’ll be a lot of practice, practice, practice. We all start somewhere right?