Incubator

So it seems to be the least I can do with my ample spare time devoid of work, a social life and even not very much volunteer work to do (though I have taken on a role with Burning Man – more on that later) is to develop my art.

I haven’t really put a ton of effort into my photography in some time. Sure I’ve been taking photos pretty much constantly over the past few years, even going so far as doing a 365 project called 1625, but I haven’t really pushed myself artistically. I haven’t had a vision, a thesis or anything that I was really digging into. Consequently I don’t really feel like much of my work over the past four or five years is any better than what I was doing back in 2006 and 2007. In fact my favourite pictures are still from that era.

Now I’ve learned a lot of technical skills since then and perhaps that’s what’s dulled the edge of my artistic blade. When you think too much about the nuts and bolts you start to forget about the intangible soul that links all of the tissues together. Its a world of rules, of thirds, of “proper” exposure and focus. All of that is important to know, and technically I’ve improved, but I don’t feel like the images are as moving or as ambitious. Its as though life is happening and I’ve just been catching snippets of it, as though by chance.

What I think helped to highlight this for me was the paid gigs I’ve been doing recently. As I gain competence in the technical details the things I really need to figure out how to do is the concept and how to execute that concept. Particularly when working with non-performers and non-artists the onus of creativity and interest really comes from me. People don’t know how to pose, what the best setting or lighting would be. That’s my job. On top of all the technical stuff.

So its time for art school.

Not actual art school mind you. I can’t afford that. Rather the virtual, do it yourself kind. Internet enter stage left.

I’ve just watched documentaries on Annie Leibovitz and James Nachtwey and have more in the queue for inspiration. I’ve begun to look for photography contests to enter. I’ve started thinking about series to shoot. I also have a great big list of YouTube lessons and tutorials on everything from framing to lighting or post production.

I’m contemplating a Tumblr or Pinterest stream to continue the 365 idea, though with a different twist than the one I did last year. I’ve started playing with different ideas for exhibition. If I’m truly an artist then I need to exhibit my art in more interesting ways than just posting it on a website.

Well, this post seems more trite than I’d originally envisioned. I do have some meditations on photography, creativity and art brewing, perhaps its just not yet time to put quill to parchment on the subject. It makes sense to take advantage of this idle time however. I’m sure once I’m working more regularly again I’ll fall right back into my resentment of my lack of time. Best to use it while I’ve got 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 feel stifling 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. 😉

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 real disposable 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.

We are the 100%

Occupy Wallstreet protesters are angry, and with good reason. A very small number of people, the purported 1% has in their hands the overwhelming majority of the money and power in the world and the gap is ever widening. But, as this image so aptly points out, the imbalance is a lot bigger than comparing their multiple mansions and yachts to your two bedroom rental apartment (or wherever you live).

[And of course now I can’t find the image that several people posted on facebook recently so I’ll describe it. Basically its a motivational poster style image with a picture of Occupy protesters on the left and starving children in sub-Saharan Africa on the right. Below it reads – “You are still the 1%”]

So let’s take that image in for a moment and think about its implications. The obvious implication is that despite it all we have it pretty good compared to most of the world and we’ve got quite the responsibility to help those who are less fortunate than we are. If we dig a little deeper and think a litter bit harder thought we’re led to another realization. Most of us, most of the time don’t think about the fact that most of the rest of the world deals with much harsher relative conditions than we do. In fact we take it for granted and even feel entitled to things like clean drinking water, education, roads, etc. We feel that way because we were born into a certain class, in a certain part of the world. Its just how we live. Making due with less is scary, and its frustrating when we see others who have so much more.

Now for the leap.

If you were born as one of the 1% of the 1% you’d feel the exact same way. Think about it. Born with a silver spoon in your mouth, always having servants, getting a BMW for your 16th birthday. Many of today’s uber-wealthy if not born into their fortunes got a pretty good head start compared to the rest of us. From their perspective the system works pretty well, and the idea of giving up the summer house in Nice or drinking $75 wine is downright terrifying. It must seem like the world’s being turned upside down. When you’re raised to think that you’re special, that you deserve everything you have, that somehow you earned it, why would you question that?

Here’s an interesting documentary that probes into exactly that, what its like to grow up uber-rich.

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/born-rich/

This is where the 99% vs. the 1% really breaks down. Ready? They’re human beings too. They’re scared of losing what they have. To them, taking the bus and eating bean soup would be like living in a shanty. They’re understandably defensive and afraid. Just like we’re reluctant to give up our cars or live in a smaller house. Some of the 1% are self-made and many of them sympathize with the Occupy Movement like Warren Buffet. Of course there’s sure to be a few genuine psychopaths amongst the uber-rich as well, but that’s a totally different bucket ‘o bolts.

99% or 1% we’re all really just playing out a game predicated on a set of rules that was written nearly half a millennia ago when central currency, major banking institutions and chartered corporations all got started. Now, those old rules about money, value and trade have snowballed into an avalanche that’s carrying us all away, poor, rich and middle class alike. That the system has treated certain members of society better than others there can be no doubt, but its reaching the point now that its starting to squeeze everyone (in relative terms of course) but its been in place for so long that hardly anyone is even aware of it, let alone trying to create a new alternative.

That is what we need to do, 99% and 1% together. Build a new system that doesn’t force us to be at each other’s throats.

There’s a lot dystopian sci-fi books and movies about a future where computers take over the world and enslave humanity. I suggest that this is already happening, except that the computers aren’t ArpaNet or Cybermen or Matrix Machines, rather its the increasingly complex “program” of financial systems, corporations and laws that are dictating how we do just about everything. Its not about metal and silicone robots dominating us, its about corporate ledgers and law books. We’ve written our own prison, our own doomsday scenario. Ironically all we need to do in order to escape is write a new one.

Writing a new scenario, a new script to follow (or better yet to improvise!) will take imagination and courage. This is why youth are so important. They have less invested in the old system and therefore can see and do things the rest of us have forgotten were even options.

The Great Protest

They used to call WWI the war to end all wars. Then they called WWII that. We all know what came next. More wars.

The Occupy Movement is stressing me out and I think its because at some level I’m under the incorrect impression that its the protest to end all protests – that somehow if we really apply ourselves and do an absolutely stunning job that we’ll manage to solve everything. What a ridiculous thought. And yet I can’t help myself – I’m a romantic and an idealist.

That’s why I want to be there all the time, obsess over strategy, because I feel like its an endgame move. We either win it all, or we lose everything. In some respects this is true. Social and ecological systems on the planet are definitely on a course for disaster and given our huge technological power as a species today we could really trash the whole place. We could also unwittingly dismantle centuries of progress in social spheres, justice, social welfare, health, etc. So understandably the stakes are high.

But let’s be honest, even if we achieve a lot, there will still be problems. Most revolutions go in fits and starts, some things get better, other things get worse, some people settle, some people take advantage, then things destabilize again. It takes a while.

What concerns me most and keeps me up at night is knowing that MOST people don’t understand the underlying mechanisms of the injustice and inequality found in our current political and financial systems. As a result we’re likely to accept band-aid measures rather than the sweeping changes that are truly needed to create a better and more just society for EVERYONE and the PLANET. I’m afraid that all we may do is buy some time, make a few more people more comfortable, just enough to quiet people down but not enough to actually make any lasting or deep changes.

I do have hope though. There ARE people who understand the underlying issues. One of the great strengths I’ve found in the Occupy Movement is that its a community as much as its a protest, and its a community that’s eager to have dialogue to discuss not only what we’re not happy about, but also how we might build something better. In fact the very structure of the occupations, providing their own services of food, education, communications, sanitation, etc. demonstrates that we don’t really NEED government or corporations, and that’s the first step in getting them to really seriously negotiate with us, from a position of being equals rather than supplier and consumer. (No self-deception that the tents and food and computers don’t come from corporations, but there is something distinctly non-commercial about these Occupy “villages.)

Its also vitally important that this revolution is for the benefit of everyone. Getting to the root causes of corruption is a way to do that, not by passing laws to protect a few middle class white Americans, but by fundamentally changing the way we produce and consume on a global scale, from Wall Street to Harlem to Haiti to Hong Kong. That’s why the global(ish) nature of this revolution is important. We all have to recognize that we’re in this together and that we need to collaborate, rich and poor, black and white, east and west, north and south. Otherwise new systems of domination will simply replace the old ones.

So all of this is a big order and probably not what we’ll get from this first wave of revolt. But who knows? We really should be trying to do that anyways. That way, even if we only achieve 1/10th of what we set out to do, there will at least be seeds planted for the other 9/10. Seeds planted will eventually grow, and if this boulder keeps on rolling, pushed by those who are never satisfied – well, just try and stop a boulder that’s going in the right direction…

Occupy

The longer I live the more in touch I get with my life’s purpose. Its about AHA! moments. Those clicks where a slice of someone’s world view changes, like a continental sheet just slipping away into a whole new ocean of possibility. Figuring out how to push peoples’ buttons so that happens is really big for me. So is community building. Figuring out what people really want and need, how that aligns with other peoples’ needs and wants, and finding a way to put all of that together, because together we’re more powerful, more capable than we are as individuals.

This is probably why the Occupy Movement really gets me going. There’s a lot of energy and momentum and potential here. I want to find ways to help it grow, spread, evolve and become sustainable. To actually make a difference.

The foremost thing on my mind right now is exactly that, hearts and minds to steal a phrase from the US military. Movements succeed where there is common understanding, intention, emotion and belief. So as humans of many different sorts, different backgrounds, beliefs, religions, races, personality types, etc. Where are the points upon which we can all agree, and how do we grow outwards from that?

Exhibit A: People who see the police as the enemy. I don’t think this is the case. Yes there are a few cops who got into it because they just like bullying people, but those are the minority. Police are defenders and warriors and as such are the kinds of people that believe in honour, justice, duty, respect, clarity and service. These are all wonderful, important, powerful traits that we NEED when it comes to defending our borders or protecting our cities. The problem comes in when To Serve and Protect becomes more and more serving and protecting only a certain segment of the population, because defenders believe in the rule of law and the chain of command they will follow orders that don’t necessarily reflect the values and needs of the greater good. The chain of command is very important in battle to ensure success, but when unscrupulous people end up at the top of that chain of command the police can be used for purposes that even they don’t believe in. But, the law is the law.

So protesters shouldn’t be upset with the police. The police are doing the job we pay them to do. Maintain order, uphold laws, obey commands from above. Getting angry at them is a mistake except for the bad apples who pepperspray without provocation, but they can be dealt with on a case by case basis. No, protesters need to empathize with the police and see what a difficult position they’re in. Chances are many of the police feel the same way as the 99%. If you talked to them off duty I can almost guarantee it. But they can’t just do what they want.

Here’s what needs to happen. We need to demonstrate to the police that we are also honourable, we believe in justice, we believe in respect, in fact we believe in those things MORE than the politicians and the corporations do – and what does that mean? That means that WE THE PEOPLE have more moral AUTHORITY than the 1%.

You cannot have a successful and bloodless revolution without winning the hearts and minds of the police and the military. What we create and what we desire must be defended, and in order to defend something we must first create it. So build it, and they will come. Police will gladly pepperspray and club rowdy vandals, on the other hand they will just as gladly protect decent, honourable citizens who are building something better to serve as an example of what could be.

Exhibit B: The 53% is a misguided and uninformed swath of people who’ve been hit hard by the machinations of the 1% who see the 99% protesters as entitled crybabies. As far as I understand it their argument goes something like “I got shafted in X, Y and Z ways and you don’t see me complaining.” Is it victim mentality? I don’t know. I need to think about this one more.

Exhibit C: “Corporations provide us with tons of great services and products and jobs. Why are you angry at them?” I think this one can be chalked up to a lack of imagination. I like cameras and cell phones and Internet and cars and all that. I really do. But so much environmental damage and human suffering is connected to all of those products and services, I have to share in the blame for that because I’m a consumer. But that doesn’t mean I have to just take it. You can only be called a hypocrite if you don’t acknowledge what you’re doing. Cleaning up the practices of these companies is also about cleaning ourselves of the guilt of years of tainted purchases.

Exhibit D: I had something for this but I can’t remember it. I just had it a second ago. About freedom, fear, imagining something else. This was a really good observation, something that’s hidden in plain view, something about how we are in the world. Why we’re doing this, I mean really. YES!

Youth. Many critics of the Occupy Movement classify it as a band of unwashed youth looking for a handout, but that isn’t really what we want, its never what we wanted. Even before the economic crisis hit we had a feeling in our guts that something was wrong. We want meaning. We want challenges. We want a real future. What is it to look to the horizon and see only hours of toiling in call centres or in a Wal-Mart? Our lives are without meaning or purpose, all we do is move cash through different machines for one another. America has become a culture of servants serving one another for the sake of having something to do.

We want horizons and possibilities. We want to invent. We want to create. We want to build. We want to think for ourselves. Instead we’ve been regulated to death and given dull, menial, departmentalized “jobs” to do that don’t even afford us enough money or free time to do anything more meaningful. What does America aspire to these days? Going to space? Exploring the oceans? Finding new energy sources? Creating fabulous art? Nope, none of that. All that’s important it seems is making money, most of it going to those who already have a lot of money, so that they can use it to turn around and make more money. None of us who are young today signed up for that. We dreamt of much bigger, brighter and grander things. We want to change and shape the world, not work a cash register for 8 hours a day, then eat junk food and watch TV before going to sleep and doing it all over again.

This deserves more lucid, poetic, evocative writing, but this I think is the true manifesto. We as humans yearn for something more than mere subsistence and comfort. If that’s all we wanted we would never have left the jungle. No, we want to push the boundaries, to grow, to change, to evolve. This 9-5 grind in pointless jobs where we don’t even see any real benefit or products of our labour is not why we were born.

 

So begins the discussion, the transformation. Let’s DO THIS THING!

The Time is Now

Can you feel it? Its coming. Everything is changing. I wish I weren’t so busy, but that’s probably just a sign of the times. Another symptom of the world beyond the periphery of where we are now.

facebook is censoring events and blog posts. They and other websites have also been subtly modifying the design of their sites to make them more about delivering content than about creating it. Notice how you can’t make status updates on your facebook homepage anymore? Last year Amazon dumped wikileaks after US government bullying. Today the media is willfully ignoring a steadily growing occupation movement on Wall Street.

Does any of this feel historical to you? You’re playing a part in history. Right now. How do you want to be remembered? What kind of world do you want your children to grow up in? I’ll give you a clue. There is no way that it will resemble the posh western lifestyle that you and your parents enjoyed in the 20th century. It could be better than that. It could also be much, much worse.

On top of all this I’m working full time to pay off debts that I can’t be forgiven, even though corporations can go bankrupt or get bailouts without even blinking. My credit card colonized me, I should have listened to my parents. I am also preparing to move. Where on earth will I find the time to do what I need to do in my personal life, while also doing what I need to do as a politically engaged person? All I know is that I will. What needs to get done is at this moment crystal clear.

  • taBURNak! the Third needs to happen. The culture and values of Burning Man represent to me the best place to begin building a new culture, a new economy, a new structure. No dictates as to what that will be, but I think that more people need to experience all the different possibilities that are out there and I’m all too happy to bring those experiences to them.
  • I need to work, make money, get out of debt. When I’m in debt, I’m owned. I need to get out, and stay out. This way of relating to money and value and things is OVER.
  • I need to go home for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t matter what work says/wants. This is non-negotiable. Family comes first.
  • I need to join, even if only for a day the Occupy Wallstreet movement in NYC. I want to put my weight behind the wheel of history and change its course.
  • I need to move. The thing that makes life worth living, makes all these other things worth doing is love. Love is also what makes these things possible. I need to be with my lover. Not only that but there are new horizons to explore and new adventures to undertake. I see important work there.

I would love to go deeper into all of these, but alas I have too much to do. I need to get to sleep so that I can be as productive as possible in the coming days. There’s A LOT to be done.

Introductions

[I thought I’d do a few blog posts about my relationship with Montreal, here we go…]

I first came to Montreal in the summer of 2005 for Office Products Expo ’95, a name meant as misdirection from the fact that it was an urban explorer’s conference. I was living in Calgary at the time and visiting were Siologen and Feccie, Siologen I knew from my year with the Sydney Cave Clan in 2001 and Feccie his partner in crime. Working for an airline I managed to get the three of us on a flight to Montreal for the event, not really knowing anything about the city except that it was the second biggest metropolitan area in Canada and that it was French.

We rode the shockingly inconvenient 204 and 211 buses from the airport to meet with… I don’t remember who actually. I do remember Siologen noting on the way in that he was glad to be in a French city because the graffiti was better. At Lionel-Groulx station I recall one of us getting on the wrong metro and playing a bit of musical cars/stations. We connected with another Sydney connection, Chris who was an avid Pynchonite like me who’d shown up at a Cave Clan newbies night and joined with us in adventures involving indoor spool fires, security guard chases and an ascent of the Syndey Harbour Bridge with a thunderstorm in the distance. Sometimes I forget how charmed my life is. Anyways we rocked up to Chris’ apartment three urban explorer gypsies from down under and out west and pretty much informed him that we’d be sleeping on his floor. In retrospect it was kind of rude, but Chris took it in stride and came along for numerous adventures with us over the weekend. Its a good thing his girlfriend was out of town.

As it was an urban exploration conference most of our time was spent in the old malt plant, lectures on credibility props and looking like you belong, a short but exhillerating jaunt through the McGill steam tunnels – “Is that? Shit it is.” “What?” “We’ve been hanging out in front of a security camera for the past five minutes.” “I think we should go… Now!” It was also the weekend that I met Nel58 whom I love and don’t see often enough, and Steve Duncan who becomes a funny connection a few years later. Alex and Rodney were there as well. We threw debris at Avatar-X from the roof of the malt plant, dropped grape soda from the top of the Dow Brewery (right next to the cop shop), Siologen rode an electric cart through the vast halls of the Alstrom rail plant and we shot fireworks in the Wellington Tunnel. An unconventional way to be introduced to a city for sure, probing its abandoned and underground parts, but that’s just the kind of guy I am.

I saw plenty of the regular sites too. Parc Avenue, the International Fireworks Competition (from the top of Dow mind you). I experienced a bit of Mile End culture and after Chris’ girlfriend came back and kicked us out we stayed for a couple of nights on Avenue Mont-Royal before staying in the under renovation apartment of Steve’s cousin Ryan who would later become one of my best friends in Montreal though I wouldn’t meet him until years later. Steve summed up one of the aspects of Montreal that was on all of our minds on the short walk from the pizza shop to the apartment. “I fall in love with a new girl every five minutes in this town!” The girls were, and are, lovely, as was the beer at Brutopia and Reservoir.

Up until this point I had pretty much settled my sights on Toronto as the ideal escape from Calgary. I knew the Burners and the urban explorers in Toronto, it was big and multi-cultural, but after less than a week in Montreal I had already been swayed. While Toronto was big and diverse and exciting Montreal had a certain je ne sais quoi to it that was just much more appealing. Montreal had colour, instead of Toronto’s monochrome black and white reality. Montreal had parcs and grand historical buildings where Toronto had steel and concrete. The pace of life in Montreal was so much more meandering and relaxed, it was clean and fun always seemed to be in the air. There was also the language. For the first time since I was in grade school I was speaking French, it was practical, it was lighting up parts of my brain that had been dormant for years. Language is the software of the brain and Montreal was like a whole new suite of software to play with.

I vowed to live there someday.

The next time I visited Montreal was to check and make sure that I hadn’t been deceived by a trick of the light or the intoxication of too much running, climbing and adrenaline. I flew in for a metro party. Newmindspace was in town running a party on the metro that would ride around as long as it could. I decided to use couchsurfing to find some hosts outside of the urban exploration circles to get a different, more “normal” perspective on the city. The girl I stayed with came with me to the party and we rode the Metro from one terminus to the other and back again before the STM police shut down the show and forced us to disperse. It was a surreal experience taking over a public space like that with such a sense of energy and joy. Nothing like this would ever happen in sleepy old Calgary. We had a blast and so the next day instead of going and doing their thing without me my host invited me to come with them to a Cabane a Sucre in the Eastern Townships.

A Cabane a Sucre is a sugar shack and the event is a celebration of the coming of spring and the maple syrup harvest(?). I ate more sugary goodness, fried pig’s ears and other unidentifiable delights than my stomach could possibly handle, but still I ate and ate. What followed was Quebecois folk tunes, line dancing, haybale rides, a petting zoo and my first tire de neige. It was a cultural explosion, in my mind and in my mouth. That was the day I realized that there was more to Quebec than Canadians who spoke French instead of English, there was truly something different going on here. I became fascinated by a culture that I had only the very beginnings of an understanding of.

Not long after that I was surprised to discover that my application to transfer from Calgary to Montreal had been approved and I would start training for my new position at the beginning of September, only a week after the end of Burning Man. Preparations began quickly. Twice I flew back and forth to Montreal looking frantically for an apartment in a city that I still barely knew, each time bringing piles of baggage that I left at Nel’s house who graciously stored them for me. When finally my apartment was empty and my car filled to the brim my friends ensured that I would be sent off in style by getting me so drunk at the Hop ‘n Brew that I couldn’t see let alone walk by the end of the night. A day later I was on the road for Burning Man, another Australian Dirge in the passenger seat and Brian and Brandi completing the convoy in their rental camper. We would be together all along the I-95 and the I-80, at Burning Man and then after exidous split ways with Dirge and I heading east towards my new home…

Au Revoir Montreal…

This is an incredibly difficult moment for me. One that has been coming for a long time and yet I have denied right up to the end. I have hinted at it regularly over the past few months, but I don’t think I have ever said it outright. Because of that, for some of you this will come as a surprise.

I’m moving to San Francisco, no flowers in the hair.

Now I have said that I’m only moving for the fall/winter, six months or so. That’s my way of sitting on the fence, when the reality of the matter is that its probably for longer than that. Potentially much longer. I like the idea of coming back to Montreal in the spring, watching the last whisps of snow fade into the earth and be replaced by green and every colour of flower. I like the idea of returning to old friends, biking along the canal and wild summer festivals that swallow you up so that you feel like your whole life is just one big party. I freaking love this city and its people and I will return often, but…

Montreal was never intended to be a long term thing. I came here thinking I’d go to school and get another degree (ha ha ha!), four or five years and I’d be off again to experience and explore another magical city like Paris, New York or San Francisco. Yes San Francisco was already on the list of places to live and experience, but that was 2007, this is 2011. Since then I’ve fallen in love, clumsily and unexpectedly with Montreal. What was only ever meant to be a fling turned into something deep and true. She has not always been kind to me, but she was also the first city to truly accept me for who I am and allow me to do the things that needed to be done. First love always leaves an indelible mark.

San Francisco by contrast is something entirely new, at times beautiful, at others terribly intimidating. We flirted a lot, but I have no idea what a more serious relationship with this city will be like. Of course I had no idea what was going to happen with Montreal either. One thing is for sure, both are cities full of passionate people and both are just a little bit different from the North American mainstream.

Its also significant to talk about the real human love that brings me there (as though it were possible to escape that despite the city/love metaphor). Though I love Montreal, its my love of Stella and her love for me that really sustains and inspires me these days. I spend much of my time here wishing that either she was here or that I was there. My favourite moments are by her side and the place where that happens doesn’t really make that much difference. It could be stranded in the Calgary Airport, wandering the night time desert or just sitting at a greasy spoon. How lucky I am then that the place where she’s to be found most often is also one of the most dynamic, vibrant and progressive cities in North America.

While I move for love, I also move for new opportunities. The chance to grow closer to the man I’ve always wanted to be. To try out new career options, new modes of living and organizing and contributing. New forms of self-expression and self-understanding. San Francisco is a city dedicated to newness and the future and I feel like there is a place for me there. A place where perhaps I can do a lot of good.

More than the festivals and the parcs and the depanneurs I’m going to miss the people. Over the past year I’ve been a bit more distant, at least part of the reason for that was the foreknowledge that this day was coming. Even so its no easier to say goodbye, perhaps its worse. Each one of you have been a special and important part of my past four years here in one way or another. Some of us have worked on big projects together, some of us have shared deep and intimate moments, I think all of us have had at one time or another a great deal of fun. You’ve all touched me, shown me different ways of doing things, different ways of seeing the world. Much of what I’ve learned and accomplished over these years would have been impossible without you, and I thank you for that.

I have no doubt that there will be more projects, more opportunities for fun and connection between us in the future. They will just be more infrequent is all. Even if I’m leaving Montreal it doesn’t mean that I’m not still a Montrealler. This city has forever imprinted itself on how I live and how I see the world and that means that I have to come back. Nuit Blanche, taBURNak! or Tam Tams, I’ll be here again from time to time. Nobody can tell what the future holds, but I do know that my affection for this place and the people here will never leave me.

So for this last month that I’m here, I want to enjoy it. I want to soak in as much of Montreal as I can. To bring the spirit of this city with me wherever I go. Je suis Montrealais toujours. J’apporte l’esprit de la ville avec moi dans tout la monde. Parti, mais jamais absent. Merci, et a bientot.

Music to Burn to

Packing for the Burn tonight since I’m going to Edmonton tomorrow to help Batfink renovate his basement in exchange for some much needed cash that will allow me to go to the playa without going into debt. As I do I’m hand picking music that puts me in a Burning mood. Here’s a few of the songs and how they strike me…

Planet Funk – Under the Rain

This song just captures perfectly what its like when it rains on the playa. Such energy and jubilation and relief from the sun’s heat. The connection to nature seems stronger out on the playa, probably because its so harsh. Mother nature really is the boss out there, we’re just her wild beautiful children.

The Presets – My People

Powerful forceful beats, the way you feel when you’ve got 50,000 like minded people at your back. Its like you can do anything. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson – “You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…. And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…”

Soul Coughing – Circles

I heard this blasting from an art car as I watched a dust devil lazily gliding across the open playa. One of those perfect synchonicities that falls out of the Burning Man chaos.

Hawksley Workman – Lethal and Young

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=12869675203

A good leaving Burning Man song. Its over folks…

Admitting What I Want

Something strange about growing up. As bills and debts and schedules begin to mount so dreams and passion can easily begin to slip away, lost amongst the minutae of living a modern life. All too often I have found myself lamenting the loss of that youthful enthusiasm and straightforward purpose that I felt I possessed as a youth but somehow seem to have forgotten. Its not gone, its just obscured by being “a responsible adult” when really that’s just a load of wash. The passion and desire is still there, there’s just so many signs, signals and subtle hints that really you should forget about that and be a good little cubicle critter and not think outside of the box. Be responsible. Blah blah blah.

Last I checked nobody made a fortune or found their sense of self-worth at the bottom of a balance sheet. They did it by following some other inner guide that led them somewhere new, someplace that could be imagined by nobody but them.

So here we go. Here are my real dreams and my real passions and what I want to achieve in life. Its a list for several lifetimes perhaps, but even a few of them will make me and the world better, and that’s really what we should be here doing. Not just carrying on as though this is the only world that could be.

  • Write and direct a Science Fiction series that’s actually smart/dramatic like SG-U or Babylon 5.
  • Create a comic book/graphic novel or two, specifically Downsiders & Bronze Tiger.
  • Create fun/educational promotional videos for businesses/organizations/products involved in environmental/sustainability/human rights work, particularly alternative energy, public transportation and education/empowerment programs.
  • Collaborate on dynamic, beautiful and artistic video & multimedia projects with performing artists such as musicians, dancers and circus performers. Music videos, but also a lot more, creating new genres of cinema in collaboration with the performing arts.
  • Working under trying circumstances to bring about a great creative or sustainability/human rights project. I love pushing my limits.
  • Create engaging & unique videos/multimedia experiences that help to convey scientific principles, social and cultural realities to new audiences so that they truly understand and engage with those concepts/points of view.
  • Create interactive events and environments with the goal of creating opportunities for participants to have breakthrough moments, moments of transcendence, wonder and radical communication. Connecting creative and intellectual communities in ways that encourage new possibilities.
  • Support arts organizations in connecting more meaningfully with their communities, particularly through youth education and empowerment.
  • Building innovative light and sound installations as well as upgrading existing structures with the same to create new perceptions of these spaces and their uses for the community.
  • Empowering community members to bypass typical gatekeepers and restrictions, allowing them to pursue projects that will enhance and strengthen ties within their community instead of relying on government and other outsiders for such enhancements.
  • Supporting artists in the development and promotion of their work with a particular focus on reaching the general public instead of just an elite art market.
  • Make a feature film about subjects that are of interest to me, such as the travel film Standby.
  • Short film projects revolving around simple overlooked subjects such as the Metro or a particular colour, using images and sound to create a poetic reflection that leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the subject.
  • To build a community art space that provides resources and a venue for a diverse community to gather and make their dreams a reality. A place for people to meet, to share and develop their ideas in an environment supportive of many approaches and points of view.

So there’s today’s dream set. There’s surely lots more, like art cars, theme camps, giant art and a bus rv conversion, but I feel like those are simply more specific manifestations of the general principles outlined above.

I want to do a lot of different things and that’s part of the challenge of being me. Figuring out where to focus the energy. But I feel confident that many of these things will come to pass, especially as I contemplate them and say them out loud. Here it comes. Here it comes…