Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ottawa Adventures

When I woke up, I then slept some more, and then started to ponder my plans for the day.  I had some purchases to make for my video-making, and needed to go into Ottawa to make them.  Trouble was, I soon fell deeply into one of my Ecclesiastical states, thinking "What's the point of anything?  Why bother?  Isn't it a waste of time, self-indulgent, not worth the trouble and not going to be good?"
  Then KT phoned.  She has a boyfriend, and is in her twenties, but she has troubles with depression, and seems to want to use me as a depression sponsor the way alcoholics use each other as addiction sponsors.  She was firming up a plan to hang out tomorrow, and also invited me to go out with her boyfriend and her (that is grammatically sound, uninformed scoffers...) to a haunted Halloween house farm thing.  I declined.  And adjourned to the couch to try to work up the energy to get off the couch.  Wasn't working.
 Then Peter emailed to ask if I'd like to go hiking.  I declined that as well. (I should point out that I just read the latest of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter books, upon which the TV series is based, and the dry formality in which his serial killer protagonist conveys his unorthodox thoughts and feelings seems to be catching)
  By supper-time I still wasn't heading anywhere much, having merely watched some Bored To Death, exchanged opinionated Facebook messages and re-encoded and watched a BBC documentary about the Spitfire aircraft at a size my hacked XBOX can play, so I went up the street to the butcher's, got some meat, and also got a Monster energy drink.  Energy drinks and I do not mix.  I get all buzzy, terribly impatient and think and talk at about triple speed.  And not for an hour.  Like for six. (so, buzzing still at time of writing this)
  I realized I could also do something I'd been planning on for a while.  I'm doing video for my various songs, and although the songs go very much in a specific order, I've been doing whatever video seems fun and seasonal and so on.  My song "Maybe Someday" was written at the end of October, walking home down Moodie Avenue in Nepean (Ottawa) late at night, coming home from an evening shift at Nortel.  It contains the words "October's ending cold, October's ending cold this year."  I realized if I videoed this evening, I could literally film during October, right before November got here.  So I waited until the sun was setting, and headed into the city, all buzzed and vibrating on Monster.
  I had a list of things to buy at the Bayshore Shopping Mall.  It's a big, three-floor mall, so I thought I'd have no trouble getting my stuff.  My list was:
  • a pair of black, high-top Converse All-Stars for when I'm shooting a video pretending to be the Ramones.  Shoes are important in my videos, as I don't usually show faces. I'm a size ten and a half or eleven, which is a pretty average shoe size for a man, so a shoe store should have that stocked.
  • one of those straps you can connect to glasses or sunglasses so they don't come off your head while playing sports or going in the water.
  • a bowtie.
  First I went to Sports Experts for the Converses.  Converses are sports shoes in name only, nowadays, so they sent me to Footlocker (yes, the "Sandals?! In August?!  Are you mad?!" store).  There was a big bench to sit on while trying on shoes, and at each end of it, in the men's shoe section, a very large woman was blocking the way into the entire section.  One also had a stroller.  I stood, Monster coursing like hot venom through my arteries, using body language to let them know they were very much in the way of me getting to look at some shoes too.  They were large, slow-moving and uncivil, so I thought "If I actually hopped the bench, I could stand and look at the shoes.  But that would be pretty eccentric and rude.  Quite beneath a dignified gentleman of middle years."  I waited longer, to see if they'd let me by.  They showed no sign, so in a fluid movement, I jumped the entire bench, landing catlike just past it and looked at the shoes.  No reaction.  From anyone.  They had a few Converse, but nothing retro, just the new failed attempts.  Silly looking things.  Only two classic high-top ones, and not in my size and in a choice of two wrong colours.   It all looked pretty grim.  And no staff showing any interesting in helping me in any way, despite how eagerly I had jumped their fitting bench.  So I hopped the bench in the other direction and left.
  On my way up the esplanade, a shrill voice called out "Neighbor!" and I turned reluctantly to see that it was one of the lustful 50-somethings who stand smoking and watch me daily ascend my fire-escape to my third floor apartment.  She was raising money for a charity, and was abusing her living near me to try to guilt me into listening to what was clearly going to be an involved sales pitch.  My face remained as impassive as it tends to, and gradually as she spoke and my face didn't open up, her face fell and she wound down and then said "Do you want to hear this?" and I smiled winsomely and said "Not right now..."
  "You in a hurry?" she asked.
  "Yes" I said very emphatically, as the Monster was making anything else impossible.  I headed off to look for the Converses.
  West 49th stocks no Converses of any kind.  The kid there named three stores in the mall which he thought should have some.  Stance had nothing bigger than size 9.  Sof Moc only had them for women.  Town Shoe also only had high top Converses for women.    Boathouse had a lot of pairs for women and nothing larger than 8 for men. All stores agreed that the lack of these shoes for men was because lots of men had liked them and had bought them.  They also agreed that restocking these popular shoes would therefore make good business sense. 
  As at every single store, the pre-teen manager at Boathouse agreed wholeheartedly with this sentiment and said the shoe order system was "weird.  Like really weird."  He had a girl phone all five of their Ottawa area stores, and said "Not a single store in Ottawa has anything like that for men bigger than 9, except Orleans, which has one size twelve."
  "You're all only interested in selling shoes to mini-men, looks like," I said, aware this was a bizarre comment.  "Average to tall guys?  Forget about it."
  "Oh well.  Internet!" I said.   He agreed that this was wise and I left.

 "I give up on the Converses," I decided.  "I will get the strap for the glasses."  When I'm wearing the black morphsuit with the wig and glasses, the glasses don't properly have ears and nose to hold them on, as they're squashed flat by the morphsuit.  I tried Sports Experts again, this time for the strap.  You know?  To keep glasses from flying off while sports experts play sports?  They sent me to Footlocker again.
  They didn't have any of those either.  The guy there said, as he's dressing as Bubbles from Trailerpark Boys for Halloween, that he needs one of those too.  I tried various stores, including looking at Zellers.  No luck.  Then I realized "This mall has a Lenscrafters!  They sell glasses!  They'll have those spectacle accessories for sure!"
  Nope.  They told me to try Zellers or Watch It!, the watch and sunglasses store.  Also nope.
  "Can it be I will not be able to get any of the things I want from this mall?" I wondered, tweaking on the remnants of the Monster and not showing any signs of coming down. "It really seems more and more like a poorly stocked, shitty mall that is always out of stock on whatever I want," I decided.  "Maybe I should just never shop here."
  I then saw Tip Top Tailors, a formal wear store.  The sales lady was in her fifties, and was flirty in a pleasant, warm way without being pressuring like the ones who live near me always are.  I got two good shirts for teaching in, a tie clip and...a bow tie.  "Huzzah!" I thought.  Finally I had obtained my first item from my list of three things. It had only taken about an hour and a half.
  Walking by Foot Locker before leaving, I saw exactly the Converse I wanted on the opposite side of the store.  "Could they have their classic Converses in a different section?  No doubt the bovine ladies are gone.  I will go in yet again," I decided.  Yup, the Converses I wanted.  Sitting right there, on the wrong side of the store?  I stood impatiently by them, and then gradually realized that the reason they were on the opposite side of the store was because it was the ladies side.  No staff was in the least bit interested in helping me anyway, so I figured that out myself.  I then went over to the men's side and decided to try to flag down a staff member and ask if they'd phone their other stores to see if any other store was stocked for men's Converse, size typical.
  Two referee-striped sales guys walked past me over and over, stocking the shelves, pointedly avoiding eye-contact and clearly not interested in selling any shoes.  Eventually a third guy (there were no other customers in the store) said he'd call about the shoes, said that it was really weird that no stores had any, and then suddenly said "You know, I just stocked the shelves with the last order we got earlier this week.  But maybe I forgot some boxes or something.   Let me look."  He went into the back room for a really long time, and then came out quite casually holding a box of the shoes I was looking for, in the size I was looking for.  Hallelujah.
  Walking out of the store, I saw a kiosk store called Sunglass Hut.  I thought "What are the odds they'll have those head strap things no one else, even the eyeglasses store, seems to have?"  They had them.  On the counter, in various kinds, free for the taking.  There was no one manning the kiosk.  I stood, holding the strap in my hand, no one around, thinking "I have never been so tempted to steal something in my life."
  Turning eventually to a guy who was manning some kind of cosmetics wonderstuff for women kiosk across the concourse, I said "Have you seen anyone working here?  I'm thinking of shoplifting this..."
  He laughed, said they'd probably gone to the washroom or something and pointed to my shirt and said "Pink Floyd's The Wall... did you see the tour?"  I said I'd seen in when they came to town.  He was confused, as he'd seen it in Israel, where he's from.  When had they come here?  And had David Gilmour and Roger Waters played together?  They certainly didn't mind coming to Israel and tut-tutting over Israel and Palestine not getting along, he said, but they couldn't even get along in the same band!
  We had a long conversation about Pink Floyd and Israel and stuff, and eventually I said "I can't actually shoplift this, so I'm just going to put it down on the counter and walk away as if I were a moral person."  He smiled and I did just that.
  Walking across the concourse, I saw a well-dressed girl walking very quickly.  "What are the odds she's hurrying back to the Sunglass Hut kiosk?" I wondered.  I watched her and sure enough, she took up running the kiosk. So I went and bought the strap and left, feeling like I'd been terribly clever.  Monster tends to make me feel clever.
  Then I drove to the old complex where I used to work at Nortel.  It isn't a Nortel complex anymore.  I parked my car in a dark area and got out and shot video of the lighted windows of the building.  Seeing a security guy patrolling inside as I looked in from the bushes, I remembered that they tend to accost people lurking outside industrial complexes. I lurked anyway, and got some not terribly good footage.  Then I decided to move my car to a better lit area and put on my "costume" (a Halloween short-hair wig and my late 90s glasses, with my coat from that era) in my car and video myself walking in front of the entrance as if I was leaving work.  I was just about ready to get out of the car when a security car popped on its headlights and turned the car so as to shine them on mine.  They do that to encourage you to leave, before accosting you.  So I drove just off property, stopped and shot some stuff from there.

  I shot numerous shots of me walking up Moodie Ave in my ridiculous wig and glasses, and did time-lapse of the tail-lights streaking past.  Then I drove up to where I used to live and shot footage there as well.  Made me feel like such a stalker.  Wondered why no one called the cops.  There was, of course, a mysterious figure walking around with a camera, and wearing a bizarre wig and glasses.  (It is kinda Halloween, though...)
  Then I came home.  The moral of the story is, when feeling that one's life is pointless and not worth living, it is a sound strategy to fill up on caffeine and go indulge one's fool's quest silliness, so as not to be lying around being miserable.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Parable of the Earnest Fireman

There once was a man who had never met a fireman before.  Upon a certain day he met a man who proudly pronounced that he himself was a fireman.  Having heard that a neighborhood house was aflame with a child trapped inside, and seeing the fireman standing on the sidewalk, he asked in concern "Has that child been rescued from that burning house?  Is the fire out?"
  "I'm so glad you raised this topic!" the fireman replied.  "My fire marshal said this would happen!  I don't mind telling you that I absolutely love being a fireman.  It's the single, best, most wonderful defining point of my life.  My entire self is built around being one.  We have weekly meetings about fire safety and being firemen and how bad fire is.  I would really love it if you came to one!"
  "Yes, but have you handled that fire yet?" the man asked with concern.
  "Well, I did the right thing, if that's what you mean.  I played my little part to raise awareness of the dangers of fires and fire-related things. I always try to do what's right for a fireman.  Fire Marshal Bob says I'm a good fireman. I just finished polishing the firetruck!  Do you want to see?" the fireman asked.
  "But is the fire out?" the man asked again.
  "I followed all the rules. I didn't do anything wrong. I try very hard to follow the rules. My boots are very shiny. Every Friday I polish them.  If you came to our biweekly grooming standards meeting on Tuesday, I could show you how," the fireman continued.
  Perturbed, the man asked "Do you even know if that house is still on fire right now or not?"
  Equally perturbed, the fireman asked in return "What house? Why are you talking about  a house?  Did I not tell you what a good fireman I am and all of the good, important, special fireman things I do each week? I always try to do the right thing. We have one particular song about folding the hoses that we love to sing. Would you like to hear it?"
  "Not really," the man replied. "What can you actually tell me about fire? In general, I mean.  You are, you say, a fireman, correct?"
  "Of course I am.  You should be one too!  If you're interested, I can get you a form right now and sign you up!  It's really easy.  Anyone can be a fireman," the fireman said.  "We have three firemen who are in wheelchairs, a blind one and we have the youngest fireman in the entire country.  He's very keen.  Only six years old."
  "But what can you tell me about fire?  Like, in general," the man repeated.
  The fireman furrowed his brow as if recalling something he'd been told long ago and then said "Fire is really, really bad. It's pretty, admittedly, just so we'll be tempted to like it, and it makes us warm when we're cold, but we shouldn't be fooled. It is so totally dangerous that no one should even own matches or barbeque lighters.  It is is really, really super bad, actually. I need to always remind myself to remember that every day!"
 "Look, I don't feel very reassured by the quality of fire protection seemingly offered by, well, you.  Is there anyone else I could talk to?" the man asked.
  "Well, you could talk to my fire marshal.  His name's Marshal Bob. He's REALLY well-taught about fires and stuff!  He can answer any question!" the fireman told him.  And so the appointment was made.
*         *        *
  Two weeks later, it was time for the man's appointment with Marshal Bob.  The fire marshal was in a well-appointed, immaculate office, and was wearing a blue pinstriped suit, loafers and a gold tie.
  "First, let me start by handing you our latest brochure about the importance of not buying matches," started the marshal.  And he did so.
  "I wanted to know about that house that was on fire two weeks ago, and the child who was reportedly trapped inside," the man began.  "Is everything alright now? I didn't see anything about it in the paper..."
  "Oh, I don't really think it appropriate to get into all of that at this time, moving forward," the marshal replied.  "I have confidentiality to consider.  Very important to remember.  Something I'm always telling folks."
  "Confidentiality to protect whom?" asked the man.
  "Well, that's a great question.  I think you'll agree that confidentiality in general is a terribly important thing we would all do well to consider.  The Policies and Procedures Manual has a lot to say about it.  I really cannot, therefore, discuss actual fires of any kind with you except in the most hypothetical of scenario-building.  But for now, why not just focus on the pamphlet?  It will raise your awareness of fires and fire-starting items."
  "Ok, but don't you think that responsible people could safely use matches without concern?" the man asked.
  "Oh, that's a very commonly held misconception!  All of that is explained in this pamphlet I am reasonably sure," the marshal said, somewhat condescendingly, the man thought.
  "For one thing..." the man began.
  "I'm sorry.  I'll have to stop you right there," the marshal interjected.  "I am a fire marshal, so getting into the technical details, the nitty gritty, if you will, the value-added, paradigm-shifting granularity of the extremely beneficial, growth-opportunity-ready info contained in that pamphlet?  Not really part of my job. There are folks, I imagine, who I'm fairly sure would be more than willing to get into all of that for you.  Now what can I do for you?" 
  "I see," said the man.  "Because your job is to go out and put out fires."
  The marshal smiled again, even more condescendingly.  "Again, a commonly  held misapprehension.  The pamphlet goes into that in some detail, I'm told."
  "So what do you do?" the man asked.
  The fire marshal knitted his brow, puffed out his cheeks a few times and then said "I have the privilege to be on the oversight committee, which I chair monthly, to speak to issues surrounding the ongoing initiative to change hearts and minds and raise awareness of fire-related concepts. The team's mandate is broad, shallow and far-reaching."
  "Do you have a fire truck?" the man asked, a suspicion growing behind his eyes.
  "Well, the department certainly has several top-of-the-line, very progressive fire awareness raising vehicles which are, I imagine, housed in our vehicle housing facility.  I was actually on the steering committee which facilitated acquiring and standardizing these acquisitions," he added proudly.
  "Can you drive one?" the man asked.
  "Well, I suppose I COULD if I had wanted," the marshal said, looking startled.  "Of course we've standardized them all  fully, so that question is moot at this point."
  "Standardized?" the man asked.
  "Yes.  We have made the vehicles one hundred and twenty percent compliant with our fire awareness and combustibility index protocol procedure," he said, once again with obvious pride.  "You really should come out to one of our meetings.  I'm sure you'd be very impressed.  It gives even the most casual attender a warm sense of purposefulness, effectivity and involvedness just to have their awareness raised like that.  Value added, of course.  Rolls over into so many beneficial areas. We speak to and table all kinds of things!"
  "What exactly was involved in standardizing the vehicles?" the man asked more pointedly and with a growing suspicion.
  "Well, we have adapted them to make them comply, as I said, one hundred and twenty..."
  "What was necessary to do, literally, with your hands, to make them comply?" the man asked, interrupting.
  "Well, as I was on the steering committee I was not personally tasked, of course, with any hands-on work. Oh no, our sub-committees have qualified hands-on folks who are personally tasked with overseeing any of that sort of procedure or protocol.  I simply make it happen," the marshal continued.  "I make so many things happen I sometimes have trouble remembering everything I'm doing," he added, conspiratorially.
  "If I were talking to some of those people, and I asked them what they do to the vehicles, what would they tell me?" the man asked.
  "Not really something I'm qualified to speak to, exactly.  I'm not really involved at the on-the-ground level, naturally.  But, obviously, the removal of anything flammable from the interior or design of the vehicle in question.  We mandated that quite clearly.  No limit to how worried about safety we should all be!" the marshal replied.  "'Worrying Makes A Difference!' I always say."
  "What kind of flammable things?" the man pressed.
  "You do have a most...interesting way of returning over and over again to the same, if you don't mind my saying, rather odd concerns.  But, I suppose, anything made of paper, or rubber, wood, plastic and any flammable liquid..." the marshal began.
  With a horrible realization the man asked "So, things like tires, oil and gasoline?"
  "Precisely!" the marshal replied.  "Can't be too safe.  And of course boots and hoses are not allowed on-board the stationary fire awareness raising vehicles!  They are to be stowed prior to approaching the vehicles in special fire-retardant lockers housed in a separate room.  And we comply with our Go Green ecological mandate as to not wasting water, so our vehicles have been one hundred and thirty percent free of water, water tanks or anything water related ten years running.   But all of that's not really a part of my day-to-day concern.  I am involved at a higher level than the folks who oversee, chair, table, facilitate, mentor, instill and generally supervise that kind of issue.  I'm trying to make a difference.  I mean, we can put out fires one at a time, or we can change minds!  It's never too late to begin raising awareness, I always say.  You really should come out to our next meeting."
  "I feel safer already," the man replied, somewhat disengenuously.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

More Videoing

I've been having fun doing time lapse photography of the moon rising, of storm clouds gathering and the sun setting, and I've done a bit of stop motion animation with clay creatures.  Monday evening I went to record two new Mindy songs (she'd written two songs on ukelele) and decided to video while recording so as to get a video with a high quality audio track.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Stop Motion

  Messed around this weekend with a curious mixture of doing marking of short stories, finishing a book that I needed to finish before reading a couple of ones that are reading choices in classes I'm teaching semester two, and doing stop action animation.
  Some of my more interesting comments on students' writing was things like "...I tell you this to make you a better writer, rather than a better serial killer," "skulls don't have hilts" and "well-made lingerie doesn't leave traces lying around."( the latter was in response to "She had found traces of lingerie around the apartment."  I suggested that, though the lingerie might be traces of women, that lingerie didn't itself leave traces of itself, and that it was better to omit the words "traces of" entirely.  The middle one was in response to "the sword had the hilt of a skull," which I suggested would read better as "the sword had a skull for a hilt.")
  The idea was to make two wire frames like I've seen in books about claymation, and then build clay on them.  What's recommended is twisting together two strands of 16 gauge aluminum wire and making little eight inch models.  I tried one bigger than that.  When asking about what to use in terms of plasticine or whatever, it was recommended that I try some Crayola air-drying stuff, and Sculpey.  I've never tried Sculpey before, but knew you're supposed to fire it, so I was safe and bought some of both.
  I found that the Crayola stuff was really the consistency of cookie dough or taffy, and that it didn't air dry to anything very hard.  It is very light, but it is too fragile to deal with being on a wire frame that's getting reefed around.  I was curiously reluctant to start, afraid it wouldn't work, but I got down to it and decided to use the air dry stuff as kind of a skeleton on the smaller frame, with Sculpey to follow later.  Doing this and then trying some rudimentary stop motion showed me how solidly rooted the thing needs to stay, and how tough it has to be.

  I then tried an experiment with the Sculpey. Much heavier, and I wasn't proficient enough to know how to design the model to take it easy on myself. Trying something hard. But a brief experiment with putting some Sculpey on a bit of aluminum wire in the toaster oven showed me that it gets much harder than the Crayola stuff, so is that I need to do. Focussed on making the frame more sturdy, with more support bits attached with epoxy.
  This weekend was abruptly grey, dripping and cold.  Had to put the heat on a tiny bit, I eventually decided.  It was depressing.  Didn't talk to anyone either day.
  Read the greater part of a little book I got online: Frederick Beuchner's Telling the Truth: The Gospel As Tragedy, Comedy & Fairy Tale.  Part of it put into words, better than anything I've seen before, why I can't take preachers seriously, why they don't reach me when they work:

...they sit there waiting for him to work a miracle, and the miracle they are waiting for is that he will not just say that God is present, because they have heard it said before and it has made no great and lasting difference to them, will not just speak the words of joy, hope, comedy, because they have heard it spoken before too and have spoken it among themselves, but that he will somehow make it real to them....He is called not to be an actor, a magician, in the pulpit.  He is called to be himself.  He is called to tell the truth as he has experienced it.  He is called to be human, and that is calling enough for any man.  If he doesn't make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely...all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.  As much as anything else, it is their experience of the absence of God that has brought them there in search of his presence, and if the preacher does not speak of that and to that, then he becomes like the captain of a ship who is the only one aboard who either does not know that the waves are twenty feet high and the decks awash, or will not face up to it so that anything else he tires to say by way of hope and comfort and empowering becomes suspect on the basis of that one crucial ignorance or disingenuousness or cowardice of reluctance to speak in love any truths but the ones people love to hear.