Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Fermented Fragments

 The Book of Boba Fett: Why is the dialogue so clunky? Both in the writing and directing. Everything feels so forced. Really makes me miss the first season of the Mandalorian, which used words very carefully.

What purpose did it serve to show Grogu's training? And why show so much of Luke? Why show him at all. I kind of wished they would only show his back or from the waist down and never have him speak any lines on screen.

It's indicative as Star Wars as a whole, I feel. They're reluctant to let the viewer do any of the work. I can also feel the focus testing behind the scenes, where they strive to make sure even the lowest common denominator can understand everything that's happening. It's part of the whole pop culture thing, I suppose. Gotta dumb it down for the masses.

And man is Star Wars self obsessed. It just can't tell a story without linking it back to a major existing character. Can we be done with the Skywalkers, pretty please? The universe and its style is so rich (Vespa chic robo gang notwithstanding) that there has got to be some stories to be told without relying on what's come before. Imagine if the Beatles, still all alive, decided to get back together as a cover band. WHY?! They have the talent and people and resources, so make something new and different. You know, like what Star Wars was when it first came out. Take some risks, damn it.

---

Go watch The Landscapers. It's on one of those HBO services I can't be bothered to differentiate between.

It might seem pretty standard if you're into true crime thriller-esque shows, with two versions of events that collide. Yes, the craft of the show is great - acting, directing, cinematography, writing, it's all there. It's refined and tight and you couldn't ask for much more if you're into this genre. But it delivers more anyways.

It is the best use of the 4th wall that I've yet seen in movies or TV. It's not a subtle nod and cliche wink to the viewer at key moments. It's carefully, deliberately scattered throughout in such simple and complex ways that it makes your head spin with the confusion of the plot. It's masterful. It's not a gimmick. It reinforces the theme in such a clever and unusual way that it keeps you off balance. You'll find yourself wondering, "Wait, what? What am I watching here?" It's such an appropriate device given the context of the story. A natural fit for the most unnatural way of storytelling.

---

I’ve been listening to some of Adam Savage’s livestreams recently and found them to be fantastic. The guy is a natural storyteller and has a great sense of enthusiasm and optimism about the world and his passion. There are two tidbits I’d like to record here, just in case I ever stumble back this way in a moment where such things are needed.

1) Treat things like a job, even if they aren't. Take on and see projects through as if someone is watching.

2) There was this author who spoke about creative block. She said that when she was stumped, she made a point of sitting down and copying other author's works in longhand. The point is to sit down and write, so that's what she did. Eventually those fragment's of inspiration would knock the internal crud loose and she could proceed with her own creations. 

---

I'm working on my 240z and met this guy who's restoring one to a factory finish. He came and looked at my wiring and then invited me to go and look at his (for the coolant routing and several other things). And there was his 240z, under his McLaren on the lift, in a detached garage with granny suite, on a property near downtown, with a massive new contemporary home on the lot. Talking with him he drops the fact that he's had a few different classic Porsches, a BMW i8, an NSX, and a bajillion other Hondas. Dude's well off, and made some passing remark about 'owning some IT companies, including a couple overseas'.  And, to his credit, he was very welcoming and down to Earth.

I mean, come on. At least if he was a stuck up bastard I could hate him a bit. I don't make a bad wage, but this is something else. In the few occasions I've poked my head into the lives of the wealthy half of society, I've become immediately uncomfortable. It's hard to pinpoint why that is, but I think it's a mix of coming from a lower class background and feeling out of place, plus a bit of envy that this kind of lifestyle will always be out of reach for me. Even a taste of this life will always be beyond my grasp.

Here I am struggling to save up money to buy a garage and maybe a used Cayman to put in it, and this guy makes some off hand casual remark how he owned a Cayman S once, among a string of other Porsches, like it's no big deal. And that he saw the new Top Gun, which featured a 964, so now he kinda wants one. As if it was some special controller he saw a streamer using once and wants to try it out.

It's a different world, man. One in which I am undoubtedly an alien.

---

I'd just like to take a quick moment to profess my love for Everything Everywhere All at Once. What a weird-ass script with fantastic production value. Editing, directing, acting, writing, set design, it's all there. And the more you look closely, the more there is to discover. It was such a marvel of human storytelling inside an absurd, abstract vessel. You have no idea where it was going, but everything seemed to fit together just so. Probably the most original film I've seen in years. So original that the best analogy I can come up with is how I felt watching The Matrix for the first time. This one had a bit more soul to it, though.

---

So we'd been working our way through Under the Banner of Heaven and we got to the part where the main character realizes that the LDS church might not be what it seems. He has this red book called "Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?" in his lap that he knows weighs more than the combination of its physical dimensions.

In a weird knee-jerk reaction to the scenario, I (internally) told him not to open the book. Oh, the total freefall that knowledge unleashes. Sure, the rug gets pulled. But so does the floor and foundation below it. It's scary shit to not only realize that what you were taught wasn't true, but that you were actively mislead by the very thing your entire life was built on.

It's a testament to the strength of the writing, directing, and acting of the show that it surfaced such a guttural instinct in me. I guess I may have walked away from the church, and I like to think I've discarded most of my baggage. But it's like the church poked little holes clean through my skin and soul, and whenever I move in some directions, the cool air finding its way inside my body is too jarring to ignore. 

---

Sometimes songs are like sticks. Some are longer, or more crooked, or curl around to the left and down a bit with a little sprig at the end. Keep in mind, though, that you're soul is in a full-body cast, and you know you have an itch to scratch. Or maybe two or three or twelve. 

And that's how I end up in front of my computer for an hour after I should've gone to bed. I'm digging through my drawers of different songs, looking for the right one(s) to reach and ease that certain discomfort that's been driving me crazy. 

Sure, I'm checking my RSS feeds and poking Reddit and writing my way through these odd little thoughts, but it's all an excuse to keep listening. I'm just getting lost in my music library, taking some of the trusty hits for a spin and rediscovering the neglected gems.

I could just stay up all night scratching. I don't know if it's for the relief or just an honest joy for twigs.

---

-Cril


Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find
Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find

And it's something quite peculiar
Something shimmering and white
Leads you here, despite your destination
Under the Milky Way tonight

The Church - Under the Milky Way

Thursday, April 07, 2022

A Lonely Solo

Let me take you down, because I'm going to the killing fields of my youth. The year was Two Thousand and Something of our Lord, who I have since distanced myself from. I now live in a dimension where time runs like oil paints.

I digress; it was nearing the end of Grade 11 and I was starting to feel distanced from my friends. Maybe it was a introverted temperament setting in or the fact that I wasn't build for the constant swapping of barbed quips. You know, jockeying for position as young men tend to do. I found it tiring, and right at the end of the year I remember them roaring with laughter after tricking me into drinking something technically (although not effectively) containing alcohol. Ah, to be a young Mormon in a small town. Your church teaches you not to have friends outside outside of the congregation. And pity on those who are lonesome even inside their faith. You try to keep your head and morals up, only to make you a lonesome, easy target in secular social circles. Like the weakest member of the flock.

I took offense. Well, not really. I was just hurt. I thought these guys were my friends, and here they were having a grand, Machiavellian chortle at my expense. Ah, the lowest rung on the ladder. Why did I ever forsake thee? Something snapped inside and it was time to hop off the ladder entirely.

I coasted through the last couple weeks, and off to summer break we went. I managed to get another season's worth of work at the local mini golf course. In my fervor of working and picking up extra shifts where I could (you gotta get money for the Palm Pilot somehow!), I didn't really touch base with anyone. My brother went away to work for a relative, so I'd spend my free time playing the original Call of Duty. I beat it through twice in a row, if I recall correctly.

When I set foot back in school that September, I was immediately overwhelmed. Not by anyone, but just by everything washing over me. Dealing with mobs of angry American tourists was easy, but for some reason the throngs of high school students were a step too far. Some of which were supposed to be friends I no longer had the capacity to maintain relationships with.

I didn't realize it at the time, but that summer seemed to be an easy weightlessness of freefall, one sunny day after another. 9.8m/s2 of acceleration for 60 consecutive, oblivious days. The school's front doors, I suppose, provided the surface that I'd inevitably shatter against.

A 16-hours-of-sleep-a-day style of broken works like this: Get up early for an hour of seminary (bible study), grab something to eat, go to school. Keep your head down and shamble around like your insides aren't full of glass. Get home around 3pm, eat a snack, go to sleep. Some time around 7 or 8pm your body says, "Whelp, I'm rested!". Instead of getting up, you persevere through the rest of your night because your mind just can't hack reality.

I think this went on for about two weeks. No one really intervened because teenagers are gonna teenage. Eventually I realized that I couldn't keep going, so I gutted my course load like a rotten fish; not looking too closely at what you're doing, just waving a knife around until you can hear entrails slapping against the floor. I cut Math and Band. Traded one for work experience where I knew I could be alone doing menial computer maintenance for the elementary school, and traded the other for a spare/open block. This left me with the bare minimum credits to graduate. Meanwhile, the IT prof let me 'claim' a workstation for myself in the second computer lab, so even though I was taking Graphic Design, I was allowed to be in a room on my own with my head down while getting the work done. To round it off I purchased a pair of collapsible JBL headphones to compliment my trusty MP3 CD player. I drowned out the rest of the world in musical morphine wherever the opportunity arose. 

Math was an easy cut. I knew I could drag myself along through sheer force of will, but the subject matter had become so abstract that nothing was coming intuitively. One of my former friends told me, "I won't just let you give up like that." and then proceeded to do nothing. The math prof stopped me after handing back the textbook to remark that he wasn't sure what university I'd be able to get into without the course. Internally I was wondering what the absolute fuck would I go to university for. A meaningful choice of career continued to elude me and caused me no lack of anxiety, thanks to a lifetime of watching my folks struggle financially.  

Band was a harder loss; it was consistently one of my favourite courses in secondary school. Alas, this year I was lumped in with a small class that consisted of people I didn't know plus a few impressively obnoxious individuals that I couldn't stand. Where was the fun in playing music with people that didn't bother to follow along? I kept attending jazz band after school, though I think I hurt the band prof by ditching the main course. He was a really good dude.

Herein lays the reason for this whole jaunt down adolescent nightmare's lane. I still have dreams about missing out on band that year and how I disappointed good ol' Mr. G after he had nurtured me to be one of his better players. The dreams change, but the familiar themes of regret linger. Dare I say, Grade 10 Band was the highlight of my highschool days, so this was quite the fall in a short time span. Sometimes I dream I was too careless to enroll, others I sign up but there's no class, or there's no trusty Jazz Band and I'm destined to spend the year musicless.

And thus I scraped by my final year of high school. I never spoke with anyone or set foot in the 'Senior's Lounge' where only the Grade 12 kids could hang out. I was about as isolated as I could possibly get and as hopelessly lost as someone who had discarded themselves could be. Had I not been such a coward I would've attempted, intentionally, to do something terminally stupid. I thought about it a lot. Those were bleak days where I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. I was woefully lonely, so I self medicated with isolation and writing shitty journal entries while listening to Linkin Park.

Looking back, I feel really sorry for the kid I used to be. Goddamn, he really could've used an actual friend or someone more involved in his life. Someone to shake him a lil' by the shoulders and maybe across the face when he needed it. But mainly someone to just actively listen to him rant and rave and process all those polluted teenage emotions with.

My folks, to their credit, were over their heads with other stuff at the time. Church was a joke and succeeded in poisoning any fertile soil where self esteem could grow. School was just... too much. That left me with gaming, I suppose. I had found a Counter-Strike group to play with. And while I didn't get the emotional support I really needed, the structure and community gave me a space to exist outside of my current hellhole. I knew what to expect, and no one made fun of my skin or religion.

Of course violence = bad, and thanks to one CBC video segment on Al Qaida skins, I remember my folks remarking, "Counter-Strike? Isn't that the game you play? It looks AWFUL!" And just like that, I wasn't allowed to play any more. This little domestic policy was eventually walked back, but the 'no internet or chat in the bedroom' rule stayed in place. Because Christian reasons, naturally. It ultimately meant that, when it was time to scrim, I had to run upstairs to co-ordinate and get server IPs on the family machine, then run downstairs and try to connect, and then bounce between at any instance where actual communication or planning was involved. Looking back... what I joke that was. For the record, I was okay at pubbing but garbage at competitive. But I was mostly there just to be around familiar faces screen names that didn't hassle me. That got me through the year.

The end of Grade 12 rolled around, and at the award ceremony Mr G asked all his senior band students to come up. You see, back in Grade 7 we were the first group that he taught, and now here we were graduating. He'd been with us each year. He gave everyone a little statuette or something, but he didn't have anything for me, because I was no longer in Band Proper. That one hurt a bit. It's not hard to see why when you put yourself in his shoes, though. Outside of my hazy cranium there was no good reason for me to drop his class like I did.

I didn't want to go to the graduation ceremony. The last year had been utter hell for me and I was still broken and exhausted, emotionally unable to process the act of celebrating the culmination of my misery. My parents said I didn't have to go... but it sure would mean a lot to them if I went. So I did, and I wore my CS jersey, because that was the only damn thing in my life that I felt I could be proud of. I was a shit player, but I was glad to be a part of that group. My mom would chide me for a few years afterwards whenever she saw me wearing it again. "Oh, breaking out THE TUXEDO are we?!" Har har. It wasn't a tuxedo, to that lost and frustrated kid it was a goddamn suit of armour that helped keep his scrambled insides upright. I remember finishing the grad ceremony, meeting up with my folks, and begging to leave. I was so spent. They refused, and said we needed to hang out more.

They applied some (soft) guilt to get me to go. Okay, fine. But not letting me go home at that point just hurt. I didn't go to the reception or after party, I just walked aimlessly around town until 1AM because I didn't feel like I had anywhere to be. I still feel kind of bad about going, because it was genuinely inauthentic way to recognize just how bad my senior years of highschool were.

All of this is just as, if not more, angsty than it sounds. That's who I was and that's all I had, and I wish it would've/could've gone a different way. I've been pretty diligent in covering up those memories, because I lot of what I did was incredibly cringey and the residual feelings dark and sticky. But I just didn't have the support or resources to do anything else with what I felt. It was really unhealthy. So, 17/18 year old Chris, I see you. You desperately needed help and a guiding hand that never came when and how you needed it. That year was shit, but you did the best with what you had. And now you're twice as old and half a continent away with your feet up. Things do get better.

The band class dreams don't need a passport to follow along, though. It's almost comical how something so trivial creates a notch for your subconscious to stub its toe on. It obviously meant a lot to the kid I was then and the man I am now. I miss playing my sax in a group. Maybe there's some community band I can join. Some day.

But if that's the biggest anguish to haunt me from my youth, then I think I've done alright. We got there, buddy. We're out of that mess and went far away to better shores. Regrets may collect like old friends, but fuck Facebook. Some things can be left behind.
-Cril

No one I think is in my tree
I mean, it must be high or low
That is, you can't, you know, tune in but it's all right
That is, I think it's not too bad

Let me take you down
'Cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

Richie Havens - Strawberry Fields Forever

Friday, February 11, 2022

Old Man

An old man died yesterday morning. Or maybe it was in the preceding night; he was found unresponsive in his bed around breakfast time. 

It wasn't really a shock. He'd abused his body as a tradesman for years, had diabetes and lung problems, and was connected to a breathing machine for the last few years. He was eighty-something. Because at that age, who really gives a shit any more? My own age seems like a bit of whimsical trivia I'm not really attached to outside of the initial 'Huh!' of discovery. And his age was just a figure to be plowed down and overrun by sheer, grizzled determination.

It'd been a rough few years to be his friend as he slowly started divesting himself of his valued possessions. First I got his camera at a steal of a price. Then it was an old wireless drill set with missing batteries. Then a handsaw that's about 100 years old and his grandfather brought over from England. Then a collection of WW2 ammunition that his father brought back from the war. Apparently he returned from that experience as a proper bastard to his wife and kids. I have those rounds, including a decommissioned 40lb mortar shell, on display. It's a reminder to me that war destroys lives at both ends of the the barrel, no matter the size.

Then it was a large format printer - he was getting too old and too stationary to go out and take photos to print. Then he had to move and gave me his treasured record player and vinyls. He was moving into a single bedroom and didn't have the space to bring the last vestige of his career as an audio engineer with him. Besides, his hearing wasn't what it used to be. He might wince to know that I have it hooked up to a Bluetooth transmitter received by a crappy TV sound bar. But all the pops and crackles come through okay. It adds warmth, as he once told me.

For the length of time that I knew him, he was always an old codgy son of a bitch that only grew older. He didn't have patience for kids or dogs, but he'd take all the time in the world to show you how to use a lathe even if you were slow and inept. He collected people somehow, and spoke glowingly of all of them. You got the feeling that he was a scraggly tom cat and you were just living in his neighbourhood. And with that he had seen some things, had the scars to show for it, and pushed each of his seven lives to the max.

He had a... damn. I can't remember. Austin Healey? Triumph Spitfire? He was working as an electrician on a big job and blew it all on some old British sports car. He also rode motorbikes. He tried to give me his old jacket and helmet, both painted the kind of yellow used to highlight the most exciting parts of a health and safety document. I was glad they were to big, it gave me a good excuse to turn down the offer, allowing me to buy something in both my own style and risk tolerance.

I always got email forwards from him, the kind you'd expect from old people. The kind that included mp4 attachments that you'd diligently scan before opening. A lot of them weren't really my taste, but it was kind of nice to see them pop up every week or so. He called me a week and a half ago, but I was at work and didn't pick up. I'll call him back, I told myself. I didn't, and now I'll just have to put up with telling myself that again and again in regret. The last time we spoke it was short and little more than a perfunctory check in. He was there, and I was here, and we marched on. Why would he ever not be there?

He was married once, and never had kids. He told me once that the most important things in a relationship are, in order, communication, money, sex, and communication. I've tried to remember that. I was dating someone he knew at the time. When we broke up, he said that he was hoping we'd be able to make it, but if they're not the right person, there's nothing more that could be done. 

He loved trains, especially old steam ones. He photographed them, scanned them, built miniatures, and restored the life-size kinds. Apparently he completed the restoration of an old passenger car in a nearby heritage park. He was proud of that one. He told me how he'd travel out to the coast by rail as a kid, and you could see his eye light up at the memory. The rhythm of the rail was enough to put you asleep for hours. The best sleep he ever had was on those trips. 

When he was found, his housemate had the paramedics come over. They lifted open an eyelid and proclaimed him dead. The housemate told them to try again; they had just shone a light in his glass eye. We're pretty sure he would've laughed his ass off at that one. I never found out the story behind that eye though.

Now he's gone. There won't be a funeral, as per his wishes. Maybe we'll have a BBQ in his memory once the summer rolls around. He always loved a good beef roast. He'd organize dinner parties at other people's house. He'd bring the meat and somehow escape the responsibilities of cooking and hosting. But he sure loved having a bunch of his favourite people in one place.

I knew him as a force to be reckoned with that meant what he said and acted accordingly. Big heart in a grizzled exterior. Makes me wonder what kind of a character he was as a fully-animated young man. I may never know, and his force is no longer here. His concentric ripples are still moving outwards, though. Perhaps more muted the farther out they travel from the source, but enough to distort the glass-like finish of life's surface.

-Cril

We'll meet again
Don't know where, don't know when
But I know we'll meet again
Some sunny day

Vera Lynn - We'll Meet Again