Sunday, November 29, 2009

Long-Awaited Review

I should have written this a very long time ago. When I discovered and listened to it. It was that amazing.


A long time ago, when I was around ten or twelve, in that sort of pre-teen state, I would be at my grandparents (my paternal grandparents)  with my all younger cousins. They're all younger than me except one of them, a girl who was about nine months older than me. Sometimes we're the same age, usually during the summer. But that's just a number.


Anyway, at that time, whenever I'd be there, after dinner all of them would all run down to the basement. They'd goof around, be wacky, everything. And almost always, they'd turn on the synthesizer on. While going crazy, one would always type in '00' in the number key, as the piano had synthesized versions of songs on it. Quite a bit, actually. Number 00 was a song by the BeeGees - Not 'Stayin' Alive,' but 'How Deep is your Love.'


I guess '00' was an easy number to input. I don't think the children that was my cousins back then had any sort of affinity with the song. Rather, I think, at first '00' was easy to select, then as they kept hitting it all the time, the tune became familiar and almost signature-like as they always played it while going nuts. 


One night, I was down there by myself. I'd decided to look at the list of songs (a long list) and see what interested me instead of the signature track by the BeeGees. I tried a song called 'Another Day in Paradise." I'd never heard of it before nor knew who did it. I just knew that reading the title put a nice image in my head - looking up at a palm tree to my right, with a late afternoon sky, the sun going down, sort of. I forget what number it was, maybe 14, and hit 'play.'


The synth version of the song almost blew me away. The keyboards and bass in the version evoked almost the exact image I'd thought of when I'd read the title. It sounded forlorn and wanting. Kind of sad. I still saw a sort of bright yellow with light blue. Like I was looking at the sun going down, with blue included, flowing at the bottom of the scene sort of. Not like water though.


I rarely played it when anyone was around in the basement. I showed it to Nelson, my younger half-brother. He didn't really get much from the song. I think he was too young at the time.


I forgot about it for awhile after until this summer, while writing my journal (which I must do). I'd written a sentence about how boring summer was turning out. The title just popped into my head because it was appropiate. I'd written "...for now I have to keep busy for these summer days. To some people, they're just 'another day in paradise.' While I like the song, I don't find it particularly true in reality. But oh well."


Right after that I suddenly got an idea to actually figure out what that song was, what it was about and who did it, etc. I went straight to Wikipedia and found it. I figured out that it was a song from late 1989 by Phil Collins. The guy who played drums? I'd known Phil Collins from my mother's constant playing of 'In the Air Tonight.' The first I'd ever heard of him, even before that (or before I realized he did 'In the Air Tonight') was when it was said in a commercial about the movie Tarzan that the music was sung by Phil Collins. When I was about nine or ten or whenever that movie came out, when I was much younger. Eventually through time I'd heard a few songs by him on the radio, stuff I never really took much of a liking to. Not a singer I took much of a liking to, but I knew about him. I knew he played drums and sang.


So after I figured that out, I went to YouTube as usual to hear the song properly, not like the version I remembered on that keyboard (which in the present day resides at my father's and is no longer played by my now teen-aged cousins). I found it and played it.


Now here comes the crazy part: It had several times the effect on me than the keyboard version. Oh my god. I could repeat that expression hundreds of times. God. Wow. I....couldn't.....I couldn't believe it.




It was really amazing. The keyboard that was prevalent in the synthesizer was the same here, only better-sounding. It started right away, no preamble or introduction. What got me immediately, what got my real attention over the keyboards, was the bass guitar. After two notes, it slides up the neck and then goes down a little, sounding just perfect with the song.


The lyrics talk about the problems with homelessness, bringing it to everyone's attention. I didn't really listen to that. I never listen to the lyrics much. The music video above was propelled by monochrome shots of people sleeping outdoors, under newspapers, as well as signs warning people not to give to them. Intercut with scenes of Phil Collins' face and layered scenes of guitar strings and other instruments. The first shot, actually, of the entire video after the scene of the Earth is the keyboard being played. The perfect accompaniment of what you hear first in the song.


I often say that it is even better with synesthesia. Well, it is. The whole thing to me is cast in a dark grey to black background. It doesn't exactly sound as sad. Just very deep. The guitar is also amazing, and it's an acoustic one. Music containing acoustic guitars doesn't appeal to me that much unless the guitar sounds good to me. This song and 'No Rain' by Blind Melon are the few examples. Everything just complements each other perfectly. The drums are quiet and easy-going. The guitar is very layered-sounding and complicated and good. The bass is amazing and perfect. The keyboards are the perfect touch.


Usually when I hear things they make me think of people. They do. This song is no exception. The bass I immediately personalize as myself. The guitar too. It's rare for the guitar to make me think of myself, this song and one by Bryan Adams are the only ones. One bass/piano note makes me think of a girl, not the one I think of during 'In the City.' You might think that I think of her when I hear the keyboards, but actually, I don't see her until the end, when they are fading away with the rest of the song. During that part, I also for some reason see the drums as me walking out of a bright white building in the early morning sunshine, meaning business. I guess I mostly see myself in the song. I don't think that's why I like it though, because I only think of myself when I listen to the bass. I listen to the bass in the song way more than I pay attention to the other instruments. The unbelievable slide it makes and the note right after....wow.


There's one part, about 1:00 minutes in, where the bass drum doesn't begin the measure, and it's just the synthesizer and bass. It makes me kind of think of that girl (the one of the bass note) and thoughts of tenderness, affection, easiness, and sweetness. Like a mother and child or two intimate lovers, or someone reassuring someone with affection that they have feelings for. Just perfect.


I can't get over how nice the song sounds or what images it evokes or who it makes me think or or how it makes me think of things or people, and so on. But I can't go writing this forever. So I'll just leave it at that. Maybe later I'll scan a drawing of what I see when I hear the song or something. It's great. And I like how it was a kind of transfer between 1989 and 1990. Just about two years older than me. No wonder it was #1 around the world at the time. Wow.


-Justin C.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Coming Full Circle, I did.

One day, I was out with my friend Chris. Rather, we were at college, and we were trying to find a suitable computer.
I tutor (or tutored) him in computer apps class, and it was often difficult to find a computer other than the ones we used in class with the programs on them. We couldn't always stay in our classroom because often other classes had the room after us. So we had to find someplace else.


The problem was, there was no 'someplace else.' Someplace else that had the resources anyway. The programs we needed. Often we ended up using my laptop, which had the programs installed (I'd taken the liberty of getting those programs myself since starting that class).


On this afternoon, we tried going to several different computer labs. I was in the lead. Literally. Chris followed behind me in my wake, not straying from my exact path.
This was what I wanted to write about: The experiment I tried with this realization.
I walked down a hallway, and coming to a bend that was on a lower floor, I took the long way down the ramp instead of the two steps. Chris followed me exactly down that ramp.


So, later in the courtyard, I did the same thing, taking a path that served as a ramp and went in a wide 'U' around the stairs. Chris followed me up the long ramp instead of walking up the short stairway.


Now here came the final test: We entered the computer lab off the C building. We had resigned from looking for computers, we were just going to use my laptop in that back of the computer lab, where tables and plugs were available.


My final experiment was this: I walked through the scanner things (you know, those things you walk between whenever you leave a store, those detectors). I walked through them, then turned around and walked out the other ones, and came full circle. Chris went in through the first set after me - but, alas, he did not come full circle with me. Instead he looked at me, kind of surprised that I was suddenly behind him, and that was it.


Darn.


But it would have been kind of cool, funny, if he did that with me. Like we were two mindless cartoons in a sped-up animation, speed walking around obstacles, each following (or chasing) the other, sometimes going around in mindless circles. Except it didn't work. We didn't go around in circles - only I did, and I'm pretty sure I looked odd doing it.


But it almost worked. I thought it was kind of funny and pointless that he followed the exact path I did.


Maybe next time.


-Justin C.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Annoucing the Long-Term Time-lapse Project

There's an awesome video I posted about a little while ago, where it focuses on a house, with a devolving tree in the front yard. It moves so fast that you can see the environment change, the tree growing (in that case, 'un-growing' as it was moving backwards).


I've wanted to do the exact thing. But I had no idea how to do that kind of video, make that kind of effect. At first I thought of cell-animation, where I draw a scene and scan it and repeat it hundreds of times, making changes each time to make it look like it was progressing. That seemed way implausible, though, as I'd have to draw the same thing hundreds of times and would generate a lot of useless materials and use a lot of space (tonnes of paper drawings littered everywhere, computer space taken up with drawings, etc.).


So I've come up with the solution: Traffic cameras.


There are many traffic cameras everywhere throughout Ottawa at particular intersections. They are available to be viewed online (http://traffic.ottawa.ca/) at your convenience. They update every six seconds. My idea is to take an image (you can right-click and save the picture) and put it as a frame in Adobe Premier Elements. I take two images per day, everyday, indefinitely.


It sounds like a long-term project, requiring my continued interest and time-management (I'd have to set particular times of the day to take my two shots, one in the morning and one in the afternoon preferably), and I will have to remember to take each image at the right times.


So I will hopefully get on with this and not forget and keep it going as long as possible. As long as the traffic cameras are available and watching the same scene (they sometimes change directions and look the other way) this will be possible. So, I now have to pick an intersection and stick with it. The best one would be one that changes fairly noticeably. And one that's familiar to me.


In the end I've picked Meadowlands/Merivale and Woodroffe/Baseline. Merivale because it's familiar and Woodroffe because of the construction of the new Algonquin building nearby and the changes it makes.

 Woodroffe and Baseline.















Meadowlands and Merivale.


Sorry for the darn layout, I hate how the new process makes the photos align in one specific space, I can't put them next to each other. No doubt everything's mucked up.


Anyway that's my plan. I hope it works.


-Justin C.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What it's like to go Backwards

It was the title of a video compilation I put together a year or two ago, where I ran a bunch of scene backwards (with backwards sound as well).


But it's something I've found elsewhere as well. The first time I ever saw the backwards effect was in a music video by (of course) Madness. "Yesterday's Men." Each of the band is introduced in their own scene with their name in a credit, as they appear out of somewhere or do something backwards. The effect is funny. Woody (the drummer) is introduced as "D.M. Woodgate," as he (backwards) emerges out of a trash can. Mark "Bedders" Bedford (bassist) comes out of a "Washeteria" as "M.W. Bedford" reading a magazine, and as the cars whiz by in reverse, he suddenly thrust-pockets the paper perfectly, (as if he took it out, with relish). That isn't possible. The whole thing looks impossible. Because it was put in reverse.


I talk about all this because recently I've come to witness some other odd videos that use this method. Other than mine (My Video of Transitions uses the backwards technique, when I go through a door and it "opens" for me) my cousin Tom showed me this Coldplay video on Sunday night where a man walks in reverse throughout the entire video all the way back to a traffic accident that killed his girlfriend. The singer had to learn how to sing backwards during filming.


There's many other versions of this type of thing. I've seen commercials that use it. It's a cool technique. I like to think that Madness was the first to use it in music videos, because the Wikipedia article on the Coldplay video states that the first music video to use the backwards effect was in 1989. Four years after Madness did it. They did it in 1985.


But then, it's kind of a different technique I guess. In the Yesterday's Men video, the band is doing something backwards but actually acting as if they were moving forward. Nobody is doing anything backwards in the video - actually, they're doing everything forwards while the environment around them is going backward. It creates an illusion. Like the impossible newspaper-shove-perfectly-into-pocket trick. What Mark Bedford actually did was, while walking backwards, took the newspaper out of his pocket, fast and with great relish, as if he was really interested in what was in it. Then they rolled the tape backwards to create the illusion. Woody skillfully got into the trash can backwards, and they put it in reverse. This illusion enables them to do anything that's not physically possible in the video. Like Suggs putting the coat on the ground, which perfectly folds into a stand-up position. The coat was like that at first, then Suggs reversed by and picked it up.
I used the same technique in my video, walking backward through the door and then rewinding it. This is different than the Coldplay video, or any of the others, because they are actually going in proper reverse, with no illusion effects. The only thing the singer does forward is sing, which he had to learn to do backwards to create the illusion in the video.


All in all it's a pretty cool, ingenious video technique. It's always cool to see things in reverse, and it's also cool to see illusions created with those effects, as what Madness originally did. It catches the eye and makes the viewer wonder what just happened or how they did that. It made me do that.


For good measure, I'll embed that "Yesterday's Men" video here. The backwards illusion effect, however, only happens during the introductions of each band member. From then on the video goes in forward motion:





That still shot above is actually of one of the introductions - Chris Foreman is emerging out of a hole in the ground (backwards, which they reversed to make it look like he did it forwards).
All to eye-catching creativity, huh?


-Justin C.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

AMAZING Time-lapse Commercial

I couldn't find it on YouTube, so I Googled it. Google is even better about it.

I don't know or remember if I mentioned this, but I found it: An old commercial I used to go crazy about because of the time-lapse effects.

It was a Playstation commercial. The first 19 seconds of it were what attracted me: It was a simple view of a house, its front yard, driveway, street, tree, etc. It opened with one of the tree's branches lying broken on the house, crushing its roof. It's a dark stormy scene, and everything looks old and worn and broken and useless. Then, suddenly, the branch, in rewind, un-crushes the house and flies back onto the tree, where a lightning bolt flashes it, as it was the reason the branch fell off - it was struck by the lightning.


Then, everything starts moving super fast, backward. The weather and sky changes between clouds and blue sky and sun and stuff, etc. The grass on the lawn changes colors every frame (0.01 seconds) and the car, which changes with the decade and time, bounces around the driveway as it's parked in different spots all the time. The old singles on the roof un-curl and become newer, and the house visably looks better very quickly. The tree in the yard visably shrinks and the leaves change color instantly. Small props, like swings, plants, toys, and a tire hanging from the tree, appear and disappear instantly. Eventually the sidewalk disappears and the road is rural, other houses are suddenly wooden skeletons and then foundations and then not anything, not constructed yet. There's a small truck from the 1930s in the driveway all of the sudden, the house is painted its original color, the curtains in the window have flashed about in different colors and types as different people lived in the house, and then the house itself becomes a frame, foundation, then nothing at all. A truck flashes around the barren landscape where the house was, as if surveying the land, and last but not least, the tree finally grows into the ground and becomes a seed. It's remarkable.


I love things like that and I'm extremely pleased to have located the video again. It's a perfect glance at what time can do and how things change over time. I find that kind of thing amazing and I've often wanted to do the same exact thing with my house or a major road like Merivale or my old high school, or whatever. How the environment changes is just plain cool. How you can glance simple things like the trends or culture that reflected the time - like the old steel red wagons kids used to pull around in the fifties or the archetecture or the old tires they used to hang from trees, etc, etc. I once saw a photo of an OC Transpo bus from the 1970s. Some of those buses are still in use today, they last long. What I liked was the advertisement on the side of the newly painted, unbattered, pristine bus - Akai Record Players. Then seeing the same thing today, old and noticeable with age, with an ad for today's music. Completely different and updated. Really cool.


The 19-second video can be seen here. As for me, I've got it favorited, bookmarked, everything. It's just truly cool. Now I'm going to look up a time-lapse ad for Lexmark copiers I saw only once during the Olympics a few years ago and vigilantly watched out for it again to try to record it on video (but it never came on again). The time-lapse was of an average open-concept office from eight am to five pm. All day. Really cool.


-Justin C.

Selected Works from my Story Telling Theory Folder

I've decided to post some selected works I've accomplished in my storytelling theory class. They're all short stories based on some theme. I won't post every story (some are actually long) but I will post some. Here they are:


1. "Creative Wrong Memory"
This is a short story assignment that combined something I remember, with elements that I invented to fully paint the picture and fill in the gaps of what I don't remember.

I walked into the backyard, where my friend Jahdel was busy cleaning the yard with his mother. It was a sunny morning, during the summer, making it very nice out.



“Hi Justin,” he said amiably.


I remained stoic. Usually when I haven’t seen anyone for a while or just meeting someone I tend to remain behind a wall of indifference and restricted interest. I’m like this because I’m naturally shy so I end up being quiet and monotonous, uninterested.


I walked into the yard. “Hi. What are you doing?”


“Cleaning up the yard.”


“Mmm.”


“I’ve got a new kite though.”


“Oh.” I appeared to be no more interested, but I was. “Where is it?”


“Here…” He fetched a small orange bag, walked to the fence, and threw it into the air. With a small thump, the kite burst out of the bag and expanded into shape, falling to the ground.


“Cool.”


“Yeah. But I have to finish cleaning first.”


“Oh.”


“Want to help?”


I hesitated. I think I felt a little annoyed, because I was getting sucked right into all the activity and action of the yard, even though it was just cleaning. I reluctantly agreed, and we finished sweeping. Soon the small yard and patio was clean.

----


We stood in the courtyard, myself, Jahdel, and his mother. We were going to launch the kite, or Jahdel was, and I was going to watch while his mother held it for him. We were ready.


Poised with the string, he was going to run in a straight direction on his mother’s ‘go.’ All was quiet.


“Go!”


He ran. I watched from my fence. He ran, bent forward, in determination. But there was a problem…oh, no…


His mother yelled, “Jahdel, watch out..!”


He couldn’t see where he was going. And where he was going wasn’t good, because his current destination was the green metal junction box that sat in the middle of the courtyard.


Bang!


Jahdel’s cranium made brutal impact with the thick metal, which absorbed all his speed, momentum and weight. Right away he fell backwards onto the ground, already starting to cry. He would certainly have some great headache today after having used his skull as a stopper for 135 pounds, increased with speed and momentum. He walked away from the area and back into his yard, a distressful mess, yelling about how he would never fly his kite again (though he’d barely gotten it out of his mother’s hands before the impact). While he did this, his mother and I continued the fight of suppressing our laughter, and ultimately losing. Yes, Jahdel came close to splitting his skull open, but his failure to satisfactorily keep his eyes on the horizon had yielded ridiculously hilarious results.

----

2. "Snaky Strangers on some Train"
This short story had to be written about some random person having a random talk with a sudden stranger, and how it produces unexpected results.


It was not usual for me to befriend the guy on the train that spent all his time standing outside his compartment staring at everything. It was the second day of my trip from Winnipeg to Ottawa, and I had been scrutinized by that person ever since. He’d gotten on the train with me at the Canadian Pacific Railway station in Winnipeg, and he’d been on the train since.



This man was tall, had long grey hair, a long grey beard, and had a wardrobe consisting of jeans and a green-striped T-shirt, alternating between pale green and grass-green. He had keen, watchful eyes and had pack of cigarettes hidden in his pocket. You may think that I would avert my eyes to his watchful gaze, but how else would I have been able to write down all this stuff about his appearance? Besides, I’m not intimidated by people who just look at me.


I left my compartment this morning to find the usual stare from the man. I was on my way to the bathroom, which was at the end of the carriage. After doing what I normally do, I went back out.


“S’beautiful morning,” he suddenly started.


“Oh-what? Oh, yes. It is.”


“So what are you up to?”


I stopped in my tracks. “Sorry?”


“What are you up to?”


“Um, none of your business. Sorry.”


“Sure it isn’t. Obviously. But I was just attempting to be friendly.”


“Oh…well, do you have any friends?”


“In Ottawa I do.”


“Oh. And in Winnipeg?”


“Family. You?”


“Friends. My family is in Ottawa.”


“Ah, so we’re the opposite.”


I’d thought so myself. Ever since I’d gotten a look at him. “Yes, I guess we are.”


“Right. What do you think of windsurfing?”


“Windsurfing?” The train of thought struck me all of a sudden. The man changed subjects like they were disposable tissues. “Uh…I don’t know. I don’t windsurf.”


“I do. It’s fun.”


“Oh. Now that I’m here talking to you, what would your name be?”


“Leland. And yours?”


“Kevin.”


“Excellent. Good morning, Kevin.”


“You too, Leland.” I felt like I was being sucked into a whole thing here, whatever that was. Just a big thing. I was standing in a train corridor, swopping first-names with a green-shirted, red-eyed, long-haired stranger who appeared to smoke cigarettes. Soon I learnt that his proper name was Leland Sklar. I had a mental bet going on in my head that the name ‘Sklar’ was unique to him. I gave him my proper name – Kevin Barrymore – and we were off.


“I moved to Ottawa in 1996,” proclaimed Leland. “I’ve found that it’s a nicer climate and, well, my job transferred me there. I’m a bassist.”


“Mm.” Actually, it was quite a surprise for me to hear that he played the instrument, for I did too.


“What kind of bass do you play? Stand-up bass, washtub or electric?”


“Oh, I normally play electric. I use a Dingwall. I’m in a band. But I do own a stand-up as well.”


“Huh. You know what, Leland? I play bass in a band too.”


His eyes lit up. “Oh? Well that’s an interesting coincidence. My big highlight was being a session player for Phil Collins.”


“Sorry? You’re not kidding?”


“Sure. I played on tour with him. Actually, I think there’s footage of it on YouTube. You see, the song he did, “Another Day in Paradise…”


But I wasn’t listening to him so much anymore. My number one goal of mine when I got home was to look up that footage on YouTube. I knew what he was talking about.


“Leland – you played on that song? Really?”


“Yes, I did. It was fun, actually. Very tense.”


“That’s the song with the drum machine and the keyboards, right?”


“Uh, well, yes, that’s how people recognize it. But it’s about the homelessness, and the problem of it.”


“Oh. Well, I’ll look up that footage.”


“I shouldn’t be too hard to recognize.”


“Not with that beard.”


“Oh, no.” He chuckled.


We continued our talk. By the late evening we stopped. Well, we had to. I was getting off at Fallowfield Station, and he was getting off at the central station further up the line. I said my reluctant goodbye, then headed home.


As soon as I got there, I located the video on YouTube. He wasn’t kidding. The song was beautiful.


I’d spent the majority of my time on a VIA train feeling weary of that man’s eyes. But just through a simple conversation, I soon found out that he was a legendary session bassist. My God.


I guess it pays to talk to random strangers sometimes.


----

3. "The Amazing Articulated Bus Accident"
This story had to be based on three factors: One person was called 'Donald Sinclare' (my suggestion), the other was to be called 'Leroy Jenkins' (this was for some reason a funny name to the people who suggested it) and the story had to involve a bus crash, namely an articulated one. Again, my decision.

Also, a monkey, or some form therof, had to be present. The reason being that someone came to class late, and my teacher demanded a random thought or word out of him as he came in, he didn't care. Thus, 'monkees' was his spontaneous answer.
(Note: --- means that the POV has changed between people)

Intro:



Two men are on a commute. One, named Donald, is on a speeding articulated bus and feels annoyed and happy that it is speeding. The other, Leroy, is on a bike plowing along the street, riding on the road. This is during a snowstorm.


----


THE driver, in my opinion, was going way too fast on a road such as Merivale during the winter, during a darn winter storm. Was his head controlled by a monkey brain? On the other hand, we were going fast enough for me to be on time, and that mattered a lot more to me than whether the driver had opposable thumbs.
---

I rode my bike on the side of the street, but not on the sidewalk. I’d stopped using the sidewalk years ago and have felt free on the busy streets.

It was always so cluttered anyway, being on the sidewalk. When you’re on the street, everything’s quicker, faster-paced. No people in the way. And I like riding there. I just feel free.


Today was a little different, though. I was riding up Merivale, and that busy road went slightly uphill some of the way. The problem was that it was winter, and it was during a storm that I was doing this. Not that it bothered me much. I just found it a tad bit harder to move myself along.
---

We sped onward, practically overtaking cars. I realized for once that I would be early. This was unusual and so great that I felt good. We were coming up to an intersection. Then, something I was deeply worried about the whole time on this bus happened. The light turned yellow. And we were still far away, even if we were going fast. We weren’t going to make this light.
---

I had just passed the intersection before the light changed (thank god, I was on a roll here). My destination wasn’t that far ahead, maybe just past Meadowlands. I was meeting with some friends at Wendy’s. The road was slippery with slush, and busy with traffic, and the snow was coming down, so I couldn’t stop. I was almost there. I was on a roll.
---

The light turned red just as the bus crossed the cross walk. There was a stop right on the corner we just passed. Why didn’t someone ring the bell before we passed that stop? Then we wouldn’t have driven past, through a red light. We were going, what? almost 70 km/h? That’s what it seemed.


Then, as I looked to my left, out the window, I saw the big truck. The kind of truck found on construction sites, the kind of truck that dumps out gravel and dirt and whatever. It was right outside my window – and it was coming right at me. I cried out and looked away, just in time.
---

As I was continuing my way up the road, I heard a loud bang from behind me. Looking back, I noticed a big bus – the extra long accordion kind – speeding in my direction. The rear end had swerved outward, sliding up onto the sidewalk. I was only ten metres away.
---

It must’ve been unknown wisdom I had, to have looked in the opposite direction. As it was, I also tried to get away from seat, but I barely got anywhere. I heard the window smash inward just as the floor under me moved forward so fast that I was knocked backwards to my seat. Other people were either thrown off their seats into the aisle or thrown against the windows if they were on my side of the bus. Being in the rear section of an articulated bus, we started to careen sideways. We still had a lot of speed and momentum. I was quite scared at that moment, really.
---

In retrospect, I think it was stupid of me to have not abandoned my bike and get up onto the sidewalk and into the parking lot beyond, out of range of the rear-end of that bus. Of course, in reality I stayed on my bike in the hopes that I could speed away from there.


Looking back again, the bus was closing in. I noticed the metal pole that supported the traffic light. I hoped it would slow the advancing segment down. As I looked around again, the pole had indeed been knocked down, but the rear segment kept advancing. How did the pole not hinder the darn thing? Was it so heavy that a small, light object as a pole not have any effect on it at all? I kept on going, but the slush was slowing me down. Why didn’t I move? Other people were running away, getting out of the range of the impending rear end.
---

I heard another bang and realized we knocked out the traffic signal. We were still going fast, however, and I heard the brakes screaming. They weren’t very helpful due to the slush and ice on the road, especially since half the bus was moving sideways. Wind and snow hollered through my window. I hoped we would slow down and stop. I really did.
---

I felt myself being forced forward as the side of the bus knocked into me. I fell down. I yelled in freight. The bus was coming over me. It looked as if the bus would slide over me. The clearance between it and the ground was not high but not too low. I was still worried and scared out of my mind. I ducked. Everything was happening way to fast.


You wouldn’t believe all the stuff I got caught up on as the bus slid over me. Something hit my head, and many other things caught my jacket and threatened to pull me with them. Near me, my bike evidently had come into contact with something, as it was moving away from me. I heard it scraping along the pavement and it sounded like part of it was being trampled. Maybe it was forced underneath at an odd angle? All I know is that I was rocked about, rolling around and knocking into things above and around me that were cold and hard and potentially lethal. I couldn’t believe my predicament. I thought I was going to die. The ground was cold and wet and slippery, and it was that and the oily metal parts, some of them moving, that I was caught in between as I tumbled around. I hoped like crazy that I wouldn’t come across the wheels, or the low-lying differential, which would crush me if I were to slid under. I couldn’t stop moving. Everything was hitting me.


Then, everything was black, obsidian.
---

The bus had finally stopped, about twenty metres from the intersection. Back there, the truck had spun out of control and had know sat on the corner, having smashed the bus shelter I’d wished we’d stopped at. A traffic signal, pole and all, lay on the ground, and skid marks were on the pavement. On the sidewalk were white lines, from metal gouging and scraping it. The whole place looked like a disaster. Another car had slid through in the truck’s wake, and it now sat in an odd angle halfway across the intersection, facing another car. Luckily, it looked undamaged.


What struck me was the ambulance, the mangled bike still under the bus, and the figure lying on the ground. Was he dead or was he unconscious? I didn’t know. As I stood with all the other commuters who had gotten off the bus (everyone had to), I noticed a white blanket the paramedics were putting on the guy. Was it a body bag? Or was it a blanket to keep the victim warm? I didn’t know.


I never knew.



---

So there are my selected readings. I'm only including these three as they are mostly short and quick, and my favorites. Other than these stories I've written for that class, I've also done a story about a man living in a caravan (the theme was to pick something out of the personals section of the paper and that's what I found) which is my longest so far, a short story about my being late to CAFW class based on the theme of a ticking clock, a short dialogue between two people on a bus, a short story of a goth girl who isn't what she seems (taken from a photo we had to base it on, and I chose the photo of a female goth person), and that's about it. The articulated bus story was the most recent, and I felt quite hilarious coercing the class to write about something only I would likely write about, through the teacher. Buses, and articulated one, interest me, and there's a question on my profile page (how much to regular and articulated buses weigh?) reflecting this. I'm sitting in class and I notice my friend Sean write the words "suddenly, an articulated bus turned the corner" and I see that he would never write about that kind of thing normally, that it's my odd influence. It makes me laugh. Everyone had to write about it. And hey, I could have said something like 'Madness' or 'aerial photos.' Imagine a class writing about that? Based on my influence and interest? Man, that's a funny thought.

Hope they were good anyway.

-Justin C.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Song Review (Yes it's Madness)

While I do like the band, no one should get the idea that I like every single song, single, album, b-side, video, or any paraphernalia having to do with that British band.

For instance, their first singles, "The Prince" (a tribute to Prince Buster), and "One Step Beyond," one of their most recognized singles and biggest songs, are songs I never got into or had much interest in. By the way, "One Step Beyond" was their biggest, most well-known song in the U.K. and Europe and of their fans. In America and Canada, it was "Our House."

The other day was another instance of this, although I hadn't really properly heard the song. For some reason, I knew about their song "Johnny The Horse," though I wasn't interested at all in listening to it even though I never really have. The opening line "Johnny the horse was kicked to death, he died for entertainment" kind of put me off at first.

Finally, I decided to listen to it, to try it out. First I tried the song. I knew that Chas Smash played acoustic guitar on it, which was completely new as none of their songs had that instrument, except the beginning of "In the middle of the Night." It was written by him, too.

It was almost a whole new feel with the guitar. It actually kind of reminded me of the kind of folk music you'd find in the Maritimes here in Canada. Like in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island.

The lyrics were way more deep than the opening line.
Way deeper. They basically told the story of a man's life. How he spent it and all. It was actually quite interesting, even sweet. What struck me was the line "Will you remember his name?" It implies that this man had a life, but not exactly the greatest one. He was a good person but his life kind of went downhill, but he was a person to remember. A person who loved. The music made me think of going on an expedition and having a good time on it, with friends and comrads. The chorus could be a little more strong. Half of the song describes his life and how he grew up, then finishes with a combination of "Will you remember his name?" and "Dododododo-do, dododododododo whew!"

I then proceded to the music video, which had a much larger impact on me. It used morphing technology (which was cool at first), which transferred through the scenes. During the chorus, Suggs became Mark Bedford, who became Mike Barson, and so on. But the biggest part of the video was the visual depiction of the man's life. Starting with his birth and ending with him lying on his deathbed, it really chronicled the lyric's story effectively.



The most effective, intriging, best part of the video that really hits home is the memory flashes near the end. While the music segues into a sort of quiet bit that compliments the flashes, it goes through a whole bunch of the previous scenes like they are memories - like it starts with a photo of him and his mother and father when he was young, then it changes to a scene of him kissing a girl at age 12, then so on, and it goes through this all in quick succession. After that finishes, trumpets start up, sounding proud and strong, and the man dies. Suggs, who had been standing in each scene singing the lyrics, narrating, reaches out and closes his eyelids.

It's really actually a sad song that's honoring the subject of it. It's actually quite sweet, regardless of the repetitive 'dodododos' of the chorus. The rest of the band are in it, playing other people, like the docter when he is born for instance, or other players in a childhood football game. There's a scene where they're standing in front of a church, and they throw all their hats up in the air during one of the last choruses, interlaced with scenes of them happily joking and heckling each other like old friends.

It's one of the most descriptive, thoughful, sweet, interesting, and well-played out videos I've ever seen, in a time where just about no music video these days make sense or employ sexual promiscuity to garner attention.

Hard to believe that I once avoided the song. It's really quite good and honorable. In fact, Chas Smash commented that the song was based on how he used to pass by two tramps, and one time one of them was crying because his friend had been kicked to death in an abandoned building he was attempting to sleep in. Really emphasizes that life should be celebrated and honored, no matter who lived it. I think that was what the song was trying to deliver.

Good, beautiful song, regardless of the diminutive chorus. According to Chas Smash, player of the acoustic guitar, writer of the song, and actor portraying grown-up Johnny in the music video, the name 'Johnny the Horse' is a kind of tag the Scots or Irish might give to a strong-drinking, hard type of man. I guess that fits.

I really recommend listening to that song, or watching the video above. While in all essences it's kind of sad, it's all very happy, exciting, and sweet to watch someone's life and honor it.
And the morphing effects were kind of cool.

-Justin C. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Abruptness of the Holiday Spirit

This is normal: As soon as a holiday or major, world-wide event happens, one day later, all the stores and public buildings are completely dressed up and themed as the next big holiday/event.

Halloween was last weekend. Right now, local stores are preparing their Christmas decorations.

As a sort of satire, I'm putting the "what I'm doing" as Christmas. As of this post, it's in 47 days.

Big money is attractive. Businesses are attracting people with early-bird Christmas specials. It's a marketing technique. Advertise as early as possible, and watch the people flood the market.
There was a saying I read once in a book chronicling McDonald's rise to prominence. I'd read this book throughout grade nine and ten in my school library, every morning before class. This was before the sparks flew with new friendships and better things to do came along.

The saying was this: "Early to bed, early to rise; Advertise, advertise, advertise."

I forget where it came from, I just remember reading it in that book (called "Big Mac"). I guess the way that business go about holidays is based on that saying, or something like it.

Besides, people go crazy around these times. "These times" haven't happened yet, though. They would normally occur around mid-late December. But then again, "these times" are happening. Local stores and enterprises are encouraging it. Encouraging people to go nuts trying to get gifts and Christmas-themed products and trees and all that stuff.

I remember reading about people who were badly trampled over in attempts to enter a store in December. The store had opened and people had burst in, trying to be the first to snatch whatever items that were for sale that Christmas (everything). The unfortunate few who were helplessly, carelessly walked on (stampeded on) had to be eventually hospitalized, when someone must have noticed that the floor near the doors was soft and coloured red for some reason.

But still, it all goes the same. People will stand outside Wal-Mart, waiting for it to open, as if they were waiting in line for their audition on So You Think You Can Dance Canada. And, what really annoys me, the music. Did you know that "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" was created as part of a Christmas promotion in a Chicago-based department store in 1939? 70 years later and it hasn't left the department store, IGA, Wal-Mart, Sears, and whatever commercial enterprise. It's seasonal. I've heard it every year all my life. Yes, I admit that I probably have listened to the same Madness songs enough times to triple that, but still, I guess I just like Madness more than Christmas-themed music. Every time I go to Independent, a Christmas ballad, or carrol, or classic, in every genre and format, will be playing.

Christmas is a big thing. It's probably the biggest holiday of the year, what with decorations and gifts (mostly the gifts) and music, etc., etc. It's universal. Unlike Halloween, where it's fun for the children, people of all ages can enjoy it. Everyone can get in the fun. Everyone can receive gifts. Everyone can go and stand for eight hours at a store entrance, then carelessly overtake the nervous young attendant that was assigned the scary prospect of opening the doors for the day. I wonder if they'll notice the soft floor? Or how much of it is soft? "Hey, there was this 'snap...' oh, look, a Hotwheels car set for $2.99! On sale!"

As for me, well, sure, I'll be celebrating. Somewhere around December 13 I'll get around to setting up the Christmas tree while my mother watches So You Think You Can Dance Canada back-to-backs. Maybe we'll go shopping around then too, just not very much.
Then, Boxing Day will come. Then, we're going out. We're going to get the best stuff at ridiculously low prices. Then I'll get the gifts I hope for (mostly a wide-angle camera lens and/or a small, inexpensive, camcorder, my third this decade). Boxing Day was the day I got my DSLR camera last year. Great price. I don't know why most people don't buy their gifts then.

Oh, yeah. Right. The local merchants have the business of making everyone aware that Christmas is right upon us and that we'd better get into full-spending mode. As soon as possible.

Advertise, advertise, advertise.

*Note: I got the original information of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" from The Best Book of Useless Information Ever. Awesome book!

-Justin C.