Monday, October 26, 2015

No More Chipmunk

On Thanksgiving Monday, I reached another milestone in my life that just about everyone who has a car should or has, and got into a car accident.

I had dropped my mother off somewhere for dinner and had to get to work by 3pm. I was working the holiday in order to get the extra money, something I crave thanks to the flying lessons. Five days a week is enough, but it's nice to get an opportunity to gain something rather than barely making more than breaking even. It was almost ten to three. My mind wandered to the time I had left, which meant I realized too late the car ahead had stopped altogether. My brakes couldn't bring me from over 80km/h to zero in the distance I'd already closed, so I got to have that experience.

It was just me and the dog in the car. I jittered in my seat upon impact; the dog rolled over in the back. The airbag went off, but there wasn't enough force for me to actually face-plant into it. In the end, I was four hours late for work (nobody expected me to come in upon hearing about the crash, but I wasn't losing whatever money I had left to earn).

This happened, as it turns out, twelve days after the final payment was made on the car. It was entirely ours for twelve days.

It happened on Prince of Whales, outside the city. Greenbank Road was closed off between Barnsdale and Kilbirnie, a residential street in Stonebridge. I had to continue north on Prince of Whales to alternatively use Jockvale Road to get home. Had the road not been closed, it probably wouldn't have happened. But, because there's a gas station at the corner of Barnsdale and Prince of Whales, with an entrance/exit onto both, and because the road I was on does not widen to accommodate a left-turn lane, cars have to stop in the north bound lane to turn while waiting for southbound traffic to pass. That's how the situation evolved. Of course, I'm not blaming the absence of a turn lane or a road detour or a gas station for why I rear-ended someone. I just became focused elsewhere at the wrong place and time.

Anyway, it's unfortunately the end of the car. The airbag deployed. Whether or not I actually needed it is beside the point - replacing it costs the same as the car itself. Thankfully, the car in front of me suffered very minor visible damage while my car lost its face. As a result, insurance wrote it off. I can give my car a time-line:

'09 Toyota Yaris, black: Oct. 3rd, 2012 - Oct. 12th, 2015.

Of course, the first date refers to when I came into ownership of it. Obviously its service start date would be sometime in 2009. It lived for six years, firstly for an owner somewhere in Quebec, and then the majority of its life up to that day was spent with me behind the wheel.

I want to focus largely on the life the car had prior to my ruining it. I have a lot of memories of ground I covered with it. It was our intention that we got a car once I passed my G2 entrance exam. I finally dealt with that in early September 2012, then we spent a week looking online until we found a car at the Toyota dealership on Merivale. Upon arrival, the car wasn't actually there, but this one was, so my grandpa test-drove it. Afterwards, we went ahead and bought it. Almost a week later, we picked it up. October 3rd. It was a great deal - three years old, only 42,000 kilometres on it, only $9,995, automatic.

The first place I drove with it was my grandparent's. The intention was for me to get comfortable driving it for the first time. Ironically, coming back, we took the exact same route I ended up taking the day of the accident. I didn't bother using the car to go to work, considering the tiny distance, and I still largely took the bus to Algonquin for my Photography program. In fact, it was a slow transition between taking the bus and driving and parking on residential streets. Eventually, I stopped altogether and just drove. As winter came, the same went for going to work. Driving to school proved more useful because there were shooting assignments that required I be on location, so I could just pack equipment into the car and use the Queensway to get downtown. I fulfilled the requirements for driving on a highway during the G2 period almost daily.

A few times during the winter, I just toured around during the night, driving randomly like I used to do on the bike in the summer if I hadn't been to certain part of neighbourhood before. Sometimes I brought my camera and did some nighttime long-exposure stuff - I could go distances now, and not have to worry about carrying a frozen metal tripod in my hands considering the winter temperatures. That led to the creation of a Facebook album of such images. I would do that a few more times during the spring.

2013 was a good year for driving. I packed all of my mics and instruments up and went to my friend's place that summer and spent the day doing demos (the 'July Sessions'). I drove a friend and two cousins on my birthday to a restaurant for lunch, and commuted between home and downtown early that fall with a new girl friend I met through returning to Prof. Writing. Those were very good days, driving with her and other friends; I saw my friend Brent way more often because I could pick him up and do stuff with him rather than having to meet somewhere via bus. The city was at my feet. In 2014, I drove it with my mother down to Sandbanks. There's quite a variety of places and memories and times, from being able to stay at Algonquin until 4am in the morning, editing images with Arthur (and then driving him home) to driving to the Rockcliffe Flying Club this summer and Fall to fly and take my ground school classes. There were on-location photoshoots, lunches, trips with the dog to the Manotick dog park, driving my paternal grandpa downtown to meet my father for lunch, driving to Hog's Back Falls with a spontaneous, mysterious Serbian girl, getting on top of the car to do a long exposure of a neighbourhood street, even showing up driving along a residential street in the Bing! Maps satellite imagery. Many time-lapse videos and point-of-view shots taken with my GoPro, and pleasant, soothing night drives past the bottom end of the airport. I discovered and re-discovered so many great songs on the radio in that car. They're virtually countless in number.

Moving on. We do have a new car. This past weekend, I test-drove three different Toyota cars - one Prius-C, a 2010 Matrix, and a 2014 Yaris - the exact same make I just had. I disliked the Prius, fared okay with the Matrix, and preferred the Yaris over the other two easily. I guess it's just a comfortable, familiar car to drive, despite being an updated model. The five-year difference means quite a change to the exterior design of the car from front to back, and the dashboard is quite different. We ended up choosing the Yaris; the Prius was too expensive, and I just found the Matrix nothing to be interested in or excited about. I much preferred the ride style of the Yaris - the seats pump up, so I'm sitting high and angled forward slightly. Plus, when you turn the key in the ignition, you know the car is actually on with the validation of a revving engine; you only get dashboard lights to tell you that the Prius is actually running. The saleswoman had to explain it to me after I turned the ignition twice in perplexity.

I'm sad to know that the car I drove for three years and had so many good times in will be taken apart and scrapped. It was a great car. On the other hand, it was a base model; there was no air conditioning, no power locks or windows, no current auxilery stuff except for a jack. The only power-assisted gadgets on the car were for steering, braking, and adjusting the door mirrors. It was black. In the summer, all the windows had to always be down, otherwise you'd melt. I recall driving with my friend Duncan from his place to mine to retrieve a couple of things for our demo session that I'd forgotten. It was rush hour, and it was early July. We sat in queue on roads and at lights, melting, for over forty-five minutes there and back. All the windows were down, but we weren't moving very often, and hot, humid air blowing in the car is hardly much of a coolant. Even parked in the shade, if the windows weren't mostly down, you'd be getting into an oven.

I'm looking forward to having a recent car with AC, power windows, power locks, new style, and even buttons on the steering wheel that include BlueTooth. It's unfortunate that what happened happened, but I'll still have the same radio and the same friends (most of them) and many more experiences and ground to have/cover. Plus, I have the experience and wisdom of how accidents happen (very, very quickly) so the next time I end up in a crash, I shouldn't be at fault. I'll be the one rear-ended or whatever it is. Hopefully that never happens.

Goodbye, Chipmunk.

Red Cloud

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Creativity Verses Self-Indulgence

I'm going to make this short and quick, as I due have time constraints and I want to avoid my usual wordiness.

There are some music videos out there that are really creative and interesting or inspiring, and then there are the ones that are pointless, self-conscious, silly, or, worst of all, hugely self-indulgent and showy. I don't mean showy as in bombastic and action-filled, with juggling chainsaws and fireworks, but showy as in "look at me! Look at how amazing I am!"

I'm writing this because I have two great examples in mind, and I wanted to critique them somewhat. I'll start with the creative end of the spectrum.

This isn't the most creative video in the world, and there are definitely others that are just as or more creative (see 'Let Forever Be' by the Chemical Brothers) but it's still a great example. The best creative videos are the simple ones (complex is neat as well, but it can be taking it to the implausible level). In this example, the lead singer wanders through a dark studio filled with artefacts, backgrounds, and scenery, seemingly walking something of a distance until he meets up with the rest of the band, and the camera pulls out to reveal the relatively short distance he walked - more like a semi-circle, with tricks like studio lighting and the way the camera kept his pace. The very atmosphere and setting of the video distills its creativity.

The self-indulgent side:

As I said above, this isn't the worst, and others are just like it, but it's the most severe example I can think of right now. I actually want to say it's the worst, except I've seen worse ones in the past. I believe.

I actually find it kind of funny that I once liked this. I would still like it if it were an instrumental, and even then, it would still feel like a bit of a guilty pleasure because it sounds so steeped in indie-alternative, and that's a genre I don't really relate to; I felt like I was having my 'first time' in liking it and talking about it to my peers, because I was excited about something they were already immersed in and seemed 'cool' about. It's mildly mortifying to think I once referred to it erroneously as "pumped up with kicks" - I guess I was happy that I liked something then-current that everyone around me listened to to the point of screwing up the title. Hence the "first time" metaphor. I personally dislike acting or trying to adapt a 'coolness' based on mass-interest in something; If I wanted to be 'cool,' I'd have an individual coolness based on character, not devotion to something that permits me under a label with others. The difference with that is you can choose to see individual 'coolness' or not, and no one would have to care; there's no false superiority or identity coming from the mass-interest type. I've gotten wordy...

I viewed this video a couple of times. As far as I've seen, it's merely a clip video of promotional material of their pressings mixed with home videos and footage that, with the influence of the promotional stuff and this song as the soundtrack, seem to impress upon the viewer how chill and amazing these young men are. It's permeated with that 'look at us' showiness as the band members sweet-talk girls at bars, drink, jump off low cliffs, travel, and come off with an overload of swagger. Finally, you add in ridiculous footage of the band playing so ridiculously hard, rocking their guitars and screaming into microphones that it makes no sense whatsoever. They're an indie band, not a hard metal rock band. They look like idiots.

The only similarity between the entire video and the entire song is the lead singer's use of a megaphone in a couple of shots. The use of which makes me dislike the vocals in the song altogether.

The lack of creativity goes further, even to the song itself. If you want a song about a high school shooting - with other children being murdered, or just the murderer him/herself - listen to 'Jeremy' by Pearl Jam. The music video to that song won awards, and though it was a more complex video, it meshed with the song perfectly and poetically, when you consider the whole 'life goes on despite this' aspect of the opening shot. The lyrics of 'Pumped up Kicks' are also hardly written between the lines, preferring the more upfront obvious style - of which nothing is wrong with that, but it lacks poetry and comes off as kind of repetitive (other songs deal with the same kind of subject matter).

I could watch 'Message to my Girl' over and over and come back to it after awhile. I can't watch 'Pumped up Kicks' more than once or twice altogether. I don't need to admire those men for chilling out and simultaneously putting out an amazing record, look, there it is, zoom in on it, see the band's name? Oh look, they're standing in a parking lot, bleary, I wonder what they were up to?

One thing I can notice, before I have to go, is that today's music videos seem to be way less creative than their 80s and 90s counterparts, and way more self-indulgent. I wonder why. There's way more exhibitionism, sex, and self-admiration going around than either of those two decades. It's unfortunate. Not to mention that it's possible to be creative and self-indulgent at the same time, and back then - I think 'Take on Me' by Ah-Hah exhibits a bit of both. But either way.

Red Cloud