2009: This is Naught a Love Song

It wasn’t even close to New Year’s Eve before Ingrid and I were swearing that 2009 could not end fast enough, like a vampire-queen freshly staked that we wished would stop spitting blood and just fucking die already.

It’s not that it was such a *bad* year, so much as it was filled with such a dense and dramatic amount of events that by early December I simply had no room left in my head; my brain’s capacity was supersaturated with fragments of information without the ability to reflect anymore (reflection, I feel, being the way we digest information, the same way our stomach digests food in order to allow more food to come later). I tell you: such a state of mind is not healthy.

Among the highlights of 2009, this last year of the naughts: I completed work on two feature films, one MoW (movie-of-the-week), bought a house (without Ingrid being in the same country at the time!), moved into said house, started teaching post-graduate studies in film post production, and completed a major revision on my novel (which I’m becoming very happy with). Lastly, we managed to insert a three-country whirlwind vacation after Christmas. I must say, there was some cruel justice in having abandoned the country while the decade died. And what a decade it was…

Our friend, Shannon, who we met in London, upon hearing how things had gone for us in 2009, showed no surprise. “It’s the Year of the Ox.” she said “I can’t wait for it to end!”. According to Shannon, Years of the Ox are denoted by their eschewing of joy and relaxation for the throes of head-down labour and development. I’m not exactly sure how accurate this is – was it this bad twelve years ago, the last time there was an Oxen year? I ask myself – but one thing I do know: I certainly don’t want to go through another Year of the Ox for another twelve years.

And so, to my readers, and to those just visiting, when I say “Happy 2010” I really mean it. The Oxen year is not quite over yet – the Chinese New Year is not until February 14th (at which point, 2010 will be the Year of the Tiger). I wish you all the best for the coming year, and offer the following synopsis, taken from a website who took it from a website, who took it from another website (so it must be true):

Drama, intensity, change and travel will be the keywords for 2010. Unfortunately, world conflicts and disasters tend to feature during Tiger years also, so it won’t be a dull 12 months for anyone. The Year of the Tiger will bring far reaching changes for everyone. New inventions and incredible technological advances have a good chance of occurring. For all of the Chinese horoscope signs, this year is one to be active – seizing opportunities and making the most of our personal and very individual talents. Everything happens quickly and dramatically in a Tiger year – blink and you could miss an important chance of a lifetime!

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Niagara Falls

From the Wikipedia entry “Slowly I Turned“:

The routine has two performers pretending to meet for the first time, with one of them becoming highly agitated over the utterance of particular words. Names and cities (such as Niagara Falls) have been used as the trigger, which then send the unbalanced person into a state of mania; the implication is that the words have an unpleasant association in the character’s past. While the other performer merely acts bewildered, the crazed actor relives the incident, uttering the words, “Slowly I turned…step by step…inch by inch…,” as he approaches the stunned onlooker. Reacting as if this stranger is the object of his rage, the angry actor begins hitting or strangling him, until the screams of the victim shake him out of his delusion. The actor then apologizes, admitting his irrational reaction to the mention of those certain words. This follows with the victim innocently repeating the words, sparking the insane reaction all over again. This pattern is repeated in various forms, sometimes with the entrance of a third actor, uninformed as to the situation. This third person predictably ends up mentioning the words and setting off the manic performer, but with the twist that the second actor, not this new third person, is still the recipient of the violence.

I spent about five years, between my late-teens and early twenties, working in photo labs. It was the easiest thing for me to do, seeing as I had a natural disposition toward photography. I spent many hundreds and hundreds (I suppose I could just write “thousands”, but then that seems like such an exaggeration) of hours printing other people’s photographs, correcting the colour, correcting the density – even occasionally eliminating hairs or scratches on the negatives. All said, it was a thankless job, but not a job one does in the first place if one is seeking thanks.

It was while I held this position that I read (or heard – I am convinced the toxic chemicals eroded my memories from those days) that the most photographed place on the earth was not the pyramids of Egypt, not the Great Wall of China, nor was it the Grand Canyon.

It was Niagara Falls, Canada.

And you know what? That person was absolutely right, from my perspective at least. I have seen so many photographs of Niagara Falls, from so many angles, from so many different types of cameras, lenses, and film stocks that when Ingrid and I went there during the summer, it felt as if I were entering some sort of nightmare/dream world. I hadn’t seen the Falls since I was a kid (with the exception of seeing them from the American side once – not impressive at all) and yet I was intimately familiar with every inch of it. It is the closest thing to recreating deja vu that one can do, I suppose.

Needless to say, I took photos. What else are you going to do? It’s a giant, massively awe-inspiring natural waterfall. And when I got my slides back, I looked at them and groaned – it didn’t matter how good they were, how picture-postcard they were. I’d seen them all before. From every angle, every camera, every lens, and every film stock.

I eventually found one photo which wasn’t so eerily pre-reminiscent: a stranger on an observation deck, staring out (not down) philosophically, as if Camus were alive and in Niagara Falls no less. It is through this photo that I found it possible to combat the madness of my previous occupation: to find the angle no one else has bothered to capture. I do not consider it an exceptional photograph from a technical point of view, but for personal reasons it is a healthy way to re-pave my perception of a subject so totally saturated by the second-hand experience of first-hand observation.

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Back from the Lake…

Back from Kirkland Lake (unless you thought I posted the Solzhenitsyn remembrance from afar). It was a great trip, though next time my wife and I have pledged either to do it with more days to spend/travel, or take another mode of transport. Sixteen inclusive hours of door-to-destination driving do not wear well on you when you’ve only got one day off in-between to enjoy. The reason for our trip was to pay respects at a memorial service for my wife’s uncle who passed away earlier in the year, in case you were wondering why we attempted such a feat within such a short period of stay. We aren’t masochists.

It was great to meet more of my extended family, see more of the province, and get a better sense of the geography. No wildlife to note, unfortunately, save for crows, mosquitoes, and the odd call of a loon in the night. Photos were taken and I hope to post them when the slides are developed. I still have photos from July that I need to sort through so, pending quality, you may or may not be in for a bonanza of visuals. I wish that “bonanza” didn’t imply a lack of aesthetics.

Some facts about the trip:

  1. Minimum total distance travelled: 1160km (721 miles)
  2. Population of Kirkland Lake: 8248
  3. Speeding tickets: 1
  4. Bug bites: 2
  5. Hours that a not-fully-charged iPod Mini managed to last: 8
  6. Photos taken: 56
  7. Name of town outside of Kirkland Lake: Swastika

More writerly concerns to post about in the near future. Hope all is well with everyone.

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