If looks could skill

How did you spend your Saturday morning? If you answered “mildly hungover I half-assedly taught myself super basic photoshop” then we’re probably twins and we should go out into the world and play twin pranks.

Because my body told me five hours was ample sleep for a weekend (they don’t call ’em “sleepends”), I woke up with purpose. I was gonna try to learn how to make my Doug Loves Movies poster goddammit. I had my idea, I had paint.net (basically a freeware low-rent photoshop. I can’t recommend it enough) and I had nothing else valuable to do with my time. The perfect recipe for creativity. I started by finding a high res image of the original film poster. Then to get it out of the way, removed the “N” from the title and copied the “E” to make an “L”. I fine tuned the edges by alternating between the dropper tool and small tipped paintbrush. This was some serious pixel shit. I trawled Facebook for a useable photo of me (the only one where I’m not copping a big dumb smile) and got to work. I added my face as a layer and sized it with her normal face. I drew corresponding white lines to those of the poster and trimmed off the sides of my face that would otherwise be out of bounds. For far too long I did this using the “overwrite” function on the paintbrush, before remembering that the best way to erase was just using the “erase” tool like any non-insane person. With my head sized right, I trimmed right around the edges to keep it as flush as possible with her face.

Then came the interesting part, with the face layer completed, I wanted to try and recreate the key lighting effect from the poster. I made a new layer to create a gradient of red/purple from the top left (getting the specific colours with the dropper tool). It took a bit of tooling around with hues, but eventually I had it figured out. I made yet another gradient layer to get light on my face from the bottom right. It wasn’t nearly the same as the gorgeous saturated light effect, but it was something. Then came the pedantic bit. I got the eraser tool out and went all the way around my face on the first gradient layer, basically separating the gradient that was on my face to that outside of it. I did the same on the next gradient layer, so I had my facial gradients and all the wasted stuff on the outline. Then came the fun part, where I got to increase the eraser footprint to the size of a fucking tree and clear off all the unnecessary gradients, so I just had the light on my face. I then went into the layer options for each gradient and put them to “glow”.

Voila, I was done!

Now if I had any standards, I’d put more work in. I feel like I didn’t really understand the layer opacity functions until after I’d done all the incredibly finicky outlining. By that point I flat out couldn’t be bothered going back to set a new gradient, because I’d have to do all the outlining again. If I’d done it I would’ve cranked the colour saturation right to the brink and softened the layer opacity to compensate. Maybe I’d use the lasso select to give myself purple eyeliner and make my features pop a little more instead of blandly sitting under the layer. Maybe I’d even do work on my lips to make them stand out. I dunno, as someone who knows nothing, the concept of digitally giving myself makeup is a little intimidating. I’ve got so many plans in the next 24 hours, I barely have time to print it. Still, for two or so hours of my life, I’m happy enough with the outcome. It’s a lot better than the cut/paste job I was planning on doing initially.

I certainly didn’t expect to end today with a whole new skill.

Definitely lower case on that whole “skill” word.


I would preemptively crack and I have no shame about that

I wrote a Facebook status today that went:

Me being tortured:
“I’ll tell you whatever you want. Just don’t call me late to dinner!!!

I swear I’ve spent 30 minutes laughing at it. Not one 30 minute period where I thought about it from time to time. 30 minutes of total laughter spread across the past five hours. 30 minutes is a lot of chuckling, considering each time may have been for about 10-15 seconds or so. Hell, 10-15 seconds laughing at a single joke is a buttload of time in itself. With strangely little exaggeration, I’ve thought of this joke and giggled to myself roughly every five minutes. For fact checkers out there, I did zero math on this, so my calculations may be one or two decimal points off. To be clear, I don’t think it’s a good joke. Even filtered through a myriad of meta layers it still barely makes sense. More so, that’s why it tickles me so. This whole preamble isn’t to highlight my scintillating wit. All’s I’m saying is that if I end up alone and destitute, at least I’ll be in good company.

I’m tired as all heck today, but for good reason. I got to work mega early for a clandestine meeting. Half right. I’ve been trying to track down this dude in our company about an something. It’s not super secret, but I also don’t feel like going into it. Suffice to say, it may lead to a new job directly or far more indirectly. Thing is, this bloke lives in Vancouver and commutes to Toronto every once in a while. I’ve missed him the last couple of times and he never felt super jazzed about setting a time to meet in person. Considering it’s leading towards something tied directly to my interests, I’ve been tenacious. Like a slavering bloodhound with prosthetic wheels in need of oiling. I also figure it’s easy to be dismissive of someone you’ve only interacted with over email or the phone, but once you’ve actually met it engenders them to you. Like naming a stray and getting separation anxiety when it comes time to say goodbye. Turns out he was friendly and the meeting will be helpful one way or another. Almost worth getting to work an hour and 45 minutes early.

I’ve got Doug Loves Movies on Sunday and I’m excited. The thing I don’t have is a name tag or the graphic design skills to put one together. I guess I should probably take a step back and explain how it all works first. So Doug Loves Movies is a live podcast taping with comedian Doug Benson (who, as you guessed, loves movies. Here’s an episode where Captain America gets drunk and bro-y, but in a charming fashion). He invites a bunch of special guests (usually comics, actors, etc) on stage to play movie trivia based games. The guests all bring gifts for a communal prize bag. Here’s where the name tags come in. Audience members make posters of a chosen movie that combines with a pun on their name. I’m planning on The Leon Demon, for instance. Some people get incredibly creative. Guests go out into the audience and pick a name tag, playing on behalf of that audience member. Whichever guest wins the games, their audience member gets the entire prize bag. But wait, there are no losers! Everyone gets to write a “shithead” in an envelope on the back of their name tag. If their champion doesn’t win, Doug reads out their “shithead” to the crowd. You might write “Harvey Weinstein” is a shithead or something.

So how long does it take to learn basic photoshop?

A swing and a miso

How do I know so many cool people doing so many cool things?

I don’t know if it’s a matter of like calling to like, but it seems my circle finds me more than I search it out. One of my enduring favourite things about Toronto is how it tends to provide more than I could ever imagine possible. Opportunities are ever-present. I know so many individuals with fingers in disparate flavours of pies. I’m babbling, but that’s what happens when I get excited.

First up I saw a friend post a message in a shared group. One of her buddies was starting up a new Japanese food tour. Consequently, he needed curious and adventurous individuals to give it a test run. If you a) enjoyed Japanese food, b) loved sake and c) didn’t mind getting your picture taken for promotional purposes, then get in touch. Guess what I’m doing in an hour? It’s 15 minutes’ walk from my work and I was looking for something to do anyway. I was even craving Japanese or Korean for dinner. Perfect, right? So now I get to learn about new and exciting cuisine and more importantly, eat it. All for free. Sometimes luck just presents itself on a silver platter.

Next up, another friend posted about an awesome structure he’s put together. You know how as kids we all dreamed of going the entire way around the swingset? He’s basically made something that can accomplish just that. Instead of a loose chain, it has long arms that extend to just above the ground. There’s a platform, sort of like a trapeze, that you strap your feet into. There are straps for your arms too, so you’re totally secure. From there it’s a matter of building up momentum. Much like a swing, it’s about straightening your body at the right time and keeping a tight core, flowing with the arc. He posted a video and it looks like total madness. Once you get your speed up, not only do you go the entire way around the top, but you can start chaining up loops. It’s fucking insane. He extended the invite to come along and test it on Saturday. You bet your ass I’m gonna spin myself into a centrifugal state.

If that wasn’t enough, I’ve got more talented friends doing awesome things. One of my favourite local Toronto attractions was Pursuit OCR. It was an indoor obstacle race styled after Tough Mudder type competitions, but with an emphasis on fun and play. They did such a fantastic job of making sure each obstacle scaled by difficulty level, giving options no matter your strengths. A community minded place with an unwavering commitment to inclusivity. Every single time I went the atmosphere was wonderful, encouraging people to try their best without any shame. Accomplishments were celebrated wholeheartedly and giving it a try was everything. They had workshops on handstands, aerials and acro yoga. All the staff were super knowledgeable and would offer their expertise freely. I remember when I was trying to train for human flag, one of the instructors stepped in without fail, explained the physics of the movement and gave advice on how I could work towards it. Never condescending, rather he was extremely helpful. I went there for lightsaber battles, NERF wars and a bunch of parties. Everyone was always up to play and gave it their all. It was an amazing space, but when I heard it was being torn down for condos, my heart sank.

Fortunately my friend who owns the place never shies away from a challenge. He’s found a new, much larger location and has even bigger plans. They’re incorporating a paintball-esque escape room, Mario Kart style trikes and an enormous all new track. Different obstacles, with a renewed emphasis on accessibility. I’m so excited about it coming to life later this year. They’ve put together an Indiegogo campaign in order to raise the funds to bring it into existence. If you’re based in Toronto and this sounds like your kind of thing, please take a look at what they’re planning. If you want to kick in some shekels (and snag yourself some cheap perks while you’re at it) then go right ahead. If you want to signal boost or share the word with friends who’d love it to bits, please do so. All I know is that any steps I can take towards this coming to fruition are worth actioning.

Speaking of steps worth taking, I better get to this Japanese food tour. Arigato, go as I must!

It’s been a while since I’ve fallen off a bike. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden one at all

I have nothing momentous to talk about, which seems proof as any that I’m coming back down to Earth.

Yesterday was understandably tough. The world felt muted and dull. I’ve heard that’s a pretty common experience when returning from a burn. I went home and made some low rent chicken soup. I played Magic: Arena and watched a couple of episodes of Fleabag. I slept. I dreamed of mundane things like being on a bus. Some old woman walked on and kicked the shit out of the Presto machine. Everyone cheered. In another dream I visited an Air BnB. The host pulled a creepy doll out of a closet and told me how she’d performed a seance to summon a demon. It’d inhabited this doll, which if anything may have toned down its creep factor. The demon decided it wanted to eat my soul. I told it that in dreams I always seemed to have telekinetic powers. I harnessed my telekinetic powers to keep the demon doll at bay, but somehow failed to connect the dots that I was in a dream. One more potential lucid dreaming situation wasted.

Apparently the N.F.L. will fine teams if their players kneel through the national anthem. Hah. What a bullshit rule in a shitty sport composed of posturing. If that ain’t the most ridiculous, ‘MURICA regulation I’ve ever heard. As someone who genuinely likes his country’s national anthem (well, the Maori version anyway), all the hubbub surrounding them is fucking stupid. Going back to ol’ Benedict Anderson, the notion of national pride is pretty absurd. It’s a set of geographical boundaries and somehow that’s grounds to treat them as sacred? The cultural milieu that exists within the landmass of Canada spans the entire world. Not only ethnicities, but religious, gender, sexual and subcultural variation. What does a national identity provide for its citizens, enough that adherence to its tenets is something that requires respect? In most cases, nations certainly don’t respect a wide swath of their citizens. Subtracting someone’s ability to make a stand for what they believe in seems entirely the antithesis of this supposed “freedom” that Americans love so much. I don’t give two shits about the game, but the concept of it having principles while subtracting the harmless rights of its players is a total joke. Is the U.S. identity so fragile that it can’t stand up to criticism or questioning? Poor little shaky male egos.

I got bored at work today, so I went outside to sit on a rock. It was a sizeable rock, this wasn’t some Princess and the Pea kind of thing or an exercise in shelving. I’m not sure what I expected. Did part of me think I was gonna postulate on some deep issues? In reality I went from sitting inside fucking around on the internet to sitting outside fucking around on the internet. The only differences being the rock in lieu of a seat and fresh air instead of air conditioning. Then I went on a swing. You forget how much abdominal work goes into swinging. You need to keep your core taught to maintain movement and centrifugal force. Leaning into the arc. Otherwise you get to the top then crash down. No grace. Without grace, what’s the point?

Let’s be real, there was none. I was just trying to kill time. As I was with that last sentence.


Temporal relativism takes a while to end

Reality certainly doesn’t feel as such.

I knew returning from the heightened state of Hyperborea would be a process, so I’m exercising self-love and compassion. I’m intentionally not putting myself under any pressure to accomplish a single thing today. Today does not exist for exercise, caloric concerns or expended energy. It’s about turtling up and rediscovering my space in the world’s heartbeat. If it happens, spectacular. I shot for the Earth and ended up in the stars. Time and I aren’t on equal footing right now. I feel temporally displaced. The world will go at its own pace as I struggle to find mine.

It’s a little surreal. While logically it makes sense for me to be in the office plugging away at my desk, emotionally it’s hard to determine why I can’t feel fresh air on my face. Why is anybody here? Why did we all agree to this Brutalist social structure devoid of individuality? Where are the bursts of creative expression? What of the sights, colours and sounds of mirth? It’s simultaneously noisy and deafeningly quiet.

Everything seems strange and alien right now. Last night I went on Facebook and saw people aggressively arguing about some ephemeral minutiae. It felt so bizarre and unnecessary. This morning I stood in darkness at the precipice of my door. I felt a surge of emotion and barely managed to hold back tears. I looked out into the world and the sky was somber. Today as I rode on the TTC it was nothing but downcast faces and avoidant behaviour. Money doesn’t make sense. I’ve been leaning hard into music to grasp at any modicum of belonging I can. It’s an adjustment for sure, but presently it’s hard to imagine holding a place in this existence.

After days of living in immediacy, clocks have reared their ghastly faces. Calendars and schedules just seem so unforgiving. If you’re present where you are, the concept of “missing” anything is little more than absurd. Why care about things outside of your control? Why care so much about controlling everything? It’s all chaos, just hold on tight to what you love and find your place in the maelstrom.

Problems are for another day. For now there’s only acceptance.

I guess normalised nudity is in my rear-view too

All good things come to an end. I mean, shit things do too, but that’s beside the point. We’re on the road, leaving an unforgettable weekend behind. Taking nothing but the memories and excessive quantities of snacks we brought. So long, and thanks for all the MOOP.

It’s hard to succinctly summarise such an expansive, weekend of endless experiences. I don’t have the wherewithal to explain the complicated feelings of sadness over leaving it all behind, while craving so much the touch of my partner and the four walls in which we’ve made our lives. Can someone make me a German compound word for it? I think there’s beauty in the transitory nature of such a vibrant ecosystem. I woke up this morning and looked across the vast fields of tents and structures. In eight hours it’d all be gone, the Leave No Trace team doing their damnedest to preserve the land that’d given us so much.

Hyperborea was like altered reality. An extended weekend with no egregious interactions. Everyone greeted me with a smile or a hug. Their generousity was bountiful, encouraging sincere reciprocation. Any time I could help a stranger or do a favour felt like a gift. Like called to like and I loved being able to give of myself. There was nothing but greenlighting. The principle of radical self-expression wholly invited offers of creativity without judgement. If someone was to strip naked and dance around the fire, cheers would erupt. If one was to start singing, others would join. A vibrant celebration of individuality and reminder that none of us are truly alone. An overabundance of affection and faith in the human spirit. How do I not embrace total strangers with a consensual hug and a peck on the cheek?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit in a cubicle tomorrow. What does it feel like to not live communally? To hold in thoughts and not speak your mind liberally? To be so bound by social conventions and polite niceties? To have to wear clothes at all times? To hide your individuality behind the shell of who people want you to be? Who am I when I’m not being me? Or is the real question, how do I be the most me I can be while playing inside the structures of others? I was wrestling with identity while staring into the burning effigy. Now I’m contemplating what parts of me were sparked by the events of Hyperborea. What path will this take me down? Are there lessons to take away in order to enrich my life?

The trip isn’t far enough in my rear-view for me to see how I’ve changed, but I know for sure that I have. As we watched the temple burn last night I looked around the circle. The air was still and quiet. I traced the faces of all assembled, diving back into endless transient memories. Conversations and meals shared. Dance and massage partners. Experiences both ephemeral and lasting. As I gave of myself, so too did they leave part of themselves with me. Much as this all sounds like nonsense, I did preface it by saying it was hard to explain. If this is my self-expression, I don’t want it to be anything less than radical.

‘Cause Hyperborea surely wasn’t.

Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.