Maybe it wasn’t me, and was the job after all

I, uh. I think I like my job.

If this sounds outlandish to you, don’t worry, I’m there with you. It’s been so long since I legitimately took pride in my work that it’s boggling my mind. Thing is, I enjoy what I do. This Described Video thing not only provides a valuable service for those who need it, but I flat out enjoy the process. It pulls on so many elements simultaneously. I need to script my descriptions in real time, figuring out how to best relay the non-verbal action happening onscreen. It’s challenging vocally too. I’m essentially voicing for hours on end. I also get to flex weird little Pro Tools tricks when needed, adjusting odd vocal ticks or bringing things up in the mix. Each show is different, each genre is different. Some comedies rely heavily on visual gags. Cartoons necessitate creative description, so as not to lose the joke for those with decreased sight. Some are so stuffed with dialogue that it’s tough to get a word in edgewise. Others have abundant time to really let me chew the mise en scene-ry. Everything I do is without a script, and holy hell it’s a challenge. I love it though, I really do.

Live DV though? Egads it’s difficult difficult lemon difficult. I’m only a few days in, but I’ve done certain shows that barely have pauses longer than a second or two. It’s nigh impossible to squeeze in there without voicing over dialogue. There are certain best practices to follow, some of which really hamper our ability to describe. For instance, we’re not supposed to voice over any English language lyrics. But if there’s an out of context music video clip playing, what’s more important? That the audience hear the lyrics, or know what’s happening onscreen? DV is still a relatively young process. Maybe we’ll develop these best practices further as it expands. Who knows? Live stuff is simultaneously stressful and exciting. It requires knowing when to jump in, and when to stand back. We’ve got no idea how long pauses are likely to be, so we have to quickly get in, then vamp if we have the luxury of extra time. One of the most important aspects is ‘finishing the thought’, and not curtailing yourself because a voice has kicked in. How distracting would that be for a viewer, half a description? Finish the thought and duck out, that’s the game.

Like any any job, I’m new and slow. I still haven’t figured out where to find efficiencies, what kind of stuff is imperative, and what I can leave behind. At the moment, it’s taking me an age to do anything. Mostly because I’m voicing everything I can. In some of these shows, as soon as I have a second or longer, I’m trying to cram in descriptions. I think it’s a bit much. Honestly, I think I’ve been doing a great job at theatre of the mind stuff, but I could stand to describe a little less. There’s a trade-off in efficiency, and I’m not sure I should be spending four hours on one 24 minute episode of Invader Zim. Egads though, that show has a plethora of visual gags.

Strangely, I’ve been quite enjoying working the evening shift. When there’s nobody around, the same building I’ve spent 40 hours a week in for the past few years takes on new charms. It straight up looks pretty at night, the atrium all lit up. I can use all the facilities without waiting. That was meant to imply the water filter, which usually has a line, but it for sure encompasses the bathrooms too. I’ve never had to wait for a stall. I can go to the loo with impunity. I can even sing along to the radio with no fear of judgement. There’s nobody around to hear me. I walk the halls doing vocal exercises to keep my voice fresh. Best of all, I can get my work done at my pace, without people rushing in with requests. It’s a kind of neat I couldn’t conceptualise, and just one more cool aspect of this new gig. It might be kind of weird biking home uphill at 1am, but it’s far from bad.

It’s better than bad, it’s good!

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Feels just like I’m falling for the first time

First day of work.

I’m excited. It’s weird that my first day of work is in the same building I’ve been travelling to for the past three years. Same floor, etc. A wholly different job though, which couldn’t be more thrilling. I’m starting on the evening shift, 4.30pm – 12.30am. It’s been years since I worked an evening shift. I think the last time was about eight or nine years ago at Sky TV back in New Zealand. I’ll be flip flopping between the evening and day shifts ad infinitum, in a four days on, four days off schedule. Some variety, which means my job duties will vary too. I’m starting off tonight with a live DV (Described Video) being broadcast nationally across Canada. The pressure is there, but I’m psyched for it. It’s been so long since I had skin in the game, where there were consequences for my actions in my work. I didn’t think improv would become part of my job, but that’s all kinds of cool.

I stopped in yesterday on my day off just to shadow my co-worker. He’s been working for the past four days, and he’s already picked up a bunch. I tried to absorb everything I could as through osmosis, learning what I liked about his process, and what I’d do differently. It’s awesome to see how professional he sounds after such a short amount of time. All of my co-workers seem like really adept dudes, and it’s rad seeing how they approach things from a different perspective. It was interesting watching my co-worker describe, and comparing it to how I’d describe the same actions. He did a great job of keeping things simple, not trying to prove anything with excessive vocabulary choice, but to make everything as clear as possible for a visually impaired audience.

At the same time, I was champing at the bit to get in and do some work of my own. I think that’s a good sign, right? That I actively want to be working. I’m keen to get in, get better at this job and start providing an excellent service to enhance viewing experiences for those I can aid. Seems like a fulfilling application of skills I’ve picked up, and have yet to fully develop. For once, I’m content to work through the process stage by stage, instead of trying to instantly go full tilt and make big mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m planning on learning from them. Slow and steady is my mantra, in order to develop an arsenal of skills in lieu of just half-baked enthusiasm with little to back it up.

A lovely development of starting out on the evening shift, is that I get to see my girlfriend during TIFF for once. As she does each year, she’s working the festival. It means mostly evening work, starting later in the afternoon. I’m usually a 9-5er, so this means we can spend the mornings in one another’s company. We can share coffee, have breakfast, and do day prep in each other’s presence. September is usually a split where we go our separate ways. In the first half of the month, she has TIFF in the evenings. In the second half of the month, I go nuts at JFL42, seeing as many shows as possible. This month, we might actually spend time together. What a crazy concept.

In any case, I’m gonna try make it to the gym before work. Time to pack my bag and get my skates on. I don’t wanna be late.

Hark, the Bone King cometh

What’s in a name? I’m Leon. I’ve always been Leon. Nicknames slough off me like water from a duck. They don’t hold or stick fast. Not sure why.

I’ve always been one to strip bones bare. Sounds like a red flag tinder profile, but really it means that I love BBQ ribs a whole bunch. Last night we had a big communal cook-up. Ribs on the BBQ, grilled mushrooms, corn, hot dogs, peaches, and a simple side salad. We sat around and had our bellies filled by the work we’d all pitched in. Everyone at the table had helped out somehow, and the rewards were bounteous. It turned out I had different standards than everyone for when a rib was considered “finished”. My friends’ bones piled up, and I flayed them one by one. I finished with a stack high to the heavens. Like a throne. A throne of bones. I was the Bone King.

Of course, this happened in my head. Nobody else had picked up on my clever moniker. So it was my duty to bring them onboard. This was a nickname that could stick. I tried incidentally sprinkling it a few times into conversation. Y’know, “hey, mind passing the chips over here to the Bone King?” They were all “wait, who’s the Bone King?” I was like “thats me, I’m the Bone King. Y’know, all those dinner bones?” My friends exchanged uneasy looks. I tried it once or twice more. It didn’t land. After a particularly egregious one my girlfriend gave me a sidebar. “I’m not sure this Bone King thing is landing. Maybe it’s not happening.” I looked in my heart of hearts and stood firm. “I know this can work, I just haven’t found my moment. By the end of the night, I’ll have it.”

It was evening. There’d been a bunch of pot going around. We were all quite high. We’d all slid into colourful, comfy clothing. I wore my lion onesie, with these dainty rose tinted glasses; gold chain draping from either arm across the back of my neck. People commented on the aesthetics of my attire. I shrugged and said something to the effect of “that’s how the Bone King rolls”. Gentle chuckling ensued. I stepped outside to a spritely bonfine. We played around, making smores. Some tended the fire. I grabbed a bold stick and struck a pose. I referred to myself once or twice as the Bone King. Still not a whole lot of rececption.

Hours passed. I’d put down my rose tinted glasses, and they’d become absorbed into a silly joke about a toy car wearing them. People were still laughing about Lightning McQueen in his rose tinted glasses. I grabbed the glasses, unaware I was cutting off their joke. Someone started to protest my theft of Lightning McQueen’s apparel, and I realised the only choice was to commit to the bit. I methodically applied the glasses, draping the chain over the back of my neck to the sound of the room’s protests. A friend called out “are you challenging Lightning McQueen?” I pushed the glasses to the bridge of my nose, squared off against Mr. McQueen and exclaimed “Hey Lightning McQueen, you come at the Bone King, you best not miss.” Rapturous applause exploded as I walked out the door for a smoke. Thus began the legend of the Bone King.

And I finally made that goofy nickname stick.

Mel Gibson ain’t a fan. But who needs fans like that?

What’s Ned Flanders’ favourite brand of sunglasses? Okillys!

For no good reason, today I remembered something from high school. There was this girl that we all had a crush on. She was super cool and disaffected. Really pretty, long brown hair and almond shaped eyes. When I say that we all had a crush on her, I mean it. You know that stereotype of teenage girls excitedly tittering about the quarterback? We were those tittering teenage girls about her. ZOMG it’s mufti day, did you see what she’s wearing? That kind of stuff. Anyway, we were doing speeches for English class. She wasn’t in my class, but one of my friends told me he saw hers. She did her speech on Nelson Mandela, which was a neat subject. He was a cool dude. But she did a real half arsed job and didn’t really know how to finish. Instead she played Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” on a boom box and danced a little bit. Weird, and maybe more than borderline inappropriate. Incongruent enough that as soon as my friend told me, my crush on her instantly died. Simple as that. No more tittering.

In writing that out, I didn’t think I’d type “tittering” half as many times as I did.

Ugh, I used to love doing speeches at school. It was by far my favourite assignment. I was big into public speaking, considering that I spent all day talking shit in class anyway. I think I mostly liked making jokes, and it was an ideal opportunity to do so. I don’t fully remember my speeches from primary school. I did one about books that I kind of phoned in. It wasn’t my proudest work. I do remember getting a kick out of writing my barmitzvah speech, and figuring out metaphors with the rabbi. The friends I invited didn’t understand anything about Judaism, but they did enjoy pelting me with candy as I walked the Torah around the room. As is tradition.

I distinctly remember doing a fun speech during my ‘campaign’ for Deputy Head Boy in highschool. We all knew who was gonna win, so I tried my aim for silver strategy. I spent the whole time doing basically a stand up set. I leaned heavily on my best friend’s suprise campaign-

Which went a little like this:
“Hey bud” he said to me as he arrived at my front door to walk to school “I put up the posters”. I blinked. “Posters?” “Yeah” he replied “for your campaign”. Cue me walking into school, people coming up to me saying “oh man, love the posters. I’m voting for you for sure.” I saw one of the posters containing the image of an elderly Hasidic Jew and in bold: I’D VOTE FOR A JEW. WOULDN’T YOU?

-and really talked up my latent Judaism. I harped on about losing the Nazi votes, but hoping I could make it up with people proving they weren’t Nazis by voting for me. I didn’t win. Maybe I should’ve ended that one with Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and a little dance. Who better to claim the title “Survivor” than the Jews?

If I retconned every memory I had of giving a speech to have ended with that song, would that be the Mandela Effect at work?

Ooh baby is this some kind of salve? I guess my heaven was created by Valve

What would you want to happen when you die?

Honestly, I’d be happy with a full stop. Nothing. No life after death, Heaven, Hell, ghostly hangouts or endless void. Just zero, with no thought, agency or eternity. A complete end. I don’t know that I’d truly want to look into infinity if I could just cease. I know it’s boring and unromantic, but honestly I’ll probably be tired by the time it’s all over. I mean, I’m tired already. Give me nothingness and give me death, y’know?

But in the instance that there was some kind of afterlife, I’m not 100% sure what I’d want that to resemble. I’m not going to assume I’d get into Heaven, but for fun let’s assume that anyway. I think it would be really strange for there to be some formalised society after we’re all dead. How would that even be sorted? It’s not like we’d have tangible bodies. It’s more likely we’d be disembodied consciousnesses. Or at least I’d hope that were the case. My goal would be to get to interact with all the people I loved during my life, but also meet new entities. The ability to manifest infinite scenarios/simulations would be awesome. Does that have a limit? I’m not sure. Like, if you could be or do anything ad infinitum, that’d be kind of awesome. Live infinite procedurally generated lifetimes? Maybe I’d want to jump straight into the life of a seven year old tiger in the heart of the jungle. Or go back to my 20s, but in 1940s New York. If I could fast forward, rewind, pause and bookmark, that would be amazing. I could try all sorts of life experiences I never had. I could learn what it’s like to be a different gender or of a whole new cultural background. There’d have to be some kind of untamperable safety valve whereby I could always pull out of any scenario and back to a neutral state. Maybe I’d be able to link up with old contacts and engage in these scenarios together.

I think the conclusion that I’m coming to is that I want Steam, but as a dead person.

I just don’t see how else this would work in my brain. The concept of communities feels a little odd, because it’s hard to fathom being in Heaven, but also having to pretend to be polite to people you didn’t like on Earth. Or enacting social niceties. The idea of simply being around all of my loved ones doesn’t work for me, because in turn I’d imagine they’d be around all their loved ones, etc etc. I have so many friends who have friends who really aren’t my friends. If I get to be in Heaven, I want to be as exclusionary as my heart desires. Look, this is probably why I’m not getting into Heaven, but there are no stakes to imagining.

The one thing wouldn’t want, would be to get stuck in my own simulation where everything was totally fabricated. If every entity I encountered was a manifestation of my consciousness. There are limits to my imagination (as we’re clearly finding in this entry). I’d want to keep learning, growing and understanding things outside of my miniscule personal views. Otherwise what would be the point. I’m tired enough of complacency in my living years, let alone my eternal ones.

If that was the case, just give me a nice set of curtains and close out the show.

Tell me that opening line doesn’t sound like a dog’s internal monologue

Today is a good day. I was jogging, and for the first time ever a fellow jogger waved and smiled at me before I could wave and smile at them.

I also chatted with one of my pending co-workers. Lovely guy, he reached out when he saw me reply on an email chain. He asked if I wanted to meet up, since we were both in the same boat of leaving the company at large to become independent contractors. Of course I said fuck yeah, and made the time. Very sweet dude, we both talked about our paths to this company, and this new job. I didn’t ask how old he is, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find we were the same age. Similar lives in some ways, very different in others. He immigrated from Mumbai about five years ago. Came over with a wife and kid, then had another kid two years ago. He’s been trying to network, find composer/audio positions for most of that time, but took a role in a more sales oriented department. For him, the shift work will allow him to devote time to grow his audio profile, take on other work. It’ll allow him to be present in his kids lives in a much more conscious manner, which is one of his prime motivations. We chatted for a good hour or so, just hearing about how we’d each gotten here. My fingers are crossed that any of my new co-workers will be half as personable, and I’ve got a good feeling that most of them will.

For me, I’m seeing the shift work as an open future to learn who I am and what I want to be doing. I’m excited to start the job, try my hand at something new and accumulate fresh skills. I’m thrilled to be in a position that’s providing a legitimate service for those with alternative needs. I’m also fascinated by the notion of what four days on, four days off will do to my life. It’s the epitome of a work/life balance. Talking with this new co-worker, he was set on looking at how he could use this time to take on other contracts. For me, this job will already be paying me a ton more than I’m currently earning. It’s an opportunity to widen my views, talents and interests. I was grinding my coffee in the atrium this morning, looking out across the lake. I noticed the hem of my favourite pair of jeans, torn as it has been for a while.

I thought about how much it would cost to get fixed, or if a friend of mine would know how to fix it. Then I thought again and wondered could I take sewing lessons with that much time off? How hard would it be to fix it myself? What about other manual skills? Simple home maintenance? Spending more time cooking? Having ready made meals in the freezer? Could I try my hand at comedy again? Write more? Get a bike and take rides around the city, just to explore? What will having that kind of headroom do to my brain? For my creativity? What will that reduced stress do to my blood pressure? Will I be able to maintain fitness without struggling to fit it into my workday? It’s no secret that writing these entries daily has long since lost its lustre. Is that something I could get back? The joy of written expression? Could I even do more longform, considered pieces?

Today is a good day. I’ve had a ton of them lately. Is that what the new normal could be?

We had a gas. Or in a word, sublimation

I so rarely karaoke.

I did last night. Karaoke was fucking great. I don’t usually, what was different? My girlfriend and I went over to our friends’ house, and they’ve got it all down pat. They built a gorgeous tiki bar in their basement complete with AstroTurf and comfy couches. They also have a karaoke mic. I’d never considered the logistics of home karaoke with modern technology, and it’s actually pretty smart. In lieu of a whole machine, it’s a singular mic that looks a bit like a reporter’s mic. It has a little box thing between the receiver and hilt. Said box has a couple of buttons, but also a built in speaker. Your voice doesn’t get amplified through the wider audio setup, but instead through this handheld gizmo. It means that you hear yourself pretty clearly, others who are close by can hear your non-amplified voice clearly, and people chilling about can have their conversations without disrupting the person singing. It works really well. The other unsung hero of this setup was YouTube. People upload a ton of karaoke versions, and all it takes to find them is using the prefix “karaoke”. So a search term might be “karaoke let it go” and there you are. You can belt out Elsa’s queer anthem for the entire lounge. You’d be surprised at just how many there are, and you don’t even need to fuck around with huge tomes full of arcane numeric codes.

I so rarely do karaoke because the thing here seems to be people coming in with polished song choices. That’s cool, but it’s not me. I just want to fuck around and see if I can imitate voices, or hit certain notes. I don’t care about blowing the roof off, I want to goof off. I don’t feel like I have the safety net to do so when it’s this performative bar scenario. If I’ve had to wait an hour to get a turn, I’m not gonna toss on “Teenage Dirtbag” purely to test if I can do the weedy voice. I’d go for a safe choice instead. In a friend’s basement, things felt a lot looser. I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself, because it’s only friends present. If we’re all trying stuff out, there’s a ton of support for merely giving it a go.

It was widely agreed that one of the worst karaoke conventions is being stuck with a song that has infinite outro. You know those tracks where the last minute or two is just the chorus repeating? If you’re not a strong or creative singer, that shit gets stale so quickly. My guess is that trained singers know their voices better, and thus are well equipped to improvise or do neat variations. If you’re like me and pretty much know the song how it was recorded, it’s hard to find the subtle changes to keep it fresh. On the contrary to this, it was interesting thinking about “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. The whole “where do we go” breakdown looks boring on paper, but the vocal inflections are really interesting and fun to emulate. It made me realise that while lyrics matter to some extent, that only goes so far. What are words if not a way of expressing the instrument of your voice? Rhythm and cadence are their own language, and sometimes that supercedes the amount of sense their guiding lyrics make.

What this did for me, at least in a smaller group, was to make me consider approaching songs that were punchy and fun to sing, but potentially problematic in content. Case in point: Sublime. Sublime were my favourite band for years, and while everyone knows “Santeria” or “What I Got”, they also have a bunch of gems. Bradley James Nowell was a very talented singer and songwriter, and it always felt like his heart was in the right place. The thing is, the world’s a vastly different place than it was in early 90s surfer SoCal. For its time, it really wouldn’t surprise me if the conceit of “Date Rape” (dude is a shitty date rapist, nobody tolerates his shit and he gets sent to prison where he’s forcibly butt sexed. Ba dum tss.aiff) was considered progressive. It ain’t now. But songs like “Date Rape”, “Mary”, “Wrong Way”, they’re as much of a blast to sing as they are inappropriate for this time period. The songs have all kinds of rad dynamics, and they’re quite theatrical. With a certain amount of acknowledgement of that, and an understanding that the lyrics themselves aren’t being put on a pedestal, it’s a wicked time singing along with a bunch of friends.

One more thing I learned? I straight up don’t know the Spanish parts of “Caress Me Down”.