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.

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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.

For future reference, the correct answer is Bulbasaur

So far camping has gotten better.

After yesterday’s morning grumpfest and sleep deprivation, I was in a dark place. My mattress deflating, tent collapsing, entrapping me in a tomb of poles and canvas. I took in the panorama of joy around me and felt very alone. It was not an ideal start to the trip.

I willed myself to move through the negativity and into a place of nihilistic humour. We’re all gonna die someday, so hey, I’m on track. Then community came to the rescue. I felt shitty that I’d offered a friend both space on my mattress and in my tent. Circumstances had forced me to forfeit both. It was like I’d promised the Earth and arrived with a handful of ashes. My friends took stock and little by little, we worked together to bring me back to the fold. My friend was driving up, so I got her to grab an air mattress en route. Another friend offered us the plounge tent to sleep in. My friend arrived with a small tent which we used to store our gear (and presently, my “office”). We set everything up and the weight lifted. I looked around to see the abundant sun and colours in all directions. I let go of resentment and fear to just be present. Then I spent six hours doing my sanctuary shift. Six hours was a long time to sit there without anyone coming to us for help, but I guess overall it was for the greater good that we weren’t needed? It was great that nobody was having a bad time, but it sure would’ve been nice to help someone.

Then my shift ended and so did my need to be sober. I had a couple of drinks and went adventuring with friends. There’s a massive metal polyhedron that you can climb. It rolls around, so part of the fun is trying to hold on. I did all sorts of hanging shenanigans and pull up-y tricks. Then I met my friends who were experienced hoop artists and we mucked around some more. My arms are certainly feeling it today. We looked around at some of the camps. I did axe throwing, choosing from their array of 72 (!) weapons. I was a contestant on the Trash Fence TV Dating Game. The potential date was kind of uncharismatic, but the two other contestants were friends. We riffed with each other and wondered out loud why we didn’t all just go on a date. The only question I can remember answering was “What pop culture character would you describe yourself as and why?” I don’t know where I pulled this from, but I responded immediately with “Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. Because my hunger is insatiable.” The crowd went wild. When it came time for each of the contestants to ask the potential date a question, I posited “What pokémon did you start with?” She responded “Uh, I didn’t play Pokémon, so I don’t know?” Straight away I put my hands up, yelled “I’m out!” and faux walked off the stage. When it came time for her to choose which suitor to date, the crowd was cheering my name. She did not choose me. I’d had such a blast that I didn’t care one iota. Then post show a bunch of people came up to give me hugs. My heart swelled three sizes.

We spent a couple of hours dancing up a frenzy, then chilled way out. Our friends had procured a magnum of champagne, so we settled into a plounge and formed a big cuddle puddle until the wee small hours. It was such a lovely night, and I even managed to get a good sleep this morning.

I think I’m getting a hang of this camping thing, guys.

So it begins with a blank canvas

So far camping could be better.

Call it a lack of prep, but I feel pretty unprepared. It’s very cold and windy. Right now I’m wrapped in a duvet inside a sleeping bag. I’m also wearing a onesie with a T shirt and sweatshirt underneath. It’s fine for being inside my tent (which provides no real warmth, on account of all its walls being glorified open air. I’m sure I’d be lauding that fact in the deepest summer), but that wind is a motherfucker. Speaking of my tent, it spent the night collapsed in a heap. We set out from Toronto far later than I’d expected, which meant we were setting up tents in the dark. I’ve tried a couple of times to set it back up, but the wind keeps bending its poles. I’m sitting up to write this and the roof is sitting on my head. I’ve used it before without issue, but this time the tent is pulling rank and having none of it. The bright side, I guess, is that after I push the poles back into place I can see how spacious it all is, until it collapses in on itself again a minute later anyway. Small mercy.

I’m tired. I had less than the prescribed fourty winks. Probably closer to eight. Aside from my tent imploding, the air mattress gave out almost immediately. I’ve been sleeping on a glorified lump of plastic and a couple of pillows my friend lent me. Yet again, sleeping is a strong word. I’m equal amounts of tired and grumpy this morning, which isn’t helped by the dull but persistent headache that’s hanging around. Like I said, so far, camping could be better.

The camp itself however is very cool. People went all out in decorating. So many tents are festooned with colourful light displays. It makes sense. Being far away from the city, at night the only light found is the light people bring. Also, I mean, they’re burners. It kind of comes with the territory. It’s still very early in the festival and it’s half full. There’s still a lot more to come. That being said, there’s already a lot here. In this chill, I’ve been looking enviously at the purpose built sauna that’s been brought. It looks like a large wooden cabin, but promises hot, sweaty warmth. Speaking of hot, I got to try the fiery lawn darts last night. They’ve arranged a wall of balloons filled with propane. When it’s your turn they dip the tip of a dart in kerosene and light it up. The goal is not to hit the balloon itself, because that’d just pop with little payoff. Instead you want to hit just below so the flame from the dart ignites the balloon and it explodes. I had a go last night and demolished a cute lil’ balloon dog. It caught a chain reaction and set of a bunch of other balloons, lighting up a huge swath of the wall. Just call me Dartanian.

Ugh. It’s 7.30am. Let’s see if I can get any sleep this morning.

If so, you’re the person bankrolling Nic Cage’s career and I thank you

I was listening to an episode of Good One today. It’s a podcast about jokes, where the host talks with a comedian about one of their jokes and they break it down. They pull the curtain back to show the strings. Why did they choose certain words? How did the joke evolve over time to reach its final form? Where did the concept come from in the first place? Good One is good stuff, if you’re a comedy fan who loves that kind of minutiae. The episode was about Pete Holmes’ Green Eggs and Ham joke. I’m not gonna go into the specifics of the entire podcast, because you’d get a better experience listening to it instead.

One part that spoke to me was where Pete talked about his distaste for comedy where sarcasm is the punchline. It’s not challenging held expectations with a deft misdirect, it’s lazy. You’re not having to search for a creative out, it’s basically the punchline equivalent of a shrug. If you’re using your time on stage for that, why are you there? You’re not giving the audience anything. He was saying how grotesque (my word, not his) it was to get onstage with the intention of reaffirming what people already knew. His example was dudes getting onstage and being all “hey, isn’t sex great?” You did nothing. Nobody was suggesting the contrary. If you’re not gonna take a premise somewhere new, congrats, you wasted everyone’s time. Yours included. Comedy has this gift of showcasing your unique viewpoint. Why waste that spotlight to settle for mediocrity? That’s not to say by any means that people can’t start somewhere and improve, but more that thinking about what you’re really saying gives you an opportunity to leave the crowd better than they came. You’re taking their time and that’s something that should be respected. If you’re onstage just because you want to stoke your ego, then justify that ego. Make what you say worth hearing.

His point stuck out to me because of a conversation I had with a friend to other night. We were talking about how eye opening it was to really delve into your sense of humour and figure out what leaves you tickled. As dating profiles have taught me, everyone loves to laugh. It’s a gift. Enough so that knowing more about the kind of material you get off on is like a path to harvesting joy. That’s pretty much the best resource life has to offer. Aside from living and loving, if embroidered pillows are to be believed. I’ve realised lately that I’ve got such an affinity for excessive specificity. Going into such a microscopic level of detail that zooming out makes the scope of everything else seen utterly ridiculous. Liking action movies isn’t particularly funny, but the conceit of being obsessed by movies where people save the Statue of Liberty is all types of silly. What is it about the symbol of Americana that pulls you right in? I want to know everything about you right away. Please, I need your life story in my brain. What origin story made you into whatever it is you became?

This parlays into how much I adore rampant enthusiasm about things that don’t matter. Our lives are so crammed with stimuli. We’re constantly absorbing information and performing mundane tasks. If so little of that is notable, why are we here? Tell me why it is that one particular activity/interaction that everyone takes for granted sticks out to you. I want to see the world through your eyes. Give me hope that there’s still magic in the world, because I’m oh so ready to believe you. If your illuminating observation is that music was better in your day, go home. You’re extinct. A million someones are already raring to give that same hot take. Why shit on something that you don’t understand. Why not tell me how ridiculous it is that when you were 17 you built a shrine to Rush in your basement, complete with a full animatronic band that’d play Tom Sawyer on repeat 24/7? Because that’s a metric fuckton funnier than complaining that young girls like Justin Bieber? Use your time to make something.

Or I guess I could just continue skipping open mics.