Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Time to Scream

"Listen to the children of the night. What sweet music they make" -Gary Oldman as Dracula

It’s the spookiest time of the year, when children appear as angels and demons.

So far, I’ve had an active October with lots of theme dress-up parties, tricks and treats, barbecues, candy and special songs, like Micheal Jackson’s Thriller but it's not over yet.

A few of us (like 20) want to dress up like zombies, take a ghetto blaster downtown and pump that tune up to choreograph creeping out of fountains, disrupting traffic and taking over the town.

In keeping with the dark and supernatural themes, I watched Return of the Living Dead, an original cult classic zombie horror flick. It is basically the definition of campy, when the acting was bad but the undead were quick and intelligent (non of this modern slow-moving zombie stuff). I am also very excited about the new 3D version of Night of the Living Dead coming out this next month.

In terms of my day-to-day life, I have been very busy making calls, sorting out customer complaints and learning more about technology.

Working at the new job has been quite a learning process, learning about the features, plans and technological functions of various telecommunications devices and of course the world-famous makers of Blackberry, RIM. I’m most impressed by their fairly recent launch of the smallest Smartphone on the market, the Blackberry Pearl, which is capable of voice-activated dialing, real-time internet use, GPS maps and a keypad that learns your own language as you type (SureType). It also has many other features useful for business. Of course this job comes with its own complexities, including how to repair phones, where their orders went, who said what, under what conditions and unexpected technical difficulties.

On my few days off I practiced music and hung out in the hospital for six hours because my leg has been bothering me. I was getting quite into reading the Da Vinci Code but still tired of waiting and almost ready to throw in the towel when my name was called. About a half hour later, having been informed to get into a gown and await the doctor, I was told to take ibuprofen and wait longer. “Sometimes these things take time to heal” was the official medical prescription.
As part of our employment perks, we attended a social function this past weekend in Toronto to see the launch of new products. It was swanked out with caterers supplying free sushi, fondu fruits from a chocolate fountain, drinks and performances from acrobats and robot-impersonators sporting the Sony Ericsson Mp3 phone with up to 4 Megabytes of expandable memory, the W810. There was new Motorola RAZR V3t which is thinner than the V3i, Sony Ericsson K790, which has the highest quality (3.2 megapixel) that I’ve seen in a phone yet. So we had fun competing for draws and going to the various demo tables to fill out quizzes and chat about biz.

This week I look forward to more launches and releases, such as my friend Ambre’s CD release at the Gladstone hotel on Friday Nov 3rd, and one of my first shows, an opportunity to open for Barzin and Bellewoods the day before(Thurs Nov 2nd) at the Ebar in Guelph, Ontario. I am both nervous and excited to play a half hour set. Doors open at 9pm.

Tonight I wish all a safe and spooky holiday. Don’t provoke the spirits too much, they might just possess you! Or, if you ask too many questions, like I did to one ghost named "Hek" did during a Ouija session, they might tell you to "F--- off!"

Movies and Personal Diegesis

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's a Small World After All!

You know they say it but I never knew to what extent it was true! My sister, whose partner happens to be pretty heavily involved in astro-physics, sent me a little info. Click here to see a diagram of how small our planet actually is compared to the other planets.

General Announcements

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Refreshing Jaunt

some of the most amazing things
you can see
on a normal fall Sunday
despite the drab grey rainy weather
walking on a simple sidewalk
in the morning
when most people are still in church
and it is quiet
except for the dripping
As if to offset the sky
the path is clothed
in the most brilliant yellow leaves


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Fun Way to Pass the Time

Since it's Wednesday, "hump day" (once you get over the hump, the rest of the week flies)I thought you should entertain yourself by checking out addictinggames.com.

There are tons and tons of games that will cause you to acquire a controlling habit, including Celebrity Smackdown 3, where you can take out your aggression on exaggerated cartoons of pop icons, or better, on the one who controls you at work in WhackYourBoss (I'll warn you, it's a little bloody), Ping Pong, Meal or No Meal and many others. I have just barely scratched the surface. There are games for every odd inkling of what a game should be.

For example, one of my current favorites is Draw Play, a game where you have to work your way through various increasingly difficult obstacles to capture a flag on each level. The wooden flute music really heightens the tension. The clincher feature that I like for giving you control is that you have to draw your own path to get there. I've figured out ways of cheating but I'm not going to give them away. Find out for yourself!

If you aren't much of a gamer and don't really want to 'play' a game but you enjoy photography and clicking on randomn things that peak your interest, try 99 Rooms an interactive tour through one. Strange. Building.

Someone might have to put a bag over my computer screen if they want to get my attention for the next little while. These games are that fun!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Wireless Wackiness

I like having fun with my coworkers.

They are a hardy bunch, fit to deal with my wiles. It took them time to get used to them. Now were are tight. I got them good though. The other day, I made this picture of some creepy looking dolls the default display on the computer. "That is very disturbing," commented my manager before she went home.

Carolyn came back to visit (even though she doesn't work here anymore) and thought she'd just check her emails. She screamed when she opened up the screen. See? My coworkers are so genuine and expressive. There happened to be a customer in the store who was grieving over the death of his phone. It didn't work anymore. So, even though Carolyn doesn't work here anymore, she consoled him (as Sales Associates and Customer Service Reps are meant to do. Or are they?) by saying "sometimes phones just quit." I felt like we were having a funeral. My manager called after she went home because the dolls were still bothering her. She asked it if I'd please change it otherwise she wouldn't be able to sleep.

So I put a new picture of some anonymously beautiful young woman that I found on the internet. The new guy liked it but no one else did. They had the gall to call her a "hoochie" and warned me that I was lucky the RVP didn't see it. Perhaps it was the low-styled cut of her shirt. I don't know. I didn't make the rules of these things. Anyway, my manager simply avoided the computer but then I was forced to take all of my desktop displays down. Now the desktop is of some boring, lifeless building. But I'm not sad.

Wireless is fun. It's stupendous. It's an adrenaline rush. We gave out loaner phones two days ago for a breast cancer fundraiser where people were "arrested" and then bailed out when people call in to pledge money. Then the lady figured that all of the pay-as-you-go cards that we gave her to use should be free because she works for a not-for-profit, so now we're going to have to pay for them ourselves to make up the till. I guess it kind of takes the "pay" out of "pay-as you-go" if you don't pay for it. Another customer came in with a phone not made by us but wanted a case nevertheless. She was an old hag who was fussy as heck, wearing about fifty dead minks and reeking of cheap perfume. One case was too big, another too tight. I danced around trying them all while helpless other customers waited. So there's improvisation and problem solving involved in this business too! Meanwhile our phone rang every three seconds. Finally, after completing the transaction and giving her extensive directions how to get across the street she said "thanx darling" and left. That's the kind of fun I get to have.

Friday the 13th was a nightmare. Everything went wrong. Missing IMEI numbers, invalid addresses, ineligible credit histories, fudged passwords. The hold music was driving me berserk. I spent an hour on the phone trying to activate a customer since the heightened security of our computer system effectively locked me out of my own dealer account. When I was all finished, I was getting her to sign the contract and she changed her mind about which plan she wanted. Finally, when she left, she left without her debit card. So I'm certain we'll meet again.

On the way to work the other day something else happened. There were high winds. My face blew right off. I'm not even kidding. One minute my overly chapped lips are bleeding then the next they are gone completely. You don't even understand the shock I felt. And you know how you'd react as a customer to someone who was completely expressionless. It's frightening. Yet still, there is no way to deter them from wanting immediate service. By afternoon, it started snowing. That still didn't stop them. It's only October and now I'm disappointed that the Farmer's Almanac was wrong. It wasn't supposed to snow until Halloween!! Hopefully I'll find my face somewhere along the way.

Flowers look odd with snow on them.

Anyway, so I'm enjoying the craziness and laid-back atmosphere of my new job quite well. Everything can always go wrong, which is exciting. But it can also go right sometimes too, and that is a bonus. I'm starting to actually be of use to people and that is rewarding (except when the system acts up and starts being useless to me). There are good days, there are others when you feel that a colony of ants must live a more significant existence. But that's the game. It's inspiring to see progress through learning. To know something about something. Today I activated two new accounts and completed some hardware upgrades, getting people some seriously sexy phones, like this one. I gotta keep it up. I gotta hang it together. My manager is leaving me for holidays next week. Let's hope that complete mayhem doesn't ensue.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Half Nelson

"The study of change over time" is how the an inner city elementary teacher played by Ryan Gosling defines history in Half Nelson.

This movie is a documentary-style film of his personal history with snippets of the students presentations in between. The students are very smart (well, the one exception being the a student who repeatedly gets in trouble for copying on tests) and they seem to get a kick out of the jocular techniques of their teacher, who is very alternative (he's a great teacher but he gets in trouble for not following the curriculum). There is something about him though, a certain existential nausea. He's burnt out and frustrated, repeating a cynical view of the world that "one man is nothing", that there are "certain things you can't control." You can tell it bothers him deeply. It makes him unravel.

He's a good-looking, intelligent bachelor who happens to indulge in the bar scene after coaching basketball, who will give students a ride home but womanizes and fails to establish any lasting relationships. At one point on a date with one of his fellow teachers they are sitting in the kitchen and she asks him whether he is a communist due to him having books like the Communist Manifesto sitting on his shelves. He asks her "if I had a copy of Mein Kampf would you ask me if I was a Nazi?" Then he mock professes that he is a Nazi and that he keeps it a secret because "it just isn't cool to be a Nazi anymore baby." She laughs. Later on however, he comes to her house late in the morning strung out on drugs and commits a faux-pas for which he must wear a band-aid on his lip to cover for the second half of the movie. Of course, he couldn't simply choose a skin-toned band-aid. Instead this film is peppered with symbology and references, and Gosling's character is an eccentric. The band-aid has a confederate symbol. It seems to reiterate what he admits to his students: that he is the machine that they are fighting to break free of. He is their white, middle-class schoolteacher. But, they are all part of the machine. While they may be learning what happened on Sept 11, 1973 he is learning to unlearn that he is a machine. He starts to learn what it is to be a human.

You watch him change over time as someone striving to teach his students something feeling like he's getting nowhere, at the same time learning from them about how to treat oneself better, how to form relationships and live a stable lifestyle. He forms an unlikely relationship with one of his students after she finds him smoking crack in a bathroom stall and realizes that despite the image he projects as an inspirator of fighting against the machine, he has problems himself. She is a product of a broken home who goes against the odds: a straight A student who takes care of herself at the age of 13 and who also teaches her teacher a lesson or two played by Shareeka Epps. Although Gosling definitely deserves the credit for his acting in this movie, Epps is the sweetheart that brings it alive. During another scene, he suddenly decides that it's too dangerous to be friends with his students and snubs one of the few people who understands him when she comes to see him in the parking lot saying "I'm just trying to be alone." "Fine," she says. Then adds tactfully: "be alone, asshole."

The classroom lessons nicely compliment the themes of the characters themselves, how the teacher's laid-back style and quick temper get him into trouble with the administration, and how his extracurricular relationships begin messily overlapping with his professional life.

I enjoyed the ending of this movie because it wasn't a conventional ending. In other words, it seemed to keep going. It never tried to preach any final kind of message or agenda. If there is a pearl of wisdom that can be gleaned from this movie, perhaps it's more in the mind of the viewer who must imagine how things could possibly continue after the credits are rolling, how teacher and student can continue being friends and what that means for their lives. It's a story of change which will change you once you've seen it.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Carolyn's Last Day at the Store

Carolyn the great, Carolyn the mediator, Carolyn the abusive-customer magnet, Carolyn the patient. She will be leaving us.

It's only be a bit more than a week but I've learned lots from her: how to invoice things, which numbers to direct the misdirected to, which models offer which features, how to process DOA's (dead on arrivals) and conform to security measures.

We have lots of good memories already in this short time. Since I've started this job, I haven't had a single conflict with my coworkers!

Today has been laid back as we got an surprise fire drill break outside. She lets me bring in CD's and saves me in moments of near-death-new-employeeness by thorough coaching and reassurance. Barrett, you can do it. I know you can! I waited on hold with one of our activation lines and exaggerated an over-the-top gesticulation, shaking my head emotively to their cheesy wait music. She lost it. I can always make her laugh and it's fun to do because she's like a box of nuts and bolts. When she laughs she starts crumbling and little parts fall all over. Of course, this sometimes takes away from her productivity and she gets short of breath but it's worth the fun.

Special highlights include taping the cardboard boxes together for recycling to make "box coffins", making fun of her country music tastes, imitating and role-playing her complainant customers, backing eachother up when customers (skepzis) think we're simply lying for no reason and going on lunch missions to pick up food.

Though she will be leaving a big hole in our service, we will keep in touch as she has employed me as her guitar teacher! I have the pleasure of teaching her, a left-hander, how to play her brother's right-handed guitar. (It may be a bit of a challenge). We'll see how that works considering I'll have to turn everything I do upside-down to make it work for her! Jimi Hendrix played guitar upside down though right? So why can't she!

Good Luck as an Admin Assistant in the glass industry Carolyn! We will miss you!

General Announcements

Monday, October 02, 2006

Life as a Fun-Seeking Gypsy

People were waiting anxiously outside the door of the Ebar, a martini bar where some of the most flavorful bands came to play. Somewhat frustrating was it to finally make it through the door only to realize that the longer half of the line was still in front of you, all the way up the steps. But good things come to those who wait. My belly was full from a gourmet steak barbecue I had just attended. My friends were surrounding me, their breath minted with the scent of vinaigrette salad dressing with raspberries and almonds.

The first band was a light ska band that got many people jumping, while it made others laugh. I thought they were fun, energetic, silly and generally a good band to party too. No complaints. But I was waiting for the Pocket Dwellers. Once they came, their music took me like a spasm of ecstasy. It was like a voyage through the deepest jungles to be assaulted by crazed monkeys, only that the monkeys were beautiful notes, melodies and words delivered in rapid-fire. Pocket Dwellers are real hip-hop, artfully composed with thoughtful messages and escorted by saxophone and other real instruments. I've seen them take a word given at randomn from the audience, then freestyle a three-minute story ending with that magic word. That takes huge talent to keep it going consistently and not have it turn out as incoherent muddle. There are no djs but real talent. I'd have to say the highlight was the performance of Trush Us. Pocket Dwellers are a must see for anyone who would appreciate jazz undertones wrapped in words.

Trust Us by Pocketdwellers. This video doesn't capture the raw texture and enthusiasm of their live performance but it gives you a hint of who they are.

I went home to sleep on my new single bed. I like that it is up against the wall so that I can sleep against two surfaces instead of one. I live in a new house now, which makes me accessible to many things, including a convenience store, friends, music and paved streets that accommodate my skateboard, all within walking distance. I'm not yet living in the room I'll be moving into within the next month. Right now my things are sprawled throughout the basement and I have no internet connection (I'm now using a public computer). I'm in transient mode. However, it's a comfortable little space of my own for the time being, with my clothes hanging from water pipes in the ceiling, the washing machine talking to itself in the room next door, everything I need, organized into boxes within my reach.

The next day I had the pleasure of enjoying some locally-grown music. There was a secret place by the river, just a small house actually. I had called my bassist to see whether we could get together to jam ourselves. "No, actually I'm playing a show with my other band." So he was prostituting himself was he? Well, I thought, if you can't beat them, join them. I might as well see what kind of music my bassist was having an affair with. When I arrived, there was a bonfire and several university kids making academic talk. They were discussing biology or bantering about the phenomenal sensory experience of bats or the ontological argument or something like that. A keyboard gently hummed under the tent they had set up with lights for the venue and the singer sang sad songs about obsessing for a lost lover. Within a few minutes the party took a drastic change. Someone announced that the police had called and so we would have to go inside. Little did we know how much better things were in there anyway. It was much more intimate squeezed between bodies. They took the paintings off the wall so that they wouldn't be damaged and people wound up the staircase, nuzzled in shoulder to shoulder and got ready to rock. The first of a series of bands was the Elbow Beach Surf Club, a very fun and psychedelic improvisational group. The microphone wasn't balanced enough to hear the lyrics and the drums were deafeningly loud in the small room. However, once you got used to it, the music was wonderful. As the night progressed, I got to see my bassists band. I heard them mostly from the kitchen where I had roamed to acquaint myself with the organizers of the show. Mandolins and banjo music was a nice calming ending to the night.

Then there was the 'white trash' (all races welcome) party that my friends had organized for my friend's 25th birthday. They dressed up in flannel plaid jackets, wigs, put on too much make-up, cheap dresses and talked in urban slang, resembling something from the Trailer Park Boys. We listened to Guns n Roses, Alice Cooper and Metallica as we slammed back forties and talked of making it big some day -like getting a job as a janitor in the city. The most brilliant game that we came up with started with the idea of attaching the umbrellas that some people brought (to avoid rain) to the ceiling fan. Miraculously, the fan continued to turn at a quick pace with the added weight of the open umbrellas, which swung around and around. Thinking like the kind of degenerates we are, we thought it was a worthwhile competition to see who could throw empty beer cans at the ceiling and get them to bounce into the upside-down umbrellas as they swung around. With two umbrellas side-by-side, it was quite challenging to time it properly so that your beer can wasn't repelled. Soon everyone joined in hooting and hollering when a beer can was successfully scored into one of the umbrellas. Luckily, Lucifer jumped in and turned off the fan and dismounted the umbrellas before we got too out of control.

The rest of my weekend was relaxing then uncomfortable. I went golfing on Sunday with my new housemates and ordered in Vietnamese. Throughout the week I had sneezing and a runny nose which I attributed to the seasonal pollenation of fall. However, my allergies turned into sickness and I needed to retire early last night only to wake up several times shivering and sweating, with my nose running like a faucet, or worse, completely clogged. I suppose a week so packed with music and fun is bound to burn you out, meaning I'll have to get some more rest these next few days...so that I can do it all over again.

Personal Diegesis
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