Feeling at home

2015-12-17 - Vancouver from Kits beach

So far I’ve found only one certainty about travel. If you go looking for something, you won’t find it. When I left on what became my ‘big trip’ more than two years ago, I hoped to regain my love of home, and a passion for my career. Neither of those things happened. Instead, I was so restless and unsatisfied than I immediately began planning a second departure. This time, the goal was different: there wasn’t one. No lofty ideas. No life altering intentions. Just a chance to enjoy travelling with my friends. Another memorable tour with the ‘world famous’ Balkan Boyz.

I didn’t realize it was happening, but while I was focused for so long on leaving home, my feelings about it began to change. New people and new places mixed with the favourite bits of my old life to create a different perspective. By the time the guys arrived in Vancouver, I was faking excitement about leaving. But leave we did, on what surely was the road trip of a lifetime. From Vancouver to Halifax, through Canada and the United States. Almost three months with best friends in fantastic places.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I should have been happier, but home was calling louder than ever before.  A great friend passed away, some others were going through tough times, and I was waiting to renew an incredible relationship. Every day away meant wanting to go back even more. It took a year, but home went from being a place I didn’t mind leaving, to one I felt compelled to stay in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A month after returning, it still feels right. The Balkan Boyz tour continues through Central America in all of their incredible style. I couldn’t be happier for all of us to feel that we’re doing what we want to be doing. Next week brings a return to work, and next month, a new apartment. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt excited about my future here. Unexpectedly, I got out of this trip what I wanted to get out of the big one. The walkabout is over, and it really does feel like a Happy New Year. It’s time to enjoy being home.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Woah! A movie review post? It’s certainly been a long time. It’s been an even longer wait for the latest installment of the Star Wars saga. Ever since Disney bought the franchise from George Lucas, announced the making of a third trilogy, and hired J.J. Abrams to direct Episode VII, people have been anticipating this film. I have to admit I haven’t been much of a Star Wars fan since the prequels were released, and the original theatrical cuts of the old movies became nearly impossible to find. Life without Star Wars has actually been pretty good. A real shock, I know.

star-wars-the-force-awakens-trailer-24

I did not wait in line to see this film. I did not purchase reserved seating on opening day. The thing’s been out for weeks and I’ve just gotten around to seeing it recently. Most of that has been because of the busy Christmas season, and a desire to avoid crowded theatres. I have to admit, though, that a part of it was because my expectations were pretty low, or even non-existent. Look, we all knew ‘The Force Awakens’ would look great, sound incredible, and be entertaining; with great action scenes and some humourous, snappy dialogue. Those are all things J.J. Abrams does well, and Disney wouldn’t tolerate anything else. This film is expertly made, and best of all, it feels like Star Wars. It all looks right and sounds right. What should be real is real, and what needs to be a visual effect is done extremely well.

The cast is excellent. Performances are spot on. It’s so nice to say that about a Star Wars film again. That’s where having Abrams in the director’s chair really shows through the most. He seems to do a good job of pulling believable performances out of his cast. Finn is really enjoyable, and as the first Stormtrooper the audience has ever gotten to know, probably the most interesting character. He’s also easily the most original addition to the franchise. Rey, the modern-but-female equivalent of Luke, and Kylo Ren, this film’s version of Darth Vader, are well done but predictable. Originality is sorely lacking in ‘The Force Awakens’. Abrams has even felt the need to openly defend the film from critics. The entire first scene is an almost exact copy of the beginning of the original ‘Star Wars’. Secret information gets hidden in a droid. Stormtroopers, led by a masked figure in black, give chase to a desert planet. A young person befriends the droid and is led on a galactic adventure aboard the Millennium Falcon, discovers they are strong with the Force, and helps to destroy a giant weapon that obliterates entire planets. There’s even a trench run. It was all a bit too familiar for me, as if this was supposed to be an homage and not a continuation. Abrams says “those simple tenets are by far the least important aspects of this movie”, and that what really matters is “introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new”. If those tenets aren’t very important, why use them again? Why tell a “new” story that isn’t very new at all? “The Force Awakens” wants to tug on every single Star Wars heartstring, but instead hits them with a hammer.

This film hasn’t changed my opinion of J.J. Abrams as a director. His talent for exciting set pieces, visuals, and action is obvious. So is his shallow emotional language and penchant for vague, nonsensical plot twists. ‘The Force Awakens’, like Abrams’ Star Trek efforts, feels like a series of trailer shots and epic moments were conjured up first, then strung together by a loose and fickle plot afterwards. It’s also apparent that scenes were left out of this film that probably should not have been. We’re never given enough explanation about why Kylo Ren is so angry at his Father, so when he finally and predictably kills him, there’s no weight to the moment. Rey comes to use the Force more easily and naturally than any character in the history of the franchise, doubling down on the notion that people are born and bred to be Jedi. Years of training and discipline? Boring! And why must we have yet another secret Master of the Dark Side? Where was he during the original Trilogy? It would have been more interesting and dramatic if Kylo Ren came to the Dark Side all on his own, and was figuring it out as he went along. Anger, fear, hatred, and all that the Dark Side represents is tempting enough on it’s own to a young Man, and suggesting he was coaxed into it just cheapens his motivations. I find myself agreeing with almost everything in this piece: Everything That’s Wrong With Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

At the end of the day, ‘Star Wars’ is back. It’s just that this film didn’t really make me care. It had all of the sounds, all of the imagery, but just felt like history’s most well executed paint-by-numbers piece. I hope the next two episodes are different.

The Big City

2015-11-10 - NYC Alec

I’ve been in New York City for a week now, and still have a week to go. It’s certainly a different experience to other big cities I’ve visited. I suppose most of that has to do with the scale of it. This place is so big, and so dense, that expecting to get a handle on it in just a couple of weeks seems ridiculous. I can usually feel comfortable with a new transit system in just a few days, but I’m on day eight in New York, and still find myself double and triple checking maps, trains, and stations. There is an incredible, exhausting energy here. I find myself feeling tired, even if I’ve hardly done anything.

I thought I would enjoy the city more. It’s certainly not a place I could imagine living. There are too many things that drain my energy, and not enough quiet or beautiful places to recharge. Central Park is overly manicured. Full of concrete walking paths, roads, and trees that are too small to hide what surrounds it. The constant sirens and horns pierce any sense of calm. Most of the grass is fenced off and unwelcoming. It underscores how lucky I am to be from a city that has so much natural beauty so close at hand.

2015-11-11 - NYC park

I’m curious to see how my second week goes. With a decent chuck of the sights now seen, I’m hoping some more relaxed exploring will make this place feel more comfortable. Right now, another week doesn’t seem like enough time for that. From what I’ve heard, even a few years might not cut it. Maybe that’s what New York City is all about.

On The Road Again

2015-10-10 - Balkan Boyz road trip

Well, here I am again. Travelling. The Balkan Boyz reunited in Vancouver, and have spent the last month driving across Canada and the States. We’re about to leave Nova Scotia, back to the US for November, then onwards South. The journey feels different this time. Not as fresh, and sometimes not as exciting, but still a wonderful time. The friendship rolls on, the photos are made. It’s shaping up to be the second half of the ‘twice in a lifetime’ travel experience.

We’ve covered over 7600 kilometres in my car. Having the freedom to access almost anything has been fantastic. I really can’t imagine seeing North America any other way. Tomorrow it’s back to airports, bus stations, and transit systems. I hope I haven’t been spoiled, because we’re just getting started!

Parkproof

2015-08-16 - Parkproof - 03 - Mixer close up

The daytime event for Trancemission 18 was such a huge success, many people hoped it would be something Soundproof could do often, at least while the weather is nice. ‘Parkproof’ has begun. This edition may be the last one for 2015, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it return next Spring once every month or two. It’s great to be able to hang out with the Soundproof family in a more casual setting. Many people have families now and bring their kids. The music is relaxed, and this time, there was even a movie!

2015-08-16 - Parkproof - 04 - Dog posters

2015-08-16 - Parkproof - 05 - Love bus

2015-08-16 - Parkproof - 10 - Ball pit lights

2015-08-16 - Parkproof - 08 - Bouncy castle

2015-08-16 - Parkproof - 09 - Parkproof setting

2015-08-16 - Parkproof - 12 - Ghostbusters time

A ball pit on a bus. A bouncy castle. ‘Ghostbusters’ on a big outdoor screen. Popcorn and candy. Even little ‘Stay Puft’ marshmallows! Soundproof sure knows how to throw a party.

Trancemission 18

T18-Flyer

It wouldn’t be Summer without Trancemission, even if it is going to be in the city. We found out nearly two weeks ago that the outdoor camping spot we wanted to use for this year’s party is now inaccessible. The road leading there has been closed by the Province due to the forest fires. Not only does that road lead directly to one of the fire sites, but conditions are so dry that it does seem safer to just stop people from camping in the area entirely.

It was incredibly disappointing to learn that we wouldn’t be able to have our annual outdoor party, but after putting despair aside and doing a lot of work, the Soundproof crew has pulled together and organized three events over the weekend: an indoor party on Friday night, an outdoor event on Saturday afternoon, and a Saturday night ‘main event’ at an indoor venue that can stay open until Sunday morning. It may not be the full Trancemission experience, but I know it’s still going to be an amazing time.

I’m playing on Saturday night at 3:30am, and I’m still having fun lining up some dark, intense Techno for the occasion. It’s going to be wonderful to see the Soundproof family again, and I hope as many of them turn up as we expect. One thing I’m sure of: I’ll need the extra recovery day on Monday. I’m glad I booked it off work.

Live now

2015-07-02 - Denise card

Atmosphere Visual Effects is a small company. Many of us have been there for a long time. Worked with the same colleagues, and eventually friends, for years. We’ve seen each other’s lives change; seen each other grow as people, and now, we’ve seen one of us die. I won’t forget Tom gathering our attention to let us all know that Denise had gone to the hospital feeling ill, and within a couple of days, had passed away. It was unbelievable. She’d just had her second child a few months ago. It felt like only the week before that she was in for a visit to say ‘hello’ and introduce the new baby. She was energetic and cheerful. She was happy.

A memorial fund has been setup for Denise’s family. I’m glad to see so many people contributing to it.

Death has a way of focusing one’s attention on life. Even more so when it’s the sudden death of someone so young. It’s a selfish reaction, but an understandable one. I was doubting my upcoming travel plans. Not seriously; not considering changing my mind, but doubting if more extended travel was a smart life choice. Is it the best use of my money at this point? Is it the best use of my time? Shouldn’t I focus on my career? On building a more permanent existence here?

“Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

A healthy 34 year old, living in one of the world’s best countries, can be cut down by life without a moment’s notice. That’s the reality of our existence. It’s a sad thing that, even with such knowledge, many of us put off living. We spend too much time working. Too much time commuting. Too much time watching TV. Not enough time with our families, our partners, our friends. I finally let work know that I’m going travelling again. At least six months through the Americas with the Balkan Boyz.

We Humans might not be able to do everything in just one lifetime. But we can at least try to make sure that whenever our number comes up, the bucket list has more things crossed off than left over. Go out there and live. Do stuff. It might be your last chance.