Writing Funny!

I’ve signed on for a creative writing course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on “Writing Funny!” that starts in January 2019, and I’m at best, both excited and terrified about it. I’ve always loved to laugh, joke around and overall in life, I generally try not to take things too seriously. As such, over the next few months, I hope to post a number of journal entries about my exploration of trying to write funny. With this first post, I want to briefly define the term “humour” and explore what humour from different forms of media have influenced myself over the years.

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Nature's Layered Geometry

This past week I spent time at a small part of Elgin Creek, which winds its way through South Surrey, British Columbia. This specific area is actually near my Mom's house, which wasn't far from where I spent most of my time as a teenager often walking or biking through different paths that line the creek. Over the weekend I spent time clearing blackberry bushes and other weeds from the roadside near this part of the creek. It used to be clear when I was a teenager, but over the years became so overgrown that last week you couldn't even see the street sign that identified 31a Avenue turning into Northcrest Drive. It also provided a good cover for youth to drink and homeless to camp in the creek bed. And finally, the mess of bush also became a spot for people walking on the sidewalk to deposit trash, treating the bushes as nature's garbage receptacle which just isn't cool. As I peeled back the layers of the brush, I found many plastic candy wrappers, lids for coffee cups, some compact discs, a bicycle wheel and many plastic doggy poop bags, as partly seen here in this photo from Saturday, June 9, 2018: 

Debris found in the bushes

Debris found in the bushes

I didn't plan on the order in which the garbage fell, it just sort of ended up splayed around the discarded bicycle tire. I spent about two days clearing the area, and this stuff was stuff I found on the first day. In an odd sense it feels like an artwork in and of itself, hailing to the traditions in sculpture and painting where found objects can become art objects. It also harkens back to the old saying of how one man's trash can be another man's treasure. In Andy Goldsworthy's new film, Leaning Into The Wind, Goldsworthy describes this idea as representing "...two different ways of looking at the world," which Goldsworthy describes as being "...the beauty of art that makes you step aside off of the normal way of walking or looking."

With the area cleared, the side of the road now looks a lot cleaner and you can now see down into the creek bed easily.  I did this not just for a cleaner visual aesthetic but to also When I took breaks during the work, I kept looking down at the creek, listening to its flowing water, birds chirping and the leaves rustling. I remembered hanging out and exploring the creek bed as a teenager, including one time when I walked it from 32nd Avenue up to 24th Avenue. And it's this mix odd mix of remembering and reminiscing that made me decide to venture into the creek bed when my work was done, to spend time there reflecting and building my small project.

I loved how Goldsworthy is able to spend a lot of time in a few specific places, both within the urban and rural landscapes that surrounds him in his local community. The film documents his time spent in these places and also revisits places he spent time at in the past and I enjoyed watching this interplay between the actions of the present with memories of the past. As I walked into the bed from the roadside, over the branches and leaves I'd cleared and spread out over the ground to decompose, I was amazed at the landscape, how the creek undulated and flowed unencumbered through a layered mess of geometry - curves, rocks, fallen and decomposing trees. I was amazed at how similar it was to the places Goldsworthy explores half a world away.

One spot in particular appeared to be a wall of wood, but still the creek had found a way under that diversion and kept on flowing. The mess of branches and the large tree that had fallen and likely once blocked the creek, causing it to alter its path and dig under it amazed me. In many ways it felt as though the mess could represent the challenges we face in life, and in particular the challenges I've been facing as well. We each chose how we deal with these challenges and we can either let them bury us under or we can find ways in which to bury under them and push through them to the other side.

For awhile, I simply walked around this area until I decided to start picking up some of the branches that lay all around me. At first, I only touched branches that were already there, a little further away from the ones I had added to the area on the weekend. Some of these were in varying states of decay. Some were strong but many were weak. Some had moss or other moulds and fungus growing on them. At times I was a bit afraid to touch them, but after awhile I just instinctively started to grab them without any kind of forethought. In the moment, I had let go. So I simply piled them on top of each other, on top of the main log and on top of the side of the creek bed closest to me. It felt natural to do this. Eventually the shape of an isosceles triangle started to suggest itself, and as I thought about the triangle, I thought about the natural strength inherent in it. The shape mirrored the flow of the creek, which flowed from a wider area to a more narrow area, mimicking the shape of a triangle or an arrow as it pushed under the debris. In some ways the creek was leaning into the wind by its very act of pushing through. Just like how Goldsworthy has done and just like we do in our lives. My layered geometric shape lay above the creek but as I created my Earthwork I also found myself placing the larger sticks I found right into the water and allowed them to enter into the top of the triangle, while not quite reaching the other side of it, as illustrated here:

A photo of my in progress Earthwork...

A photo of my in progress Earthwork...

I didn't want it to connect, I wanted it to give the suggestion of connecting, of reaching towards each other but also providing a space for escape. I also found myself subconsciously wanting to mimic how the water flowed and passed through a seemingly immovable object:

My Earthwork - finished - for now...

My Earthwork - finished - for now...

I was also attracted to the idea of layering an ordered stack of sticks onto layers of unordered stacks of wood, sticks and debris that had built up in the area over time. There are so many layers to everything we do in life, and there's so many layers to what can be found in nature and in our man made environments. And I also liked how the finished object pointed towards the direction the creek was going in, and just how far the creek continued in the distance (which I'm not sure I was able to capture very well in my photographs):

My Earthwork - finished, for now...

My Earthwork - finished, for now...

I also like how Goldsworthy is able to document his work both photographically and through a visual medium such as film or video. To this end, I shot my own short video, which I think helps provide a better context and feel for the area I played in, including all of its various sounds from the water flowing to the birds chirping, frogs croaking and even to the sounds of my own footsteps crunching the leaves and twigs on the ground below me as well as of a plane flying somewhere high overhead:

Finally, as I left the space, back through the way I came into it, I stopped and turned around and found I could see it through the leaves from the road. Here's my attempt of photographing what I saw, and I apologize for it being a bit blurry as it was getting late and the light was darker and shooting through the trees made it difficult to focus in on my Earthwork in the low light:

My Earthwork as seen from the roadside...

My Earthwork as seen from the roadside...

I do like how it's not completely visible from the road, you can only catch glimpses of it through the brush and the Earthwork is not totally visible in its whole from any particular spot on the road. I'd like to revisit it and perhaps add to it, build it up more and layer it more to make it seem a bit more imposing or even noticeable from the road. Finally, I like the idea of how this could be there for awhile, at least until some teenager comes and kicks it aside or in the winter or spring, when the creek water is higher, it simply washes away like one of Goldsworthy's pieces. What will become of it is ultimately a mystery, and I've found that creating Earthworks teaches an artist how to let go. This can certainly be seen in LEANING INTO THE WIND as there is no way any artist can control an Earthwork once you leave it (or even when making it), and I've found that can be both terrifying and liberating at the same time. 

el pastor & a musical interlude...

A number of months ago, on September 7, 2017, at about 8:20pm in the evening I was eating dinner at a restaurant called Little Ass Burrito Bar on the the east beach of Marine Drive in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada. I know the date and time because of the music that was playing. It wasn’t in English but I remember how it’s melody and rhythms flowed over me like the gentle running water of some forgotten but still meandering creek. The vocals and rhythmsvwere clearly Spanish or Mexican in origin but that’s about all I knew. Thankfully the Shazam application let me know exactly who it was I was listening to. And today that same application let me know when I first heard it.

In fact, I can still remember pulling my iPhone from my pocket, typing in my passcode to unlock it and opening the Shazam application. I worried for a moment when it took longer to load than usual, but eventually I had it listening as I held my phone up in the air like I was holding a lighter up in the air to a slow song at a concert. And after the app listened for what seemed like eternity, after it spent mere seconds calculating and breaking the sounds of the song I was listening to down into ones and zeros that it sent out over the air to find its match out on some Shazam server somewhere, it sent back to my screen the information I was looking for: the music I was listening to was by a group called Chambao. The song, Verde Mar.

My Shazam entry for Chambao

My Shazam entry for Chambao

Armed with this information I bought their album, Esencial Chambao on iTunes and as I ate my Burrito al Pastor (pineapple and pork tacos), I continued listening to their sound that had drowned out most of the other sounds in the mildly busy restaurant from entering my mind.

My burrito elpastor ...

My burrito elpastor ...

But after hearing them for the first time that night, I didn’t interact with them again. Not until tonight.

And for whatever reason, laying here in bed at just after 10pm, I decided to open iTunes and press play again while Wikipedia told me this about them: Chambao is a flamenco-electronic band originally from Málaga, Spain, known for a Flamenco Chill soun2d that fuses flamenco sounds and palos with electronic music. The name of the band is taken from an improvised form of beach tent that is constructed as a means of sheltering from the wind and sun.

 And I’m enjoying the music. I’m enjoying the memory of that night at the Burrito Bar. I can remember parking my car across the street. I can remember the dying heat of the day. I can remember how I jaywalked across the street. I can remember reading the specials on the sign in front of the establishment. I can remember entering the small restaurant. I can remember reading the menu but instead ordering the special described on the sign outside. I can remember the one other couple who was there when I went in but gone before I left. I remember the other couple come in and order takeout while I ate. And I can remember the cinnamon churro I had for desert.  

Now it’s well after 11:30pm as I pick up my phone again to type some more into this random blog posting, almost an hour and a half since I started listening to this album. And to be honest I’m surprised it’s still going as I started listening to it tonight a good 12 or 13 songs in on the Verde Mar but it’s still going strong. In scrolling through the track listing I see that this essential album would fit on two CDs if it was a traditional & tangible thing that I could pick up, hold, take a disc from and pop into a CD player to listen to not even ten years ago. More specifically I notice that Esencial Chambao has 31 songs in its track listing and iTunes  also tells me the album is just over two hours long. 

As I lay hear I find myself feeling lost, in a good way. Lost in that I have no idea what the music is about as I don’t speak Spanish. But I like it. I can infer a lot about what the music might be about just from the vocals, the rhythms and tempos. Some slower songs bring to mind thoughts of Garcia Lorca’s Poem of the Deep Song and the deep seeded waves of emotion inherent in those oral movements; while other more upbeat songs make me want to dance, and I find my right foot tapping along to the beats. 

In the near future I could see myself seeing if I can find translations for the songs lyrics that are floating through my room right now. But not today, I’m a bit too tired for that. No, today I just want to enjoy this music. I want to get to know it, like a lover I’ve met in a bar in some foreign land. A lover with whom I share an undeniable attraction even though we don’t speak much of each other’s language. A lover who I’ll spend time with tonight, and return to again from time to time to recapture the moments and the memories. But for now I’ll sleep.

Christmas Nightmare

When it comes to shopping for Christmas and birthdays, I'm the kind of person that when I see something in a store that will suit somebody I know I'll pick it up and put it away. Generally it makes life easier, as I'm not rushing when it comes to having to get a gift for someone when the time is needed. It also helps spread the spending out throughout the year.

But I don't always do this, and yesterday afternoon on December 23, I was getting a few things for my Mom at the Bay. Her birthday is in early January so I got some stuff to give her both for Christmas and for her birthday. Without giving away what I got her, I will say that the gifts are items that will match and compliment some home decor items she bought herself earlier in the year. After I paid for everything, I had to wait for the salesperson to wrap them up to help protect them for their journey home with me. When all was said and done, there were four bags that I had to take to my car. They were a bit bulky and heavy, so I took three of the bags to the car first, leaving the last bulky bag at the sales counter. I could've taken them all but they are fragile and I didn't want to risk having them hit each other or hit obstacles en route to my car. The sales lady did offer to help me by carrying the last bag herself to the car with me, but there were other people in line and I told her that she should probably help them as I could easily make two trips. This is something I've done many times before, so I didn't think it would be a big deal.

In hindsight I should've taken her up on her offer as when I came back about ten minutes later, the last bag was gone. The salesperson asked her coworkers if anyone had accidentally taken it to the back or to the office they have access to, or even if they accidentally just put the stuff away. None of that was the case and she herself checked those areas to be sure. Ultimately it seems likely someone else in line took the package - either by accident or on purpose. 

After going back to my car and bringing what bags I did have back, we went through the receipt to find out what was missing. She checked their inventory and replaced two of the missing items and refunded me for the other four items they didn't have. So now I have an uneven amount of the items I was going to give Mom - two incomplete sets. So those will be her birthday present as I'll have to get them somewhere else. There is a small bonus in this in that it will give me time to figure out how many she has in the set of what these belong with as I made a best guess.?But it's also inconvenient as I had wanted to give these now missing items to her for Christmas and what I'll now be giving her for her Christmas are the items that I had wanted to give her for her birthday (if that makes sense). Oh well.

If someone took the bag of my stuff on purpose then that's pretty bold of them as there were security cameras and it was fairly busy. If they did it on purpose they'll find the items to be somewhat odd - they are unique and will look odd next to the other items people might have of this type. On the other hand I don't know if they will be able to return the items as they don't have a receipt - but if they do return them (say to another Bay) I'm guessing all they'd get would be store credit.  

If it was an accident though and someone took it as maybe their bags were placed next to it during their purchase then hopefully they will return it. The ladies in this department did take my contact information so I could get the set I had initially purchased if this was the case and the bag gets dropped off.

Ultimately this wasn't a nightmare but it definitely was a bit of an inconvenience as it ate up a huge chunk of what little time I had left to get to the last place I wanted to go to yesterday. Certainly a first world problem.

Time for me to get some sleep now, I have to get up early and wrap some gifts and then deliver them. Then I'll be meeting my mom and will see the movie Jackie in the afternoon before going home and having a restful Christmas Eve. Happy holidays and merry Christmas to everyone who reads this, I hope you have everything you need for the holidays and get everything you want. Take care and be safe!