Archive for January, 2010

Projects of Days Gone By

January 29, 2010

I was musing today about all the projects I have planned, have started, or that were actually in progress before coming to a dead end.  Ever made a list of everything you were excited about doing but that never seemed to happen?  I feel like I’m not doing much these days except school and maybe starting one of these back up might be a good idea.  Motivation!  So tough.  Let’s take a look-see:

I.D.D.

My webcomic from 2002 to 2005.  It was actually pretty popular.  Story revolved around a guy with amnesia who has an uncontrollable urge to kill stupid people.  His name is Idd, title is ‘Ignorance Deserves Death.’  A lascivious bird named Lambert follows him around.  ‘Something’ is happening around the world that we don’t know…well, I know, which is part of the reason I’d like to pick the story back up…’cause I think the twist is kinda awesome.  But that requires learning how to draw stick figures again.

Sad news: the comic is now down as my old website expired.  I’ll have to try and find the comic again or all 300 episodes might be lost.

THE PLAYS THAT WEREN’T

In University several play ideas were tossed around, productions with the most amazing actors in the school, like Dave Tripp, Tim McKeon, and Stew Phillips.  Two – “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Three in the Back, Two in the Head” – were bounced around for awhile but never happened before graduation.  Two more – Daniel MacIvor’s ‘House’ and Morris Panych’s ‘Vigil’ – were also ones I wanted to do solo…never happened.  I’m most sad about Glengarry…it would have been fricken magical.

DAMFINO

An album I intended to release in the fall of 2006.  I had everything laid out, started recording in the God Room…and just kinda fizzled off.  Hell, one of my favourite artists of all time, Chris Goodwin, actually designed the album cover and insert.  It just never got recorded.  In fact, after the ACEP in 2005 the next recording that’s mattered…well, is happening right now 😉  Five years without recording…crazy!

?SALVATION?

While doing I.D.D. I was approached to do another comic called ?Salvation?.  It was more realistic, less stick figurey.  I think that’s what essentially scared me off.  I didn’t like the preliminary sketches I was doing even though the writer thought they were great.  In the end, I stopped working on the project.

JAKE AND XENOROO

I got published!  Several episodes of Jake and Xenoroo were published in a children’s magazine, ‘What If?’, back in the early 2000’s.  This got killed by the move to Toronto since the comic was based out of Guelph, it became hard to communicate.  About a shy boy and a space kangaroo…sort of a coming of age thing.  Was pretty fun, I thought!

THE STORIES

Young Adult novels…damn, I was ALL over that shit in early 2000.  I was keen on writing one myself to fill the void of modern YA novels on gay themes.  I had an amazing story blocked out in my head, ‘Standing Houses,’ that I could picture as a fricken movie right now.  I got about 15,000 words into it and just stopped writing.

And there were SOO many other projects I never finished: a coffee shop idea in Guelph, making ‘Nightwalks’ (a play I wrote) into a movie…and not just creative projects!  Since 2003 I’ve been planning on joining a tennis or badminton club, seeing more live shows in downtown Toronto, visiting friends around the globe.

What does this all mean?  It’s kinda two-fold…one, if you’re working on a project and putting your heart into it don’t worry if it loses steam or falls apart, there’s likely a dozen more to follow…and two, you can always come back to something later…

Just don’t forget you started it!

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HMdVd…or, Music Retail Is Dead

January 22, 2010

Alrighty.  I realize I’m treading into territory best covered by folks like Bob Lefsetz, and also if my friends at school read this they’ll smack their heads and say “Roo…shaddup!”  But, I feel this has to be said.

Music Retail is Dead.

  • Tower Records – Dead
  • Sam the Record Man – Dead
  • Music World – Dead
  • Virgin – Did they even get started?
  • HMV…is next…

When I say HMV is next I don’t mean that they’re going out of business…no more than I’d say Barnes and Noble, Chapters, or any other Amazon.com-like physical retail store is going out of business.  Music retail at HMV…that’s dead.

HMV used to be a catalogue store.  Especially the flagship at 333 Yonge: ONE OF EVERY CD!  And that was pretty accurate.  I found the most recent Wooden Stars CD there two years ago, an obscure Lightning Seeds album, and pretty much every other eclectic album I’ve ever purchased.

…I walked into an HMV that had no New Release section…well, it did, but for DVDs.  No Chart.  No wall of CDs.  Music has been replaced by books, DVDs, calendars, iPod accessories and t-shirts.  If you want to see how hard hit the RECORD industry is, check out HMV.

The problem, as we’ve been told time and time again at school, is that people get the RECORD industry and the MUSIC industry confused.  CDs aren’t selling.  That doesn’t mean the industry isn’t stronger than it’s ever been…it’s just finding new ways to make money.

…which means that a clever musician will find ways to put more money into their pocket, rather than taking massive ‘loans’ from major labels (cleverly disguised as an advance) to be paid back penny by penny with the tiny profits made from each album sold.  You don’t even need a physical CD anymore, and if you WANT one why not make them to order?  Or put it on a USB stick along with your entire catalogue?

I give my music away for free on Bandcamp.  I used to sell CDs back in 2004-05 for $5-10 a copy, but what’s the point?  When I figure out a decent way to make money off my music, I’ll do it.

And that’s the crux.  Apart from the Taylor Swifts, the urban artists, and the country acts it’s going to take clever planning to exchange music for cash.  Live performance is still good.  Merchandise.

My prediction?  Micro-payments may save the day.  Subscription services where you’ll get the latest track or album from an artist sent directly to you…that’s kinda neat too.  Apps…no one’s really grabbed any media attention by trying to cash in on passing music to fans through a mobile app.

And these are just the ideas EVERYONE in music school talks about on a regular basis.  Imagine what the truly clever people are saying!

His Master’s Voice (HMV) used to represent music on disk, the image of a little dog looking into a Gramophone recognizing his dead master’s voice being played on a disk.  Kinda telling, isn’t it, when you look at it that way…all that’s left is three letters, a dead master, and loyal dogs listening to something that’s long gone.

Dealing With Stress…or, the thin line between caring and apathy

January 15, 2010

A friend at school really put things well.  Right now our group, about 12 people taking this program, are split into two types: those who are tired, and those who don’t care anymore.  In other words, the ones who want to care but are struggling, and the ones who seem to have given up and are apathetic. I am – to use a term that is NORMALLY positively applied – at the tipping point.  I still care, but I’m losing balance and can see just how wonderful ‘not caring’ can be.

‘Not caring’ is kind of the project or scholarly equivalent of ‘Ignorance is Bliss.’  ‘Not Caring’ means that looming deadlines, classmate frustrations with your work ethic, or skipping classes doesn’t stress you out…in fact, it’s a reason to declare ‘Chill out!  You’re too worried about stuff!’  ‘Not Caring’ means you can do the bare minimum and smile while you’re doing it.  ‘Not Caring’ is coasting.  Caring…that’s running.

So…what motivates a person to keep caring when it’s SO MUCH EASIER to give up and coast through.

I guess one motivation is the desire to be a positive example.  I’d use the term ‘role model’ but that term feels so high and mighty.  I don’t feel like I’m better than people who are becoming apathetic, nor do I feel I should be some kind of guiding light to bring them back to the ‘caring’ side of the scale.  I just feel like I’d be REALLY angry with myself if I tipped.  It would be hypocritical of me to stop putting in everything I can, even if it means after week fifteen I collapse into a pile of goo and sleep for a month.

Another motivation is pure work ethic.  I started this program and goddamit I’m going to finish it.  Again…I think EVERYONE is going to finish the program.  But it’s finishing it running rather than pushing myself through the finish-line ribbon sitting in an office chair…which I did for about thirty minutes today…push myself around on an office chair that is.  That’s pretty much the point I realized I was tipping towards apathy.  Which in itself is a sad realization: I was having fun…when I should’ve been working…

…that’s for another blog.

Tipping towards apathy.  I’ve felt that once before and it was NOT a happy feeling.  It was my previous job, before going to school, the one I quit and literally had to walk out on.  Now, don’t picture one of those empowering cinematic ‘storming out, head held high, leaving the crap job to go back to school’ scenes.  Instead, picture a grown man with a mohawk and facial piercings sobbing while carrying dress shoes and a Bose Sounddock out the front door.

Now, let’s step back twenty minutes before I wept openly in front of a bunch of teenaged waiters in Whitby.  THAT tipping point was literally spending ten minutes staring at bacon sizzling on a skillet…looking over at a sink full of dishes…looking at a schedule and realizing I had to start figuring out breaks for the other employees…looking at orders going onto the wheel…and realizing: “I can’t do this anymore.”  I went from caring 24 hours earlier to admitting to myself what I’d known for months: you can’t force yourself to care about something just cause you feel you should.

I felt I should care cause I fought very hard for the promotion – Assistant Manager!  I felt I should care cause I’d been commuting to the restaurant for a month, I literally helped build the thing, I gave up my cushy servers job TEN MINUTES WALK away from my house for this tough assistant managers job AN HOUR AND A HALF DRIVE away.  But I didn’t care.

And that’s what made that moment different than this one.  In this case I’m stressed cause I’m overwhelmed, but I’m not forcing myself to care.  I ‘do’ care.  That’s why, even though I told myself I wasn’t going to even acknowledge a project that’s been frustrating me, I jotted down some ideas tonight.  That’s why, even though I have three days off this weekend, I already have two scheduled to work on a major project.  That’s why, even though I’m already piled with school work, I plan to practice guitar this weekend since I’m taking on even MORE work by involving myself in a showcase and recording project at school.

THAT’S why I won’t tip into apathy.  I might need to leave school early, lay on the couch, skip a class, and wonder just what the hell I’m gonna do.  But I’m not going to get apathetic.  Because I ‘do’ care about it all, and I ‘do’ want it all to turn out just fine.

Another reason I know I won’t tip.  When I skipped class because I felt i just HAD to get away because SCHOOL was driving me nuts…I felt guilty for skipping.

That’s caring.

Making the Team

January 8, 2010

Working with other people is hard!  I love other people, don’t get me wrong.  My life revolves around other people (most certainly it doesn’t revolve around me) but when I have to do work it’s so much EASIER to do it all myself: I know what’s been done, I know what has to get done, and if I don’t know how long it’ll take to do it, by golly, I’ll find out myself!

…by golly…shoot me…

Thing is, I learned real fast that some jobs aren’t easy to do solo. Performing a play…sure you can do a one-man show, but lighting, sound, and ushering people into the theatre might be a tad complicated.  Even my webcomic…which I drew (stick figures) and wrote (usually drunk) by myself needed help: a friend had to design the website for me, a couple of connectors needed to pass on that the comic existed in the first place, I needed plot help etc.  I could’ve done it myself, but  I probably never would have finished.

Running a convention and executing the various projects thrown to me at school all require having a team of some kind.   There is a lot you can learn by starting and finishing something with a team that you can’t learn by yourself. At school, there has most definitely been an emphasis on working with people you don’t know well because, in real life, it’s unlikely you’ll always get to work with people you know or like.  I have one thing to say to this…

HOGWASH (…bullshit can work too!)

It’s probably true that most jobs involve working with people you don’t know or necessarily like, but in my experience the BEST teams are the ones where there is a solid framework of trust, friendship, and fun.  Every job I’ve ever had with people I didn’t trust or have fun with was unenjoyable and, as a result, offered me no useful experience other than the gritting of teeth or sleepless nights.

Let’s start with Feral!  When I found myself in charge I started with a great team of people I got along with.  As it grew (with more required staff) and shifted (with staff taking well-deserved time off) I could have gone out and chosen people with gi-normous skill levels or specialized talents.  I could have shouted out to the entire community and found a whole whackload of people to fill the job.  But I discovered early on that ‘Camp Feral!’ has it’s own personality – a culture – therefore staff and volunteers had to fit the culture if it was going to be successful.

So, I ‘hired’ people I trusted…friends or trustworthy acquaintances…fun people…who suited the culture.  Every project has a culture.  With Feral, the culture is very laid back, friendly, outgoing and extroverted. A hotel convention, any convention for that matter, will not be the same…I’ve seen some that appeared outright manic, but with the right team working together and suiting the culture of the project it can be magical. Comparing Feral and a hotel convention is like apples and sledgehammers.

I’ve had people interested in helping Feral, but if I didn’t know anything about them or if they didn’t ‘click’ then it was no dice. Aside: ‘clicking’ is that weird grey area in the process of making the team. It’s the human gut emotion that may make no sense but should always be trusted whether for good or for evil. More on that later.

I may be missing out on some of the benefits of a ‘team of rivals’ but I’m not sure if that’s actually productive.  Committees of people who disagree can come up with some great compromises…but is that any better than a team of friends who trust each other enough to voice opinions and to KNOW the opinion will be respected, even if it isn’t adopted. They say a moose is a horse designed by committee…in my experience, a horse designed by committee will either wind up dead, traumatized, mutilated, or bored out of his horsey skull.

At school I found myself in projects regularly with the same three people.  We spend a lot of time together.  We bounce stupid ideas around.  We also work well together and, if there is a disagreement, we come to a consensus without needing to debate each other tirelessly…for the most part.  BUT THE DEBATES ARE FRIENDLY!  People have commented that we’re the only group in the class who hang out ‘outside’ of school.  We have a nickname, apparently: The Friendly Four.

I like that.  It’s fun working on things even if what we’re working on is complicated or stressful.  In the end we work towards a goal and more often than not are successful, even if success means dropping something we’ve been working on.

It’s the same with Feral.  Our meetings often break down into social gatherings.  Sometimes very little gets done at a meeting, but by the time August comes around everything is under control and the stress that comes from the last minute crunch is more bearable because I know I’m sharing it with my team of friends.

I’m hoping to revisit this subject over the year and be able to come up with a clear list of ways I’ve found to ‘make the team’ and make it work.  It’s hard to explain because so much of it relies on previous experience and a LOT relies on gut (that ‘clicking’ thing again.)

For instance, one of our newest members to the Feral team is someone I don’t know too well, but who fulfilled the other qualities I believe are needed for a good team: they’re really interested in the project, they’re fun, and I trust them.  The first meeting they attended they brought up a criticism from the perspective of being new, of being outside the culture, but my gut was right bringing them in: they aren’t a rival, they’re a friend pointing something out.  Just a friend who’s favourite colour I couldn’t name or middle name I don’t know.

That’s OK, though…they shall never know my middle name.

In the end, I argue that Making the Team is the most important part of any project, and if you are lucky enough to have a say try your hardest to make it a team of trustworthy, passionate, fun people. Save the team of rivals for debate club.

Roo will be turning this into a multi-part series through the year…look for the Making the Team title to keep up!