Theory of Emptiness

The Buddhists have a theory… the Theory of Emptiness.  Nothing exists without context.  If we just opened our eyes after a long sleep in the middle of Victoria Avenue, we’d be awefully fucking confused.  Without knowing the history of what got us there, where we are, or where we’re going to, it would be impossible to say where we are, what we’re doing there, or in exceptional cases, who we are.  Every thing in the universe therefore, is ‘empty’ without context.

I was going to write about nothing, but the Theory of Emptiness came up instead.

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Moving on Up

Motherfucker.  My morning routine was thrown for an unexpected turn.  Every morning I wake up, fuck around the apartment for a spell, then head down half a block north on Broad Street, south on 13th, cut across the parking lot behind the gay bar, cross Rose Street, cut through the parking lot where the old bus depot was, and head north on Hamilton Street to Victoria Ave.  I cross Vic and walk into Atlantis.  I order a small coffee (room for cream) and a Saskatoon berry muffin.  I then sit in my spot, read the newspaper and write in my blog.

This morning, at 9:49am the door to Atlantis was locked.  I just stood there… blinking… staring at the hours of operation sign.  They’re supposed to be open by now.  I just wasn’t sure what to do.  Water is wet, the sky is blue, and Atlantis is supposed to be open.  My present situation was a reality that I just couldn’t readily accept.  So I walked east on Vic and headed north on Scarth Street.  There, I found an empty table in front of O’Hanlon’s and surfed the internet until I felt Atlantis would once again be open.  The ghosts of last night’s debauchery were still hanging around, even though everything was closed.

Yesterday I helped my friend Jenn move.  She organized a convoy of friends and we just picked up her shit from 2200 blk Lorne St, and walked it a half block east to her new apartment on 2200 blk Cornwall.  There were about nine of us and it only took about 45 minutes.  We spent significantly more time afterwards laying on the grass in front of her building, drinking beer and eating grapes.  It later occurred to us that hanging out in front of her building and drinking beer in a public space was probably illegal, and none of us recalled ever doing anything like that before.  Yet, it felt so natural… so natural in fact that it took two hours for someone to clue in that we might actually be breaking the law.  Of course, none of us cared, but it was still a cool thought to think.

It was a really great day.

Closer

I finished another 31s section of the teaser, the designer’s intro.  It’s closer to being completed than it was yesterday when it was not as close to being as done as it is now.  I intend to go into the office today and continue working on it, rendering it much closer to being complete tomorrow than it was today when it was not nearly as close as it was yesterday.

In the afternoon I spent a few hours in Strasbourg with Dad and Kathy.  Strasbourg isn’t very close to Regina, but it’s much closer than Bucharest is, which is also much farther away than Vancouver is to Calgary.

I also watched a movie at Cris’ last night.  ‘Two Lovers’ is a story about a guy who wind up in a relationship with two women.  Neither relationship really followed a charted course… they happened almost by accident.  The movie would have been better if one of the women was much closer to being multidimensional than she really was.

The Emergency Pose

The other day Jazzy and I came home to discover a shitload of fire trucks and ambulances parked in front of our building, lights flashing and emergency personnel moving about.  It appeared to be a very dramatic situation.  I mean shit… who wants to come home to that?  Did someone die?  Is there a fire?

I also wondered if a kid pulled the fire alarm… again.  This will be the forth time in two years that a fleet of emergency vehicles took up space in front of my building.  On only one occasion was there actually a fire.  In that case, it was the elevator motor on the roof that started smoking.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night, alarms sounding, and me wondering if this was really real.  I smelled smoke, but only faintly, and it could have been my imagination.  I stood in the middle of the living room, in my underwear, surveying my possessions and deciding what I would take downstairs with me, if it really was, really real.  It’s kind of an odd head space to occupy, deciding which among all your shit deserves saving, and more importantly, which may be sacrificed so that other shit may live.  I got dressed, grabbed my laptop and my purse (calling it a man bag seems so… insecure) and headed downstairs.  The problem was resolved within an hour and I hung out in the lobby with my neighbors, bonding over how inconvenient this all was.  Why can’t fires happen during the day?

So… back to the other day.  I walked into the building and saw a fireman, arms crossed, jacket off, staring at the closed elevator doors in the lobby.  This was clearly an example for what to do in an emergency when someone is stuck in an elevator and you haven’t the foggiest idea for how to free him.  Apparently one of my neighbors was dancing in the elevator and its sensors detected erratic movement and shut down as an emergency precaution.

There’s an emergency phone inside the elevator that connects directly to Otis, the elevator company responsible for the maintenance of the elevators.  In such situations, the Otis man shows up, reads the elevator’s sensor log, and fixes the problem.  Calling 911 is the wrong thing to do.  Calling 911 then calling your dad, who also calls 911, who tells his wife, who proceeds to call 911 just to be sure, is exactly the wrong, most definitely, completely stupid thing to do.  In such cases, fire trucks and ambulances rush in, in dramatic fashion, stop, catch their breath… and phone the Otis man.

They then take off their jackets, cross their arms and stare at the elevator doors until someone tells them they can leave.

And Then Another One Comes

If you were to watch the Urban Future teaser right now, you would see a loose assemblage of black holes, half edited segments, and polished special effects compositions.  It looks nowhere near done, but looks can be deceiving.  I finished another 26s composition last night AND recorded the final narration.  Mac finished the Arcul de Triumf comp that she’d been working on for two weeks, as well as completing the Vancouver intro.  Amber continues to make progress on the title sequence and Chrystene completed the illustrated elements for the opening sequence.  We are very very close now.  My goal is to have it done by Sept 1.

I must have seen it 27 thousand times by now, but I am very pleased with how good it’s looking.

The process of putting this teaser together has been a little bit like building a house from the inside out.  Most of its ‘parts’ have been prefabricated in After Effects and then assembled in the Final Cut Pro time line.  Other parts are pre-pre-assembled in Adobe Photoshop before being brought into After Effects.  This is the same process we used when we edited InJustice.  The difference this time is that we are incorporating HD footage in the time line, and we’re also using a lot of traditional editing techniques as well.  InJustice was described as ‘groundbreaking’ for its special effects, look and feel, but it was also criticized for being a bit too different from traditional television programming.  We felt that by bringing back some of the old school stuff, we could ground Urban Future a bit more, without losing any of its edge.

The above photo is something I stitched together in Photoshop from some of the stills I took in Bucharest.  I named it the Bucharest Wall and brought it into After Effects where I put it in a 3D space.  I then ran a virtual camera over it to complete the comp.  I like it because it really shows off the extremes of Bucharest.  The camera travels through each scene, through these different parts of the city, elegantly smashing through the barriers of space and time.  I find it very poetic.

Goodbye, See you Soon

It’s been a summer of ‘Goodbyes’.  Good bye Laura.  Good bye Bucharest.  Good bye Sandra.  Good bye Joce.  Good bye PJ.  Good bye Vancouver.

I put my little girl on a plane this morning.  She kept hugging me and holding my hand.  “I love you daddy, I’ll miss you” was the last thing she said to me before disappearing down the hallway.

“Good bye Jazzy.  I’ll miss you too.”

Last night Jazzy and I went to the pool and had a great swim together.  She showed me what she learned from her lessons, and I taught her some of the things I learned from my days as a competitive swimmer.  I taught her how to kick efficiently under water, how to time her breathing during the front crawl, how to find her ‘safe floaty place’ if she ever panics, how to relax while floating effortlessly and more.

Usually my mind wanders at regular intervals.  Not so this time.  Jazzy and I spent almost two hours in the pool, and while she was in the water with me, my entire focus was on her.  It was the same when I was teaching her how to use Adobe After Effects.  My greatest bonding moments with Jazzy have been when I’ve tried to teach her something.  It was in those moments that I truly felt I was ‘living in a moment.’  With that in mind, we came up with a brand new plan.  She’s going to take guitar lessons, and once she’s learned enough, I’m going to get her to teach me.

It’ll be about two months before I see her again.  I have so many things I want to do with her when that time comes.  Learning new things with her will be one of them.

Minute Man

I’m not pissed off anymore about that forum thing.  Yes, I’ve worked on rebalancing myself, and I’ve been focusing my energies on more productive and positive endeavors, but mostly I’m not pissed off anymore cuz the guy said something nice about the photos I took the other day.  It seems my enlightenment party will be shelved until further notice.

The big buzz in the city last night was the AC/DC concert.  38,000 took in the show at Mosaic Stadium (including 1,000 workers).  I’m guessing most of those in attendance aren’t true AC/DC fans, they just wanted to be a part of a big event in Regina.  It was the same thing when the Rolling Stones played here two years ago.  It wound up being the 7th highest grossing concert event in North America.  Tickets were like $300 each.  I don’t think AC/DC was as expensive, but it was still up there.

Jazzy did a sleep-over at Twyla’s (PJ’s sister), so I spent most of my evening in the edit suite.  I finished another minute of the Urban Future teaser.  Half of it was a complicated After Effects composition.  I ran a virtual camera through 3D space across a number of 2D objects.  It could use some tweaks, but it’s pretty good.  I want to move on to other sections of the teaser.  I continue to be excited about it.  Can’t wait to show you all!

Actually, I can’t wait to show you the series when it’s finished, probably about a year and a half from now.

Waiting for Enlightenment to Strike

I was up late last night, and woke up early this morning.  Couldn’t sleep.  I got into a pissing contest with a guy I know in an internet forum and I am embarrassed to say how much it’s been on my mind.  I like to think I’m above this sort of thing, but clearly I have a ways to go before I become truly enlightened.

I decided that I was becoming badly out of balance… again.  So after canceling plans for my enlightenment party, I headed down to Atlantis for a bit of ‘me’ time.  I did some reading and wrote until my tummy grumbled.  Went home, bbq’d a burger and headed for the office.

It was nice to get back in the edit suite.  I finished two sections of the Urban Future teaser then Kaitlyn came in.  Kaitlyn is the ‘face’ of InJustice and she’s been acting in two Shakespeare plays all summer in Saskatoon.  After a big bear hug we caught up and then began working on her demo reel.  She’s moving to Toronto in a week and we want to arm her with everything she’ll need to be successful in ‘Hog Town’ (what the rest of the universe calls Toronto).

At 5pm I left to pick up Jazzy from my mom’s and we headed to the Lawson Aquatic Centre to go swimming.  Jazzy reached level 3 in her swim classes and she was anxious to show off her new moves.  Truth be told, I was also looking forward to showing off some of my moves, as I swam competitively for a number of years as a kid.  The pool, it seemed, was another place for us to bond.

A half hour later we found ourselves sitting on Cris’s couch because the Lawson was closed for maintenance.  We watched ‘Big Brother’ and played backgammon.  Jazzy gammoned me, Cris gammoned me and Jazzy.  Not my night.

After that I went home and watched a movie… while waiting for enlightenment to strike.

Stone House

There’s an old stone house about a half mile up a hill from a cemetery where a lot of my family is buried.  Some day, when it’s my time, I want them to plant me there too.  Flintoft, Saskatchewan holds a special place in my heart.  It’s where the seeds of me began four generations ago when my great grand parents settled in the area after making the crossing from Romania.  I feel something in the air there whenever I breath it.  I feel the echos of those who came before me.

This evening I found myself with a camera in my hand, breathing that same air once again.  I was photographing my friend Lyndzie.  I didn’t say much once I started working.  She actually commented at one point that I hadn’t said a word for a very long time.  I guess my wheels were turning.  The photographs came easily.  I didn’t fret about the best way to frame her, or how to best capture the light.  It all just fell into place.  It was as easy as breathing.

Jazzy The After Effects Goofinator

I am sooooooooo proud of my little girl.  Today I had her working in the edit suite, converting jpeg sequences into HD footage.  She loved it.

She used a software application called ‘Preview’ to literally sort through thousands of photographs, using her own discretion to find the best sequences.  She then had to label the sequence, and then import the sequence into another software application called Adobe After Effects.  Once the sequences were brought in, she had to rename them based on the label, convert the frame rate, and place it into the composition.  From there she would decide upon the best way to frame and scale the composition, based upon the action in the sequence.  Again, this was all based on her own discretion.  The final step was to apply visual effects to the composition and add it to the render cue.

In five hours she created 9 HD clips out of 21 jpeg sequences totaling about 7 minutes of footage.  Very tedious and time consuming work, and yet invaluable to the overall project.  The final version of the Urban Future teaser will have her hand in it, and I couldn’t be happier.

It was a great day to be her daddy.