Ghost City

Ordos

It was the first time I felt I could relax, even for a moment.  I knew that it couldn’t last.  After the three-hour hike down the alien streets where the grass was beginning to push through the cracks, I was back at the building.  The silence permeated every cell of my being but I knew I couldn’t turn the music on.  The fact that I had turned the multi-module in my arm off was the only thing probably keeping me out of harms way.  Still it would have been great to listen to something.  The only solace I had as I came up the leaf strewn parking lot was the sound of birds.  Those crows that always gathered like a gang of spies that had never given up.

The door was left open, which I kind of expected, but at least it wasn’t smashed down in the final riots before we were all shipped east to the fence-line.  It was a little silly being here.  It was hardly like I could take the elevator up, let alone go in, throw my keys down and grab a beer from the fridge.  It would be probably white walls.  Nothing but white walls and dust stains from the scraping of the furniture.

I began my ascent up the stairwell, shafts of light coming in the windows, their frames high above where anyone could reach them.  The walls looked grimier and more battered that I remember.  Minette and I lived on the 5th floor which was I was sort of half thankful for at the moment.  I wasn’t in bad shape but I definitely began to feel it by the third.  I sat on the fading carpet and looked out the window across from the black-railed stairwell.  The orange yolk of the sun was broken by shafts of cloud, the afternoon sky a slight cedar that we always called the Curtain.  The Curtain never lifted where I had spent the last fifteen years since we were gathered.  Out here the effect of the great processors seemed slightly thinned, like when you add more water to a teabag.

I was also looking for movement in the city.  The skyline was grey and quiet like you would expect, but more unkept, with bramble and grasses turning everything into a strange sort of greenhouse solarium with the orange white roof above.  There was so many of us back in the camp that I suspected it would take some time before anyone noticed I was not around, but then all it would take was one idiot to say “Hey, where’s Yun?” and then the reports of a lost worker would set out the whole barrage of Shepherds into their roles as the people’s trackers.  I knew just how invisible I wasn’t, with how my heat register made it’s imprints on everything around me, sticking me out in Westwood like a beacon.  I almost considered staying exactly where I was.  Partly due to the fact that what I was after would have already have been stripped from the room to crush any thoughts of doing exactly this and partially because I didn’t even want to see our home like this.  It was one way to sleep in section twelve.  I mean, I had free Wifix at call and I was really careful about my credit points but that was just the crap they wanted us to see.  If I wasn’t reading what few pdfs were still out of their reach I would think back to when we had our last job, our last day of work, our last meal.  I can even remember my last employer on his knees crying, with his sister Satiyo beside him rubbing his shoulders and cooing to him like a child.  He wasn’t the nicest guy on the planet back then but of the four bosses I had, he was the last and to his credit he had tried to build the company from the ground up.  Now he was just a balding man in a dirty white shirt on the floor, his shoulders shaking with his hand to his face.  I remember I didn’t know what to say.  I just sort of stood there.

Back on my feet I continued up to fifth.

The inside of the room could have been anywhere, in any room all up the coast.  It was better than most I had passed in the halls.  No one had attempted to squat in it before the gatherings.  The walls were still mostly white.  Minette smoked back then, which was the only illegal thing either of us ever did, but we were excruciatingly careful about it.  A friend at the university had given us some Linethen, that blueish grey composite that cleans the air of cigarette smoke almost instantly.  We kept in buried behind the back of the fridge and even now I could see the trails up the wall, fanning out like so many spiders.

Then I heard it, noise from far away like the mewing of a small cat. 

Scrambling onto the counter-top next to the gaping hole where our old stove had been, I opened the cupboard.  The sound outside grew just slightly.  They knew where I was, and they knew that I knew.  I looked for the slight edge upside down in the cupboard, my eyes squinting as bits of old wood unsettled all over my hands and face.  With the other hand I began to punch the top of the stained cupboard wood. 

The sound grew louder, coming from the living room.  In the giant square empty room, the windows remained open with just one frayed curtain remaining, it’s flag swaying just slightly in the wind.  Across the way was the other block of flats, patio rails like bleached bones.

I punched harder and the sound grew.  Finally, the roof of the cupboard cracked and dust and particles spewed out, causing me to look away again.  In the living-room the curtain began to flap more in earnest.  They were very near.  I found what I came for and stashed it into the pocket in my leg where a hole turned the rest of the pants into an accidental deep pocket.  I dropped from the counter just as the sound of the chopper blades became obvious.  The rag by the window flapped violently as the giant glass globe of the Shephard’s vehicle rose with the blades roaring invisibly above their heads.  I walked towards them, looking straight at them in their black silk uniforms and red helmets.  What was there to say or do at the time?  I simply waited with my arms out so they wouldn’t strip the flesh from my bones.

There was noise behind me which I expected.  My leg was kicked out and I fell into darkness.

Me and Max

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     Ever wanted to slip back like a shadow in time?  There’s points in my life I would like to visit and put on a rolling guitar effects loop.  Others naturally I would like to just take a Pink Pearl to and completely obliterate.  But I can imagine they are there for a reason.  They are hard lefts and rights.
     Max is a mishmash of the past for me that I liked the idea of revisiting.  I haven’t worked in my parents garage wanting to be a bike mechanic since I was twenty two but writing gives me the chance to play with that world, with a character like Max and allow other crazier things happen.  I don’t think I’d want to write an actual autobiography…ever.  Most of what I do is actually pretty boring and mostly by myself.  Not the best copy but there you go.  Most of what I do is just beavering away at this sort of thing or bass (hey, who wants to here a scale?!) or what have you.  It’s the end result I’m after…like with Max and his dream of being an awesome self employed bike mechanic.
And along the way to that I can take him on all kinds of adventures where he can show his simple honest spirit.  I love Max for that.  In an age where things are getting lean and too complex for words he is just Max.  His dreams aren’t palatial and he always tries to put a positive spin on things.

So if you’ve gotten this far thank you very much for reading!

Please check Max out at…
Journal by Max

Cheers,
Tom

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Thirty years of British Comedy

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Cook Street Village...Home of Pic a Flic Video

                    “Here we come…”

     British Comedy and the even broader subject of British culture started for me with the Monkeeys.   And it was a long fun journey since then.

     I do have some heritage from the U.K. so that probably helps but it basically started from growing up with the Monkeeys on television which I would try to never miss (along with the usual collection of Saturday morning cartoons where I would use the TV Guide to map my morning from 7 am to noon like Faramir reviewing a map of Mordor.)

     I was especially a fan of Davey to the point where I was playing Tambourine at church and incorporating as best I could the dance that also became known as the “Axl Shuffle” of Axl Rose.  Almost wonder if he’s a British Comedy fan?  He was mentioned in Depeche Mode 101 where not only was he slammed with a fan exclaiming “guns and posers” but he went to the premier with Dave Gahan trying to distract him when the  cheeky line appeared on film.  Anyways. ..

     The next stage in my britishizing was when I accidentally turned on public television and came across someone who looked and sounded much like Davey Jones minus the red suit and tambourine.  It was Hywel Bennett and the show was Shelley.

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Shelley and Mrs. H.

    It wasn’t Davey.  He didn’t do Daydream Believer.  There wasn’t a decent tambourine in sight.  But it made me laugh.  And most importantly…it made me curious.

     Shelley was smart, fast talking and talked about things I’d never heard of.  There were obagines, the foreign office and the dhss, and Chinese take-aways whatever that was.  Naturally these were all the British equivalent to talking about eggplant, welfare and ordering Chinese food and picking it up.  But for me at eleven it was this whole new world where people talked different about mysterious probably cool grown up things I had no idea about. 

     The next step was a classic.  I watched a number of Fawlty Towers episodes in a row with my Dad and Grandfather.   Well.  Enough said there.

     Eventually I started watching for the two back to back Britcoms that would be on the station from Seattle from 10 to 11 pm (I didn’t use a VCR because that would be wrong.  The record feature is meant for…meant for…uh…nevermind…)

   These included the classic but new to me…ok…deep breath…Butterflies, Red Dwarf, Never the Twain, The Manor Born, Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister, Good Neighbours, Monty Python (naturally), Are You Being Served, Blackadder, Mr. Bean (eventually though that came to us first via CBC), and more Fawlty Towers.

     With the mixture of YouTube and the British Section of Pic a Flic pictured above I discovered an army more of titles which would be silly to start listing and discovered the world behind many of the shows like Only Fools and Horses (huge in the U.K. but strangely lesser known here) The Young Ones (born of the comedy club beginnings of The Comic Strip Presents…its name taken from its proximity to a strip club) which like many comedy projects began as two person acts such as Fry and Laurie, French and Saunders, and Rik and Abe.  One of my most favored movies “The Tall Guy” with Jeff Goldblum is based on the partnership of Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis.  It also featured “Must be Love” by Madness.

     Which brings me to my strange equal fascination with British Music.  Beyond one of my favorite first bands having a British singer (Davey) and the next being Queen I have no idea.  I do know that in the case of bands like Embrace and Elvis Costello I would like their music first and then find out they were from the United Kingdom afterwards.

     I would like to go there someday but I almost wonder if the mystery is more intact we me over here.  To me they’re still that cool, strange place of Factory Records (New Order), Mute (Depeche), Black Books, Adam and Joe, and (saving the best for last) these three gentlemen who turned the idea I had of writing a sitcom myself into a huge, huge obsession with the idea.

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Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais, Karl Pilkington

Cheers,
Tom

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My problem with cultural appropriation.

One of our rules in the Ollie and Emma project is that we leave the issue aside and just have fun with the opportunity to bring people together.  That aside I think their should be some ground rules.  Being the white half of a comedy team writing a multicultural project knowing where the line between funny and too far is only too apparent.  It all comes down to simply respecting someone else and looking past the stereotypes which need to be finally dropped.
The problem I have with Halloween headdresses, sport teams names and so on is that it treats Native culture like it’s something of the past.  We call the University of Victoria sports teams the Vikes (Vikings).  We don’t call them the UVic Norwegians.  There is another team I’m sure is called the Pilgrims (I will admit…I’m not especially a sports person.  Apologies to those who are.).  The folks who are referred to as Braves are still very much alive and active as well as the use of real ceremonial garments (and unless your entire sports team is First Nations, which would have the name make more sense).  The best way to think of this is consider something that is important or sacred to yourself and ask yourself if you would want it used like a gimmick.  Yeah, First Nations people don’t love that either.

This is one of the things about working with my cowriter Cheri Jacobs that I think has it’s own influence on the Ollie and Emma project.  Our two cultures can work together with common respect and have lots of fun doing it.  All the people who I have met have been very welcoming and free of judgement. 

Community is possible.

Cheers,
Tom

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St Patrick’s week and more!

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Cookeilidh are : Woody, me, Kim David

     Been a really busy week since last Tuesday when St Patrick’s started.  That’s the thing about being in a celtic band.  St. Patrick’s for us is, and sorry if this sounds ego driven but it’s a whole lot more than one night of green beer (even though that’s fun too!)  We’ve been pretty much doing one gig a night for well over a week and there is still more to go.  One thrill was having tracks from our new cd played on All Points West CBC with Jo-Ann Roberts just before our show at The Copper Owl (pictured above)

It’s funny…just jamming along to Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus with my bass (ok that’s wierd) and how even though lots of things change…lots more are always the same.  I love playing acoustic music and playing a lot to the band’s I’ve loved over the years (some celtic, some acoustic and some really neither) and I love writing and creating things.  I’ve probably said that before and it’s easy to go with the things you know but the main thing is not to leave any place unexplored because you’ve got a prejudged notion.  That was the wierd story behind me as an acoustic / celtic musician liking Depeche and others (weirdest cd I ever had was definitely “Coyot” which was aeolian strings stretched across a Swedish abandoned military base)  I was very much focused on my style of music back then and I heard of Depeche but lumped them in with those “wierd stuff over there” bands.  When a friend gave me a tape I never even listened until one day making a tape (yeah, tape) as a joke.  From that I brought the whole tape to work and it seriously turned my head around.  Learned my lesson.  I think that applies to way beyond music.  You simply never know.  You never know what the young man with the skateboard on the bus next to you or the lady in front of you in line at Tim’s is really all about.  The idea that other people have it easier is also illusion.  Rich or poor live provides its struggles and it’s joy.

Went philosophical there.  Anyways, check out my other new thing I’ve been working on this week if you get a chance.  It’s a story that is based on my own background when I use to aspire to bike mechanics and was seriously into cycling and going to bike shops…and listening to loads of classic rock!
Journal by Max

You can also follow the band at…
Cookeilidh’s main website!

Cheers
Tom 🙂

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Stopping to catch up

Sort of a good time to catch up as we are at the start of March.  It’s my birthday month (ok that’s self indulgence, I apologize) but sitting on a bus with more posters it’s kind of less imposing though.
I don’t really get concerned about my age most of the time.  My main inspirations created their best work past 30 so it doesn’t even phase me.
March is St Patrick’s month and that means I get to do lots of shows with Cookeilidh (presently out in James Bay with posters. ..trying to get to each of Victoria’s micro communities.  And there is a whole lot of those.  A friend and I were discussing that.  It’s one of the cool things about our city and the diversity that’s been here since the Gold Rush but perhaps that’s why travelling across town feels so epic.  It’s like you’re going through six towns before you get to where you’re going.

Ollie and Emma is still very much active too with setting up everything with our awesome new executive producer Less Bland Productions and Cheri and I are working not only on that but on creating other pitches that we could also use in the future.  Our next skit is slated to be one featuring our two fun surreal elders played by Fred Samuel and Wolf Rick Patterson and we will soon be starting the table reads and rehearsal for that.  I get a lot of questions about when do I sleep…i use a memo app so far.  Maybe one day I’ll have a secretary with a memo app.  We’ll have matching memo apps.  That would be amazing.

Oh yeah, and when I have time I’ve been playing around with a little blog story.  I’ll try to keep it pretty regularly posted at least until the story is done.  I’m typing this on a phone and sometimes the auto suggestions are far more interesting than what I write.  I have got to meet that guy someday.  Anyways the new blog is at…

https://journalbymax.wordpress.com/

Have to cut this a little short as I’ll miss my stop. 

Cheers,
Tom

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