Friday, July 27, 2012

Saltwater Reflection

saltwater stings
the torn flesh
the torn wounds
are invisible
to the naked eye

the sea heaves
signs its name
on the empty space
with a single drop

the sunlight beats
down on the salt
loops around
the moon away

the sun-warmed earth
can be
so cold

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Freelancing

Today in one fell blow (well, two), I lost about $650 worth of regular monthly income. I guess this illustrates the insecurity of the line of work I've currently opted for.

The first case was an incident of having dissimilar visions for what the job entailed, exacerbated by what I felt was somewhat unclear communication from the client about what she was looking for exactly. However, these things happen; sometimes a contractor gets hired on by a client and it turns out the two are just not compatible.

The second case was a job I got hired for on a two-week trial basis. After the two weeks were up, the site manager told me that he would like to keep me on and that I would hear a confirmation from the person in charge of hiring within a few days. He told me to keep working. Two weeks later, I suddenly got an email from her saying they were cutting back on expenses. So that's it and fair enough. I would love to work for this client again, as I felt we had a good relationship and I did quite enjoy the job.

The point of all this is that I suddenly find myself with very limited work. On the one hand, this is great, since Jason is getting here on Tuesday, so I might have more time to spend with him in the first few days. On the other hand, though, this means that I have to return to the job hunt, which I had been able to lay down thanks to the steady work I had. This will eat mostly unproductively into my time. It also cuts into my budget, of course, at a time when I'm already stretching my funds.

In happier news, I've been hired on a by a translation agency for German-French-English work. I did one project for them already and they were quite pleased with it (in fact, they found zero errors!). They've offered me another job, if they get it, which will be much longer and on a tighter deadline, but it will somewhat make up for the loss I suffered today. If I can get steady work from this agency, then I shouldn't have to spend too much time looking for other jobs.

Luckily, I'm still writing for World Record Label, which is one of my all-time favorites. For the next edition, I interviewed Rick Hayward of Hayward Amps.Check out my article on the 16th to learn more.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Trouble with Occupy

If the Occupy movement eventually flounders without achieving its goals, it will likely do so because of self-righteousness.

Let me explain that statement. As most of you probably know, I have been a supporter of Occupy from the beginning, even before it caught on in mainstream media (luckily, one of my professors had picked it up on his radar and shared it with the class). I believe that our global society has major flaws and I also believe in the human ability to come up with something better. Contrary to those who see Occupy as a negative, complaining crowd, I experience it as a positive expression of faith in humanity's power for good. I see examples of this goodness every day and it inspires me to keep learning and growing and working for a better, more equitable future.

But what frustrates me about Occupy is that there are many supporters who have their hearts in the right place and yet suffer from a sense of self-righteousness akin to religious zealots. Now, this mindset is not always present and it's certainly not exclusive to Occupy. You see it just as strongly among people who are forcibly opposed to the movement for no other reason than that they are opposed to it (as far as I can tell from conversations I've had with them).

The problem with Occupy is that this mentality can be lethal. Not only will it repel others who haven't made up their mind about the movement, but it is also counterproductive to the movement's own professed goals. Democracy doesn't come from me telling you that anything you have believed thus far is a lie and that you're ignorant and wrong, after which I walk off, smug and secure in my own self-confirmation.

To build something new, we all have to change our minds. All of us. We can't build something new while preserving something old. It's uncomfortable to change (for me as much as for anyone), but the more you do it, the easier it gets. It's like stretching, as Jason would say.

I believe that this self-righteousness stems from assumptions about an imaginary Them and Us. If you are not agreeing with me, you must be on the other side. Clearly (or not), this is counterproductive, since it doesn't allow for new ideas to grow or for the emergence of a more inclusive society. It just shifts the power imbalance in someone else's favour.

Although stemming from a different context, I believe the following quote holds true for Occupy and any group trying to make communal decisions:
The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. Should any one oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. If after discussion a decision be carried unanimously, well and good; but if, the Lord forbid, differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail.- Shoghi Effendi (emphasis added)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Belgium Update

I figured it's about time that I update my blog, for its own sake and because I haven't really given anyone an update since I moved to Belgium

So here I am. It's been not windy and much less cold than Newfoundland. I'm living in my mom's apartment, which is on the second/third floor (depending on which side of the pond you're on). It overlooks a park and you can see several churches and other towers out the window. The living room has floor-to-ceiling glass windows on that side, so that's pretty cool.

I've been pretty busy since I got here, mostly with this major translation project I'm working on. 163500 words. That's a lot of words. But it's good practice and I'm getting quicker at it. I'm also still writing for World Record Label and Cute Copy and picking up random editing, writing, and transcription jobs. (If you need anything done along those lines, hit me up!)

I bought a bike today. It took me just over an hour to walk out to where the guy was selling it and about 25 minutes to get back. Needless to say, it's going to be great having it. Good exercise too.

The most interesting things I've done since my arrival are probably going to Flanders Fields (pics below, and more on Facebook) and visiting a couple of the free festivals they've had around town here. The first weekend that I got here was very busy with that sort of thing, and I even got to see some professional trapeze artists!

Other than that I've mostly been stuck behind my computer changing English into German.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

By the People?

Maybe Canadians don't deserve clean water, paved roads, the CBC, snow clearing, free public education, or any of the other glorious things we're so used to enjoying in this country. The reason I say this is because the majority of citizens don't seem to be too concerned about holding our government in check. If you can't even write a letter to your MP, perform a protest song, hold an information session, call in to your radio station, or even read the news to form your own opinion about what is going on, then you are failing in your civic duty. Therefore, you have failed as a citizen, which means you have failed your community, which means that you don't deserve a democratic government.

Democracy means government by the people, right? If that is true, then it means we have to do a little work to keep everything going smoothly. We run the country. We are the CEOs of the country. Right now, we are the worst CEOs in the world. We sit back and expect our employees to do their job without any sort of supervision or direction; we expect them not to steal money or slack off when we're not looking. And then we expect them not to lie about it.

What manager or CEO would let their employees do whatever they want, unsupervised, without at least reading some sort of report (the news) to make sure things were going well? And if things were not going well (the government has money for prisons and a glass dome for the House of Commons but not for Old Age Security), they would get involved, punish those responsible, and possibly even fire a few employees.

I understand that it can seem daunting and difficult to grasp the inner workings of politic and government, but you can't expect everyone to do all the work for you. Do some reading; watch a few documentaries. The information is out there. Talk to people, even people you don't agree with. Especially people you don't agree with. Keep an open mind but use logic and reason to figure out where you stand. Care a little about your future and your family and your community.

I promise it's not that hard, really. If I can have some sort of understanding of how things are connected, there's no reason you can't, unless you're afraid of work; you don't want to be one of those people who expects everyone else to serve them. That's called royalty, and royalty is antithetical to democracy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


A lot has been going on in my life since my last post. As most of my friends know, I am now the manager for Jason Hayward's music career. That's been an interesting road so far. My experiences and what I've learned are going to be fodder for a new joint blog with the man himself. I'll be focusing on the business and marketing side of things, while he'll talk about the creation and performance aspects of musicking.

I've also finally seriously decided to start looking for writing and editing jobs. It's the only saleable skill I have (yes, saleable is a word, I promise). My plan is to learn to sail and create enough of a steady income through freelancing that I can live on the boat and not be tied to one spot. Jason has a very similar plan, except it has to do with music, not writing. Or at least not as much.

I've learned a lot in the past eight months or so. I learned a lot before that too, but this year has been one of transformation. I'm not sure if it's good or bad; sometimes I feel like I'm becoming dumber, more forgetful, and much more easily frustrated.

I also feel like I've discovered a whole world that was happening around but without me. I'm referring to the music industry, of course. Ever since I moved to this town, I've been asking people to introduce me to the local music scene, because I could see it was vibrant. I received many promises to fulfill that wish, but it never actually happened.

Sure, I discovered a few bands on my own and more or less figured out which venues had the best shows and so on. But since becoming Jason's, I've had to make direct contact with bar owners, music store owners, and other musicians. I've since organized a number of shows and learned a million things about marketing and things like social media and fan-artist relations.

I've also learned about song forms, composing, and myriad other things (that word always makes me think of Jillian, who managed to use it in a cover letter a while back).

But this stuff will be in my new blog, which will go live next month! Hope to see you  there!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Heat Death

Ajax wasn’t afraid of his own death; it was the heat death of the universe. “I’ll be fine if I know the universe will go on. But if it ends...” He didn’t tell us what would happen if it ended. He just slurped his fruity Crayola-red smoothie through a straw.
This was before he knew he was allergic to gluten. And milk.
This was before the heat death.
His parents named him after the Shakespearean Ajax, but he liked the Iliad ones better. The one he liked best of all was “Ajax the Lesser”, the son of King Oileus of Locris and a nymph named Rhene. They called him lesser because he wasn’t Ajax the Great, the heroic Ajax.
He was the swiftest of the Greeks, other than Achilles, of course, and he was great with a spear. The goddess Athena tried to kill him in a shipwreck, but he managed to survive by holding onto a rock. Then he got cocky and said even the gods couldn’t kill him. That pissed off Poseidon, who split the rock in half with his trident. Ajax the Lesser drowned. This was after he led forty Locrian ships against the Trojans in the war.
It was all foolishness, but it made us laugh for some reason. Ajax the Lesser was a dick. He was accused of raping the priestess Cassandra (which is why Athena was mad at him), but he took an oath of innocence and hid in a temple, so they let him live because they didn’t want to destroy the temple and have two immortal beings mad at them, instead of just the one.
They said after he died, his spirit hung out in the island of Leuce and he was worshiped as a hero. They even put him on some coins. Not too bad for a pompous ass.
“Of course, it’s not supposed to happen for a few billion years.” He adjusted his sunglasses. He always wore them inside, even in the mall.
“You’ll be dead before then,” I said. He nodded and swiveled his stool. We were sitting at the ‘bar’, where you can overlook the generic Chinese food take-out, right next to the generic greasy, diner-style hole in the wall. Generic, but they were ours.
We were still teenagers. We thought sunglasses indoors made you cool, especially when coupled with long rock star hair and a stonewashed leather jacket. Ajax was all that. He was Ajax the Lesser incarnate: a badass, god-dissing local hero.
“So what is heat death?” Only Max would ask. Me and Corey, well, we just liked to be with Ajax; we didn’t care what he was talking about, as long as he was talking to us. Sometimes it was hard to tell whether he was or not.
Those midnight sunglasses hid his eyes, adding mystery to the cool factor. He’d been places, man, seen things. Or so we imagined. We had no idea where he came from, just that he appeared in our class one day. He was in and out of detention, left a trail of girls in his wake, and showed up at school when he felt like it. The epitome of cool.
He also smoked, and I don’t mean cigarettes. He never charged us for it; he wasn’t a dealer. He threw house parties that his mom came to, which was fine with us because she had him when she was sixteen and she was hilarious when she got high (“I didn't really name him after Shakespeare, you know. I named him after the cleaning stuff.”). She was hilarious when she was sober too, but more in an Ajax-get-yer-arse-outta-bed-and-help-me-find-my-pantyhose kind of way.
“Heat death is what’ll happen when the universe reaches entropy.” No one knew what the hell he was talking about, but we listened eagerly. He laughed at our blank faces and leaned in, as if we were ten years old and he was telling a ghost story at a sleepover, all of us under a blanket with a flashlight shining up past his chin to distort his features.  I imagined him with sunglasses even in that situation.
“Eventually, it’ll reach a point where all the reactions that can happen will have happened, and all that'll be left is the heat from the reactions. What’ll kill everything off will be that nothing’s happening. Literally.” He clasped his hands behind his head. “All the energy will have spread itself out equally. It’ll be a perfect balance. So perfect that the universe stops. The end.”
“That doesn’t make sense.” Max was a chubby little kid, but we let him hang out with us. He wasn’t really a kid any more than the rest of us, but we always called him that. He was the youngest in our grade, which seemed like a big deal at the time.
Ajax shrugged. “Let’s go check out the X-Store.”
This we understood. We slumped off our stools and sauntered over. Of course, what we were really interested in was the corner of the store that sold sex stuff. Not porn, nothing like that. You had to go downtown for that. But lots of stupid toys and games and explicit mugs with dicks and boobs on them. Candy panties and all that.
Eventually, we graduated – or, well, some of us did. Ajax decided at some point that school was a waste of time, and then he did become a dealer, but still not to us. We were his friends; our highs were free. So were his mom's, I guess, since she let him grow it in the basement and never said a word as long as she could have a taste every now and then.
I went to university. I was the only one who did out of the four of us. I got into Dal and my parents helped me get a student loan, so I moved to Nova Scotia. I didn’t have a clue what I was studying or what I wanted to be, but it seemed like the thing to do. My sister was going to MUN to learn business, and now it was my turn to make something of myself.
I came home at Christmas, and the morning after I arrived, my feet hit the frozen dew in the schoolyard beside my house. I flipped open my cellphone and called Ajax. I wanted to get together with the gang.
“Come over to my place tomorrow afternoon,” Ajax said. “I’ve got a homecoming present for you.”
Dinner with my folks was as you’d expect: good food, lots of questions about school, lots of gossip about my mom and dad’s friends, people I hardly knew but sort of remembered. We laughed and talked, and it was a good time all around. My sister broke out the wine to celebrate, and it was good to be home, but I really wanted to see Ajax and Max. Corey had sort of drifted off to Alberta by now.
I picked up Max in my parents’ silver Subaru Legacy. He’d thinned out, but still had that pasty blond look. His hair stuck to his hood. I cranked up the radio, even though we were listening to the two o'clock weather report.
Ajax still lived with his mom in their cranky pink jellybean house just up the hill from the harbour.  We drove around for twenty minutes looking for a place to park.
“Just park here,” Max kept saying, pointing out every illegal parking spot downtown.
Ajax's mom was passed out on the couch, wrapped in her tattered blue housecoat. We let ourselves in, since the door was open, but our boy was nowhere to be found. We sat at the table, passing a joint back and forth, but when he hadn’t shown up for two hours, I got bored and woke up his mother.
“Hey, Mom.” We all called her Mom. “Where's Ajax to?”
Her blurry eyes settled on me and she sat up, coughed once, and spread her arms. “Give me a hug. How's our college boy doing?” I obliged and sat on the couch beside her.
Ajax never came home. We waited all evening, but his mom wasn't worried. “He'll be around, you'll see.” But he wasn't.
The cops came by around eight o'clock. They found Ajax at one of the big houses up along Rennie's River. He broke in and took a dip in the hot tub. They said he was on some drug, so he never noticed a thing. He fell asleep but he never drowned. It was hyperthermia, they said.
“What's that?” Max asked.
“His body overheated,” they said.
Ajax’s mom cried. Who am I kidding; we all did. His funeral was a mess. Only a few of us showed up but the ones who did loved him like crazy. We cried during the ceremony and then at the grave-site, and then again on the sofa at his house.
Another version of Ajax the Lesser’s death said he was killed by Athena with a flash of fire to the chest. It was still during a shipwreck, but in this story, the Greek hero was raised up on a whirlwind, blasted with fire, and then slammed into some sharp rocks. The Locrians, who lived on the island of Leuce where his spirit was worshiped after he died, always left a place open in their military ranks because they believed that Ajax the Lesser was fighting with them, even though they couldn’t see him.
 “He wasn't scared of dying,” Max said. “At least the universe goes on, right?”
I stared at him. It took me a long time to figure out what the hell he was talking about, but when I did, I started to laugh. I laughed and cried and laughed and choked. He pounded me on the back, which only made it worse, and then I lay down on the couch and sobbed for Ajax, but really for us, the ones left behind.