live studio audience

Last week I took advantage of being a mere 3 hour drive from Victoria (as opposed to the 5 or so hours it takes to get into Vancouver with all the ferry and transit I take from here) and went to see Welcome to Night Vale. I took most of the afternoon off work and then managed to miss Victoria’s traffic, saw a performance of a live version of a radio show and then drove home.

The show was about a librarian who had escaped from the steel and plexiglas cages in the newly renovated Night Vale library to terrorize the town (if you’re unfamiliar with WtNV, it’s a podcast done as a community radio show about a weird dark little desert city where a 5-Headed Dragon is running for mayor against the Faceless Old Woman Who Lives in Your Home). The show was fine, but I kind of hated listening to it with so many people.

For me radio is a very personal medium. You’re letting someone talk to you directly and you build up a kind of weird rapport with this voice you never get to talk back to. Or at least in my ideal world you don’t. I have learned that I hate call-in radio programs because it breaks the fourth wall so hard. This live show felt a little bit similar to that.

I mean, it was a good episode, but it also felt like it was constructed to do a big chunk of fan-service, and the constant needing to pause for applause removed me from the experience.

At its best I see radio as the most lonely medium, this voice just bouncing out into the world hoping it finds a listener somewhere. When a small concert hall is filled with people cheering and awwing (at things I totally cheered and awwed at in my head) it feels weird. And yeah, maybe this is just me pulling a “Nothing is any good if other people like it” kind of thing, so obviously I’m ignorable on this.

But it wasn’t just this show. The most recent episodes of the podcast were two parts of a live show, and it didn’t have the same rhythm of a regular show. It’s funny, because in music I tend to like live versions of songs and their differences from the studio versions, but with this, maybe it’s because it’s words, or maybe just because the words don’t overpower the audience reaction the way an amped up concert does it felt different. I guess I just wanted the audience to listen in rapt attention, without trying to insert our reactions into the show.

That said, the musical guest, Eliza Rickman, was great and we all listened so closely and carefully. She played a toy piano and an autoharp and sang a version of Moon River in which she used two violin bows to pay a glockenspiel, which is second only to Kid Koala’s version of Moon River in my covers pantheon.

I’m glad I went. It’s always good for me to get out of this town and do something I actually like. If you get the chance to listen to Welcome to Night Vale you should (there are 50 episodes so you can fill a good number of summer road trips with it).

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a morning stroll

I’m trying to feel better about this place I live. So one of the nice things about it is that I can walk to a provincial park. And, while I’m no connoisseur, I think it’s a nice one.



This is kind of near the first entrance to the park. When I returned from this specific hike there were a bunch of little kids in the water wearing helmets and life jackets floating downstream learning how to avoid rocks or something, under the supervision of some sort of counsellor-type.



This is up at Elk Falls itself. I did not realize the falls were in such a canyon. This doesn’t show the drama of the setting, but that’s because I was out on my own and didn’t have anyone to tell my tale if I plummeted to my death. Which I might have. I don’t trust my body to keep me alive.

The walking took me through a bunch of this:



And this:



and this:



I startled a deer



and took a lot of pictures of flowers:







Then finally I found my way home past the generator station



So yeah. I should really do more walking out in this and appreciate it, right?

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wearing blue like a jerk

Nationalistic sportball is playing on the computer. Not this computer, another one, the one I have for watching and listening and playing with things like a good consumer.

Although that good consumeriness plays out a bit weirdly here. I’ve long kept up with sports so I had things to talk about with strangers, so I’m not some elitist only interested in my esoteric nerdy occupations.

Here though it’s all backfiring. We’re off some other end of the scales of what makes a person interesting. The interest in the world cup (even though it’s “Sport! The universal language!”) here is peripheral as all get out so my watching of CBC’s helpfully streamed matches is as useful for making small talk as knowing what’s up with the political hierarchies of bees or the logistics of interstellar economics (or baseball).

It’s Canada Day out though, and sunny, so I guess fuck futbol being played in some other hemisphere. I have walked the town’s celebrations, which are kind of epitomized by the amount of totally non-ironic Bryan Adams being played. Woo patriotism.

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a brief vacation

One of the best parts of living in Campbell River is being paid enough to leave it for a vacation. So last week I went east for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and other assorted ventures.

The baseball game on Thursday night was fun but weird. I had not been to baseball in a dome for so long I felt like an old man grousing about how it didn’t feel like real baseball. I was at a CFL game in Vancouver’s dome a couple of years ago and that didn’t bother me. Basically because football doesn’t seem real anyway.



I got a ticket in the 100 level outfield in centre-right. There was a guy in our section who was having a birthday. He was also a big Colby Rasmus fan. I always have a weird issue with liking Colby Rasmus because it makes me feel like a racist. The Jays have a tonne of awesome talented players, why do I like the redneck underachiever? Anyway, this guy and his party had no such qualms, which made for an entertaining game. Especially since in his first at-bat Rasmus hit a homerun. Then in the top of the next inning made a great running catch for an out. Pretty sweet.

I also wandered around Toronto a bit and totally enjoyed TCAF. I bought a lot of books and got a lot of them signed and/or sketched in. I never really know what to say to creators when I meet them, but whatever. Having the librarian title to hide behind usually is pretty good, as most people have nice things to say about librarians.

Also I finally went to Snakes & Lattes (with Jamie and one of his cousins), and the ROM to see dinosaur fossils, and got to see a Danny Michel show where he had a band, not just him his guitar and a loop pedal. I enjoyed it, as I always enjoy Danny Michel.

Then I came home. Back to work. I have a lot of good stuff to read now.

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a year and a bit in

I’ve been in Campbell River a year. More than a year. Last year I put up a picture of me, one month in. Here’s what I look like today.

Hatless(!) Me 2013

Hatless(!) Me 2013


A year was the amount of time I planned to give it before deciding what role this place was going to play in my life. For me, that meant I didn’t want to come here and immediately start thinking about leaving. Giving it a year to see what happened seemed legitimate. Maybe I would really like living in a small town. Maybe I would make some friends that would make me not want to leave.

Well, that hasn’t really happened.

To be clear, my job is fine. If I was doing this job in a place where I had friends to have a beer with after work and to play games with on the weekend it would be pretty great. But I do not have that. I have work and books and the internet which is not terrible, but also not terribly inspiring or fun. Could be worse.

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forty-five minutes down the road

I took a drive down the highway to Courtenay yesterday. The excuse was because like most movies I want to see, Pacific Rim was not playing in Campbell River on its opening weekend. It’s one of the stupid little ways I participate in a capitalist system that equates entertainment choices with freedom and all that shitty stuff, but if I want to see more movies of the kind I like, they need to make enough money to have similar projects made in the future. I like giant robots fighting kaiju, and even though it wasn’t the most profound movie in the world I want a world where big monster movies can be made.

My co-librarian says I’ve been brainwashed into playing too many games with numbers, but I kind of counter with the fact that way more of my money goes into kickstarters for independent artists I admire than to Hollywood movies. I wish I was less of a consumer, but this is where I’m at these days, so I might as well make it count.

But the thing about going to Courtenay is that I realized how much nicer a small town can be than here. I mean there’s an agglomeration of shops in one place that isn’t a Target, Walmart, Canadian Tire, London Drugs stripmall thing. Their library is a nice newish building with windows. They have a shop that sells good boardgames.

The main thing was that it didn’t feel like the town equivalent of a fish using all its might to get its gills to work while it flops around on shore. If I’m going to stay out here on the island for any length of time (and I do realize that having a full-time job in this economy so I can support artists and their kickstarters isn’t something to toss away lightly) maybe I’d rather be in a place less depressing than here.

Which isn’t to say I hate it here exactly. I’ve been trying not to be down on Campbell River too much because a lot of it is just about it being a small town. But it’s good to know that, based on a non-exhaustive few-hour excursion, there are small towns where I could possibly both work and feel a bit more like I fit.

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living easy

This weekend has had a lot of music out in downtown, which I get to hear a lot of when my balcony door is open, which it has been. A band was playing Louie Louie last night and it didn’t descend into a C’thulhu ftagn-spouting bacchanalia that ripped a hole in the fabric of reality itself, so in that one respect (along with so many others) fiction trumps reality.

This morning I biked out to the shore where the sculptures from this year’s chainsaw carving competition stood. There was one that was very angular and looked like it’d been made out of metal then painted with a wood veneer. My favourite was of a spiky-mouthed sea monster emerging from the earth.

Bike @ Big Rock

My bike. I can’t remember the last time I showed a picture of it.


I stopped off afterwards at the Big Rock. I think that’s what it’s called. It’s got an orca on it and is covered in graffiti. I sat by the water reading a bit. Because that is what one does.
Big Rock @ Willow Point

At a middle school I recently read a bunch of students’ retellings of how Raven, Salmon and Orca put this rock here long ago.


After biking I rode my longboard down to the Canada Day festivities. Which were whatever. But I got a falafel from a truck and got to ride my board around a bit. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how much I like cruising around on that thing. I bike because it’s a good way to get places. The actual process of biking doesn’t usually give me pleasure. On a board maybe it’s just the lower speeds, the subtle steering, the lack of extra equipment or the fact that I can hop off and walk at any moment, but it makes me happy.

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bay area baseball

Last week I was on vacation in San Francisco. I went for baseball. The Jays were playing the Giants, and because of the way interleague play is set up in an unbalanced fashion this is a pretty rare occurrence. My current job pays me well enough to be able to go on vacation and even buy decent tickets for sold-out ballgames in expensive cities. So I went.

But before going to see the two teams I cared about play, I went to Oakland. I hadn’t really thought about the proximity that Oakland and San Francisco share until I arrived and learned it was a quick trip across the bay. I had some mistaken notion that Oakland was further, maybe past small mountains or something, but you can see it from SF.

The Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge. I took the BART under it to get to Oakland, which is on the lower right of the picture.

I took the train and bought a cheap centre-field ticket, because really, I don’t care about the A’s beyond their Moneyballishness. I also knew that O.co Coliseum is the kind of place I’d be able to sit in better emptier seats by the 4th inning if I cared to.

Coco Crisp

Coco Crisp playing centre field in the first inning of White Sox @ Athletics, June 2, 2013.

But I liked sitting out in centre field. Foul territory is huge, but the mere fact that the ballpark is outside gave this prairie boy with deep-seated memories of the Metrodome a good impression. I did wander the coliseum and watched innings from a few spots, but returned for the 6th and following, which meant I was in a good spot to witness a positioning thing I’d never seen so clearly.

There’s an Oakland runner on first. The pitcher delivers. The runner breaks for second. The shortstop moves left to cover second to catch him stealing. The batter smacks the ball to the spot the shortstop just vacated. The shortstop lunges right but the ball glances off the end of his glove into the outfield. The play ends with a runner on first and third. I loved it because I was looking at the exact right spots for the play to make sense in my unmechanically assisted view. Those perfect little moments are totally why I go to baseball games.

The End Result

Athletics v. White Sox, O.co Coliseum, Oakland, June 2, 2013

At the first Jays-Giants game I went to I got to see Tim Lincecum pitch like it was 2009. He was so good. In that game I was sitting on the third base side and had a perfect view of the double play where they called Josh Johnson out and he totally wasn’t. Sergio Romo closed out the game (and caught the ceremonial first pitch by a kid, who totally didn’t bounce it).

Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum, AT&T Park, San Francisco, June 4, 2013

But the highlight of that game was the father and maybe 7-year-old son sitting in front of me and their interactions with the old park attendant in charge of our section. The old guy was a proponent of grassroots cheering. He was the kind of guy who would whistle the traditional “Charge!” songs and yell for people to get loud when the Giants were on offense. Once the section got going the ballpark organist would join in. The kid loved that guy, and then mistakenly tried to start similar cheering when the Jays were batting. The old guy was all “No no no kid, that ain’t how it works. You only cheer when we’ve got 2 strikes on the enemy.” The kid’s dad had that kind of awkward minor embarrassment but thankful mien and tried to teach the kid a bit more cheering etiquette instead of just how the game worked as the innings moved on.

R.A. Dickey v. Buster Posey

R.A. Dickey v. Buster Posey, AT&T Park, San Francisco, June 5, 2013

At my third game R.A. Dickey pitched well, and I got to see Zito do some Zitoish pitching. There was a couple stuffing AllStar voting ballots in the row ahead of me through the first few innings (if you wonder why Buster Posey is beating out Yadier Molina to be the NL catcher, the Giants’ fans are organized). I was also sitting in (almost) my favourite spot in the ballpark to watch right-handed hitters from. There were a couple of good foul balls up the left-field line but not that perfect double that hooks and stays just fair. Oh well. You cannot have everything.

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my friend makes rings

Last night I was invited to a beach bonfire with libraryfolk and it occurs to me I am learning more about what it might be like to be a north islander. Saturday past some high school students were talking about their beach fires and how that’s what you do since it’s all there is to do in Campbell River. The bits of beachfire-making knowledge those teens shared with me (a prairie-dweller and terrible fire maker) had all these echoes out in the evening with people who were talking about their grandkids.

I don’t know what the Winnipeg-centric equivalents to that shared intergenerational but local experience would be. I guess if I was a person who’d had a tradition of beach-going I’d have more connection to this, but it’s still a bit different having to drive for an hour compared to riding you bike for 15 minutes down to a suitable beachy spot.

I had my first ever performance review last week and with that I’m now officially a permanent employee. I understand that’s supposed to be a good thing, but man, I think in my head the word permanent is only ever linked with disability and death. “Permanent employee” is a term that screams its own lying nature. Almost all those old hand library workers on the beach last night eventually stopped being employees, and the ones that haven’t yet will someday.

But the beach and a fire and enjoying the fact that our winter was negligible (though dark) were all fine things to experience temporarily on a Wednesday night.

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time and work

Yesterday I watched a documentary about the Chinese artist/dissident Ai Weiwei. The scenes where he was in Chengdu made me miss China. Not that I was especially happy when I was living in China, but visiting China after my term was done? I loved it.

Maybe I just miss being on vacation. I know from Australia that working five days a week wears me down. After easter I was joking with some of my coworkers about how I could get used to that 3-day work week/4-day weekend cycle. But it wasn’t a joke exactly. I totally wish my job was a (predictable) part time one. Especially here in Campbell River where I do not need to be working as much as I do to pay my rent (as opposed to Vancouver or Sydney).

I mean, I like making enough money I don’t have to put off buying groceries till my paycheque comes in. I don’t want to make less per hour, just work less. Socking money away in a bank account is something I’ll appreciate eventually (when Aileen and I hit the trans-siberian for example), but for now it’s not exactly providing a huge amount of pleasure for me the way lazy long weekends do.

But I have vacation time coming, and I’m taking it in San Francisco. The Jays are playing two games against the Giants the first week of June and I’ll be there. I bought tickets yesterday and had to fight very hard to not spend hundreds of dollars on each one.

I got one seat behind the plate-ish along the home-3rd base line (which is my favourite place to watch a ballgame from even if it is thirty rows further up from where I’d get them at a Goldeyes game), and the other by the Giants bullpen lined up along the 2nd-3rd basepath. I’m hoping Lawrie’s back with the big club and isn’t injured so I can watch him do his thing fairly closely. It’s too bad about Reyes’ ankle injury.

Sometimes I think about my time here in Campbell River being something like my time in Wanzhou. When I do that it feels more manageable. I mean, I couldn’t possibly go to San Francisco for a week or Vancouver for a weekend from Wanzhou. And I made it through those years all right. But I worked a lot less as a mediocre teacher.

Sigh.

That’s my infrequent update on what is happening in my non-reading life. (For my reading life, as always check Librarianaut)

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