Natalie MacLean — award-winning wine writer, speaker, judge, and author of the book “Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass” — commissioned me to make a video to sell subscriptions to her wine newsletter.
This was really fun to do, as Natalie is very funny, pleasant, and natural, both in person and in front of the camera.
Shot with a Canon Vixia HF100, and edited in Final Cut Pro. Soundtrack Pro was used for audio editing, and Magic Bullet used for filters.
Found this old video of back when I lived on Island Park in a 16th floor apartment, with Trolley and another person who shall remain unnamed.
Trolley looks so young! It’s not his face, just his hair that does it. And remember when I couldn’t stop listening to that AFI album? Seems like so long ago. I guess you’d only remember if you’ve been reading since 2004/2005, when we did stuff like this.
I wonder if I’m still too young to feel nostalgic. It seems like the only people who reminisce are those who are much older than me, but I already get nostalgic about my university days, when things were relaxed, I could sleep in, or skip class, and I didn’t have a mortgage to worry about.
A demonstration of the Melodica app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. There are similar apps out there — Tonepad, Synthtopia — but none of them are as simple and polished. That being said, there are a few features that could make Melodica stand out even more, such as the ability to save compositions on-the-fly and layer them under new ones, or the ability to change the sample sound, so I’m hoping they’ll be added in an update. Regardless, I’ve only had this app for a day, and I’ve been enjoying it immensely.
Some tips for composing/performing songs in Melodica:
The rests, or spaces between the notes, are important too. Don’t feel that you need to fill the board with notes. Just like in jazz, it’s important to hear that notes that aren’t played. Sometimes a melody is strong enough that a few spartan notes by themselves are enough to establish something beautiful. Or you can places notes on every beat of a measure, except the downbeat, which subtly implies “this silence is where the downbeat is supposed to be, even though no note is being played”.
Don’t feel that you need to use bass notes to establish a rhythm. You can switch it up with high notes as well, and have the baseline as the melody.
Syncopation is possible. If you imagine each of the 16 squares going across as quarter notes in four bars in 4/4 time, then you can establish as rhythm by having a note at the beginning (counting as the “one”) of each bar, and the third note if you like. You can achieve a nice syncopated sound by putting a note on the second and fourth quarter note of a bar. But be careful; if you decide to remove certain notes, don’t remove the rhythm before you remove the syncopated notes. Otherwise, the listener easily loses a sense of where the downbeat is supposed to fall, it begins to sound like you’re making a mistake, and the song easily falls apart.
Try to have a purpose, or an idea of where you want to go. Improvisation is totally one of the main advantages of Melodica, but you can still decide where you want to go during a song. If you can see the structure then it’ll be easier to work up to that ahead of time. For example, if you want a song that starts quiet, builds slowly to a climax, then crashes dramatically before re-establishing a steady pace, then you can plan out which notes to add and take away that will quickly and effectively achieve these changes.
End your songs. Instead of just stopping, or clearing the board, fade out by taking elements away. And if you can, end your phrases, which means removing the notes from left to right as they’re being played. If you remove notes from right to left, it’ll sound like you stopped abruptly in the middle of a song. Sort of like hearing Westminster chimes without the last note, leaving the listener to wonder where the resolution is.
Use several notes of the same pitch in a row sparingly. This is totally a personal preference, but I find I get tired of hearing these quickly.
Songs sound better with contrast. That means keeping some space between highs, mids, and lows. Or abandoning the mid-range section altogether, since there isn’t much vertical room to compose. This is because you can create the illusion of more layers by having strongly defined parts of a song. Otherwise, it all sounds like one complex melody.
Frédéric, Misun, and the boys are moving to France to explore a new business venture. To say goodbye to everyone, they rented out a karaoke bar and had a party. The night was a cacophony of sound, for the kids were given free reign of the dance floor and ran around in circles, while the adults took turns singing and eating.
This is my first “5x5”; a video of five vignettes at five seconds each. It’s a helpful guideline for putting together footage that doesn’t necessarily have a consistent theme. It’s also very restrictive, as five seconds is barely enough to see what’s going on in a particular clip, and that means you really have to find the essence of action. I generally don’t make 5x5s because I always have a story to tell, but in this case, it’s fun just to see how people sing. This is very different from the Chinese karaoke parties I was witness to as a kid, where the adults take their singing very seriously, so everyone is very quiet, attentive, and quite rehearsed.
The one who stole the show was Akio, who had heard Frédéric, Misun starting a duet of Ne Me Quitte Pas, took the microphone from Misun, and started repeating the line he had just learned.
I told Frédéric, “It’s amazing that you’re not nervous up there”, and he told me, “I just said to myself that I want to have fun, and it wouldn’t be fun if I didn’t sing, so I wasn’t nervous.” I wish I could do that.
I found this old video of a bunch of us cooking burgers on the old Coleman while camping in 2004. Back before Trolley or Tyler were married (or even engaged). I love the way Adam, as the only gay member of our crew, puts a t-shirt on his head and sidles up to Tyler to join in the merriment. Every time I watch this clip, I laugh at this exact point, in the exact same way.
I haven’t been camping in too long. Even though I’m a city slicker, I love to get out and away about once a year. Waking up in the cold, fresh air; talking around a campfire; forgoing the luxury of showers and the internet; these are the things that bring you back to your humanity. And often it’s as much about the people as the event, because there are barely any opportunities for us to get together. I miss those guys just as much.
Grandma loves her parrot. We carry it around for her, and she sleeps with it on her bedside table. Whenever she talks to it, I can never really tell if she really is talking to her parrot in an act of senility, or whether she does it to humour us.
A note on the translation: The name “Fat Bird” is really “Fat Woman Parrot” in Chinese. The word “parrot” is a homonym for the last part of grandma’s name, so “Fat Woman Parrot” sounds like it’s referring to her as well. That’s how she got her nickname as “Fat Woman”.
This is grandma on a good day. I love to see her smile and laugh.
Tung Choi Street (or Ladies’ Market), as seen in my Hong Kong: Markets video as the area covered with blue tarp, is for the ladies, and opened all day.
Temple Street, on the other hand, only starts to come alive at night, and is also known as Men’s Street. There are no stalls out during the day. This is the street that one of my favourite Stephen Chow movies, God of Cookery, is based on, so it was awesome to be able to see it in person.
Instead of handbags, clothes, and posters sold in Ladies’ Market, they sell cheap men-oriented trinkets like batteries, lighters, baseball caps, electronics, camera gear, and sex toys. There’s also a section with rows of stalls for fortune telling (at 2:12), offered in both Chinese and English languages, and European (tarot) and Asian (face, palm reading) flavours.
Temple street is also known for it’s roadside dining, where you can order pots stuffed with meat or deep fried delicacies. I was warned not to eat anything on temple street though, as the standards are too low now1. One might get away with an upset stomach at best, and end up with a trip to the hospital at worst.
Since Temple Street is notoriously shady, where there’s more open prostitution, drug dealings, and other unsavoury activities, I limited my filming on the off-chance that I may have captured something I shouldn’t2. Can you spot the two hookers?
Even my dad won’t eat there anymore, which is saying something. [↩]
During the walk through the stalls, I was yelled at once by a vendor to put my camera away. [↩]
Hong Kong is commonly divided in two — Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula — by Victoria Harbour. One of the most iconic ways to travel between the two sides is by Star Ferry. It’s a popular and picturesque method of transportation, because it’s inexpensive (about $2.2 HKD or $0.30 CAD for a one-way ride) and allows for a great view of Hong Kong’s famous skyline. A fleet of 12 ferries carries 70000 people a day, even though there are many cross-harbour tunnels and bridges that have been built to allow for automobile transportation. The ride takes about 10 minutes, including boarding and alighting.
Maybe I was being naïve, but I was picturing something like Washington Square Park, except instead of chess board tables, there would be people sitting around, discussing Chuang Tzu’s parables, or sprightly conversations about the happiness of fish. Instead, it was more like a gigantic fortune-telling, wishing well extravaganza. People go there to worship Taoist deities by burning incense, praying to them for their wishes to come true, and have their fortunes told through the practice of kau cim, which is when they shake a container full of bamboo sticks until one falls out, and the character on the stick is interpreted by a soothsayer1.
It amazes me how vastly different the Taoist philosophy is from the religion. I couldn’t relate to any of this at all. The Taoists here are trying to get a holiday — on Lau Tzu’s birthday, if I understand correctly — because other religions get a day off. This strikes me as somewhat strange, since Lao Tzu is still disputed to be a mythical figure, with an unknown date of birth. I also have to wonder if Lao Tzu would approve of such a ritual.
At one point, there was an old lady worshiping at the entrance of a building, and a woman came out and said, “Ma’am, this is the information booth. You don’t need to worship us.” My uncle and I couldn’t stop laughing.
(This was a quiet day in the middle of the afternoon. Apparently, on special days of the Chinese lunar calendar, it’s packed, and the incense smoke too thick to breathe. Superstition has always been a part of the Chinese culture.)
That’s the part of the video where the people are kneeling, and you can hear the bamboo shakers. It’s a short clip because I wasn’t allowed to film there. [↩]
This was by far the best concert I’ve ever been to in my life, and not just because Shane dedicated It’s A Drag to me and Julie (although that was TOTALLYAWESOME).
It was the intimate setting, chill atmosphere and awesome music that made it unlike any other performance I’ve attended. This private show was at 160 Workshops, a house that regularly opens its doors for craft workshops to bring people together in the Ottawa community.
Shane’s songs are always best in small venues like this. They’re personal and subtly striking, and the acoustic sound really brings that warmth across.
Shane did a mix of old and new material, then took requests from audience members, along with some participation on vocals, spoons, and cowbell. There also happened to be Canadian nerdcore rapper Jesse Dangerously in attendance, and after some prodding, he provided rhymes for Girls by the Beastie Boys, along with beatboxing background percussion for Les Ouaouarons.
And, of course, Krista Muir (aka Lederhosen Lucil) was the headliner, promoting her new full-length album, Accidental Railway. The album includes a huge map for a fictional town that Shane made, with names of streets and places taken from memories of their tour together.
Back in the summer, John and I went to the Ontario Science Centre. The planetarium was up-and-running, so we got to view the latest Mars landscape pictures in 360 degrees. We also arrived at the Science Arcade just in time to see a girl on the stage with her hand on the big Van de graaff, one of those mystical flagship images you often see in their advertisements.
We hadn’t been there since we were little kids, but the interactive tests and experiments are always fun, even when you’re older.