What’s Next? (How to use stress now to fight off boredom later)

What’s Next? (How to use stress now to fight off boredom later)

Isn’t it ironic that I’m sitting here about to write a blog post titled “What’s Next?”, and yet the page remains blank? How could I possibly figure out what actually comes next?

Classes are finished, summer is on the horizon, and I (like quite a few other people) am in that strange in-between period called “change”, where I have a moment to breath before diving into the next thing.

I’m trying hard not to be enveloped by the void of momentary lethargy and negative air that remains now that the hustle and bustle of CreComm has come to a halt.

I can complain all I want during the school year about deadlines and insane workloads, but at the end of the day it felt good to be making things and staying busy. Even if it was more or less because I was being told to do it.

Quite frankly, I really needed to be told. Otherwise I would not have accomplished so much and actually put my twitchy squirrel brain to work.

But often in moments of stress I found myself thinking–wow, if only I had the time, I could be writing that song, making that video, writing out that idea, working towards that goal.

So to pre-emptively fight off the boredom, I do this:

  • Every time you feel like you’re drowning in assignments and stress, unable to do what you really want–identify that specific thing you want to do.
  • Do you wish you were travelling? Hiking somewhere? Working on a personal project? Playing music? Write it down.
  • Keep adding to the list of productive things you wish you had time for.
  • You may think you can’t come up with much right away, but keep that list handy. The next time you’re laying in bed, stressing about tomorrow (and how the morning is probably like less than 5 hours away now) some anxiety-born idea is going to pop into your head that you wish you had time for. The list will stack up.
  • This is a way to turn your frustrations and stress-thoughts into productivity.
  • Even the simple act of writing it down will take a little load off your mind.
  • Think of if as stock piling ammo against boredom.

Maybe this is a super obvious thing to do, I’m not sure, but it’s helped me along the way quite a lot. This is what I’ve stocked up so far. Hopefully I’ve insulated myself against feeling useless in the time between now and when I find a job.

This is a to-do list written by Past Sean, addressed to Future Sean:

  • Set up your next show
  • Write more songs about weird observations and strange thoughts
  • Make a rad music video.
  • Brainstorm ideas for 3 micro-films to make over the summer
  • Make those 3 micro-films ya dummy
  • Read the 3 books that have been collecting dust on your desk.
  • Replace them with 3 more to read.
  • Plan a canoe trip or a hiking trip
  • Go walk downtown and take at least 5 solid photos
  • Make like a legit picnic for 2 or more people and go eat it with them. Somewhere with trees and long grass. Like crackers and cheese even. It don’t matt-a.
  • Buy some clothes. Seriously, everything you own is falling apart. Are you homeless?
  • Buy a 50 mm lens, even if it means you have to continue to look homeless as a result.
  • Go a day without your phone–even if it’s just so you can walk around for a week bragging to everyone about how free-spirited and pure you are.
    • But no joke, I think this would really be good for you, bra’.
  • Come up with some really dumb tattoo ideas, and probably scrap all of them the next morning. Then come up with an actual good one
  • Write a letter to your poor neglected Australian pen pal before she forgets you exist. Seriously.
  • Buy someone you appreciate a small gift. For no reason. Just because people should do that more, I don’t know.
  • GET A JOB.

To be continued…

…keep adding things when you think of them!

The trick is to never let the well run dry.

a6ohN - Imgur




New Albums to Look Out For this Year

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up (June 16, 2017)

Finally, this album comes off of like 6 years of no music from the Fleet Foxes. I listened to the album preview (below) and so far every song sounds amazing. Super excited for this to come out, super bummed I won’t get to see them play this year. It’s a mix of vintage sounding, folk-y music with incredible reverberating harmonies and instrumentation. Gorgeous music, feels like warm weather on your skin.

Feist – Pleasure (April 28, 2017)

I’m really not sure what to expect with this album, but I can only assume it’s going to be good. Metals came out in 2011 and was my favourite album that she’s ever made so I hope this one stacks up. The title track starts slow but it’s worth the wait for it to build up. I swear at 1:52 it’s like you’re listening to The Kills all of the sudden.

Alt-J – Relaxer (June 2, 2017)

In my opinion Alt-J is one of the most unique bands out there, honestly. Such a distinctly weird sound. The new track’s video has some glitchy, arcade-game-esque footage, and this song’s a slow burner that kind of relaxes me. Whatever they put out, I’m sure it’s going to be amazing.


Animal Teeth – ??? (???)

I’ve been hearing rumours of new Animal Teeth music through the grapevine. Don’t know when but I hope to hell it’s soon. Loving all the new songs they’ve been playing at shows in Winnipeg, and I’m looking forward to having my own copy of them. Here’s the most recent album.

Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog (May 5, 2017)

This is the first proper full album from Mac since Salad Days and I like where it’s headed. Another One felt a little too flimsy and experimental to me. It didn’t have those catchy-as-hell songs like “Ode to Viceroy” or the “Salad Days” title track. I’m excited for this one either way, but I hope it goes back to a more “percussive and full-guitar sound – Mac”, rather than “synths and odd dreary melodies Mac”.

Gorillaz – Humanz (April 28)

Gorillaz are surging back to relevance all of the sudden with this weird new video, tour dates, and a new album coming out soon. The song comes off like a slightly more modernized Gorillaz sound with those classic, catchy choruses and solid underlying beats that we’ve come to know and love from this awesome cartoon outfit. The Gorillaz are an aesthetic. Ain’t no denying it.



Tunes for Studying

Here’s a list of some of my favourite instrumental music to listen to while studying or getting work done:

Music For Studying

Pigarette – Pointsettia

  • Smooth math-y guitar riffs over R&B rhythms. It’s a little excited and busy sounding at times, but the guitar playing is so smooth and sleek. I find it’s a perfect pace for doing something analytical or any kind of studying.

Clever Girl – No Drum and Bass in the Jazz Room

  • Same math-y riffs like the first example, but a little more chaotic and loud. Still is great for studying to me. I get so in the zone listening to complex rhythms and licks like this. Hopefully it works for you too *shrug*.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

  • This isn’t technically instrumental, but it’s good mood music for me when I study. Works well for writing too. Thom’s vocals kinda drift and echo throughout and don’t tend to distract me too much.

Music for Writing

The Revenant Soundtrack

  • This inspiring, emotional, and almost minimalist soundtrack is perfect for creative writing, and specifically something kind of dark, sad, or dramatic.

Interstellar Soundtrack

  • This is obviously good for most kind of sci-fi or fantasy writing. I especially like the song “Stay”, I think I listened to that one repeat the last time I was working on a weird short story or something.
  • In terms of creative writing or scriptwriting, I think looking up the soundtrack to a film that has a similar feel to whatever you’re writing can really help put you in the right mindset to establish a mood in your writing. Soundtracks are awesome for that honestly.

Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms

  • This album can be pretty hectic and all over the place, but it’s so mysterious and atmospheric and emotional. I can’t get enough of Patrick Watson, and I probably never will. I think I remember someone using the term “Sci-fi folk” to describe them, and as far as I would guess, they could be very well be the only band under that genre’s umbrella.
  • Good for writing anything adventurous and strange. Good for feeling things and being stoned too. That goes for pretty much all of this music.

These are just some things like to listen to while working, but I’m always looking for suggestion. Comment below if you have any good instrumental/non-instrumental stuff that you use to get in the zone.

A day in the life of JM, set to “Glory”, by The Acorn

Had so much fun shooting and editing this for a school assignment. The song is “Glory” by The Acorn. Pretty sure I got it from doing a USB swap with Emily Sideen when we met in high school (which is honestly my favourite thing to do).

I love the the feel, and the instrumentation of this song. The clang-y percussion, simple guitar part, and deep grinding cello (as you may know, I’m always a sucker for some fine-ass cello).

It feels like morning to me.

A song that can even me out at dawn, or wind me down at dusk. So that’s kind of what I went for with the video.

Thank you to JM, again, for being in it and letting me annoy him constantly for a period of 4 days.

(Re)Claiming Space and Music: Why you should do more to support underrepresented musicians

(Re)Claiming Space and Music: Why you should do more to support underrepresented musicians

I attended a panel of 4 incredible artists discussing representation and the state of the music industry this week called “(Re)Claiming Space and Music”. I’m so thankful I got to listen in and hear some of their ideas, stories, and music.

Something Madeleine Roger said really stuck with me.

She explained how frustrating it can be to try and perform your music while knowing that someone already doubts your ability before you’ve played a single note. Suddenly you have to prove your expertise twofold, while you’re still starting two steps behind, based on someone else’s perception.

Well now you can’t afford to screw up a single note. You’re being scrutinized before you’ve even had a chance.

And when virtually every female musician you talk to can name a time they’ve had to put up with sexist, ignorant nonsense while simply trying to do their job, it’s hard to deny that there’s a problem.

Maybe it’s not you who’s being sexist or ignorant–

But it’s that sound guy who assumes a musician has no idea how to set up her own gear.

It’s a promotor who seems to think booking female musicians is just a matter of fulfilling some kind of quota.

It’s Russell Peters walking on stage at the Junos and pointing to an audience of young females and talented musicians, and calling them “a felony waiting to happen”.

What I heard overwhelmingly at the panel is that every female musician has experienced this kind of thing at one point or another. Often more times than they care to count.

It’s happening now, and there’s no denying it.

So when I look at myself, I think (in the words of Finn the Human): Well, “I am just a simple dude”–but I know I have an important role to play in all this.

We all need to be better allies of female, diverse, and underrepresented musicians.

I will not tolerate hearing/seeing sexist bullshit at a show. I will address it and shut it down to the best of my ability, and so should you.

The more support we put forward, the more new, talented musicians will have the courage to say “Hey. If they can perform up there on stage, maybe I can too.”

Madeleine Roger
Keri Latimer
Alexa Potashnik

The Future of Media? Total Immersion

The Future of Media? Total Immersion

As decades go by I think we’ll see media continue towards deeper and deeper immersion. More practical, and realistic feeling virtual reality is going to go very mainstream as soon as the technology starts to rev its engine.

We’ll have the stuff of Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant, like “neural transcripts” where you plug into the back of your head to experience a film, tv show, or advertisement. You’ll be able to experience a very real fabricated world:

  • with sound,
  • sight,
  • touch,
  • smell,
  • and taste.

Maybe in my lifetime.

It’s already what brands are aiming for: follow us on all social media, get all your news and content from us, achieve total brand unity by buying only Apple devices, “Go to The Walking Dead story-sync to start your virtual two screen experience now. Feel like you’re really there, feasting on Rick Grimes’ rotting corpse.”

Ironically, some would argue that “the walking dead” is what total media immersion will turn us into, but I think I’m more hopeful for the future generation than that.

For every person descending into their wildest dreams of VR-life-fulfillment, someone else will be hacking a driverless car to feel real wind on their face–the thrill of control. Crashing cars into each other just to feel a little more alive (I’m referencing Rant again. Seriously go read it).

The technology is increasing exponentially, but our brain capacity is absolutely not. I feel like that’s gonna bite us all in our collective ass sooner or later–

and then you’re infected.

We killed you off the show. Sorry dude.

We’ll bring you back in season 8 to eat Darryl.

“A Deadly Wandering” is a Must-Read, and a Testament to Thorough Journalism

“A Deadly Wandering” is a Must-Read, and a Testament to Thorough Journalism

A Deadly Wandering is an investigative journalism piece by Pulistzer Prize Winner Matt Richtel about the death of two rocket scientists in a car crash caused by a young man named Reggie Shaw’s texting and driving–and the dialogue that it helped open up in America.

I have to preface this by saying that even as I sat reading, I started to realize how eery it was for my phone to continue buzzing and beeping periodically a foot away from me. All while reading about scientists who study the temptation of checking your phone constantly, and how it satisfies an unhealthy habit of temporary endorphin stimulus in my brain.

The book tells multiple stories side by side, the two main stories being Reggie’s mistake, his trial, and his reckoning, but also the story of the “attention scientists” who have been researching for more than half a century. The story of Reggie Shaw is a vehicle to dive into how the human brain works in terms of distraction and attention, but the science behind it is equally important.

Unfortunately, science is where you lose a significant amount of people in your writing sometimes. What works in A Deadly Wandering is that Richtel tells the stories of the actual scientists behind the research to bring us deeper into what their work means. But not only that, he explores the lives of almost every “character” we encounter throughout the book. I have to admit that at first I felt like it was a distraction in itself.

How exactly is this relevant? I thought. But reading only a little further, I understood.

For example,

  • When Richtel talks about Scientist David Greenfield starting on page 192, he explains that he “spent time himself in rehab.” This validates Greenfield’s research comparing technology addiction to regular addiction, because he himself knows what both feel like.
  • We find out about the prosecuting lawyer, Don Linton’s, childhood, and how he was abused by a priest at a young age. This brings so much more weight to his statement (page 316) to Reggie in the hallway at the end of the trial: “Instead of trying to convert people, your mission is saving lives.” You feel the anger towards the church in his words, and it hits home that much harder.

Little details about these people provide incite into their motivations and perspectives. It makes everyone more human, and makes us relate and empathize with every character on either side of the trial even more.

  •  On page 49, a seemingly inconsequential character named Terryl is introduced and we learn about her horrible home life growing up with her later revealed step father. “Get in here!” he yells at the young girl, “I’m going to blow your mother’s fucking head off.”

She’s an integral part of the story, as we find out later in the book, and the background of her painful childhood helps show us why she is so adamantly committed to making Reggie pay for causing the death of her friend’s husband. As a victim herself, we understand her crusade to advocate for other victims. That’s why it’s so much more meaningful when Reggie speaks at the government chamber meeting, advocating for a texting and driving ban, and Terryl says, “I completely turned, in a moment,” and has a complete change of heart. Reggie is acknowledging and taking responsibility for his actions, something her abusive step-father never did.

Obviously, all these intimate details about people in the book highlight the importance of detailed interviews and rigorous reporting, but also spending a lot of time with your subjects. Richtel says in the “Author’s Note” (Page 386) that there is “no substitute for getting to know people over time,” recounting that he had up to 5 years of contact with some of the people in the book.

“Memories can be unreliable, and accounts biased,” he says on page 385, before detailing the enormous lengths he went to to maintain accuracy: matching different individuals’ accounts of the same events, referencing diaries and journal entries, playing back court videos, and re-reading documentation of legal proceedings.

Often we get to hear both sides of important moments in the story, and especially the trial. According to the recorded video, and the accounts of Leila and Jackie in the gallery, Reggie seemed often blank and unmoved, specifically by the testimony of Dr. Strayer about distracted driving. But according to what Reggie says, the floodgates had opened in his mind and at that moment he was realizing that he must have been texting at the time of the crash, and that he alone was at fault.

It all speaks to a commendable level of objectivity on the part of Richtel. He also waits until more than three quarters of the way through the book before being inserting his first person perspective into the story. He even mentions a New York Times article earlier in the book that he himself wrote, but refrains from mentioning that he wrote it until the Author’s Note (Page 385) because he “did not wish to interrupt the flow of the story.”

I think one thing that his writing has clearly shown is the power of details. You should never underestimate the relevance of a particular anecdote in the grand scheme of a story. I completely understand why this book is so critically claimed. Not only because of how thorough it was, but because of the power this detailed story has to change the reader’s perspective on technology and attention.

As Richtel talks about comparing internet usage to pulling slots and winning nothing, he says the internet will often “deliver us worthless information,” (Page 198). But we keep checking in with the hope of getting that endorphin release from developing another “plot point” in our lives. Richtel still manages to stay objective, maintaining that technology has it’s place in our lives, and we just need balance.

And through referencing countless studies and testimonies from neuroscientists he clearly shows how much attention is taken away from the road by your phone. Near the end of the book, Richtel seeks to find out how close Reggie is to being like “any other person” in terms of his ability to stay attentive. After scanning Reggie’s brain Dr. Jason Watson says that he’d “classify Reggie as high in terms of attention,” further proving how a crash like that could really have happened to anyone.

But not only that, just the shear guilt and shame that Reggie experiences throughout the book, and the pain and grief of the two widows and their family should be enough for you to never want to take out your phone on the road again.

As Barbara Harsha (a longtime travel safety advocate) says on page 376, “The culture is: ‘It’s not me, it’s you. I’m the good driver.” That’s the reason why a tragic story told in passing still might not convince people not to text and drive. But Reggie’s story does. As he reinforces throughout many of his speeches, he never wants anyone else to end up like him and cause someone else’s death–or his or her own death. He doesn’t want anyone else to have to be a slave to guilt and regret.

That’s why I find the author’s direct address to Reggie, at the end of the book on page 387, to be particularly touching:

“Reggie, I hope that in some small way, the contribution you have made to this account adds sufficiently to the portfolio of your testimony so that you can forgive yourself.”