Monday, January 19, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

why I love cartoons (plus an episode of my current favorite).

There are few things better in the universe of Pamplemousse than a well made animated comedy type show. It perhaps comes from a long lost time of my youth when my parents would drive into Edmonton from my childhood home town of Spruce Grove to attend an Amway meeting.

That's right. My parents, for some years, sold Amway door to door. It even took me to Disney Land as a 6 year old, since that is where the conference was.

On an interesting side note, my brother was conceived on that trip. This bit of family lore is more disturbing when you factor in that we only had one hotel room and it was shared with my grandmother, me, my 4 year old sister and my parents. I pray that the deed was done when the Amway youth coordinator took me and my sister away to do some kid related activity.

My parents were also on a born again christian kick at the time and that called for a trip to the crystal cathedral. As a result of that period of christianity, my brother's middle name is Graham after Billy Graham. This has absolutely nothing to do with my love of cartoons, but it does make for an interesting snap shot of my family history. For those of you keeping track, that is two cult like activites my parents engaged in.

To be honest, the whole Amway era is a bit of a blur. I was too young to be truly embarrassed by it. I do remember my mom and dad practising their sales technique, which I could tell my father hated doing. I suppose they wanted to be 'financially independant' which is just a nice way of saying filthy rich.

I don't talk about this period in the early 1980's with my parents. Perhaps I should, but I think that they are embarrassed by all the born again and money making ideals that probably didn't seem out of place in the era of shameless money making and wearing of polyester. It could have been worse. They could have developed an addiction to cocaine and key parties.

Anyway, my teevee watching was strictly controlled. I in no way am bitter of this fact. Though I currently love television and am having to force myself to watch it more sparingly, I firmly believe that a child should develop an imagination for her/himself before television completely destroys it.

Amway Saturdays were an exception. While on regular Saturdays I would not be allowed to sit and watch a morning's worth of animated ... well let's face it... crap (at that time anyway) like all my other friends, if Mom and Dad had an Amway meeting with other prospective yuppies, then it was off to home of the local Amway chieftain.

The chieftain's aging mother would watch over me and my sister. No one else had kids under 10, I guess. Or perhaps the other parents sprung for a babysitter.

The old lady would just sit there and smile. I remember her being nice. I remember that she eventually died and that I attended the funeral, which was my first.

I digress.

The real point was that instead of grade 1 homework (my mom always assigned me extra math problems on vacation and weekends in the form of work books. This I do harbour resentment for.), I instead took advantage of the old lady and my parents' being distracted by dreams and promises of easy wealth. I watched cartoons.

I don't remember which cartoons, but I remember that I watched them for the entire length of the meeting and that I loved them. Back then I loved adventure cartoons with super heros and such.

Later, as my french immersion progressed, I read bande déssinée which is just french for comic book. My mother was horrified (and continues to be) as in her mind cartoons offer nothing but pablum for the brain.

She is, of course, wrong. Much can be learnt from cartoons. Languages can be easily learnt through cartoons. At least the learning is faster than with grammar text books. I even had a comic book bible which provided me with a wealth of theological knowledge that is still trapped in my brain. How else could I remember bible stories having not attended a sermon since the age of 17 and still go head to head with crazed fundamentalist christians?

Cartoons offer an escape. Animation makes anything possible. Which is why I love them so.

This overly long post is all to introduce to those that have not seen it, my new favorite toon... Lucy Daughter of the Devil. I don't need to explain it... it does a fine job all on it's own.

Please enjoy,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

fuck confidence.

It is the usual fear/depression ridden post-holiday season.

The weather is shit.

It was shit before, but all the lights and christmas trees and menorahs are now conspicuously absent as is the cheer. I think most of us are now tired of our gifts which have become merely something more we own, and we have to face the results of the orgy of consumerism. I still have that visa bill to open... I’m giving myself another day or so...

As with the weather, my mood is also shit.

Recently, I have been working. When I mean working, I mean leaving our little home and going to somewhere else where there are almost zero distractions.

Zero distractions are good for me. I believe I probably would get more done in life if I lived in a hippy commune or a monastery. I wouldn’t be happy though. Happiness trumps getting things done every time. Admittedly, I do feel enormously happy when things are done too... sometimes I’m complex.

I was editing a demo about a boxer. For those not living in artsy fartsy Mile End or the world of filmmaking, a demo is a short video about a project that a filmmaker would like to do, but requires more money to do and thus must show various funding agencies and production companies what she/he intends to do with the project, thus convincing them that have the money, to part with it.

So that was my task. The work was good. I did learn a lot. But as with all learning comes the beating that the ego receives.

‘You’re still a neophyte editor – don’t feel bad... You’re technical skills need improving.... Why did you do that?... In other work places this would be unacceptable... You’d probably be fired or something...’

I’m paraphrasing some of that. I’m very fond of my producer. To be fair to both of us, he is an experienced producer/director, and I am a relatively new editor. I am very aware that I have much to learn and accept that much of what he said, though unnecessary to verbalize, was true.

Essentially the message was that I lacked confidence.

It’s that word... confidence, that currently pisses me off. I will come down with great fury on the next person that suggests I need more confidence, self or otherwise.

It is not that I lack the knowledge, or that my skills preclude me from finishing tasks. It is that I wish not to pretend knowing things when I do not. Other people think of this as a lack of confidence; I see it as honesty. The terminology gets a little murky here. What I hear referred to as confidence sounds more like arrogance... and I fear arrogance. It is a most dangerous trait.

If I tell someone that I do not know something, but that I will endeavor to find out, that is not me being meek, that is me being my honest self. I do have every confidence that with a reasonable amount of time, I will find the right answer. With experience, the time required to answer correctly will drop.

In the fast pace of today (everyone seems to think that the ‘today’ is fast paced – when wasn’t it?) an answer, whether right or wrong is what is required. Bosses will push for an answer. They generally don’t want to hear ‘Give me a minute and I’ll get back to you’ or ‘I’m not sure. I will look into it and find the correct answer.’

Imagine a lowly intelligence analyst working away in some dungeon of an office wondering when he/she will have a desk next to a window, getting a phone call demanding an immediate answer.

Big boss: ‘That photo I’m looking at taken by a satellite... that looks like trucks full of nerve gas, right?’

Lowly analyst: ‘I’m not sure, sir. Perhaps, but I’ll need to look into it some more. We really need a better angle on this to know, cause it might just be a fuel truck...’

Big boss: ‘What the hell?! Don’t you have any confidence? Come on, show us what sort of an education you’ve got, college boy. Gimme an answer. That’s what we pay you for, isn’t it?’

This is probably how the latest Gulf War started; an unreasonable demand for instant answers. How about a ‘I’m confident that I’m not sure.’ Would that wildly speculated conversation have led to more reasonable decision?

Most of us don’t have daily decisions that have that sort of historical impact (mistake). Most of us have jobs that have the same level of stress artificially induced by assholes who having read the latest management book to hit the best seller list think being bold and demanding is the ultimate sign of leadership and that results matter more than the manner in which the results were achieved. [Again, I must note that my producer is a friend and not actually an asshole... most of the time. This paragraph does not actually apply to him in any way.]

The sad truth is that we all have to contend with the notion of instant answer, instant results... no one has patience anymore, it seems. The pressure to perform, ironically, tends to come from those who cannot perform themselves.

We should all slow down a bit and realize that the correct answer is more important than just any answer.

And I have to realize that learning is not always fun and nearly always results in some level of ego bruising. I’m alright though. Someone called last night, and told me I did good. And the producer thanked me too. Tomorrow will likely be a better day.