Somehow life managed to transport me to age 65 this year placing me firmly in the category of senior citizen. Of course, I resist that as much as possible while still getting the geezer discounts and pensions that accrue to me. Turns out, for me, 65 is the new 45. I originally told friends 65 is the new 40 then I started comparing myself to some 40-year-olds I know and realized I needed to adjust my figures.
It’s become obvious from The Long View that there are at least two kinds of age: the number of years I’m around which is relevant to the system as my part of the herd, and age as a state of awareness which is relevant to me as an individual and the growth I accomplish in this life. Both need to be honoured.
The Mighty Avenger accompanied/enabled me on my 14,000 kms of summer travel, alas, for the final time. Dodge has decided to discontinue making Avengers so my moving persona will be overhauled next year when it comes time for Mother Enterprise to birth me a new vehicle. I will miss the Avenger. Over the past five summers I’ve driven ten different Avengers, all basically the same. Sitting in the car was as familiar as sitting in my living room. The performance was consistent car to car, year to year, as was the service I received at Enterprise.
My large video project The Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories wound up on YouTube after many unsuccessful attempts at getting it into film festivals. YouTube has the individual stories plus the entire work. Along with the sixteen short videos, I posted the script and the backstory for each story on my blog. This was the year I went after free wild samples big time, downloading hours of free images and sounds from sites like freesound.org and archive.org. This provided the basic content for a few dozen short videos which I call absurd found art. One example I’m especially fond of is called The Curve. I downloaded a short black and white video clip of a curve in a road and added the muffled sound of people walking. I decribed ten spontaneous stories of events that happened at this curve. The parameters of the descriptions were easy: each had to contain a number. I combined the stories with the video and an hour later had my piece. It needed an intro. The images of the red curtain rising and falling is perfectly absurd. Click the picture below to watch The Curve. It’s 3:45 long. Incorporating found material I created four short videos using my flash fiction stories as narratives. Click the pics to watch. Itinerary Item 1:35 Grass of the Apocalypse 1:17 I Am Aspen Smoke 4:38 God is At Home/Atomic Prayer 4:53 Along with my found art and other video documentations this year, I have been compelled by The Muse to write my coming-of-age in a small town in the 1960s novel, now almost complete. The working title is Some Stuff. My hometown provides the physical layout for the town in the story. None of the characters, including mine, bears much resemblance to anyone in particular. Instead the characters are composites of aspects and traits I’ve noticed over my life. I’ve never embarked on a project this intense or complex. It requires me to spend five to eight hours a day writing. Backed up with a solid outline, the thing starts to write itself after awhile. Characters become overly familiar and take on a life of their own. I see them at the coffee shop or grocery store. A couple of characters have suggested their own destiny to me, some quibble about a line of dialogue I have written for them, other characters will join in the debate. It’s a long conversation that goes on in my head which I empty out daily, spattering it across the pages. No matter how good or bad a character is, I am responsible for every one of them; they live and die by my key strokes. Despite that, I find the characters sometimes use me as their conduit to get the words on the page. I just type what they tell me to.
Over the past five years I’ve devoted an enormous amount of energy and time studying the Criddle/Vane family and their incredible story of survival as pioneers on the Canadian plains. Their reasonably intact homestead has been a constant source of inspiration as I followed their story with the intent of it becoming a screenplay one day. Regular readers of this blog know the homestead is a favourite haunt of mine. I visited the homestead on Monday, June 23 with my cousin Vonda who had never been there before. The house had recently been boarded up (above) so no access inside was available. I’ve felt for some time this would be an excellent idea, at least to protect it somehow. Two days later on Wednesday June 25 arsonists burned the 120 year old Criddle/Vane house to the ground. The crime remains unsolved. The sign on the left is located about three miles south of the turn-off to the Criddle/Vane homestead. Although the house is gone, documentation of it exists in several ways. One of them is my 3:55 video tour of both floors of the interior of the house which I shot in 2013. I haven’t returned to the homestead this year. I can’t really bring myself to see it without the eight-bedroom house towering over the remains of the family’s history, the enormous amount of wood the place required and the glories and tragedies the house contained. It makes me angry that more protection wasn’t given to the place; the threats to it were real and obvious. Another effect of the loss has been a dulling of my interest in heritage. Over the years my endeavors have been quite scatter-gun all over the province, dabbling in this and that. Moving past that I decided to focus my heritage energies on one location and try to make a difference there.
Deciding where to focus my energy and intent was quite easy. I just picked the place with the best heritage stuff outside of Winnipeg – Carberry. I’d helped promote the first Carberry Heritage Festival in 2013 by writing a media release for them and documenting the festival. In 2014 I was much more involved in the festival, attending planning meetings and promoting the event. A family emergency prevented me from attending the 2014 festival but it was deemed a success by organizers and the next festival is August 7 and 8, 2015. Check out the festival website. It wasn’t just the heritage buildings and unique history that attracted me to Carberry, it was and still is the people. I’ve met some of the nicest, most sincere people of my life in Carberry. When I go there I am reminded of growing up in Shoal Lake – the leisurely pace of life, the friendliness of people even to strangers, the lack of most of the crappy things about urban life and the sound and vibration of trains going through town. Carberry heritage people are very appreciative of my contributions. In addition to building the festival website, this year I also wrote and designed a walking tour book of Carberry that features 45 heritage places. I’m still working on some design features for the book but hope to have it available for the summer of 2015. Possibly the Carberry town council will help fund the book then the local heritage organizations can sell it as a fund raiser. I’ll keep you posted.
Winnipeg’s Grand Old Schools
One of my heritage interests has always been Winnipeg’s grand old schools, the ones built in the first half of the 20th century. Over a decade ago I did a freelance series for the Winnipeg Free Press on the schools, even writing and designing a book on the subject that no one wanted to publish. This year I updated the school features and posted them on my Schools page. Earl Grey School (left) was my alma mater for the series which I explain in the article. The other schools already posted are Isbister/Adult Education Centre, Ecole Provencher, Luxton, La Verendrye and Laura Secord. I am posting them in chronological order by the year they were built. I expect to post six to eight school features a year. In addition to the old schools that still stand, I feature ten schools that have been demolished with pictures and descriptions. Along with posts on Winnipeg schools, the Schools page has articles on many rural schools, architect J. B. Mitchell, spiral fire escapes, live-in custodian suites in schools, William Sisler, the first junior high school and much more. I had a teacher mom and I have posted her Grade 11 exams from 1930 along with the rules of conduct teachers of the era were expected to follow. Coming soon is a feature on some of the teaching materials Mom used in the 1930s when she taught in rural Manitoba.
Besides Carberry and the nearby Camp Hughes, two of my favourite spots this year have been Beaudry Park and Alexander Ridge Park. Beaudry is a small provincial park on the bend of the Assiniboine with some hiking trails and picnic areas. It sports a bit of original tall grass prairie. Situated just west of Headingley, the park is perfect for an afternoon’s relaxation to bask in the sun or sit in the shade and work on some details of my novel. Alexander Ridge Park (left) is halfway up the escarpment just west of Miami, Manitoba. The view of the vast lake bed below is spectacular making the 75 minute drive from Winnipeg well worth it. This year the park added a new lookout tower and a washroom. I spent many long hours working out details of the book at the park. I took a couple of old buddies to enjoy the view. Afterward a drive up onto the top of the escarpment wending my way back to the city.
I have a short list of artists of all stripes with whom I will gladly go wherever they want to take me. Musically Tom Waits is on my list, cinematically Federico Fellini and fully completely Dali. Obviously I have tendencies toward the surreal. I miss Fellini’s fantastic visions and not having a new Fellini film to look forward to. To remedy that I seek out filmmakers with similar artistic motives and motifs finding two this year. I have already posted about The Color of Pomegranates (1968), a surrealistic telling of the life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova by Russian director Sergei Parajanov. Released the year before Fellini’s Satyricon, the film creates similar trance-like imagery. The image on the right is from the film. This year I discovered a more recent film The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza, 2013) that celebrates Rome as enthusiastically and humourously as Fellini’s portrait of the city in Roma (1972). Well-known and well-loved writer Jep Gambardella, handsomely portrayed by Toni Servillo (left), has just turned 65 and attends party after party in his honour between which he reminisces about his life in Rome and his love affairs while interviewing a parade of odd characters for a book. Director Paolo Sorrentino, who also wrote the screenplay, often goes full homage to Fellini as in the early scene with the nun on a ladder half obscured by a lemon tree followed by a murmuration of black birds across a chem trail. At the 37 minute point there is a scene in a hallway of two men grieving for the same dead woman that is breath-taking! Modern Rome and Old Rome mesh in delightful ways: Jep’s apartment looks out onto the Colosseum and a performance artist does her bizarre act at the ancient Roman aqueduct. Jep’s friend Stefano has a case that contains the keys to Rome’s most beautiful buildings so we accompany them on a long nighttime jaunt through empty museums, palaces, promenades and incredibly ornate rooms, filmed with a definite shout-out to Fellini’s brothel scene in Satyricon. The sources of humour in The Great Beauty are the same as Fellini’s: bureaucracy, politicians, sexuality, religion. Jep interviews a 104-year- old saint (her feet don’t touch the floor) whose minder says the most outrageous things about her. At Jep’s dinner party in the saint’s honour, a flock of flamingos show up on his balcony (above) followed by the saint’s odd reaction. The Great Beauty won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 2014. If you like witnessing unlikely things you’ve never seen before, The Great Beauty provides two hours and twenty minutes of it, every moment striking and unusual. It’s not for everyone but it could be for you. Netflix has it in Italian with English subtitles. Watch the trailer. Other new movies I enjoyed included St. Vincent, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy (yes, I admit it!), Gone Girl, On the Road and The Hobbit. I’ve just come from seeing The Hobbit in 3-D D-Box. D-Box is where the seat moves and rumbles coordinated with the screen action. It added four bucks to my ticket price but nothing to the movie, immediately becoming more distracting than enhancing. The only time D-Box gave me a convincing sensation of the action was when people rode horses. The Hobbit was terrific fun. Martin Freeman has the perfect Hobbit face. Two movies I especially enjoyed mastered very specific cinematic techniques to tell their well-written stories. Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has Michael Keaton (left) as a washed-up movie superhero trying to make a credible comeback on Broadway. Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and the rest of the cast are marvelous as is the script. The entire movie appears to be one long take, i.e. one uninterrupted shot with no editing. Credit and, hopefully, some awards should go to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for the seamlessness of the movie. The stylish technique created a floating sensation for me that lasted the whole film. If you missed its first run, see it during its Oscar run in theatres. Birdman trailer. Locke takes place entirely inside a car at night and the only actor we see is the driver. That might sound tedious but write a well-oiled script that uses modern telephone technology in a new and inventive fashion to tell the story then hire one of today’s best, though somewhat unknown, actors and the result is riveting entertainment. British writer/director Steven Knight (he created TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) is responsible for the story and the vision and actor Tom Hardy (above) is the driver. The car never stops so the film unfolds virtually in real time. Hardy says near the beginning he’s ninety minutes away from London and he arrives almost exactly ninety minutes later. Considering he has only his chest and above to act with as he talks to various people on his hands-free car phone, Hardy easily overcomes the limitation and makes the role utterly convincing. During the shoot, Hardy caught a head cold which is incorporated into the drive as one more way his life is unraveling. Tom Hardy is under-appreciated even though he’s been in Inception, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Lawless (amazing role) and The Dark Knight Rises. Next summer he is Mad Max. Maybe then he’ll get the recognition his talent merits. Watch Locke trailer.
Thanks to Netflix I watched the British TV series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character and Martin Freeman as Watson (left). This is Sherlock for the 21st century and it’s a hoot with three seasons done and a fourth on the way. Its fun trailer. A fascinating series called Rectify with Aden Young as a newly released prisoner returning to his hometown has two seasons under its belt and returns in the spring. Netflix also has Lie To Me, one of the last series Linda and I watched together. Tim Roth reads facial expressions and body language to determine who’s lying and who isn’t. Educational and fun.
National Public Radio in the U.S. produced a 12-part podcast called Serial that revisits a real 15 year old murder by interviewing all the principals and seeking out new information on the case. Beautifully written and voiced by Sarah Koenig with very high production values I highly recommend it. Serial is available here.
Late in the year I discovered a German throwback band called the Baseballs (right) who capture the genre’s brash fun. Their original songs are often pastiches of numerous hits from the 1950s and 60s. They also rockabilly up some modern songs. On the player below hear the Baseballs jumped up versions of Leona Lewis’s Bleeding Love, Alicia Keys’ No One and Robbie Williams’ Angels.
2014 at readreidread.com was a very good year with almost 80,000 views from 160 countries. I created 132 posts during the year and uploaded 679 pictures to my blog. This year-end review will be my 1010th post. Here’s how my blogging life went month by month.
I started the old schools series with Earl Grey School (left) in all its glory. I posted an article from elsewhere on ways to rebel in the Matrix and added an absurd cut-up video called What He Rebels Against.
Though I eliminated my Fiction page because WordPress is a crappy forum for almost everything now, I posted a short fiction called Bad Men Who Love Jesus. I profiled Isbister School now the Adult Education Centre and offered a feature on the 1948 Reavis Report on the future of schools and education in Winnipeg.
Ecole Provencher was the next old school feature. This month my large video work The Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories (right) was posted on my blog and also on my YouTube channel. You can read the scripts and backstory here and watch the video here. I posted on movies about the Beats made in the 21st century.
We had spring flooding in Manitoba this year that caused Spruce Woods Park to be closed for a while. I did three on-site reports. The next old school is Luxton in Winnipeg’s North End. I documented the ten years of my radio career with pictures and charts in a post called Read Reid Radio.
I reported on my first Spirit Sands hike of the year, my train trip to Dauphin and the awakening of the garter snakes at Narcisse in a post called Snakes Without Ladders. I re-reported on Kevin Richardson and the lions shot with a GoPro camera. An amazing story!
I reported on my visit to the Criddle/Vane homestead discovering the house had been sealed off (left). Two days later the house was burned to the ground by arsonists. I posted a short fiction piece called Watching the River Flow, a life-changing conversation between a husband and wife
More flooding at Spruce Woods Park with on-the-spot video and pictures. The Cooks Creek Medieval Festival was held this year and I have a full report plus video. I helped promote the Carberry Heritage Festival this year and posted often about it.
A major attraction at the Medieval Festival was the Prairie Caravan Tribal Belly Dancers. I offer some background on the troupe and video (right) of one of their festival dances. The heritage festival in Carberry was a success prompting a third year. Check out the Carberry Heritage Festival website for the latest information. More short fiction What Ever Happened To the Squareaway Children – Grindel, Cheyenne, Colloquia.
An offshoot of my rooting around for found footage online I created a daily short video series called The Good Old Days which started last month and accounted for the rest of my posts this month. See two samples: Five-horse, one man swather and stooker :55 and Cigarettes, Oh Boy 1:18
I celebrated John Cleese’s birthday, offered a new short video called Tesla As a Boy. I did a feature on a 1960s radio contest where CKY (left) tried to get a town to change its name to Seekaywye. I report on Marshall McLuhan’s 1977 visit to Brandon. La Verendrye School is next in the schools series and a new found video Guitar Concerto.
I posted the feature on Birtle Indian Residential School which I shot in June when my friend Mark and I went for a drive in western Manitoba. I created two more found videos – Just This and Oasis in Space which uses the sound poetry of Kurt Schwitters as its audio. I found some TV commercials Federico Fellini produced in the late 1960s including one for Campari. Five versions of one song – The Chokin’ Kind – rounded out the month.
I kicked off the month with a feature on Winnipeg 1910 to 1919 which tied into Laura Secord School. I found some lovely old calendar art from the 1920s which got me curious about calendar art in general. On the 124th anniversary of his death I posted two short fictions about Sitting Bull with an added bit of film this year. Then I started the 12 Days of Christmas – a daily look at one of Carberry’s wonderful heritage buildings. The series was very popular. Party hats (right) from the 1930s was a timely post. Over the Christmas holidays, due to hundreds of Facebook links, my post on the Vickers Viscount airplane in Garland from 2013 generated thousands of views giving my blog its best day ever and second best month ever.
I’ll give the last picture and the last word to my namesake Ezra Reid Scholl who’s just turned two. The little guy enriches my life beyond measure. I revel in watching him grow and change and learn. Among the many things Ezra has taught me so far is there is no better reason to make a silly fool of yourself if it makes a two-year-old laugh. This picture is Ezra at 17 months. Below that is a one-minute video mash-up I did of Ezra being extra cute. Click the pic. Happy New Year!