Category: electronica

“Beautiful Desolation”: The Movie

My new short film is finished and up on YouTube.

This project began as a musical piece which turned out so well, I decided it might make a strange and unsettling soundtrack for an original movie.  Sherron and I shot footage over two days and then loaded the images from our two cameras on to iMovie (a process rendered extremely difficult because of the age of my DV camera).  I commenced editing, spending many long hours shaping the footage to the music, even concocting a kind of/sort of narrative.

You can view the film here and then, I hope, either drop a comment on my blog or over at YouTube:

I won’t try to summarize or explain “Beautiful Desolation” except to say that even on a planet that now boasts over six billion souls, there are still places where one can gain a profound impression of isolation, neglect, Nature reclaiming her own.

Enjoy the movie and I hope it inspires some thought and reflection. Perhaps it will cause you to contemplate the place where you live and view it in an entirely different light.

On location–shooting a short film

Here are a few snaps of your humble author, hard at work shooting footage “on location” as it were.  An overgrown lot in small town Saskatchewan, old farm buildings that we spotted alongside the highway.  Whenever we identified something that might fit our overall concept of “abandonment and desolation”, we’d pull over and do our thing.

I handled a DV camera we bought off the internet a number of years ago.  Very creaky, the technology practically obsolete.  I can still find tapes for it at places like London Drugs in Saskatoon but I wonder how long that will be the case.

Sherron, meanwhile, was using her iPod, employing a number of settings and filters to grab some neat effects.  We’ll load all the footage onto my computer and I’ll get to work trying to compose something out of what we’ve compiled.

The reason for this flurry of cinematic activity is that I’ve created a delightful seven and a half minute piece with Garageband and it’s so evocative and interesting to me that I thought it deserved some visual accompaniment.

If anything comes of this grand experiment, I will, of course, add it to the blog for your perusal and analysis.

Many thanks to Sherron for her collaboration and input.  It’s a thrill to work with someone as creative and visually attuned as she is.  I’m quite confident her footage will be the best we shoot—the combination of my ancient camera and ineptitude pretty much works against my ever becoming a proficient DP (director of photography).

I’d better get back to work.

Happy Labour Day to my fellow Canucks…and I dearly hope the Saskatchewan Roughriders get their asses kicked later today.

God, I hate that team and its moronic, watery-brained fans…

“The Midnight Detective” (Spoken Word)

Couldn’t get into serious writing yesterday–still catching up on research on my western novel, The Last Hunt, and I’m not yet at the point where I can begin to tackle necessary revisions.

My science fiction story needs one final polish/run through before I send it off.  I’ll likely get that done today.

And so…yesterday.

Decided to create a little something with Garageband.  The first effort wasn’t very good but the second tune had promise (as soundtrack music for the creepiest film ever made maybe) and then came the third number…

Well.  I didn’t really set out to create a spoken word bit, but that’s how it came out.  I was poking around my notebook and came across a series of phrases that, if you put them together, would almost make a kind of narrative…

I plugged in the microphone and gave it a shot.  The very first vocal track was perfect and then I started building and shaping music around it.

The end result is “The Midnight Detective”, a 2 1/2 minute effort that plays around with noirish conceits and comes together for a rather tasty finale.

This piece should work on whatever audio player your computer employs (if it’s fairly new) and, of course, you’re free to download it and share it with pals and like-minded folks who might get a charge out of my whacked out, postmodern detective.

You’ll find more of my musical noodling and spoken word efforts on my Audio page.

Click here to listen to Midnight Detective

* This post is dedicated to Caroline Ames–Happy Birthday, kid.

“Tomorrowday” (more free ambient music)

More music-making…started this afternoon and just played the finished tune to my son, Sam, who gave it passing marks for sheer weirdness.

For those of you who want to see a complete listing of my ambient and spoken word offerings, go to my Audio page.

And now, my latest musical offering, clocking in at just over two minutes:

Click here:  Tomorrowday

National Poetry Month III: New poems & an ambient tune

A few more poems, to close out National Poetry Month.  Dunno what led to this surge of verse of late—it’s not what I’m supposed to be writing, I’ll tell you that.

Ah, well, as previously reported, my muse can be pretty fickle and strange.

And just to prove that’s the case, I’ve added another recent ambient effort, one I’m very taken with, titled “String Theory”.  Bizarro space music and incomprehensible poetry…good grief.  Well, maybe now that Spring has returned to these parts I’ll feel compelled to get back to my real work, a project I shall elaborate on soon, very soon.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy today’s little treats:

Morris Ankrum


you could see the wires

stars hung off-kilter

Earth just a rubber ball

a funny shadow where

someone lurked, just out of frame

* * * * *

Those Of Us


who dream in slow motion

and have leaky prostates

and try so fucking hard

and who succeed, often in spite of themselves

and have no mother or father

and who must combat fear and depression

and who find ourselves inexplicably loved

and who are thankful for each blessed moment

and who know someday it must end

* * * * *

Foley Operator


You could hear birdsong

incongruous, but it was there

ambient chatter

shrill commentary

from the safety of the trees

* * * * *

Typecasting


I am tired of my role as resident cynic

the last angry man

critic of all he surveys

offering contempt in lieu of solutions

shouldering my burden of shame

well-versed on the subject of sin

while passionately opposing any notion of free will

* * * * *

And, finally, a few more minutes of music, a soundscape courtesy yours truly.  Here’s a thought:  play this while you’re reading the poetry—and let me know how the experiment goes.

Just click here:  String Theory

A statement of policy…and some new music

A brief post this time around, lots on my plate and not a whole lotta time for blogging.

Recently I received a couple of notes from folks who took issue with my comments re: the arrogance and stupidity of amateur/wannabe writers.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, these individuals chose to hide behind silly aliases so they could spout their venom with impunity and congratulate themselves for their courage.

After a close encounter with a nasty little troll a couple of years ago, I decided not to publish remarks from folks who lack the guts to use their real names, accompanied by a valid e-mail address. Say what you want about me kiddies, call me “arrogant”, “elitist”, an “incorrigible asshole”, at least I never hide behind a nom de plume when putting forward my point of view.  I have a “Moderate” function on this blog and I use it, not to screen out folks who have differing points of view, but to exclude those who are  1) psychos or 2) chickenshit or 3) abusive to other respondents. Follow the rules and your comments, pro and con, make the cut.

In the four years I’ve had this blog I’ve been thrilled (for the most part) by the quality of discourse and the clever, articulate people who pop in to see what I’m up to.  You’re welcome to drop me private notes as well—send ’em to blackdogpressATyahoo.ca.  Usually I get back to you within 48 hours but no promises, I’m a busy dude these days.

I’ve been editing my ass off for the past couple of weeks but I still managed to squeeze in time for another great passion of mine, making music with Garageband.  I’ve posted samples of my weird, ambient efforts previously (you can find them on my “Audio” page) but here’s a brand new number, just finished today.  It’s called “Idyll” and it’s one of my best pieces yet.

Not nearly as spooky and depressing as my usual efforts.  No, really.

Click on the link below, kick back…and let ‘er rip.

Meanwhile, it’s back to work for me.  Chat with you again soon…

Click here—Idyll

Happy Birthday…From me

Every year my birthday rolls around and I do my level best to ignore it, dismissing its significance.  This drives my wife crazy (that awful epithet “fun-killer” fired at me like a curare-tipped dart) but, on the other hand, it definitely simplifies gift-buying.

“Anything you want?”

“No.”

“Nothing?”

Firmly:  “Nothing.

And so forth.  But this year, okay, I have to admit, there’s a lot to be thankful for.  We had a health scare in our family recently and that really put things in perspective.  My daily mantra of “health, happiness and wisdom” assumed new relevance…and poignancy.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.  But we had a renewed appreciation for the frailties of the flesh and the bonds of family.

Then there are the two books I’ve released this year—yeah, sure, the e-books had been bouncing about for awhile, but to walk into a bookstore and see my work sitting there, waiting for some curious reader to happen along…well.  Sends a shiver through me just thinking about it.

Yeah, it’s official.  We’ve cleared the proof and Of the Night is good to go.  For sale as of…NOW.  You’ll find pricing and shipping info in my Bookstore.  Click on the book cover (above) and ogle the artwork, browse the jacket copy.  If you order your copy from me, I’ll be happy to sign it.  Otherwise, you can get it through your local bookstore, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

I love this book–it’s a fitting companion piece to So Dark the Night.  Scary, darkly humorous, a short novel you’ll zip through in one or two sittings.

To accompany the release of Of the Night, providing a kind of fanfare, is a CD worth of new  instrumental/ambient music I’d added to my Audio page.  I call this selection of musical oddities Language With No Vocabulary and I’m making it available to you free—play it, download it to your heart’s content.

Here’s a sample cut, a luvly little number I call:

Cidades Fantasmas (Ghost Cities)

(Photo by Jason Minshull)

The Waiting Game

The latest communication from Lightning Source indicates the proof of my novel So Dark the Night will be printed tomorrow (Tuesday, April 20th) and, if there are no obvious glitches, sent off to me a short time afterward.

(Sound FX:  Fingers drumming anxiously on desk top.)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to post more of my strange, ambient music—it’s on my “Audio” page, just scroll down past the spoken word stuff and you’ll get there.  Really love these pieces, which I’m calling (collectively) Intervals.   There’s been a big progression since my first offering and one tune from this latest batch in particular stands out for me:  can you guess which it is?

Busy days around here:  Sam, Liam and a number of their friends (shout out to Sean, Dylan, Jess and the rest of the crew) are deeply involved in a short film project that keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I applaud their ambition.  Sherron has her own film on the go, an abstract bit of business for which I’ll be supplying music.  But the deadline for the local, library-sponsored film short film competition is looming, so I hope their post-production efforts go well or they’re gonna be scrambling.

Meanwhile, I’m fretting over the impending arrival of the proof, beating my brains out trying to find ways to better promote and distribute my independently produced books.  I welcome your input and advice on both these points.

Let me know what you think of Intervals too.  And keep watching these pages for more info on the release of So Dark the Night, a supernatural thriller with a heart of gold.  Your summer reading is on its way.  And I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Third Anniversary!

Well, who would’ve guessed this blog would last as long as it has.  Or that this strange site would draw the kind of traffic it does, the responses (good, bad and incoherent).

I’ve met some smart, funny, terrific people, thanks to “Beautiful Desolation”, and it’s always a particular thrill to read a comment or receive an e-mail from one of you.  Writing is a lonely business and those missives, brief as they are, remind me why I keep putting pen to paper, year after year after year.   And let’s have a rousing cheer for the internet, without which none of this would be possible.  I mean, jeez, from halfway around the world you can wave or send regards or blow a kiss…or a raspberry (whatever floats your boat).

I spent perhaps an unhealthy amount of time trying to come up with ways to say “thanks” for your support and patronage for the past three years.  There are a good number of you who take great pains to keep in touch and pass the word to other folks out there who are fed up with the tepid fare offered by traditional publishing sources:  the books and magazines we buy and yawn our way through.

For the past six months or so the e-Reader crowd have been coming by in droves.  Welcome, welcome.  Dive right in and enjoy my stories, poems and radio dramas.  There are dozens of offerings on this site, hundreds of thousands of words.  Works that will astonish, amaze or, at least, entertain.  And it’s all FREE.  Download it, peruse it on your Kindles and iPads and Sonys (what the hell, a book is a book) and God bless ya.

I have to say there are certain, ah, special circumstances that give this anniversary more significance.

The impending release of my novel So Dark the Night is a super-big deal around Casa Burns.  The cover nears completion and then it’s a case of loading the book onto Lightning Source’s template, crossing our fingers…and zipping it off.  Looks like a late-April release.  Will give you a peek at the cover soon–it’s a beauty.  Wait’ll you see it, kids, it’ll knock your socks off.  Christ, I love this book.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m practically vibrating in anticipation.

2010 marks my 25th year as a professional writer.  That’s a helluva long time, a helluva lot of words on paper.  Too many to ponder without suffering some kind of brain seizure.  So we’ve got the third anniversary of the blog, my silver anniversary as an author and a new book coming out.  That’s gotta call for something a little something extra, a bonus item or two…

How about an hour of free music?  This is music I recorded with my iMac’s Garageband software.  Space tunes, all instrumentals, totally trippy and out there.  Some of my friends have downloaded these oddities on to their iPods or their computer hard drives.  Go for it.  Knock yourselves out.  And above all else, enjoy the music.  With my compliments and thanks.

I call my project Soundtrack For a Science Fiction Film Never Made and if you’d like to give it a listen, pop over to my “Audio” page, scroll down, past the spoken word section and you’re sure to find it.

Ah, but I’m not done.

I also want to unveil my new blog, Cinema Arrete.  After literature, film is my great passion and for ages I’ve wanted a site where I could talk about some of my favorites and steer people toward flicks that aren’t on prominent display at their neighborhood movie store.  I think that with places like YouTube now renting movies, there might be an increased demand and a wider assortment of movies to choose from–after all, cyberspace is like an endless virtual store and titles are always in stock.  It might be the perfect time to re-introduce film fans to the work of auteurs like Henri-Georges Clouzot and Carl Theodor Dreyer.

But it’s not just a one-way street.  I want cinephiles to steer me toward works and creative individuals that I’ve missed or neglected for some reason.  I want to re-watch classic movies, research them and write essays based on my impressions and speculations.  Sometimes I’ll re-examine a work and discover I’ve been dead wrong and will be forced to backtrack.  The downside of being an honest critic is that you have to learn to like the taste of crow.

My refusal to bestow any respect on CGI fests like “Avatar” and the latest comic book adaptation will enrage those of you who (shudder) go to movies purely for fun, for the eye candy and escapist fluff.  Sorry, if that’s the sum total of your aesthetic, Cinema Arete likely isn’t for you.

Pop over, give it a look-see and let me know what you think.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  I’m feeling kind of misty-eyed at the moment and it might be that extra shot or two of scotch I’ve had.  Or it could be an indication of emotions lurking closer to the surface than usual as I ponder this blog and what it has meant for my writing.  Most importantly, it’s given me access to you, o wise and discerning readers, a venue to display my odd wares.

Thanks so much for spending some of your precious time here.  Visiting and browsing this…repository of my poor words.

Listen to my work on audio

imagesWith the help of the tireless Anthony, a support staff member with WordPress, I’ve figured out how to add a special “Audio” page to my blog.

You’ll find it by looking to the right hand side, under the “Stories” widget.  Just click on “Audio” and you’ll discover a large selection of my stories, poems, commentaries, even an excerpt from my novel So Dark the Night. All available for free listening and downloading onto whatever device (iPod or cell phone) you currently favour.  Many of these pieces are accompanied by music, which provides dramatic highlights, a soundtrack that is either pleasing or provocative (or both).

The most recent offering is a six-minute chat about “indie” writing I recorded because I’ve received a host of questions, both here and in various forums where I hang out.  People want to know what it means to be an independent writer…and I want to do what I can to dispel this notion that one goes the indie/self-publishing route because your work can’t cut it with traditional publishers.  Hey, kids, I chose to go my own way because after 20+ years of dealing with inept, sociopathic, moronic editors, I’d had enough.  New technologies like blogs, podcasts and print-on-demand put more control into authors’ hands, a situation I welcome with open arms.

For the record, here’s what I said–

Indie Writer

–and after giving it a listen, I hope you’ll have a clearer understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog.  And please check out the rest of my audio releases, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the production values and the power and intensity of the work.

Theatre of and for the mind…