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Bringing the World Together

November 16th, 2008 No comments

I attended a workshop on grant writing yesterday and I realized I have to be able to convey the idea behind my whole project more clearly. So I am going to post some other projects that I have been paying attention to that have had some impact on the world.

Where the Hell is Matt?”

When my daughter told me about Matt, I didn’t get it. She invited me to come down to the beach and dance with this young man who was traveling all over the world dancing with people. No, he is not a great dancer. I didn’t get it — I didn’t go. That’s my daughter in the red skirt, front left, on the beach in Vancouver.

Where the Hell is Matt 2008

Matt brought the world together with his little dance. There is such joy in the act of Matt doing his dance from the heart that it refreshes my belief in humanity. I believe that behind the power struggles and the greed — we are all one people. When I saw the video — I got the message.

Playing for Change

Here is another group that is doing video of pop songs, like “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King) and “One Love” (Bob Marley) performed by musicians all over the world playing together through the wonders of technology. They all appear in their own country playing their instrument on the same song playing with the musicians that have already been recorded.

They have a great site and the passion to show that music can cross borders that have been created by the power structure to connect us.

Live More Lightly

The completed Live More Lightly song 6 minute video will show me singing, joined by one person, then by another, then by all the workshop participants that want to be in the video. As each workshop will be different, it probably won’t be as smooth in transition as the Playing for Change videos, but if I get some funding I can make better video. The first one will be a do-it -yourself demo, but I hope to have it ready for the start of the tour in 2009.

The documentary movie will be about the journey across the continent in 2009 to bring the diverse age groups, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and others (basically everybody I can get) together to Live More Lightly on the land one small action at a time. I want to show lots of great environmental footage of natural scenes so everyone will know why we should save the planet. I anticipate that 90 minutes of singing, workshop events, beautiful scenery and on-bike motorcycle riding should be about right.

The motorcycle tour is a small portion of this project, but it has been taking a lot to coordinate. I could just go in my van to do the workshops, but the motorcycle is much more environmentally friendly.

I also hope to be able to be the first person to stream live video from a moving motorcycle to a satellite without a truck. The Grand Prix racers have on-bike cameras that stream to a nearby truck that carries a satellite dish, like the one pictured below. This huge dish with signal amplification allows them to send a broadcast quality signal to the satellite. From the satellite the signal can be received at the television station for editing or routed into the broadcast signal as live coverage. A higher quality signal (broadcast television) takes more power, so a larger amplifier and more microwaves, than a low quality signal (webcam).

Closed satellite dish on top of truck

Due to microwave radiation from this type of dish, it is against Canadian law to mount it lower than 4ft off the ground. This dish, when fully extended is well above the heads of any concert goers and is considered safe. I don’t even like to carry my cell phone in my pocket, but for the sale of art, I plan to innundate myself with microwaves from a portable modem. Basic outline of streaming requirements here.

Many motorcyclists have mounted cameras on their bike and there are a lot of videos on the internet of intense riding. Depending on your area of interest there are many to choose from. One other Vancouver rider, Jeff has captured a lot of scenic footage from his Harley on VRide TV. I love the smoothness of his ride as it makes for great video as I already described here. I am on a more limited budget with my old Yamaha FJ1200, but I hope to be able to get some great nature footage for the documetary. Still working on the streaming aspect. I will keep you posted.

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Ubuntu Hardy + Free Firewire Drivers + Jackd

September 21st, 2008 1 comment

Since I came back from Seattle the Saffire audio device has been firmly installed at Waterlou Studios where it works very well with the G4 OSX 10.3.9 and G5 quad-core OSX 10.4. It has been challenging to get all the applications working on this newly installed platform and I have not had much time to putter away on my home system. Paul, our friend Barry and I also spent time going to a demo of the WAVES Logic plug-ins with Eddie Kramer as the keynote speaker, which was fun. I couldn’t resist making a few comments to the Apple reps about the new Logic Studio. It is an inspiring tool for Paul and I to have in our musical hands, but I still want to pursue my own mobile recording set-up.

Supported by ffado

Remember the WordPress motto when reading this: “Code is poetry.”

The last steps I took on activating the music recording capabilities of my ASUS notebook included installing the ffado drivers and (with help from Robin B. in Seattle) making sure the “raw1394” kernel module is loaded on boot. This can be checked in terminal (sudo modprobe raw1394) and I did find that the Ubuntu Studio control that I installed was not a reliable indicator that the raw kernel module was in fact loaded. Even after checking the box in the GUI loaded from System>Administration>Ubuntu Studio, I still was asked for my password to activate the raw kernel in terminal.

There is a post on the ffado site that describes how to check if jackd is reading the ffado driver from terminal here. Unfortunately, I get the reading:

[email protected]:~$ jackd -R -d firewire -v4
jackd: unknown driver ‘firewire’

I think my problem might be with jackd rather than with the ffado driver itself. I was following the install instructions on the ffado trac site — Pieter writes encouragingly at the top “It’s very easy”, but forgets to add “…if you are a Linux programmer”. I have the latest RT (realtime) kernel installed and all of the dependencies except the python-qt.

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt-get install scons libiec61883-0 libiec61883-dev libavc1394-0 libavc1394-dev libxml++2.6c2a libxml++2.6-dev liblo0 liblo0-dev docbook-utils libexpat-dev libdbus-1-dev pyqt-tools python-dbus python-qt
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
scons is already the newest version.
libiec61883-0 is already the newest version.
libiec61883-dev is already the newest version.
libavc1394-0 is already the newest version.
libavc1394-dev is already the newest version.
libxml++2.6c2a is already the newest version.
libxml++2.6-dev is already the newest version.
liblo0 is already the newest version.
liblo0-dev is already the newest version.
docbook-utils is already the newest version.
Note, selecting libexpat1-dev instead of libexpat-dev
libexpat1-dev is already the newest version.
libdbus-1-dev is already the newest version.
pyqt-tools is already the newest version.
python-dbus is already the newest version.
E: Couldn’t find package python-qt

Robin fixed this later and I have no idea what he did. I had already checked that I had python-qt3 installed and somehow he made Ubuntu see it. Next I downloaded the ffado sources and placed them in the directory and tried to compile using Scons. I had never tried to compile anything before so I did not realize that scons had to be run from inside the folder of the program that you wish to compile.

[email protected]:~$ scons DEBUG=yes

scons: *** No SConstruct file found.
File “/usr/lib/scons/SCons/Script/Main.py”, line 825, in _main
[email protected]:~$ scons install

Scons cannot find the SConstruct file unless it is run in the directory folder that the text file lives in. I figured this out and I was pleased to see a string of code scroll down the terminal screen.  I was less happy when the install terminated with the error message:

xdg-icon-resource install –size 64 –context apps support/xdg/hi64-apps-ffado.png
scons: *** DirNodeInfo instance has no attribute ‘csig’
scons: building terminated because of errors.

I tried to continue and received some help from the guide posted here. I decided not to try to hack the code in the SConstruct file as they suggest and looked for another method. There is now some new information posted by Pieter here, but at that time, after a bit of searching, I gave up and decided to continue with the install instructions. Later Robin came to my rescue and said something that contained the words “usr home folder”. I did not understand what he said and he types quickly into the terminal, but the result was positive and the driver is installed.

[email protected]:/usr/share/applications$ cd /usr/local
[email protected]:/usr/local$ ls
bin  etc  games  include  lib  man  sbin  share  src
[email protected]:/usr/local$ cd bin
[email protected]:/usr/local/bin$ ls
ffado-bridgeco-downloader  ffado-fireworks-downloader
ffado-dbus-server          ffadomixer
[email protected]:/usr/local/bin$ ffado
ffado-bridgeco-downloader   ffado-fireworks-downloader
ffado-dbus-server           ffadomixer
[email protected]:/usr/local/bin$ ffadomixer

——————————————————-

Another frustrating bit of business with the command:

$ sudo apt-get install subversion libtool automake

I could not get it to run, but I installed jack from the trunk in a separate folder and I think that is the source of my present problems. Jack installed very well, but now I think I am running two versions of Jacd and that is confusing to my OS. I do not have Robin B. to help me now, so I just tried running the above cmnd again. Surprised and pleased, I watched the install proceed:

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt-get install subversion libtool automake
[sudo] password for victoria:
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
subversion is already the newest version.
libtool is already the newest version.
The following NEW packages will be installed:
automake
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 519kB of archives.
After this operation, 1712kB of additional disk space will be used.
Get:1 http://ca.archive.ubuntu.com hardy/main automake 1:1.10.1-2 [519kB]
Fetched 519kB in 2s (182kB/s)
Selecting previously deselected package automake.
(Reading database … 245531 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking automake (from …/automake_1%3a1.10.1-2_all.deb) …
Setting up automake (1:1.10.1-2) …

Now I have the automake application installed jackd may work better or I might have to remove it from the system and reinstall. I plan to use this post to ask for help with my lack of success, but I feel I am making some progress because my terminal reads:

[email protected]:~$ cd libffado
[email protected]:~/libffado$ tests/test-ffado Discover
verbose level = 0
Using ffado library version: libffado 2.0.900-1319

06565751473: Debug (devicemanager.cpp)[ 555] discover: Discovery finished…
06565751641: Debug (devicemanager.cpp)[1045] showDeviceInfo: ===== Device Manager =====
06565751717: Debug (Element.cpp)[ 109] show: Element DeviceManager
06565751769: Debug (devicemanager.cpp)[1053] showDeviceInfo: — IEEE1394 Service  0 —
Iso handler info:
Dumping IsoHandlerManager Stream handler information…
State: 2
no message buffer overruns

————————————————————-

Thanks Robin B. for your hospitality and your help! Here are some flowers for you.

A bouquet of flowers for Robin

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SLR Camera – Image Capture

September 14th, 2008 No comments

Now I have had the opportunity to look through two examples of excellent camera technology, I find myself increasingly attracted to continuing the experience. The first time I held such a camera was at the Madu Sari gamelan performance, “New Javanese Shadows“when a friend of mine asked me to hold his camera. My first impression can only be described by referring to a Hindu myth often told about the young Krishna. For those not familiar with Hindu mythology, the incarnations of the god Vishnu are many, but this story is about his time as the human Krishna.

On one occasion, when Krishna was still a child, he revealed his true god-self to his mother by asking her to look in his mouth. When she complied, she was astonished to see the entire universe inside the mouth of her child. When I looked into that camera, I saw a glimpse of the infinite — I was astonished. The photographer who owned the magic box enthusiastically started informing me of the technical details in a language full of numbers that I did not understand. This machine may be described by numbers, as the universe can be modeled mathematically, but the impact of the revelation I had experienced created a bookmark in my mind that I return to in wonder.

My next reaction was more practical, as the Virgo reasserted her presence. If everyone had a camera like that, my opportunities for employment as a graphic artist would be seriously reduced. There was no noise in the image, it was balanced and in sharp focus. If the capture mechanism was as pristine as the view, the images would reflect a hyper-realism that would need few adjustments. My daughter later comforted me by pointing out that many of these cameras are owned by individuals who can cause them to malfunction and that composition skills are still required. Even the best images can benefit from layout, design and story, so my production skills will still be needed.

The term “multi-media artist” has often been applied to my skill sets in production. I know that if I am not being paid, I do music, music technology and saving the world. Some practical part of me knows that my time will not allow any more addictions. I am already being drawn away from my “Live More Lightly Project” too much by other musical entanglements. I have to complete a book prototype this month. Move on. Read more…

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Life-Cycle Responsibility

August 9th, 2008 No comments

Time is slipping away so fast with so many details to take care of to realize the Live More Lightly Project. One of the reasons this project is so complex is that I have taken life-cycle responsibility for the product that I am producing. The product in this case is a multi-media book, but the principals apply to anything produced. In this post, I will refer to the concept of the universal product as a “widget”. The recent rush to re-cycle widgets properly is to be applauded, but the idea of considering the environmental impact of every aspect of producing and maintaining the product is often overlooked.

My particular widget, the “Live More Lightly Songbook and Workshop Guide” will be printed using the most environmentally friendly processes available. The included disk will have to be made from virgin plastic, so the choice will be based on price, although I plan to choose a company that uses environmentally sound practices when they can. This is the point where many producers believe they have done enough, but I continue to examine my practices: can I live more lightly?

euphorogenic-jun15-sm.png

I am writing the book using a computer that I built from mostly re-cycled parts and the notebook I bought to take on the tour was manufactured by AsusTek, a leader in re-use and re-cycling of its products. I am using Ubuntu Linux on both computers (the notebook came with Vista, so it is dual-boot) because I believe that open source software is more efficient and uses less resources. This is a statement I can’t provide academic proof for, but I know it saves my resources. With Windows and Mac computers I have to spend time working to be able to afford the product, then after spending considerable sums of money, I usually have to spend hours troubleshooting. With Linux, if you can get it to work — it is yours. I want to have good karma on this project and use legitimate software only. The software I am using in Ubuntu would take me months of work to afford because I do not want to be a software pirate.

Read more…

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Gamelan Madu Sari: New Javanese Shadows

July 20th, 2008 1 comment

Even though I am very busy with everything else in my life, I could not refuse an invitation to join a week-long workshop with five of the most innovative masters of the Arts of Java.

Gamelan Madu Sari, Vancouver’s gamelan that uses Javanese instruments, was producing a show called “Semar in Lila Maya” and they had worked very hard to bring four performers from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Students could study with one or all of these instructors who specialize in dance, shadow puppetry and music instruction. It was tempting to sample a bit of everything from the rich cultural buffet. The group picture, taken at the end of class, was a bit of an afterthought and I had already changed into my motorcycle riding clothes so I couldn’t sit cross-legged anymore.

Madu Sari workshop with Javanese guests

On the far left back row and below, is my friend Mas Sutrisno Hartana, who has moved to Vancouver and teaches Javanese music at Simon Fraser University. It is because of Sutrisno, that I say five Masters of Javanese Arts, although there are only four visitors. I have taken better photos of him, but he is really concentrating and serious in this image below. He introduced me to the subtle beauty of Javanese gamelan when I was still playing with Gong Gita Asmara, the ensemble using Balinese instruments based at UBC. I did rehearse with Madu Sari and play one concert, and I look forward to having more time to play with them in future. Read more…

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Categories: Inspiration, VIX at Work

Photographic Experience Theme

July 7th, 2008 3 comments

Part of my work as a visual artist is manipulating photos but I have never considered myself a photographer. Last year at the Jazz Festival, I took lots of photos of shows and I found it really difficult to get good pictures in the dark with no flash. The problem can be exemplified by this picture of Paul Plimley at the Roundhouse this year when he was playing on Saturday, June28, 2008. Even with a reasonably good camera, the length of exposure required makes it impossible to get a decent picture with a moving target.

Paul in Motion

This is an artistic photo, and I like it because it shows Paul’s musical spirit, but I always like to have control over results. [Yes, control is a deep part of my psyche — we’ll go there later …] I keep trying to get decent live pictures, and I am doing better in low light conditions than last year.

That is because earlier this year I started watching photographers to get some idea of how it was done. My first subject was Willie Cackett, photographer of the Blues and Roots scene in Vancouver, who gets some decent photos with inexpensive equipment. He has even had some shows of his work. Those are his photos on the wall behind him in my image below.

Cottage Bistro Willie C

I noticed something right away. Photographers are very still so it is really easy to take pictures of them and I can use a flash. When I told Willie I had taken photos of him, he was pleased. He told me he didn’t have many images of himself because he was always taking the pictures. So, I have found my photographic niche — to take pictures of photographers in action.

Much better photographers, with better cameras can take pictures of the show. I will take pictures of them. It is interesting too, as it fits into my idea of “watching the watcher” by standing in front of highway cams and having them video me videoing them across the country.

This is Brian Nation with the flash diffuser obscuring his face– not the best, but look how still he is in the natural light. The next one caught him preparing, so his face is visible. I used a flash, so it is blue shifted and if I was using this for pro work I would colour correct it.

Brain Nation in action Brian Nation + subject

Next, I got a picture of Laurence Svirchev, but he was standing around before the show and saw me taking it. I really like to sneak up on them while they are being very still to take a photo. Laurence is a bit out-of-focus but it’s not too bad. I noticed he had a flash diffuser too. When he saw me taking the picture, he was kind enough to show me menus to set the ASA that I didn’t know existed on my camera. He flipped through the options expertly and I was surprised that there was such a hold-over from film technology in the digital controls. Read more…

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Canada Day on Granville Island 2008

July 4th, 2008 1 comment

The first day of July started with a plan to ride my motorcycle down to the Canada Day celebrations hosted by Coastal Jazz on Granville Island. This event featured some of Vancouver’s finest jazz talent on three different stages throughout the day, including Chris Gestrin, Jillian LeBeck. Brad Muirhead +Pepe Danza (Koan), Paul Plimley and Tony Wilson. As I was getting ready to go, my phone rang and my daughter requested my help to finish clearing out her godmother’s apartment. The jazz would have to wait, but it didn’t sound like there was that much to do and I would certainly be able to catch some of the shows. Read more…

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Categories: Inspiration, VIX at Work

Vancouver Jazz Festival Part III

July 1st, 2008 No comments

The free concerts at the Roundhouse Community Centre started at noon and I arrived by Skytrain after dropping my bike at Simon’s for examination. At the present time it is a long walk from the Stadium skytrain station to the site, but the new Olympic line is being constructed with a station right across the street. This site will be much more accessible for the Jazz Festival in 2010, although a lot of people do make the effort to walk, bike or skateboard rather than find scarce parking in the area.

The High School Jazz Intensive, with Chicago-based flautist Nicole Mitchell conducting, was in full swing when I arrived. The young musicians played at a very high calibre under Mitchell’s expert direction. Paul Plimley and I were discussing this concert later that day, and we both agreed that the quantity and quality of instruction and instructional materials has increased since we were young. Instructional multi-media, books,magazines, DVD’s and the internet have all contributed to a positive trend. This access to information and the improved acceptance of jazz, as a music that should be taught in school, has raised the standards of musicianship among Vancouver High School Bands. This nine-day intensive workshop series culminating in this performance is an educational outreach program that requires that the student to audition to qualify for entry. We were listening to the result of a focussed program applied to some of the most dedicated young musicians in the area courtesy of the sponsors and Coastal Jazz.

Brian Nation, the impetus behind Vancouver Jazz.com, was listening too. We both decided to go in to the tribute to Al Neil concert set-up to take photos. Brian wanted to interview Al Neil for his website jazz magazine as he remembers hearing him play and has known him for decades. The pictures I took of Paul yesterday did not turn out very well because of the low light conditions, so I welcomed a chance to to go in pre-concert and try again.

Brian and I compared cameras and he showed me his cool new flash diffuser, he took a photo of me with and without and the difference was amazing. Lan Tung, the erhu player in the next group to play in the venue, had asked me to take photos of her new ensemble. I quickly asked Brian if he had time to take a few shots of them during their set-up as his camera was so much better than mine.I think it worked out because I ended up using Lan’s video camera to record the show instead of taking stills.

0108_brian_nation_sm.png

Read more…

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Night of Broken Bikes

June 28th, 2008 1 comment

This is an unusual tale of mechanical mystery, charming chivalry and late-night suspense. Friday night was my last shift as Crew Chief at The Ironworks, a beautiful venue that has been my home at the Jazz Fest for 4 years. Although the Ironworks studio, an artistic space in an actual converted metal-working shop previously known as Burrard Ironworks, is sophisticated and beautiful inside, it is located in the worst part of Vancouver. The neighbourhood is one of the poorest postal codes in Canada and many homeless people wander the streets in company with drug addicts and mentally ill individuals. The area is starting to gentrify, behind security barracades, but the streets are still mean and inhabitants are unpredictable — it is the Downtown Eastside.

I went down to The Ironworks early, as the venue manager had requested that I be there at 6:30pm. I complied and helped organize the other volunteers by orienting and assisting the hospitality volunteer and making sure everyone else knew what they were supposed to be doing. My job as Crew Chief is to keep the volunteers happy, make sure they have water or soft drinks and get a break when they need it. I also keep an eye on the venue and support the venue manager.

While I was changing my boots for shoes, I left a message with Simon that my red+white loaner FJ motorcycle was developing the same clutch problem that my blue+black FJ had last year. I had noticed him leaning it over at angles I cannot achieve without becoming completely horizontal, and pumping the clutch to remove the air from the lines. Somewhere in the clutch system, which is supposed to be full of a pressurized oil, there were air bubbles getting in.

1660-1100w1200top2_sm.png Read more…

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Vancouver Jazz Festival

June 23rd, 2008 No comments

Every year I volunteer at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and last night, June 22, was my first shift as the Crew Chief at the Ironworks. The show last night was fun and unusual as Francois Houle and Mats Gustafsson organized an improvisational program around the idea of a hockey game, Improv Power Play: Canada vs Sweden. The individual solo improvs that started the event were excellent with standouts in my mind being Peggy Lee (defense for Canada) on cello and Per Ake Holmlander (defense Sweden) on tuba. Everyone played extremely well and the night ended with both teams on stage playing together. The drummer or goalie, Raymond Strid, for the Swedish Team (Tre Kroner), was very playful and showed a great sense of humor in this some times “serious music” jazz environment.

June 20

I have already seen some great shows, Barry Guy (bass) and Myra Homberger filled up the room at The Western Front with delightful sonorities and tasteful improvisation. The Baroque violins that Myra specializes in playing, have a unique timbre and blend with Barry’s bass beautifully. This duo has played together frequently and they mixed composed works with less structured pieces in imaginative segues.

Unfortunately, I had a small motorcycle accident, so I was a bit disoriented and missed Benoit Delbecq at the Roundhouse. That hurt more than the bruises I sustained, as I am always inspired by his playing.

June 21

I did catch the set with Benoit Delbecq and Quator Bozzini at the Western Front and it showed me a more restrained side of his musical skill set. I will see them again on Tues and will write more after that.

My daughter recommended Pink Martini as an interesting show and they were pure entertainment. The most unusual feature of this group is the multi-language focus of the songs. Although all of the songs fell within the movie theme + Vegas show + cruise ship show band type of genre; the switch to a different language showed how far the influence of stage band jazz has reached. The group excelled at Latin music and closed with a great version of “Brazil” after singing in Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, English and probably other languages as well. The pianist, Thomas L. Lauderdale, played with flourishes that reminded me of Liberace. Lauderdale is the mastermind behind Pink Martini, and the lovely vocalist Chana (citation) was credited with co-writing the songs and was amazing in her abilitiy to sing in all these different languages. Other members of the 13 piece group were outastandin musicians and helped contribute to the multi-cultural aspect of the performance.

June 22

Despite having an afternoon business meeting regarding the book, I managed to hear a bit of the Vancouver Creative Music Institute (VCMI), a co-production of Coastal Jazz and Blues and the Vancouver Community College. The large ensemble, conducted by Georgio Magenesi, was brilliantly executed with space for all the players, changes in density, dynamics and timbre that maintained interest throughout. One of the best improvised large ensemble pieces for this year. Lan Tung was featured on erhu, Chinese violin, and her tone sang beautifully.

Georgio has taught me a lot about music. Sometimes when I listen to improv, noise music or another genre I don’t completely understand — I switch into another mode of listening. I change from listening for melody, harmony, rhythm and other structures, to listening to a matrix of timbres and densities. If I can break free of my traditional music frames, I can enjoy and experience music in another way. I feel like I have never properly thanked him for this tool, and other things he has told me about conducting. He is the Director of Vancouver New Music and we are lucky that he left his native Italy to enrich out community.

Francois Houle was the Artistic Director of this years VCMI and he did a wonderful job of supporting the players. All of the faculty also play in the festival and this week long series assists Vancouver players to interact with established International artists.

Later, I volunteered at the Ironworks.

Today, I have to go to work and so will miss the shows. However, I might be able to get off early enough to use my pass to see at least one show.

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Categories: Inspiration, VIX at Work