Archive for the ‘Stuff About Carisa’ Category

PICK – An Experimental Short

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Click on the image below to watch the film online.

PICK – An Experimental Short

Director Benjamin Ross Hayden

If you are channel surfing this week in Alberta, click over to Channel 10 Broadcast, Nov 6 – 1am, Nov 7 – 9PM and Nov 8 – 10pm. You’ll see a really cool experimental film that I helped with a few months back. The music and the visuals come together to creep you out and suck you in.

The film is about the re-appropriation of history, a boudoir in Calgary on February 15th & 16th, 1916 provides the inspiration and it was shot in the creepy basement where a massive riot began.

This film was shot entirely on film. The scratches are real. The stunts are real. The credits are also hand-scratched.

Benjamin Ross Hayden, up and coming director, first approached me to do the film while I have having breakfast at a trendy dinner in February of this year, it was a little out of the blue but insanely awesome. After that day it wasn’t long before I was all costumed up on set ready to stick an ice pick in my face in the dustiest room I’d ever stepped foot in.

The whole thing was a complete blast.

MEDIA: Articles in the following media outlets
FFWD Weekly,
Emery Weal,
The Gauntlet,

The Reflector, and

… Benjamin Ross Hayden plays homage to that event with his short experimental film, Pick, which will screen as part of the Calgary International Film Festival’s Alberta Spirit series….

Originally published, September 23, 2010 in FFWD Weekly



What ever became of the da Vinci Society?

October 28, 2010 2 comments

In 2004 a small group of students had a strong will to take their educations and their community involvement into their own hands. From one seemingly mundane meeting of 8 youth at a little coffee shop after school to weekly meetings of an officially recognized society at the Arusha Center the da Vinci Society came along way in only a few short years.

The Society’s concept was originally part of short story I’d been writing; three high school students work together in the hopes of creating a support network for socially aware teens to become active in their communities and study pursuits outside the regular curriculum.

The story went no where, however it did serve as a road map to fill a need in he local community and my life in particular. I recruited a few friends in the beginning, but eventually they were replaced by individuals interested in the goals of the society and not just helping me get my idea off the ground.

After months operating out of cafes and libraries we were offered a home at the Arusha Center and decided to make it official and get status as a society. With Juliet Burgess as VP and Emily Sharp in charge of the secretarial and financial details we grew as a happy and healthy program. Juliet describes it as “a chance to learn freely without fear of judgment, being taboo/risque or being misinformed.”

We continued to grow, volunteering around town, teaching classes to one another on topics of interest, bringing in speakers and attempting to encourage growth in each other. It wasn’t long before we attracted some media attention and eventually the attention of a few in school program coordinators. The society was asked to write a version of our program that would run as a club at lunch hours in schools in Alberta and we were overjoyed to accommodate.

Not long after that the core group became taxed by outside commitments and the society dissolved, but the lessons we learned together at Arusha served us well.

Juliet went on to become the youngest female to every run for Federal office. She ran for the Green Party provincially in Calgary Mountainview and got more votes than any Green candidate ever had in that district. Now she’s General Manager of an indie Theatre Company (Theatre BSMT) and works with Urban Curvz Theatre, as an “Artistic Associate”. She is also the Co-Chair for the Take Back the Night committee.

She says “ DVS indeed contributed to my life as it was some sort of gateway into adulthood for me. Like, it was the first chance I had to make things work for me in the real world.”

Emily went on to volunteer extensively with the Miscellaneous Youth Network, CJSW 90.9FM, Queers on Campus of the U of C and currently working with Animal Bylaw. Her professional trajectory has been almost entirely in the non-for-profit sector, from the Drop-In Centre to Immigrant Services Calgary. She believes that “The da Vinci Society set the stage for how I view youth projects now, with the youth firmly in leadership roles, seeking to empower and act as partners with youth.”

Myself, after da Vinci I went on volunteering with various organization such as Youth Week, Child and Youth Friendly Calgary and the YMCA eventually landing a full time position with the Boys and Girls Club of Canada running programs for ages 5-17 for a couple years. I currently work as an entertainer and run my web design company as well as work to maintaining my practice as an emerging artist after studying at the Alberta College of Art and Design. The da Vinci Society was the first time I had to lead or organize people. It gave me a taste for continued learning and showed me I could make my dreams real if I only work hard and trusted in smart and capable people.

Check out remnants of the old website on Wayback Machine.

Categories: Stuff About Carisa

Fire Mecca, The Story of my First Burning Man – Part 2

October 27, 2010 2 comments

My expectations are as follows; poi spinners and hoop dancers from a variety of skill levels would fill the streets, I’d be hit with a sense of belonging and maybe even completeness, I would run into a few of the hundreds of people who had told be they would be at the burn and would “see me there” and I’d be teaching at least some fire eating classes.

First Impression

We get in a few days after the official start of the burn, due to our adventures in RV repair. As we drive down the entrance road on the way to our camp, people wave to us and call out “welcome home” as we cruse past at the recommended 5MPH. Giddy with excitement, I imagine jumping out into the dusty chaos and being instantly sucked into the mad culture of it all.

Second Impression

I successfully avoid the urge to jump out of the moving vehicle and we soon find our camp, Root Society, and start logistical planing for how and where to park the giant RV and trailer. There’s just no where for something 56 feet long so we end up unhitching the trailer and leaving it in an adjacent camp (they seemed happy to have it, likely for the wind cover) and park our home sweet home beside one of the giant geodesic domes. After this 2 hour trial it is still not time to go play.

I’ve come with Cypher Zero for whom this will be burn number seven and he has the art of comfortably surviving the harsh environment down to a science. We spend another hour finishing prepping the RV for dust: laying sheets down, ensuring windows are firmly closed and sealed, shoving electronics into plastic baggies, ect. Still we are not ready. Next we sanitize and ready our hydration packs. We clean and fill them with cool water and pack all it’s little zipper pockets with what I am told are the essentials; lip balm, flash lights, baby wipes, googles (one pair with clear lenses for nighttime and one with shades), a dust mask, a sweater, snacks and my set of keys in case we get separated.

I’m failing miserably to conceal my anxious impatience, I feel like a dog who’s just hear the word “walk”. Cypher reminds me that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and not take care of yourself in a place like this, we are taking the time now so we can stay out and explore comfortably all night. I couldn’t argue with that logic, but I wanted to. We slap on some sunscreen (even though I can see through the blinds that it’s almost dusk), have a bit to eat, throw on our packs and finally head out.

Catching rides on passing Art Cars and walking will be tonight’s mode of transport, rather than the other popular solution, bikes. This is a secret relief for me since I only learned how to ride a bicycle a little over a year ago, a day that ended in me eventually feeling confident enough to ride down a steep hill and executing a “fail blog” worthy face plant. I haven’t rode since.

After a mild wind storm we hop a fun-fur covered float, blasting dance music which is heading “deep Playa”. As we get further into the empty desert I look back and see the cityscape of Burning Man. It seems everything is lit up with thousands of lights, or on fire, and in many cases both. It looks like a miniature steam-punk Vegas. I look over at Cypher, and smile.

Like I said Cypher is a veteran Burner which makes him a great tour guide. He has some really interesting insights on how the event has evolved and where it all came from and I’m enjoying the stories of the art from past year. He does his best to avoid comments like “it’s not like it use to be” that might take away from my experience, but fails often.

A Fire Bug’s Wet Dreams

Everything seems to revolve around fire. I hung off the barrel of fire spewing machine gun as the art car it was attached to cruised the dessert. There was a dance floor surrounded by a circle of propane fueled fire a foot high, fire works, fire canons, fire pits, things propelled by fire. This is truly the happiest place on earth.

Surprisingly, I see relatively few fire spinners, I’d say less that 20. We brought several fire toys along but I have been to distracted to remember to bring them out on our night walks. Then it hits me, surprise number two; I can’t find anyone!! I am on high alert for familiar faces, scanning each place we explore and nothing.

Up in Smoke

Sunday hits. I’ve managed to almost get away with a bike free week, but tonight I will have to be brave enough to look stupid and risk another intimate encounter with the ground. You see we are late for the temple burn and it’s far away enough that we’ll need to break out the wheel. I think that this is maybe the most comfortable place to look idiotic, and boy do I ever.

We get to the temple burn, the heat and smell of cider ingulf us and we watch quietly as the ashes rush up into the night sky. It’s all over. I made the pilgrimage to the city that worships fire and now I would have to go back to my private love of the hot glowy stuff. I try to soak up everything about this place, and then fire works go off in the distance so we hop back on the bikes and go play.


We decide to stay a couple extra days and help out at the camp. I learn the joys of MOOPing (MOOP stands for Material Out Of Place, a nice way to say trash) raking the desert floor for every tiny sign that anything happened here. I love the stewardship of it and it gives me some quiet time to decompress and think about that I just experienced.

As I scoop up discarded boa feathers and taped-out glow sticks, I am surprised by the unexpected sense of belonging. I am 7 hours from my return to the default world and for the first time I feel like a participant rather than a spectator, as if burning man belongs to me in some small way. After seeing people survive and thrive in this harsh environment for a week I am overwhelmed with a new belief that all people are competent, powerful and intelligent.

A paradigm shift, we as a people are all capable and fascinating.

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