Social Communication

There was a time when finding friends on the Internet seemed a good option. I always had difficulty fitting in with my peers, and so to find others who liked Christian Bale (for example) was a real boon. I have several friends I only met on the Internet, and I appreciate all of them. Yet, having said that, I no longer view the web as a good place to meet like-minded people.

The truth, hammered into me from too many gone-sour web-based relationships, points more to an idea that the Internet is not actually a good place to have a discussion with strangers

For one thing, you cannot adequately express your point of view, regardless of the depth of your vocabulary. Ultimately, someone you contradict is not going to “get” what you mean; either because their own vocabulary is much more limited, or because you used a word or phrase incorrectly.

Secondly, tacit friendships formed on the web are more likely to go spectacularly bad at a spectacularly rapid pace. A blink of an eye pace. Most people believe their anonymity–or at least distance–gives them license to be mean and cutting without consequence. The result is emotional damage, often without resolution.

Once you have extended the hand of friendship, you have made yourself vulnerable. In real life, real time relationships, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of our communication is non-verbal, so it’s possible that your meaning is better understood through your facial expression and tone of voice. Friends and acquaintances are also able to determine what state of mind you are in through your physicality. That’s not possible on the Internet. The result is that you get more leeway to be an ass in person than you ever will in a chat room or on Facebook.

However, since moving to the Atom Mill Town, I’ve noticed I am losing my patience with most of my formerly in-person friends. The same people I would happily share hours of debate with in a coffee shop or pub are the same people who find reasons to call me out on Facebook if I don’t word things the way they feel I should have.

The problem is, I have no face-to-face contact with more than three of them. I don’t know where they are in their lives if they don’t put it on Facebook. I have literally drifted away from just about everyone I knew in London.

When I post something somewhat political or religious (or anti-religious, as is my wont), I know I am opening myself up to the kinds of discussions I don’t want to have on the Internet, especially not with people I barely get to see anymore and miss. I don’t want miscommunication and misunderstandings to come between us. I have few ways of rectifying whatever negativity gets generated.

So I have stopped, as of today. My posts will be about the cats, the weather, the play I’m working on, and sometimes humourous (I think) reflections on my state of mind.  Anything deeper than that I’m going to have to learn to ignore, because my only outlet for that kind of thing is this blog, and I don’t enjoy writing here the way I used to.

Medical Me

I am diabetic, and I hate it. I hate having to check my blood every so many hours, and I hate having to watch everything I put in my mouth. I especially hate having to check in with my Doctor every 3 months–it makes me feel as if she thinks I need a babysitter. It makes me want to rebel, if I’m honest, and I have never really been a rebellious person.

And now, it seems I have another medical problem to address. In a routine physical, my Doctor found a lump on my throat near my thyroid. She had me get an ultrasound done, and when the results showed that there is indeed something that’s not supposed to be there, she ordered me to get another ultrasound, have more blood work done, and start taking a very high dose of Vitamin D.

I don’t want to worry about it, but the high amount of the vitamin leads me to suspect she wants to prevent cancer, if whatever it is could be leaning towards the malignant. That does worry me.

In all, my recommendation to my younger readers is this: don’t get old. Seriously. Once you hit 40, it is all downhill. What has previously stayed up will finally succumb to gravity, and what was once painless will become twinge-y and achy. Don’t believe me? Ask your older friends and relatives.

Disney Madness (A Trip Report)

Last Sunday, I returned from an 8-day trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. I went with my youngest sister, C, my niece, B Normal, and (for a couple of days) her Mom, my sister, P.

This trip was over a year in the making. If you have ever gone to WDW, you will know that the complex is immense, complicated, and overwhelming. At minimum, you should start planning about 7 months before your trip dates, especially if any of the signature restaurants look appealing to you. I mean, sure, you can throw a pretty satisfying trip together in less time if you just want to “be” there, and don’t have any specific ideas of what you want to experience, but if you want to do something special, you need to research and plan–particularly if it’s popular!

We stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, one of the “moderate” resorts. More than a basic room, it was an experience. We booked a “Royal Room,” one of Disney’s story rooms themed on the Princess and the Frog movie with “princess” touches, and it was super fun. The faucets were shaped like the magic lamp in Aladdin, our headboards lit up with fiber optic fireworks with the press of a button, and we were literally steps from a quiet pool.

One of my many challenges while on this trip was getting my sister and niece out the door in the mornings. They didn’t seem to understand the concept of being there even a few moments before the parks opened. The one day we did get to a park before “Rope Drop,” we managed to get through 6 rides in 2 hours. That extra 15-30 minutes really made a huge difference. Other days, we were lucky to get through 4 or 5 attractions all day.

By far, however, the most challenging part of the entire trip was dealing with my sister, P. She couldn’t manage to even save enough money for her airfare, so C and I spent about C$5000  EACH on this trip, and was P grateful for our efforts? NOPE. In fact, when it turned out she was only going to get 2 days for the trip, she was furious, and even though we worked it out to make it possible for her to a) have time alone with her kid at Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and b) spend time on her favourite attractions at the Magic Kingdom, AND see EPCOT’s IllumiNations fireworks, she whined and moaned that 2 days was not enough and she was going to miss out on everything. She tried to blame me for the timing of the trip (had originally told me January was not a problem), and then blamed her boss for being a … well, a lady doesn’t utter such a word in public, let alone apply it to another woman.

So, while there were elements of the trip that I loved, I have to call it a mixed result. I would go back–Disney’s reputation is well-deserved as a vacation spot–but I think I will not be travelling with my sisters again.

Theatrical Me

It’s no surprise I have flirted with the theatre since I was young enough to come up with my own stories. I used to corral my sisters and cousins into putting on plays in the basement of our grandparents’ house. We charged 5¢ per person per performance, and spent the money on penny candy. Sugar rush!

I was too shy and backward to audition for the two plays that were put on in my elementary school, and while my high school had a drama department, they only offered classes; there were no extra-curricular plays or anything. My only real contact with theatre outside that basement was as a spectator, until I volunteered with Fringe. Then, my only involvement was in the front of house. Front of House is a very different animal than Production. Their job is to look after the audience, collect ticket money and clean the auditorium. It’s not dissimilar to the divide between a server and a line cook.

However, it never occurred to me to attach myself to the community theatre in London. Most of the people I met from that organisation through the Fringe didn’t talk about it widely. Despite being very successful, they were almost a secret. I just figured they didn’t want new blood.

It took me three years to decide to get involved with the community theatre here in the Atom Mill Town. My first year was both awesome and awful. My earliest involvement saw me as Assistant Stage Manager, a very intensive role which (for the uninitiated) required me to attend every rehearsal, take meticulous notes, learn every actor’s name, and be on stage for every performance, sending props and people on and off. I was very good at it, and my Stage Manager wanted to keep me.

However, for the second and third productions last season, I ended up in the Lighting department. Lighting is essential, yet no one seems to know how it works or is willing to learn this technical set of skills. I actually don’t think I’m very good at it, yet, and I am learning it all entirely on my own. If I’m totally honest, my natural talents shine more in roles of organisation and structure.

To that end, I volunteered to help produce our fall musical this year, and my co-producer and I have been very busy this summer. She and I make a good team. However, since I decided to produce, there has been no one with experience in Lighting, so I have been forced to take this role on as well.

I find this task rather daunting, and I don’t really want to do it. However, there is LITERALLY no one who wants to take on the whole role and relieve me of the confusion. I have someone who will help me figure out a light concept for the show, but she won’t learn the computer program that controls the lights. Similarly, I have someone who will go up the ladders and help me physically move, tilt, pan and re-arrange the lights, but he has a part in the production, so he can’t be both on stage and in the booth at the same time. I finally managed to get a student interested in helping me program and run the show from the computer, but it was a close shave.

I’m starting to worry that I’m going to get stuck with lighting for the rest of my tenure with the theatre company. If so, that tenure is going to be very short, indeed.


You Can Never Go Home Again

In 2013, I took a year off from the Fringe to go to London, UK. Esso and I had a blast, and we even came home with money in our pocket (and savings account). We want to go back, but I’m going to be careful about what time of year we go next time, because I missed Fringe.

This year, I volunteered again, and had a mixed result. Oh, I loved every show I saw, and got a chance to see A LOT more than I usually do. I just found that staying with my Mom was a pain in the rear end, especially because I failed my driver’s test, and still couldn’t drive anywhere on my own. Plus my mother’s cooking chops are rusty. She was never very creative, but I was shocked to see how bad her attention to food safety is these days. One day, she thawed frozen chicken (in a storage bag) in very warm water, and then left it on the counter for over an hour and a half. Salmonella, anyone? I started to find excuses for leaving earlier and grabbing food in town before or during my shifts. She wouldn’t let me do my own laundry or clean anything for her. She said I should relax and enjoy being her guest. What alien abducted my mother?

I also found a very different vibe from the volunteer co-ordinator–who I had been told was amazing, organised, enthusiastic, etc. Instead, what I experienced was a woman who was severely overwhelmed. For a second-year veteran in the position, this is shocking. She literally let her two student interns do most of the work with the volunteers. I wasn’t surprised when she announced after Fringe was over that she wouldn’t be doing this job again.

Another person moving on started her Fringe journey the same year I did, only she did it as staff, and she was MARVELOUS. I am really, really going to miss her upbeat attitude, smile, and warm, caring nature. But she has a little boy now, and the constant super-late nights of Fringe are not good when you’re trying to raise children (or so I imagine, I have no experience at that).

Then, I found out that the reason the Techies were so surly this year is because, as of last year, they are hired by the venues, NOT the Fringe. They literally had to answer to another organisation which had/has different goals and expectations of the artists, volunteers and audiences. One wore a shirt that said, “No Joe? No Show,” which telegraphed his sense of importance loud and clear. Hey, having done lighting for our local production of ‘Noises Off,’ I can tell you it’s a lot of thankless work. No one notices when you do a great job, but boy do they notice when you screw up. I don’t want to denigrate these technicians (artists in their own rights), I just feel that when the Fringe hired the technicians, those people were more understanding and helpful. They wanted to be there, and they wanted to be social.

In the end, knowing so much is going to be different next year, and knowing that my Mom and I really shouldn’t live together for more than a couple of days, I’m trying to figure out how best to approach my commitment to 2015’s Fringe.

Option One: Same as this year. Will probably end with same result.

Option Two: Don’t be a Venue Manager, just volunteer for three or four days and stay in a hotel. Expensive, but worth it.

Option Three: Venue Manager, but double up on my commitment so I get my 6 shifts done in 3 or 4 days, and stay in a hotel.

Option Four: Find another place to live for 11 days. Someone suggested I consider asking the Producer to find me a billet, as she does for the out-of-town performers. Another long-term volunteer said, worse-case scenario, she has a couch.

Option Five: Stay at my sister’s. NOT ideal. I love my sister, and because I grew up with her, I know her house is full of drama at the best of times. In a way, it would be the opposite of staying at Mom’s: I would feel obligated to help out with cleaning and cooking.

I really need to figure this out, but at least I have at least seven months to do so.

The Opposite of Glee

I have a confession to make: I just finished binge-watching all four seasons of “Glee.”

When the show first aired, I was in my last year of university, and didn’t have cable. I had interest in the show, but couldn’t convince myself to download it illegally. Esso and I weren’t sure we were going to get cable when I moved to this town, so there wasn’t any point getting into a series, even if it seemed like a fun premise.

I always meant to check it out on Netflix, and just…didn’t. That is, until I heard of Cory Monteith’s death last week of a mixed drug toxicity (why don’t they call it “death by misadventure,” as with Jason Rae?). I realised, if I wanted to have an informed opinion on Monteith’s talent, I needed to watch the show.

Reader, I can tell you now that I am SO ANGRY with Cory Monteith.

That baby face hid a lot of pain and demons, and he managed to channel them into something pure and noble and good and joyous through his work in Glee. Now he’s gone, and it’s his own fault. There is no one else to blame.

He slid back into a lifestyle that he had worked so hard to escape over a decade ago. His work family and his real family worried about him so much, they kept an eye on him when they could…but he knew exactly where to go and who to talk to when he wanted the poisons that killed him.

So much potential. So much to live for and to do. All thrown away for yet another high, another escape. I can’t understand what happened, what made him relapse?

For me, the scary thing is that there are more kids like Cory (although how you can call a grown-ass 31-year old man a kid, I don’t know) than like Finn—and there are a lot of kids like Finn.

I have more thoughts on the show, itself, but I wanted to separate them from my thoughts on Mr. Monteith. Stay tuned.


Some Things That I’ve Learned

Time to do the Janus face: look back and reflect, look forward and plan.

As part of the reflection phase, I present a handful of truths I have learned, in no particular order.

1. Be More Than Just a Pretty Face.

Develop your character more than you develop your physical appearance. The most interesting, intelligent and worthy people I know aren’t necessarily the most attractive; they are the people who have the most thoughtful insight into our world.

This isn’t to suggest that all beautiful people are shallow; more that the people of substance are more interesting, vibrant and alive.

2. Take Care of Your Body.

I know this is going to sound contradictory, but your physical body does need to be taken care of as much as your intellect. I mean this as a health care issue. I learned, almost too late, that a sedentary lifestyle is not good.

If you want to live to an old age, and your family history suggests a preponderance for chronic diseases, do your best to head them off before they make your life difficult.

3. Be Generous.

Being generous starts with the desire to impact someone else in a positive way. It could be regular donations to an organization you support, and yet, generosity is more than monetary.

Every year, I participate as a volunteer with the London Fringe because I believe in their principles. The creativity and passion behind the performing arts is important, and I believe artists should not have to jump through a lot of money-obsessed bureaucratic hoops to get their messages heard.

Everyone has a story; every person is creative and has the right to express their creativity. The Fringe circuit in Canada and the U.S. offers just that opportunity. I don’t go to the fundraisers for the festival, and I have rarely been able to donate financially, but I give 12-13 days of my time every summer to help the artists who put themselves out there.

4. Learn to Say “NO.”

Again with the contradictions! Be as generous as you want to be, but remember, all your effort has to come from somewhere.If you don’t stop and give your own batteries a chance to recharge and realize goals independent from any other person or cause, something will burn out.

The word “no” has the power to change any situation, any circumstance, and you owe it to yourself to hitch onto that power once in a while.

5. Fiction Is Not Reality.

You cannot live in a fictional world. I read a lot of paranormal mystery and romance novels, and I am aware they are escapist fantasies.

For awhile, I wished I was Jane Eyre, or Clary Fray, but I’m not. I’m glad I’m not, really, because those girls had a lot of freaky stuff to worry about.

The problems of life are rarely solved in under 44 minutes. Real CSI police detectives don’t solve cases in less than a week—often, the cases take months, even years to be satisfactorily completed.

Brilliant people make serious mistakes—as a real-life doctor, Gregory House would probably kill a lot of his patients before his team could figure out what’s wrong with them.

Pre-teen girls are not secret rock stars or actresses, and there are NO SUCH THINGS as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or magical beings.

Life is hard sometimes, and it’s better to take strength from the lessons you learn from the stories you see and read and hear than it is to try to actually live them.

6. It’s Good to Have an Imagination.

A healthy imagination helps you learn to solve problems. If you can never conceive of alternate way of fixing something, or figuring out a puzzle, if everything goes from point A to point B in your life, you will never be successful.

Life is about making choices, and about the randomness of choice. Take out the random, the imaginative path, and you remove some of the magic and beauty of Life. I hate the phrase, “Think Outside the Box,” but the spirit of the message is sound. Don’t be afraid to daydream a new idea into reality.

My favourite Edgar Allan Poe quote is, “It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic.” Be fanciful, be analytic, be imaginative.

7. Forget Lemonade, make Lemon Sorbet

There is no situation in life which cannot be improved by a calm attitude, and sometimes, that means finding your inner cool. Take a walk, leave the room, put your headphones on and listen to music you love, distract yourself for a few minutes (or hours), then look at things again.

Sometimes, it may seem this is not possible, but it is. It’s not just for task-oriented problem solving.

I come from a family of hotheads. My bio. father and my sister use snark and vicious tones to attack and put their target on the defensive. What they haven’t learned is, you can never take something back once you’ve said it.

The person they say nasty things to may forgive them—he or she may even forget exactly what was said—but that person will always remember how that conversation made them feel, and it will scar them.

I’m learning (emphasis on the present, active tense) to curb my own tongue, to step back and cool off. It will take awhile, but I have faith in me. Life gives you lemons, etc….

Okay, so I’ve learned other stuff, but these are, in my opinion, the most important.