First time here? See the original post for the run down.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

day 26: dancing, surfing and learning to learn

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."
Shunryu Suzuki 

Some one recently called me "Good at being new". It was actually in jest on another subject, but I still took it as a compliment and it got my wheels spinning on the subject. Being new at something can be really challenging, and the attitude you choose to take in those first few steps can have a tremendous impact on how you take or don't take to a subject. I have several friends who can't give something more than one shot before deciding they don't like it or can't learn it, while I have others who aren't satisfied unless they're learning some thing that truly confounds them. I've always thought of myself as a good learner, but I've certainly had my lapses and they've taught me a few important things about learning.

Be ready to look silly and not care.
The thing people often have the most trouble with is failing in front of others. The more personal or vulnerable the subject, the greater the fear. Being a teacher and student of singing has shown this to me time and time again, and some of the best ways of dealing with it I've learned from those experiences. For instance, with younger children I will spend a whole lesson acting silly, making monkey sounds and elephant calls and generally horsing around so the child can see how silly we can really look in front of each other. Suddenly singing doesn't seem that out of place. With my older students I'll do something similar, but I'll also challenge them to gradually increase their ideal "fear audience". As in, who would you be somewhat comfortable singing for? Your cat? Great, put on a performance for your cat. The next week; Your family? Great, put on a show for your family. Your best friends? Great, etc, etc. After performing for their friends I ask them to go back and perform for their family again and they're often shocked about how much less silly or nervous they feel. By the time they can play for their friends and not bat an eyelash they're usually ready for the stage (or if I'm really feeling cruel, I ask them to sing in the middle of a food court). If you can find an opportunity to scare yourself a bit, great. Start small and work your way up to being truly vulnerable. Rome wasn't built in a day!

Have patience with yourself.
Learning isn't a race, it's one of the most important ways we can enrich our lives. Who says you need to learn at anyone's pace but your own? At the same time, there are well documented archetypes for learning, and in a lot of instances you are going to find yourself in a class or reading a book or getting a private lesson and the material is going to be presented in a way that really only serves one or two of those types. In instances where you have the opportunity, don't be shy about taking ownership of your lesson and asking for another way of hearing things explained. This happens all the time in lessons for me, but at least as a private lesson teacher I can always be monitoring to see how the information goes in and make adjustments when I see that flicker of confusion. In a larger class it can be challenging for a teacher to present in a way that's relevant to every learning archetype.

Enjoy the fact that there will always be some one better than you.
Don't just accept it, REVEL in it. If there's always going to be someone better at it, there will always be someone to learn from and some thing to learn. That's awesome. Some may not like the feeling like there's no roof on a topic, but it's almost always true. Try to appreciate the journey that that places before you. It's long and arduous, and always worth it.

Sucking at something is good.
A few years ago I tried surfing. Like, in the great lakes with a surf board, pretending the water isn't -5 because it's the back end of October. It was, by far, the hardest sport I have ever participated in. I had always been pretty naturally good at sports. I was never the best, and I didn't care, I didn't work for it, but I did like that I could basically adapt and excel at things I had never really done. Surfing was a rude awakening. On my first day, with perfect waves, I would be lucky if I had stood up once in the whole first hour we were there. I would paddle out, catch a good wave, go for the stand and tumble back in to the water. I was a little defeated that day, but it did teach me that some times you are actually going to, no excuses, suck at something. Take your slice of humble pie, go sit at your table and munch on it. Don't sulk, and don't feel sorry for yourself (those who know me know, it's a big for me to say "don't feel sorry for yourself"). It's not something to be ashamed of and in the end, you were getting too big for your britches anyway.

That's all for tonight. I've done a ton of dancing today and am exhausted. I'll have to come back tomorrow for edits. Night friends!

Friday, January 28, 2011

day 25: reminders, days off and texting on the john

I've spent the last week trying to get the most out of my time (not making the most of moments) and it's left me exhausted and drained (Post 1, anybody?). I've been eating food at the computer, bringing my cell into the washroom (oh, get over it) and using every moment in transit to learn tunes, read paperwork and write emails. I talk on the phone while walking home from work, or check my messages on the walk to work. I've started doing vocal warm-ups in the shower (which is actually really hard with water running over your face) and getting home and spending an hour with my shoes and coat on just so I can save a few minutes removing them before I head out again. I usually try to give myself 10-15 minutes of brain-off during my shifts at work, but even those I've filled with chart writing and errand running.

   I've even caught myself getting frustrated when I'm doing something that frees up a limb that could be multitasking, like when I was watching TV (a rare glimpse of recreation) and thinking how I should be taping charts at the same time.

   This week has been very anti-this-blog. I suppose I said I'd report on failures as well as success', and for now this is the former. This week I'm going to turn that around. All of these things need little course corrections, but I'm gonna start big. I'm going to book off time, as in, actually put it in my calendar as unavailable. I'm going to promise myself that time to do absolutely nothing. Or at the most, nothing I can't savour at the pace I choose. That time will be Saturday, February 5th. As of right now that ENTIRE day is a me day. Feel free to call me and see how I'm doing. If I don't answer, I'm in a movie or taking a nap. Or I've turned off my phone entirely. Oh! That sounds delicious. I might turn off my computer too. Oh my. Yes, better yet, don't call me...I'll call you. 

   I feel better already. I may spend the whole week looking forward to this. Yes, I might. Let's do this week. I'm ready for you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

day 24: we deal, we deal

I found out today that my guitar, my beautiful Martin was cracked because of dehydration. Then I had a communication break down (more like nuclear meltdown) that resulted in me not preparing myself for a rehearsal where I was playing guitar on a very difficult tune that I barely kept together. I've spent most of my day stressed and tense and with my head swirling full of things I can't quite grasp. Slow it down, Mary would say. You don't need to experience and react, just slow it down. Breathe. Okay. I'm breathing.

   Today was a bad day. There's no way to sugar coat it. There simply aren't enough positive things for me to list to outweigh the shit storm that accompanied my day. And my brain is so full of cotton and agitation that I can't form a lot of coherent thoughts. 

   That's okay, just slow it down. Today you'll feel sorry for yourself. Today you'll allow a bit of weak so tomorrow you an dig up a bit of strong. You're a human being, and you're good enough. You're a human being and you're damn good at it, even if you don't always win. Even if you're not always right. Slow it down. So people disappoint you; remember the people who inspire you. So expectations aren't always met; remember the goals you have reached and try harder. So pain has found a space in you today; don't force it away. Pain is an old friend who will visit once in a while. Greet it like an old friend and give it a fond farewell. Chaos is his brother. Welcome them both with open arms. They're like Jehovah's witness'. If you pretend they're not there they'll just come knockin' the next day. Invite them in, serve them coffee. Respect their presence but don't let them linger.

   Slow breaths. I'm fine. It's fine. Tomorrow you're going to start laying the foundations for something better than today. Tomorrow you will deal, like we all deal.

   Some readers are not welcome. You are the ones who read for information, not for meaning. You miss the point and make my life less enjoyable. Please search elsewhere for entertainment. I have no responsibility to you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

day 22: drunk

This will be my first post written tipsy/drunk! Let's test my lexicon. Surreptitiously sodomizing your sister's scintillating scenery. Check! Basixc moterrrr funcitons? Checkl!

   I had a good idea for a blog tonight. Instead, that'll be tomorrow, and tonight I'm going to use this opportunity, to those who don't know, to explain my relationship to the drink. Doing this tipsy just makes perfect sense. If I slur my words, it's because my fingers feel heavy.

   First, the facts. I didn't start drinking until about 4 months ago. "Whaaaa???" Say some; "you started drinking?!?!?!" say others. Yes, it's true both of you. Now be still and listen. The nature of this not-drinking was not absolute. A sip here and there didn't put me off, but until October 15th, 2010 I had never been drunk or even remotely buzzed. I really had no interest in alcohol or the effects imbibed (let's see most people using that word appropriately SOBER! Hell yeah). "No interest?" you say. Let me clarify.

    At the age of 15, I had just finished my first ever musical, Oliver. Given it was my first musical, it should be no surprise it was my first cast party, and like any group of backwater high school students would do, we held it in a field! Ever the pragmatist, I decided I would venture into this new terrain clear of mind and body, and so instead took on the role of babysitting one of my closer friends on her maiden voyage into the sea of spirits and elixirs. After several trips to pee in the woods (most accompanied by falling over), multiple instances of vomit (just in general, not from my chum) and one friend running around all night sobbing loudly and peeking in tents in search of jesus (because someone had convinced him jesus had made it to the party and he was upset with said friend) I took stock of my surroundings and promptly swore off alcohol for the remainder of my high school years. Some would call it "straight edge" (which I thought was just dumb), but I just couldn't see what the fuss was about. Luckily it was no effort to reaffirm this belief by going to more parties (as anyone who remembers high school drinking parties should attest). Including a memorable moment after yet another large field party where a close friend went completely over the deep end, began preaching about how the earth needed our help and was weeping while sitting in the previous night's fire pit, sorting through broken bits of glass with bloody fingers. That was…haunting. Suddenly, the Mike's Hard in everyone's system didn't quite mask the reality of what was happening, and some started to grasp that sometimes that place that alcohol lets you access isn't all "good times."

   There are of course other reasons that staved off the transition. Drinking involves a certain lapse of control that, at the time, seemed unsavory. Looking back now I know how important control was to me in those days, and know that viscerally that kind of loss-of-it would have been panic-inducing. Bad experiences abound, both at those parties and at home with an alcoholic step-father (for a thankfully short-lived period) right around the time I might have started played into it, but even before those traumatic events there was something more important to me: not being a peer-pressure statistic. I've often felt a need to play my cards differently than the common thread, and alcohol, for me, was a way to prove to myself that I didn't need to do what everyone else was doing. It wasn't even about fitting in or not, it was about proving my own resilience. That I could stand on my own (see what I mean about control?)

   So why here, why now?

   Well, college played out with similar motivations, and also a lack of funds. I don't know if being rich would've changed my outlook, but alcohol seemed such a silly habit to start when you were paying so much for tuition and it was all on student loans. College passed with, again, little to no interest in the mysteries of alcohol.

   STATUS UPDATE: After being taken out by a friend for a couple of pints, I'm now consuming "mystery" wine I found in my apartment. Maybe, when living alone, wine you've never seen before should be left alone. I say, fuck it.

   On the 15th though, I ended up at a close friend's house, sharing time with the same wonderful women from "Day 19". For this gathering we were having dinner and our spanish friend was making (as per usual) some of the most wonderful dishes I ever have the privilege of consuming. She's really wonderful. I can't even name the foods we were eating, THAT'S how high class this girl cooks. And when she says red wine goes with this meal, the non-drinkers (save Mormons...wierdos) simply nod yes.

   On this particular night, for no better reason than I had been seriously dwelling on control and my need for it, I asked for a second glass, and then a third. In fact, I encouraged my girls to get me drunk and make it a good one. They obliged. The night sailed by with new sensations, stream of thought conversation, and some very necessary drunk dials to my best friends not present. At some point I ended up under the coffee table and at another found myself sliding down the staircase on my stomach. Whatever. It was awesome.

   The next morning (by the grace of my friends' good advice about drinking water and whatnot), I woke up feeling great, if still a little unbalanced. I thanked my friend (who's floor I crashed on), got on the TTC home and got off a stop early to partake in some Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich. Oh. My. God. I felt like I had never truly understood the significance of the breakfast sandwich. It wasn't just passably good. It was perfect. I bought two, started eating them on the walk home, had the epiphany then turned around and marched back to Tim Hortons. I walked up to the counter to the woman who had served me earlier and exclaimed, "I get it!" She had no idea what I meant, but she took my order for a 3rd breakfast sandwich without complaint.

   That experience was freeing, and I've been an enthusiastic (if not frequent) drinker of mostly wine ever since. I'd like to finish on a philosophical note about the ability to release yourself from past experiences and enjoy a little chaos. Unfortunately the sips that have accompanied this writing session have, ever so subtly, moved me from tipsy/drunk to just drunk.

   Instead I will leave you with a fond farewell, and a merry christmas. Or whatever fucking seasons it is. Where's my bed?

Monday, January 24, 2011

day 21: absence makes the heart grow fonder; a lover's quarrel

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It is kind of strange how some times losing something is the only way to learn how precious it was in the first place. Maybe not strange, humans being prewired for adaptability, just unfortunate. In a way we're built to face challenges, and if something isn't presenting a challenge it's easy to move it to the periphery. It was in this way I forgot how much of a gift it is to be able to sing. To use your voice to so viscerally connect with yourself, with your emotions. To feel grounded, a part of everything and everyone. And I don't mean to sing "well" (that just means you might make money doing it), I literally mean just the act of singing.

   During my last year in college, and for a few years following, I was plagued with chronic viral infections in my throat. They're awful and there's no real treatment (strep throat at least you can pound back some anti-biotics). They were, however, predictable. When I was going non-stop for too long my body would give me a heads up, and I would know what was coming. It was my body's way of getting me to slow down with the only way it knows I would. Attacking my voice. A week of a very rough throat and body aches followed by a week of cold (as long as I listened and took some time off). It was never fun, but I learned to listen when it called.

   Almost a year ago it happened and so I took the time off. I took it off but the cold never came and the raspy voice never retreated. A month went by, 2 months, 3 months. I was starting to get seriously panicked. I hadn't heard my own voice in what felt like forever, and here I was performing on weddings to the best of my ability with a rasp I couldn't turn off (which for Ray Lamontagne covers worked surprisingly well). I've never been so scared for my health before. Half way through the summer it was as bad as ever and I (finally) opted to see a specialist who tagged it Muscle Tension Dysphonia. And how did I do it? Well, during the academic calendar I was trying to get some finances figured out and decided to take on a part-time job for a while, working with Apple. That, though, mixed with my teaching, mixed with the Studio, mixed with the after-school program I had started in Oakville turned into a 70 hour work week. My voice, my entire body, couldn't handle it. I ran myself into the ground and for the first time, missed all the warning signs.

   I tried explaining to my coworkers that I couldn't talk anymore. They said it was a sore throat, how long would it take to get better? I said, I don't know. They didn't understand. They didn't understand that it was a serious condition, but more importantly, they didn't understand what it meant to me. By August I had been in that condition for nearly 5 months. I didn't remember what I sounded like, talking or singing. I listened to old recordings of myself and it sounded like a stranger. I was getting really depressed and anxious. I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to think about it. I missed my voice. And I mean truly and deeply missed my voice, like it was a lover who had left me. I didn't know if it would ever come back. I tried to explain it by saying, it would be like a painter starting to lose their sight and not knowing if they would ever be able to paint again. I was so scared, I would some times just shake if I thought about it too much. I'm actually near tears thinking of it now.

   In late September I finally managed to make it in to therapy sessions for my voice, with reassurances that my voice would in fact come back. By mid-October I was myself again. I couldn't be happier and I couldn't be more in love with singing, like I was when I first started. The lover analogy is no joke. I started to take her for granted, and she left me. I quit apple, I quit everything. I cancelled gigs and did everything the doctor asked, trying to make it right. Trying to win her back, and I did. It's a bit corny, but I was reminded last night at a rehearsal that your passion, the things you love in your life are always a privilege that you earn. If you, like me, get to make that passion a way to sustain yourself in this life, then you my friend, have to treat it like that. Remember, your passion is a lover and she has needs. She needs your attention (not necessarily your obsession), she needs to be nurtured, and above all, she needs to be appreciated. You're lucky to have her. Some people can go through their entire life without finding something they truly love. Don't lose what you love just to learn how much you'd miss it.

   Last night's rehearsal was so much fun. It wasn't even my own music, just practicing covers with a wedding band. I've never felt so privileged.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

day 20: love, lessons and luck

Post 20! Post 20! That's a neat looking number! I'm gonna be a great parent because I'm content to celebrate anything and everything that happens as a milestone. You brushed your teeth? Woot woot! Here's some candy corn! You win! (Anyone who's eaten candy corn knows, nobody wins)

Today's post is about hesitation (woo! He picked a subject! Everybody dance!!!).

   A couple of years ago I started frequenting a local gym. There was this girl there that guh. To be honest, there were a couple of girls there that "guh", but this one girl really struck my fancy. Beautiful brown hair, big eyes, and best of all, a killing smile. Naturally, she was also super kind and sincere and seemed to have a good sense of humour (or at least, she was sympathetic enough to laugh at my jokes). Other than these things, I knew nothing about her.

   Now it should be known that I generally try to swim against the current when it comes to making advances on women. Which is a really deceptive way of saying, I got no game. It's not that I don't know how to talk to women, I know how to talk to anyone, it's rather I'm not sure how to engage in THAT conversation. I just know it should never involve the words baby, sweetness, suga', or shawty (although most other conversations should involve the word shawty). It should also exclude whistles, clicks, hoots, hollers and direct comment on the exact volume of junk in someone's trunk. Yes, this DOES let the woman know you're interested (something that actually goes a long way, or so I'm told), but I think presuming pet names (or using sounds you would use to call your pets) is a negatory. This is mostly speculation, but it's served me well so far. What hasn't served me, is timing (ironic, given my profession).

   The problem with timing is that it's so dependent on factors you have no way of knowing or controlling. At a glance, there are no ways of really seeing if a woman is ready to be in a relationship, be in a relationship with someone like you, or is ready to be approached in any way at all (unless she's balling her eyes out. Maybe take it easy there, Don Juan). You might feel a great connection, you might feel like the conversation is stimulating and engaging, that the mood is right and the chemistry is there, and it could still blow up in your face. I've had this happen and it has often left me holding the bag with mouth agape, thinking, buhwuuuuuh? It's a never-ending process, learning not to take those personally, but it does get better.

   So what can you do? Well, with this girl I simply waited. I didn't know where she was at, and to be honest, we hadn't even really had the time to see if any of the rest fit - connection, conversation, chemistry - seeing as our encounters were chance and short. So I waited, as though through the once every two weeks I saw her I was going to learn her deepest secrets and know EXACTLY when to strike. And by strike, I mean sheepishly ask for a coffee, probably mis-conveying my intentions altogether and look like a spineless git in the process (I'm told that's a bad thing in England... *shrug).

   Well, wouldn't you know it? Late that summer, she got a boyfriend. She was so happy to tell me. I was so… happy for her too. That's a funny misnomer. Maybe in a way we're happy at their happiness, but we still hope the new "boyfriend" gets hit by a car. Or that she finds out that he trips orphans. Turns out he didn't. And he doesn't. Lame.

   The lesson here was, in most cases, you're never going to know. There's never going to be a better time than now to take a chance on a girl (or guy). If it's a "yes", grand! If not, there's still a possibility a "no" now might become a "yes" when they're ready. I'm not saying wait for it, I just mean it happens, and is further proof that "no" often has nothing to do with you. Worst case scenario, a "no" stands the test of time and if it does, whatever you hoped would come of it wasn't going to, regardless of when you asked. Actually, worst case scenario she tells you right off the bat that she never wants anything to do with you, then sets your house on fire and kicks you in the change purse. In which case, aren't you glad you didn't waste years of your life pining after a psycho? Now you can move on!

   It's also good to know that some times hesitation is a manifestation of uncertainty in your own self-worth. No one can tell you you're good enough. It's something you need to grow in to knowing. I promise it get's easier. And one day you're going to look back and realize, you were always good enough. You were always the person you needed to be to have what you wanted. Your perception of yourself was all that held you back, and that's okay. We all deal.

   Anyhey, after this all happened and I realized how silly I had been, I wrote meself a song (as I often do to learn lessons). I called it, "Luck Favours the Bold". Which is another way of saying, there is no luck, so have courage. It should be noted that the song started by being about that girl, but somewhere along the line became about every time I let it slip through my fingers. Enjoy.


Luck Favours the Bold
written by James Everett

It's your eyes girl, I think that they've got me pinned to the wall
And your smile well, could cause any man to trip and fall
But I've been here before, and though fingers itch to rest upon your face
It's been a while and these weathered feet, they fear to change the pace

Oh, but if you knew my heart's desire
Would you tell me "Luck favours the bold"
And if you knew I'd walk through fire
Would you hold me or say, "Luck favours the bold"

Any man may court your lust, but he won't know your mind
And it's a shame cause, I think that I might know what's inside
So I stay strong, stay steady, and get your back til you are through
At the same time, I know that this is not the one for you

Oh, but if you knew my heart's desire
Would you tell me "Luck favours the bold"
And if you knew I'd walk through fire
Would you hold me or say, "Luck favours the bold"

Now the time has come at last
For me to show my heart for true
But before I speak you turn to me and whisper
"I've never had a friend like you"

So on and on this soulful song
Played in my head a thousand times
Will be that old reprise that haunts me
And keeps you in my dreams tonight

Next time I hear my heart's desire
I'll know, Luck favours the bold
And now I've surely walked through fire
And now I know, Luck favours the bold

Saturday, January 22, 2011

day 19: the queencar, swing dance and delirium by sleep-deprevation

My brain's a little fried after a pretty busy day, but Immo relate a little sum-in, sum-in best's I can.

   A few days ago I asked a couple of friends if they wanted to get together to do some shopping (since I'm realizing most of my current clothing I owned in high school, 8 years ago, and I am not very good with style). This particular couple of women are two of a group of four that I still hang out with from college. They are without doubt, some of THE most remarkable women I know. Energy, strength, intelligence, integrity, and all drop-dead gorgeous. Somehow in this group I've become the surrogate "gay-guy", wherein a girls night out usually includes me and no subject is taboo (which only occasionally has me blushing and quite frequently has me going "you guys do WHAT?"). I personally don't mind (although it does add to the seemingly endless supply of amazing/ly unavailable women in my life) in fact, I appreciate the refreshingly candid conversations. At this point in our friendship, I wouldn't want it any other way.

   Back to the topic of today, we decide before we get together to get some brunch, so at 10am this morning I find myself on the queencar headed east. My impression was brunch at 11am, but in one message we had apparently ball parked 11am-Noon and I didn't catch it. Regardless, it takes me about an hour to transit downtown so I set my alarm, got up early, showered, and made my way forthwith.

   I got there early (about 10:40am) but didn't really mind. Pulled out my iPod (on which I'm reading Freud's Dream Psychology) and settled in. At 11:10am I get a call from one girl asking what my status was, was I on transit or still at home? 

   "Well, no, I'm already here."

   "Oh! Crap, cause [other girl] was hoping we could make it noon. But it's okay! I'm rushing, I'll see you soon!"

   About 20 minutes later the first woman arrives, and not until 12:30 does the second. We know the shopping trip needs to be done by 2:00pm and by the time we're done eating and chatting the clock has basically run out.

   I bring this seemingly trivial story up to make only a small point, and this actually follows in nicely with our original theme. Plans you make with friends have a funny way of taking on a life of their own. I've often met those completely comfortable in these situations, but that has not been me by nature. For me, planning the correct amount of time, staying on schedule and doing the activities you had set out to do in the outset was VERY important. It's that conversation again of control and over-compensation. You would find me shuffling things along, moving a group on to the next event on the list (Wonderland used to drive me up the fucking wall), and trying to make sure that the day ran as smoothly as possible. I'd like to attribute this to some overly developed sense of maintaining efficiency, like I came out of the womb a little foreman, but the truth is, it's losing control of something you thought you understood that's both terrifying and disabling. I felt I could manage it if I took charge. I'm pretty sure it often drove people nuts.

   Today was a mirocosmic example of this, and I have never been more comfortable and more conscious of the effort it some times takes to 'let it be'. Not because I was struggling really, but because I was choosing to be really aware in the moment. And more importantly I was choosing to live in the moment, not past expectations, and the moment was good. There are times where keeping something on track can be great and improve everyone's experience (hence the occupational tour guide), but when it comes to close friends, some times the best plan is not to plan at all. If you surround yourself with the right people (and I always do), that will often be better than any get-together you could pre-ordain.

   This whole blog I felt like I was writing through some sort of exhaustion delirium. I'm certain it must be mostly nonsense. Fuck it! Summing up, Manda, Camo, Payi and Jomeara (I made that last one up just now), you are all amazing women. I wish only the best for you, and when it's in my power, will make it so. Tomorrow I will write during the day and it will make more sense. And I will say something SO relevant, it will blow your mind all over your face. Today I also danced, chatted with the girl from day 2 and played games with three good friends on the projector I borrowed from work for "presentations" using my PA system as speakers. Hell yeah. The blog can suffer a little if I get to have days like these. Much love!

Friday, January 21, 2011

day 18: the truth about video games (for the ladies)

My introduction to modern video games was harsh. The last console I had owned before college was a Nintendo. My grandparents had a Super-Nintendo, so I had rocked myself some super mario world, but by the time first person shooters like Halo had already been tearing up the college dorm party circuit for a couple of years I was still by all accounts, a video game ignoramus (a vidgamenoramus). Life seemed fine like that. I had NO idea.

   My education was upon the release of "Halo 2" in my second year of college. I heard raucous laughter coming from my neighbour and friend's apartment next door and decided to peek my head in. Bullet sounds everywhere! People are screaming in the final gut-wrenching moments of their demise! I hit the deck! Okay, not really. I saunter in and find a small group of my guy friends, huddled around a 19" TV with pop can shrapnel and the remnants of a decimated pizza scattered about the war-zone.

   "What's that?"

   "Dude, Halo 2 just came out!"

   "What's Halo 2?"

   "For Xbox?"

   "What's an Xbox?"

   A few moments later I have a claymore sized controller in my hand with what seems like a billion buttons, balancing a pizza slice on my knee and screaming a war cry as I launch my character into battle! Or rather, stare straight up at the sky and spin in circles, occasionally letting out a spray of rifle fire in confusion.

   But I'm a boy. I'm supposed to be naturally good at video games! An hour into lagging behind my squad and rarely confronting the enemy, it becomes apparent that no, I shouldn't, and no, I'm not.

   My education wasn't gentle. After a run down of a few basic controls it was either keep up or get left behind (until the computer rather embarrassingly teleports you to be with your comrades, so you can immediately get lost again). This was made MUCH worse when the boys tired of the "Campaign" mode (where you play co-operatively with your friends to beat the missions) and decided to play "Deathmatch" (where you are unforgivingly wiped across the digital floor via your former friends, now combatants). It was horrible. No one slowed down. No one let up, unless it was to circle around me like a pack of hyena's, laughing at their [for all intents and purposes] already wounded prey. It. Was. So. FRUSTRATING! I got SOOOO mad, I started envisioning actually shooting everyone in the room with a plasma pistol. I tried to channel that anger into winning strategies but always ended up dead, rarely having seen my opponent. 

   It seemed the census (especially among the better players) was that you just learned by getting your ass kicked until you got better. Because of my own resilience and determination, I did stick to the game and end up getting good at it. Good enough, in the end, to beat everyone I originally played with at their own game (admittedly, they had stopped playing it long since, whilst I had religiously set myself to the task of getting better), but truth is, this is the WORST way to learn almost ANYthing. It's not instruction, it's just giving you the option to win or fail. It's reminiscent of the old saying "sink or swim", but in this case it much more often translates to "sink or swim or get out of the water and never go back".

   I'm telling all this because since then I've learned to really enjoy video games. Imagine a really exciting action movie that's genuinely compelling, but where YOU get to be the main character. Henchman after henchman fall at your blade/spell/pistol/fire spit from mouth after contact with flowers, and YOU are the unstoppable wrecking force of unholy retribution. Believe it or not, I have been in games that moved me, spooked me, made me laugh. I've played games with truly great acting, achingly beautiful cinematography and plots that take you on such epic journeys, they make the Lord of the Rings movies seem a Meg Ryan flick. It's just another form of our standard entertainments - movies, books, TV shows - it just takes the immersion to a whole other level.

   It bugs me to see so many people turned off them, and usually for the same reason I almost threw down my pizza slice and said "fuck that, this thing is dumb". The reasons, though seemingly numerous, usually boil down to the same thing. They tried it but the people playing it with them took two seconds to explain it, then proceeded to completely annihilate them causing immense frustration and resentment. The ones who were trying it out decided in that moment that A) to really have the time to get that good you'd have to stop having sex (TOTALLY not true, although common), or B) it's just a dumb waste of time anyway. It's not about being bad, I just don't care.

   Well, denial is all well and good, but have you considered that you might have enjoyed it if people hadn't made you feel stupid when you tried it out? I know I would have! So I started something. I taught a girlfriend to play Halo. Not like, asked her to join in with me and my friends, I mean I took her into a "map" and spent 30 minutes going over how the game works. How the strategy works. What each gun does. And instead of telling her and then ripping into her, playing at her skill level while occasionally making it harder to challenge her to improve. It was really fun! That girl, not only became competent at Halo, but started to ask me to play ALL the time. Suddenly, games weren't ominous areas of frustration and anger issues. On our 'nights in' they became fun, recreational ways to chill en lieu of a movie. We'd be sitting around, yelling at each other (okay, so not "chill" per say) as we ran around our virtual planet trying to kill the covenant, or the locust, or rescue the princess or whatever.

   Since then, believe it or not, I've lead three more girls down the same road, and four or five of my guy friends (who at first seemed some how ashamed that they had never conquered that rite of manhood, the Video Game). ALL were surprised that video games were A) actually a lot of fun when you weren't frustrated, and B) not that hard if you had someone actually introducing them as a teacher. A really awesome teacher with a really handsome beard.

   I've often joked with friends about starting Halo Bootcamp that guys could send their girlfriends to. The tagline would be "Send them kicking and screaming, get them back just kicking… YO ASS, SUCKA!" Or some other hilarious play on words. I'm actually open. Please send your suggestions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

day 17: ted talks, springfree & real beauty

I went out with one of my closest friends tonight to a small PR party for Indigo's new eReading device, Kobo. I didn't truthfully care much about the product, but I liked the people involved (my two favourite Langdons). On the way home with my friend we talked marketing, successes she had had reaching people, and she reminded me of a video I saw a little over a year ago. It was a TED Talk (and if you don't know what TED Talks are, stop going to college/university and use the money you saved on a good internet connection because I guarantee you'll find more inspiration there). It was a talk about how great leaders inspire us. It's one of many truly inspiring videos I've seen through (including their free podcasts, which have oft left me in tears on the subway, ever so casually seeming to rub my eyes of sleep), and you can view it by clicking HERE. In fact, I refuse to address you directly until you've taken 18 minutes out of your day to watch the entire thing.

It's okay, I'll wait…

   So, amazing right? I don't even have anything to add really, I just want to spend a blog gushing and agreeing. When my friend mentioned it and the memories of that video started coming back to me, it made me realize how true it was, even in that very moment. Here I was, engaged with my friend, talking about her work with trampolines. Don't get me wrong, I love my friend, and I'm pretty into trampolines (we used to use them to jump into pools), but the PR work around it doesn't really interest me that much. Or rather, it shouldn't. I noticed, however, that over the course of her working there I've gotten to know the kind of company it is (even met the owner at their christmas party), and I have become genuinely invested in it's success. 

   It should be noted that I know if she were working on, say, toasters, I wouldn't care. If her job was to lead PR campaigns for dell computers? I still wouldn't care (I'm starting to sound like a terrible friend, but I mean I wouldn't care about the company, not what's happening in her life). What I like about the company she works for, however, is the integrity and the attitude. Everything she tells me and everything I've seen leads me to believe that at it's heart, this company is concerned with safety and quality. They create a product designed, not to compete with other trampolines as a "product line" (in fact, it doesn't in anything but ideology), but to solve a real problem in an industry that is putting thousands of children in hospitals (100,000 kids a year in the U.S. alone to give an idea). They do it by putting ingenuity, safety and a relentless demand for THE highest quality at the core of their existence. They don't build a product and then jump through the hoops to help it pass quality inspection. Their bottom line is safety and quality and then they focus on everything else. What a perfect and obvious concept. What a shame only a few companies seem to really grasp it.

   Watching the video again today made me think of those few and it brought to mind a really memorable video from 2006 by Dove from their "Campaign for Real Beauty". Before this "commercial", I didn't care about Dove. I wouldn't have been able to tell you if I remembered using their product, what it was like, I might not even have mentioned it if you had asked me to recall soap brands. After watching this video, which struck a real chord with me, the company has been on my mind everytime I walk through the hygiene section of a store. I some times buy new products they make just in the HOPES that I'll like it enough to use it regularly. You can't buy that kind of loyalty. If I won $1000 from them in 2006, would I remember the money? Hell yeah. Would I care about the brand? Not in the least. But give me 60 seconds of cheaply produced video and you have me for life. Because companies don't buy my loyalty. They earn it by showing they believe the same things I believe. It's not the WHAT. It's the WHY. So, so true.

   One more example I would have to give is Google. The interesting thing about Google is, they've had big flops. Remember Google Buzz? Anyone get a GoogleWave account? I sure did! I was so excited for this great new frontier of web messaging, and in the end, it tanked. You know what? I'm just as excited for whatever they put out next. I believe in the why of Google, just like I do in Dove, or Apple, or Valve. These are all companies, like SpringFree, that excel at resonating with their audience because they understand that the why comes first. The "what" is awesome; they have really cool trampolines, they look like a blast. The "why" though? Pfff. Watch the video, then watch it again. Send it to your friend, then watch it again. When you're done, investigate TED Talks for other things to laugh/cry/get inspired about. This be metheus, signing off.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

day 16: evolution, labels and what's behind the cover

As it became clear after a few blog posts, I had kind of pigeon-holed myself by declaring a pretty specific theme to write about on a day to day basis. 365 days of one lesson was destined, not for failure, but eventual evolution. So far I've learned a lot from this, including that I really love writing and I enjoy sharing lessons learned, but some times a lesson learned isn't about juxtaposing the good with the bad, it's simply adding new information to your repertoire. That's why I'm shifting course a little with today's post. If you liked reading along before, it's really not going to change that much, just become more holistic. From now on this blog represents lessons learned. Today I'm savouring progress. Aaaand, here we go:

   Everyday we're faced with labels, labels, labels. Some embrace a label, some rebel against them only to define a new label with which to combat. Few want to be labelled, but everyone uses labels to understand the world around us. We label knowledge like "trivial, practical, archaic", we label moods like "sad, happy, goofy, thoughtful", we label music, jobs, people, we label people, we label people.

   It makes sense in a way; labels help us define moments and communicate ideas. How could you describe things to people without them? "It's kind of pop/rock with a bit of jazz". The fact is, labels, like stereotypes, couldn't exist without some basis in reality. If they didn't work in communicating then they wouldn't be in use. Labels give us control of our surroundings. They let us work in a system of clear boundaries and of predictable outcomes. Labels are a quick reference guide, a way to delineate small packets of information from often, a single word. 

   Lazy. That man is lazy. What do you picture? Do you picture a man on a couch? Lazy doesn't have the word couch in it, but there he is, just sitting. A TV? Interesting. He's slouching, isn't he? Not sitting up straight, not dignified, he can't be bothered to be dignified. Unkempt maybe? I bet you think he's poor. Not a lot of money, right? Average living room, average life. His wife finds him irritable. Oh, he has a wife? And she nags, right? She wants him to finish fixing the cupboards. He said he'd do it a year ago. He bought the wood 6 months ago. He said in the summer maybe, he'd find some time.

   My mind makes this journey, and I think it must be shared. Maybe not detail for detail, but we all know what comes to mind when we use the word 'lazy' to describe a person (and I bet if I didn't say 'man' most of us would go there anyway). Let me ask you something about this man. Does he love his kids? Was his mother ever there for him? Did he ever love someone with wild abandon? Does he play drums? Does he make people laugh? Did he cry when his dog died?

   Lazy gave us an impression, but there was little humanity in that impression, just behaviours. Asking questions about him as a human being complicates the image. Makes it hard to define, harder to hold on to. We could so easily compartmentalize him before, understand him, dismiss him. We liked it. We love breaking people down to a few words that fit. It gives a sense of simplicity, of control of the chaos. And it's necessary. Accepting things on a case by case basis, truly taking life, the universe and everything for its individual worth is impossible. There isn't the time in the day. But it's good to be reminded once in a while that some times "sad" means a thousand different things, and you won't always be able to relate. Some times a 'good person' is a million different people and you can't really know what to expect. 

   If and when you can, treat the individual like an individual. Don't dismiss them with a few easily palatable adjectives. Ask them what makes them cry. As them what makes them ecstatic. Ask them what makes them furious. Introduce yourself to their humanity and learn what it really means to share the planet with people like you. People nothing like you. People just like you.

   I wrote this song a couple years ago after being fed up with labels. It's continuously relevant to me. Enjoy.


written by James Everett

Close my lips, and bite my tongue
A tale of my design's begun
But you have never known my heart, have you?

You flash a smile, wink an eye,
Nudge my side as she walks by
But you don't see her with my eyes, do you?

Do you? I don't think that you do…

It's not the world I see
Not the man I choose to be
And if you took the time, you still couldn't define - a single thing
Cause you have not been listening.

You know my age and know my state
Upon it your assessment's fate
Waiting to bestow your rate upon me

The line is drawn, the chord is struck
And in this cage you'd have me stuck
You've only built around your thoughts and so,

And so, you'll never really know it's,

Not the world I see
Not the man I choose to be
And if you took the time, you still couldn't define - a single thing
Cause you have not been listening.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

day 15: please leave a message after the beep...


I have an early day tomorrow with lots of fancy things to do. Blog today will be really short.

I take lindy hop (east coast swing dancing) classes on tuesday with my ex-lady-love Lisa. Today was a lot of fun and I spent less time worrying about doing poorly than I ever have. I'm not sure whether this attitude has helped me feel more relaxed when I swing, or whether feeling relaxed makes me more confident. This is a subject worth delving into, and maybe I'll dig on the details tomorrow, but I'm wiped. Night blog readers! Here's a badass lindy video to tide you over til then!

Monday, January 17, 2011

day 14: momma

Today I'm appreciating my momma. Yes, I'm 25 and I still call her momma. I have no real way to measure the trials my mother underwent to keep her children in her life. It's a feat I hope I will never have to recreate despite it being a show of great strength and incredible resolve. I don't want to go into detail in the interest of her own privacy, but I wanted it to be today's appreciation because I decided to finally respond to an email from my father after a long time trying to find the right words. The right words never really came, so I made due with that I could piece together from what I was feeling. It may be the last message I ever send to him.

   Times like these weigh down on you. It's a heavy feeling of loss, being without a father. Today I can deal with it a little better because I remember that I have someone in my life who really did do anything and everything because they loved me. It was harder to understand and appreciate that as a child. Now it seems to be pretty clear. To my momma, I love you. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for always doing better than anyone could have expected, even when you felt you were making mistakes. You are a remarkable lady.

Day 14, week 2, in the bag.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

day 13: pushing, pulling and public privacy

I've had a lot of questions about this blog on what it means to have conversations like these in public. Isn't that weird, to have such personal information just floating out there in the cyber-ethos? When I really imagine different people reading this, from very close friends to those who know me only in passing, the latter does some times draw up some anxiety. It should be noted though that in the past to say a "little" anxiety around just those I "don't know that well" would have been a huge understatement. And it's not the moments of intimate detail that bothers me (those are just facts, I'm not afraid of those), but rather the vulnerability of sharing real hurt and fear.

   I grew up, for better or worse, with a real need to nurture. We could talk about all the reasons why (need to be needed, analytical fulfillment, compensation, etc) but the heart of it is, I wanted to be the person people felt close to, felt could be their rock and felt they could share things with. Unlike my want to be a neat-freak, this was based on a real itch that had to be scratched. Hours could pass in conversation with little to no appearances from myself except to egg the others' story on. I thought I was learning to be selfless, but in reality I was keeping people away from the most fragile parts of myself. This somewhat misled want for "intimacy" however had a truly peculiar affect on my friends.

   Some friends fell in to the role very easily. It came to a point where the norm of our relationship upon greeting would be that they would launch into their own personal dramas. Non-stop for the duration of the visit they would unleash a litany of the melodramatic rhetoric of their lives. In these instances I found myself, over time, avoiding their presence. I became despondent and unavailable. It turns out that keeping someone else the centre of attention for hours on end is exhausting and I started to become very weary of being the person I had tried so hard to be.

   Most friends though, couldn't cope with this approach. Maybe in some way they found the attention unsettling. I also think that when you're dealing with a friend who's outside says "everything is great all the time! How are you?", you start to lose trust in that person. How can you relate how shittily you think you handled something to someone who's never made a mistake (but truthfully makes numerous little mistakes and runs like a prison escapee from the possibility of real calamity)? That trust and relation I wanted with those friends was terribly mangled by my "selfless" approach to conversation. It's only in recent years I've begun to really take ownership of my own wants and needs, and only in the last year or so that I've really offered a reason for others to trust me with theirs. I did that by starting to actually share that I worry about my life in music, that I'm always at a loss when dealing with women and that my past has left me a bit of a scarred wreck. Doing this has also made it easier for me to relate to others because for the first time I'm really acknowledging these fears out loud. Acknowledging your own pain has the uncanny ability to strengthen your empathy.

   Maybe this information should be reserved for those few who take the time to venture to my side of the path (although in a way, actually reading this blog is like that), but how often has keeping any taboo topic out of the public eye helped in social progress? Were abused kids better off when no one was talking about it? Do we gain more security around things like AIDS and STD's by keeping sexual education out of schools? No. A little open conversation has actually improved relationships in my life, started some amazing discussions and even inspired a bit of action. Keeping it all to myself did none of that (and often the opposite).

   Remember that time you wanted to tell your roommate that you hate when they wear their shoes through the house, but you psyched yourself out that it would be this huge argument so you just let it drive you slowly crazy? Then you finally tell them and it's not at all a big deal? We always had the power to make things better, we were just afraid. And things are getting better. So no, I'm not really worried about making these conversations public and if it gets too intimate, nobody's forcing you to read. There are plenty of blogs out there that talk about nothing at all. Just hit "Next Blog" above, it's a good bet you'll hit one. 

   Today I appreciate open and vulnerable rather than closed and safe. I'm a singer after all. If I can't be those things in public then I'm not really doing my job.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

day 12: procrastination and some other things I'll mention later

Today I found time to appreciate wasting time. Procrastination can be a bit of a crutch for me on occasion, but it's not the debilitating, shameful cycle of self destruction I often let it become in my mind. In my mind, any day-time not spent accomplishing errands or tasks, making money or doing things for the band is time wasted. It's a challenge to tell myself that it's okay to slow down. That humans were never meant for constant productivity. That slowing down to enjoy things is part of this whole process I'm going through. 

   I've met (and dated) people who were actively ambitious 24 hours a day and I truly admired it. I thought these people had some sort of magical inner drive that made them super human, destined for success. It might be the path for some types of success, but one thing I learned from being close to these people is there's often little room for anything else. Including little room for me or my wants/needs as a friend/lover. Those relationships rarely lasted.

   If that's the incumbent cost of being that driven then I call the cost too high (and day 9 showed me better than to want something for myself because of how I want to be perceived). Last night a had a really good time with some friends. Today I removed exactly %34 of the associated drink containers, paper plates and napkins from around my apartment (from that description I apparently hosted a 4 year old's birthday party) and then spent the remainder of the day playing video games, napping and going to my friend's CD Release (which was AWESOME, thanks for asking). I revelled in some procrastination and yet still have a doubtlessly productive week ahead of me. The guilt is smaller today than it's ever been. Still not perfect, but getting better.

   I feel this subject begs even further exploration…  ehn, I'll do it tomorrow.

I like the irony of the post below opening with a line about procrastination. It actually was void of it, all the more reason to let saturday go to waste.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

day 11 (advance screening): romance in the air, swords in the gut

In the interest of friday being procrastination free (and because according to my clock, it's friday already) I'm doing this entry early. Enjoy!

One of the more extraordinary gentlemen I've had the priveledge to meet, recently made a move away from his lady love in search of whatever it is men find compelling in Edmonton. I assume it's natives (OH!) or tar sands (double OH!). Mild racism aside, I think he wanted to be closer to his family (excusable), but has very recently begun rethinking his move for various reasons. His lady love was naturally upset by his departure (he's kind of a catch) and he, in the event of his return, would like to ride a wave of love on his surfboard of romance back to the city. He sought to make a start today when he learned his lady was sick.

   How to make your love seem to reach miles and miles over land and sea to our little town of Toronto (wherein his lady love resides) but still keep your physical form in Edmonton (withOUT a flying phone box/time machine)? Text the coolest guy you know in TO to bring her some delicious Tim Hortons soup and doughnuts, that's how. This was my mission should I choose to accept it and despite the looming deadline to reach my sister's show this evening (Duel of Ages as part of the Fringe Festival) I chose to accept.

   Did I budget enough time? Yes. Did the Tim Hortons I google-mapped on the way to lady love's residence even serve soup? No. Wait, what? NO SOUP!? It's now 8:20p and I need to be on the complete other side of downtown for a 9p curtain (and there's NO late admittance).

   JAMES! Leaps tall buildings (or rather runs BACK the way he came to the downtown core) to reach an alternate timmy's. LEAPS them once again to get back to the residence (I was humming a super hero theme song while running, no joke). I know the girl's name and her room number, shouldn't be a problem. Guy at the desk says that unless I know her extension, he can't even acknowledge she lives in the building. Wait, what? Are you fucking kidding me? It's for romance! It's gotta be just right! Come on man, it's just soup and timbits, you gotta throw me a bone here! After captain pre-pubecent of the power-tripathons FINALLY accedes to call the room so she can come get her care package (of love: multiple entendre!) I bolt out the door and start racing for Queen St. to grab the streetcar across town (no thanks to Rob Ford. Douche).

   Fingers flying on my qwerty text-a-phone, I try to figure out if I'll make it. After some (excessive) swearing, falling in a snow bank and crossing the same street multiple times I finally make it to the Fringe tent. 3 minutes to curtain! The woman (rightly) doesn't trust I'll find the theatre after getting my tickets, and actually leaves the tent to lead me down the street. I walk through the door in the nick of time and what is there? A front row seat, right on the aisle, I shit you not, LAST seat in the house.

   Any who know me well or venture to know me well will learn I'm not a man of faith, but only a truly pompous man would ignore my good kharma layin out a clear path. OR someone who believes I know transit travel times really well and plan for delays, thus ensuring my own success. In the interest of appreciation recreation, I'm gonna under-think it and say WOO KHARMA! That's close enough to the theme, right? Fuck it. It's a good story.

Final report: Romance achieved, show watched, sister kills it, blog written. It's been a good Thursday.

If you at all have a chance this weekend, check out Duel of Ages at the Next Stage Theatre Festival (it's somehow Fringe related. Don't ask me). It's honestly some of the best theatre I've seen in years AND there's tons of violence! What-what!

day 10: cold showers, camel balls and empathy as a tool

I had an interesting conversation today about relative suffering. And by conversation I mean, had a friend at work essentially accuse me of being a prude for showering when the water was cold. I know, right? Just wait. I'm gonna connect the hell out of those two things.

   She breaks it down like this: I took a shower instead of just leaving for work after realizing the water was cold. The implication extracted from this is that I must shower all the time, even when I don't need it and (in her opinion) that makes me prissy and high maintenance and THAT means I'm out of touch with the "real world" (ie; should shower only when smelling of camel's satchel, like old country!).

   It's funny finding yourself trying desperately to defend your right to take a shower when you want to feel clean. It's absurd, but this particular friend has always been good at pushing me into the most absurd corners, making me feel I need to argue my way out. The crux of the argument wasn't of course about showers, but this person's belief that everyone who grew up in North America is out of touch with suffering vs. my need to prove I'm not. (This touches pretty close to the subject of yesterday, but that's not the conversation I want to pursue).

   One of the things that bugs me about this is the presumption that unless you've had bomb shells coming down around your house as a child, you can't really understand and respect what's happening in other parts of the world. I didn't particularly want to get into all of the senseless violence and chaos I experienced and witnessed as a child with this person, but in a way I feel I shouldn't have to.  

   The fact is, while I value someone with perspective, I would never wish my experiences on someone else just so they can say they understand suffering. I appreciate the fact that I can use my experiences to learn about myself and to value safety. I also truly appreciate and understand what it means to live in a country like Canada, because I do watch/read the news, I do have conversations with people from different places and I do travel as much as I can. Resoundingly I hear in these conversations an appreciation for this country and the ability to have things like frivolous conversations, self indulgence and sleep interrupted by nothing but dreams*. Rarely do I hear them saying they wish people in Canada could experience what they've been through. 

   That some of us had a more expansive world view? Sure. Some are truly content in a bubble of ignorance and indulgence (hence the horror film industry) and it can be really frustrating. That being said, I'm often surprised at the amount of pain residing just beneath the surface of most people's sunny and care-free pretences. Invalidating that pain because you think someone, somewhere else has experienced something more horrific shows no respect to either condition because you're treating their pain like a competition instead of what it is. A truly unfortunate human condition that we all share, the ability to be hurt.

   If this is your prerogative, then what is it we gain from this "new sight"? Is this perspective simply to facilitate us becoming compassion dispensers for every person in a worse situation? Will the ensuing guilt (and very occasional charity**) make the pain we experience worth it? Or perhaps, do we learn about pain so we can measure when suffering is worth what we would gain? Like learning heart break but throwing yourself back in because you've found one person who would be worth what you might have to lose in order to win.

   I really believe that compassion is wonderful, but that it doesn't need to be a product of seeing horrific tragedy. Empathy let's us tie our experienced pain to that of others and gives us what we need to take stock of our circumstances. Today I appreciate my circumstances, but ask others to respect my pain. I will do my best to offer the same. And next time I pass by a trivial conversation about the wonders of grape-fruit or how hard it is for someone to wake up in the morning (both actually happened today), I will smile to myself and be more grateful still.

*I had a student of mine who day-times as a pharmacist tell me about all the regulations and testing he undergoes on an almost monthly basis just to make sure he is giving people the right drugs/advice. I realized I took that for granted, but he shared that where he is from they don't come even close to regulating to that degree. This place was not third-world, it just didn't think a few people dying from poor instructions every year was worth financing that kind of infrastructure.

**the derisive nature of this statement isn't for charity, it's for charity bred of guilt. Charity necessitated out of guilt is just another word for slavery, stating that any man can have what I earned simply because their need is greater. Charity is a choice, not an obligation. Else, why would it be admirable?

miniature moment 3

Today I had the coldest shower I've ever had in winter. It was also the shower with the most expletives.

Admittedly I didn't find an upside to that, BUT! Once I was fully dressed in pants and sweater I was remarkably aware of how awesome pants and sweaters are.

Miniature win!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

day 9: getting near the deep end. here, I brought you water wings...

I used to think I enjoyed cleaning but later came to the conclusion that I liked being in a clean space. I'm realizing today, there may be even more to it than that. Upon reflection, cleaning is a fantastic goal to set for yourself because you have total control over achieving it. Imagine that! How often do you really have complete control over attaining EXACTLY what you want? Some would say always, but they just haven't had the shit kicked out of them yet. Point is, today is a cleaning day and even though I've put it off for several days, I am now (or rather, will soon be) wholly set to the task.

   That's just a thought though, not my reflection for today. I was thinking about it because I remember at one time wanting to be known as a "neat freak". I remember many times wanting to be many things, not always through desire to satisfy an itch, but to be something I thought people would prefer to see me as (and I will get back to the absurdity of this). Truth be told, a bit of mess doesn't really stress me out the way it does an ACTUAL "neat freak". Today I'm reminded of that hurtle and what it means to be okay with who you are. I was reminded of it twice today actually, and it's pretty timely considering the blog. 

   I went to see an old teacher of mine at Humber College to discuss a bridging program for their new degree. Take a couple courses while working at the Studio and walk out with a "Bachelor of Applied Music". I somewhat sheepishly was admitting how I never really finished the Thomson Rivers degree, that when it came down to the online geneds/TR jury/general hoop jumping, that I kept putting it off until it was too late and the program shut down for "old degree" students. This teacher has always been a saint and a big supporter, but on the way out she asked me, why didn't I just do it? I stumbled at first but eventually said, I've come to terms with what I'm not. At Humber I was great at a lot of things, especially being a musician, but I wasn't a particularly good "student". The classes I really nailed had nothing to do with being a good student and it used to make me feel like the biggest impostor ever. It seriously stressed me out that the format of school didn't really (and never really had) reflect the ways I get productive, and it affected how I saw my actual successes. I got a %90 on my final recital and felt like I had some how cheat the system. Like there was a mistake because I wasn't the guy who finished english assignments on time or spent 5 hours a day in the practice module practicing enclosures in all 12 keys.

   I've since come to appreciate my actual strengths and that academic achievement is awesome for some and inconsequential for many. Like I was alluding to in day 4, there's no one "right" way to be. More importantly, I got a %90 on my final. I earned it through writing great charts, running tight rehearsals, and singing (despite a viral infection the week before) my heart out in front of my peers and professors. I don't need to achieve what others have achieved to find value in what I can do and who I am.

   So where did that attitude start in the first place? Why would you ever want to be what you think people would PREFER to see you as? Well, it's one part being hypersensitive to other people's wants/feelings (which is part noble endeavour, part obsessive concern for how you're seen), and one part not always believing you're good enough as you are (both parts nearly one in the same). The roots for that go back quite a ways to a child hood without much affirmation and with no father to push up against, a necessary part of growing up and deciding where you stand in relation to other human beings. Ironically, part of my high school years was telling myself I didn't need or care for affirmation because I thought that was how I should be (clever defence, no?).

   There's no real fault here (cept my Dad being a douche). My mother was trying her best to support three children on her own, sometimes working multiple jobs to get food on the table. There's only so much attention to be had in there and as for rebelling? Forget about it, not at the one constant in your life.

   So somewhere along the line I missed some training (who doesn't?), got some lessons way too early (who doesn't?) and spent the early part of my adulthood trying to work it out (who isn't?). That's life (and didn't I say it would get personal?).

   My conclusion? I appreciate who I am, where yesterday I might have berated myself for not being the person I thought others wanted me to be. I believe I am enough, where yesterday I might have felt unworthy. In fact, I may be more than enough. I should probably parcel out some of me, cause I'm overflowing with 'nough'.

What do you guys think? Were there things you 'tried on' that you later realized didn't suit you? Mr. Punctual? Captain phones people back? Lady cares about trivia? Dutchess of wide-legged pants?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

day 8: we interrupt your regularly scheduled programming...

Though the concept of this blog is to find positive where negative took precedence, it's a fallacy to believe positive energy should always dwarf negative expression. The fact is, some times things make us upset and the only way to deal with it isn't to 'see the bright side', but to actually commit to how you can affect change. The blog began because there were a lot of places in my life I was finding negative energy needlessly poisoning my ability to enjoy the positives. In this case, I'm quite content to be furious, derisive and as acerbic as is necessary. If this seems a strange divergence, well, no person is any ONE thing. Welcome to humans. We're a blast.

   In October of 2010, the greater city of Toronto voted in rodeo star Robert Bruce Ford as her mayor and chief. Ford's platform was that of a conscious conservative, touting smarter spending, smaller government, and a comprehensive transit plan that would replace "Transit City", a City of Toronto partnership with Metrolinx to improve, eco-friendify, and extend our current transit system.

   Rob Ford's budget for better spending was summarily dismissed by City of Toronto budget chair Shelley Carroll as being "unrealistic". His concept of where transit in Toronto is headed is completely at odds with the plan devised by dozens of engineers, scientists and experts, EVERY major connecting transit system and tons of user feedback refined over several years of development. The plan was built on factors like affordability, environmental impact and drawing new ridership (estimated upon completion it would attract 75 million more users/yr to the currently 100 million user system/yr).

   He proposed that this plan was a "war on cars" and promised in his campaign that he would remove the "vehicle registration tax" installed by then mayor David Miller. He asserted that this removal of $64 million dollars from the annual budget would not be cut from public services, but from the imaginary money he had allotted in his imaginary budget. Upon his election he kept his campaign promise to vote down the vehicle registration tax, but was resoundingly refused when voting to keep those cuts out of public services. Where did he think the money was going to come from? No one's really sure.

   His transit city alternative (devised in, I can only assume, a drinking binge over May two-four) is to annex all LRT plans and replace them with a subway connecting the Sheppard line to the Scarborough RT and to include more buses (which he asserts will greatly impact traffic congestion because of their ability to weave in and out of traffic).

   Buses are the most inconvenient, inconsistent and uncomfortable systems of transit the city has, and subway is by far and away the most expensive to operate per rider as well as one of the hardest on the environment. Besides which, in today's Star we learn that Ford is cutting 48 bus routes down to save money, only one of his many contrary, flip-flop statements (bike trails and 100 new cops are two of my other favourites).

   Also announced today was his proposal for a TTC fair hike that would work out to about another $60 per rider. Isn't that strange. Vehicle registration tax costs about (exactly) the same per car registered, but now we don't have to worry about the money THAT pulled out of the budget, because the levy is being passed from car drivers to transit users.

   Also what a strange coincidence, that even though public transit was a huge part of every candidates platform and is a huge part of current council debates, the Transit City overhaul is being spear headed by someone who's likely never ridden a bus and was voted on by wards who barely, if ever, use transit (the outlying GTA as opposed to Toronto main which overwhelmingly voted Smitherman).

   Rob Ford doesn't understand transit, he doesn't understand budgets, I would be surprised if dressing himself didn't give him anxiety. To counteract his imaginary "war on cars" (the initiative to make a greener transit system and Toronto) he has waged a war on everyone else. I say if he wants war, give him war. If you got the fire in your belly, check out some links below, sign a petition, join a rally, send an email. Today we're savouring righteous anger!

Today's article
A glimpse of his budget failing in practice
Join a rally!
Some good news!
Why Buses over Streetcars make no sense for congestion