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In which I’m suddenly an extrovert, write songs, am on television, and create a huge vintage freak show. Happy 2015!

New year! It’s funny I write this in such good spirits, because most of 2015 so far has felt pretty terrible. However, when life gives you things beyond your control, as long as you’re consciously doing all you can to make the best of the situation, I find the notion of acceptance a comforting one. (I conveniently had this realisation on my Google calendar scheduled “Epiphany” day. Anyone else have a good one?) Also, gratitude for all the things that don’t suck. They’re always there, if temporarily eclipsed.

I didn’t make myself any resolutions for 2015. I think New Year’s resolutions are kind of stupid (if you want to change something, do it on any day of the year), but I had the idea of making resolutions for everyone I know and love. At first that might sound horrid, but I think instead of everyone making lists of things that will likely evaporate two weeks into a new year, maybe we could all do these few things throughout the year. I kept seeing on my Facebook news feed how dreadful 2014 was to many people. So let’s make the next one awesome. 1) Stop wishing, and start doing. We only have one life. 2) Get out of your comfort zone. It’s scary, but I’ll hold your hand. It’s made me physically ill, but also led me to some of my greatest loves in life. 3) Think of at least one thing every night before bed you’re thankful for. Better, write it down. Wake up happy. 4) Stop and admire the stars. 5) Every time you judge or criticize yourself, ask yourself if it’s warranted. If so, do something about it. If it’s just a nasty inner monologue, ask yourself what your dearest friend would say about you. How they would see you. Because if you’re reading this, chances are at least one person (ahem) thinks you’re wonderful. 6) Cut things out of your life that aren’t contributing to where – or who – you want to be. It’s hard to give up on what can feel like obligations, but we all have hopes and dreams, goals, great people and self-nurturing to fit into our lives. Don’t run yourself ragged. You don’t have to say yes to everything.

Seriously, bundle up and lie on a table in the middle of nowhere and look up at the stars once in a while. It's magic.

Seriously, bundle up and lie on a table in the middle of nowhere and look up at the stars once in a while. It’s magic.

Those were my thoughts going into 2015. Some crap happened, but some incredibly great things have happened too, and we’re not even three weeks in. I attempted to conquer my fear of sudden loud noises. I spent time and many hours with my best friends on the planet, who picked me up when I was physically lying on the floor unable to stop crying, brought me chicken nuggets and let me sleep with every pillow and blanket in the world, talked me through everything with such openness and transparency, love and honesty, even if it hurt, that I felt they were legitimately part of my own mind for a while. I never imagined I would find friendships so close, and for the two of them, words cannot describe my gratitude.

friends

I wrote a new song. I spent a couple of days snowed in with my dear friend and she let me spend a day with my beautiful new baritone ukulele (for which I have to learn all the chords again from scratch! Whole new instrument, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to play! Thank you to The Professor for the wonderful Christmas present! I named him Cogsworth.), writing quite possibly the most heartfelt thing I’ve ever written. The feelings I had were so intense, I had to put them to music. And I wanted it to physically move people – sound very upbeat, as well as hopefully move them emotionally. I like songs whose feel sounds completely different from the actual lyrics. Here’s a very rough draft – recorded literally a few hours after I finished writing it – but with White Foxes we’re going to add in harmony, I hear some sort of kick drum, more guitar, and hopefully it’ll end up as a piece of ass-kicking folk a la Mumford and Sons. I’ve been really excited about making music lately. Just thinking that my whole life I’d wanted to sing or write even just one song, and in the last year I’ve written enough to record a whole EP. And I get to make music with two incredible people. I’m so very lucky.

I also tried the new instrument out on a song I figured everybody would know, along with another piece of new equipment – a Zoom H1 I bought to record band stuff. My phone REALLY wasn’t cutting it in terms of audio quality. So here’s Lady Gaga’s “Applause” I tried about ten minutes before my friend Nicole arrived for a movie night. (Yep, that’s my music stand falling down halfway through and me winging the end.) Excited to actually pair the mic with my DSLR once I figure out how to keep it recording video for more than 8 seconds at a time!

applause

I also got to be part of some amazing photography projects recently, both as a subject and photographer/editor. I always feel strange referring to myself as a photographer, because I don’t consider myself one – all my work is done in post; but I’ve been watching courses with the incredible Brooke Shaden recently, and she’s known in the fine art world as a brilliant photographer, yet she freely and regularly admits not really knowing how to use a camera. I organised my first big photo shoot as a “photographer” at the end of December – an entire series of weird and creepy old timey freak show shots I convinced people to pose for and let me edit. My dear friend Kevin owns a studio in the Exchange District and incredibly kindly allowed me to not only use it, but also his lighting equipment for the day. I had over a dozen models, a fabulous hairstylist and two amazing makeup artists all show up to donate their time and skills to help make my project come to life. I’m not quite finished all the images yet, but here are a few I’ve finished so far. (Of course I had to be one of the characters too – I’d written this character in my book, and it was the perfect opportunity to bring her to life!) I think you can click on each image to see it larger. I haven’t used galleries before. And yes, that’s a cut-up doll attached to a woman’s stomach as the baby that never came out.

I also got to be in front of the camera a few times – and my talented friends transformed me into a robot, an entire galaxy, and an evil disease infecting another poor soul.

I also really, really want to get back to working on my novel soon – it’s been too long, and I realised I’m turning thirty in a few months, and I began this project two years ago. I need to get back at it before another two go by. (But there’s so much to create!!)

Another fun thing that happened was that this very blog got featured on a local channel! It’s on television sets every day for the next few weeks, and I’ve already had people stop me and comment about it, which is very strange. My lovely coworker happened to be volunteering at the station and they were doing a series on bloggers, and though it was about two weeks after we’d met last summer, we’d become fast friends, and I ended up doing an interview.

blog

I realise I’m at about 1,200 words right now. You should know I gave up on the “rules” of blogging a long time ago, and for making it this far, thank you! I also had a bit of a realisation recently, and it honestly threw me. If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know how very interested in psychology I am. I love to study personality, the human mind, how we all weave our lives into each others, and how we’re all wired on the inside. People fascinate me, and the study of psychology is something that’s taught me a lot, as well as continuing to bring a sense of personal understanding and reflection. It’s also made me feel that after so many years, it’s okay to be exactly who I am. And as strange as I feel sometimes, I am not alone. The MBTI has been getting a bit of a bad rap lately, and I’ve never been one to call is sciencebut I have appreciated and learned a lot from it. It’s a psychometric typology assessment I’ve taken routinely for the better part of the past decade, at least, and I’ve eternally scored the same result: INFJ. This is considered, at less than 1% of the population, the rarest of all personality types, and I related to it so much that I got it tattooed as part of my text sleeve a few months ago. Over the past few years, my introversion has gone steadily down, which I’ve felt good about – the closer I got to zero, the more progress I felt I’d made in conquering my anxiety, but I always remained an INFJ, also known as “The Counsellor”.

infj

For two reasons recently, I decided to take the test again. One: I found myself filling out a new type of personality assessment, and noticed I was answering questions in a way I hadn’t before. I had more confidence and answered in a more extraverted way than I have for most of my life. I found this interesting. Two: I was given the biggest compliment in the world. In preparation for the galaxy photo shoot, I was telling the team that I’d like to incorporate something my friend Kier had always told me – that even at my quietest and most afraid, I had “a universe inside.” This meant so incredibly much that somebody saw what I was. My friend Melinda, whom I only met last year and who’s done some of the most incredible makeup I’ve ever seen, told me she “never would have guessed I used to be painfully shy.” Same with a coworker who’s only known me a few months. “Can’t imagine you not being this confident person”. Shy was THE word people described me as since I moved to this country, and I hated it so much. I hated what people saw on the outside just because I was so scared of everyone and everything. I was so scared of being judged that I never let what was inside come out. I feel like in the last few years I’ve tried to put myself in situations that force me to do what I’ve always wished I could. And to have people see that as ME… that in itself was enough to throw me.

enfpI’ve been worried lately I’ve been growing less sentimental, but that’s not it. I’m still the most emotional and sensitive person you probably know, and I’d still do absolutely anything for those I love. I tell them how much they mean regularly and I make a point of trying to put good out into the world whenever I can. I think maybe I’ve just learned to recognize things and see them clearly, and not through rose-coloured glasses. I’ve also learned that I’m more than okay on my own, because I’m incredibly lucky to have the best friends in the world. And I think that’s given me a bit of strength. Anyway, back to the MBTI. I held onto being an INFJ so hard because my whole life, it was me. 100%. But I retook the test. I expected maybe my introversion would have gone down a bit more, but I didn’t expect it to flip onto the side of extraversion. A tiny percent (basically a cat’s whisker over the border between the two), but also? My J changed to a P. Apparently I’ve become more okay with spontaneity rather than careful planning. Things have become more flexible. My entire personality has apparently shifted from the sensitive INFJ to the outgoing ENFP. Reading over this description… I don’t disagree. That’s the alarming part. Have I become a whole new person? I’d always wanted to become someone with strength and courage, someone unafraid to be authentically themselves in any situation, someone who wasn’t scared to try making an impact or putting my stuff out into the world… hopefully someone who could inspire others in some way. I just scored ENFP. The Inspirer. And I don’t know what to think. I know basing your identity on pseudo-science isn’t the wisest thing in the world, but because I’d related to it so very much; because it had made me feel so unalone – a shift threw me. Even if the results and people’s recent comments paint me as… the person I’ve always wished I could be.

I used to be afraid of taking the bus. Eating in public. I threw up if I had to be in front of anybody. It’s a little alarming to see what you only ever dreamed of actually becoming… real. But as taken aback as I am, I’m happy. I’m on the right path. I don’t know where it’s going, but isn’t that half the fun?

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Surfing on a Wave of Nostalgia for an Age Yet to Come

One of the biggest things I’m thankful for in this day and age is technology. While babysitting for a friend a couple of weeks ago, we were chatting as his wife was getting ready about how strange it is that we are getting to the point where people our age are now contributing to a new generation – one that will have access to technology from birth.  I remember, as a child, sitting next to the radio for hours (nothing’s changed there, then), cassette tape at the ready and my finger eagerly hovering over the play/record button, waiting for the chance to capture a favourite song. I remember when my parents brought home our first computer – I must have been about twelve or thirteen, and having absolutely no idea how web pages or e-mail worked. I remember a girl in my maths class being the first to get a CD burner, and being one of many kids who’d submit her a list of twenty songs… along with a five-dollar bill. I remember the days of Napster, and even though it took two hours to get a song, thinking it was the most amazing thing in the world. Don’t even get me started on the first time I was able to watch Doctor Who the same day it aired in the UK!  Heck, I remember how it felt three weeks ago when I got my first smart phone, being absolutely blown away by the fact that I could make my own ringtones, check Facebook, read blogs, watch videos, get directions and, best of all, stream live British radio which I could listen to on the go. It’s bizarre to think that my future children won’t experience any of these firsts – that they’ll have access to these things right from the get-go.

The reason this intrigued me was because recently, I found a collection of a whole load of television programmes I used to watch as a child. I burned them to a DVD, and set about introducing my husband to SuperTed, Gladiators and The Crystal Maze (why don’t game shows today involve adventure and strategy games against futuristic robots or in medieval dungeons??). When I first saw that these were even available, my husband said he hadn’t seen me as excited about anything as when I saw Sooty again, and I have to admit, I was ecstatic. 🙂 Now, I know I’m not the only one to cling to things that I enjoyed in my youth – parents across the world still play the records that were popular when they were young, grandparents do the same, and the mere mention of a popular eighties cartoon to many of my friends is almost enough to make them salivate. So what causes this phenomenon? Are we simply programmed to archive the memories of youth under a rose-tinted light?

I recently read about a study that came to the conclusion that “many 25-40 year olds don’t plan for the future because they prefer to reminisce about past times.” It showed the effect of nostalgia on current pop culture too, and the result is unmistakable: many movies, fashions, and music of late all have a significantly retro feel. Remakes of Star Trek took over the silver screen (huzzah!), children’s stories became box office hits, American Apparel lined high streets across the country with eighties-inspired gear like leggings, headbands and spandex, and the sound of new wave was born all over again. Now, as excellent as that all is, the more interesting question is that of why: why do the memories of a generation’s youth evoke such positive feelings – and why do we remember everything that filled it as being full of the best life had to offer? I think it probably has something to do with the fact that nostalgia, quite simply, makes us feel better.

I’m no psychological expert here, but my guess is that when our free time was unencumbered by chores, work, or bills, when we didn’t know anything of the world of world politics or international poverty, we had a happier and more carefree outlook on life – and that carefree outlook on life attaches itself to the memories of things that filled our youth, and thus we remember things perhaps more positively than they actually were. (Pulp’s Common People excluded – that song will remain epic regardless of generation!) According to that logic, when we re-watch a favourite childhood television programme or movie today and realise how dreadful it was (the Stargate film, anyone?), the disillusion should shatter, no? Apparently not. Today, even after watching the primitive eighties animation on YouTube, I get filled with a case of the warm fuzzies. Exposure to the things I watched while living the happy-go-lucky life of a child seems to evoke a sense of deja-vu of the mind, and consequently after said 5-minute cartoon, my thoughts are transported to a time when life was simpler and impressions were fresher  – and I end up feeling more positive.

It seems somewhat of a paradox that in the current technological age where a new model of iPad is out quicker than the entire lifespan of the Dreamcast, the Internet and range of ever-expanding TV channels are used widely to re-live experiences from the past. We watch all the programmes, films, and music videos we listened to when we were young, and the entertainment industry is capitalising on it, creating new versions of old favourites. We listen to a song we haven’t heard in twenty years and remember all the words, yet we can’t remember the phone number of someone we called last week. And the evolution of social networking sites have allowed us to get back in touch with people we knew ten or fifteen years ago – often, in the prime of our youth.

Yes, reliving things from the past can evoke positive emotions today. But on the flipside – if we remember things in a rosier hue than was perhaps real; do we run into the danger of stifling the possibility of new things, or worse, airbrushing our own personal history? If the entertainment industry is recycling old styles, shows, and trends, are we discouraging the potential for new ideas?  If the new wave and punk sounds of the late ’70s/early ’80s are being recycled twenty-five years later, then that bodes terribly for the future of music – in middle age, every radio station may be flooded with another wave of rap, auto-tune, and Ke-dollar sign-ha. By continually reminiscing about the “good old days”, is there ever going to be anything new? As well, the very essence of who we are as people is based on our accumulation of memories – if those memories are in fact distorted, then how can we look back on our life and say it was really what we think it was? Maybe I’m going off on too much of a sci-fi tangent, but the question fascinates me. I think it’s incresibly interesting how generation after generation latches onto the same period of their life and holds it in such high regard, and I’m interested to know why. Nostalgia can be a great thing – and though the consequences of reminiscence can evoke short-term positivity, I think there’s also a danger of overdoing retrospect. We may end up mentally re-writing our own existence, or hanging onto a rose-tinted past so tightly it suffocates any possibility of original thinking in the future.

What do you think? Why does each generation seem to latch onto the same period as “the good old days”? Are we conditioned to Photoshop our past to make us feel better in the present? And what effect is nostalgia going to have on the future of the entertainment industry? Lots of questions… I suppose I’m feeling rather pensive today. Pardon my ramble, but if you can’t do it on a personal blog, where can you… And bonus points for anyone who knows where the title of today’s post is from 🙂

That’s Entertainment

At the end of every year, I like to make a visit to a little site called Blurb.com. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a place where you can upload, print and publish professional-looking books. They can be a variety of styles, sizes, hardcover or soft – and at the end of each year, I like to print a copy of my year in blogging. I’ve only been seriously blogging since the latter part of 2009, so the books I have to date may not be the most substantial, but I think 2010 is going to be one I’m excited to add to the shelf. It’ll be a record of an absolute rollercoaster of a year, of new experiences, of firsts, of hopes, dreams, goals, challenges, reflections and observations – but I also want to make note not just of thoughts, but of the day-to-day. Things that filled my days, music I was passionate about, TV that rocked my world, books that changed my life, things that made me laugh so hard my face hurt, words that touched my heart, and moments I want to hold onto forever. Moments that made me feel lucky to be alive. That which inspires passion is important to chronicle. So, some of the things that blew me away this year include:

Creative genius

I’m not a big movie-goer. The thought of going to the cinema fills me more with panic than excitement, and sitting through two hours of having my chair kicked, being distracted by the glare from other people’s phones, and leaving with my wallet $25 lighter isn’t generally my idea of a good time. When it comes to visual entertainment, I’m more a stay-at-home kind of girl. This year has been full of incredibly imaginative movies and TV that have just made me feel proud to be a human being, including the epically intelligent Ashes to Ashes, a series following a gun shot, present-day police officer waking up in the mid-eighties, trying to figure out if she’s gone mad, dead or alive, in a coma, or literally back in time, the finale to which was probably the most intelligent piece of screenwriting I’ve ever witnessed and kept me mesmerised, and firmly on the edge of my seat. Movie-wise, it was the year of special effects and 3D glasses, and the detail in films like Toy Story 3 and Legend of the Guardians was simply breathtaking.

Literary brilliance

Almost a year ago, I made New Year’s Resolutions, and one of them was to get back into reading. I seem to have gone from reading books every day to reading blogs every day, and though I still make time for brain food (I have an entire shelf dedicated to back issues of Psychology Today and Discover magazine), I want to get back into the habit of Real Books. At the beginning of the year, I read Audrey Niffenegger’s follow-up to The Time Traveller’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry, and though wildly different, I loved every part of it. Ghost stories amongst a backdrop of my favourite city, Doctor Who references, two parts imagination, one part wonderfully creepy, this novel had me thoroughly captivated from the start. Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked was an enjoyable, lighter read following dysfunctional relationships and a lifelong quest fuelled by musical passion, I finally got on the Lovely Bones bandwagon, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth completely changed my life, and currently, I’m savouring the final Harry Potter book so I can finally see it on the big screen!

Spine-tinglingly talented musicians

I loved Mumford and Sons the moment I first heard them, and seeing them perform an intimate venue halfway across the country, playing songs that stirred my soul, while proclaiming how humbled and honoured they were to have sold out in a country they hadn’t released any music to yet. Knowing that every person in that space had discovered this incredible music through word of mouth, and became so passionate about it they queued out in the cold and bought so many tickets they had to move venues was just refreshing, and the atmosphere of being a part of something so amazing was just electric.

2010 was also the year of the ‘nu-folk’ movement in the UK, with bands like this taking centre stage, coupled with banjos, mandolins and accordions. Suddenly, countryfolk were as popular as the Black Eyed Peas, and the masses were exposed to real musicianship and literary lyricism. A girl of 20 by the name of Laura Marling exploded onto the world stage with the album I Speak Because I Can – a stunning collection of heart-wrenching, poetic songs tales that delve into haunting stories filled with beautiful words and melody; sounds ranging from the frenzied, supernatural, old-world gypsy-esque “Devil’s Spoke” (with the fabulously determined “all of this can be broken, take your devil by his spoke and spin him to the ground“) to the beautiful “Rambling Man” (“beaten, battered and cold, my children will live just to grow old, but if I sit here and weep, I’ll be blown over by the slightest of breeze”) reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. The epic “Hope in the Air” is pure, chilling, sumptuous storytelling at its absolute finest, and continues to give me goosebumps with every listen (“our hearts are small and ever thinning, there is no hope ever of winning, so why fear death? Be scared of living“). Not all is high drama – if you’re looking for something to play your sweetheart one cold winter’s night, try “Rest in the Bed“, and allow beautiful words to express a sentiment of love (“there lies a man of my heart, a fine and complete work of art, here, I his woman, his home, and his heart, and proud to be playing that part“).  If you’re hooked by haunting melodies, exquisite lyrics and truly intelligent musicianship, don’t hesitate another second before adding this to your collection.

Entertainment this year was pretty fantastic, I must say, and 2010 was filled with great, clever imagination from all sides. Here’s hoping next year’s just as stimulating, inspiring, and impressive – full of things that make you proud to be a member the human race.

What were some highlights of the entertainment world for you in 2010?



80s Time Traps, McCartney & Gaga, and Weapon-Wielding Monarchs: April = AWESOME

Sweet and I aren’t big TV watchers. For the longest time, we didn’t even have cable (only signing up for the “3 months free” promotions, and promptly cancelling at the end of each trial, resulting in a strangely large collection of remote controls, and much to the chagrin of the installation guy). We watch our favourites online, mostly, or on DVD box set – sometimes there’s nothing better on a dreary Saturday than curling up with back to back episodes of Star Trek and a cup of tea! But this month, we had no choice but to succumb. Three of the best programmes on TV are all starting new seasons, and I’m BEYOND excited.

#1: Doctor Who

It’s no secret I’m a huge Whovian and, after a 2-year hiatus and much anticipation for the latest incarnation of the Doctor, it FINALLY returned to our screens last week.  For those of you who’ve never seen it, Doctor Who started back in the 1960s in black and white, and rather low budget, and has continued to this day, remaining the longest running science fiction show in the WORLD. It follows the story of the Doctor, the last of his race, travelling through space and time with various companions, battling evil and saving the Earth. He has the ability to regenerate into a new body near death – and the current series marks the eleventh actor to play the role. I hope it goes on forever!! Generations have grown up “hiding behind the sofa“, and this series’ new writer definitely has a taste for the darker stories – last season had episodes which literally made me afraid to turn off the lights, and this week showed one of the most chilling, and best episodes I’ve ever seen. Humanity fleeing to space after a major catastrophe on the Starship UK, led by a gun-wielding, cape-donning Queen Elizabeth X, going undercover to find out what her government is up to while voters are given the option to “protest” or “forget” – and the Doctor left with a choice between killing the last of a race or saving humanity – this episode was to DIE for.  And next week? Winston Churchill building an army of “English Daleks” to win the war? COUNT ME IN.

#2: Ashes to Ashes

This may VERY well be the new highlight of my week. It’s in its final season and was a spinoff of the amazing Life on Mars (the UK version – please, America, never try and remake anything again…), which, if you didn’t catch, was a sci-fi police drama (I know, brilliant), telling the story of a present-day police officer who is hit by a car, and wakes from consciousness in 1973.  We don’t know if he’s gone back in time, in a coma in the present, or if anything is real – the story is full of wonderfully creepy “signs” he might be in a coma, like hearing present-day voices on the radio, or ’70s television characters stepping out of the TV into his apartment and talking to him about his “real” life…

Ashes to Ashes followed the incredible finale, telling the story of a female police officer (played by Keeley Hawes, of MI-5 and Death at a Funeral fame) who is shot, and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981.  When she wakes up, she is shocked to meet the head of the same police department she’s read about (in researching what happened in Life on Mars).  Throughout the series, we don’t know whether she is dead or alive in the present day. Gene Hunt, the DCI, is one of the most brilliantly written characters I’ve ever seen. He’s hilariously politically incorrect (“This case is going as fast as a bunch of spastics in a magnet factory“), unnecessarily brutal, and has lines that’ll have you splitting your sides one minute (“I”m not a religious man, Mr Warren – but isn’t there something in the Bible that says, thou shalt not suck off rent boys?”), and full of hope and absolute fear the next. The season 2 finale remains hands-down the best finale of any TV show I have ever seen in my life, and this series is proving to be simultaneously full of wit and spine-tingling chills, leaving me HANGING off the edge of my seat with a blanket half over my eyes.

#3: Glee

I’ll admit I was a bit of a new kid on the Glee block, but since starting the season in February (and subsequently buying both soundtracks, converting officemates on lunch breaks, and watching the whole thing through about three times since), I’m officially hooked. Another hilariously politically incorrect antagonist (“I empower my cheerleaders to be champions. Do they go to college? I don’t know. I don’t care. Should they learn Spanish? Sure, if they wanna become dishwashers and gardeners”), an ongoing theme of  losers and nerds coming out on top, half the cast of Heroes, and amazing numbers – this one has it all.

Do watch the videos! What’s keeping you glued to your seats these days??