Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back to School

I am getting ready to do a show for local high school in Nelson and I find the whole experience to be very interesting. For one, I was not in the popular crowd at school. I was kind of a big nerd. In fact, I am still a big nerd. In high school, I loved Star Wars and couldn't wait for the new movies to come out. I played Dungeons and Dragons. I loved doing the drama productions. I loved it so much, I actually skipped my last basketball game to go to one of several drama practices. Apparently, the barrel-chested monster of basketball coach scoffed when he heard I wasn't coming. I was fine with that. I wasn't one of the girls who had an awkward crush on a man double their age.

The culture of high school from ten years is vastly different with even the advent of cell phones. There was a girl who had returned from the city with a cell phone and we ridiculed that girl for the absurdity of such a purchase for a teenager. Now, some high school would probably have a moral dilemma between saving their kid brother or their phone from a burning building. It would be a crisis, because having a kid brother doesn't let you send text messages during class.

The idea of recycling felt more like a fad than something that was really going to take off. But now, it's second nature to these kids and I'm still burning tires in my backyard.

Vampires were something cool back in my day. They were deadly. Vicious. The battles between werewolves and vampires was the thing to behold and now they have been co-opted into romance novels for teenage girls. How did that happen?

One thing I am glad that we have moved past since I was in high school was boy bands and the Spice Girls. Although they've been swapped out for *sigh* not much better. Never mind. It's only evolved. I don't think my wish for utopian paradise will happen as long as pop music is allowed to make decisions around here.

I also dodged the tragedy of reality TV. No American Idol. No Jersey Shore. No The Hills. We weren't rewarding vanity over talent. And I realize that it was still happening when I was in high school, but at the very least you had to have some semblance of talent. Somewhere along the line being rich or being a jackass was included in the list of acceptable talents to give you a show.

We didn't have Facebook. In fact, all we had was email. That was the thing we would slip over to when we were supposed to be doing work in computer class. We would send stupid emails to each other. Or work on Geocities pages. That was how fun the internet was. It was the electronic version of having fun at a post office.

So, I know I have a challenge in doing a comedy show there. It's not just for the high schoolers, but I am going to angle it to them. The good thing is that there are still somethings that don't change with the different generations.

Teenagers still think anyone older than them just don't "get it".
Girls are still ridiculous creatures.
Guys are still jackasses.
School is still an obstacle to what you really want to do.
Madonna is still awkwardly around.
Some guy getting hit in the nuts is still funny to most people.
Someone else's parents are always cooler than yours.
People still think money and popularity will solve their problems.
Short people still pick fights because they're insecure.
Simpsons is still on the air.

In the end, this show should be a great time. And if not, people bombing on stage is still uncomfortably funny.

"Do you have the time to listen to me whine
About nothing and everything all at once?
I am one of those melodramatic fools
Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it
Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up, I think I'm cracking up
Am I just paranoid? Am I just stoned?"
- "Basket Case" from the Green Day album "Dookie"

It's a Cold and It's a Broken Hallelujah

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit."
Proverbs 15:13

"As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
Proverbs 26:11

These statements are true for me right now. I don't know what I need to do different and maybe there simply isn't something different I can do. Maybe I am not a fool and maybe that thinking is exactly what proves me to be one. I am not writing much tonight because I don't have much to say. All I know is that tonight I hurt. I want to run for the door. But here I stay because no matter where I go, my soft, desperate heart will be there with me.

I feel like a fool.

"Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who has seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah"
- "Hallelujah" from Leonard Cohen's album "Various Positions"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Hatred and Worship of The Popular

I think for the first time in this blog, I want to do a mini-series. I want to tackle the issue of hate across a few different entries as I started writing this one and realized it was getting long. This first entry is about the Hatred and Worship of the Popular, then the Hatred of Villains, then the Hatred of Heretics.

Modern North American pop culture has become an uncontrollable monster that is unwieldy and is on the brink of destroying our souls. Now, I am not talking about a moral evil that undergirds culture such as the prevalence of cheap, sexual thrills or the bizarre fascination of gore, death and violence. That is something human culture has always had to deal with and always will. It is vitally important to keep ourselves in check with that kind of thing, but that is not what this entry is concerned with.

I am not talking about discrimination of a class of person. While we still have things like racism and sexism, for the most part, people would agree that these are bad for these things to exist and people are pushing back on them. Yes, they still do exist and will for a long time, but it is in the open that they are wrong. Through the many years of civil rights movements in the twentieth century, we are slowly moving in the direction of redeeming this sore areas of our society.

However, in this culture, we have made it more and more acceptable to either worship or debase individuals. While we have fought to uphold the worth of a person regardless of their race, sex, orientation, religion, etcetera, etcetera, we have allow ourselves to become more willing to label individuals as worship-worthy or more distressingly hate-worthy.

The face of the target of our hatred has grown more away from being a type of person (because that is unfair in today's culture) to the specific person (because you are still allowed to judge). Mind you, humans have always had the problem of hating individuals, but in some ways it's more justifiable and thus why you still see it today. It's justifiable in the sense that "this guy did such and such" or "this girl think this and that". As more and more people accept the idea of "you shouldn't hate a person for what they are" we are left with a distressingly narrow sample of things to hate. So you have to hate people for what they do or say.

This is where I want to push against. I think it would be best if we can overcome hate for people. It is easy to justify hating people. Especially, if the rest of the culture does as well.

When I was younger, it was extremely popular for people to say they hate Barney. Remember Barney? Purple dinosaur? Tried to teach kids things like numbers and the alphabet and care for the rest of mankind. It was considered to be humorous to propose visceral and gory death scenarios for the fictional character because we hated him. And why did we hate him? I'm not entirely sure. I think it was the "I love you, you love me" song which is of course, worthy to condemn someone to death. I was probably one of the crowd that sought to destroy the fictional character for laughs and goofs. After a while, I stopped and said, "Wait. Why do I care?" It sunk in that it was vapidly stupid to vent all of this hatred for something that wasn't even meant for me. It was for kids half my age. Of course, it would seem stupid to a 12 year old. I don't need some dinosaur with some strange skin ailment to tell me what the alphabet is, but it's not for me. It's not trying to talk down to me or insulting my intelligence. Yet I hate it? And kids probably (?) liked it. It was educational programming for goodness' sake. I think I would be horrified if people were proposing to slaughter Snufflupogus or Oscar the Grouch and were spending their time imagining new and gory ways to eviscerate childhood characters. It's kind of demented if you think about it.

I use this example because culture is still the same and now it has a new platform to spread a stupid hatred. Barney the fictional character is no longer our target. Now it is Justin Bieber and even more recently Rebecca Black. I am not a fan of Mr. Bieber or Ms. Black (I will now use these titles to as a counterpoint to at least some of the bizarre vitriol that has been heaped on them). Mr. Bieber surely has a great deal of talent as he can sing and dance and he is walking into the meat grinder that is celebrity and doing it at a young age. I don't think his music is very inspired, especially to me who is 28 and is so distinctly far removed from his experience. It is over produced and borders on empty. I would not expect anything more than that from a 17 year old. Do I really expect him from his limited experience to truly evoke some new insightful look into the human experience? Not yet. Not that he can't, but I just don't expect it. And if he hasn't, I'm fine with that. He does not deserve death for it.

However, it is justified both by the ideal of freedom of speech and the fact he is far removed from most of us that we can image and wish death upon him.

Let's remember that Mr. Bieber is not meant for me or for everyone in society. There is no one saying you have to choose whether you love him or hate him. How about, it doesn't affect me? Mr. Bieber is not trying to kill your babies. Nor has he killed a baby. You can just say "he doesn't have any impact on my life and thus I will not give him more credit than I should".

I don't know what the reason of hating him so much is. It seems like the only reason is that it creates a sense of unity. A family of people who don't like Mr. Bieber and I can draw closer to these other people by stepping it up and hating the kid. It's a mob mentality thing.

I think it is a frame of mind that develops when we hit junior high, like my friend Adriane pointed out to me. Our minds develop the concept of the abstract and we get a better grasp on humor. We also start jockeying for position on the social food chain. This means we start ridiculing things to show a dominance over it whether it is a person's clothing, economic status or perceived aberrant personality. This includes elements from pop culture like Barney or Mr. Bieber or now, Ms. Black.

Some people may say that it's harmless. Of course, no one is going to go and actually kill him, but that's not what I'm worried about. I'm worried about the implications that it has on us and what it reflects upon us. It sets the precedent that we can hate and ridicule people for no good reason.

Our celebrity-obsessed culture has turned into a meat grinder with the advances of the internet, we now have access to more and more information and ways to connect with things. Sites like TMZ are devoted to exploiting people of note for the sake of a consumer who will visit their site or watch their show. Paparazzi have grown more vicious and invasive because we condone it. We will eat up anything that puts our cultural icons in a terrible light. If they screw up, then we know we are better than them and are more deserving of success than they are.

The advancement of the internet has also encouraged the crippling of maturity in our generation. World-wide connections such as Facebook and especially Twitter and YouTube comments means that we see more anonymity to take the junior high pot shots on individuals. Instead of people growing up realizing that it is immature to hate people so viciously over pop songs that they create, they are shown that you can safely continue your snarky, destructive remarks and thus stagnant your development into a person who has compassion for the world. It allows to continue to live in your selfish bubble. I see so many people on Twitter who are ripping into celebrities and they are in their mid-20's and bitter that their crappy, underdeveloped talent has not created the viral video that took them to the top like Mr. Bieber.

The internet has given the immature mindset the capability to speak to a worldwide audience and it is now the thorn in our side forever. Or at least to the inevitable nuclear apocalypse and human civilization reverts to a nomadic wasteland and the only survival skills we'll have is that if we could just find the internet, we could check our Facebook and update our status to "At least I'm not at a Justin Bieber concert!"

Recently, Ms. Black has released a video and a song that is not good. The lyrics are empty, the music lacking and the video laughable. Hey Dave, aren't you being hypocritical calling her stuff terrible. No. I don't like her work but I also don't hate her. From this one video and the little I know of music, this doesn't really seem like something that she is suited for. I hope she can find a pleasant way to exit. Or I hope that she finds a way to improve. I want her to do the best with what she has to redeem this world.

What concerns me is the attitude we have towards other individuals. It needs to be consistent. Just because we don't know the person, doesn't mean I should arbitrary attack them. Just because someone is not you, doesn't mean they are less of a person.

This brings me to something else that ties into this idea and that is celebrity worship. These individuals that we treat as greater than the rest of us. The more we raise up these individuals, the more pressure we put on them. The more we expect out of them and it gets to the point where we wind up disappointed. A friend told me once of how one of their friends tried to get an autograph from a celebrity. I forget who. It was one that you'd expect to be nice. Either way, the celebrity snubbed them. The autograph seeker was angered and it made my friend also think less of the celebrity. I asked where this happened. It was in a washroom. The washroom. The one place we should all expect to have a moment to ourselves. We will not take pause and realize the expectations that we have put upon these folk.

Another time, someone said that Keanu Reeves was supposedly disrespectful or didn't do something and the experience was so disappointing because it turns out he's an ass. I had to interrupt them at this point and said "You do realize that you had a 30 second encounter with him and you let that encounter affect you opinion of him." I go onto tell her about a story I heard from a person who worked at the Manitoba Theatre Centre when he came in to do MacBeth. She told me how he would be inundated with boxes of chocolate Turtles because he mentioned it in passing in an interview one time. His room had boxes of Turtles everywhere and he would sit in there, writing thank you cards to each person he could that had sent them to him. Another story was that it was a typical freezing winter night in Winnipeg and after a practice at the theatre, they had secured him a ride at the back door so that way he could avoid the people who had gathered to get his autograph. He decided to go down and out into the cold and sign everything because after all, they came to see him. But no, we never consider others and especially celebrities. Could you imagine you getting terrible news - forget that - how about just a typical crappy day and you have to walk through an airport and people have flooded it to get you to sign everything and we expect you to sign everything all the time no matter where.

We have put these people into the position of deities and they are not equip to handle it. Just because they are good at putting a ball in a hoop or look awesome blowing up stuff or make us jaws drop from their beauty, doesn't mean they are better than us and so are elevated to god-like expectations.

This pressure is what leads people like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan to break. And we're laughing at them all the way. Thinking that they somehow deserved it. "Way to be famous, assholes!" Sure, they've made mistakes but they live in the most caustic fishbowl that our culture can summon that leads for them to try and find an escape and leaves them gasping for air, left to die in front a gawking audience.

People, no matter how famous, are not any better or worse than the rest of us. They don't matter more. They don't matter less.

The problem that arises when we have such unnecessary anger on these folk is that although we are removed from them and may not affect them directly, it creates in us a terrible precedent of hatred for no reason. It creates in us the seed of hatred that will more readily blossom when someone wrongs us and we will be less likely to be gracious.

The problem that arises when we raise these people above us is that it puts unrealistic pressure on them and it can lead them to self-destruct and I would say that the blame falls onto us, the society that crushed them. It also gives us the premise that some people are worth more than others.

By the way, the Onion did a fantastic satirical piece on this very idea. Check it out.,19707/

The next time, I want to talk about people that may deserve our animosity.

"I lie in the soil and fertilize mushrooms
Leaking out gas fumes are made into perfume
You can't fire me because I quit
Throw me in the fire and I won't throw a fit.
Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away!"
- "Scentless Apprentice" from the Nirvana album "In Utero"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When Words Fail

I believe that I have a very specific set of skills. I may not have many technical abilities aside from tricking iMovie into doing things that it doesn't normally do. I don't have much in the way of physical talents aside from tallness, which is not really an ability so much as a description. Now, before you think that this is one of these pity party posts (alliteration no intended), I want to let it be known that I am growing more and more comfortable with that. I like that I have a special way with words and stories. I am very good with the word putting together ability skill. Both on stage and offstage. I love teaching and explaining. I love comforting people. I love debating. I love making people laugh.

Mind you, I can get kind of angsty and overly melodramatic with words if I'm not careful and come off sounding like an idiot with too soft of a heart. Maybe I am. But that is also what allows me to sympathize with people and be able to defend people.

I feel one of my strong suits is certain arenas of communication. Another is sorting through hard questions of theology and life. I don't like to shy away from reflection and wrestling.

That's why it sucks to be in a situation where you know you have no words to give. A situation where words are ineffective. It's hard when someone is in the middle of something and the only answer at the end of the night is to leave the situation in tension and pray.

I have found myself to be one of those fixer personalities. If I see something broken and I can see how it can be different, I want to fix it. And I get frustrated when I can't. My heart aches in those situations. There is nothing more aggravating than seeing the troubled spirit in the eyes of someone you care about and having nothing that will fix it. You can't swap with them. You can't give them anything. You can't do much. It's one of those limitations of being human that in the end, that only those involved and God can sort out.

The problem then becomes, what can I do? Once my words fail me, I don't know what to do. A hug? Assurance that things will work out? Sit in silence with the person? What does it mean to be there for them? I am afraid of saying or doing something wrong and I am afraid of doing nothing at all.

"A heart that's full up like a landfill
A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won't heal
You look so tired and unhappy
Bring down the government
They don't, they don't speak for us
I'll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide
No alarms and no surprises"
- "No Surprises" from the Radiohead's "OK Computer"

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Comedian Nelson Deserves, But Not the One It Needs Right Now

I think I want to start this blog post with what may be new information. After many discussions with Arden and Chris, I have decided to stay in Nelson for one more year. I will take the summer to most likely (but nothing is certain) go on the Covenant's Summer Ministry Team which seems to be perfect for a guy like me. After that, I will return to Nelson and continue my work here with the youth, media and theatre. For some, this may come as a surprise, because I resisted digging in. I said, at one point, "I only want to be here for a few months and then move on." It went from my original proposal of three months to the agreement of seven months to an extension for one more year.

For readers of my blog, you would be familiar with the idea I had of only staying for a while and then moving onto something new. Go to a new church and do start the process again. The focus would be on the writing and performing.

However, my other abilities have shown themselves to be something the church wants even more than my performance. They say that I have turned into a mentor-type role. I suppose some have found my conversations with them to be engaging and challenging. It's not like it's something different than what I did before. Most of my conversations with people tend to slant towards more serious topics, which surprise some I'm sure.

It was reasoned to me that I could have more impact on the youth and young adults if I stay and continue to cultivate those relationships as opposed to pull up roots and move on. I can see what they are saying. However, for me that is the exact reason I want to keep moving.

I didn't want to stay because the longer I do, the more I get planted here. I more I get planted here, the harder it will be for me to leave. The harder it is for me to leave, then things will become more permanent. I don't know if I want permanent. I feel like I am better as a stranger. I'm fine with being a stranger in a lot of regards because if I am moving along with nothing permanent, then I don't need much. I don't need to be financially successful. I don't need to commit to something that in the end would be merely an obligation. I can do what I am good at and then go before I have to dig into something fleeting.

I find it too easy for myself to be derailed by some nice, young lady. The longer I stay in the place, the greater chance I get wrapped up in something that will be distracting at best or aggravatingly hurtful at worst. Aggravating in the fact, that I know full well that I will be hurt, but still act foolish anyway. If I knew that I would be leaving in a few months, then I also know that I can put women aside and be less likely to be distracted and less likely to pursue something.

At this point, you may be asking, it sounds like you don't want to stay. You would be right in a lot of regards. I don't want to because I am scared to get ingrained here. I want to protect myself. I also know that it would be great to share theatrical elements in more places and there's a certain longing to do that as well.

However, knowing that I have built these relationships with some and know that it has been beneficial for them to have me here and knowing that I am more than just the comedian to them, I feel like I would be selfish to leave them just yet. Perhaps it would be better for sake of the people here that I continue to be involved in this community for a while longer. I care for these folks and if I have a special role in their lives, then I don't want to pull myself out of their lives yet. I want them to be able to gain whatever benefit they can from my experience.

I want to be a man who did what was best for others. I want to honour the abilities the Lord has given me to make better disciples for Christ. If I leave at this point, sure, I would be doing what I want, but sometimes you have to do something you don't necessarily want to because it is better for others that you love. Even if it means it may hurt to do so.

By the way, I do like being here. I enjoy it. These people are great. I am just skittish.

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose
Ain't turning back for me and you
Don't look over your shoulder
No time for regrets
You got your demons I got mine
Our paths have crossed at a crucial time
Suddenly, we're older
Scared of what's ahead
We were looking for the answers in all the wrong places
But now the chance is knocking on our door
To grab hold of what we been reaching for"
- "Just a Motion Away" from Gino Vannelli's "These are the Days"