On A Roll

Today I’m going to talk about The Lookout, my idea for a podcast set in the Paw Patrol world.

Cassidy loves Paw Patrol, I guess because of the dogs and bright colours. So I’ve found myself watching a lot more of it than I might like, and being a cynical adult I ended up with a lot of questions about the world of the show. As a joke, I tweeted this in August:

I was pleased with my tweet and life moved on. Except…I couldn’t quite shake the idea. I kept thinking of segments I might do, or questions I’d ask, or how I could keep a count of the number of times I’d called for the Mayor’s impeachment. Also, I just really enjoy doing podcasts? Sunday Night in Canada is essentially done, and I’ve had a ton of fun guesting on Whatevertown. I’ve been thinking “Podcast” as a new creative outlet for a long time, but haven’t found an idea to seriously jam on.

What held me back from this one was feeling that the internet doesn’t really need a guy of my demographic snarking about a children’s show. So I felt like I didn’t have a good angle. Until a few weeks ago, while chatting with my friend Mike, who misinterpreted my description of the show and gave me the angle I needed:

The show is from the perspective of a citizen of Adventure Bay!

This allows me to ask the questions I want to ask in earnest rather than sarcasm, and also (if done well, which I wouldn’t guarantee) would allow for some good satire of small-town life. As Mike and I discussed, my character (the host) would be convinced that life in Adventure Bay is not normal and his mission would be to bring on guests in an attempt to gather facts and convince others. After all, don’t other towns have, you know, a police force? Fire department? Coast guard? And more importantly, aren’t those staffed by humans, rather than six dogs and a young boy of indeterminate education level?

The issues we discuss in each episode would be based on the events of a particular episode, so it retains a bit of the original “recap” idea. Guests, aka my friends and family, could be other citizens of Adventure Bay or experts in fields related to whatever just happened, and I’d interview them. The smalltown satire part is of course that nobody else thinks anything is out of the ordinary, and my character would get a benign side-eye for even questioning the status quo.

The tone would not go to edgy or mature places. Episodes would be short. Essentially people could sit at a mic, we improv Q&A for a bit, then I edit an interview and record a short beginning and capper.

So, off and on I’m working on writing the first episode. Please look forward to it!

Thing I Saw Yesterday: Six dogs in an hour at the Winnipeg James Richardson airport. I pet one of them, a rambunctious Havanese puppy.

Thing I Learned Yesterday: George Michael performed every part of “Last Christmas” himself.

I’m Grateful For: Things winding down for the holidays, and I’ve actually been feeling really good today.

Bottlin’

A thing about me is that I am very much a person who tries to bottle up emotion and not ‘burden’ other people with my problems. But another thing about me is that I wear my emotional state incredibly obviously, through facial expressions, tone, and body language. So, while my first impulse is to keep my issues deep inside so nobody will notice or ask me about them, people can immediately see that something is wrong and ask anyway.

I’m not saying any of the above is healthy, it’s just an observation.

I have officially crossed the last thing off of my Christmas shopping list today, a gift for my Dad that my brothers will chip in for. Hopefully, because we are all terrible at actually squaring up debts and expenses. At least we’ll say it’s from all of us. Getting everybody to agree to something isn’t easy, and for some reason I decided to take the lead this year? Probably not something I’ll try again for a while.

This entry needs something positive. Let’s see. Here, this is a thing I saw today and loved:


Thing I Saw Yesterday: A new snow person by my family. Warmer temperatures wiped out the old one (also it was v.small) and this one’s a little bigger. Hopefully it will last.

Thing I Learned Yesterday: Neither Lori or myself want to go to a certain thing that we’re going to, but we’re committed because we both thought the other person wanted to go. Communication! Not just for modems! 

I’m Grateful For: Normal times with friends during a challenging Christmas season.

Road to Improvement

So, just now I reached out to get counseling via Lori’s employee benefits program. I gave them my information and now I’m waiting for them to connect me with somebody in the area who I can talk to. The anxiety and feeling of being overwhelmed that I’ve described in these posts doesn’t seem to be going away, so I think it’d be good to talk to a professional about it. But! Because I’m who I am, there were a few roadblocks I had to overcome just to make the call to the benefits people;

“Things really aren’t that bad right now. You probably don’t feel bad enough to try getting help.” 

The Healthlink BC website addresses this and says “Unfortunately, many people don’t seek treatment for anxiety disorders. You may not seek treatment because you think the symptoms are not bad enough or that you can work things out on your own. But getting treatment is important.” 

Also, one time on Christmas Day I thought I had appendicitis and went to the ER. After seeing a doctor it was determined not to be as bad as I thought at all. But I didn’t feel like a rotten person who wasted everyone’s time; I felt relieved that I’d spoken to an understanding, reassuring professional. If it’s true that my problems “aren’t that bad”, it’ll still be good to speak to a professional about them and get advice.

“You don’t really want to bother those nice counselors, do you? Leave them be so they can help those who really need it.”

I’m not “bothering” a counselor to access their services. Talking to people like me is literally their job. Also, as someone once said, the fact that another person has a broken leg doesn’t mean your ankle isn’t sprained. Still needs attention! 

“Since you can only use the employee benefit plan a certain number of times, hadn’t you better save it for when you really need help? “

Nope! As Lori wisely pointed out, she pays the same amount into the plan whether or not we get any use out of it. So I might as well!

Thing I Saw Yesterday: A variety of so-called “Neon LED” decorations at an electronics store in town. They’re things like flamingoes and cacti shaped out of strings of LED lights. But like, the words “Neon LED” next to each other don’t make sense to me, because an LED isn’t a Neon Light, because neon’s a gas, and and and anyway a good fix would be to say “Neon-style LED” decoration.

Thing I Learned Yesterday: Playing Skyrim on Switch with good headphones makes some dungeons legitimately tense and creepy again, especially anything with those friggin’ spiders. I never minded the spiders when playing on the Xbox 360, but now they’re seriously unnerving me. 

I’m Grateful For: Access to health benefit programs through work!

Unpredictable

This morning I’ve been thinking about an episode from my university days.

My friend Mike were roommates, and we both took a “Film & Literature” course. One of our assigned readings was a story called The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford. I had read it a little before the deadline, but Mike decided to leave it until the night before, so he’d shut himself up in his room to burn through it. Periodically he’d emerge for a snack or to tell me how much he disliked the story (a lot). Here’s the Amazon summary:

Eight-year-old Molly and her ten-year-old brother Ralph are inseparable, in league … against the world of authority and perhaps the world itself. One summer they are sent from the genteel Los Angeles suburb that is their home to backcountry Colorado, where their uncle Claude has a ranch. There the children encounter an enchanting new world—savage, direct, beautiful, untamed—to which, over the next few years, they will return regularly, enjoying a delicious double life. And yet at the same time this other sphere, about which they are both so passionate, threatens to come between their passionate attachment to each other….Youth and innocence are hurtling toward a devastating end.

Warning: Spoilers Follow! I mean the book is like 71 years old but I feel obligated to warn anyway

On one of Mike’s appearances he stood in my doorway and angrily declared that the only way he wanted this to end was with the brother killing the sister, simply because he disliked the story so much. I didn’t say anything, because that’s exactly what happens; I’m a little hazy on the details, but essentially the brother ends up shooting his sister in the wilderness on a hunting trip or something. A little later Mike yelled “YES” from the next room and I knew he’d gotten his wish. We laughed about his prediction coming true and discussed the story a little afterward.

The next day, in class, the professor began to talk about the story and excitedly praised the ending, claiming there was “no way anybody could have predicted the ending.”

You should have seen Mike and me light up and look at each other, but neither of us said anything. I guess nobody would have believed us anyway.

Thing I Saw Yesterday: A very good episode of “Would I Lie To You?”, one of those British panel shows that is a rare thing; comedy that both Lori and I laugh at. 

Thing I Learned Yesterday: How to do an F# on a ukulele. It’s way up on frets I never use! What’s up with that! And I’m supposed to go D -> F# -> Bm for this song? Seriously??

I’m Grateful For: A much calmer 2nd half of the week. Seriously, I was ready to quit everything on Tuesday, but I’ve been much more well-adjusted (and sleeping properly, which I think was a big part of the problem). 

Reminds me, I want to rewatch Napoleon Dynamite one of these days

All Over The Road

Lori had leftover pumpkin stuff in a can, so she made pumpkin oatmeal for us for breakfast and neither of us really liked it very much. So my breakfast was pretty light and I had to run to get to work, but when I arrived, a coworker’s wife had dropped off a big thing of Tim Hortons coffee, donuts, and muffins!

A Christmas Miracle! 

This Christmas season I discovered a men’s choir from Vancouver called Chor Leoni, and they made a Christmas album (“Star of Wonder”) that is so good. It is beautiful and warm and full of the “hopes and fears of all the years”. If you have Spotify you can use this embedded thing, and if you don’t, please find a way to hear it. 

In other news I am using our superfast work internet connection to download all my archived games from GOG.com before finding a way to close or deactivate my account. I loved their service in the beginning but a recent series of troubling social media posts have soured me on them quite a bit. Their social media person was fired, but the vibe I get from the company is that they aren’t committing to being better, just hoping it’ll blow over. 

Thing I Saw Yesterday: New episodes of Counterpart are appearing on Crave! This was one of my favourite discoveries last year, a mature sci-fi spy thriller set in Berlin and starring a (quite fantastic) J.K. Simmons. 

Thing I Learned Yesterday: Like three different people voice Dorothy the Dinosaur in the Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas! special on Netflix. No wonder she always seems to sound slightly different. Also there is a Wigglepedia because of course there is

I’m Grateful For: New musical discoveries to broaden my horizons! 

Low Bar

It’s been a somewhat stressful few days, mostly for work reasons. At times I have not dealt with it well at all, to my shame, but let’s find the positive here and see what I’m doing right. I think I’m moving forward from the bad times a little more easily, rather than dwell forever on how I responded poorly. I did not break anything. That’s not a joke; when I’m stressed and anxious, my temper also becomes extremely short, and one of my impulses is to throw something, which doesn’t help, but nevertheless is my go-to. 

I believe I’ve learned this behaviour by having it modeled to me as I grew up, and what’s odd to me is that I often saw it as embarrassing when done by an adult. It was childish, a failure to control emotions and express them properly, not to mention often startling and occasionally even threatening. It wasn’t a behaviour that I remember thinking “yes, this is appropriate and what I will do” while growing up. Quite the opposite. And yet the wall across from the door to my office bears the scar of being struck by my wireless mouse some months ago.

I don’t even remember why I was so angry, but here was a small thing that I could make fly to try and vent my anger. It didn’t work and only contributed to a toxic office atmosphere, which I was deeply ashamed of doing. 

I don’t want to teach Cassidy to do this. So when I list “I did not break anything” as a positive thing, it really is, for me. It feels like a low bar and yet, it’s something I struggle with. 

Today’s going better.

Thing I Saw Yesterday: A blue “no signal” screen as, for the umpteenth time, I struggled with technical issues for getting my slideshow working at our company Christmas banquet. One day. One day it will all go well. 

Thing I Learned Yesterday: The video for Daft Punk’s “Around the World” was directed by Michel Gondry, who has done other videos that I really like for their unique and whimsical style. This one looks like it would have been an incredibly odd day on set.

I’m Grateful For: A Christmas Banquet that went well, albeit somewhat shorter than usual. Despite tech issues, there was much laughter and chatting at the tables, and my (hastily prepared) speech seemed to go over well. 

Traditions

Trial’s cancelled! I got a phone call yesterday that said my services as potential juror were no longer needed, as the trial was cancelled. Could be for any number of reasons. They didn’t say and I didn’t ask. Like I said, it was going to be a logistical challenge next week, but I was actually disappointed to get the news. Ah well!

Yesterday night we finished decorating the tree. To this point we’d gotten the tree up but only had lights on. Lori’s family collects and exchanges ‘keepsake’ ornaments, something I wasn’t used to when we got married, so she’s got a hundred little special ornaments that represent memories and/or people. When it’s time for them to go on the tree, we put on some music and set aside time to take out each one and talk about its significance. There’s too many to all put on, so each year you get to pick and choose, and although some of the stories are familiar, occasionally we share something unknown or forgotten. 

By association I’ve started a small collection of my own ‘keepsake’ ornaments, mostly deeply geeky things that Lori has gotten for me over the years. And of course we’ve started Cassidy on her own collection; last night, she got to put on a Peppa Pig that I got her. (You know, because she likes Peppa Pig a lot). Mostly she was interested in the little fake cup of coffee that I have, taking it off the tree and pretending to sip it while saying “coffeeeeee” solemnly. Wonder where she got that.

Thing I Saw Yesterday: Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story, from 1978 and on Netflix, which we picked because it was under half an hour and we wanted to watch something Christmassy with Cassidy. Benji visits Santa’s Workshop, and Santa (Kris Kringle, whatever) reveals that he has elves from all nations to respond to the wishes of that nation’s children. Does that mean children in stereotypical costumes and occasionally even blackface? Yes, reader. Yes it does. Far less offensive but still upsetting is that the dog barely does anything, except to get carried around and look really uncomfortable being petted by a bunch of kids at once.

Thing I Learned Yesterday: The original St. Nicholas (from the 4th century!) is said to have started our modern tradition of secret gift-giving when he secretly left bags of gold so that a family could avoid selling their daughters into slavery. Neat! 

I’m Grateful For: Moments of positive reflection. 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Spotify opened its end-of-year “Wrapped” feature aaaAAaand…

I’m not entirely surprised by it! All of these artists and songs are ones that I heartily endorse. Apparently I spent 11 hours this year listening to Sloan alone. I mean, just the band Sloan. Actually I was probably alone at the time too.

However: Lori likes to bug me about being a hipstery music snob, which I strongly deny, but then accidentally confirm all the time by comments I make. Unfortunately she now has hard data on her side, because my top genre is “Indie” and according to their site I listen to “non-mainstream artists 74% more than the average listener”.

Time to embrace the snobbishness I guess!

Listen, to change the subject, these past few weeks have been really up-and-down emotionally for me, and as I did last year I want to remind y’all to be kind to yourself, especially around the holidays. Please. I don’t mind telling you that two nights ago I was in a pretty bad place at the end of the day; at times, while I just tried to go about getting ready for bed, I felt rooted to the spot and completely overwhelmed by anxiety and dread. Part of getting through it was remembering to breathe and use the tools I’ve been gathering for the past few years, like slowing down and acknowledging that yes, you are scared and that is an okay thing to feel

This morning I’m happy to report that I’m feeling a lot better, but I’m not assuming that everything’s sewn up and I’ll be fine forever. So please, find tools you can use and make note of the things that make you happy and recharge you! You’ve got this! Remember:

Thing I Saw Yesterday: Confirmation that same-day game playing on modern consoles is mostly gone. I bought a used game disc for my Xbox One (Titanfall 2) and put it in. The system’s been sitting dormant for a while so it wanted to download and install a 3ish GB system update. Okay, fine. Then it wants to install the game from the disc, which takes a while, and THEN it wants to download a 27 gigabyte patch. Maybe I could have bypassed and skipped all of these things, but geez. This kind of thing is actually how I got the system so cheap from its original owner, a friend of mine who was deeply frustrated with his purchase.

Thing I Learned Yesterday: Jesus had a lot to do in his life on earth, but never hurried. So (according to the podcast I was listening to) you have permission to slow down and take things one at a time. 

I’m Grateful For: Resources to help me improve my mental health.

Looking Forward

We got a piece of mail last week that said “Seasonal Greetings!” on the envelope, which somehow sounds even more generic than “season’s greetings”. And look, I’m definitely not somebody who gets bent out of shape over whether people say “Merry Christmas” or not, but to me the word “seasonal” barely even acknowledges that some people, somewhere, might be having a season that usually carries a special type of greeting with it. Way to hedge your bets, there! 

Very pleased to report that my Christmas Spirit feels much more alive and well this year. We’ve started decorating a little, I’m exploring holiday-themed music I haven’t heard before, and generally I’m looking forward to things. It’s not all perfect — I do feel like I’m spinning a lot of plates with regard to my church involvements, and if I think too hard about those I get pretty anxious. (Our Christmas program is on the 16th and I have a few different roles within that). I don’t really think there’s a need to be anxious, as in, I believe that my thinking gets very distorted very quickly about these things. There’s still time to practice and prepare, and there’s no reason to think that I will Drop All The Balls. The topic is something I just have to be careful around.

Okay but in general things are going well right now. Reasonably well. I think? Oh boy. 

One last bit of news is that I’m going in for jury selection on Monday, which in our part of Canada seems like a rare thing and I’m…really looking forward to it? I think it’s going to be interesting. If I’m selected, the trial is scheduled to last the rest of the week, and while that does mess with my schedule, I’m interested in the inner workings of our courts. I’m sure I’ll say more if things go forward. Maybe they won’t and that’s fine too! 

Thing I Saw Yesterday: The second episode of APTN’s show “First Contact”, which is wholly available for streaming online and is fascinating. However, there’s deepening conflict between the travelers on the show and as a peacemaker (Enneagram 9 lol) it’s stressful to watch them fight, so I try to decompress a little after the episode before going on with my day.

Thing I Learned Yesterday: Funding for First Nations people in Canada is a lot more complicated than the “they live off of white people’s taxes!!1” that I’ve heard for a long time. The show introduced some of the complexities and I’ve tried to do a little supplementary reading but it’s a massive topic. And here, again, I’m learning that there are so many situations where I’ve heard (or had) wildly oversimplified ideas about how things “should” be done. Interrogate and dig deeper on any idea that tries boil a huge problem down to one simple magic bullet solution! Reject ideas that start with the words “Well if they would just”! If solutions to our societal problems were easy, don’t you think we would have tried them?

I’m Grateful For: Family & community.

Me and Lori and her cousins performed this once at a family gathering and it was a total hoot. A++ would make a joyful noise again

Tired But OK

Over the weekend I was once again part of From Everywhere To Bethlehem, an annual interactive nativity tour in the park. Our church spearheads it. Dressed as a Roman soldier, I walked groups of people through different stations telling the (highly condensed, somewhat chronologically altered) story of the birth of Christ. In return they bring us “taxes”, which are non-perishable food items for our city’s Food Cupboard, or just freewill cash donations which go toward MCC’s Christmas Giving initiatives.

I’ve been involved as either a soldier or the gatekeeper for many years now, and it’s always anxiety-making and exhausting, but ultimately fun and rewarding. The anxiety I think comes from having to be “on” all the time and entertaining, and also that socially I’m walking into a lot of situations I can’t prepare for. What will the other actors be like? What will the groups be like? Can’t say ’till I’m in it. 

We collect a lot of food and donations each year, which feels lovely to be a part of. We’ve also heard lots of comments over the years that our event is how some folks “kick off” their Advent season, which is humbling. To think that our funny little event, held together by baler twine and hot chocolate, has taken a little place in people’s hearts. 

Thing I Saw Over The Weekend: Some good dogs! People do occasionally bring their puppers through the event, though my best interaction was randomly meeting a friend and his dad, out walking their good boys.

Thing I Learned Over The Weekend: Apparently the gestation period of a pregnant donkey is really unpredictable and can last up to 14 months.

I’m Grateful For: Opportunities to help good causes.