Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pursuant Monday's xkcd...

I have determined (where "I" stands for "Google" that written occurrences of "The Quest" are in dramatic decline -- starting about 1998. Being the year that Leora was born, I suppose I have to shoulder some of the burden, but I think we need to rally to the cause.
Occurrences as a percentage of all English words/phrases vs time
I have a couple of other things to share with you today, as I avoid my house cleaning ;)
The first is this awesome scan from the Prince Albert Daily Herald
I'm 13 years old in this photo. Same as Leora is right now. And no, she isn't allowed near any skateboarders!
I was a proud (where "proud" =  "disinterested") deliverer of said newspaper for a couple of years in the mid 80s. It was during that time that I owned one of my prize possessions of all time -- The Radio Watch. I'm certain I would still have it today if it hadn't been chewed by our poodle-terrier.

The Second thing is that demolition has begun in the field behind our house for the evil condo project that I have mentioned before. As much as I hate it, the construction guys did their best to make sure that I couldn't resist the awesome sunrise taking place just behind their grim work.

Farewell Paddling Pool... We hardly knew you :(
Fans of heavy equipment can find the rest of these pictures here.

Last of all, I will mention that I adjusted the column widths on the blog to allow me to devote a bit more room to the photos. The downside is all the formatting on previous posts is going to look stupid. Sigh. If you experience any display issues, please let me know.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Always the Breath... Always the Story: A Quest on the "touchy feely" side

The Preamble

I've just spent what could have been a nothing-to-do weekend at a work-sponsored class on storytelling. Having known about it for a month or so, I have been living in anticipatory dread the entire time. I didn't really know what I thought was going to happen. On reflection, it was a problem I have been dancing around all year. I'm scared to let myself down. If I don't blow away expectations, I feel like a failure. No pressure there.

To combat this problem, my usual solution is to lower expectations so that it is easy to surpass them. That is likely familiar to some of you. Perhaps you are someone who eats expectations for breakfast. I'm working on it. For right now, I lost not a few nights of sleep worrying about what story I might do and thinking more than once about giving a co-worker, Jim, my spot in the workshop. I'm sure he wishes he could have taken part. Having managed to go, in the end, I wouldn't trade it for anything. And I didn't lower my lofty goals.

What was it like? Two facilitators and twelve participants, sharing their stories over the course of two days. Those are the barest bones of the weekend. As with a good story, the tale is in the telling.

At the end of the weekend, I feel both drained and revitalized. I invested everything I had emotionally and physically in the weekend to try and make it a success. It was.

Stuff I learned

I am a powerful storyteller. My body and voice are well trained. It's a little discouraging sometimes just how often I have to learn this one. Wendy forgives my forgetfulness with respect to shopping and house cleaning because she can see that it is in my very being. I don't just forget the bad stuff. I also forget the very best.

I'm afraid to let the audience be a part of my story. I've trained myself, through doing theatre, that letting the audience distract me is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. In our storytelling, I learned that the audience wants me to succeed and wants to make a connection with the story through me -- not from me. What does this look like? Anyone who is familiar with performing for an audience is aware of what we call 'the 4th wall.' In your house it would be a wall, but on stage it's where the audience is sitting. The concept is a bit fuzzy. You have to be aware of your audience, but at the same time you pretend that they aren't really there. I was challenged in the workshop to really look at my audience and share directly to them. I found it quite hard to do. When I was actually able to not just look at the audience, but to let them really see me (vs the performer), I was told it was forceful and compelling.

I don't need to memorize words in order to know a story. Hard for me. English degree. Love Shakespeare. Words. I'll have to keep working on this one :)

Going on and on

Some of what I've said may seem incredibly obvious to you. Some, might sound like complete nonsense. I'm okay with that. The nice thing was that everyone at the workshop was at a different place in their storytelling, just as we all are in our lives, and yet, we all managed to give important gifts of story and feedback to one another. I was pleased to share my style of very physical performance with people, just as I was astounded by people who could hold me rapt for ten minutes, tears in my eyes, and they never left their seat, barely moved a hand. I was impressed by the number of people who had brought their own story to the sessions and at how interesting those stories were. I was delighted by the people I met.


I've done enough classes and workshops to know that what we managed to accomplish in two days was nothing short of amazing. Credit has to go, in part, to us as participants. We came ready for a challenge and for change. But the real magic was from our facilitators, Jan Andrews and Jennifer Caley. Trust is a huge part of making one of these workshops a success. Everyone comes scared, or why bother. Through the course of the weekend, we were asked continually (and oh, so politely) to open up to strangers, try new things and take some risks. When they asked, we did. I always felt safe and knew that my effort would be rewarded. Jan and Jennifer are shrewd, kind, and powerful women -- all in the best sense of those words.

Into my breath, blood and bones you have come.

Some contact info:
2 women productions -
Jan's storytelling club (podcast) -

Monday, January 09, 2012

37.68 billion km! Happy 40th to me!

When the girls were quite young, though not so young that they don't still remember, I told them that my big plan was to break the human record for longevity. I thought I should give a progress report... I've got ways to go yet. If I'm even to break the Canadian record, I've got a good 70 billion km to go. Marry Poppins said, "Well begun is half done." I guess I'll have to settle for the imortal words of the late, great, Karen Carpenter... "We've only just begun..."
Quester's Voyage -- Anwyn D
Those of you who followed my Honduras travels last March will know why it is that you can't see the little quester's mouth in the above photo. Poor guy. I hope he remembers to take his gravol next time :(

Thanks to all of my well wishers today (both human and automated). I am indeed having a happy birthday. You may be surprised to discover that I wish to share some photos with you today.

As they were leaving for school today, the girls alerted me to the great moon that was making trouble just across the street. I captured some photo evidence of her carousing in case I wish to press charges.
Quick Start to the Day

A little later, I found the sun being well behaved. I thought I should take pictures for contrast.

My Day is On Track -- Ouch!
Crop Science
Innovation Place
Once the 'golden hour' had expired, I had a brief chat with James and Matt. Matt was pretty sure I'd like this YouTube video. He was right. If you haven't seen any of the Epic Rap Battles, you should at least see...

 After that little bit of enlightenment, I made my way home to roast some coffee and play with my photos.
Mug Shot -- 2 for 1
Here are the rest of the photos. FYI, 13 of the 19 photos in the Picasa gallery were taken with a new-to-me Pentax M 28mm f2.8 lens (circa '77-'82) courtesy a looonng-term loan from Brad Stover. The remainder were with my slightly newer Pentax 50-135mm f2.8 (c. 2008)